My name is Noah Peden and I am sixteen years old. I live in St. Johns Florida with my two families. I have five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. I love to travel and going to Brazil will be my 14th country that I have gone to. The thing that is awesome about traveling is getting to know the culture and the people which is why I applied to the rotary youth exchange. I hope that as I go through with the program it will mature me and let me learn about a people I have never learned about before. Thank you very much.
August 21 Journal
Well, it's been one month in Rio Preto, Brazil and what a month it's been. I arrived with six other exchanges from America on July 22 when we met our families at the Rotary office. It was a pretty overwhelming experience because as soon as I got out of the bus, the host families rushed over to the van and whisked everybody off. My own host mom had been calling the whole day to the secretary because she was so anxious.
Over the following week I ate new foods, met people from Brazil and all over the world, and became a part of a new family. Being in a family that doesn't speak a word of English is very hard yet within the first week I could hold a conversation with a Brazilian with a little difficulty. The next week my host sister left to be an exchange student in Ormond Beach and I got to get a taste of what happened after I left my home. It was pretty sobering to see the sadness that the family took after one of its members left. But in one week they recovered with strength that was amazing. Now the mom doesn't cry when Natalia calls and is strong for both Nati and I. My dad is a travel agent here and is usually able to help me with anything Rotary or travel related. My mom works at Lacoste at the mall or what they call shopping.
The next week I went to school for the first time where I met all of the people who are my friends now. I am the first exchange student at my school so the people there find me pretty amusing, but I have a lot of fun. It is very different from a US school where here the students do not change classes but the teachers do.
Every Sunday here the families go to a small farm and spend the day together playing futebol, and grilling all sorts of meats. It really is a lot of fun. All right, well, there is a lot more I could say but I don't know how to put it into words that wouldn't fill up a book. So until my next journal ...
February 5 Journal
I have been traveling for a month now, and as an exchange student every experience changes your perspective and your life. Traveling from the south of Brazil in Rio do Janeiro all the way to the north in Fortaleza is almost like traveling in different countries with the different culture, accent, and people. It's amazing how by traveling for one full day I can go to different cities in the same country, but the two cities have completely different histories. For example, we traveled from Porto Seguro to Recife in about one week and they both have unique and interesting histories that differ from each other. Porto Seguro was one of the first places that the Portuguese landed in Brazil and in Recife the Dutch invaded and held the city for 25 years resulting in a different type of accent and culture.
Seeing all of the diversity of Brazil has really helped me realize how amazing this country is. Even though it is a third world country and is home to some of the poorest and dangerous cities in the world, this country has amazed me with how the people hold together. No matter what is happening in their country they always have the strength to stay the course and ride it out. On a different note Brazilians are happy and you'll never find a Brazilian saying "Aww, I'm having a bad day today," and just be depressed about it. Usually you could find them with a problem and happily working through it. I found this no matter where I went in Brazil, from Sao Paulo to Fortaleza.
I recently had my birthday in a little village on the beach called Jericoacoara and it was awesome. The night before my birthday we were allowed to go and walk around the village. I was able to have deep conversations with exchanges that I had just met three weeks before and have it feel like I had known them since I was born. I think that this is a critical part of exchange, knowing people from around the world and becoming brothers with them. That is why we, exchanges, are called ambassadors to other countries, because we become best friends with people from around the world. From this we go back to our respective countries and tell everyone that we know unique and wonderful people from all over the world. Right now I could tell everyone that have three best friends from Germany, Denmark, and Canada. This is the kind of thing that makes us exchanges and why we represent our respective countries all over the world.
April 4 Journal
Well, it's been about eight months in Brazil and it's coming down to the homerun of the last two months.
Today I took my dad back to the airport in Sao Paulo because his trip to visit me ended. For the past three weeks my parents from the US have been visiting me and even this is a learning experience. I learned that I missed being around adults from my home country and I also had a taste of what it would be like when I get back to the US. It’s a very strange feeling missing the average adult from the US, especially being a seventeen-year-old teenager in Brazil. I asked one of my exchange friends here about it and he said that maybe I miss them because they know our culture and somewhat our point of view. Of course nobody could understand an exchange's point of view unless they were an exchange but it is nice to talk with somebody that can offer suggestions that are familiar and from your own culture.
The other thing I learned while my parents were here is how much I’m going to miss my life here in Brazil. My host family, my friends, Brazilians and exchanges are the main things that I’m going to miss because they are what make a student's exchange experience real, at least for me. I realized that Brazil really is my other country/home/culture now and that I will have re-entry culture shock in the US. That I will have to deal with people who have changed and some that have not even changed at all. The thing that I will miss most here though are the Brazilians, whether it be my family or my friends. Brazilians are the people that make sure things are ok from even the littlest things to helping you out through a particularly rough patch in your exchange. This is what I will say when people ask me what did you like most about your exchange or what makes you want to go back most? I will say the people there is what makes me want to go back most.