Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Brazil? In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Kristopher-Jon Samuel. He is a Jamaican who has lived in Brazil for 10 years.
Xavier: What’s it like being a Jamaican in Brazil? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. Today in Jamaicans to the world, I talked to Kristopher-John Samuel, a Jamaican living in Brazil. Kris, welcome. How are you?
Kristopher: Hi, man, I’m fine. Good to be here.
Xavier: Good, good, good. All right, so the first question is because people waan (want to) know this. Where in Jamaica yuh (you) cum (come) fram (from)?
Kristopher: All right, now first things first. I’m from two different places and I will say that because they’re dear to my heart. I was born in Kingston. I spent most of my days in Kingston but actually lived in Spanish Town for most of my time in Jamaica. Both places are actually very important to me.
Xavier: All right. Which school now? You know us Jamaicans and our schools. Which school?
Kristopher: I’ll say three words for you. “Age Quod Agis”. I am a Wolmerian through and through.
Xavier: All right. All right. I know quite a few wolmerians. I have some good Wolmerian friends.
Kristopher: That’s good.
Xavier: Wolemarians will big you up once they hear that.
Kristopher: Yeah man. We are quite a group of lads in the world. It’s really interesting to meet Wolmerians on my ways when I go travelling.
Xavier: Good, good and you always will meet Jamaicans and as you say, Wolmerians. You will meet Jamaicans everywhere.
Kristopher: Yeah man, Yeah man, most definitely.
Xavier: Tell us your story. How did you end up in Brazil?
Kristopher: All right. Let’s go into this whole roller coaster. I finished high school. I did sixth form and I did the IB program, which is quite rigorous. It’s two years of non-stop preparation for University at the highest level you could imagine. Just to graduate, you had to do 150 hours of Community Service plus a 4000-word thesis paper. I finished high school, got accepted to University in England to do law, but I also got a scholarship to come study here in Brazil. I thought, Brazil is something quite interesting. I can always go to England if I really needed to. But, let me see what it’s like. I spoke to my mom, and we decided all right, Kris, you can go to Brazil to do this course. Essentially, I got a scholarship from the Brazilian government. But in order to take up the scholarship, I had to do one year of intensive Portuguese language courses. After which you had to pass a test and then you could move on to your course. Suffice to say I spent the year learning Portuguese. I loved it so much, I loved the culture so much that I decided to stay and I’ve been here ever since.
Xavier: How long is that?
Kristopher: Well, about 10 years now.
Xavier: Oh wow!
Kristopher: Yeah (yes). I did seven years in my unit course and three years traveling back and forth between Asia, Jamaica and here.
Xavier: You said you loved it so much there. What do you really love about Brazil? Is it the people, the food, the culture? Tell us what you love?
Kristopher: All right, a loaded question. You ask some loaded questions man. Firstly, the food. The food is excellent and the culture is one of a kind. But I will tell you though, I live in a very special place. I live in the Amazon. I actually studied University here, and I stayed here in the Amazon because it is one of the most enticing places I’ve ever found anywhere in the world apart from
Jamaica. The Amazon is my second home.
Xavier: Oh, wow!
Xavier: The food?
Kristopher: The food.
Xavier: The food is really good.
Xavier: What wi (we) must try? Tell mi (me) what wi (we) must try if wi (we) come to Brazil.
Kristopher: Depends on where you go. For example, Brazil has five regions, They have North, North East, Center, South and south east and each region has its’ different kinds of flavors and different kinds of local culture. If you’re going down south, for example, you’re going to have a lot of barbecue, and I don’t need to tell you how good the beef here is in Brazil. The beef is excellent.
Xavier: You don’t have to tell me. I visited Brazil for the World Cup and you don’t have to tell me.
Kristopher: Cool? Yeah. Nice. So you already found yourself away in some Churrasco and You already tried to different local stuff. That’s good. One of the most important things I find with the food is here in the Amazon. I love fruits and everywhere I go, I try different local fruits and I have never ever found a place that had this many exotic fruits. It’s incredible, the Amazon and how different variety you can find.
