2004-05 outbound to Brazil
Hometown: Gainsville, FLorida
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor: Gainesville Rotary Club
Host: Rotary Club da Bahia, District 4550, Bahia, Brazil
August 5 Journal
Wow. has it been a month all ready? all of my friends are just departing...and I'm all ready 32 days in...I feel so accustomed to life here...it is very strange to think that my friends are just beginning to settle... I love it here. I feel so at home. But, just as I was the first to depart, I will be the first carried home...and then I will be soo jealous of all of my friends who have a month left…..
So...traveling...This was my first ever airplane/airport experience. I loved flying. It is such an exhilarating feeling to look out the window of the airplane while you're thousands of feet in the air. You can see everything. Its wonderful and relaxing. I think the reason some people may be afraid of flying is because of the airport itself. It is a very strange place, full of confusion, which I had plenty of...I even ended up on the wrong company's airplane on the way to Salvador, but I didn't care because I knew it would take me to the right place...and the airport is also full of waiting. Waiting in this line, waiting for this flight, waiting in baggage claim...hoping for good luck. And waiting leads to thinking. I thought about everything on my 18 hour flight...what I thought my city and home would look like. What my school was like. How I would like my family. Curiosity has always gotten the better of me....
Well, to begin the adventure...after a 1 day delay on my flight out of Gainesville, I was off....soaring through the sky to a strange, new land. When I arrived there, I was greeted by a few exchange students who had all ready been here for 6 months (they were from Australia and New Zealand), by my host district and host club counselors, by my 1st host family and by my 2 host sisters for my 2nd family. It was very exciting driving to a restaurant, Bella Napoli, looking out the window of the car, amazed by how different and beautiful my new city is, chatting about the sites, and my flight and things about me and my family...as soon as we finished our wonderful Italian meal we drove to my new home...the 12th floor of an apartment very close to the beach...My first thoughts: "the view is amazing, my family is great (my host dad, Emerson, my host mom, Deta, and my host sister, Natalia (15)...Karine, my other "sister" is in Jacksonville), the food is wonderful, and the city seems fun. This is exactly what I hoped and prayed for."
During my first week here, my host sister showed me around, took me shopping, we went out to dinner, i met a few of her friends, we went to the movies....when we weren't out, we were home watching TV...I watched too much American TV that first week...and luckily, a Rotarian opened my eyes to the reality of where I am, and how little time I have here….now I watch novelas...like “Senhora Do Destino”, and MTV Brazil, but I still can’t resist “Friends”…and I read more than I watch TV...plus...I started school only 5 days after arriving, so that keeps me busy.
School is from 1:30pm until 7:00pm...we have a break from 4:50 until 5:20 where we can go outside and buy food and candy from the street venders and little shops across from school. My school has an amazing view of the ocean. But, then again, it's right across the street....the grading is much different…I’m in 2nd year out of 3 years of high school…The students are graded on a 10 point scale for each class…they get a certain amount of points for tests, essays, and activities (projects)…Most of my teachers do not check if you’ve done your homework, but most people do it anyway… My school has Capoeira class, so I joined…Capoeira is a very popular sport in Brasil… It is a sort of fight-dancing sport…hard to describe….It is very good exercise and its fun!
Anyways, I have lots of friends in school…we have done things outside of school too….go out on weekends, etc…They help me so much….they always try to help me understand what is going on in class. They explain how to do the chemistry and physics homework, and help me study for tests…They are the best.
I have done a lot since I arrived…not much touring around the city, but I’ve gone out…I’ve been to 2 little kid birthday parties….they are HUGE…the decorations are so elaborate…they each have a big theme, like spider man or under the sea, and the food is the best!!! Sweets, snacks and everything….so good…But they don’t usually eat the cake. They give it away (to an orphanage). I have also been to a few birthday celebrations at restaurants, one for my 2nd host sister, who’s born July 4th, and one for my host sister’s friend at his parents’ restaurant…I also went to a surprise party foe a classmate…that was very fun, and even though it was raining, people were still playing soccer in the basketball court, and others were swimming….crazy Brazilians…
The people here are awesome…they are warm and inviting…my whole class is like one big family. They are all open and flirty with each other…They play jokes on each other, and no one really takes offense. People buy a lot of candy from the street vendors and give it all away to classmates. If someone brings in a guitar, the teacher will probably ask to play it and everyone will sing along. The students all clap when the teacher says something funny or witty. It is never boring…even in school. I love Brazilians.
