Juliana Cardona
2008-09 Outbound to Brazil
Hometown: Weston, Florida
School: Cypress Bay High School, Weston, Florida
Sponsor: Weston Sunset Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Londrina-Shangrilá Rotary Club, District 4710, Brazil

Juliana's Bio

 “I am a woman who lives her life with intense passion to aspire and inspire in a positive way. I am a Latina who has not lost her language or her culture but has definitely enhanced it with bits and pieces from everyone I have met and everywhere I’ve gone.”

Hi guys! My name is Juliana Cardona. I was born in Medellin, Colombia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Horse-back riding in the mountains was my favorite thing to do there. If you go out riding in the morning you can feel the dew on your skin, you can smell the freshness of the flowers and see the most beautiful part of the Andes and the Cauca River. I would spend most of my summers in Santa Marta dancing to tambores (drums) on the beach.

When I was 9 we moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, a small university town bordering the Rockies. Then in 2003 we moved to Florida, where I currently live with my family. I enjoy going to the beach with my friends, and going out dancing. I have gone to two high schools; the first one was a music school. Making music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I love all types of music, especially Rock, Jazz, Classical, House, Salsa, Vallenato, and Merengue.

Right now I go to Cypress Bay High, one of the biggest schools in the U.S. In school I am involved with the debate team, and the model U. N. (United Nations). I have always been very interested in learning about different cultures, and have recently been selected to go to Austria for the 2008-2009 year (Editor's note: see first journal below for destination change). I am extremely excited and thankful for this amazing opportunity to learn, taste and live different cultures.


August 17 Journal

 July 28th

I’m writing this journal at 8 AM Austrian time which means its 3 AM here in Weston. I guess you could say I’ve been preparing for the time change (the truth is I’m completely nocturnal, especially lately). I’ve been so caught up in my daily life this past year that I haven’t thought too much about my exchange, but now that it’s a week away I find it hard to sleep; I’m so anxious. It’s finally hit me, in a week I will move to another country, leaving my home behind. I will be saying bye to the sea but I will be welcoming the Alps. I feel a mix of nervousness and excitement.

I was talking to my German friend the other day and he told me the only thing I could really pronounce perfectly was Ich libe dich. I all of the sudden pictured myself lost in a dark alley in Vienna and only being able to say "I love you" in German. Not being able to communicate scares me!

July 29th

Actually its 30th but its 3 AM Weston time, but for me the day starts when I wake up. I went to the Sawgrass Mall (the local 88 acre shopping center) today to return some shoes, got completely lost and ended up helping a complete stranger find a dress for her first business meeting in N.Y. I spent 4 hours at the mall, bought clothes, and when I finally found the shoe store it was closed. After this odyssey today I realized that I have bigger fears to face than claustrophobia on the plane, I mean I got lost finding a shoe store at my local mall and I KNEW HOW TO ASK FOR DIRECTIONS! Oh and I even had a map, which by the way I had no idea how to read. If I were texting I think this would be the time to write LOL in bold letters!! Ahhhhhhh!

July 30th

Making a list of thinks I will definitely miss

1.) snuggling with Tommy ( my doggy)

2.) Taco Bell! Oh and My Mami’s food (Ajiaco, Paella, Empanadas, Picadas…)

3.) My MOM’s kisses and beautiful smile

4.) My Dad's corny but deep and sage advice.

5.) Maybe my brother

6.) My best Friends Jo Jo Aka Jay, Kelly Ann Marie Antoinette (inside joke), Sarah, and Miloxxx

7.) Latin Parties!!! Salsa, Merengue, Vallenato, Regetton.

8.) American Parties!! Electro-house music, Hip-pop, Guitar-hero

9.) Listening to old music with my family and hearing my dad sing at the top of his lungs.

10.) Church

11.) The Beach; swimming under the fresh water while you feel the warmth of the sun tingle your skin.

12.) My Guitar ( I’m not sure if it’ll fit)

Things I will definitely not miss

1.) My JOB specially one of my managers

2.) Bowling

July 31st

Trying to fit my life in two maletas that are supposed to weigh 50 but currently weigh 53.

Oh and it turns out I’m going to need an adaptor cause my straightener doesn’t work over there. So I have three options A.) Have an Afro all year long B.) Buy a new straightener C.) Pay 100 for an Adaptor kit. I still haven’t decided, but I will soon.

August 1st

My host sister called me we talked for like an hour, it really is too bad I might not see her when I get there. She is leaving the 10th of august for the U.S.

I was hoping my visa would have come by now and although I usually completely positive I’m starting to become a realist like JoJo always insists.

August 2nd

My friend had a going away party for me, but I’m not sure if I’m going away. I was informed that the Austrian Embassy requires me to have a U.S. Visa six months after return. I have Visa I-94, which expires three months after my expected return; however, my green card is expected to arrive anytime now. They are processing July 2007 entries and we are October 2007. The explanation is complex and irrelevant so I won’t get into it, but here are my options: A.) get a six months visa and file an extension once in Austria. B.) Talk to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman so that my green card arrives sooner C.) Go to Brazil, because it doesn’t require a visa from Colombian residents. D.) wait and pray.

The problem with all of these options is that regardless of what is done, I’m afraid I won’t get to Austria in time for the language camp. At the moment I have only made one resolution and that is not to stress, because it is 9 AM Vienna time, and all I can do at the moment is have faith; plus I’m having another Going Away party tomorrow and have to go to bed. I should cancel it but I can’t really remember everyone I invited and calling everyone to cancel would take too long.

3-4th of August

Today was the “going away party”; which because of my visa situation soon turned into a different kinda party. 30 close friends came; we danced so much, talked so much. After they left I couldn’t get much sleep; I tossed and turned in bed. I looked the clock and realized it was 6:30 so I just woke up to see the sunrise and go roller-skating to get some Jumba Juice. When I got home I ate the raisinets my friend brought me for the plane ride ( I promised her I wouldn’t eat them till my fight but I couldn’t resist). I felt so ungrateful, because here I am watching a beautiful sun-rise, eating chocolates, having fun with friends, enjoying my family and I want to leave. It's 7 AM now and I’m supposed to be on a plane on my way to Austria but I’m not! L

Its 7 P.M. now and I’ve slept a total of 2 hours. I’ve called and emailed everyone who could possibly help me. Starting with Theresa from Bokoff-Kaplan, who is now on my speed dial; but as it turns out she had a little inconvenience; she had gone into labor (congratulations Theresa!). I drafted my options and called Mr. Kalter, terrified that my trip would be canceled; I talked fast, as to avoid getting an “I’m sorry this just didn’t work out”, out of the other side of the phone. Thankfully, neither Mr. Kalter nor Bokoff-Kaplan gave up.

So after eating what was left of the 11 oz of Raisinets, I started to make calls. Since my dad was feeling very ill today I had to step up and do everything by myself. I called Congresswoman Wasserman and sent her a letter in hopes of expediting my immigration process. I called my lawyer and asked him to write a letter explaining my status and providing evidence that my green card is being processed. I called the Embassy and spoke with Mr. Passler (the person who denied my visa) and explained my situation. He was very helpful and after faxing him the I-94, my lawyer’s letter and of a copy of the form I-485 receipt he suggested I go to Washington D.C. this Wednesday for an Interview. So with the help of my dad’s credit card I bought 2 round tickets, reserved a hotel near the Embassy and rented a car.

Incredibly Mr. Al Kalter was able to find a host club and family in Brazil in matter of hours, just in case things don’t work out. The only problem (sarcasm) is that I would have to travel to another country and back to Brazil every 3 months. So I would not only visit Brazil but 4 other countries in the course of the year! Like my Great Aunt says, God writes straight on crooked lines. I have faith that everything will work out for the best. If I end up going to Rumbalicious Samba land I’ll be more than happy, and if it end up being in enchanting Vienna I’ll be happy too. (It's one of those Win-Win situations Mark Trowbridge lectured us about in the RYLA camp, and I thought this moment would never come.)

August 5th-7th

So where do I start…a lot of things have happened over this past 2 days. We landed in D.C. at 9:30 PM, after being lost for an hour we got to the hotel. My brother, who is the manger at the Hilton, did an amazing job hooking us up with the Alexandria Hilton hotel Penthouse! The room was the same the only differences really was that you needed a special key to put in the elevator to access our floor level; and that right next to our room there was a 2 story observatory-library-living room. My dad went straight to sleep after we ate. I instead wandered around the hotel and ended up finding a beautiful grand piano right next to the unoccupied ball room. I played the piano for a while, and then went to the gym. I also meet this Russian girl, and an Italian guy who I stayed up talking to. The next day we went to the Embassy and we were told that it would take 3 more weeks for my visa to get stamped, and there was still the possibility that it wouldn’t work out. After talking to Mr. Al Kalter, I had to make a very stressful and difficult choice- To wait a year to go to Austria or go to Brazil. Although, I had my hopes up with Austria (I was learning the language, I was excited about the music high school I was attending, and about the horse stable that was going to 2 blocks from my house, I couldn’t wait to see the Austrian alps covered in snow and flowers in the spring time), till the last moment I had faith that everything with my Austrian visa would work out, but I couldn’t wait a year because it would throw off my plans to attend Dillard for the performing arts my senior year, and my plans for college. I am extremely sad I will not get to meet my host family who have been so kind and have taken the time to make sure everything is ready for me. They’ve sent me pictures, letters, and we’ve even talked on the phone. Although I will not get to meet them this year, I hope that someday we will!

We stayed in D.C. for 4 more hours after the Embassy, in which I got lost walking though the embassies, meeting people, and taking pictures, while my dad worked. An hour after this decision Congresswoman Wassermann’s office called me to inform me that they had successfully accelerated the I-131 process so that I could travel care-free. However this does not change anything with Austria.

I’m in the plane back home right now, it is so beautiful you can confuse the sky with the sea and it feels like a dream.

8th of August

So I'm going to Brazil, just when I thought I was starting to learn German they switched the language on me. I had to call my host club and family to let them know I’m not going to Austria, it was heart-breaking once they were able to understand the news. At the same time I have to write my Brazilian host family and club to let them know I’ll be there Monday. There is this Indian mythological queen that represents destruction-hope, when I studied her in school I couldn’t understand how destruction could bring hope to people, but now I do. When one door closes another one opens. Anyways I’ve got less than a week to hang out with friends so got to go.

Departure da

So I’m passing through the Amazon at 3700 meters of elevation. I got on the plane at 11 P M and its now 6 AM. Will, the other exchange student and I didn’t get to sit together, but it’s still nice knowing that am not doing this totally alone. 4 months ago my mom asked me if I would be ok without her; my response was, “Are you?” It all hit me at once when I was doing the check in, that I will not be able to hug her this year anymore. I started crying like a baby and went back twice to hug her, hoping to make up for the year that I won’t.

I’m on my last connection flight right now, and can’t believe I’ve survived so many hours of flying. Our first connection was Sao Paulo. Paradoxically the first thing we hear when we get off the plane is Madonna’s Material Girl song; ahhhh I can’t escape that song even in Samba land (No offense to Madonna fans). Getting my baggage checked in again was beyond frustrating! After about 20 minutes, I finally understood that the lady was charging me for extra baggage 98 dollars. The lady asked me for ID so I gave her my drivers’ license, which she never gave back, but after another 20 minutes of failed attempts at communication I just decided to move on. Then I tried to get a hold of my mom, who hadn’t slept waiting for my call. This was also a challenge and an expensive one to say the least. I ended up paying 4 dollars to talk to her for literately 30 seconds. Afterwards we went outside to take pictures and waited in a store that had massage chairs. Then it was time to say bye to Will and hi to 2 other exchange students, one from Mexico and the other one from Chicago. The one from Mexico had become friends with a group of folk dancers, who gave us a little demo, so cool.

So I’m finally in my new home. First impressions: beautiful, warm, and welcoming people! I thought my host mom was my host sister. When I met them I really only knew one word in Portuguese, which is obrigada, thank you, so I said it over and over and they all laughed with me. I started talking in a mix of Spanish and English and somehow they understood. Their home is gorgeous; it has a pool and a cute puppy. Ah Tommy I miss him so much, I almost couldn’t fall asleep last night. Before I went to bed we had Pizza and it turns out that here they use a fork and knife for that. And yes, you guessed it, like a true American I grabbed with my hands at first.

Eu primer dia de colejio

My first day and my alarm clock doesn’t ring! I start walking toward the house of the person who is taking me to school while buttoning my vest and they are outside waiting (ahh, how embarrassing). When I get to school I’m not sure where to sit so I take the first chair, and then Enrico, last years intercambista from Bahamas comes towards me and saves me. He greets me with a relieving hug that calms me. I sit with the inbounds (there is 1 guy from Denmark, 1 girl form Norway, and 1 American girl). The Norwegian girl and I joke for the first 2 periods… My Biology teacher is crazy! He makes airplane noises, and has Einstein’s hair. After biology we go to break, and I get stuck in the restroom! Yes, you read right; the door to the restroom would not open, and I’m kind of claustrophobic. So I try to jump over the door by stepping on the toilet paper holder, and fall into the trash! Two girls go get help and I finally get out of the restroom. After that I have the pleasure of explaining to my art history teacher and 100 students why I’m so late to class. Talk about breaking records; most possible embarrassing moments in a day! All in all I think that given the situations, I handled it very gracefully.

