International Consulting: Sao Paolo, Brazil

As a young staff consultant, I fully prepared myself to be travelling pretty much constantly. I even prepared myself to oblige last minute requests, which came in handy the time I was asked Thursday morning to push my flight and stay through Friday. With a smile I responded “of course, that’s not a problem” while in my head I contemplated whether or not I could purchase a work appropriate shirt at Target and push my Friday plans to Saturday. While understanding the expectations of this job is crucial, there are some things you just don’t prepare for- things like being asked on Tuesday, 3 days before your roll off date and less than a year after joining the company, if you could maybe just head down to Brazil on Monday.

To be specific, I was to travel to Sao Paolo, Brazil for ten days to help clean up a project plan that had a few kinks. To get myself there, I would need a Visa, which would require me to be in Chicago with all the requirements in less than 24 hours. Did I mention I was in Boulder, Colorado? I won’t bore you with the details (there was a decent amount of frantic calls and sweating) but even though I ended up at the Brazilian Consulate on Wednesday, there was “no way you could get a Visa in less than three business days unless you’re going for your honeymoon or something.” Thanks Consulate guy, that’s good to know for next time.

As I prepared to leave for Brazil, I did some standard pre-travel prep and some not so standard. Gathering my documents and emergency meds? Pretty standard. Training on what to do if I get kidnapped? Not-so standard. Come Tuesday I was fully prepared (and a little freaked out). Thanks to some extreme weather I landed in Houston, Texas at 9:10 PM. Of course my flight to Sao Paolo was at 9:05 so cue the 24 hour layover in Texas. Fortunately, this was my final delay and by Wednesday afternoon I finally arrived at the client site. I was ready to get down to business which is exactly what we did until about 3 PM when the power went out. The team agreed this seemed like a sign from the Brazilian work gods to go for an early happy hour.

This was a snack!Happy hour featured my first experience with Brazilian cuisine. Pastels would be a regular feature of our meals for the next 10 days. They are essentially very delicious hot pockets filled with cheese or meat or fish. If pastels constituted 10% of our diet, meat made up the other 90%. In the US, a Brazilian Steakhouse is somewhere you go for a special occasion. If you’ve never been to one, it’s essentially a salad bar and all you can eat meat until you’re about 3 bites from passing out. In Brazil, a Brazilian Steakhouse is somewhere you go on a Tuesday. And a Wednesday, and a Thursday. In all, we went to a Brazilian Steakhouse 4 times in 10 days. I consider myself a carnivore but even I had to go vegetarian for a few weeks after returning from Brazil. Not only were the meals very meat heavy, every meal was so large it actually became challenging. When your meal becomes a workout, you might have a problem.

While the food was delicious, I think my favorite thing about Brazil was the people. From the account executive who spent his Saturday driving us all over Sao Paolo to our driver who closed the trip by giving us Brazil World Cup scarves, everybody was so welcoming and generous. Even with a language barrier, we were all able to work towards a common goal and find some common ground in the process. While that project ended for me in Brazil, I will take the valuable experience with me to every project I work on.  And if the experience doesn’t always come in handy, I have these awesome Havianas.

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