Natalie Correa
2007-08 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Palm Coast, Florida
School: Matanzas High School
Sponsor: Flagler County Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Itabuna Sul Rotary Club
         District 4550, Bahia, Brazil

Natalie's Bio

 Oi! My name is Natalie and I am 16 year old sophomore at Matanzas High School. I was born in Miami, Florida and lived there for 14 years until I moved to Palm Coast in 2005. I live with my parents and my two twin sisters. Some of my interests are cooking, reading, and color guard.

I am very thankful that Rotary has given me the opportunity to spend a year in Brazil. I hope that I can meet new people and learn more about Brazil's culture. Até logo!


August 29 Journal

 37 days. In 37 days I have done more things than I could have ever imagined. I have seen whales out in the Atlantic Ocean, been to a Billabong professional surf competition, tried a fruit made into an ice cream and met people who have stepped on grounds that I have never even imagined.

When I arrived in Brazil 33 days ago I experienced my first culture shock, at the airport. I couldn’t speak a word nor understand anything anyone said to me. And I spent 10 hours there. I was with L. from Florida who I had met before but it was a culture shock nonetheless that I wasn’t expecting to receive within my first 24 hours. I arrived in my final destination at 2 AM in the morning after traveling for 42 hours. I was greeted by Leesa's host family and a banner that said “Bem-Vindo a Brasil”. My family showed up about 10 minutes later and we went home and I was given my official tour of the house. I passed out about ten minutes later.

My first two weeks here were filled with excitement. I had açai (the dessert fruit), brigadeiro and bananas cooked every single possible way. Brigadeiro is a very popular dessert that has become my favorite very quickly. I went to the shopping mall but it was more like a corner from Macy's back home. At the mall girls kept explaining to me that we were going to go see gatos. In my mind, I was thinking “Wow...the Brazilians have a huge obsession with cats”. Well I was completely off; they were talking about the cute Brazilian boys.

School here is very different. I have three classes a day. School starts at 7am and it ends at noon, so that the students can go home to eat lunch with their families. Here in Brazil, the students don’t have to walk from class to class; they stay in the same classroom while the teachers switch classes.

On August 4th I went to the first inbound orientation. I departed from Itabuna with two other exchange students at 10pm the day before. We arrived in Salvador, the capital of Bahia, at 7 am. We were greeted by 3 Rotex members, one of them Felipe, was an exchange student in Jacksonville in 02-03. The 3 Rotex members drove us to Lauro de Freitas, a town north of Salvador. The orientation started at around 9 am and it ended at 6pm. After the orientation, the Rotex members took us to Praia do Forte, a small fishing village north of Lauro de Freitas. We arrived there at around 8pm. The Rotex members showed us around the town and we went to sleep in a youth hostel. The next day we went to Projeto Tamar, a sea turtle preservation program. After Projeto Tamar, we went whale watching!! We traveled on a boat for 3 hours looking for whales. I couldn’t take many pictures because I got seasick, but it was still one of the most amazing experiences in my life! After whale watching, we came back to the hostel and had lunch, and then we returned to Salvador at around 8 pm. The Rotex members took us (Itabuna exchange students) to McDonalds to eat while we waited for our bus to arrive. You’ll never believe who I saw there…Elena! She was an inbound in my city last year. It was so nice to see her after two months. After finishing our food we went to the bus station and went back home.

The following week was very eventful. On Monday I went to Ilhéus, a city that is 40 minutes away from Itabuna, with my host family. We all went to a marketplace that sold many hand made items. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant by the beach to have acaraje, a traditional Bahian food. On Wednesday my host sister Fernanda departed to Belo Horizonte, were she would be staying for a day with my host aunt before departing to Florida. The 40 minute ride back home was really quiet. On Thursday I went to my first Brazilian Rotary meeting with the other Itabuna exchange students. Our Rotary club has their meetings at a churrascaria, a place where you eat a lot of meat. The food was really good. J After the meeting was over we took some pictures with the Rotary club president and we met our Portuguese teacher.