I went walking this afternoon in my neighborhood and I met this really cool girl who invited me to a churrasco(BBQ) tomorrow.

The churrasco Friday was so much fun! I learned how to dace Sertenegio. It ended at 3 AM but I went home at 10 PM, because I’m just getting to know my host family and I’m not too familiar with their rules yet. My family is composed of my host mom and sister who is 16, the grandpa stays with the family 3 nights a week and the mom's fiancé stays over the weekends. They are very nice, polite, and sweet, but I sometimes feel like a strange visitor. It’s the feeling you get when you are using something that is not yours. I guess that’s probably the thing I miss the most about my parents; that feeling of unconditional love, knowing that no matter how bad you mess up they will always be there. I miss having that kind of trust, where you talk about everything and people tell you their secrets and you tell them yours.

Sunday there was another other churrasco, with all my host sisters’ friends. They rented the club house, bought drinks meat and played funky. Funky is kind of dirty or so I found out. I was dancing and singing the lyrics with out knowing their meaning; when I found out what I was saying I stopped. There are some other miscommunications between Portuguese and my native languages. Most people understand when I speak in Spanish and I understand what they say in Portuguese 85% of the times. In the churrasco Friday night I asked in Spanish if there was a buseta (bus) that would take me to the mall and they all started laughing hysterically. I found out that buseta (bus) in Portuguese it means vagina. Oh another misunderstanding is that the OK sign with your hands in the U.S. here is an insult. I know now ...


November 23 Journal

 21st of August

I’ve lost track of the days and time. It feels like a long vacation. The day before yesterday I felt a little bit down, but yesterday made up for it. After school I went home with Enrico (the outbound from Brazil last year in my district) and his host brother, Nicolaj (the intercambista from Denmark). We joked and laughed at every single little thing! We poked fun at my misunderstanding with the hair-dresser a couple days before. (Yea I forgot to write about that; I look like a Cacatu (the Amazonian bird that inspired the Mohawk). I went walking with 2 other exchange students, we got lost and ended up finding a salon that would cut my hair for 3 dollars plus the 2 dollar tip. I told the lady to cut the ends and she cut off 4-5 inches!!!! Talk about misunderstandings.) We were later joined by another exchange student from U.S. (Shiloh) and went to get some ice-cream. I got Avocado (soft and creamy ice-cream flavor) and Maracuya (very sour) the perfect combination. Note to future outbounds to Brazil: try everything at least once. You’ll have to swallow some things you don’t like, but trust me it’s worth it when you find what’s sweet. After the ice-cream I tried to keep up with Nicolij who sprinted to the Portuguese class some of the outbounds and I are taking. I swear, drivers in Brazil are blind! I was so close to becoming one of those starts on the pavement (in Medellin they paint starts on the pavement when someone has been hit by a car). Afterwards we went to get some juice. I always get the weirdest thing I find, and this time it paid off. It’s made form Acerola, a fruit only found in Brazil. At the juice place we meet up with some other people; some who were taking a Capoeira class (martial arts disguised with dance; originated from the slaves in the Brazilian plantations) after; so, I and a couple others joined. OH MY GOD! Those people are like GI Joes! It is so hard! I then took the Bus Home with Eva (the German exchange student who told me she knew how, but had never done it before). Although some of the most important discoveries have been made because of disorientation (such as Columbus’s New “India”), I didn’t want to end up asking home-less/hippie people for directions. In times like those I always ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen” to calm down. But at 8:40 PM in Londrina’s Centro I rather not. We found our way just fine, but when I got home my host mom was a little mad. As soon as I told her about my Capoeria class she couldn’t help but laugh.

Oh this happened a couple days ago but I thought I should write it as prevention for future victims of culture shock. I went out to eat with Eva’s family and I thought it was an all you eat, so I tried to get as many new types of food as I could. It turns out they weigh it! I got 2 lbs while everyone else got .5-1 lbs. I was so embarrassed.

I was invited to talk to some classrooms about my life. I felt like a little rock star! In the breaks I’m surrounded by kids asking me questions. They even follow me to the restroom. It takes a lot of energy and it's hard to understand when 10 people are talking to you at the same time!

My sociology teacher gave a lesson on Iraq-gas-Bush. To the beat of the Black Eye Peas song “where is the Love” we watched a video which showed in great detail all the atrocities of the war. I kept hearing two words: Americans and killers. After class I asked some friends what the teacher was saying and they told me Americans were killers, so I showed them my guns (arm muscles) and we laughed. Although I made a joke out of it, it really offended me.

We were supposed to feel more independent but I only feel more restricted. I’m tired of making plans that don’t work. Yesterday all the exchange students went out and I couldn’t go because of rides-permission issue. Today there was a BBQ and I couldn’t go because of rides-permission issue. Tonight I had made another plan to go out, but my host-mom modified it. I love my host family, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not used to having someone call the house I’m going to, to verify I’m there. I hope that with time my host mom will trust me more! She doesn’t want me to walk at 9 pm in the condominium. Just in case someone finds a way to cross the forest, cut the electric fence and jump the 5 meter wall!

Sometimes in life you’ve got to take a little risk.

I woke up today feeling as if a truck ran over me. I went to a circus school yesterday with 2 other intercambistas! It was amazing; I couldn’t believe the stuff those people were teaching us to do. The warm-up alone felt like a hardcore work-out. I tried the tissue paper and acrobatic swing. It was so scary, I’m glad my mom wasn’t there. As if that wasn’t enough exercise for one day; Nicolj, Siri (exchange student from Norway)and I ran for at least 1 hour! It was very hard for me to keep up with them. I could feel my heart pumping and my ears started to keep the beat of my heart. They asked me a couple times if I was okay but I lied and told them I was fine, when in actuality I felt like I was going to faint. I really have to get in shape. My goal is to run a marathon before I leave Brazil. When we got to my house around 8 PM I showed them the pool, and Nicolaj throws me into the ice cold pool with clothes and everything! After we swim for a little I walk home soaking wet, a little afraid of what my host mom would say. She was a little upset. I’m very careful of respecting my host mom’s rules, I don’t want to cross the boundaries, but sometimes you’ve got to relax and have a little fun. You only live once.

Today I was invited to a birthday party at the mall. There was a misunderstanding; I understood 2 when it started at 7. I get there, and walk around a little, and I end up meeting this girl who was an exchange student to Australia, she introduces me to her friends who are all studying to be veterinarians and are waiting for their class to start at 4. We joked, talked and eat chocolate for about 2 hours. After they leave I try to take a bus home, but found the wrong one. When I discover I’m on my way to another city I get off and go back to the mall. For the second time in a row Enjico appears out of thin air and helps me. It turns out his dad has a pizzeria at the mall, so I spend the next 3 hours talking with him. By now it is 7 and I meet my friends for the birthday party.

On my way home, I’m standing on a bus holding on to the pole for dear life. Watching spring blossom out of the window. The most beautiful rose pink flower tree fades away as the bus speeds down the hill. Now were passing the lakes, there’s one to the left and right. As the sun starts setting people come out to run around the lakes and drink coconut water and caña juice. The coconut water is cold, smooth, soothing and sweet; I love it! I’m almost home which means it's time to start running up the hill, because I have a curfew of 7 pm. Once I’m past the forest I’ve arrived at the condo.

Getting there is half the fun.

Oiii,

I’m sitting outside watching the flower trees dancing with the wind, and I’m thinking about all that’s happened this weekend. Friday I went out to Escritorio (night-club), I was there for about 4 hours and for about 6 I was trying to figure out how to get there. After school I asked Carol (host mom) to drop me off at Shiloh’s house, so that from there we could go to Siri’s house and get ready to go out. Planning doesn’t always work out; sometimes you have to improvise. My host mom didn’t know where Shiloh lived, so she didn’t take me. This is okay because Shiloh had left to Nicolij’s- Enjicos house anyways. So I try and take a bus to Nicolijs house, but I don’t know which one to take and I definitely don’t want to end up on my way to another city like last time. I try asking and they all shake their heads signaling me no. I mime to them that I need a bus to Paranagua and they all look at me like I’m crazy, so I just walk and I walk and I walk some more. It was scary but kind of funny at the same time. Here is this girl walking through a barrio completely lost with nothing more than a hot pink bag containing only shoes, a Prada bag, sunglasses even though there’s no sun, flip flops, and a giant purse filled with make up. After I realize where I have to go, I stop, put on some tennis and start jogging. I get there 40 minutes later. From there the planning really starts, I find out I’m not going to be able to spend the night at Siri’s house, so I ask Shiloh but Shiloh is not allowed to go out, so I instead spend the night at Natasha’s (friend from school) house. There the problem really starts; we go to Casa de Cachasa with Shiloh before she has to got home. We then try and take bus to Escritorio, but the bus is not showing up and out of pure luck we find some friends that are going there too. Escritorio is packed with people and finding our friends, who were in the VIP section, is the new problem. Getting there is truly half the fun! I had no idea I could dance! I still think I can’t dance, but I had fun trying! I did not want to go home and I keep singing to Natasha the song “just dance”.

Natasha had to get to school at 6 AM so we sleep for about 2 hours, and then her mom drops me of at Siri’s. I fall asleep and I wake up with the worst cold I’ve ever had. Luckily, in Brazil pharmacies deliver medicine for only 8 extra Reais. That day was my friend's aniversario (birthday) and he was having a bbq in a Chacara, a “little farm” outside the city. I had been planning to go there for about a week. The medicine didn’t help much but I reluctantly and stubbornly decide to go to the churrasco (bbq). If I had fun at Escritorio this bbq was 3 times as fun. Just like at the Rotary party where I go to every table, I make sure I meet everyone, and that everyone meets me. I use the little Portuguese I know and say “oii tudo bem”, and it takes off from there. I have no idea how I manage to talk so much with out speaking the language! After dancing Sartenegio, Fojo, Zamba and even YMCA I call my host mom, and try to ask her if I can go out with them tonight. My friend had given me a coupon that saved me 35 Reais, but she firmly says no; she also mentions that she wants me home now. Instead of freaking out, Siri and I just lay on the grass and look at the stars for about a minute to figure out what to do and then everyone comes over and we all joke around for about another 5 minutes. Then I really start freaking out but I find ride with in the next 5 minutes. We are supposed to get a ride to Siri's house but instead we go to Ejico’s-Nico’s house. I tell my mom we’ll be at casa da Siri and that in about 10 minuses she can call me there, but because as I mentioned earlier plans change, when she called I was at Enjicos. So now I’m really freaking out. My number one priority since I got here is making sure my host mom feels comfortable with me in her house. I’m constantly asking her if there’s anything she would like me to do or if there’s anything she would like me not to do. I always tell her where, when, how, and why, even if she doesn’t ask. I have given her the numbers of all my friends! I don’t ask her for rides, but instead try and take the bus or a taxi. I call her when I go out, so that she knows I’m fine. I’m extremely grateful for letting me in her house. I’m thankful for everything, but I’m in Brazil and I’ve been home too much. For a person who back home feels so independent and has so much trust from her parents, it feels really weird having someone doubt you.

September

São Paulo’s Riviera

I’m in heaven I could spend my life watching the waves wash off in the sand. I’m so lucky to be here right now. My host sister’s grandpa invited us to his beach house and NOSSA (OMG) I wish I could stay forever. It started with a bus from Brazilsul (my host family owns this bus company) at 11 PM, the seats leaned back 180 degrees and the bus rocked you to sleep like a babe. The person to my left snored but this was ok because it remained me of my dad and made me feel safe. My sis tells me there was a somnambular walking though the seats but I really didn’t feel a thing. 8 hours later we arrived in Sao Paulo. We first went to my sister's dad’s apartment where we slept and watched Gilmore girls. Then we took a taxi to the mall. After walking around a little her dad picked us up and we went to Outback. The menu was in English so for the 1st time I didn’t have to order with my eyes closed. We ate onion rigs, cheese fries and ribs. Oh how I missed cheese fries!

Then her grandparents picked us up to go to the beach. We passed though the Sierra Del Mar and in a tunnel. We passed Santos, the native city of Pele. After we passed Cubataõ and the canals we arrived at the Riviera, a huge condominium that even has a shopping mall in it. The view from the apartment is to die for, the sea seems to go on forever. Although we arrived late the first thing we did was go to the beach and sing songs as we attempted to jump the waves. The next day I walked on the beach and tried to practice my Portuguese with random Brazilians. I meet a surfing teacher and the girl form a Brazilian rock band. Then we went to the mall and met up with one of Raissa's childhood friend. We made Brigadero (a kind of fudge) and played Trouco (card game) with her friends. I was going to go swimming in the morning but I stayed up late and fell asleep on the couch. On the way back to Sao Paulo the bridge collapsed so we were stuck in traffic for a while, I was getting a little claustrophobic so I asked if the could lower the windows, but in turns out the car was bullet prove so you can't lower the windows in the back. Although knowing this should make one feel safer it made me feel less safe; I mean just the thought that someone might try to fire at your car while you're on a stop light is scary. It’s really sad to see what drugs, corruption and poverty can do to a city; any city not just Sao Paulo.

My Austrian host family wrote me. It’s nice that we keep in touch. They said they were so sad that I wasn’t going that their Rotary club gave them another exchange student. I wonder if my current host family would do the same, or if they are hosting because they have to. I got just the opposite of what I was thought in culture boot camp. I expected my Austrian host family to be more introverted and less talkative than my Brazilian one. Just another example of how mistaken it is to classify people in groups.

