Tribe Travel :: Brazil with Suzie Blake
Australian photographer Suzie Blake recently spent five weeks in Brazil with her musician partner Magrao, their children Maximiliano, four, Xavier, two, and her eight-year-old stepdaughter, Eva. The family enjoyed an authentic experience soaking up the rich and diverse culture, cuisine, geography, tropical beaches and the laidback way of life in the world’s fifth-largest country. Suzie spoke to Children of the Tribe about her family’s incredible adventure.
Can you tell us about your recent trip to Brazil?
We went to Brazil to visit my partner’s family. We were there for five weeks and spread our time between São Paulo, Juqueí and Uru. We also did a bit of work. I took some photos of Brazilian mums breastfeeding for my project What Does Breastfeeding Look Like? and my partner MC Lord Magrao is a musician, so he played a few gigs.
Sao Paulo is a crazy city. It’s huge. The skyscrapers literally never end. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to families with young kids. It’s great if you’re childless (or child-free) and into the arts. I loved visiting the different galleries like MASP and Pinacoteca and going out in Paulista.
I would highly recommend Juquei. It’s a gorgeous, sleepy little beachside town were white sandy beaches are surrounded by magnificent green forest. It’s an ocean beach, but the water is shallow for several meters so it’s fine for young kids.
For the other side of the spectrum, Uru (which is where my mother-in-law is from) is a tiny country town of 1000 people. To give you some perspective, by day two the entire town knew who we were! The kids got to pick mangoes in the back garden and swim in the lake – it was kind of idyllic.
Can you share any magical moments from your family tip?
I don’t think there was one particular magical moment; it was the whole experience. Lazing on the beach sipping caipirinhas (the national cocktail) while the kids play in the sand - I love a trip where we are all having a good time! I also really loved seeing Max’s Portuguese develop. By the end of the trip, he was saying things I didn’t even understand. I wish I could speak another language and I think to be able to learn a second language from a young age is a gift.
Do you have any advice for other tribes visiting Brazil?
Learn a little bit of Portuguese or get a translation app because not many people speak English. Also, ‘be Brazilian’ when you’re there. Family life and child rearing in Brazil is totally different to the West. There are no schedules and kids stay up late. Of an evening, the whole family goes out - baby included! Also, expect your kids to be doted on by strangers. Every time we went out, people would delight in the kids with a customary ‘fofo’ (cutie) ‘lindo’ (pretty) and any word ending with ‘inho’ which means little. Brazilians really value children and families. If you have kids, you go to the front of the queue.
Take us through an average day in Brazil for you guys.
Wake up to breakfast of bread, sweet bread, custard doughnuts, mango, mortadella, coffee and fresh juice of watermelon or passionfruit. When we were in Juquei, we’d head to the beach at around 10am, go swimming and while the day away eating and drinking various delights from the local vendors - queijo coalho (grilled cheese), linguica (sausage), caipirinha … and the kids would invariably get an ice cream. Go back to the condo and have a swim in the pool then eat a late lunch usually consisting of beef, rice and beans.
Other days would involve Brazilian BBQ. Honestly, it’s the best. They cook the meat in this special style of barbecue, which is more like a pizza oven, and the meat is cut into small bite sized pieces and shared around, and complimented with rice and salads and ice cold beer. It’s more of a grazing style BBQ - totally different to Oz style.
When we were in Sao Paulo we went into town and visited some really cool galleries. There’s also this fabulous park in the city centre called Ibirapuera where the trees are as tall as the skyscrapers. It’s really bizarre to have this little square of forest amidst a sea of concrete. There are a few playgrounds for the kids too, so it's like being in a playground inside a forest inside a city.
What do you think your kids took away from this experience?
They were showered with love and attention from their grandparents and aunties and enjoyed the freedoms of a Brazilian childhood spending their days outdoors in the sunshine playing.
Were you worried about safety at any time?
No, I felt safe, but I was with a native Brazilian, so maybe that made it easier. I think whenever you’re in a foreign country you’ve got to be responsible and conscious of the risks; for example in São Paulo it's not wise to drive with your handbag on your lap and the window wide open. Honestly, I never felt unsafe though, especially when we were in Juquei and Uru as they are both really chilled out areas.
For you, what do you love most about travelling with your children?
I love that they get to experience something new, exciting and different. I love eating different foods and learning a foreign language and just immersing yourselves in a culture that’s totally different to Australia. Travelling with kids you also get to experience a bit of what it’s like to be a kid - just seeing how excited they get about being on an aeroplane. Also, being in a place like Brazil they get to see how fortunate they are to live in a place like Australia. Brazil has a vast divide between rich and poor. I think it’s important for children to have an understanding that there are people less fortunate and to appreciate what they have.
Do you have any other adventures planned for 2017?
I think we’ll stay local. Wye River and Wilsons Prom (Wilsons Promontory National Park) probably. Although I wouldn’t mind heading to Vietnam!