On Friday I went my first Portuguese lesson with the Itabuna girls (a nickname for the Itabuna exchange students). We listened to some songs in Portuguese and we learned some vocabulary. After Portuguese class, we went to Interact Club. Interact Club here is very different from my Interact club back home. The meetings are very formal and similar to a Rotary meeting. After the meeting was finished some members of the Interact Club threw a going away party for a girl who was leaving due to exchange. The next week I went with my host sister Carol, to her college class. It was a fun and interesting experience. After her college class was over, we went to a seafood restaurant. I ate a whole crab for the first time, it was really good. On Friday, the Itabuna girls and I went to Itacaré with some members of the Interact Club. Itacaré is a small city that is famous for its beaches. While we were in Itacaré we were able to see the Billabong Girls Professional surfing contest! After that we all went to a small beach that was next to the beach where the surf contest was occurring. After swimming we went to a Rotarian’s house. We had lunch there and we went back to Itabuna.

I can’t believe that I only have 11 months left in this wonderful country. Eu amo o Brasil!!

Beijos e abraços para tudos

Natalie



November 7 Journal

 3 months...has it really been that long? It still feels like I just arrived a few weeks ago.

I’ll start from where I left off. The Tuesday after the Itacaré trip I went to a dance class with my host mom. I learned forro and some samba. After the dance class was over I went to a pizzeria with the exchange students. Here in Itabuna the pizzeria is different. The waiters walk around with different plates of pizza and you call on the waiter that has the pizza that you want. On Friday I went shopping with my Host sister. Instead of going to the mall we went to the main street Av. Cinquentanário. Av. Cinquentanário is the main street in Itabuna. It is filled with many stores and the majority of the people shop there instead of the mall.

The following week I went to the salon with my host sister. I decided to get some highlights because they were having a special that day. Instead of getting light brown highlights like I asked, I got blonde highlights. I thought my hair was terrible, but everyone said it looked great. Now I look a lot more like my host sister because she has blond highlights too. The next day I went to the Itabuna Rotary Club. They have their meetings at the same place as my host Rotary Club, the churrascaria. So of course I was glad to goJ .

At the end of September I went to my host family’s beach house with Leesa from Florida. The beach house was located in Olivença, a part of the city of Ilheus. We were there for 3 days with all of my host uncles, aunts, and cousins. The house was small but nice and it was a 2 minute walk from the beach! During that time there was a city sports tournament. Many schools from Itabuna participated, my school Galileu didn’t win, we aren’t good at sports.

 In the beginning of October I went to a fashion show at the mall with my host sister. The fashion show was held in the cinema that was located in the mall. They had transformed the boring old food court in the cinema to a colorful nightclub. Throughout the fashion show I noticed that most of the models wore colorful clothing. My host sister explained to me that here in Brazil, everyone likes to wear bright colorful things. Most of the stores here in Itabuna sell many colorful bracelets that are “in”. I have bought a few already. =) The weekend after the fashion show I went to my host sister’s friend's wedding.

On the weekend of October 12-15 I went to the District Interact Forum. I departed from Itabuna on October 12 with 8 other exchange students, and 40 Interact members from Itabuna. We arrived in Salvador at 6pm after a long 7 hour drive. The Interact forum was held in a high school. Most of the events were held in the basement of the school, and we all slept in the 3rd floor classrooms. During the forum we had long boring sessions on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday we had an Arabian dance. Some people dressed up in Arabian costumes and the others who forgot their costumes wrapped sheets around themselves. Before Leaving Salvador we went to Iguatemi, a shopping mall. I didn’t see much of the mall because we only had 30 minutes to buy something to eat. I was surprised to see a Subway in the food court. I didn’t know that there was some American fast food restaurants here.

School ended last week. My school Galileu is well-known for academics. Most of the students in Galileu pass vestibular, a difficult university entrance exam, and get accepted into the best universities. My classes were really advanced, I had math, chemistry, biology, Portuguese, Spanish, physics, English, literature, history, geography, grammar, and sociology. I only did some work in English and Spanish class. I understood some of the things in Chemistry class, even though I had never had it before. The chemistry teacher organized a Gincana for the last week. Gincana is a competition in school where classes, or teams, do various tasks in order to win a prize. During the week we had a costume contest, and a scavenger hunt. The clue for the scavenger hunt was wood. In a few minutes the school was being torn apart because most of the objects in the school, desks, tables, boards, etc, were made of wood. After 3 hours of searching, a boy from my class found the green card. The last day of school was filled with tears and festive parties. The 2nd years were crying the whole time because most of them were moving to a new part of the school that is for 3rd years only. The 1st year classes were having most of the parties. I was able to attend the parties because I was in the 1st year class during my first days in Brasil.