The food here…one word: fresh…everything is fresh…they make their own juice… orange juice is SO good here. Pineapple and lemon juices aren’t bad, either. For breakfast I usually have cheese and turkey on bread, and bread with butter and strawberry jelly. For lunch, there is always beans and rice, and meat….and dinner is the same as breakfast, unless you go out to eat. The main meal is lunch, which is at about noon and my host parents come home from work for lunch. The sweets here are delicious! I am addicted to a few things, Bis (this white chocolate wafer), Frumelo (a raspberry flavored fruit chew) and these little cookies. No wonder they say you gain “the rotary 15.” I haven’t weighed myself, but who knows, I’ve probably gained a little weight…
The weather here is awesome!!! I love warm weather, so this is the place for me…It is winter here…About 10 days ago, we experienced a record low for the past 50 years…it was 18°C (64.4°F)…Isn’t that crazy? I thought Florida was hot…
Speaking of Florida…I love my home, but the homesickness hasn’t really gotten to me yet…I thought it would hit me right off, but it didn’t… I’m worried it will be like the chicken pox (getting worse with time)… but, hopefully it will be ok. I have e-mailed and mailed letters to the homeland (America), but I have yet to call anyone. I’m planning on doing that in the next few weeks….
Well, that’s all folks….I’ll get a new entry in next month….
Thank you mom, dad, and of course….Rotary! This has all ready opened my eyes to a new world…I have a newfound appreciation for everything I have…and I’m so grateful. You guys are the ones who have made this possible for me. and I have to shout out to all my rotary peeps...u kno who u r...I luv u guys!!!
Sept 12 Journal
Well, I’ve been here about 10 weeks so far and it seems more like 3 or 4....the time has passed so quickly….I am learning now that I should savor each moment and jump at each opportunity because this year will seem like a few months. With this in mind, I will fill my short year with excitement and wonder.
In the past 6 weeks, I have been involved in various activities…. Some of which were parties…I have been to two “15 parties,” both of which were bigger than any other birthday party I have ever been invited to in the US. These parties are incredible. When a girl turns 15, they may choose to go on a trip somewhere around the world, just do something with their family, or have a party. There is a dance floor, a DJ, glowing jewelry, free sweets, dinner, and appetizers, and tons of people! (200 to 400) It is absolutely insane. I wish I was 14 sometimes because I want to have a party like this! It is like prom except with 15 and 16 year olds. All the guys wear dress shirts, slacks and loafers while the girls wear pretty dresses and high heels. It is very cool. I will definitely try to make these popular back in the states.
I have continued doing is Capoeira. It is a kind of martial art…(well, it is much more than that, but that’s the best description I can give). I only have it twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays (for an hour), but that sure is enough…Capoeira is very fun, and also very intense, so after that hour I am ready to get home and rest.
I have been doing my share of shopping, as well…of course. I love the exchange rate here. It is about $3.00 Brazilian money (“Reais”) for every $1.00 US so I like to go buy things and then calculate the amount of US money I spent. It always ends up being very cheap, which is always good.
On September 4th and 5th, we had a “Rotary weekend.” On Saturday, the 4th, we went to a meeting that lasted until the better part of the evening (discussing the rules, culture shock, the language, Carnaval, and tour options). Bonni, a girl from Australia lived a few blocks from where the meeting was held so she invited all of us to walk to her house for a Bar.B.Q her family and friends were having. There was singing, dancing, chatting and, of course, plenty of food! I love the Bar.B.Q’s here. They are much different from the ones in the US, but they are just as good, if not better.
