Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

Welcome to the first guest post on my blog. For the next week or so, this space will be hi-jacked by other great bloggers that I have discovered in my surf around the blogosphere. So first a warm welcome to Agata Zgarda…

Agata Zgarda

Agata Zgarda Chaves Nunes

I’m a teacher and coordinator of Cultura Inglesa in Teresina, Brazil. I was born in Poland where I graduated in bio-engineering and fell in love with English language. This love took me to London in 1998 where I spent three years studying and mastering my language skills. Thanks to my adventurous spirit and curiosity, I made my way to Brazil.

I started working as a teacher and discovered this is something I want to do in my life.  In 2001 I was invited to write a book “The Language of Hotels in English”, which was published in 2004. Nowadays, I mainly coordinate but still keep in touch with teaching.

In 2008, I attended the ACINE conference in Fortaleza and loved the experience. I’m planning to be a more frequent guest at any possible ELT conference in the future. It’s a great opportunity to meet wonderful people like Ken Wilson, who invite you to be a guest writer in their blog, which is a great honour.

Dinner experience

Polish casserole

One of the biggest pleasures in life for me is having friends come around, no matter where – Poland, England or Brazil. So once I settled in Brazil and considered my home a ‘friends friendly environment’ (read: fully furnished and decent looking) I decided to have some of my Brazilian friends over for dinner.

Following Polish tradition (‘czym hata bogata’- treat your guests better than yourself) I set up a date, time and menu.  I even called up my guests asking if there was something they considered not edible to avoid surprises later on, seeing somebody struggling with separating onions from the rest of the food and decorating the edge of a plate with them, or shyly smiling over a glass of water.

Before I proceed with the dinner description let me explain Polish habits regarding hospitality.  Whenever you invite somebody to your place, the food is ready and the table is set at the time your friends knock at your door.  Then you sit by the table enjoying your food and company until things disappear from the plates.  After this happens, you just sit around enjoying a nice cup of coffee/tea and a lengthy conversation that usually lasts till your guests decide it’s time to leave.

There I was then. Cleaning, cooking and checking the remaining details before my guests arrive. The time has come and… nothing. No big deal, even people in Poland get late from time to time. After about 30 minutes, I started to feel worried as my delicious casserole dish could turn into dry overcooked food in the oven.  One hour passed and believe me, you don’t want to know all the baroque chain of adjectives describing my friends that went through my head. Finally about one hour and some minutes later, my long expected friends knocked at the door.

Well, apparently surprises in Brazil are inevitable. I expected four people but seven appeared instead, to enjoy my cold (by that time) dinner.  I wasn’t prepared for seven people of course.

That was the first of a series of improvisation classes at the Great University of Brazil.

Agata Zgarda, Coordenação Acadêmica

>>CULTURA INGLESA >>
Av. Jockey Clube, 299
Ed. Eurobusiness
Teresina – PI
(86)3232-0467
http://www.culturainglesapi.com.br/

Agata blogs at http://sabendoquasetudo.blogspot.com/

Comments on: "Guest post 1 – a Polish dinner party in Brazil…" (31)

  1. Oh this is lovely Agata! Speaking as a big fan of both Polish and Brazilian culture, hospitality and cooking, it gave me a good chuckle.

  2. Hi Agata!
    Nice to meet you on this blog and what a wonderful insight into Polish and Brazilian culture! Hope to meet you one day in person! Congratulations Ken on the series of guest blogposts, we will see many interesting people!

    • Thanks for your nice comment. I’ve seen you’ve been to many interesting places yourself. I’m curious about the culture clash between Canadian and Greek people🙂

      • You just gave me an idea to write about being a Greek-Canadian! It is funny to have two nationalities, so different to one another because you have features from one, features from the other and you end up… as quite a combination!!!

  3. Agata,

    What a lovely piece. Poor you about the dinner. However, I’m sure your friends thought you were a great hostess.
    This reminds me of a trip I had in Mexico. I’m Mexican American so I’m quite familiar with culture and traditions but was not familiar with how business was conducted. The meeting lasted 8 hours and entailed eating, relaxing by the beach, and more. I had not planned for an 8 hour meeting, though, and must say was more than happy to close the deal after such hospitality. It was very enjoyable though and yes full of surprises, which were all lovely.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      An 8-hour business meeting that involves relaxing on the beach? I always wondered why Mexicans came across as such a happy bunch. Wow, Shell, you must find living in Germany quite a challenge!

    • Oh, I see Mexicans have something in common with Brazilians. Here simple activity of buying shoes takes hours. During this time you have a nice chat about your and your sales person’s life, drink water or coffee and discover many other things you should buy (according to a person who attends you) which you didn’t intend to.