I am almost fluent in Portuguese. I can speak and read but I can't write well. Most of the times I’ll write some words in Spanish instead of Portuguese. My Portuguese teacher told me that Spanish speakers won’t be able to write in Portuguese as well as other foreigners because the words are similar. I just finished reading my first book in Portuguese, “Ratos e homens”, the Portuguese version of “Of Mice and Men”. I felt really happy that I could read a book in another language.

My birthday was last week November 2. Here November 2 is Dia de Finados, day of the dead. Most of my friends were going to travel that weekend so my host family organized a birthday party for my on the 1st. The majority of my close friends came. The next day I had another birthday party with my entire host family. And on Saturday I went to the beach with my host sister and her friends for a third birthday party. After the beach we went around the historic areas in Ilhéus.

In two weeks I will travel to Salvador for an international youth exchange conference. I am very excited to see the other exchange students againJ After the conference I will switch host families. My next host family will be taking me to the state of Goiás and Mato Grosso! I will have the opportunity to visit Brasilia, the capital of Brazil and Pantanal.

Today an Interact club member asked me if I was homesick. I told her I couldn’t be homesick because my house was a 10 minute walk away. At that moment I realized that Itabuna is home too. It’s warmer and has more mosquitoes than Palm Coast, but I feel like I have lived here for my whole life. I know that my time here will only be a year but I feel like it will impact me for the rest of my life. It's been a great journey so far and I cant wait to see what else is coming my way.

Beijos e abraços para todos

Nati


   

December 3 Journal

 I can’t believe that its been four months already. Much hasn’t happened except for the conference.

Two weeks ago my host district hosted the 27th Brazilian YEO meeting. All of the inbounds here had known about this event before our departure but we weren’t sure of how we were going to get there. The conference started on a Thursday, by Tuesday of that week the inbounds in the south of Bahia had no idea on how we were going to get there. I received a call on Wednesday, the day before the conference informing me of my departure...my bus to Salvador would be leaving in 9 hours the same day. That event reminded me of how Brazil is different than the United States. In the US we usually plan things ahead, here things are usually planned at last minute and as exchange student you just have to go with the flow.

At 11pm, I along with 3 other exchange students from Itabuna, and 2 from Ilhéus departed for Salvador. I always fall asleep on the bus ride to Salvador, but this time it was different. Within an hour of traveling the German exchange student was already using me as a pillow, and two ladies in the back seats just kept talking. I fell asleep when we were three hours from Salvador. I couldn’t keep sleeping when the sun rose. We arrived at 6:00 am and we had to wait for the Rotex members to arrive. At around 7am the Rotex members and 2 inbounds from Porto Seguro arrived. We all went to one of the Rotex member’s house to await for our weekend host families to arrive. At that time no one knew who they were staying with.

At around 8am a Rotex member took me and an exchange student from Itabuna. We went to the local gas station to meet my host parent. The lady had introduced herself as Elena’s mom. I was so excited! I thought that I was going to stay with another inbounds family because that’s what happened to the other exchange students. Elena’s mom told me that we wouldn’t be going to the house to drop off my stuff because she was going to take me for a tour. Before we left we met up with Thiago, a friend of the family who was visiting from Rio de Janeiro. It was his first time in Salvador so he was spending the day with us.

We went to Rio Vermelho, the barrio where the conference was being held. We picked up Al and Lea and we went for a tour of the historic parts in the city. First we went to a lake that had some pretty statues. The big soccer stadium was right next to it. Then we went to see a courthouse, and we went to Elevador Lacerda. Elena’s mom dropped me, Al, and Lea off so she could park the car. In under 5 minutes we were attacked by the vendors. I ended up buying a sea turtle necklace. After that we went to the lighthouse. We had some coconut water, it was really good. Then we dropped off Al and Lea at the hotel and we went to the house for lunch.

At around 3 I went to the hotel with Elena. She stayed with Lea while I reunited with the other inbounds for a tour. We went to Riberia. There we had some really really good ice cream. After that we went to the Senhor do Bonfim church. All of the inbounds bought some of the famous fitas. The fitas are colorful and you are supposed to tie them around three times symbolizing three wishes. Then we returned to the hotel for the opening ceremony. The inbounds were doing the parade of flags, so there was a little struggle for the flags. In the end I got the US flag! J After that there was a cocktail party, all of the inbounds were really hungry so we ended up taking lots of food into the little room were we had our stuff.