Cayon Guartela

It’s been a while since I wrote in this crazy journal. It is now October and I have a lot to update you on. I just got back from Canyon Guartela. I threw myself over a cliff attached to a one cm in diameter rope and I paid to do it. I galloped on a horse whose estribos I couldn’t reach. I went rappelling with an evil guide who wouldn’t stop throwing below zero water at me. We had a barbecue with some lemon and sugar, and danced to Mexican music by a bon fire. We blasted out singing wonder world over and over on the way back home.

October 5

I’ve noticed how I’ve changed since I’ve been here. When I’d come home from school and eat lunch with my host family I would always want to tell them everything new that happened, I would fill each second with a story. Silence just seemed too awkward for me. My family back home is very expressive (talkative), they show love openly and every time there is a disagreement they feel the need to talk about it. I thought my Brazilian family would be just the same. But they are not, they are very quite and reserved. At first this difference made me feel unwelcome; however, now I realize you don’t need words to communicate love, sadness, or even anger. Now during dinner although I’m thinking a lot of things I don’t feel the urge to say them out loud. Because the table is quiet I think more carefully before I speak, which is something my father back home has been trying to get me to do for a while now.

However some things I think I will never get used to. For example I can’t stop switching hands when I cut something. Brazilians hold the knife with the left side the whole time. I’ve been trying to eat like this but it's too hard. The other thing is that there is a problem with Brazilian men. They all try to kiss you! In Brazil kissing means absolutely nothing. There’s one intercambista that’s kissed 75 people in 6 months! Unfortunately I don’t think I will ever be able to assimilate to this part of the culture. Not only because I don’t want to get Mono but because I’m way too selective. I’ve tried to be as sincere as possible with my diaries. I’m telling you the good, the bad and the ugly.

October 11

My friends from school are doing a little road trip to the beach and invited me. I’ve been trying to compress my hips and butt to fit into a Brazilian bikini. It's only for the weekend; I’m so excited! Once we are there we are going to a nearby city to attend an Axe concert and then we come back Monday morning for school. I’ve got permission form my Rotary Club and family in Florida, now I only need permission from Caro (my host mom).

October 13

Tomorrow is teacher’s day so I have no school, which is good because some friends invited me to play pool. I had never played before, but it turns out I’m not so bad at it. Either I have extreme good luck or my friend is a really good teacher.

October 14

Finally it is summer! I invited 4 friends to use the pool and another 4 showed up. With a refreshing pool, glorious sun, and an inflatable mattress that lets just the right amount of water touch you, nothing can go wrong, that is if Nicolaj Johansen Winter is not there to bump you off it just when you are relaxed enough to fall asleep. Just kidding; I mean life is good, it is really good - we tan, dance, watch movies and eat brigadeiro but it is so much better with friends like Shilo, Siri, Nicolij, Enjico, Natasha, Rafa, Eloiza… just when you think life is perfect and nothing can go wrong, gravity pulls you back down. I went out for a ride with my friend. I came back humming and dancing when all of a sudden I find myself laying on the ground, I rolled down 5 stairs, twisted my arm, hit my bunda (buttocks) and chin. When I got up my friends and I couldn’t help but laugh; I mean I’ve been doing leg lifts 24/7 in order to be ready for the beach and now I have a huge ass purple bump on my butt!

Even tough I was still in pain I had to go watch the Colombia vs. Brazil game. I wore a Brazilian bracelet on one arm and a Colombian one on the other. Although I’m very patriotic, I have to admit I was a little doubtful because the definition of football is: a game played by 12 players in which Brazil usually wins. Brazilians go crazy over soccer - my host mom told me people have been killed because of rivalries. I was a little bit afraid going into Escritorio with my Colombian I.D. and my red, yellow, blue bracelet. It’s like sitting on the Dolphin’s side wearing a Yankees shirt. I really didn’t feel like getting jumped so when Colombia came close to winning I took it off. In the end no one won, it was a tie. Something that I found to be kind of symbolic. People are always asking me were do you like it better U.S., Colombia, or Brazil, and I can’t choose. I feel as American as I do Colombian and I can’t choose who to root for when it comes to Colombia vs. Brazil. They are all so different, unique, and beautiful. I wish I could combine them all! Have a little bit of salsa and a Brazilian churrasco in the American Rockies.

October 15

After the a little bit of dancing my friend took me home; my arm had gotten worse, I couldn’t even lift my arm to take off my shirt. When I woke up I called Andre, my Rotarian neighbor, whose husband is a doctor. She took me to the hospital to get radiography and a muscle relaxer. We skipped the whole line at the hospital, although I felt cared for I couldn’t help but feel guilty and spoiled. I only had a little scratch while the people in line where so much worse than me.

My host mom told me she did not feel comfortable with me going to the beach. She said it more like this “nao da”. This literally means “that won’t go down”. This phrase doesn’t give room to respond. If it were my parents back home I could get a chance to explain and possibly persuade them, but because it’s someone with whom proximity is limited, it would be rude to even remotely question her judgment even if my parents and Rotary think it's fine.

October 16

I went to Vega! It was amazing. At first they played techno-house but than this sertenegio (Brazilian country) band went on stage. I never thought I would like country, and I never thought I would listen to country in Brazil, but Sertenegio is so much fun to dance to. I loved the whole night, besides the fact that I fell down the stairs again. I’m telling you Havaianas (famous Brazilian flip-flops) are dangerous!

October 18

Did absolutely nothing! I called about 10 friends but they were all out of town. I can’t stand being home for more than 3 hours. The house is beautiful and big, but it feels so empty it’s depressing. My sister went to watch a game with her friends and my host mom is sleeping, it's 5 pm and I think I might have to stay home. My guitar needs strings and I’ve watched all the movies in the house. I’m done with the Half-Blooded Prince, and I’m officially bored. I feel as if time is taunting me telling me “time is running out and you’ve got to enjoy your days in Brazil”. On top of it all my friend called me from the beach just to remind me what I’m missing out on. Supposedly he wanted me to hear the waves through the phone. Isn’t he evil! I guess being so far away from home teaches you that you can’t rely on your parents or friends to make happy, or to make you feel better when you’re down. You have learn to rely on yourself.

22 October 2008

Today Nico and Shilo came over for a movie. I eat so much when I’m around them. We ate this gummy bears you can buy super-sized in the one Reai store. No wonder I’ve gained 5 kilos here!

It’s so weird! I feel so bi-polar! One day you feel so out of place, so bored; next you’re so excited it feels so right. I wrote my first song in Portuguese today! I was walking back home after dropping Nicolij and Shiloh at the condominium door and I started singing in Spanish when all of the sudden I didn’t realize it but I started thinking in Portuguese. I didn’t notice till I listened to the recording I made!

October 23/24

I know that I shouldn’t be hanging out with intercambistas that much but its just that Brazilians are so busy preparing for vestibular (S.A.Ts).

Today we celebrated Eva's birthday in Casa da Cachasa. Some people forgot to pay. After a loud show trying to remind others what they consumed some of us left for Escritorio. I almost got ran over by a car on the way to catch the bus and screamed and ran like a bimbo. We mostly spoke in English the majority of the time, I hope people think we were all Canadians and not Americans because these 2 incidents I found to be very embarrassing.

The line at Escritorio is insane, but lucky there are these people who we know farther up the line. Once we are almost there the price inflates 5 % for guys and they close the door so 6 of us cram into a car and go to a bunch of places which were either closed or not good. We end up back were we started about a block from Casa da Cachasa at la Silva. My friends didn’t want to leave but at 5 am I finally convince them to go home. I had school at 7 am.

25st of October

I went to a friend’s birthday party and I met up with a friend from Germany who is doing a volunteering project in Rolandia. She invited me to her house till Sunday. Rolandia is having a huge Oktoberfest festival this weekend.

My host mom called her mom to make sure its ok. She tells my friend's host mom to give me a curfew. My friend’s mom tells me as long as I come home before she wakes up the next day it's fine. On the bus I made a friend who is 16 and works 12 hours a day plus school! Yea she was telling me that in her work they don’t let her sit down, and I thought I had it bad with my manager. There are always people more fortunate and less fortunate than you. I always tend to look up to aspire but I forget to look down to appreciate. Even she is up in the food chain,if you think about Chinese factory workers at Nike.

Rodandia is small town with some very kind and welcoming people. Because it’s a small town every one knows everyone, and unlike I expected they were very open to new people. They treated me as if I had been their friend for years! I was there for about 25 hours out of which I partied for 5 and slept for 20. The fest had a section where they wore traditional German costumes had traditional music and games. It also had a modern section in an arena where they played Sergenegio, Fojo, Techno, and Funky.

26th of October.

I got home all by myself today! I feel so independent! I always hated asking my parents for rides. Because the time change the sun was still out when I got home at 5 PM so I decided to go to the pool in the condominium! I saw 5 friends there so I sat with them until I saw other people that I knew and switched circles. They thought me how to play poker. I lost everything in the first round, but I still loved it.

October 27

As exchange students at times we are only shown the beautiful and rich side of the country. And when we do see something that doesn’t seem right like an Indian kid in the street asking for food I guess some find it easier to turn the other way. But I can't seem to do this, I just don’t think it's right - now that I’m done with school I want to start volunteering. There is this project that teaches art to kids from the street and there is this other one that takes in children. A lot of them are mistreated and hungry. There is one that lives in a whore house with her grandma, who is the owner. There is another one whose entire family is into drugs.

October 28

When I arrived in Brazil I informed my Rotary club that I had a tourist visa; they decided that the best thing would be to got to a Brazilian embassy to obtain a student visa. They told me “wait, we’ll take care of it”. However I can’t wait any longer, according to my dad my tourist visa expires next week. If I let this date pass it will go on my passport for life, and will make it very hard for me to travel again. My dad told me if I didn’t resolve this by Friday he would. Because Tertulino (the youth exchange chairman of my district) was traveling I called the Carlos, a Rotarian who I was told was indicated to call about this issue; he told me to call Tertulino’s son. So I did, they said they would call me back. 2 hours later they called and told me that I would be leaving for Paraguay at 11 pm. My host mom told me this would be very simple and quick but due to my past experiences with embassies and consulates I’m very skeptical that it will be as simple as everyone tells me it's going to be. I also don’t know what they will say when they find out I’ve been going to school with a tourist visa. Can you believe it I’ve been going to school illegally?

Meu dios, the girl with my documents and ticket arrived at 10:40; she drove like a mad woman so that I would make it on time. Unfortunately all the other cars were driving beyond the usual insane today. Because at 10:30 pm it was announced that Bilinati, the elected candidate for Prefeito would not be allowed to take office due to his conviction in a previous term of having pocketed money from the government. People were honking their horns running in front of cars in the street. The closest thing I’ve ever seen to the last day of school at Cypress.

I got to the terminal and chassed the bus which was leaving at the moment I arrived. I had so much adrenaline running through me that I couldn’t really sleep. I arrived in Foz de Iguaçu at 6 am the next Day.

October 29th

Right now I’m driving to Paraguay with a tourist guide. I passed the Paraná River and saw a gang of dogs on the street. There’s people selling things everywhere. Paraguay is infamous for having no taxes and people come here to shop from all over.

When we arrived at the embassy they told us since this was not a renewal it would have to be done in a country where I have resided for more than one year. I called my host mom and found out that they are waiting for a paper from Brasilia so that they can give me the permission to enter Brazil with a student visa. I feel so lost in translation, I try talking Spanish and Portuguese comes out. I feel like I did once before when we played that card game with no words in culture boot camp.

I can smell the rain and hear the thunder hitting in the ground. Its 5 PM now I’ve been waiting in the consulate since 6 A.M. I hate not knowing what’s going on.

October 30th

So how did I go from being an exchange student to being an illegal prisoner? So maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. I can’t come into Brazil with my student visa until some documents from Brasilia arrive and as I found out a bit ago I can’t come into Brazil as a tourist without permission from my parents because I’m 17 until November 15. This means I’m an illegal alien of Brazil right now. The tourist guide that took me to the consulate in Paraguay convinced the immigration police to let me pass under the condition that I would stay at his house and not leave Foz de Iguaçu under any circumstances… I’m legally becoming an adult in a couple weeks but I’m feeling like a little girl wanting my mom's hug. I’m still waiting! It's 7 pm and haven’t eaten anything since 6 am I’m tired of waiting for the phone call!

I was finally dropped off in the hotel. My room smelled cigarettes so I changed. I was told to wait for a phone call but I fell asleep. In the morning when I was at breakfast I was approached by this man asking me if I was alone and my room number so he could visit me. I pretended not to understand Spanish. It was scary, when I went on to the elevator I pressed a different floor and took the stairs from there so he wouldn’t even know what floor I was in. I decide order lunch to the room from then on.

October 31

Finally after a lot of stress and extremely annoyed that I was not informed about the situation with Brasilia beforehand I was able to return to Londrina. I’m very angry at my dad because I had a couple more days before my visa expired! I should have checked, but when I received his very alarming phone call I panicked and called Rotary. Everything happened so fast! Between Carlos’s phone call and the call back which informed me that I was going to Paraguay there were only 2 hours. I only had time to inform my host mom and pack.