The next day we woke up early to take part in a boating out in the bay. All of us “gringos” lapped on our sunscreen, grabbed our cameras and set off for a wonderful day in the sun. I was the only exchange student (of the girls) to have bought a Brazilian bikini and I brought up my courage and wore it with pride. We couldn’t have gone out on a better day. The sun was out, there weren’t too many clouds and everyone was ready for a dip in the calm, translucent water. It was really a perfect day.
All of us exchange students bonded that weekend, maybe not as much as us outbounds did, but there was something there. We all got along very well and I think we’ll have some more good times in the future. I guess it is just an exchange student thing because I have never bonded so well with people I barely even know.
Of course, I must talk about school. I am here as a foreign exchange student. ISBA, my school, is going fine, well, as fine as expected. The subjects I am taking are as follows: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Portuguese Literature, Redação (writing essays and stuff…I’m not quite sure what it would be in English), Spanish, English, History, Geography, Sociology, religion, art (kind of), and others I don’t exactly know how to say (in English or Portuguese)….and these are all the 2nd level. It is very difficult because I am not only learning these new subjects that everyone else learned last year, but I’m also just learning the language in which these subjects are taught. But my friends are always assisting me in my quest for knowledge, so it isn’t that bad. Plus, I have a lot of fun in class because my friends are all crazy fun and everything here is much more laid back.
Well, I can’t spend all my time writing journal entries…I have to get out there and see Brazil. So that’s all for now, folks. I hope to write again soon, maybe one day when I’m not very busy, if there ever is a day…
Shout outs (gotta have them): to my Rotary clan...you know who you are….I love you all and I hope things are going as well for you as they are for me!!! I can’t wait until we reunite in the summer of ’05…Mom, Dad, and Kylie: you guys are awesome and I hope you can come visit me sometime! And to everyone from Rotary who has made this possible for me and all the other exchange students: thanks soooo much! You really are great people! I love you all! And, to everyone who read this: thanks, you must have a great interest in me to read thought this whole thing.
Lots of love to the USA.
Abraços e Beijos,
(they don’t have k’s in Portuguese)
November 15 Journal
Oi Galera! Beleza? hahaha...
I know, I know, its been a long while. I have done so much since I last wrote, so I will get started in summing everything up....
I left off in mid-September. It has now been about 8 weeks since then. Wow. That’s a long time. It has gone by so fast. I have been extremely busy lately. I’m in the last unit in school before summer (which officially begins on December 7th) I’m so excited! I’m not, however, looking forward to the 10 days of exams coming up. This will be a time of extreme confusion for me, because, although I am on the right level for having a casual, friendly conversation, I am not even near the right level for writing essays or even completing short answer questions in school. Written Portuguese is more formal than spoken Portuguese, and the spelling is difficult, as well. But, I will study make an attempt at my finals. Wish me luck.
I changed host families about one month ago. On October 16th. I am to have 3 families this year, so I will change again in mid-February. I absolutely adore my new family, which consists of two families, actually. There is my host dad, Ari, and his 2nd wife, Carol, and my little bro, Pepeu, who has one year. Then there is also my host dad’s “1st family.” His ex-wife, who he is still friends with, and their two daughters (my super fun half-sisters), Andrea (20) and Natalia (17). Both of my new families are so wonderful to me. I would not survive without them. I am so glad I get along with them so well and that things worked out, because I had some problems with my 1st family. I did not feel quite at home in their house, despite the fact that they were nice, generous and welcoming. I thought I would adjust after a while, but I never seemed to feel any more comfortable. I guess we just didn’t “mesh well.” Next time I will know better to open my mouth and talk about my problems, whether big or small. It is always better to let things be known, because there is so much that others can do to help. I have had so much support these past few months. Rotary, particularly on the Florida end, has been so great. Al and Rob have given me great advice and helped me get through the hard time I went through in October. Friends from school and former exchange students have taught me so much Portuguese. It seems like I am improving my communication skills by the hour. Literally. And even when I speak in English, which is not so often anymore, I learn something new about the grammar, or I learn a new word that is commonly used in Portuguese, but I have never heard of in English. I have forgotten many words in English, too. Just last night, I was speaking with an American friend of mine and I tried to tell her she needed to laminate something, but I could only think of the Portuguese word, “plastificação.” It was good that she new Portuguese and understood what I was talking about, but she could not think of the word either. It took us at least 10 minutes of laughing and making foolish attempts for my friend to remember. It is times like these that I know the Portuguese is becoming more clear with every day that goes by.
There are many new places I have visited in my city (and on the outskirts) in the past few months. I have been to the beach, of course, but still have not obtained a decent tan. I am still the whitest person in all of Salvador. No, really, I am. But summer is coming, like I said, so watch out. I have also been to the theater, to see a percussion show. It was absolutely fabulous! It taught me a lot about the music in Bahia (my state). I love the Brazilian music, and although I am a terrible dancer, I try to dance reggae, forró, samba (and the other pagode dances) when there are not too many people watching me, of course. I am planning on rocking out at all the awesome concerts they will have this summer (Ivete Sangalo, Chiclete com Banana, Pagodart, JotaQuest, Los Hermanos...the list goes on). I have been to a show or two all ready, one was just local bands, they were really great. And the other was a Los Hermanos show (they are kind of a Brazilian ska/rock band) which everyone and their brother went to. There were at least 400 people. It was so crowded, but I loved it! So, anyway, I expect the concerts at Wet ‘n Wild to be super fun! (The 1st ever Wet ‘n Wild was in Salvador, but it is old and closed down a while back. Now they use it for concerts.)
I have also been hanging out with friends a lot. Going to movies, shopping!, having Fanson meetings, etc. Fanson is a group of girls in my city who are Hanson fans. Yes, Hanson, the Mmm Bop people. They are still performing and are a great indie band. I have quite a few friends who I get together with every so often to listen to Hanson, watch their videos and interviews, and just hang out. It is very fun and the group is growing. There is a rumor that Hanson will come to Salvador in March, so it would be interesting to see an American band playing in Brazil.
What else have I been up to? Eating, as usual (even though I still haven’t gained weight). I have experimented many new things. Seafood (shellfish, octopus), indigenous, African, Indian (not the country India) and Arabian foods. I am not too partial for the Arabian cuisine, but I LOVE the African, Indian and indigenous foods.
I almost forgot, my most recent activity: outbound interviews! Boy, was that interesting. Saturday (Nov. 13th) I arrived at our location at 8:00am and was interviewing all day until about 9:00pm. We (the current exchange students and ex-exchange students) interviewed each candidate for 20 minutes, spending 10 minutes speaking in Portuguese and the other 10 in English. I was proud of myself because I understood absolutely everything that was said in Portuguese. Go me! I’m learning! We interviewed quite a few great people. I am interested to see who will be chosen. But all through the day I was thinking back on my interview and how terribly I think I presented myself. I came off as nervous and quiet and almost unsure, which is not me at all at the present time. This made me realize how much I have matured since then. I am so much more confident and self assured. Rotary really is awesome!
Beside everything that is happening, I am still deciding on my plans for Carnaval, which is in February. I will either go on a bloco (read Tierney’s journal, I will try to explain later) or I will travel (do one of those Rotary tours)...I guess it all depends on how much money I have by then...And thanksgiving, I will either go to a dinner here in Salvador that they have every year, or I will go to a reggae show with my friends. I’m torn between both...I will let you know what I do (because I know you are all so interested ?) So, I will leave you now to live life. I must say that I love all of you Rotarians and exchange students from FL! You guys are the reason I love my life! Mom, Dad, Liam, Conor, Kylie, Granny, Gram, Juju...and all of my other family members: Happy Thanksgiving! Wish I could be there, kind of...
I will write again soon!
PS: Pictures will follow...
January 17 Journal
e ai galera??? tudo bom? (What’s up everyone??? everything good?)
Well...I don’t quite know where to begin...I have changed a great deal over the past 2 months. I am really settling in here and I feel so at home with my 2nd host family. They are teaching me so much about Portuguese and English, Brazil, the USA and the world. My host dad loves conversing with me about the behavior of people in general (What everyone has in common, comparisons between the people of different countries, characteristics that help people gain success everywhere, etc.)
I have also learned many things about English grammar: verb tenses, etc. English class has actually been fairly productive and enlightening (even though I am on summer break). But on the other hand, I am losing vocabulary. There are many words that I forget in English. Good luck having an intelligent conversation with me when I arrive home. lol. And my spelling is terrible. When I do use English here it is either by speaking or talking on AIM, which is completely informal and I do not need to spell things correctly.
I will have a lot of learning to do when I get home. But, let me tell you, so far, it has been completely worth it. Every bit. I am having the time of my life and learning and experiencing things that I never would have in Florida (no offense, I do love Florida, but it’s true). I have met so many people and eaten so many wonderful foods and gone to the most beautiful places. I really took the ball and ran with it, and I haven’t looked back. (if that doesn’t make sense....think of football) Of course, I have had my “days,” but I would have those days in Florida, too. And even though I may be behind in school when I return, I have so many options. And I will be much more knowledgeable, having been to Brazil for a year. I am learning things here that many people will never know in their entire lives. This opportunity has opened my eyes to a whole new life, one that I will always be a part of, even when I leave.
One particular feeling that is funny to me...I am missing everyone...but not everyone from FL (I miss you guys, but I’ll see you soon enough)...I actually miss everyone from school. How strange....Does that mean that I miss school??? I have only been on break for about 3 weeks and I am all ready looking forward to getting back to class to see everyone again. That is definitely a first for me...I usually dread going back to school after the summer break. But this summer is a strange one.... maybe it’s because of the timing: December, January and February...but maybe I just really love my classmates. I think it’s both. And, somehow, I’m okay with being “homesick” from school. (translation: “I don’t mind being a school nerd.”)
So, you are probably wondering about my Christmas....I have to tell you, I thought it would be bad. I thought I would cry and not have fun. I have heard many stories from former exchange students letting me know how horrible Christmas will be for me...Well, what a myth...I got all worried for nothing. It was rather enjoyable! Although, Christmas Eve was much more Christmas-like than the actual day. But who cares, it was close enough. I didn’t cry at all! I’m very proud. New Year’s was definitely more sentimental for me. (But I didn’t cry then either.) I don’t really know why. I guess it was because I felt so at home at this beach house that I’ve never been to in my life. My whole evening (the 31st) felt perfect. So much so, that I fought my sleepiness until 4am. And, this is off-topic, but I have to say, I haven’t gained any weight either. I think I encounter all the minor problems, and none of the stereo-typical ones. I have not even a clue as to why...but that’s okay.
So, I will let you get back to your new year....I hope it's begun well! I love you all in Gainesville and hope you are well. Thank you Rotary from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful year!!! Thanks also for your great New Year e-mails!!!
Beijos e Abraços,
~Mak~ (my nickname here-along with Dolly. hehe.)
I’ll write again soon (after Carnaval, which is Feb. 3rd until Feb. 8th)
April 8 Journal
I have been writing my journal for about 3 months now....I had about 4 pages typed up the last time I came to add stuff....Then, thinking about, I realized that 4 pages would probably bore people to death. I know I’m too impatient for that sort of thing (unless I was talking about hang-gliding or a trip to the Amazon, which, unfortunately, I’m not.) So, I decided to revise it and cut out the semi-unimportant things (I say semi-unimportant because I believe that nothing I do here is completely unimportant.)
