August 10 Journal
I absolutely LOVE Brazil....it is soo amazing.....Ok ok let me start from the beginning..
I arrived in São Paulo around 8:20 their time.....before I stepped off the plane I knew everything about me and my life, and from the moment I set foot into Brazil my views changed. I stepped into a world where I had absolutely no clue at all.......the signs were all in a language I did not understand, people having conversations around me but the words were unrecognizable to my American ears. The first thing I thought was I have to find my host family. So I followed the crowd of other disoriented exchange students. That led to a very large sign that said welcome to São Paulo which basically meant welcome to customs. We all waited in a very long line together, all nervous and anxious. It seemed like an eternity knowing that just behind the doors in front me awaited my new family and a year of unimaginable treasures to be found.
I walked out those doors with two very large suitcases and there was my first and second host parents and of course my first host sister...they were all there with a sign to welcome me.....I dropped my suitcases right in the middle of the floor and hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed (lots of hugging and kissing). We took many pictures ...... which I later found out this would not be the last of them (my first host dad is obsessed with taking pictures), but it's ok because I love to take pictures and I like being in them too - you know me, I always like to be in the spotlight.
My host sister (which I love to death I can't imagine not having her in my next family) wasted no time in showing me around town. We went shopping the first day, my mother found that out the hard way (credit card bill). It was worth it.
OH and the food here is to die for OMG. Nanci our cook is the best cook ever....oh yea we have a cook and a maid OMG I was so happy when found out I didn't have to make my bed.. hehehe
Well I have already started school. It's not too terrible.....I love the people and I already have lots of friends. The only down side is the getting up early thing (not really a fan that), oh and the fact I have no idea what the teachers are saying but like my daddy told me take it one step at a time, and that's what I am going to do. That's all I can do, learn one word at a time and soon I'll be able to form sentences and then have a full conversation.
Well I have to go become Brazilian
WOW...its difficult to explain sooo many feelings in just a few paragraphs......I never imagined you could feel so many different things over such a short period of time.....I have only been here a month and a half and at times it seems like like its been a life time and other times it seems as if I just stepped off the plane..........everybody in Rotary explains your feelings as a exchange student as an emotional roller coaster....but to me it's more like one minute you're on one of those rides where you spin and spin and spin and when you get off everything around you is blurry....at those moments I just want my mommy to hold me until the confusion and dizziness stops.....then other moments I'm on top of the ferris wheel, I have a clear view of everything going on.....no one can bring me down.
I have done soo much over these last few weeks...and there is still so much more to come..
My host sister had her 15th birthday party.. and here the 15th birthday for girls is a HUGE thing even bigger that sweet sixteen in the states.. The invitations are even amazing ...... my sister's was a hot pink envelope and when you opened it there was a poster of her inside .....I have never seen an invitation like this before but to them it was completely normal......well, the party was awesome......there were around 200 people!!!!! they closed down a restaurant just for the party...A DJ played and people danced until they could not dance anymore.... Candles were everywhere the eye could see.... it was truly a party fit for a princess.
A couple weeks later we all piled into a car and headed for RIO DE JANEIRO!!!!!!! oh and we piled.. hehehe.. now I know how sardines feel......hehehe..... before we arrived in RIO we made a stop at the Basilica de Aparecida do Norte ....it's a basilica that's famous for healing...people come from all over the world just to pray to Nossa Sehora de Aparecida (Mary) and they promise different things if they are healed or their prayer is answered ...so there are cases and cases full of statues people made or trophies that were won, all of the walls and the ceiling of this room is covered in pictures of the people that have received a miracle.