Coming back home, my host family was unusually quiet! My host mom barely said hello. I tried talking to her over lunch; her tone of voice let me know just how angry she was, so I didn’t say anything more. After she had cooled down a bit, I pulled her aside at dinner and tried apologizing for all the inconveniences; I thanked her for worrying about me so much. She was still mad and a bunch of other things came out like the time when I was at Ejico’s and she called Siri. She told me she didn’t trust me and I started crying. I have never lied to her! I know it was my fault. I’m not blaming anyone I’m adult enough to know what’s going on and I should have kept myself more informed.

November

I switched host families. My new host family is stricter but definitely feels more like family. I can talk to my host mom and dad hours at a time! I feel cared for and loved! My host brother seems to be a bit jealous because all the attention I’m getting. He makes it hard for me to use the computer. He also keeps reminding me of all the questionable things George W. Bush did. He's always talking about how Americans think they are the best and how Americans are this and that…I’m sure he does it to annoy me. I’m tired of explaining to him that you can’t classify such a diverse and vast group of people. That Americans tend to be individualistic, patriotic and very independent and that sometimes can be misunderstood.

November 14

I’m turning 18 and I want my party to make up for all the ones I was too young to remember. I invited everyone on my orkut (a type of brazilin facebook) to my Party at Escritorio. I also had a little bbq with a couple friends. The bbq didn’t go exactly as planned. I went to get my nails done and was 1 hour late to my own party. Lucky everyone else was 3 hours late. Only 2 people were on time. The sound box I rented the day before at this other birthday party I went to, didn’t work because I left the cable in Enjicos car. I forgot to buy ice and the cake melted, but that’s ok because of the use it got. It is a tradition that on one's birthday they throw all the ingredients on a cake at your head - for each year they will throw one egg at you head followed by sugar and flour. Because they didn’t have 18 fresh eggs they decided to throw the mixed version of this tradition my chocolate and bejinio (cooked coconut) cake.

November 15

My first host family lives 3 houses down and forgot. My Austrian host family lives an ocean away and remembered! How sweet!

Today the day of my actual 18th birthday I found myself at home at 11 pm. So I called my friends and got 3 invitations but no ride. Then at 11:30 my friend tells me she can pick me up and take me. I ask for permission and walk down to the front of my condo to wait for my ride. While I’m waiting I meet this environmental law student who has insomnia because he is going to interview Indians the next day. (There is a big problem in Brazil with displaced Indians, who find it very hard to get accustomed to a city life style. They are used to hunting and gathering their food, so working for food seems strange.) I feel embarrassed seeing all the cars come in, I’m hoping they don’t recognize I’m going out but it is my birthday. I have so much fun at Escritorio. I dance and talk to so many people that I lose track of time. At the end something really funny happened. There was this group of about 4 guys that were trying to kiss me and I kept turning down the whole night, and when I was about to leave the parking lot with my friends to go grab a bit to eat they lined up and asked me to choose, so I made them turn, pose and walk for me; it was so funny!

How can I be responsible and a bit wild at the same time? How can I turn my brain off for a while? I’m not sure if I can. This is a time to have fun and take risks and doing thing so that I don’t regret not doing them later but it is also the time where I'm deciding who I want to be. At times I want to be that girl who doesn’t think. I want to have wild adventures where my only goal is having fun. At times I want to be like Sarah, my friend who goes religiously to church every Sunday and is the valedictorian of Dillard High. At times I want to be like Jo Jo who seems to have it all figured out, she always knows what to say and when to say it. Then there’s 007, Kelly who is smooth in every way, and like her sister is an expert at keeping it together in front of other people. I’m so not like that. I wear my feelings on my sleeve ... when I’m hurt I cry, and when I’m in love I melt.

Random anecdotes

I’m so tired of people asking me for coffee and coca. Even teachers mention it. I really don’t find it very funny; there are so many beautiful things in Colombia. Pablo se fue hace años! It is true after the political wars in Colombia a violent semi-socialistic organization was formed in my country. These Guerrillas, Farc, and paramilitaries use drug trafficking to finance their war against the government. However, ambition spiraled them down to a point where they’ve got no ideology or dogma whatsoever. This remote minority has terrorized both rich businessmen as well as subsistence peasants. They kidnapped me and my family and they are the reason I left my country 9 years ago. Thanks to our current president and God they are in retreat and have got very little capacity now days. It makes me mad that they are the first thing that comes to the mind of many people when they think of Colombia! Colombia has way more good things than bad and I would like to take the time to point them out. My city Medellin is known as the “city of flowers” because flowers grow out of nowhere and because they blossom all year round. It is where the Andes Mountains take root, this gives Colombia one of the most diversified climates and ecosystems in the planet. In Santa Marta, you can go from snow to a rainforest to a desert beach in less than an hour. Colombia is also the place where Vallenato and Cumbia were born. It is a place where music is deeply entrenched within the culture and where people live by the saying that “there is no looking back, one can only move forward”.


February 11 Journal

 I’ve grown to appreciate my computer, washer, dryer and dish washer back home so much! Back home I didn’t have a maid that came in twice a week but I still did less work. It would take a maximum of 10 minutes to get your clothes from the washer to the dryer and out. Here you have to pour the water in to the machine manually, twist and drain the clothes manually, get the water out of the machine with a pot, put up a string to hang the clothes on (hoping that the dog won’t pull them down), then wait until the sun dries them and then press the clothes with Iron. Back home I had a computer that didn’t die every hour and wouldn’t take 30 minutes to send a document; most importantly I could use it when ever I wanted. Here although there is a brand new computer, I’m not allowed to use it because it’s my host brother's, which means I get stuck using the 1999 model... Sure if you’re going to bring a laptop to talk to your friends back home 24/7 it’s going to handicap you with both the language and culture. But if you’re going to bring a laptop to facilitate writing and sending journal to Mr. Al or to keep track of your pictures (so that your host brother doesn’t delete them), talk to your Brazilian friends (phones are so expensive here), and let your mom know you're alive, then it can be rather useful.

November 29th

I had five different invitations to go out today, and I found out although you can’t always please everyone, you’ve got to learn to please yourself! I was the first girl to be picked up for the BBQ and still had to wait one hour for the guys to arrive. And if you think Brazilian guys are tardy, wait till you hear about the girls. I waited 1 hour and half with my guy friends for the girls to get ready. I was so mad; I could have gone to the other 2 churrascos and back in that time. I think its karma; in the U.S. people would always tell me things started 2 hours before they really did, so I would make it in time. Never again am I going to be late. I now see how rude and disrespectful it is to have someone waiting for you. After the churrasco I had three options. Go to Vega which was playing Latin music that night. Go to Emporio, (techno) with my neighbor, or go to a dance with my friend. Although I wanted to go to Vega I had promised my friend to go to the dance. After 2 hours I wanted to leave but ended up staying for my friends’ sake. Never again!

November 30th Religion

I’ve gone to 2 different types of churches in Brazil. I‘ve went to a catholic one and an evangelical one. I was baptized and confirmed as a catholic but I really don’t agree 100 percent with the catholic doctrine. I’m catholic more because of tradition than believe. Tell you the truth the catholic churches I’ve gone to in the U.S. seem to lose the sense of celebration with so much ritual ( so much getting up and sitting down makes you think “what I’m I doing at a gym so early in the morning”). My family in the U.S. doesn’t really go to church that often. My Brazilian family goes every Sunday. Brasil is known as the most catholic county in world after the Vatican. For the longest time I didn’t believe in anything, but one day my friend invited me to her youth group and I felt something I had never felt before. It was magical, I can’t really explain it but since then I’ve fully believed in the big three. People tell you faith is something which can not be seen or explained but is believed in anyways. This to me sounded like insanity. To me faith is something which I can see and I can feel. I can see it when the sun rises onto the Brazilian sky and gives you the most wonderful sense of warmth. People who don’t believe in miracles must have never seen baby or a flower grow out of dirt… so in my quest to get a little bit closer to god during my exchange I’ve been reading the bible almost everyday. But unfortunately I don’t get very far before I fall asleep. Man, sleep is my worst enemy when it comes to spiritual stuff. As a matter of fact when I went to the evangelical church I ended up falling asleep a little. It was very different from what I’m used to. It was very energetic to say the least. The thing is that I had gone out till 4 AM that day so it was hard to stay awake. Not that it was boring or anything, I was just really tired. So I closed my eyes and faded away for 5 minutes I was woken up by a woman yelling in tongs (according to my host mom the only language the devil can’t understand, it creped me out a bit). The worst part of it all is that they recorded me sleeping and put me up on the big screen. So embarrassing! Not something I’m proud of, but when sleeps got you, it doesn’t let go. Dec 1st I’m so excited about Christmas! I’ve thought so much about what I’m going to get my friends and family. So far I got Nicolaj a shirt that says run NICO run and my host mom is stating her last year of college next year so I got her some aromatic oils to relax. I wish I could work here, I could buy better gifts.

December 2-14 Oh Brother

My host brother hid my jump drive. He seems to get more jealous everyday. I never thought it would be so hard to become friends with a 14 year old boy! I’ve never felt so hated. He won’t even shake my hand at church. I asked him “what have I done, why are you so mean to me” and he answered “you were born.” I understand that he is a teenager and that he openly dislikes Americans, but I don’t understand how he can be so cruel. I was downloading pictures and he took the cable away in the middle of the process so that all my photos would be deleted. The way he talks to me is the worst part. I told him he needs to respect me even if he doesn’t like me. But he just said "this is my house and I treat you like I want to." He is so mean that he would be kicked out of hell. On the other hand did I mention how much I love my host mom! We make a perfect duplet! We dance and sing in the kitchen while making lunch, and chat all afternoon. I was traveling form the 15th of December to the 7th of February and had no access to a computer. This means I was forced to put the diaries on hold. I’m very sorry about that Mr. Roy and Mr. Al Kalter. I hand wrote them and then passed them on to the computer when I got back.

Santa Catarina

December 15th my host parents and I drove for 8 hours to reach Jaragua do Sul, Santa Catarina. I spent the time in the car singing ABBA with my host mom, teaching them American jokes (which they didn’t get), learning to pray in Portuguese, playing memory games, eating chocolate, and sleeping. The city is about two thirds of the size of Londrina. It is surrounded by mountains and has the ocean near by. It has a very strong German and Italian influence which is clearly visible in the architecture and people. My Brazilian family originated from this city. They came from very humble beginnings. My host dad’s families were subsistence farmers and my host mom’s dad was a taxi driver. There friends and family treated me like family from the beginning. The comadre (Mariana’s godmother) thought me how to make bread (this is a huge accomplishment from the girl that couldn’t make an egg before Brazil). The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is that they all think I’m rich. Some ask me questions about what car I drive how much money my parents give me…

Culture

Men are not expected to help clean or organize anything. My host brother and host cousins leave the plates behind and go play video games while I stay behind and clean them. They told me that’s what Mariana (my host sister in Mexico) used to do.

Dec 19

So I think I might have learned how to handle my host brother’s jealousy. When we're in a group of people and I see his face turning green I start complimenting him and move the attention from me to him. If he starts arguing or fighting with me I just start talking about football rivalries.

Dec. 22

I saw the last two games of the futisal championship! I was talking to these guys from Sao Paulo who came to attend the game. They told me that I was very sweet and that they thought Americans were arrogant before they met me. I later found out that the guys I was talking to were very famous football players from Brasil. I was 2 feet away from the best futisal player in the world, Falcon.

We drove from Jaragua to the beach house in Pisarras something which required that I be in the car with Eduardo for about one hour and a half, it was the longest one hour and a half of my life. Eduardo taught me a lot! A lot of anger management! If I didn’t believe in spanking your children I do now!!!

Piçarras

I have just finished drinking two coconut waters. I’m writing directly form Piçarras Beach, where my host family owns a small wooden town-house. There is no Internet, no TV, and I have a gecko as a roommate. The first night I slept under covers terrified it would land on my face but then I just got used the idea of him not being able to get out. It's not too bad, he helps get rid of the mosquitoes which judging by the fifty bites I counted are aware that the dollar is high. It’s very relaxed around here. I stay up playing Baralio (card game) with my host mom all night, sleep till 12, eat, and go to the beach.

Interior

We went to visit my host dad's family and friends in the country side. They are so welcoming; always greeting you with a warm hug and a new line of carbohydrates for you to try. I visited a chicken farm and met a 6 year old (who was fascinated with my camera he made me take 20 pictures of him. The kid is destined to be a model). I met my incredible great aunt. Just by looking at her hands you can see the story of the work they’ve done; raising children, taking care of the chickens, the house, the cow, washing the clothes, the cooking with no electricity…

In this area of Brazil it is very rare to find an eighteen year old girl that is single. I met a girl that is nineteen and already has a two year old kid. Every time I mention I don’t have a boyfriend the "who has the best looking son" contest begins.

Back to Jaragua do Sul

I’m staying at my grandmas in a 3 bedroom house with eight other people. It’s hard finding privacy to read or write. I sleep in a room with the Nona (grandma), a 13 year old and a small pincher dog that comes in to wake me up in the morning.

