Aug 25, 2010

Black Gold

The last two weeks have been spent in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritages site of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). The town was founded at the turn of the 17th century and was the focal point of Brazil's gold rush. The city has the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. I feel like we've taken a step back in time. It's so very different from the fast-paced week we just had in Rio de Janeiro. The town is extremely hilly and the roads are made of cobblestones. We walk everywhere (up and downhill in both directions to and from work). The streets are lined with small shops and cute restaurants. Everywhere you turn, you can see a church. We went inside one and the detailing inside was magnificent.

Tonight we had dinner on a patio overlooking a park, while listening to a talented musician playing your typical Antonio Carlos Jobim hits. The Portuguese language sounds so beautiful –like someone is telling you a secret.

There is always something going on in the town square, whether it's a marching band parade or a capoeira demonstration.

The people here are known for the kindness and I have had many opportunities to practice my Portuguese. I can now order food, buy clothes and ask for directions. But with great difficulty and a lot of "mais devagar por favor" (speak slower please). Most of the people here either work in mining or tourism, or they are engineering students at the university that is training us.

For our training, we have been learning about mining (geology, industry, economics, operations, logistics etc.) in a classroom and taking field trips to various different mines. There is so much to learn. Tomorrow it's off to the beautiful seaside city Vitoria for a few days to see more of Vale's operations.


Aug 14, 2010

Life’s a Beach

We've had such a busy week; I don't even know where to start.

It's winter time in Brazil right now. In Rio de Janeiro, that means the weather is like our Spring. It's warm but not hot and I've been wearing jeans and a t-shirt most of the time. We've been staying at lovely little hotel across from Copacabana beach. We've been so busy with work and getting adjusted (lots of bureaucracy with getting registered with the federal police), that the only tourist attractions we have seen are the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

I love the beach culture here. People are jogging along the beach at all times of day. Volleyball nets are up and the surfers are catching waves. There is even a free gym on Copacabana out in the open. There are tons of food vendors scattered along the walkway serving food and fancy cocktails. There are some people who walk along the beach selling watermelon, cold drinks, souvenirs and henna tattoos. I thought it was annoying at first but not having to get up to buy a cold drink is great. On Sundays they close down the road next to Copacabana and everyone is out walking along the street.

The AIESECers have been extremely helpful in getting us settled. They threw us a welcome party at a beautiful house by a beach. There is so much to learn about living and getting around in Rio. I'm gradually gaining more independence as I become more confident in my basic Portuguese and become more familiar with my surroundings.

Our first day of work started the day after we arrived. We've had presentations on different departments by various heads of departments. It's been wonderful to get a holistic view of how the company works together and operates. And I feel so lucky to have met so many important people in Vale already.

I got a tour of the office that I'll be working in. Starting October, I'll be working in the shared services office in Barra de Tijuca—a beautiful suburb of Rio with a very large beach. The office is in a huge open air mall. Inside, everyone has a cubicle–even the higher ups (their desks are just made of fancy oak). And the cubicle walls are low so you can see everyone when you stand up and look across the room. There's a decompression room with a punching bag, funny hats, artificial turf and whiteboard walls, where you can go to take time away from your desk and get those creative brain waves working again. There's also a room where you can book shiatsu massages. And the largest gym in Rio (completely with a climbing wall) is on the floor below us. I think I'm going to enjoy working here!

On Wednesday night, we attended the Brazilian Music Awards with Vale. It was the best introduction to Brazilian music. I only wish I could understand the lyrics. On the way out we walked along the red carpet and saw Brazilian celebrities get photographed.

On Thursday we gave a presentation on Canada to Vale employees. Organizing 17 people to present was no easy task but everything worked out great and our audience seemed to really enjoy it. I learned a lot more about Canada in the process too.

And yesterday, we flew on the company jet to Belo Horizonte where we were picked up by buses that took us to the beautiful town of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). We're here for two weeks to take a course on mining at the University and go on day-trips to nearby mines. This place is very different from Rio. It's a small cowboy town with the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. You have to wear runners to walk along the steep cobble-stone streets. I can't wait to go out and explore.

Aug 2, 2010

My Next Adventure

Tomorrow I get on an airplane bound for Brazil. I'll be embarking on the next stage of my AIESEC experience – Exchange! And it's not just any AIESEC exchange. I, along with 19 other Canadian recent graduates, will be working for Vale Inco, one of AIESEC's Global Exchange Partners for one year. The internship involves 8 months work experience in the company's Brazil offices followed by 4 months work experience in the Canadian offices. And pending favourable performance reviews, permanent employment in Canada. It's a sourcing strategy for the company to add to their leadership pipeline and bring back the Brazilian headquarter's culture to Canada.

We arrive in Rio de Janeiro for the first week and learn all about Vale. After that it's a trip to the state of Minas, where we'll learn more about the company and the mining industry. And then we go back to Rio for training in Management and Leadership. After that training period of 2 months, our group will separate into three cities (Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Vitoria) for 6 months of work related to our future positions in Canada. At the end of those 6 months we're rounded up together again for an Experience Workshop to reflect on our internships. And then it's back home to Canada.

In Canada I'll be a Recruitment and Selection Analyst based out of Toronto. I know a lot about what my position in Canada entails, but I don't know much yet about what I'll be doing in Brazil. I don't even know which city I'll be in after we finish training. I will find out soon after I arrive in Brazil though, so I'm not worried.

I can't believe I have a career in recruitment ahead of me. Back in my time in AIESEC, I loved planning and executing our recruitments—almost a little too much! It was such an intense experience trying to spread the word about AIESEC all over campus, finding the right people and having all of our information sessions, interviews and induction days all lined up. And after having two co-op work terms in recruitment, I just know that I'm going to have a great time.

I've been told by many people that I'm going to have a great time in Brazil too. Brazil is a popular destination for Canadians going on AIESEC exchanges. And last I heard, AIESEC Canada receives more interns from Brazil than from any other country. Even our National Committee President is from Brazil.

The person in Brazil in charge of coordinating our internship program is a Canadian AIESECer too. In fact, she was the first National Committee member I met when I first joined AIESEC.

Going to Brazil will be quite a different experience for me –unlike anything I've ever done. I've travelled to a dozen different countries but I have never stayed in any one city for more than three weeks. Rio de Janeiro is nothing like Victoria, but I feel ready for this. After a few borrowed Portuguese language tapes from the library, some lessons and advice from friends, several questions and answers from our Vale Global Coordinator and a 37-page welcome booklet from AIESEC Rio de Janeiro, I am set to survive my first few days in a new place. Of course, AIESEC will be helping us to get adjusted along the way. After hosting many interns in Victoria, I am looking forward to becoming an intern myself!