Then we headed off to RIO...it was soooo amazing........mountains and beaches all in the same place....absolutely Amazing!!!!!!!! Rio is home to all of the most beautiful beaches and as my host mother informed me the most beautiful butts as well......lol....yes we spent half the time envying the beautiful butts at Ipanema beach.... lol.... apparently butts are very important here.......I even bought my first Brazilian bathing suit...I was freaking out in the store....there are nothing to them....I could just buy some postage stamps and some dental floss and it would be about the same......hehehehehe
well I have learned a few very important things here in Brazil......these things are very crucial soo pay attention.. hehe
1. Wear your seat belt at all times!!!!!!!!......the driving here is INSANE traffic lights, blinkers, and lanes are all optional.......people here just create lanes... at times I think they all coat there cars in Vaseline just so they can get by one another.....I don't think there are any traffic laws.....(but I have gotten used to it ..I've stopped praying on the way to school)
2. Don't even both attempting to defend your political viewpoints.....just don't even try...YOU CAN NOT WIN.......
3. Don't try to say anything about any American sport other than soccer....no matter how much you explain they still think baseball is that stupid game where us crazy Americans hit a ball with a stick and run around.......... hehehe.....
November 16 Journal and Pictures
OMG well I have been through a lot since my last journal.
First off...I have to say I have learned soo much in the past month...I have not only learned new things about myself and conquered things I never thought were possible but I have also come to a new appreciation for my mom and dad. I didn't know how much I really learned from them. Every right decision I make I make because of them. Because of the morals they have bestowed upon me morals that I have learned not too many people have. They are the reason I am strong enough so I can do anything and that is what goes through my head each and every time I struggle with Portuguese or every time I feel lost or scared I just remember that I can do anything I can do anything because of them. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank them.
Ok Back to the updates..... sorry about the mushey stuff......hehehehe
Anyway, This month my host mom and dad took me to the Broadway play Chicago....It was amazing!!!!!! The entire play was in Portuguese....I was soo happy that I could actually understand what was going on....WHAOOO
Shortly after my encounter with the play Chicago, my family took a vacation to Ilhabela a beautiful island with tons of things to do .......well of course the first two days I was just happy to see a beach and to get some sun .....The city takes a toll on your tan...lol. Well after I regained some color my host dad and I went sailing....yes sailing....can you picture me sailing. I couldn't until I did it ......he even let me let me steer ....of course I almost tipped the boat over and smacked my host dad in the head.. but I did it.....hehehe. The town reminded me soo much of Flagler Beach, everyone was soo laid back it was a major beach town.....but I think I have been in São Paulo too long because the first few days it was driving me CRAZY......everything was sooo slow. I have gotten so used to the fast paced life of São Paulo but after a few days you really start to appreciate the fact that you aren't being woken up by planes every 30 min..lol...
***School*** Ok school is still boring but at least now I can understand a little bit more, and the English teachers are letting me help them out with some projects...that's definitely a plus.....my butt was starting to become permanently attached to that desk...lol...
***Birthdays*** I know one thing I don't want to be here for my birthday.....here when you have a birthday at school they crack eggs over your head...and some people even pour a bag of flour on you...I think they missed the concept of baking a cake for the birthday kid not turning them into the cake....hahahah
***USA*** Something I have found out here is that a lot of people have very strong opinions about America and our President....I have been asked every question you can possibly think of ...even to the extent of being asked if I like Bin laden!!!!!! People have told me they want to kill Americans and puke on my flag....they even wear shirts that advertise there opinions......These comments are coming from people who have NEVER been to the states and are just going by hearsay....as much as theses comments hurt me .....and make me incredibly sad....I have learned to keep my mouth shut and keep my head up.....that was a very big breakthrough for me..... But on the other hand everyone here loves to wear American clothes, eat American food, watch American TV, and speak our ....hehehe
** Rotary Trip** I just had the best week ever...I just got back from my first Rotary trip....It was a blast .....140 exchange students all in one town. if you get that many exchange students together a trip Wal-mart is exciting...lol. We all headed to Pantanal and Bonito....it was amazing they had activities planned for us everyday. We went to a park with 14 waterfalls...it was truly a sight out one of those natural geographic magazines....there was even a waterfall where you can jump 18 meters off a platform straight into the water below the falls....standing on top of the platform staring down is one of those contemplating moments .... all I could think was you only live once go for it!!!! and I did!!! Just one quick little tip, don't jump from that high up in a bikini.. it doesn't end well....lol....