The next day I was dropped off at 9am at the hotel. I spent most of the morning in the pool with the other inbounds. Then at around 1pm we went to eat at a local restaurant. At 2 I rushed to the hotel with Leesa because we wanted to be there in time for the 6970 session J Al gave a presentation, and Tierney and Elena gave a speech. At 3 Leesa and I rushed out to see if the bus had left yet. An inbound from Germany, Maria told me that the bus left. We went downstairs to see if there was a Rotex member that could take us to the beach were everyone was. Luckily we found a Rotex member and he agreed to take us in 10 minutes.

During that time I remembered that Leesa was upstairs. I couldn’t leave because I was waiting for the Rotex member. Then Leesa came down a few minutes later as soon as the Rotex member arrived. We went with the Rotex member to the light house beach where everyone was. We didn’t find them there so we went to another beach, where we didn’t find them either. We stayed at the beach and watched the sunset. Then we met up with everyone at the hostel where the Rotex were staying. We went to eat something at the nearest mall before we went to Pelorinho. At around 9 we arrived in Pelorihno. We went to a restaurant for a while then the inbounds had to return to be picked up at the hotel.

The next day I went to the hotel at 9am again. This time we didn’t stay in the pool but we went to the beach in Lauro de Freitas, a city that was 40 minutes away. We stayed the whole day at the beach. It was fun, except for the blue jellyfish that were stinging everyone in the water.=( At around 5 we went to Mercado Modelo. The Rotex stayed there while the inbounds had to walk a mile to meet up with our ride. We were dropped off at our homes to get ready for the party at night. At around eight Elena’s mom dropped me off at Carla’s, Elena’s sister, house. I talked to Lea and her family for a while then I said my goodbyes and I went to the party.

The party was held at the yacht club. When I arrived I was told to go into a brown elevator that would take me downstairs. I thought it was a normal elevator but it didn’t go down the normal way. It went down to the side! It thought that it was broken and that I was going to die but I didn’t. The party was fun. I danced a lot with the other exchange students. When the party ended we were dropped off at our homes again. I woke up at 8am the next morning. I packed up my things and I was dropped off at the bus station. The bus would leave at 9 am. We were still waiting for two other exchange students so...we missed our bus L We were told that we had to pay for our tickets again, and we weren’t allowed to travel later. So the next available and cheap bus had no air conditioner. The bus ride back home was really bad. No one could sleep because people kept getting on and off the bus.

After the conference nothing interesting happened. Last week I made a Thanksgiving dinner with Leesa and Mirjam from Germany. I made a traditional Peruvian dish, Ceviche. It didn’t turn out well. Leesa and Mirjam helped make cornbread, brownies, and a pumpkin roll. At the end the kitchen was very messy.

I switched host families on Monday. I was really sad that I had to leave my first family. Just when I was starting to get used to them I had to switch. But my new family is great too! I have an older sister who just came back from her exchange year in México and a younger brother who is an exchange student in California. After only being in this family for less than a week, I’ll be traveling with them to Goiás and Mato Grosso. I am very excited to see Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. It’s funny that I’m going to see the capital of my host country when I haven’t even seen the capital of my home country. In January I will go to the summer festival in Salvador. It’s popular because many people go to the concerts of the famous singers. It’s like a party before Carnaval.

Well I’m off to pack for my trip! I hope that all of the exchange students are having a great time!

Beijos e abraços para todos

Nati



January 1 Journal

 After one month of traveling, I am finally back home in Itabuna.

My host dad, host sister, and I left Itabuna on December 3. We traveled the whole day and spent the night in Minas Gerais. The next day we woke up early and continued traveling to our next destination, Brasília. I was really, really excited when we arrived in Brasília. We went to the Congresso Nacional, Praça dos Três Poderes, Catedral Metropolitana, and to the Palácio da Alvorada. After taking many pictures we continued traveling to Goiânia, the capital of Goiás. Goiânia is famous for its many férias. Férias are like huge markets. I was surprised to see most of the clothes that are sold in Itabuna for 80-100 reals for 20-30 reals! On our last day we went to the zoo and a mall.