I can’t remember a Christmas with this weather. We prayed the novena and they passed a glass of holy water for everyone to drink out of. Then we went to my uncle's house for dinner; ate a German potato salad with pickles, Manhoca (a fried root, native to South America), and meat. We than sang regional music until mid-night and went back to Nona’s. I was woken up by what sounded like my aunt and uncle arguing in Italian and a kid telling me what Santa brought him. Still half asleep I watched picante film with my host mom and aunt. It was an action suspense-sexy film to say the least. Talk about new traditions for Christmas day. Just before the end when the protagonist was about to be caught with her lover in the office the film stopped. We then ate lunch in a long wooden table that could fit at least 15 people. My host family’s Italian heritage is easily noticed. So many people, so much food, so much noise, so Italian. Nona kept putting food on my plate something which greatly reminded me of my real grandma who cooks for twenty even if just one person is coming over. These sage older woman use guilt to get you fatter and fatter each day. But seriously I couldn’t swallow anymore food so I secretly gave the Picher dog (vigia, guard dog) a little Christmas present… My clothes smell like churrasco, they cooked the meat right next to where they were drying… I spent the rest of the day watching Chapolin Colorado (an old Mexican comedy series that is tradition to all Latin peoples). It’s really weird watching it in Portuguese. At night we went to a Christmas dance where they played German folk music all night long! I managed to pull my family out to the dance floor where we created a spinning circle and innovated a new genre of dance moves that could compete with The 80s Egyptian Walk anytime.

Camburu

The coolest city for just turned eighteen year olds thus far. It’s about thirty minutes to one hour away from the beach house in Piçarras. So how did I get there? I was walking on the beach and I asked two girls (Talita and her cousin) and a guy where I could rent an umbrella. They invited me to sit with them, and after talking to them for a while I discover that the guy is my host dad's god son. Despite them being five years older I ended up becoming good friends with them. Talita just got out of a bad relationship and needed to party so I suggested we go out. The lines to get in a night club in Camburu are insane. One night we waited 2 hours for an opening and didn’t go in. It was a fiasco but I met this really cool girl that lives in Piçarras, who would later on be my ride home in New Years.

Dec 30th

Today my host brother had another huge tantrum, and I decided that I can’t take the yelling, lying, aggressive, immature, spoiled, disrespectful fourteen year old boy anymore! He pushing me and throwing something at me is the limit. I will not tolerate it. I was so mad that I ran away to the beach and swam as far and as fast as I could for an hour straight! I pounded the water as if it were a punching bag and I were fighting Muhammed Ali. I used to be so tolerant but now I’m easily irritated just by hearing the way he talks to his parents. His pride and lack of self esteem causes him to be a smart alec. If he doesn’t know he’ll make it up but he must always contradict me. He would argue with the pope. It’s true you can’t have it all. Every rose has its thorn. The perfect host parents had to have one too. My host mom is so sweet, caring, and fun. She’s becoming my best friend. She confides in me like I do in her. We dance, sing, and take silly pictures. My host dad is intelligent, wise, and knows how to fix problems with incredible ease; he is reasonable and I admire his humbleness. I feel like part of the family. I know all the family issues and embarrassing stories, but I don’t want to be involved in the conflicts.

Later that day I went to the comadres (godmother) birthday party at her daughter’s farm. Which aside form all the mosquitoes is beautiful. They have a lake with fish and turtles, a cow named Esmeralda, an extremely tall Mayoca root trees, the most beautiful grey and black cat that resembles a leopard, and three Labradors. I feel such peace there.

Dec 31-1st of Jan

What a night! As if it was planed by god. Having fought with my brother I was not in the mood for family time. Talita invited me to Caburu to spend new years with some of her friends. It was like a dream. I found myself on the beach, drinking champagne, watching the fireworks as I counted down the New Year. I jumped seven waves and asked seven wishes to Mananja (Nossa Sehnora, goddess of the sea in Candomble.). The first hour of the New Year we walked the streets which were filled with young people dressed in white. Out of complete and remote coincidence I found 5 of my good guy friends from Londrina there. What a small world. We went back to Piçarras at 2 AM; which is too early to go home on a New Years, so I asked Talita to drop me off at Vale High (located conveniently on the beach that leads to my house; it is the biggest night club in the city). I was going to try and find the friend I met the nightclub fiasco day. It was 3 and I didn’t find the friends I was looking for till the end of the night but I found my Argentinean friends ( who I also met on the beach when I found out their father is a bolero singer)... At 6 AM I saw a penguin on the beach and started talking to the girl standing next to me about what I was seeing. When I mention I was an exchange student she told me her friend had just met an exchange student a couple days ago (and guess who that was). So I finally met the girl who invited me there. She took me home, where I eat lentelias for good luck and went treasure hunting with my host mom. Graci (my host mom) told me I would find a lot of the things on the beach the 1st day of the year. I found 2 shells and baby spoon. The kids that collect the bottles had already passed.

Jan 6th The Northeast Dream Trip Begins

10 pm

The last 2 days have been chaotic. I got another horrible hair cut and the most painful roll on bikini wax. Once again I managed to fit a million things in one bag. I’m on my way to Sao Paulo to embark in a one month long trip along the coast of Brazil.

11 pm

Nossa (omg)! All men are the same! None of them have clean intentions. Because I’m going to be setting next to this guy for 7 hours I decided to talk to him a little. I just asked his name and where he was from; when all of the sudden this 23 year old playboy starts hitting on me with the most ridiculous line. I just said “it’s so cold” and he responded “do you want me to warm you up” and leans is for a kiss. Because he had told me he was religious, I told him I was thinking about becoming a nun so I could sleep in peace.

6 am

I waited 1 hour for Belo Brasil Tours to finally aparet and then took a taxi to the hotel.

Jan 8th Brasilia, a symbol of modernity

Built by Juscelino Kubitschek 37 years ago, it is the newest capital of any country. 60 thousand men helped make of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings a reality. It is shaped like an air plane. In between the wings you will find the ministries, the Palacio Dos Arcos, The Underground Cathedral, and The National Theater all with Pao Brasil trees at their sides. We got the chance to visit the awing National Congress and the Templo de Boa Vontade (the Temple of Good Faith), which is shaped as heptagon (to symbolize all the chakras). It contains a 40 centimeter crystal on the top. This temple remained me of my Tio Mario y Maria and their believe of all religions being deferent ways to get to the same place. The Temple has no declared religion but a lot of leaders (Jesus, Buda, Mohammad…).Although I don’t necessarily agree, to me it is a definite sign of the Candangos (Brazilians from the capital) modernity that different religions can worship, meditate together under one roof.

Jan 9th

After a 20 hour bus ride (something which I never thought I would be able to survive), we arrived at this comfy, charming posada which we couldn’t access by bus. We had to take mini vans to get there.

Jan 10th Lençois

We went to a natural scorregador slide on the mineral rocks and fell into a pool created by a waterfall. The water is icy and dark because of the diluted leaves. We hiked till the birth of the water fall, crossed a river and walked thru rock tunnels formed by sharp and vast rocks. It felt as if every stop was the final destination. I saw the most panoramic view of the Paraguaçu River running on the pink rocks until it disappered from sight into the town. We eat lunch in the historic, colorful, and uneven town of 4 thousand people. I and a couple others gave up pizza for what looked like digested, unappetizing, god know what typical food. After I mustered the courage to try it I found out it was good tasting fish with some sort of veggies or potato (still not sure).

Jan 11

Went to a cave! I have to confess I was scared I would have a panic attack. That feeling of being locked away in the dark scares me more than sky diving. I was in there for more than an hour, I felt so glad I forced myself to go in. Nature is truly the best artist. Some of the calcium formations get mixed with iron and make beautiful reddish sculptures.

We then walked to the top of the Pai Inacio Morro. Once on top the guides told us the story of a general’s wife that falls in love with a slave, Inacio. When the general finds out Inacio takes refuge in a Chapada Diamantine. The general looks for him everywhere and finally corners him and asks that he turn him self in. Inacio responds, "I would rather give myself to nature" and jumps off. Our guide jumps off as he says the last words of the story, leaving everyone in shock. It is believed that just as our guide managed to land on the rock platform surrounding the mountain so did Pai Inacio (his body was never found).

We had a Capoeira presentation waiting for us back in the hotel. My roommates accidentally lock me in my room for the first 5 minutes of it. At the end I try taking a picture with this insanely good and Capoeirista dwarf. When all of the sudden I feel his little daring hand trying to grab my ass. Can you believe that!

We stayed up playing murder (card game), and talking. One of the Germans taught me how to jump start.

Jan 12 Salvador

We arrive on Praia do Forte to visit Projecto Tamar- which protects and educates the public on marine turtles. Afterwards we got a chance to walk around and see the artesian.

Jan 13 Historical City of Salvador

We had to take an elevator to reach the older part of the city where the first medical school was founded and where one most beautiful churches in the world is located according to travel channel. It contained 1 ton of gold which along with me threatened to melt with the heat. I got really sick that day. I fell 3 times and vomited.

Jan 14th

Because of having felt sick the day before, I was unfortunately not allowed to go on the boat trip to Ilha dos Frades. I felt more angry than sick. I hate missing out!

Jan 15

I’ve spent 17 hours on bus and swear I could write a manual on all the different sleeping position one can try to sleep in a bus.

Jan 16 Recife, the shark attack capital of Brazil and the capital of Pernambuco

The beach is surrounded by a reef which allows people to swim safely when the tide is low. The city has a strong influence from the Dutch which claimed it as theirs for some years. We visited a prison which has been transformed into a market. The market has a mural depicting the two major revolutions which took place in Brazil; the breaking away from Portugal and the Northeast’s Civil war (they wanted to break away from the rest of Brazil because they were the ones that produced the grand majority of money and felt like they were carrying the rest of the country on their back).

Jan 17 Proto Das Galihns (chicken port) -Recife

In antiquity the port was know as Porto Rico, because of the Pau Brasil (Used by the aristocrats to dye cloths) production. In the XVIII Century after the Princes of Portugal liberated the slaves, the boats trafficked the Africans by hiding them in the lowest level and displaying chickens on top. "The chickens are here" became code and soon the port took it as a name.

The beach was occupied on every inch. When we finally found a place to sit salesmen started trying to sell us jewelry, food, pina coladas… they were willing to get you anything you asked for. We went on this Jangadas (native boats that barely scarp the surface) to access the reefs which were hard to walk on because they were full of stabbing sea urchins. I lost my shoes with the waves and got a little distracted following the fish. When I put my head above water I had lost the group.

The Hotel had a pool on the top floor and a border balcony which I feel in love with. I sat there for hours looking at the ocean. I really wish I would have brought my recorder. I feel so inspired. Music is pouring out of me and I have no way of saving it.

My neighbors in the hotel were supermodels that were competing to win Minina Fantastica. I stayed up singing for them and talking.

Jan 18 Bus (onibus, busseta)

Jan 19 Fortaleza

The city’s economy is greatly based on the export of leather goods and flowers, which are perfect for cultivation in the Sierras. Fortalezians are famous for their sense of humor; some of Brazils best comedians come from this region. They are a mix of Indian, African, and European blood. The beaches are agitated, perfect for surfing. In the Cumbuco Praia we got the chance to horse back ride. Oh how I miss horses. I spent my lunch money on horses. I rode a mule that refused to move. I rode one whose seat fell off as I rode. Then I rode a potranco who had not yet been taught to stop and one whose name was Shakira.

We went to the biggest outside artesan market in Brazil. Knowing that they would try to take advantage of them because of their lack of Portuguese and “gringo face” I tried to help my friends bargain. Antioquenians (the state I was born in Colombia) are famous for bargaining - it is said we could sell ice to a polar bear.

Jan 21 Jericoacoara

I’m sitting on the top of the highest sand dune in sight. Staring into the endless sea makes it worth the trouble it took to get here. It started with a 9 hour bus ride and then another hour and a half in special vehicle that is capable of traveling in the dunes. (Looking out of the vehicle's minute window one could see from donkeys, to cows and birds). Then we walked for hours in the slippery sand and crossed a bull field to get to the top.

We went to Mama Africa (a local boacha). It was completely empty. The DJ was 3 hours late. I loved it anyways because they played some salsa and even though no one was dancing I couldn’t contain myself.

Jan 22.

I went to the beach and met this Argentinean who insisted that I was a famous singer. Then I saw the Norwegian guy (my friend had introduced me to earlier) in a restaurant with some others. It turns out they came to Brazil on a boat; they just stopped in Canada and the Caribbean on the way. They showed me pictures of the voyage. It is amazing!

Jan 23

We went riding buggies to a lake that would have been my dad's dream vacation. They had hammocks on the water and fried cheese. Later that night we went to a Forro class. I lost an earring, a necklace, broke my glasses, and was head bumped so hard I fell, and they say dancing is a passive sport. I danced and dance and danced some more! I didn’t seem to get tired of it. I danced until the guys that were teaching us got tired. At the end there were only 5 exchange students left and they stopped playing Forro and witched to Reggae.

Jan 23 One more day on the bus

3 hours on the bus: woke up with pain on my back

7 hours on the bus: watched Forrest Gump

10 hours on the bus: became an expert in card games

14 hours on the bus: made flowers from cloth

15 hours on the bus: my eyes and my bunda (buttocks) have become permanently square.

16 hours: arrival

Jan 24 Natal

We visited the 3 kings fort and go back to the hotel to enjoy the pool, beach, and samba band. At night a copy Beatles group (Argentineans with a bad British accent and decent costumes) were having a concert at the hotel. Although the tickets cost 50 Reais, they let me go in for free.

