Cultural exchange targets professionals; local tells of Brazil, next tripsAmy Schreiner traveled more than 5,000 miles to Brazil, staying April 7 to May 9 for the Rotary-sponsored trip. She learned, among many things, that foreign exchange isn’t just for kids.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Amy Schreiner traveled more than 5,000 miles to Brazil, staying April 7 to May 9 for the Rotary-sponsored trip. She learned, among many things, that foreign exchange isn’t just for kids.
Schreiner, known by many around River Falls as “Dr. Amy” from Horizon Family Chiropractic on Main Street, traveled through the northern portion of Brazil with four others of different professions.
Their main purpose: To meet, talk and live in the host country to learn about the culture, as well as serve as an ambassador.
Schreiner explained, “It’s foreign exchange for adults,” and coordinated by the nonprofit organization.
She recalled the Group Study Exchange trip again when she received a recent notice to “spread the word” that applications are due Oct. 15 for next year’s trip to the Czech Republic.
Only non-Rotary members may apply for a GSE team, which are led and hosted by Rotary members.
Schreiner says after the online application, she participated in a three-to-four hour interview, visiting with multiple panels of people.
Generally, each Rotary district each year sends a GSE team somewhere and welcomes a group from that same place. Those places for River Falls’ District 5960 have included India, Brazil, Sweden, Peru, Australia, Turkey, Nigeria and Taiwan.
Schreiner got to meet the outbound group from Brazil just before her inbound team left and again before departing Brazil.
Schreiner said she was amazed at the hospitality of the Brazilian Rotarians. She stayed with 13 different hosts who treated her to lodging and meals and outings.
The group visited 12 cities in 28 days and adjusted to “Brazilian time,” which sometimes means an event may get going up to 90 minutes after it was scheduled. It didn’t take long for the visitors to realize their ‘addiction’ to electronics -- phones, computers, iPads, Facebook, texting…Most phone plans do not work internationally, and the wireless signals weren’t plentiful.
When there was an available Internet connection, Schreiner was thankful for Skype, which enabled her to talk to and even see people at home and work.
Brazilians speak Portuguese, and the GSE team had interpreters most of the time.
She said they all learned key words before the trip such as bathroom and water. She also quickly learned how to say “I’m allergic to dairy.”
Schreiner said most homes were like an oasis inside and outside were often encircled by a tall wall and sometimes barbed wire. She noted a stark contrast between rich and poor.
She visited some hospitals, taking tours and demonstrating techniques. She learned that chiropractic care is not regulated and practitioners don’t have to take an exam.
Many things she saw and heard about while there made her glad to be practicing in America.
“We definitely have to be thankful for our health care here,” Schreiner said.
The GSE team visited many Rotary project sites, including several schools and nursing homes since they’re poorly funded and need lots of help. Schreiner said one of the school projects involved a GPS device on the kids’ uniforms. She didn’t understand everything the tour guide said but guessed they are for safety.
Schreiner did a traditional flag exchange with at least 10 of the Rotary clubs she visited. The Brazilian clubs now have a River Falls Rotary Club flag, which depicts the Kinnickinnic River, and the local club will hang up the Brazilian flags.
People made a big deal of the team’s arrival everywhere it went and snapped pictures like paparazzi.
“It was fun,” she said, “I felt like a celebrity.”
Schreiner said Brazilian people are generally very loving -- hugging and kissing a lot. The natives sensed that not all Americans are as physically affectionate as they are.
She said meat of all types -- beef, chicken, pork, shrimp -- usually dominates the meals. The tropical climate is bountiful with fresh fruits such as papaya, and people regularly crack open a green coconut and drink the juice inside.
She said temperatures reached 95-100 degrees each day she was there. Some families have window-unit air conditioners they only use at night while sleeping.
“A small city to them is 250,000 people,” said Schreiner.
They could hardly grasp the concept of a small home town. Most Brazilians view country living as a poor life and city living as affluent.
She also learned that many foreigners’ believe most Americans have a ‘superiority complex’ and sit around eating McDonald’s. Schreiner did her best to demonstrate and explain the array of positive American attributes.
She said she was nervous about leaving her practice for so long but had faith in a great staff, good friends, and a trusted fill-in doctor who helped while she was gone.
She describes the famous city in southern Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, as amazing. She and some of the GSE members took a side trip there before turning home.
She enjoyed the trip, saying Brazil is a beautiful country and its people quite welcoming. Schreiner observed powerful technology and industry, and says she wouldn’t be surprised to see the country become a superpower.
As for the cultural exchange experience through Rotary, the local said, “I’d highly encourage anyone to do it.”
Rotary Group Study Exchange
Get more information about the Rotary GSE program and/or an application from District 5960, the River Falls club’s home district, online at www.rotary5960.org, click on foundation then look down the left-side list. Some requirements GSE team members must meet: