Patrick Johnson
2008-09 Outbound to Brazil
Hometown: Seminole, Florida
School: Seminole High School, Seminole, Florida
Sponsor: Indian Rocks Beach Rotary Club, District 6950, Florida
Host: Natal Alecrim Rotary Club, District 4500, Brazil

Patrick's Bio

 Hello, my name is Patrick Johnson. I was born in Kirkland, Washington, but moved down to Florida when I was little. I live with my mother, father, and sister, Whitney. I attend Seminole Senior High School. I'm not sure where I'm going to spend my exchange yet, but I'm excited nonetheless.

I enjoy writing, reading, playing video games, hanging out with my friends, and cooking (I'm hoping to pick up a few new recipes wherever I end up). I also enjoy listening to music, though I can't play an instrument for the life of me.

October 10 Journal

 So! Brazil. Brazil is an amazing country. At first, it's also confusing. An amazingly confusing country. I got off the plane, not having ANY idea where I was going. Natal Airport is small, and apparently has helpful signs up. Downside: these signs are in Portuguese. All I got was a general impression of helpfulness, and if I was lucky, an arrow. I was also lucky in that there is one baggage carousel, because Lord knows if I could have found one by myself. As it was, I followed the flow of people, and waited hopefully, sweating in the tropical heat and my Rotary blazer. I picked up my checked luggage and hopefully staggered towards the only obvious exit in the room. The doors opened, and as I was looking around for someone with a sign or something (maybe "Bem-vindo ao Brazil Patrick Johnson, Exchange Student!") people who I very distinctly did not know ran up and hugged me, saying things in Portuguese in a very excited manner. It was later determined that this was my host family, mostly thanks to the fact that two of my three host brothers speak English. I cannot tell you how much harder life would have been without this. They asked if I was hungry, in Portuguese. Now, I had been studying my phrasebook intently (kinda), and felt that I could handle small talk (-ish), so I gave the astute reply of "Huh?" and looked desperately to my host brother.

Thus began a long and confusing time of not knowing what the heck anyone was saying. I did learn a lot in this interim, though. I learned that there are many ways to say "How are you?" in Portuguese, and that they often sound completely unintelligible. One of the favorites sounds like someone is just naming vowels at you. I learned that if I smile a lot, everything goes smoother. In fact, everything went fairly smooth. Brazilians tend to be a friendly people, and are quick to laugh, and then invade your personal space. Everything was gliding along smoothly until I had to finally suck it up and go to school.

School here is something entirely different from what I am used to. At times, it is surreal. A whirling cacophony of noise, uniforms, and unnecessarily graphic Biology slides. The Brazilians have devised a great way to equalize the social playing field: everyone looks like a goofball in these uniforms. The pants could not be less awkward, and the shirt has a great feature of being both baggy and uncomfortably tight, due in large part to the elastic around the hem and cuffs. I walked into the school feeling like a huge loser. But it was okay! Everyone else looked like a huge loser too!

I think I got my first real taste of Brazilian culture in school. I realized that, while in the States, when you sit on someone's lap and kiss their cheek a lot, it meant you were dating, here it means you go to school together. I figured this out after people I had mentally earmarked as 'couples' got up and switched partners throughout the day. That was a bit of culture shock.

The only other real bit of shock (aside from Brazil's propensity to eat chicken hearts like they're going out of style) is the fact that most girls my age don't shave their legs. They shave maybe half, from the knee down. You don't really notice this until you meet a friend outside of school (uniform pants are long) and do a double-take. It's pretty much a completely foreign concept here. Some girls do shave the whole leg; but the majority goes unshorn. It's really the only thing that actually gave me a shock. That, and the heart thing.

The first month was fairly uneventful. Making friends, learning a language, and going to Rotary meetings for the sole reason of the dessert.