When worlds collide
Brazilian student enjoys his time at Ascension Collegiate
Seated at a conference table at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts, Aquila Stanley Soares de Lira appears to be counting on his fingers.
That’s not actually what he is doing.
Placing his fingers on the light brown table, Stanley, as he is known around school, is spelling out the state where his Brazillian hometown of Itambe is found. He is working out the English alphabet in correlation with the Portuguese alphabet in order to find the right letters.
He is speaking along with his actions. ‘P’ goes with one finger and ‘E’ with another until finally he has completely spelled the word Pernambuco, a state in the northeast corner of Brazil.
For this reporter, it is a lot easier to spell Marysvale, where Stanley has been staying for the last few months with Max and Donna Bartlett. “They are awesome,” he said. Since arriving in Newfoundland on Sept. 4, the venerable 16-year-old with a giant smile has made a home for himself amongst the student body at Ascension and the community at large.
He’s done so with an open attitude and the willingness to put himself out there.
“I said I was going to speak with everyone,” said Stanley. “I was going to do it my way and I have to have fun.”
His way is simple. It involves that giant smile and a hearty handshake. It is something some aren’t used to in today’s world of fist pumps, high fives or the handshake that turns into a hug.
But, what can you expect from a pastor’s son. His father, Alcides Soares de Lira, is a Protestant pastor in Itambe.
Since arriving at Ascension, Stanley has immersed himself in athletics and the music program, just to name a few.
Stanley was one of nine Brazilian exchange students who immersed themselves in student life at Ascension.
“Everything is brand new to us,” said Stanley.
A long way from home
Look up tropical paradise in the dictionary and one might find a picture of Itambe. A short distance from the province’s capital of Recife, it is a vista full of tropical fauna and sun-kissed beaches.
Warm temperatures are the norm and it is a far cry from what he has experienced living in Marysvale. Unfortunately, spending your time around beaches and flora does nothing to prepare you for the eastern Newfoundland winter.
When the weather started turning at the beginning of fall, Stanley quickly realized the difference.
“I brought three sweaters with me,” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”
An outstanding athlete on the volleyball court, Stanley flourished with the Astros. At the AAAA male tournament last year, the Brazilian helped the team capture the team sportsmanship award.
In addition to that, Stanley captured the Astros’ individual sportsmanship award.
“I was standing in the line and they were selecting the name,” he said. “I was listening and then they said Stanley. I just smiled. Then they told me to go accept the award … I was so happy.”
It was a special award for him. Stanley has big plans for it.
“It will be placed in a special place in my room,” he said. “I’ll look at it everyday.”
Stanley started playing beach volleyball when he was six-years-old. He learnt from his father and continued to grow in the sport from there.
He follows soccer, or football as it’s known internationally, and calls what happened to Brazil in the semi finals of the 2014 World Cup “one of the worst things.”
“Germany scored five goals by halftime,” said Stanley of his country’s team, which was also hosting the tournament. “We’ve never seen anything like that.”
Upon arriving in Newfoundland, he noticed a couple of differences between athletics here and athletics in his home country. There are no high school sports as it is found in North America.
“Sports is more important here,” said Stanley. “There is so much support, not like it is in Brazil. You go to the games and people say they’ll see you there. “It is really interesting.” Stanley’s high school volleyball coach Stewart Ralph had nothing but good things to say about his young charge. He praised the young Brazilian for his tireless work ethic, his spongelike attitude when it came to the sport and his attitude with his teammates.
“Two words – team chemistry. I knew him as an athlete, but as a person, his personality completely molded our team chemistry,” said Ralph. “The boys are good fellas, they get along together, but Stanley solidified the team. No matter the situation, he was always smiling, he’d come to the gym with a new story to tell.”
On road trips with the club, it was not unusual for Stanley to make small talk with opposing players and officials. He was always snapping pictures with them and commenting on their play style.
“Stanley is genuinely polite,” said Ralph. “He was not saying thank you because someone told him too, but he was saying thank you because he genuinely appreciated what you were doing.”
Aquila Stanley Soares de Lira poses for a picture next to the Astros sign in the main lobby of Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts.
Aquila Stanley Soares de Lira.