Xavier: So in terms of fruits. I know we have a variety in Jamaica and so on. Is there a fruit that you kind of discovered there? Never heard about it before and tried it and you like. And even if it’s the Brazilian name you giving us, tell us what it is?
Kristopher: I could go on and on and on and on and on. But I’ll kind of do a comparison. But I’ll even tell you straight up here in the Amazon I get otaheite apples anytime I want. Anytime. They’re always in season up here. That’s a big plus from coming back home. Another fruit I love the most is Soursop because in my backyard, we had loads of Soursop trees. We use to make Soursop ice cream. We used to make Soursop desserts and stuff like that. When I came to Brazil, I found Soursop, but I also found two other fruits of the same family. You can imagine when I tried the other two I was like ah this is quite similar. But one of them is called Cupuacu and Cupuacu has a really a liquor tasting texture as well.
Yeah, yeah. But it’s native to the fruit itself. So you get that kind of alcoholic taste, but it’s not alcoholic. It’s quite interesting. The other one is Bacuri and Bacuri for me is heaven. I can eat Bacuri every single day. I’ll tell you this much, my fist is about this big. That’s the size of the fruit. But when you have to open it, there’s a huge seed inside and you only get about this amount of fruit. Tt comes from that huge, huge pod to that amount of liquid you get. So it’s precious, precious, precious commodity.
Xavier: The people, let’s move on to the people because if wi (we) talk food wi ago () sidung (sit down) and chat (talk) food all day.
Kristopher: I’ll give you another tidbit though with food. My family used to have a restaurant in Kingston. We were right across from the Air Jamaica building, and I grew up there basically. Every holiday, every summer, every Easter, Christmas, I’d be in the kitchen and I loved it so much, so I guess that translates my love for food as I go along in life.
Xavier: Well, since you touch on that now. If you wanted your Jamaican can fix. You’re way up there in the Amazon you’re cooking it or is there any Jamaican place or restaurant where you can get something or you have to make it or bring it in.
Kristopher: Up here, I have to do the cooking and with my busy schedule, sometimes it’s a pain but I still make a sacrifice to cook some weekends and invite friends over. But if I really want a good fixing of food, a new Jamaican restaurant actually opened up in San Paolo. So I have to fly three and a half hours to guh (go) get good Jamaican food. Yeah.
Xavier: The people, I’ve had a little bit of experience, with my experience coming to Brazil, the people are just extremely friendly. One of the observations was every corner dem (they) play soccer. I came during a festive time. There was a party and carnival on every street and I think that is the view people may have of Brazil and Brazilians. I went to Salvador Bahia. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it correctly. But that’s the area I went to.
Kristopher: Well done.
Xavier: What are the people like? Because again, I just got a quick snapshot and most people are getting this quick snapshot they see on TV of people party and play soccer. So, tell us about the people in terms of, they may be laid back, I don’t know too much. Tell us what the people are like?
Kristopher: Brazilians are some of the warmest souls on the planet. For example, any excuse whatsoever to unite the entire family to have a backyard barbecue is a given. Let’s say for example, it’s your dog’s birthday, the entire family gets together for a backyard barbecue. You graduated from grade four to grade five, it’s another motive for you to have another barbecue. You bought a new car, you invite your friends over and everybody has a barbecue. That should give you the amount of camaraderie that is here, and it is even 10 times multiplied when a foreigner is involved, especially if they love you. As we would say in Jamaica, when dem (them) spirit tek (take) yuh (you), dem (them) spirit tek (take) yuh (you) really.
You are absolutely on the money with that. There’re warm, loving people. I’ll actually tell you a story about that, too. I came here for the first time when I was 19 years old. I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese. I speak Spanish. I’m fluent in Spanish so at that time, I was really good. But Portuguese, zero, absolutely nothing. I came in February, my birthday was in April and on my birthday, a group of Brazilians that I had just met for maybe about two weeks, decided to throw me a surprise birthday party.
Can you imagine? And I’m trying to figure out okay, fine. Let me go, see if I can talk to everybody. But that was the most surprising thing, shows you just how beautiful they’re. Wonderful people, man.
Xavier: It sounds a little bit like Jamaicans how we love to have a little get-together if we can. They sound like they tek (take) it to another level.