It has been an extremely busy few months. The last time I wrote was before Carnaval! In JANUARY! That was sooo long ago! I am just really bad at this journal thing, aren’t I? Well… Here you go:
CARNAVAL was the biggest party of my life! It is inexplicable! Huge semi-trucks (“trio-electricos” or “blocos”) decked out with gigantic speakers and bands playing on the hood, which has been made into a stage, while 1 to 5 thousand sweating, excited, tired and insane people dance around the truck for 3 to 6 hours while the rain pours down or sun shines brightly. Oh, and did I mention that the trucks are moving? Well, they are. And the people in the crowd walking, or dancing, while the trucks keep moving for 3 to 6 miles, depending on which route they are taking. Carnaval in Bahia, my state, is like nothing else in the world. It is the most popular party on the planet. Literally. And for good reason: the best bands are playing, the most famous people are watching and the drinks and lança perfume (a popular drug here in Brazil) are everywhere. I met people inside my “Bloco” from Australia and England, we saw Mexicans and Germans and Italians and Americans. For one week, there are about 2 million people dancing on the streets of my city, Salvador, alone. 1 million people come in from out of town. Can you imagine this in the USA? Jacksonville was building and repairing the city for 5 years just to accommodate their several thousands of guests for the Super Bowl. People book hotels up to a year in advance because once January comes, there is almost no way to get a place, unless you're famous. Well, February 3rd, 4th and 5th, I went out in a bloco called “Eu Vou,” which featured Ara Ketu, Babado Novo e Jammil (popular bands here). Then I rested for a few days and went back out on the last day (February 8th) with my sisters.
Then, February 14th, which is not a holiday here in Brazil, it was BACK TO SCHOOL. I am in the last year of high school…Let me tell you, it is SO much more difficult than school in the USA. I will feel so lucky to be studying there next year. It is free and the classes are not impossible to pass. Here, to get a good education, a child must study at a private school, which is very expensive….on average, US$5,000 a year. And the education at these schools is on a very high level. It is much more in depth than in the USA. The math is much more complex, and the physics, chemistry and biology are as difficult as AP courses in the USA. I sure will be ready for school next year!
I have also done a little traveling this past month (March). I went to Rio de Janeiro for a week and stayed with one of my best friends (who lived in Salvador, but moved to Rio a few months ago). I stayed for a week and LOVED it so much that I just might want to go back someday soon (if I have the opportunity). I also traveled to Itacaré, a city about 6 hours south of my city (by car). I went with my NEW HOST FAMILY (I changed families - for the last time - on March 6th and am loving this new family. The Sande’s are a very fun family and I have learned a lot and experienced a lot since I arrived in their house last month. I have a sister, Dani, who is 20 years old, a brother who is studying in Indiana this year through Rotary, and another brother, Bernardo, who is 11.) We spent Easter at a little beach-side resort that a friend of my host dad owns. There were two other families there and we all went out on four-wheelers, went on a ropes course and took out our friend’s speed boat. What a vacation! I had soo much fun there and I got to know my host family better, too! I definitely need to travel some more before I leave Brazil in 2 short months (that is 9 weeks. I am definitely not ready.)
That brings me to my last words…I must say that this has been the best year of my life! I am so at home here and so in love with everything in my life right now. How will I ever have the courage to step on that plane without looking back, or even running back, to it all? After creating a whole life for myself here, one that I myself am impressed with, I will be forced to walk away. Of course I will be dying to see my family and friends in FL, but I am just settling in and beginning to enjoy this wonderful new life. Just as my parents said, it will be BITTERSWEET. A completely happy moment mixed with a profound sadness. But I wouldn’t take it back for anything. The pain will just let me know how great my year was and how much I adapted to life in Brazil. I will forever remember this experience and will never lose contact with my new family and friends in Salvador, Brasil and the world.
Until next time,
My thanks and love goes out to Rotary 6970 and 4550, my family (here and there) and My Rotary gang. You are my life.
PS: Good luck to all the outbounds! You’re in for a bumpy ride, but it the end, it will be worth it! You’re gunna love it!!! You “Brazilians” need to get in touch with me!