Jan 25 Aracaju

We travel on the bus all day and stop to sleep...You get so close to the other exchange students. I think you get closer than you would like to. I was alone in the room and felt like sinning “I feel good ” by James Brown in the shower. I had no idea there was a group of guys gathered just to listen to me in the room above. So embarrassing!

Jan 27 Itacare

After traveling all day yesterday we have finally arrived in the small but lively town. It relies heavily on fishing and tourism. It has some really cool stores to walk around.

Jan 28

We visited about 6 different beaches in one day, walked for miles on a mountain trail to get to some of them. Some were deserted and rocky, others were extensive and smooth. By far these are the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.

Jan 30

I’m lying on a hammock in the Porto Seguro beach listening to Roberto Carlos. This music reminds me so much of my dad. Papi te amo!

1st of February Porto Seguro

Went kayaking on the beach and visited the place where the Portuguese first arrived 500 years ago. We visited the 1st 3 churches ever built in Brazil. Went to a Barraca that had a dance floor, presentations and sprinklers.

Feb. 3 Rio de Janeiro!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve dreamt about this city since I was eight years old. I remember watching El Clone and falling in love with the pictures. The first thing I looked up when Google earth came out was Rio.

We went to visit the Maracanã one of the biggest football stadiums in the world, and got a tour of the trophies, memorabilia, and locker rooms. I stepped where Pele stepped! Then went to where the Portuguese royal family first arrived when running away form Napoleon. Having arrived bald, the novel woman were not what high society Cariocans (what people from Rio are called, meaning literately house of the white men in the indigenous language) expected. We passed by the tower that Juscelin Kubitschek tied horses around to show he’d taken control. We visited an 18th century café that is perfectly preserved till today.

We went up to Pao de Azucar (Sugarloaf) using the teleferico, a small, air-less, glass box that transports one up the mountain thou a cable. I think I have officially gotten over claustrophobia. I did get kind of anxious but Estefy (Miss. Mexico) helped me keep distracted by playing some Reggeton for me. The view was totally worth it. You could see all the bays and beaches of Rio, and the oval mountains that resemble whole chucks of rock.

We had a samba and funky class in a gym near the Rosita flabela. I swear I got the hang of samba for about 5 minutes and then lost it again.

Feb. 4th

We finally got to see post card of Brasil, the Christ! We took a 30 minute train up the mountain which was covered with north Atlantic vegetation (Açai, Jaca, (which is actually from India and has to be controlled so it doesn’t take over the native plants), Orquidias, Bromélias, Caju, and the most gorgeous grey trees that not only have ants living inside them but are home to the Orzo Peregisa). Once on top the first thing I looked at was the amazing view of the city; what was behind me got me completely by surprise when I turned around. It's one of the most majestic and magical things I’ve seen. I will never forget that moment!

Later that day we went to the famous beach of Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema), where I didn’t get to take any pictures because I ripped my top. Yes, ripped my top! There was a guy selling bikinis so I tried one on and as I took off mine, one of the sides came out of the string. After 1 hour of failed attempts I decided to buy the one I had on (Which didn’t fit me right and came off with the first wave), just so I could go in the sea. We left 5 minutes later.

At night we got the chance to assist the Flamengo vs. Mosquitas in the Maracanã. The Flamenco fans were painted from head to toe in red and the Mosquita fans where virtually invisible. At the end of the game we walked out of the stadium loudly singing nonsense in German. Some people were pleased and joined us and one insulted us.

Feb 5th

We had the award giving on the bus. I won most unforgettable person and most forgetful person. The trip had finally come to an end. Some cried when the Londrina people got off at the bus station. We waited 8 hours for our bus which left at 9 pm to arrive. I got to Londrina at 5 am the next day and took a taxi home.

Feb 6

On one side it feels great being back home, but it feels really weird at the same time knowing I would wake up at the same place the next day. I was really looking forward to getting in touch with my friends back home and my family who I haven't talked to for a while, but the computers are getting fixed!

Feb 9

Can't believe I survived without Internet for almost 2 months!


May 25 Journal


 Coming back to school was different from the first time. 7 months have passed by; we are no longer the new puppy. Things are no longer new but familiar; however, I’m still am love with the glittering Igapos, the trees, flowers, the people and the dances!
February 13

In this exchange, I wanted an independence from the people I love and very often depend on. I do not want to depend on friends and family to feel secure or happy but as I found out location does not solve the problem. I still feel like I need them. At first, I thought I had resolved the issue by keeping myself busy, and surrounded by people. But as I’ve come to realize no matter how surrounded by people you are you can still feel lonely. I craved a friend but not just those you see in a nightclub or meet in school. Those who are unconditional, real, loving and fun, my Jo Jo and Kell.

The 150 Reais dance

I went to a nightclub with some friends. I was completely lost in the light, smoke and music. I felt like in a cloud, just feeling the beat, moving with my eyes closed. when all of the sudden I opened my eyes and Gravity brings me down from the cloud I was in and back to reality when I notice my purse, money and the 3 cell phones I was carrying for my friends are gone. I talked to the police and security, which told me a couple had given them a bag and left. I guess they did not like the bag or the M&M jar in the bag because that is the only thing they left in it. Thank god that they did not take the chocolate because that is where I always carry my thick money.

Too much has happened to write it all out! But in summary it can be reduced to one word-Carnaval! I went to Floripa with some exchangers; it was about 8 hours away in a mini bus. We danced in the bus, talked and listened to the Mexicans’ regetton the whole way. The first night we went out and walked around town, and listened to some local bands that were playing. When we get back to the apartment, I find out, I was assigned a baby bed.

Day 2

We go to the beach near the hotel. The water is freezing and I buy the most elaborate piña colada to warm me up. We then go to a fantasy street parade, in which it is tradition for guys to dress like girls. I helped the guys from our group put on thick whorish make up. They looked like body building cracked hookers with short skirts… Afterwards we went to a Carnaval block parade. They had drummers dressed in white, dancers and even tall figurets. I imitated the dancers, jumped, and turned until the end of the parade. It was raining; people were throwing foam everywhere, kissing, and hugging. We danced in front of the cars and were held back. It could not have been anymore chaotically perfect.

Day 3

We went to Joaquin beach. I drake some açai, got sun burned, climbed rocks, and broke my camera. We did some sand boarding in the famous Joaquin dunes. I fell a million times and swallowed too much sand. Later that night we went to Circuit (a hip-pop club) in which Ja-rule was presenting. Back in the hotel one girl tried to jump the fence and cut her foot, which led to Marcela (supervisor) locking the door to prevent any further attempts of escape. I was taking a shower on the room next door and was consequently locked out of my own room. I knocked for a while with no response, and had to I slept outside.

Day 4

One of the guys from the group flashed someone through the window of the van. Back in the U.S. this would have been taken as a joke but the locals took it very severely and wanted to beat them up. I now understand why we had security with us. Our guide told us a week before Carnaval he saw a man shot on the beach. It takes seconds to take away years of a life. Nothing happed to us but it makes you realize how danger is everywhere, and how cultural mistakes can be severely punished. Be careful future exchangers J… we went to another drum parade, and then went swimming in the –3 degree ocean water. We then made a campfire outside and fell asleep.

Day 5

I slept 3 hours last night and woke up just in time for the goodbye bbq. We got to Londrina in the early morning, and the next day went to the Rotary orientation camp in Rolandia. It was amazing! We swam during the day and at night stayed up playing the guitar and singing. We did everything but sleep. This month has been completely sleepless.

Quincianhera!

In Brazil, a girl turning 15 is a big deal! Just think of prom multiplied by 8. I was invited to my friend, Heloise’s 15-birthday party. She looked so beautiful. She performed a samba routine and had the most beautiful dresses. Yes dresses; an opening dress, a waltz dress, and a party dress! Every inch of the room was decorated with purple and white flowers! Everything was meticulously planed out. She even made the waffle station waiters dress like Minnie Mouse.

In the neighborhood

My best friend is my 64-year-old Buddhist neighbor. She was born in Philadelphia but lives part time in Brazil with her son and daughter in law. She tells me stories of her crazy life and I ask her for advice with mine. Every time I visit her, I am bombarded by her three extreme grandkids. Last time I went there the kids wanted to play horse on the trampoline and guess who they want to be the horse, me of course!

Two-week family

I went to koala karaoke with my host brother last night. I sang horribly, but what are karaokes for if not that. I moved families 2 days ago and I love having older siblings. One turns 22 today and is a rock star from head to toe. My older sis is 25; she is so easy to talk to! The one I went to sing the karaoke with is Jr, he is 19 years old and is studying to be a veterinarian. He wears cowboy boots in the middle of the summer and has a unique careless personality that I love about him! My host dad works with bikes and is studying to become a parapenting instructor. My host mom, Donha Rosita is a house-wife, and loves cooking. Although she has a maid she insists in doing most by herself…I love them all!

College churrascos

My brother invited me to a university party with him. Each course hosts a party once a year. They usually have from 500 to 2,000 people, and are held in farms. I lost my brother with all the people. It is so cool how I can just go anywhere and meet people I know, in a city of 500,000 it's nice being able to do that. At the end I meet up with him at bar. When we were leaving we found out we had to pay cover. My brother had a spat with the doorman about the cover so they called a lawyer and the police. 2 hours later, we left with out paying cover. We went to the police station to place a statement but the computer was broken. This circus night made me realize that some things never change regardless of which country you’re in. People are people no matter where you go; they all have a certain degree of pride that blinds at times and lawyers will always be there in those moments.

Uni

My host sister invited me to go to a University class with her. Here University is free in government schools, which are considered better then private schools. The Law and Medicine department get the majority of the resources; the other buildings don’t even get air conditioning…There are people who go to the school just to listen to the classes. I want to attend the music classes here, so I went to talk to the person in charge. I take a number and decide to go to the bathroom while I am waiting, and once again, I am stuck in it. THE DOOR is stuck and I have to climb over it. I am afraid to jump because the bathroom door is too high so I scream for about 15 minutes when someone finally comes to help me. I missed my number and had a hard time explaining why. What a way to make a first impression.

Party at Pipinelas

I went to Pipinelas (republica) it’s a huge and completely trashed college house. The pool is green and looks like it would give you a disease if you were to go in it. They were rolling barrels down a hill with people inside them. As if I did not already know the people here were crazy, this girl comes up to me wanting to argue against capitalism and telling how horrible American wasteful consumption was. As if she was not enough, everyone I mentioned to that I was born in Colombia would want to talk to me about either drugs or FARC. I got tired of it fast! After playing some pool and losing a couple times, I went home.

Moving families again.

The family I was in was not scheduled by Rotary, they were presented to me by my Rotary family and invited me to stay with them for a couple weeks. Some of the best weeks of this exchange. The new family seems nice but I am anxious and scared! I went to eat lunch with them and was completely intimidated by my host dad, Zamba. He’s a chemistry teacher with the peril of Shaquille O’Neal and huge magnifying glasses that make his eyes look even more critical then they already are. As soon as the topic of going out came up, he started getting irritated. I think my host brother from the second family; Eduardo who is the best friend with my new host brother did me one last favor and told them his perspectives of me.

Expo

Exposition, is an agrarian fair held in Londrina. It is one of the biggest in South America! It’s 2 weeks of concerts, rodeo, and cows! Sertenegio (Brazilian country) is the music exploding out of cars during this time of the year, and cowboy hats are worn even at night when there is no sun. The whole city floods there to walk around, eat, go to the amusement park, and buy all kinds of leather products. I went to almost all the shows and to one rodeo. About the rodeo; let’s just say PETA would be indignated. It's something I have never seen before. The tying little cows up event seemed pretty cruel; I did however, love seeing the horses jump to a start in the barrel event and the clowns run away form the bulls after the rider falls... I saw the Victor e Leo, Fernando Sarocaba, and Joan Bosco e Vinicious shows; all Sertenegio couples, and all attended by couples only and me of course. The concerts are held in a giant arena and the rule of thumb is let in as many in as can fit. The only concert not attended by in-love couples and country loving people is NXY0; they are infamous for their emotional fans. It was quite the opposite of what I had been seen all week, instead of cowboy boots and big bleats everyone was wearing black! It's as if they had requested a uniform to attend the concert. Unfortunately I wasn’t warned about this and you could probably be see me from the stage like a white polka-dot. Which I think is the reason one of the artist threw a CD in my direction. I was almost killed for it; I only realized the CD had fallen in my hands when I felt ten big-bodied fanatic women jumping me.

Easter

I have 2 new hobbies this time of the year! Chocolates and sleeping. We came to visit my extended family in Corbelia, a 1,600 inhabitant city. Everyone already knew i was coming and where I was from. I have literately crazy uncles! One of them is deaf and tried to read my hand. The other one is bipolar and gets mad when it doesn’t rain. I find a lot charm in this small town. I love it how everyone knows everyone. I don’t like it how they try and treat me special, when all I want is to be one of them.

People are very religious in this town and attending mass on Sundays is one of their main priories. Because it’s Easter they go every day! The mass lasts from 2-3 hours. I can’t understand a word the priest says because he looks mortally ill and sings every word. It is really hard to stay awake! I have gone to Catholic Church here more than I have in a year worth of time in the U.S. Everyone at church today went up to kiss the Christ figure. That means that the whole town’s saliva was going to be on that Christ. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about doing that but I didn’t want to be disrespectful.