  4. Moje gratulacje Agata!
    Zapiekanka wyglada pysznie, czekam na przepis🙂
    Ciekawa jestem, jak wyglada los nauczyciela w Brazylii. Brzmi egzotycznie!

    Sorry guys, couldn’t help myself🙂
    Can’t wait for the next posts, Ken!

    Anita

  5. Hi Agata,

    LOVED your story – mix of Poland and Brazil? Irresistible!

    In Mexico (see Shelly’s comment above) we used to time things as ‘hora inglesa’ or ‘hora mexicana’ to establish what kind of a time-lag would be acceptable.

    Looks like a great meal, though. Caipirinhas instead of coffee?

    Jeremy

    • Ken Wilson said:

      yes – i was wondering about the coffee/tea thing. no wonder they were late arriving!😛

      • Dear Gentlemen!

        I’m sorry but you talk nonsense!😉

        Polish hospitality does not involve drinking any mixtures. Caipirinhas? Nice. But not for the real Poles. Good vodka is the key word ;)))

        Too bad Agata lives so far😦 Had a feeling we have lots in common. Thanks for bringing us close Ken!

    • Thank you Jeremy. I bet you have some nice stories there as well. I’d like to hear some of them. As for caipirinhas – oh yes! But the order here is: caipirinhas, food and then coffee. Brazilian coffee is awesome.

  6. Hi Agata,

    Lovely description of what goes on in a host’s mind while waiting for your guests to show up. Even though I’m Brazilian myself, I’ve had issues with punctuality when trying to have people over for lunch or dinner. I guess this one of the main reasons I’d rather have a barbecue instead. I can ask people to arrive at noon, get home from the supermarket at a quarter to noon, light the charcoal at about 12.30, and start the actual cooking at about 13.30. In the meantime, those who arrive early (30 minutes after the arranged time) have some time to drink some beer, go to the swimming pool, prepare some caipirinhas, and what have you.
    Another option is making some sushi… but, oven-cooked meal? Hmm, looking on the bright side, we don’t mind waiting while you leave the food in the oven as long as you join us for some drinks and nice conversation.

    Cheers!

    • Oh yes. I’ve learned that throughout some years of living here. But the first experience was unforgettable. I’ve also learned that when you invite Brazilians over for dinner at 6.00, you should mention 5 o’clock in your invitation 😀

      • Dinner at 6.00 pm??? No way!! That’s way too early for Brazilians!!!🙂
        The other day I had problems inviting some friends to have lunch around 14.30… they only had lunch at 16-ish… :p

  7. Oh, Agata, thanks for sharing this experience!

    You must have lived a hell of an hour waiting for your friends! How frustrating it can be to wait for your guests when you have gone through so much preparation for a wonderful dinner and they are late… Good thing they showed up and you had a lovely evening!

    It looks like Eastern Europe shares the custom of having friends for lunch or dinner. In Romania things happen just the same: the preparations, the dinner, the chit-chat after the meal and even the friends being late.

    Melania

    • Agata Zgarda said:

      I should have mentioned in my blog how things work here in Brazil with having guests over. Let me do it now: people come (usually late an hour or so) then there’s lots of beer drinking, pecking here and there and then finally at the end of the meeting the food comes. People eat and go. Totally opposite to Poland.

      • Selene Campos said:

        ohhhh! we are not so bad! LOL. But yes, Id say we are the opposite of English! It is actually common here to set the time of a party 1 hour before of the time you want people to come over… LOL So they arrive on time!!!
        I have been trying to change that habit in myself, though. Maybe it’s the influence of my British boss, my Polish Coordinator (Agata Zgarda) and … well life. I can imagine Miss Zgarda being very hurt with her guests… And poor casserole… If I can recollect something about Agata’s abilities in kitchen, even cold and dry, the casserole must have been delicious….

    • Melania, whenever I looked for the origin of my surname (Zgarda) I was directed to Romanian internet sites. What does “Zgarda” mean in Romanian?

      • Selene, thanks a lot! I think I’m owing you that casserole dish after your nice comment here. Beware! The food is coming!

      • Agata,

        The meaning of “zgarda” is “dog collar”, but are you sure it’s of Romanian origin? If your surname is quite a frequent one in Polish, then it probably doesn’t have anything to do with Romanian. If, on the contrary, it’s not so frequent, then it may have some connection to Romanian, probably due to the historical background our countries shared between the 14th and the 16th centuries.

        I hope I’m not disappointing you, it is neither poetic nor romantic and it surely doesn’t match any of the beautiful features I inferred about you…

      • Zgarda isn’t a common surname in Poland. Not at all. This gives me a lot to think about. Am I Romanian in some part? That would be so interesting! I wonder if there are any people in Romania with the same surname. What a translation by the way!

  8. Hej, się miło zrobiło że znajomych mam światowych

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