Kristopher: Exactly, another level.
Xavier: In terms of the people themselves, when, they learn that you are Jamaican. What is the questions? The things that happen? What do they say? What’s their view of Jamaicans? Talk to me. What happens when you say I’m Jamaica?
Kristopher: When you say you’re Jamaican, the first thing we’re going to ask you is, can you dance reggae? And I’m just thinking, is this a trick question? Are you guys trying to make fun of me or something? But it’s something really serious down here in Brazil. There’s kind of like an ongoing thing where up north, reggae is danced in couple. Traditionally, up north it’s a sensual kind of thing, but down south, they dance reggae by themselves. It’s an ongoing thing here in Brazil to find out which one is the correct one. Do you dance in a couple? or do you dance by yourself? I get drawn into that argument every single time. It’s hilarious and coming from Jamaica, we don’t really have that set way of dancing. Like for example; we would dance bachata or how you would dance salsa or merengue, that’s how they would dance reggae in a much slower version, much more sensual version. So it’s quite interesting to learn that factor and to be a part of that debate in society. It’s quite cool.
Xavier: I know there’s a spin off reggaeton, which is quite popular in Latin America and Latino countries. What do you hear? Do you hear reggae? Do you hear reggaeton there in Brazil?
Kristopher: You do hear reggae and you do hear reggaeton. I will say this; Jamaica has captivated Brazil for years, for decades. Some of the major football teams in Brazil, every single game, they will always bring out a flag of Bob Marley, Rasta colors and a Jamaican flag. Trust me, and this is on national TV every single Wednesday. That is one thing. Two, there’s an entire state in this country that is devoted to reggae culture. It’s called Maranhao. It’s the capital of reggae in Brazil. There you have dub plates from way back when, you have regular parties, specifically regular parties when it’s only reggae you hear all day, all night. We have really much captivating their psyche, with reggae, and with our culture. And that’s something really nice to see. It is.
Xavier: That’s amazing, because when I was there, I remember this one gentleman, and he had dreadlocks and I had on my Jamaican flag shirt. And he came up to me, and he was like, “Jamaican flag”, and I said “Yeah, I’m from Jamaica”. And he was like you’re from Jamaica? And he couldn’t express everything he wanted to say in English, but he wanted to know so much and say he’s a big reggae fan.
And he just greeted us like we were kings and queens.
Kristopher: Yeah man, yeah man that’s it. When I went to the Olympics in Rio, you should have seen the reaction we got when Usain won the gold medal. Everybody was giving us all applauses, just because we were all decked out in our colors, and the reception that you get when you say that you’re from Jamaica is always amazing. I’ve never ever felt any bad vibes from anyone when I say, I’m from Jamaica, Nah (no), man. It’s always 100% positive vibes.
Xavier: In terms of customs and cultures there. Is there a custom you find that happens there that you think was really great. I know they have the parties. Any type of customs that you’ve seen along the way that you say, this is interesting, this is a nice custom. And you’re also in Amazon so you may be exposed to some of the indigenous people that lived there. Any customs that you have found interesting? or you’ve come upon since living there?
Kristopher: Good question. I think for me, the best answer for that is the courteousness of everybody. Brazilians are really courageous. Good morning, good afternoon, good night, thank you, when it’s not even necessary, “quote, on quote” is a given here. You go into a shop and you look around, you do a little eye shopping and somebody comes over to you and you say, Hey, what’s up? No, no, thank you I’m good. But it’s the level of courteousness that you give to everybody, even though they didn’t even do anything for you, or they didn’t even help you, was the fact that you’re that kind. That for me is very surprising. Because you hear a lot of bad stuff about the Favelas in Rio and stuff like that, but on a different page, they are so courteous and I’m happy to say that I’m trying to take that as a part of my daily living as well. To be a lot more courteous and to be a lot more kind, because everybody around me is like that, so it ends up rubbing off on me and I think that’s a really good influence.
Xavier: Okay. If someone was to visit, what would you say is a place that you would seh (say), you have to go si (see) dis (this), or you must experience this. I know there is multiple things you’re going to say. But think of it from the perspective of somebody that may be having a short visit. They can’t hike up to the Amazon or get up there. You seem like you have traveled around the five areas enough. What would be the thing that you say listen, if you can go see this or experienced this?
