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Snapshot of Brazil – The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, making it distinct from the rest of South America. The Brazilian people are mostly descended from a mix of European, African, and indigenous ancestry, though this varies from region to region. The Roman Catholic Church is Brazil’s dominant religion, particularly in areas such as Teresina, Florianópolis, and Fortaleza. However, the Roman Catholic church has been decreasing in popularity in recent years as various Protestant and Evangelical churches have been growing rapidly. Other religious traditions are also practiced in various parts of the country, such as traditional indigenous beliefs in the north of the country, or Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda that are concentrated in Salvador, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro. There has been some conflict between these different religious groups. While Brazil’s culture as a whole is influenced by Portuguese, African, indigenous, and Roman Catholic traditions, there is great variation from region to region. The south of the country is more strongly influenced by German and Italian culture. Brazil has a strong history in literature, architecture, and film. Brazil is also home to many unique musical styles, such as samba, pagode, and funk (especially popular in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia), forró and frevo (popular in the northeast), and sertanejo (popular in Mato Grosso and Paraná). The yearly festival Carnaval (held each year forty-six days before Easter) is a major event, celebrated by parades, dancing, and music contests. The holiday is especially popular in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, to the point that missionary work is sometimes restricted during the week of Carnaval. Television is especially popular in modern Brazilian culture, especially novelas (Brazilian soap operas). Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Brazil, though volleyball, basketball, and several forms of martial arts (such as Capoeira and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) are also popular. Food in Brazil also varies from region to region, but there are some similarities throughout the country. Lunch is generally the main meal of the day, and rice and beans are eaten at almost every meal. The meals usually involve some type of meat as well as a small salad. Popular dishes include feijoada (a thick stew typically made with black beans and pork), pasta, and potatoes. Southern Brazil is famous for its churrascos (Brazilian-style grilled meat) and chimmarrão (a hot drink made using herba mate). Salgados (fried snacks similar to Spanish tapas) and the pastel (pastry envelopes filled with meat or cheese) are popular snack items. Pizza buffets are also popular, with many different types of pizza available, though Brazilian pizza generally does not have sauce. Rather, people add either ketchup or mustard to their pizza. Other restaurants sell meals buffet-style where the consumer pays for food by weight (per kilo). Many types of tropical fruit are also available in Brazil, and drinks made from fruit such as açai and guaraná are quite popular.
The Church has experienced lots of growth in recent years in Rio de Janeiro. There are currently 10 stakes within the mission boundaries, most of which have about 6 wards. Wards vary in size, with weekly attendance generally ranging from 50 to 120. Rio de Janeiro also has an Institute and several chapels have FamilySearch Centers.
A temple was announced for Rio de Janeiro at the April 2013 General Conference.
Like in the rest of Brazil, lunch is the main meal in Rio de Janeiro (and it is usually provided by the members!) Rice and black beans accompany almost every meal, along with some kind of meat. Typical dishes include “bife com ovo frito” (a thin steak with fried egg), panquecas (thin crepe-like dish stuffed with meat and sauce), lasagna, and chicken. Ice cream and flan are popular dessert items.
Street vendors sell salgados (salty pastries somewhat similar to empanadas), juice, and other snacks.
Some American food chains (especially McDonalds) can be found in some of the larger, more commercial areas of cities.
As a missionary in Rio de Janeiro, you will have to walk quite a bit! The most common forms of transportation are bus and the Volkswagen Kombi, which generally run along larger roads. Some Kombis are run by the city transportation system, while others are run by people looking to make some extra money (while these are sometimes cheaper than the busses, the drivers may not always be trustworthy, so be careful when choosing your Kombi). Rio de Janeiro also has an extensive train system running from the center of the city to other areas in the metropolitan area. Some of the nicer areas of the city of Rio de Janeiro also have access to an underground metro train system.
Rio de Janeiro has a reputation for being one of Brazil’s most dangerous areas, but as long as you are careful you should be fine. The most dangerous areas are the “favelas”, which are generally built on hillsides and often have trouble with drug trafficking and gang violence. Members, other missionaries, or the Mission President will be able to warn you about which places within your area should be avoided. Try not to carry too much money or give the impression of being completely lost. Walk with confidence, and be smart about where you go, as most areas are fairly safe.
Rio de Janeiro is home to one of the world’s largest celebrations of Carnaval. The festivities last for several days, featuring parades, music, dancing, and unfortunately, lots of things that are inappropriate for missionaries to be around. Missionary work is generally altered during Carnaval (ex. leaving to work earlier in the morning and then coming home early in the evening).
“cara” – basically the same as saying “dude”, it is used by nearly everyone in Rio.
“brother” – sometimes used instead of “cara”
“muleque” – often used to refer to young boys.
“caramba, caraca” – often used in surprise, like “holy cow!”
“chapeú” – some people say this instead of “guarda-chuva” for the word umbrella.
The carioca accent is also quite unique and distinct. Many people use a “sh” sound for words ending in s, and vowels often get turned into an i dipthong. For example, “nós” ends up being pronounced more like “noish”, and “luz” gets pronounced like “luish”. This is more dominant in the city of Rio than in the outlying areas.
You won’t need very many long-sleeve shirts in Rio de Janeiro, as it is very hot and you will rarely need to wear your suit. Stock up on short-sleeve shirts, garments and socks that are made of breathable fabric, and sturdy walking shoes (you’ll go through multiple pairs). Bringing a light jacket for the fall and winter months is also a good idea. Depending on what areas you serve in, you might not need it, but some areas (such as the outlying stakes of Itaguaí and São Gonçalo) do get a bit chilly at times. When it rains, it pours! You’ll probably go through a few umbrellas on your mission. Just pack one, since you can buy replacement umbrellas as needed in the field. It’s also a very good idea to bring Goldbond powder.
As far as sending packages to Rio de Janeiro goes, the mail system is generally pretty reliable (albeit not the fastest). Letters take about two weeks to arrive, while packages can take upwards of a month. However, packages and letters are occasionally lost, so it’s best not to send anything valuable or perishable
Rio de Janeiro is famous for its many tourist sites, such as the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue, Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain), Maracanã soccer stadium, and Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden). Many towns outside of Rio also have their own unique sites you can visit on P Day as well, so there is plenty to do besides write letters!
Rua Dois de Dezembro 78 salas
22220-040 Rio de Janeiro – RJ
Facebook group “Missão Brasil Rio de Janeiro – A Maravilhosa!” – https://www.facebook.com/groups/112121258863751/
This site lists mission blogs from missionaries who served in the Rio de Janeiro Mission -http://mormonmission.blogspot.com/2009/02/brazil-rio-de-janeiro-mission.html
What items were hard to get or not available? Some American items like peanut butter, maple syrup, or different kinds of candy were rare or unavailable.
What did you eat the most of? “Rice and beans, every day!”
What is the craziest thing you ate? Soup with chicken feet in it, plus a steak-type dish made of cow intestine
What was the most surprising thing about the culture? “The most surprising thing to me was how poor many people were. I taught people in one-room shacks that had hardly anything by way of material possessions.” – Kevin J
What advice would you give to someone going to the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission? “Be prepared for heat, intense rain, and working in potentially sketchy neighborhoods, but also an amazing place that you will absolutely love.”
What do you wish you had known before you served? “I wish I had had a stronger knowledge of the scriptures and knew how to adequately address the individual needs of the people we were teaching.”