From there we went snorkeling and rafting...the water there was crystal clear...it was perfect... It was like looking into another world.
The group had a couple of optional activities that they could take part in .....and one of them was rappelling 70 meters into a cave and then snorkeling down in the formation filled waters. well only three girls seized that opportunity...and I was one of them...all I have to say is that was one of the most amazing and fulfilling things I have ever done, it was definitely one of those things I will never forget (and I took enough pictures to be sure of that..heheh)....
Well me and two other girls headed off to complete our adventurous task...On your way down to the cave the first things you notice is this little wheat thin with ants floating in the water ...as you get closer you realize that the wheat thin is the platform we are supposed to land on and the ants are the people ...lol... After rappelling down to the wheat thin...hehehe... the other girls and I attempted to get into our wet suits...key word attempted ...omg...it was like a comedy routine...well after we accomplished that rather difficult task...lol...we hopped into the freezing cold water (18° c....you convert that to F ....you expect me to do it? I haven't done math in 3 months..lol) and swam around the stalagmites for a couple hours...that is an experience I will never forget, being that close. After we swam around in awe for 3 hours it was time to conquer our next challenge Rappelling back up the cave...hehehe....easier said than done...hehehe...after arriving at the surface tired and a little bruised where the harness had been...lol...I looked down at this huge crevice in the earth and was like WOW I just climbed up that....I accomplished something I never thought in a million years I could do.
So far this is what my exchange has been - conquering things I never thought I could do.
Words of wisdom for upcoming exchange students: Learn anything anyone is willing to teach you, and try everything... you only live once!!!
December 26 Journal
Nov 27th, it was time too switch families. It was time to pack up all the junk I had accumulated over the past 4 months (let's just say I'm going to need 2 more suitcases before the year is over) and head out to my next adventure. No matter how horrible or wonderful this family was I was still leaving the only way of life I knew here in Brazil. I was diving head first into a dark hole not knowing what was at the bottom or who was going to be there to catch me, if anyone at all.
Well my new family not only caught me but carried me into their home and embraced me into their hearts. They are more than I ever could have asked for. They have truly accepted me into their family. I LOVE my brother and sister. I have never had a brother before so this was a whole new experience. My brother Victor (14) is the sweetest kid ever and my sister Laima (17) is like my best friend.
Just last week I went to visit my American friend for a week in a city 2 hours from here. When I arrived back at my host house I had the same feeling you get when your away from your home for awhile. I was so happy to see my host mom and my bed and my house. It was the sensation that I was home. That was when I realized I am really starting to fit in here.
~CHRISTMAS~ I had an awesome Christmas! My entire family got together and had Christmas eve dinner at my grandma's house with a bunch of relatives. We had a very diverse crowd that night. My host dad is Polish, my host mom is Lithuanian, plus another exchange student from France and me representing the U.S.A. Within one table we represented half the globe. Let's just say there were a quite a few languages going around the table that night ... hehehe
They say Christmas is a tough time for all of us and this is when we will start to get really homesick....and they were right....I am not going to lie I cried A LOT...... being away from my family for Christmas was really really difficult.... but I wouldn't trade Christmas in Brazil with people I have grown to love for anything.
FELIZ NATAL (MERRY CHRISTMAS)
February 14 Journal
Wow this month has gone by soooo fast (as have the last 6 months). OMG I can not believe I have been gone for 6 months!! I can still remember leaving my family at the airport and watching them through the clear glass window as they got farther and farther away and then getting on that plane and heading off to my year of adventures. It's like it was just yesterday. Every single person in Rotary told us that in the blink of an eye we would be home, but I didn't really believe them. I mean come on!!! An entire year is a long time, right??? Wrong, when you are an exchange student it's not. Rotary takes the clock that we run our lives by and they throw it out the window!!!!!!! I am sooo jealous of the new exchange students. They have no idea how lucky they are to be starting their adventures now, and they won't understand until they have been here for 6 months and are updating their journals. I guess that's just the way it works.