Age levels and sexes have distinct roles and are treated differently. In the U.S. the young sit with the old and vice versa, here the young sit separately in another table or on the other side of the table. Women are expected to be the ones who clean the dishes, cook, and pick up the plates. Something I’m not too enthusiastic about either, but it’s within their interpretation of Christian values.

April 13 terrifying!

I have 3 months left. 3 months to get ready for what awaits me when I come back. 3 months to do all I have ever wanted to do in Brazil. 3 months to say goodbye. Because although I may come back it will never be the same. Right now life is good my only job is having fun and meeting people. This makes me even more anxious about what awaits me. College, SATs, a job… in more then one way this year was an escape for me. An escape from my family problems and a stressful senior year; one more year to think about the present and forget the future; however, eventually I have to go back to face it all.

The kind of days I’ll miss

I went to my friend’s house and got completely lost on the way. Yes I will never know Londrina enough to not get lost. However, with my luck, I not only get lost but it starts thundering as well. I got there soaking wet but it didn’t matter cause we were going swimming anyways. We spent the day eating chocolates from Easter and cheese with crackers. I walk home, and start petting my friends dog that was on the street. I meet her brother who invites me to a birthday party. After the birthday, I go with my friend’s bro to go watch a Sao Paulo game. I learn some Sao Paulo songs and I talk and chill with his friends a while.

April 17

I was going to go to a friend’s birthday but could not find a ride. Rides are probably an exchange student’s biggest problem. My friend's host parents always take them and sometimes they give me a ride as well but my parents never do. Which leaves me by foot during the day and at night it leaves me to try a variety of alternative cheap methods of transportation, ranging from the motor-taxi to the roof bus… my sister is having a little bbq in the condominium with about 5 of her friends, since I couldn’t find a ride I decide to stay. I leave my purse with them and go look for a jacket, when I come back it is gone. I called my cell but it is turned off. It was basically stolen within the house, inside the condominium, Inside the electrified walls with security guard walking around every 30 minutes!

I was invited to a Wedding.

It wasn’t fancy but it was filled with love. The flowers were made with paper and the cake was fake (just for decoration). However, none of this matters! It was not like one of those fake weddings you see in Bridezilla that take millions to build, and fall apart 2 months later. Like in every weeding there was delicious food, a flying bouquet, and like always a drunken great uncle asking everyone out to dance. There was however, a new tradition I have never seen. They cut up the grooms tie into little pieces and went form table to table making noise with coke bottles and silverware forcing the men from the wedding party to pay for the tie scraps.

2 day District conference

opening dinner

I was on my way out of the house when I get a smiley face with a birthday hat, from my dad on msn. I immediately respond, “dad it’s not my birthday and your birthday is tomorrow.” He responds, “No honey its today. I had planned to write letter telling him how much he means to me and wishing him 50 more years but instead I gave him a quick birthday wish and left for Rotary. This weekend is the annual district conference and I have to sing for them; I’ve been so stressed that I forgot about my dad’s birthday. All the exchange students from the district stayed in a posada to attend the meetings...The opening dinner was beautifully decorated with the most exotic flowers draping from glass bases. There were people from all over the district dressed with their fancy dresses and elaborate suits. Even the exchanges dressed up. I loved seen all the guys who I’m used to seen in shorts and flip-flops with ties on. The food was delicious and so was the white wine. We then went back to the posada to “sleep”.

talent show

Having slept an hour, we wake up to practice for the talent show. Everyone has everything together. The Indian dances and Latin ones are amazing. Two people even wrote a song dedicated to the exchange year! i was singing amazing grace and was still not sure about the music. So after drinking a jar of honey warmed up my voice and went to the Rotary place. We nervously waited 5 hours for it to start. When it came time for the show, I spilled something on my white dress and had to go home to clean it. I made it just in time. When they called my name, I had just gotten there. I rushed to the stage and can’t remember the lyrics; I start trembling and move one leg so it stops shaking but then the other one starts shaking. It has been 7 months since I sang in public and I am terrified. So I just close my eyes and sing it to God. It’s such an inspiring song! Before I notice it’s done everyone stands up to applaud. What a rush. Afterwards we go to the posada again for another sleepless night.



August 20 Journal


June
I’ve been going out a ton! There’s been a party every day and I don’t know how to say no to a party! It’s all been too much! Too many new things to deal with! Too many men! Too many people! Too many parties! Too little time! Too much gossip! I passed my limit! This one night I made a mistake which led to another one and another one and yet one more and before I knew it, it was day time. I woke up at a friend’s couch and got home at 8 am. What happened I don’t clearly remember! What I do vividly remember is the look on my host mom’s face! I decided to change. Take better care of myself. I’ve been putting myself at risk and I haven’t been responsible.

When I got to Brazil I decided to establish couple of rules for myself. Rules that no one but me enforced; not Rotary, not my parents, not my host parents, just me. My first rule was respect! Respect for myself and respect for others. This meant respecting my body enough not to intoxicate it, respecting others enough not to judge them but understand them. I also decided that I would do only things that I would not regret doing or not doing. I broke this rule and there is no going back to undo. From what’s done and said there is no return. The past is history - it may change our present but it’s the way we look at our past that decides who we’ll be and the only future there is, is the one we choose to make for ourselves. I learned, changed and moved on; my current host mom did the same. She didn’t hold it against me; she forgave me and moved on. But of course I couldn’t expect everyone else to do the same. There is so much gossip in Londrina! It’s as if the whole world had nothing better to do than to talk about me. Talk about what I did, what I didn’t do. What they THOUGHT I did. What they wish I would have done. What they thought I should have done. What they think about what I did. What they think that I think. What they think they know….and it’s like the telephone game it has a snow ball effect. Someone heard 4 men, 2 women, after a party, in an after party at an apartment…and they decided to make their perverted and elaborate fantasies of what could have happened but didn’t happen. Eventually the wild fire got to my second host mom who told my current host mom… I was so ashamed, embarrassed, miserable and afraid. I was scared of what could have happened. I was ashamed and embarrassed of what the people I care most about thought of me, but most of all terrified that they would replace all the good memories, respect and trust they had for me with this. With THIS THAT I´M NOT!!!

It’s been two weeks and I haven’t gone out past 11 pm, and I can feel the music of the night clubs in my head while I sleep on Friday nights. I can hear the light calling me to dance. Worst of all I can see my friends having fun! And I want to be there, but I’m not, not because of my current host mom but because my second host mom advised me not to. These are the advantages of having more than one mom! Very few people forgive completely. Not too long ago I had a conversation with a friend’s dad. I was telling him how I forgive but never forget, and I do this to prevent any further damage. I remember him telling me I that I was wrong - that when you forgive you must forget and move on “or else you’re a liar”. I remember feeling offended when he called me a liar, but now more than ever I understand how we are all liars, we are all sinners, and we all make mistakes. The difference is that some make mistakes more discreetly than others. I’ve never been graceful and I’ve always been clumsy. I’m not discreet, I wear my heart on sleeve and anyone can always tell how I feel just by looking at me. And if you look at me I ask you not to judge me because unless you’ve been to another country and have lived what I’ve lived you won’t be able to understand.

What people think of others is rarely accurate but it doesn’t matter if it’s the truth or a lie. To that one person it will be the truth; in that case we could say there are many real truths to many different people. Religion and ethics can be considered one this truths. Buddhism is as truthful and real to the Buddhist as Christianity is to a Christian. Even with ethics, what’s right to you might not be right to me. Is there an international code of ethics? I don’t believe so but John Locke seemed to think so. Now who am I to say he was wrong? What I’m trying to get at is that, it is irrelevant who is right and who’s wrong. Who knows the truth and who believes a lie. My father always told me “no es solo ser si no parecer”. In other words you can’t only be good but you have to look like you’re good. And I always thought this was so diplomatic of him, to put it in polite terms. I hate diplomacy; to me it’s another word for fakeness. My Mom, Dad, Aunt Clara, Uncle Duque and Grandma Maruja are all experts at it. They’ve all tried to teach how to be diplomatic and I’ve never been able to do it. How can you smile at something that you know it’s wrong. Anyways whether I like it or not, like always he was right. When you are an ambassador unfortunately what people think matters, so you don’t only have to be it but you have to look it.

July

I went to a karaoke with Natasha, Mari, Shiloh and Siri. It was so much fun being just girls and acting crazy, and singing bad. I met this girl that just got back from exchange in Turkey…it turns out that she knows John. What a small world.

Presentation

I did my Rotary presentation! It was hard to prepare because I didn’t have a computer to prepare it on. Although I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I made it happen. I first presented at my club and then at the two neighboring ones. The first time around everything went wrong. I was late, the sound system didn’t work, I tripped over the cables, my camera died, my jokes failed miserably, I passed the time limit and I made everyone cry! The second and third time I was told that it was the best exchange student presentation they have ever attended, and both clubs asked me to pass it in writing so that they can publish it. I ´m going to post a part of it up for you guys to see. It’s in Portuguese so future exchange students to Brazil this is the test to see if you’re ready.

Minha filosofia de vida é baseada nos seguintes pensamentos: Vida é sobre escolher como usá-la para tocar alguém de um jeito que nunca poderia ser atingido. Felicidade é uma decisão, e obstáculos são montanhas que prometem uma boa vista no topo. O passado talvez ajude a nos concretizar, mas é uma opção e o jeito que escolhermos olhar a vida, que define verdadeiramente a pessoa que você é, e Você provavelmente deve estar imaginando, “quem é a pessoa que teve a oportunidade de viajar para fora”. Eu sou uma mulher com bastante ambição, eu sou uma artista que aspira estudar música no Julliard, e inspirar pessoas com minha música, eu sou uma futura embaixadora da U.N.

Eu nasci em Medellín, Colômbia, um dos países mais bonitos que eu já vi. Andar a cavalo nas montanhas era minha coisa favorita, se você andar de manhã sentirá o orvalho das flores, e poderá ver a parte mais bonita dos Andes e do rio Cauca. Eu passava a maior parte das minhas férias de verão em Santa Marta, lá você pode ir dos nevados à praia em menos de 100 quilômetros. Era um paraíso para mim, andar na praia e ouvir os tambores por todas as partes. Eu era uma criança muito privilegiava e mimada.

Infelizmente o paraíso não era mais seguro para minha família, chegou num ponto em que minha mãe era perseguida até nossa casa, tínhamos muitas ameaças e cheguei até a ser seqüestrada. Por essa razão nos mudamos para o estado de Colorado nos Estados Unidos. Investimos todo nosso dinheiro num restaurante e depois de 11 de setembro perdemos tudo, mas aprendemos a ser mais humildes. Todas as mudanças tiverem um péssimo efeito sobre meus pais; eles se separaram. Meu pai mudou pra Flórida, e meu irmão e eu ficamos com minha mãe. Nesta época comecei a escrever música como nunca antes. A música era minha fonte de expressão, tirava minha tristeza e fraqueza e me deixava forte e positiva.

Após um tempo meus pais se juntaram novamente e mudamos para Flórida. As coisas começaram a se acalmar, eu comecei a ir para um colégio especializado em música, que requeria que eu acordasse às 5 horas e chegasse em casa às 19 horas. eu tomava 8 aulas curriculares avançadas e 8 de música. Freqüentei essa escola até oito de fevereiro de 2007. Nesta data mudei para Colômbia. A decisão de ficar lá 6 meses me fez amar a cultura, a salsa, o merinque, o vallenato, e a cozinha da minha vó...eu sinto orgulho de dizer que sou uma latina que não perdeu sua língua, mas definitivamente cresci com cada lugar que visitei e agreguei um pedaço ao meu ser de cada pessoa que conheci.

Eu também aprendi a amar os Estados Unidos como meu próprio país, e sinto que sou uma boa embaixadora dos Estados Unidos porque ele é igual a mim, é um mosaico, e os estadunidenses são pessoas de todas a partes do planeta que vieram a procura de liberdade e oportunidade. Desde o meu retorno da Colômbia eu e assisti Cypress Bay, (o colégio da serie “The news Paper” da MTV) e persegui meu sonho de ser uma aluna de intercâmbio. Eu agradeço a vocês por terem me considerado para este programa, de ter a oportunidade de experimentar, aprender e sentir diferentes culturas.

Este ano eu fiz coisas que só tinha sonhado! Fiz rafting, rapeling, tentei dançar samba, fiz aula de capoeira e circo...viajei para mais de 25 cidades entre elas Brasília, Lençóis, Salvador, Itacaré, Recife, Jeriquaquara, Porto Seguro, Rio de Janeiro, Corvélia, Florianópolis, Jaraguá do Sul, Piçarras, Camburiú, Cayon Guartela... foi um ano cheio de sabores e experiências novas. Eu conheci um dos lugares mais bonitos do mundo, e convivi com um dos povos mais alegres e lindos que tem! Amadureci muito! A pessoa que volta não é a mesma que chegou. Quando deci do avião eu era uma minina ansiosa, nervosa, e até insegura. A mulher que volta é uma cheia de confiança em si mesma e uma mulher que conhece suas fraquezas e forças.

