AN INTERVIEW WITH MR.RICARDO GUERRA DE ARAUJO, CHARGE D’AFFAIRES OF FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL
- February 5, 2015
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MR. ARAUJO, PLEASE SHARE WITH THE READERS OF ADIS MAGAZINE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE IMPRESSIONS OF BULGARIA SO FAR?
I arrived in Sofia last February so I’ve been here for 8-9 months. It was in the middle of the winter.
I’ll tell you what impressed me at first – I’ve never been to Sofia before. That’s my first visit after spending six years as Deputy Ambassador to Paris, France. I was nominated for the position of chargé d’affaires of the Brazilian Embassy here in Sofia. When I first arrived I was impressed by the new airport you’ve built I believe with European Funds. Airports are very important because they are the doorway of any town, any capital. If you face a nice airport you enter the city with a nice impression. And Sofia airport is a nice one. And of course I’ll mention the road that connects the Airport with the downtown is very impressive.
Also, the Brazilian residence is located in a very attractive Sofia neighborhood that I like very much – we are downtown, it’s very quiet, secure, you have small shops, cafes and restaurants, all the convenient markets. It is very practical. I like to walk to the shopping places and I really appreciate the fact that I can do it in the neighborhood where I live. I’m also very glad to be within a walking distance to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Opera house (I’m a big opera fan and go to the opera at least once a week or two weeks), so I can walk from my residence to the Opera or Bulgaria hall to listen to some classical music I’m especially fond of instead of driving.
I’m very happy to live just across the street of the Embassy. This is very practical and convenient. I don’t have to drive or face traffic jams that have become a real issue for Sofia as for any other European city I suppose.It is a pleasure and very practical at the same time for us at the Brazilian Embassy to work with ADIS Real Estate because anytime we have a problem either in the residence, or in the embassy, we call our broker Mrs. Elka Pankova or another person from ADIS Real Estate and you are always ready to help, to adjust things according to our needs. Since my arrival almost a year ago I‘m pleased to work with your company and I really believe that it wouldn‘t be the same if these were private properties. Mrs. Pankova is always positive, co-operative and looking to find the best solution. For me, as the Head of the Brazilian Embassy in Bulgaria it’s a real bonus to work with ADIS Real Estate.
Since it is my first time in Sofia, I don`t speak Bulgarian. However, now I`m taking lessons in Bulgarian language twice a week. In spite of the fact that I don’t speak your language I have very positive and pleasant contact with the people here. Bulgarian people are very open, kind and straightforward. In some ways they are quite similar to Brazilians and there are a lot of things in common. It’s very easy for me to live here and to make contacts in all levels. For example, on Oborishte Str., there is a small bakery where they make the best bread in town and I´ve become a regular customer, or there is very nice and practical shop where you can buy honey, fruits and vegetables.
You have everything – the climate is good, the food is good, the people are kind. Bulgarian officials are always very receptive and they have always showed the utmost interest in my country. I am obliged for it since it makes my life easy Head of the Brazilian Embassy.
WERE YOU ABLE TO TRAVEL AROUND BULGARIA AND IS THERE A PLACE OR DESTINATION YOU’RE ESPECIALLY FOND OF?
I like Plovdiv very much because of its ancient theatre, the old town with the cobbled streets. Course Also I’ve been a couple of times in Veliko Tarnovo, a town I am very fond. There is another aspect that makes Veliko Tarnovo very important – its University has a good Department of Languages where Portuguese is taught. This year I’ve met a class of Bulgarian students learning Portuguese as a foreign language. There is also a Foreign Language Department in Sofia University where Portuguese, Spanish and other languages are taught. I was very much surprised to see that Portuguese and Brazilian culture can raise such interest among students. This is very nice and astonishing. I want to support these people in some way. The Brazilian Embassy is one of their potential employers and when we have an opening we look for hiring students with Portuguese – as a full time job or on a contract basis as translators. I would also like to mention that every year during the past 10 years the Brazilian Embassy has published a bilingual edition of a work from a Brazilian famous writer Mr. Nelson Rodrigues – both in Bulgarian and Portuguese. We are working with Sofia University on the translations to Bulgarian language. This year, for instance, we have published a book from a well-known Brazilian author and modern play writer. Now we are looking for a Bulgarian theatre group to stage the play here, in Bulgaria.