Ok, well I guess I'll start from the beginning. New Year's in Brazil!!!! It was quite a different experience. My family and I drove down to their beach house, which is always thrilling (the beach does wonders for the "whiteness"). When we arrived at our destination (3 days before New Year's) I expected to relax for a few days before the festivities began. What was I thinking??? That would be what would happen in the states, but this is Brazil. Therefore the party had already started. I felt like I was in the middle a war zone due to the immense amount of fireworks going off overhead. Day in and day out all you heard were fireworks and of course the sound of the dogs going absolutely INSANE.
Then at last the night I had been anticipating had arrived. New Year's Eve was upon us. Everyone dresses in white (for purity) and at midnight we all walk down to the beach. The sand is aglow with thousands of people, each one holding a candle, waiting for the new year to arrive. After the countdown almost everyone walks down to the water and jumps seven small waves for luck. It was a wonderful way to welcome in 2005.
Jan 3rd I headed off to my big trip with Rotary for 31 days. It was sooo amazing. This trip was a tour of the entire northeast of Brazil which is famous for its amazing beaches. On the way to paradise we stopped off at the capitol, Brasilia. This is probably the most interesting city I have ever been to (architecturally speaking). All of the buildings look as if they are from another planet. They are all shaped to look like discs and spheres (it was very "sci fi"). Aside from the architecture, the highlight of this part of the adventure was getting to have a political debate with our tour guide (and in Portuguese no less....heheheh...).
Our next stop was Lengois. A quaint little town with a lot of character and many treasures waiting to be discovered. Our first priority was to visit the natural wonders this town had to offer, but to get to our destination required A LOT of hiking ........more hiking then I have done in my entire life!!!!!! My legs were quite mad at me for some time (they miss Florida and the lack of hills). The pain was well worth it. We saw the most beautiful waterfalls, natural swimming pools and caves in the world. One of the waterfalls was not like any waterfall I have ever seen. It was more like a thin layer of water running down this huge, flat, slanted rock. We were all allowed to slide down the waterfall on our butts!!! NATURE'S WATER SLIDE. It was a blast!!
After our day of sight seeing we had some free time WHAOO!! We were all very happy when we had free time. So what do you think we did???? shopping !!!! of course .... as exchange students our job is to buy as much junk to remember our stay as possible...lol. After cleaning the stores out, a few exchange students and I sat down to enjoy the scenery and listen for the sound of foreigners (there were a lot in that town). When suddenly we see half the group of exchange students running down the street.. of course we didn't think anything of it ....I mean we're exchange students, we randomly do strange things. It turns out Orlando Bloom was staying in a hotel nearby....crazy huh?? He even came by and took a look at our hotel and talked with some of the some of the exchange students. Needless to say, all of us girls were on cloud nine for a couple of days.
Finally the beach!!!!!!
We arrived at our first beach of the trip. It was amazing. My best friend and I were able to go horseback riding down the beach. Imagine, watching waves crash on the shore.... washing up sand dollars while you gallop down the coast. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, huh??
One of the best parts of the entire trip was probably the times we got to spend with each other on the buses. We lived in those buses for almost a month. We were bound to get close and have some good times. Between the great talks with friends, movies, arguing over the music and the volume at which it was played, only brought us closer.
We all left that trip with a new knowledge of Brazil and friendships that will last forever. Oh and you can't forget, a few back aches as well....lol...hey, try sleeping on that bus. We tried everything. My friend and I even attempted sleeping in the overhead compartment ...hehehe.. what can I say, we are exchange students.
June 18 Journal
Wow... this journal has taken me a long time to write!!! I guess it’s because I know it’s going to be my last....... I hope everyone has enjoyed them, and trust me, when I get home there will be many more tales to tell.
So here it is, the end of the chapter, and the beginning of a new book.