We continued traveling to the next city Barra do Garças, in the state of Mato Grosso. Before entering through Barra do Garças we had to pass by a bridge. The bridge starts in Aragarças, in the state of Goiás, then it passes by another small city, and then it ends in Barra do Garças. It was amazing to pass by 3 cities in 2 different states in less than a minute!!  Barra do Garças is really small, I usually went to a water park everyday.

On December 15 we went back to Goiânia to pick up my host mom at the airport. We stayed in Goiânia for three more days and then we traveled to Quirinopolis, in the state of Goiás. In Quirinoplois, we stayed with my host grandmother. I went to a lot of small fazendas (farms) that belonged to my host family members. On December 20 we arrived in Caçu, Goiás. We stayed in my host aunt’s fazenda. All of my host mom’s family came to the farm, there were more than 26 people in 3 rooms! There was a lot to do on the farm. I went to a small river that passed by the farm, I rode on a horse for the first time in my life, and I learned how to make Pamonhia. Pamonhia is made of corn and its popular around the center area of Brazil.

I knew that my Christmas in Brazil would be different, but I didn’t expect for it to be really different. On Christmas morning I made Christmas cookies for everyone as a gift. Then at night when everything was ready my host uncle went missing. Everyone formed groups and went to look for him. After 30 minutes my host cousin found him, he was sleeping in the car. Then at midnight we did Secret Santa. After exchanging gifts we had dinner and went to sleep.

The next day we traveled back to Barra do Garças. This time we visited a lot of family members that were in town for the holidays. We traveled back to Itabuna on December 30. We didn’t make any stops because we were trying to get back before New Years. We arrived in Itabuna yesterday at 8pm. We got changed and traveled to Itacare. Most of the popular places were filled with tourists so we decided to spend the last hours of the year on the beach.. The Brazilians have a tradition of opening bottles of champagne, and jumping in the ocean 7 times at midnight. At midnight everyone went crazy! My host family and I got soaked with champagne as we jumped in the ocean seven times. By 1:00 am I was exhausted from traveling, so I went to sleep early while all the Brazilians partied until 5:00 am.

Now I’m finally back home. I’m really, really tired from traveling so much. On the way back home my host parents asked me what I liked the most about our trip. They were surprised to hear that my favorite part was staying at my host aunt’s farm. All of the host family members were amazing, I felt like they were my real family. Five months of my exchange year have passed. I love my new life, my family, and friends. I haven’t gone back to America, but I’m already missing Brazil.

Muito obrigada Rotary!!!

Beijos e abraços

Nati



February 16 Journal

 E ai beleza?

At the beginning of January my host family decided to buy new decorations and furniture for the house. So we spent a whole day buying things at the home décor stores.

On the 10th, my host sister, 2 exchange students and I went to Itacaré, a city that is famous for its beautiful beaches. On most of the days we went to the beach in the morning and at night we walked around a street that has many stores and cafés. On the 13th my host sister went back to Itabuna because she was going to a festival in the capital. As soon as she left I was left in charge of the other two exchange students. I really didn’t know my way around the city so we got lost a few times. That same day the Rotarian who was taking care of us told us that one of the northeast trips was in town. She told us that they would be arriving at around 8pm. So at 8pm we went to their hotel to see if the group had arrived, the receptionist told us that they didn’t, so we waited for an hour and we gave up. We went back to the street with all the shops and we ate something at a café. At around 11pm we started to walk back to the house we were staying at then we found a group of foreign people. We didn’t know if they were exchange students or not so we asked them.

Us: Intercambistas? (exchange students?)

Them: Sim, Intercambistas (Yes, exchange students)

Us: Yay!!! Intercambistas!! (Yay! Exchange students!!)

At that moment someone jumped out from the group....it was Noah!!! I was like omg omg omg!!!!!! I couldn’t believe I was seeing him after 5 months. We walked with the group of exchange students back to the hotel. Then one of the trip chaperones invited us to go with them to the beach the next day. So we woke up at around 7 am the next day to meet up with the group at the hotel. That morning I saw Laura!!! I was really happy to see her too! After a long day at the beach we went back to the hotel. Everyone went to get dressed for dinner so the two exchange students and I walked back to the house where we were staying to have dinner. After dinner we met up at the street with all the shops and cafés. We stayed there for about 2 hours with the exchange students and we left because we were traveling back to Itabuna the next day.