The other thing we are doing nowadays regarding these two important universities where Portuguese is taught is to negotiate a cooperation program on education with the Bulgarian Ministry of Education. Why we need this? When I met these students at Veliko Tarnovo University I mentioned above, they told me they would like to spend one or two years in Brazil as part of an exchange program in order to improve their language skills and their knowledge of the Brazilian culture. To do this we need to have a formal bilateral framework agreement between our two governments to allow an exchange of students and professors both ways. I hope to conclude this negotiation process till the end of this year or by the beginning of next year.
MR. ARAUJO, WHICH SIDE OF YOUR CHARACTER, WAS OF GREATEST HELP FOR YOUR LONGSTANDING CAREER AS A DIPLOMAT?
When I chose diplomacy for my career many years ago, I belived it was most suitable for me and I don´t regret. First of all, I like to travel, to meet people and different cultures, to learn foreign languages etc. To become a good diplomat you have to have among other things this kind of vocation. I was one of the youngest diplomats in my diplomatic promotion. Diplomacy was something I really wanted to do after I graduated in economics at the university. I went to Brazilian Diplomatic Institute for two years and started a state career. It’s been a long way since then and I’m very glad I’ve chosen this professional life. Sometimes it’s not easy for your family when you have to travel around, especially for the children, because every time we have to move to another country they have to leave behind their friends, the school and the people we know. However my children are now young adults and they don’t live here, in Sofia, with me but in Paris where they’re studying at the university. I try to go to Paris at least once a month or they come here on holidays. When you usually move every three or four years, you start everything all over again from a scratch – new country, new people, new language… It’s tough especially for our families. I am quite lucky because the Embassy of Brazil in Sofia has a very loyal and dedicated employee, some of them we have been working with for the last 30-35 years.
DO YOU THINK RELATIONS BETWEEN BULGARIA AND BRAZIL HAVE CHANGED ANYHOW OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS CONSIDERING THE ELECTION AND RE-ELECTION OF MRS. DILMA ROUSSEFF, KNOWN FOR HER BULGARIAN ROOTS, AS PRESIDENT OF THE COUNTRY?
Bulgaria was not a very well-known country in Brazil and the fact that Mrs. Dilma Rousseff was elected four years ago and now re-elected for a second term put Bulgaria in some way on the map. Our President is very fond of her Bulgarian roots – her father was born in Gabrovo. During her first term in 2011, she came here with several ministers, first visited the capital and then went to her father’s hometown to meet her relatives who still live there. It was one of the first visits abroad as the President of Brazil. This of course helped to bring our two countries, let’s say, closer together.We try to keep the same pattern of bilateral trade as before but it’s difficult, especially for some products such as meat, because of the regulations imposed by the European Commission.
EARLIER THIS YEAR BRAZIL WAS HOST OF ONE OF THE GREATEST SPORTING EVENTS – 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP. WERE YOU ABLE TO ENJOY IT IN PERSON?
No, I was actually invited to the opening game between Brazil and Croatia by the Bulgarian national television (NBT) here in Sofia and I was lucky enough because it was a game Brazil won easily. People kept asking me whether Brazil was going to win the World Cup and I didn’t truly believe that was going to happen. In my view the most important thing was not really inside the field but outside. This was the real challenge for the Brazilian government – the organization of such major international sporting event. And even the things inside the stadiums didn’t go quite well for Brazilian football national team, outside the stadiums everything concerning that immense logistics went well and I believe was very successful. Street protests accompanying the event were part of democracy and we cannot turn a blind eye to them since they were legitimate claims from a significant part of the Brazilian population.In 2016 there is another major event ahead of us – the Olympic Games and once again we have to prove that Brazil is capable of organizing a major international event.WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEND A BRIEF MESSAGE TO THE BULGARIAN PEOPLE?
I sincerely believe that the Bulgarian people should be very proud of living in a country like Bulgaria. You have everything – nice landscape, a huge touristic potential that could be exploited in my view more intensively. You can go skiing or enjoy the beautiful seaside at the Black Sea and you also have important cultural sites. Moreover, Bulgaria is among the first European countries as regards mineral water springs, a precious good nowadays. You have nice food, good wine etc. In my opinion you don´t advertise enough all these touristic assets in countries like Brazil. I am sure Brazilian people would love to come to Bulgaria and enjoy the SPA and hydrotherapy centers you have here, not to mentiion the beautiful ski resorts, which are cheaper compared to other European resorts. In this regard Bulgaria is comparable to other European countries I’ve been to. You are going in the right direction since you have joined the European Union in 2007 and although politicians are difficult to be controlled, you have good chances to go forward and become one of the averagely developed countries in the European Union.
I really enjoy living here and I appreciate very much the Bulgarian people.