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Brazilian students in Springdale looking forward to new Christmas experience

Five Brazilian students - from left, Stephanie, Mary, Sandriely, Maria and Taymara - are looking forward to spending the holidays in Springdale, where they are attending school and learning English.
Five Brazilian students - from left, Stephanie, Mary, Sandriely, Maria and Taymara - are looking forward to spending the holidays in Springdale, where they are attending school and learning English. - Cory Hurley

SPRINGDALE, NL - As the Christmas season seemingly gets longer all the time, that trend seems even more peculiar to five girls visiting Springdale from Brazil.

Forget the fact it is cold - which the five exchange students at Indian River High cannot - and snow is partly covering the ground; a month-long celebration of Christmas is strange to the girls.

It was 35C in Tacaratu, Brazil, where Mary Cristine de Jesus Campos is from, at the time this article was written.

It was -1C in Springdale, where she has been living since September and will stay until late January.

The Grade 11 girls from different parts of the South American country are in Springdale attending school to learn English.

Taymara Thais Cavalante da Silva, Maria Teresa Amaral, Sandriely Gomes Rodriguez, Stephanie Maryssam Gomes Annes and Mary - no wonder they asked if they had to provide their full names for the story, since in Brazil it is typical to take two names from each of their paternal and maternal sides - knew very little English when they arrived.

"In the first week we came here, we didn't know a lot how to talk," Stephanie said. "We just listened."

"We just stayed blank and looked at everyone," Maria said.

That has changed immensely in the past four months. The girls are now regular contributors to class discussions and the school community, and are even aware of the unique dialect from which they are learning the language.

"Your Newfie expressions ... Newfies speak really fast," Taymara said.

Although they didn't know each other before they arrived, it is easy to see the girls have created a special bond in the past few months.

They lock arms as they walk down the school hallway to get their picture taken, laughing and joking with each other. Without a prompt, they wrap their arms around each other and get ready for the photo.

As the temperature continued to drop and the first signs of snow arrived - alarming as that was for the girls from the hot climate of South America - signs of the holiday season also began to show.

Christmas in Brazil is not as commercial as it is in North America. The girls say there is still the concept of Santa Claus, but they wait for just one present and do not have an early Christmas morning gift opening.

The holiday is celebrated on Christmas Eve. While a big turkey dinner is traditional there as well, it is shared with extended family at midnight.

The girls said the high quantity of songs and extended preparation really stand out in this part of the world.

Home decorations - especially the lights - are much more extravagant here than in Brazil, where it is primarily just decorating a tree. The girls admitted they like that part of the North American tradition much more.

That will only slightly ease the pain of being away from their families.

"This will be our first Christmas without our families," Sandriely said, her eyes welling up with tears and Stephanie chiming in word for word to help finish her sentence.

There will be a lot of online communication between the girls in Springdale and their families in Brazil during the holidays.

The girls will be shaking off the cold to attempt to enjoy the winter activities here. They are looking forward to having a snowmobile ride and trying out skiing.

"It's really cold, but we are enjoying it," Maria said.

The five separate host families are good to them, the girls said, and despite missing their families, they are very much looking forward to spending the holidays here.

They also say the new year is celebrated differently in the two countries, with it being another occasion for a large dinner with family at home.

While they are a continent away from their families in Brazil, the girls have found another family in each other, and are a special part of five new families here.

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