I didn’t do much the next days. I usually stayed inside my house, watched Brazilian soap operas, and I got a haircut. I was really scared to go to a salon again after the last hair incident, but everything was okay this time. =)

Towards the end of January I went to CEPLAC (Comissão Executiva do Plano da Lavoura Cacaueria) with another exchange student in my city. CEPLAC is where the majority of the cacau fruit is grown in my area. The other exchange student and I had a private tour of CEPLAC. We tried the cacau fruit, had dried cacau beans (bitter chocolate), and saw the whole process of how chocolate is made. At the end we went to the snake building. There was about 20 types of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes there. While we were there it was feeding time, so we got to see a huge snake eat a rat. It was really gross to see the snake eat the rat.

The beginning of February was carnaval!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here in Brazil many of the cities have their own carnaval celebration, but the two popular celebrations are in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador (the capital of Bahia). I couldn’t go to carnaval in Salvador because it was too expensive, but I planned to go to Porto Seguro, a city in the south of Bahia. I ended up getting sick on my departure day, so I spent carnaval at home watching clips of carnaval in Bahia. =( The next weekend I went to a fazenda with my host parents in a city that was 20 minutes away from Itabuna. I spent most of the time fishing with my host dad. I got seven fish by the end of the day! I think fishing might be my new favorite hobby.

School started again this week. It was really hard to wake up at 6 am again after 3 months of waking up at noon. Now school isn’t boring for me because I finally understand everything. One thing that I noticed is that the teachers at my school don’t use a book to teach, they memorize everything!

These past six months have been amazing! In Brazil everyone is happy, even the poor are happy. I’ve learned from the Brazilians to just be happy for being alive. I am so happy to be living here in Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!!!! Muito obrigada Rotary!

Beijos e abraços

Nati


April 24 Journal

 Oi gente!!! Tudo Bem?

At the end of February I went to Porto Seguro with a Rotarian and another exchange student. Porto Seguro is located in the south of Bahia, my host state, and it is where Brazil was discovered by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500. On our first night we went to Passarela do Álcool, a street that is filled with artesenato (Brazilian hand crafts), jewelry, souvenirs, restaurants, and cafes. The next day we woke up early to go to the beach. The beaches in Porto Seguro are different, they have complexos de lazer, places that offer fun activities, music, and food all day long. We went to the “Axé Moi” complexo, the most popular and well known in Porto Seguro. After Axé Moi we went to Santa Cruz Cabrália to buy some things at the Indian market. The next morning we went to Arraial d’Ajuda. We spent the day on the beach and on a road that had many stores. At night we went to Ilha dos Aquarios (Island of the Aquariums). We had to take a small boat with about 40 people to get to the Island. The Island was full of Aquariums, and it was separated into sections. There was a section that offered night clubs, another that offered cafes with Axé music, and another section that offered jazz music.

A few weeks after my trip to Porto Seguro I went with my interact club to an orphanage. At the orphanage we played games with all the children and we gave them Easter eggs. I really enjoyed being at the orphanage, most of the children there never have any visits or gifts, so they were really happy to see us, and we were happy to see them happy. J At the end of March I switched host families. I was really, really sad to leave my second family. I felt like they were my real family. I tried my best not to cry when I was packing my things, but as they dropped me off I started crying. I think I cried more then when I said goodbye to my real parents last year.

The next day I had to unpack and pack my things again because my host Rotary club of Itabuna Sul, and the host parents in Itabuna paid for me to go on a trip to the south of Brazil!!!!!!! Muito Obrigada Itabuna Sul!!!!! J On March 29 another exchange student from Bahia and I traveled to Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, to meet up with the other exchange students. The trip wouldn’t start until 9pm so we stayed at the D-4760’s youth exchange chairman's house for the whole day. Then at night we met up with about 30 exchange students at the bus station. There were exchange students from Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Poland, and Taiwan. We drove for about 12 hours until we arrived in Araçatuba SP. There we picked up about 6 more exchange students and we traveled for 12 more hours until we arrived in Foz do Iguaçu, Parana. We checked in to the hotel and then we went to Paraguay!!!! A lot of Brazilians go to Paraguay to shop because everything is cheaper there and there are no taxes.