Tive a sorte de ter 5 incríveis famílias, cada uma diferente e especial. Uma mãe de Minas, um irmão rockero, uma avó italiana, uns tios doidos, um pai paraquedista, umas outras mães que me fizerem engordar vários quilos... mais de todos absolutamente todos aprendi muito. Minha primeira família não era a típica família brasileira que eu esperava. Vindo de uma família que fala demais, abraça demais, e sempre demonstra sentimentos; para mim era esquisito o silêncio, me sentia incomoda com ele. Mas com este aprendi que não se precisa sempre de palavras para mostrar sentimentos, um só olhar pode falar muito, você pode mostrar amor, raiva ou tristeza. Na minha segunda família eu me sentia em casa. Até hoje, quando vou visitar nem preciso tocar a campainha. Minha mãe (Garcia) não só é minha maior confidente mas uma amiga com quem posso dançar e cantar a tarde toda. E meu pai (Ivo) é uma pessoa que respeito demais, ele é muito sensato e resolve problemas com a maior tranqüilidade, sei que sempre me dará bons conselhos. Minhas últimas 3 famílias abriram as portas de suas casas para mim sem a menor obrigação. Elas me deram a oportunidade de os conhecer e isso era tudo que eu podia pedir.

No Brasil aprendi a diferença entre amigos e companheiros. Aprendi a ser uma boa amiga sem esperar nada em retorno; e o importante que são as qualidades como a lealdade, e sinceridade em uma pessoa. Compartilhei não só com brasileiros mas com gente de todas partes do mudo. Aprendi que apesar de que sermos de diferentes partes do mundo, rirmos de diferentes piadas, comermos diferentes comidas, termos diferentes costumes, no fim somos iguais. Todos rimos, todos choramos, todos amamos, e todos sentimos saudades, saudades que vão me matar no dia 28 de Julho quando eu embarcar nesse avião às 12 horas; meu coração vai ficar fragmentado, por que vou deixar um pedaço com vocês. Quando a saudade for demais, olharei aquelas fotos, escutarei aquelas musicas, ligarei, até poderei voltar mas não será igual. Nunca terei todos vocês reunidos.

Concluindo, eu não me arrependo de nada do que tenha acontecido ou que tenha feito porque tudo o que aconteceu me transformou na pessoa que sou hoje. Sou uma mulher que vive sua vida com paixão de aspirar e inspirar de uma maneira positiva.

Rugby churrasco

I have a friend from Denmark that has been a part of the Londrina Rugby team. The guys from the team were throwing him a goodbye party. This party was in the middle of the ghetto! With people that if I’d seen in an alley at night, I would have probably run. However to my surprise the scariest biggest guys were the nicest! Yes a bit weird. Like one of them liked being hit!... They were making up pump up songs they sing before games, something like a pep-rally songs before football games; so cool.

Surprise from home

My parents are moving back to Colombia! My dad got a new job. He leaves in 3 months!!! I know it’s the best for my parents and I’m supposed to be happy for them, but I just feel worried and scared. I don’t know what to do! I don’t know where I’m going to live, work, or study! Although I love Colombia I can’t do university there! Not only because it would take me too long to catch up with the academic requirements to attend university there but because I’m not sure if I want to live in Colombia the rest of my life. You see a diploma from Colombia is not valid in the U.S. but an American one is valid in Colombia. (However this doesn’t make any sense because it’s the same if not harder to graduate in Colombia.) Being away this year made me realize how much I need my parents! How I’m not ready to be on my own. How much I want them to be there one last time, one last year! I basically get back and have to say goodbye again.

Life what a crazy mess.

So I moved out of my family’s house because they were traveling. I went to a friend’s house for the week, until Rotary found a family for me. They were angels, especially the brother! He let me stay in his room; use his bathroom, his computer and his bed! Not even his sister which is the reason I went there was so special with me. He is so patient and mature for a 13 year old! I guess life is fair. He made up for the other brother. But yea, o brother, I´m probably going to go back to that brother’s house again! Something which I’m so afraid of… Rotary hasn’t found a family for me.

Two weeks later

Frankly I don’t know how else to put it, but this sucks! I have felt like an un-wanted guest enough! I want a family! It’s not okay that I stay with friends or friends of the family.

Volunteering

Throughout this year I’ve been working at the cancer hospital with children that are undergoing chemotherapy. Right up there with saying goodbye it’s probably the hardest and the most important thing I’ve done in Brazil. It’s especially difficult for me; I can’t watch the Lion King or Bambi without a tear. I couldn’t be psychologist, because I cry when I see somebody cry. However this kids, they don’t need sympathy and tears, they need strength, love, and laughter. And those are exactly the 3 things I’ve learned from them. They are so brave! There is this little boy I visited last week. His lips were bloody, he had discoloration spots, not a single hair on his body and yet he was ready to keep on fighting. The nurse simply asked him what side and he calmly responded. Whereas I, an 18 year old “adult” would run way if shown a needle. There’s this other girl, even though she literally receives a dose of poison every day, she still manages to smile every time I come in. I don’t do much, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing special. I bring in colored pencils and paper and I let them make fun of my funny accent. And it’s probably more important to me then to them. I have learned more from them then they have learned from me. I’ve learned from their braveness, simplicity, and joy.

The only really disturbing thing I’ve seen working there is this woman I meet. She’s been a volunteer for a long time. I was talking to her in elevator and telling her how difficult it was for me to see children undergoing pain. I asked how she dealt with it and she answered that because she was a Spirtist she believed that it was karma that probably the children had done something really horrible in their past life and that now they were just paying for it! How can someone believe these sweet and innocent children deserve this! I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy!

My last family

Because Rotary has not contacted me with any response, I asked the family friends that I lived with for 3 weeks if they would take me in as their daughter until the end of my exchange.

I went to church with my mom and at the end of the service they showed a video about America’s wasteful and exaggerate consumption! This video explained how our life has become all about obtaining, buying, and consuming. We consume 1/3 of the world’s resources leaving people from other countries to pay the price. Families that for generations have been sustained by their environment are being forced to move to cities to work in factories with low pay and toxic conditions. You see, 99% of the things we buy become trash within a year. Trash that is stored underground polluting the water system or burned polluting the air. You can learn more at http://www.storyofstuff.com … Nossa (omg) I wanted to melt into my chair.

Today the extended family came over for a BBQ. Everything about it was different; from the food to the topics! We eat Antra and Capivara meat! My host mom made this pumpkin filled with a meat; it tasted like heaven! I also had a unusual conversation with my host aunt. The first thing she told me is “you must be getting used to living with little resources; I mean we are a third world county.” I was very confused when she said this. Brazil a, “third world nation” offers things that in U.S. we only dream of: the best Universities are free, health care is provided for everyone…it is a county in which the middle class in growing and life does not revolve around work. In the U.S. the kind of person you are no longer matters. We are not viewed as people but as professionals - you’re no longer John, you’re the John the lawyer or John the nanny.

After lunch the family conversation shifted to men…my host uncle asked me if I had gone out last night and if I had found a “paquerinha to give amasos”. “Amasos” as he explained as touching and “paquera” as a one night stand… they talk about everything so openly! For example I was asked what pumpkin is in Spanish and I told them calabasa. Here calabasa is a woman who is a virgin when she marries. As soon as they heard this, my other host uncle asks me if in my culture we make it an issue to marry a virgin!

Oh and yea I found out my host aunt is a spiritist just like the other woman that worked with me at the cancer hospital. The worst part is that she also believes in Christ. Which is even more confusing than our discussion. The basis of Christianity is forgiveness; believing as true that Christ died for our sins and that because of him we don’t have to suffer. I don’t understand how someone that claims to believe in Jesus Christ can consider the Hammurabi law as fair!!!! Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind!

By dinner time they moved on to talk about religion! I can’t believe I managed to break my mom’s 3 rules in one day! They were arguing loudly and passionately. I don’t know why I was stupid enough to share my viewpoint. I was asked which I thought was the richest country in the world and I said “the Vatican”. I said they shouldn’t build gold churches while people starve. …and Oh noooo, that’s when they exploded. It was an insult to them!!!!!! They said I was ignorant and went on and on how stupid I was. Oh god I wish I would have listened to my mama! Then out of nowhere my host dad said “oh it’s good you’re out of the U.S. because it’s sinking and….” OK, that’s when it hit me, I was hurt. He has no idea, but it’s pointless to talk to someone who won’t listen. Someone that’s made up his mind.

O fim

One last time I went clubbing in Brasil! One last time I heard samba and Sertenegio at Escritorio. It was great I knew just about everyone in the night club. I hugged the security guards goodbye and traded emails with the ladies that take your money.

My last day was a summation of everything that Brazilian people are.

I ran around Centro in the rain trying to get everything done. I sent some photos to print but because I was getting my nails done I wasn’t going to have time to pick them up. But as soon as I motioned my dilemma to the nail lady I found someone that offered to pick them up from the photo shop for me.

I rode the bus one last time. I had a conversation about Michael Jackson with 10 people in the front of the public bus. This would never happen back home. People here are just so open to foreigners. They treat a stranger like their best friend.

The tchau (goodbye)

John Denver’s song kept replaying in my head. I stayed up all night writing goodbye letters. The emotions and lack of sleep got the best of me. You’ll never be prepared to say goodbye, regardless of how many times you’ve done it. I was the last exchange student to leave! I cried so many times at the airport. Said goodbyes so many times yet still I never seemed to get immune to it! Every time I saw that jet plane leave I knew that as surreal as it felt, it was real … the next day it would be me trying to find the strength to climb those freighting stairs. Time passes by whether you’re ready or not! I choked my way past security and onto my seat. As I looked out of that airplane window it was rainy just like when I first arrived, and I remembered how exciting every rain droplet felt. Melancholy takes over when I think of my Londrina. It felt so mine that it became a part of me. That city changed me! The people changed me.

Rotary, thank you so much! This year I did things that I only dreamed of doing. I rafted, I rappelled, I danced samba, I took Capoeira and Circus classes...I traveled to more than 25 cities among them Brasília, Lençóis, Salvador, Itacaré, Recife, Jeriquaquara, Porto Seguro, Rio de Janeiro, Corvélia, Florianópolis, Jaraguá do Sul, Piçarras, Camburiú, Cayon Guartela...It was a year filled with flavors and adventures. No joke when I got on that plane I was an explorer not knowing what to expect. In fact I had expected to be surrounded by snow just a couple days before I embarked. Brasil was a surprise! A pleasant one to say the least! I got to know one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of the most joyful people that exist. I matured a lot! When I arrived I was an anxious, nervous and insecure girl. The woman that returns is one filled with confidence in herself; one that knows her strengths and weaknesses.

I was lucky enough to live with 5 incredible families, each one different and special. A rocker brother, an Italian grandma, a skydiving dad, some crazy uncles, and some chef moms that made me gain a couple pounds (I will roll back to the U.S.). My families weren’t always easy to get along with; in fact they were the most complex and complicated part of it all. But from each one I learned! I thank them for opening their house to a stranger, who eventually became family. I thank the ones that not only opened their houses but their hearts. I offer my sincerest apology if I ever hurt them or made them worry.

In Brazil I learned to be a good friend without expecting anything in return; and the importance of loyalty and sincerity in a person. That the right thing to do can also be the hardest thing to do and the most important. I met not just Brazilians but people from all over. And I learned that even though we come from different parts of the world. Even though we laugh at different jokes, we eat different foods; we have different costumes, in the end we are all the same. We all laugh, we all cry, we all love, and we all feel saudades (home sick), saudades that are killing me right now. As I leave Brazil my heart will leave fragmented, because I will leave a piece with each person I meet. Brazil became my home and I will forever carry the memory of her on me. When homesickness is too much I will look at those pictures, I will listen to those songs, I will call. I could even come back, but I know it won’t be the same.

To the exchangers:

one by one we left, left our hearts in the same place

will be impossible to forget all the memories we made

Although we may see each other again we all know it won’t be the same

we keep thinking time will never change

we keep thinking things will be the same

time is running out

you better blurt it out

As the captain announced we were landing my anxiety grew. Almost like when I arrived in Brazil. After I picked up my bags I didn’t know what to expect. I ran to the exit and found my mom, dad, Tommy and my brother with a bouquet of flowers and balloons standing there. When I see little Tommy wiggle his tail, I speed up to meet them and all my bags fall off the cart, but it’s ok, I’m finally home… The first thing I say after I hug them is “where should I start, the tattoo or the piercing?”. Their faces immediately dropped, so funny! By the way, Mr. Al Kalter, I was just kidding - it’s a henna tattoo. As we went to the car I felt the Florida air fill me, and the humidity stick to me. I had forgotten what it felt like to swim on air.

I woke up the day after completely disoriented; I realized it wasn’t a nightmare nor a dream. This is my bed, my blanket; I can finally say my parents, my room, my computer…it’s so great having my family and friends back, because I know that no matter what I do they will always be there for me! As unconditional as always! It’s funny how distance can bring people together. I really appreciate what I have so much more now. I feel closer to my parents, and my friends. We have a year’s worth of stories to catch up on. Stories that are hard to explain; it’s kind of like explaining color to a blind person or music to a deaf.

When I left, I was partly running away from everything and putting it away in drawer that I would only open after a year. …Now, it feels like everything is the same but me. I was so surprised how it all went back to what it used to be. Some things are the same. My dad still stays up watching old music videos on Saturdays. My brother and I still fight. My friends still wake me up on Sunday mornings.

What has changed is my nationality. When I try speaking Spanish it turns into Portuguese. I went to La Covacha the other day with some friends, and every time I tried dancing salsa it turned into samba.