March 5th… it was time to switch families again! Switching families is by far the most dreaded part of the exchange. Not knowing what to expect and thinking about what you are leaving behind, and of course there is the packing issue (never fun… and for some reason my suitcases seem to shrink as the year goes on....). Well I arrived at my new host family’s home. It took an adjustment period of about two seconds before I was completely part of the family. I have a wonderful mom named Thais who loves to shop (good for me … bad for my credit card), a brother Guilerme (14), who takes great pleasure in annoying me whenever he possibly can, and a maid named Edna (22) who to me is more like a sister. She is sooo sweet! We have a lot of fun together. I really love my new family (I know I’ve said that before but this time I really feel connected to them). They really are my family!
Speaking of family, my very own American family came to visit in March! I stood in the airport clutching the cold metal rails as I stared anxiously at the double doors in front of me (the very same doors I had passed through into my new life 7 months before). It was the strangest feeling, because for the longest time I had two separate lives. My life, my family here in Brazil, and my life and family back home. Now one life was going to merge with the other. I was not sure what was going to happen or how I was going to feel, but I wanted to find out. The next thing I knew I was in my family’s arms! I didn’t know how much I missed them and how much I had been fighting to be strong until I was in their arms again. All of the stress and all of the fears and doubts just went away. I was with them and that was all that mattered. We had a great 10 days! I showed them around the entire city of São Paulo (and it is a big city...hehehe). They got to have a glimpse into my Brazilian life. They met my friends, saw my house and school and some random things that are a part of my daily life. It was wonderful that they came, but it was even worse when they had to leave. Having to say goodbye all over again was hard, but it was worth it.
Rotary meetings are usually not the highlight of the year, but I knew that this particular meeting was going to be special because my parents were in town (but I never would have imagined how special). It was the night of my presentation (you know… the presentation every exchange student dreads… speaking about your life in another language). Finally the presentation was over! All the attention was off of me…or so I thought. But my daddy had a presentation of his own! He stood up and sang a song that he had written for me. It was called “On Santa’s Knee” and it was all about watching me grow up every year at Christmas. Definitely a “tear jerker”. Then about 5 minutes and a box of tissues later the president of my club called my name and had me and my family stand up next to the podium. They presented me with a Paul Harris!! One of the highest awards in Rotary that you can receive. They donate $1000 in your name to the Rotary Foundation. Of course I was, to say the least, shocked! Shocked and extremely happy.. soo of course the first thing I did was call AL....hehehe!
PS. I also figured out what our Rotary blazers are for...they are to keep us occupied during Rotary meetings...heheh
Ok, well it is basically impossible to leave Brazil without getting obsessed with soccer. It is everywhere you look. Fans of opposing teams wearing their team’s t-shirts with pride in class. Friends that are as close as friends could be still looking at each other like "I love you, but that shirt". The question "What team are you" goes along with what’s your name and age... I went to my first soccer game back in May and I was hooked from then on. There were massive amounts of people!! Everybody was screaming and chanting and they never sat down. It was great! Oh and this is for Bruno...SPFC é o melhor time do mundo :-P
It seems like I have been here only a few weeks! It has gone by that fast! But at the same time, when I look back to that first day (or even the first 3 months) it’s as if I’m looking through an album of old baby pictures. That person seems so young and naive to me. Never in a million years would I have imagined when I first arrived that I would be where I am today. If someone would have told me when I got of the plane that in 10 months I would be speaking Portuguese without even thinking about it I would have looked at them like they were insane!!!!! But they would have been right, go figure!!
I never thought that my last month would be this hard. It is the most horrible feeling to think that you’re not going to see your friends and your family (the people that have taken you into their lives and have been there through all the smiles and all the tears). It is a weird feeling that you are not going to see them everyday. I am a part of Brazil and Brazil is a part of me! And no matter how long I am gone or how many other places I visit, Brazil will always be in my heart. My advice is: go out and make your mark on the world… but on the way let them make their marks on you too.