We spent the whole morning and afternoon in Ciudad del Este. At night we went to a pizzeria. After eating there was some really good live music so we all stayed there until 1 am singing and dancing to our favorite Brazilian songs. The next day we went to Parque Nacional del Iguazu in Argentina. We had to walk long distances to get to the waterfalls. At around noon we took a break and had lunch. After lunch we took a train to Garganta del Diablo (Devils throat). It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen!!! Afterwards we went to the Duty Free shopping. Most of us were really happy to see some chocolates and candies that weren’t sold in Brazil. At night we had dinner at the hotel followed by a talent show.

The next day we went to Itaipu, the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. After taking a bus tour around Itaipu we went to the Iguaçu Falls on the Brazil side. We didn’t have to walk as much as in Argentina. The Brazil side of the waterfalls offered a full view of the waterfalls while the Argentina side offered a closer look. After lunch we went on a boat ride. The boat ride offered us an up close look of the waterfalls. By the end we were soaked because we drove under some waterfalls.

The next day we woke up early and traveled for 12 hours until we arrived in Curitiba, the capital of Parana. The temperature in Curitiba was about 15° C, it was really nice to feel cold weather again. After checking in to the hotel we were allowed to have free time around the main street. I went with some friends to buy sweaters because none of us had thought it would be cold. The next day we went to Bosque Papa João Paulo II (Polish immigrants memorial), Tangua Park, Universidade Livre do Meio Ambiente (Free Environment University), the Oscar Niemeyer museum, Rua das Flores (Flowers Street), and the Botanical Garden. After the morning tour around the city we had lunch at the Madalosso, one of the world’s largest restaurants. We had free time the rest of the afternoon until 10pm, so I went with some friends and we walked all around the center of Curitiba.

The next day we woke up early and checked out. We went on a train ride to Morretes. In Morretes we had a typical meal called “barreado”. After lunch we went by bus to Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina. We arrived In Florianópolis around 8pm. We had dinner and checked in to our hotel. The next day we woke up early and went on a boat ride around Lagoa da Conceição. Then we had a seafood lunch at one of the restaurants on the lake. After lunch we went back on the boat and we went to Joaquina beach where we had the opportunity to try sandboard. I fell off the board a lot of times. At night we had a party to celebrate the birthdays of the trip. We all stayed up until midnight talking and swimming in the pool.

The next day we woke up early to travel to Gramado, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Gramado was my favorite city. It was like a little piece of Europe inside Brazil. During our first day we went to Parque do Caracol, there we went hiking for a bit. After that we went to the caracol castle where we had the best apfelstrudel (apple pie) of the region with apple tea. In the castle there was also a museum with objects from the German colonization. After that we went to the chocolate factory!!!! Gramado is known for having the best chocolates in Brazil. In the factory we saw the largest chocolate bunny in the world. All of the exchange students wanted to eat it but we found out that it would take about 44 years to finish it J.

After the factory we went to Lago Negro. It was a huge black lake surrounded by little stores. There we had the opportunity to go on Swan paddle boats. After the lake we went back to the hotel to get dressed for dinner. We had dinner at a colonial café. There were different kinds of cake, bread, pies, cheese, and jellies. After that we went to a bar. The bar was huge! It had pool tables, bowling, and 2 different dance floors. We arrived back at our hotel around midnight. The next day we went to the Hollywood Dream Cars museum. There were many antique cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles. After that we traveled to Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. We arrived there at around 6pm. We checked in and got dressed to go for dinner. We had dinner at a barbecue restaurant with a show. During this time all of the exchange students exchanged cards and contact info because the trip ended the next day. It was really sad to say goodbye to all the exchange students. L

Now I have been back in Itabuna since last Thursday. I have only had a few days with my 3rd family but they seem very nice. I only have about 38 more days here. I remember that at the beginning of my exchange everyone told me that the year would pass by quickly, now I finally believe them. The thought of going “home” makes me sad. I don’t want to leave, I have family and friends here. I have changed, in a positive way. I’m more confident in myself, and I’m not afraid of saying what I want. The old shy Natalie has been replaced with a confident and outgoing Natalie. J

There are so many things to do before I leave, Rotary presentations, school tests, and the district conference. For now I’m going to make the most of my last days here, live every minute as if it were my last, and enjoy my life as a Brazilian teenager.

Beijos e abraços

Nati