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Meet Ruda Fabiano: From surfing in Brazil to skiing in the Berkshires

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MONTEREY — Sandboarding down the dunes to the pristine beaches, then surfing the ocean waves or fishing or snorkeling in the azure blue waters. Living in Cabo Frio, Brazil, sounds like living in paradise.

"It pretty much is," agrees 29-year-old Ruda Fabiano about his hometown. Together with Arraial do Cabo and B zios, these ABC towns northeast of Rio de Janeiro are known as the Brazilian Caribbean.

"ABC, like Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao," Fabiano explains enthusiastically. "I enjoyed every second of the paradise there.

"Of course my family was very much about study and school, so during the week I could not enjoy the paradise too much. But there are so many activities, so many beautiful scenarios."

Fabiano talks about his childhood paradise at the dining room table of the apartment on Main Road in Monterey he shares with his wife, Amber, and their 5-year-old daughter, Alycia.

His mother, Cristina, would be proud of her son's irresistible descriptions of the natural beauty of their tropical home. She is a consultant in the tourist industry. His father, Fabio, was instrumental in creating Brazil's first marine reserve, 140,000 acres of coastal water preserving both the unspoiled environment and the livelihood of the local fishermen.     

"That worked out pretty good," Fabiano says. "My dad was protecting the area and my mom was bringing in the tourists."

Seven years ago Fabiano left paradise. Ski Butternut became his introduction to the United States and the Berkshires. The Great Barrington ski resort offers winter jobs and housing to a range of international workers. Companies in Brazil and other countries broker those seasonal "work experience" opportunities.

Fabiano had never known winter, but he was hired as a snowboarding instructor. His skills on surf- and sandboards translated to the ski slopes. His readily evident people skills made him a good instructor, too.

Still, the contrast between his year-round beach life and a Berkshires February could hardly be starker.

"That was exactly what I was looking for, though," he says. "If I really wanted to know another culture and to introduce myself to a whole new experience, I really had to go to the extreme.

"And for me the Berkshires is extreme. You have the beautiful mountains and the foliage in the fall and the snow. Which is a 100 percent different from what I am used to."

"Or was used to," Fabiano corrects himself. "At Butternut, you are working and dealing with people every day so you will improve your English. And that's what happened. But also, I met my wife."

Fabiano says that Amber Drake, now Fabiano, a graduate from Mount Everett high school in Sheffield, could have taught him a thing or two about snowboarding. They fell in love, she followed him to Brazil for a year and then they moved back to Western Massachusetts.

An electrical engineering graduate from Veiga de Almeida University in Rio de Janeiro, Ruda Fabiano enrolled at Holyoke Community College. He worked in the Berkshires and the Holyoke area as an arborist and landscaper. He believes that his parents' jobs in environmental protection and tourism inform his career choices and his affinity for the Berkshires.

These days, he commutes from Monterey to his job at a biogas power plant in Chicopee, where energy is extracted from the methane emissions of a landfill.

With his wife and daughter, Fabiano travels back to his small Brazilian hometown for annual visits. He hopes to live there again for a longer period while his daughter is still young. But the Berkshires are his home now, he says. A New England Patriots logo on his shirt affirms that for him.

"When you are in a different culture you have to embrace that culture," he says. "I don't know much about the Patriots and the Red Sox. But I know that they are the best and they are the best because they are from Massachusetts. They are from where I am."


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