Lucas loves all the snow

Published 7:27 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
Though he comes from warm Brazil, snowboarder Lucas Lacerda loves all the snow, cold and icicles visited on Dowagiac since November.
Lucas, 17, living with Ron and Jacqueline Hale's family for the 2008-2009 school year, just as his friend Jose Vicente did last year, has another friend living in Dowagiac with Joe Ohlenbusch.
Jacqueline, a native of California, said, "I asked him when he came here what was important that he wanted to do. He said he wanted it to snow on his birthday (Oct. 27) – and it did. He wanted to play football. And he wanted to have an American cheerleading girlfriend," and he's been dating Alexandra Hess.
"At home I stay in my bedroom with the air conditioning on because I hate heat," Lucas said.
The Hales have two children, Vendela and Dallas. The day before, his new sister curled his hair. "The other day she made it all straight and soft."
Lucas has a younger brother, 15, in Brazil. He lives in his country's Midwest, south of the Amazon River.
"I've never been there," he said. "It's just river, animals and trees, trees and more trees. Nothing to do there but look at vegetation."
But he has been to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, the annual festival 40 days before Easter which marks the beginning of Lent.
Last year Lucas went to Argentina – "it's very cold there" – and learned to snow board. (Swiss Valley) is making snow today (Dec. 5), but I went to the golf course for fun. I love computers and technology. I like to play outside. Before there was snow, I shot my BB gun. I love going to the store to look at electronics."
"When I go back home in June, I'll finish my school year and graduate next December," Lucas said. "I don't have to repeat the school year. My grades here will be transcripted to my Brazilian grades."
School in Dowagiac is "a thousand times easier" than Brazil. "American high school is too easy – or my school is too hard," Lucas said. "My school at home is a pretty hard school, hardest in my city. It's 2,200 students, though I don't think the building is any bigger than the high school here."
Lucas said they attend school from 7:10 until 11:50 a.m., except Thursdays, when classes last until 12:40 p.m.
Classes are 50 minutes each. "You can't choose classes. They're all the same, every single day. You're in the same class with the same friends, the same students. The teachers move," he said. "Classes change from day to day. We don't have things like gym, conditioning, arts. We just have two physics, two chemistry, three biology, two maths, geography, two history, philosophy, sociology, Spanish, literature."
Portuguese is his native language. He's been learning English since he was 9. "Separate school," Lucas said. "I go there after lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 3." Other afternoons "I hang out with my friends. I study when we have exams. I go to the biggest club that has four gymnasiums, warm pools, soccer fields, a weight room. It's huge, the biggest in Latin America. I go there every day to work out. We have sports in school, but just for fun. We don't play like here, where if your team is good you go to the Michigan championship. Maybe in Sau Paulo, the biggest city (third in the world at 18 million), but not in my city" of 600,000.
His mother is a housewife who designs clothes as a hobby.
His father is an executive in the milk industry.
"I went to Disney Land in 2005," Lucas said of previous travels. "I went to Argentina in August last year. I went to Cancun in January. I love traveling. That's my passion. That's one of the reasons I'm here. This is a life experience. I love knowing new friends and learning new habits. Everything here is different. If you show me a picture, I can tell if it's Brazil or not because I know the vegetation, cars and buildings. Our houses are made of brick and we have two floors, like (Hale's) house, but a lot here have one floor and the basement. We have big gates and walls separating the street from our house, and alarms. They've tried to burglarize my house three times when I was younger. It's not as safe as here. You don't go outside in Brazil without locking the door. If you're rich, you have to have a security company."
Lucas said he must be 18 to drive legally in Brazil, although he's been behind the wheel since he was 12 or 13. "We have a lot of buses and cabs," too. "If the cops catch me driving, I'm in a lot of trouble," Lucas laughed. "We have a farm and I love driving in the mud. Just this year I began driving in the city."
Their plantation produces soybeans and cattle. "We have 500 or 600" head on more than 4,000 acres.
"We have a family who works there, like a housekeeper. It was my grandpa's farm, but he died, so now it's my mom's. (The caretaker) can find everything on that farm. He knows how many cows and how many bulls we have. We extract milk in the morning, like 300 liters a day. He gets up at 4:30 in the morning."
When Lucas graduates, he plans to study engineering, computers, business or economics in his city, since "we don't have to pay for college in Brazil." Instead, they pay for high school and middle school.
He and his father own stocks together. "When we bought them in June, they were high value. Now they're the lowest ever," Lucas said. "For example, there's one we paid $111 for in our money for one stock, but we usually buy 100. Now it's $29. If we sold it now we'd lose a lot of money, so we'll wait. We have stock related to petroleum, energy, food and minerals. Our cars use oil, diesel, gas and ethanol. A fill-up costs about $50 a tank."
Lucas will mark four months here Dec. 21. He followed the election to the extent someone would who "hates politics. They broadcast American elections so I kind of know how it works," although he had to ask his hosts about the 270 Electoral College votes.
"Here, if you don't want to vote, you can stay home," Lucas noted. "In Brazil, if you don't vote, you are in trouble. You have to have a good excuse to not vote. I like Obama. I prefer Obama to McCain. I think it's good for the U.S. to have a black President. My parents told me that people all over the world are happy that Obama won the election. Everybody hates Bush in Brazil. We get a lot of news," including CNN in Spanish and the BBC, but not Fox.
"I don't like Brazilian programs," he said. "I watch Discovery Channel and ESPN. Fifty percent of our channels are American."
American fast food is also well-represented in Latin America.
"We don't have Wendy's, but we have Burger King, McDonald's and Subway," Lucas said. The menus are the same as in Dowagiac, although "I don't know about breakfast because I never go there for breakfast."
"We have breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's not like here, where you eat whenever you're hungry." No snacking.
"Rice, pasta, beans, steak every day, potatoes," he describes the Brazilian diet. "Juice, not pop. Brazilian people are very healthy. They don't eat McDonald's every day."
Brazil's weather is usually the opposite of Michigan. While we're shoveling snow, there it's hot and raining every day.
"If it's fall here, it's spring there," he said. "When it's summer there, it's winter here. I hear about global warming much more there than here. Brazilians are really, really worried about global warming and the greenhouse effect," although we don't have to worry about hurricanes and earthquakes. Last year we had a little bit of snow, like frost, for the first time."
Lucas has a friend in Texas whose house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
Since arriving in America, Lucas visited the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio ("insane, amazing, awesome") and went camping ("in Brazil it's dangerous"). Twice he toured the Niles Haunted House, including on Halloween. His flight exposed him to the Atlanta airport.
Lucas said Christmas is a family holiday. "We have trees and lights, but not as many presents as here. We just ask for one present and that's all."
Brazil also celebrates Easter and Independence Day – in September.
At DUHS, Lucas played football as a wide receiver and indoor soccer at the middle school on Sunday nights.
"In Brazil, we played touch football for fun," he said. "I practiced 10 times and played in one game because I have a problem with my shoulder."