Kristopher: I’m going to be as cliché as possible Rio de Janeiro. Trust me. Rio de Janeiro is not called the marvelous city for no reason whatsoever. That city is absolutely marvelous. It’s literally our entire country. All ah (of) Jamaica in a city. It’s vibrant, it’s populous, it’s young, the beaches, the nature, the food, the music, and the vibes on a whole. When I go to Rio, I feel like I’m at home. It’s surprising. Rio is the place I think most Jamaicans would love and would necessarily have to see. Because, you’ll feel it too. You’ll feel it.
Xavier: My only experience in Rio is the plane stopped over there on the way to Salvador.
Kristopher: Next time I take you there.
Xavier: I really enjoyed Brazil. I really enjoyed as I said, the people. It was just a warm feeling, it was just great. It was good.
Kristopher: Yeah, I can imagine it.
Xavier: Do you play football?
Kristopher: I do. I play football, but because I live in Amazon, I’m much more of an outdoor enthusiast. I do a lot of hiking, I do a lot of swimming. I go a lot into the forest because I do work there as well. Tt’s mainly what I do, I go out, I’m outdoors most of the times.
Xavier: Okay and if you don’t mind us asking what type of work you do that you get out in the forest?
Kristopher: I am a Consultant I work with a lot of Brazilian local companies, as well as companies in Asia where English isn’t their
main language of trade. I facilitate that trade between both nations. It’s quite hectic sometimes because you have to take into consideration the cultural norms of any place that you’re doing business with. I’s been a challenge, but it’s a great challenge I find, being able to help people along the way. Some of the experiences I’ve had because of my background in research and my background in consultancy. That has really made an impact on me and on who I am and how I see the world as well. It’s interesting.
Xavier: I think that’s great in terms of your experiencing because of what you do. You are experiencing other cultures, being that bridge for other cultures. It opens up a new world. I remember working as a Consultant and having to deal with seven different countries that I had to bridge for, and just realizing how different every single one of them is.
Kristopher: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s finding that point of convergence between everybody because there is a lot more that unite us than separates us, if you can believe that. I really want people to believe as well that even though we do speak different languages, or we’re from different continents. Humans on a whole, we are all pretty much alike. That is something really fulfilling for me to be able to do that kind of work.
Xavier: Yeah, I agree, and the more I do this series, the more I realize. I’ve always known it, but you see it and you hear it from the past folks I’ve talked to in this series, how much more alike we are, than we want to admit.
We’re getting close to closing, and if there’s one piece of advice that you’d give to anyone that’s thinking of moving to Brazil as a Jamaican or any anyone. What would that one piece of advice be?
Kristopher: I’ll give you my mantra, the world is your backyard, go play in it. Trust me again. The world isn’t as big as we think it is. We’re not as different as we think we are. And the more we start to get in that mind frame that the cultural similarities are glaring, is the more we’ll have that itch to go and see another culture and to go and see another way of life, and that for me, is one of the best things about living really. Being able to interact every day with people from all walks of life and to find that, we’re all in this together. The world is your backyard. Go play in it.
Xavier: That’s a good piece of advice. All right, in closing. You’re going teach me now. How do I say goodbye? Before you even say that, thank you, thank you for sharing your story with us and with the viewers, and giving us just a little piece of what living in Brazil is like. Now, you’re going teach me and the audience, how do you say goodbye the Brazilian way in Portuguese? Because obviously you know Portuguese, you studied it for a year and you use it every day. How do we say in the most non-formal way? And I’m going to try.
Kristopher: First thing I’ll say to you is, thank you so much for the opportunity, and I am so grateful that you are doing this kind of work showing that there are Jamaicans everywhere. That is something remarkable and it’s priceless, mate. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to be here.
How do we say goodbye in Brazil in the most informal way. You say, falou.
Kristopher: Esu, esu, falou.
Xavier: What is esu?
Kristopher: That means yeah, you’re right.
Xavier: All right. So again, thank you Kris and falou.
Kristopher: Falou, falou
Photos – Deposit Photos