Helen Parker
2009-10 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Episcopal HS
Sponsor: San Jose Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Curitiba Oeste Rotary Club, District 4730, Brazil

Helen's Bio

Hello. My name is Helen Parker. I am 14, turning 15 on August 11, 2009. I spent my freshman year at Episcopal High School of Jacksonville. I am very excited about the trip that I am going to take this year to Brazil. It is going to be an amazing experience and I know I’m going to enjoy it. I am mostly an only child, I have two older brothers, but they're half-brothers so they have never lived with us. Their names are Jacob and Jeremy. My parents, Fred and Suzanne, are also excited for me to leave. They will miss me as I will miss them but we’ll all get over it.

I am a very active person. I really love to play sports. I play softball for school. I am a shortstop and look forward to softball season all school year. I’ll be skipping this year’s softball obviously because I’ll be in a foreign country. I also play volleyball. But the volleyball I play is more for fun than competition. Many of my friends are on the volleyball team at school and I play with them. My family also likes it because it’s a game for all ages. I love to wakeboard and skateboard. I’ve been skateboarding for a long time and just started wakeboarding a couple years ago. Even though I live near the beach, I have never surfed. I would like to learn though and many of my friends have offered to teach me. I love being with my friends and it will be very hard for me to leave them but, I’ll deal with it. We have sleepovers, go waterskiing, go mudding, and a ton of stuff. I really enjoy trying new stuff.

I’m very outgoing and enjoy talking to people. I’m working on learning Portuguese and I think I’m doing pretty good. It will be hard but I’m ready for the challenge. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.

Helen's Journals

August 31 Journal

August in Brazil. Very different from an American August. First off, here in Brazil we have opposite seasons from the US. Like, summer in Brazil is winter in the US. So I got on a plane July 31st sweating from the Florida heat, and arrived in Brazil wearing multiple jackets. Most of Brazil is not cold. Brazil is actually known for its heat. But I was placed in an area of Brazil that has cold winters. The mornings here are on average 9 degrees Celsius. I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit but it feels chilly.

When I first got here I did not have school because there was a swine flu outbreak. I luckily had been emailing my second half-host sister before I left so I spent this time with her and her friends. I call her my half sister because August 21 she left for Germany. Her year exchange with Rotary. I got to meet many of her friends though, so it’s not like she left me all alone.

I started school August 15th. Another awesome thing about Brazil is that their school year is reversed from the American one. So in November I get off school for summer vacation. YES. 2 summers. That’s right. School is nice for me. I really like it. I don’t understand what the teachers say because they go too fast but the other students I can continue with a conversation… most of the time.

I feel like I’m learning Portuguese really fast. Like I can already communicate with my host family and the parents don’t speak any English. In school I’ve made some friends and been to some barbecues. The barbecues are very fun. Every single meal has 50X more meat then the meals in the US. It’s crazy. We eat 2 different meats, usually beans and rice, and some vegetable. The food here is SO good. They fry anything they feel like and I eat whatever I feel like. This is a problem. Actually September 7th I start swim practice. I’m going to start swimming competitively (not well) for the club my family is part of. I look forward to being healthy.

I’m doing my homework in school and have taken a test already and got one of the highest scores in the class. Ya that’s right. Highest scores.  I’ll write next month and tell you how everything is going!

December 18 Journal

Hello RYE FL. I know it’s been a really long time since I’ve written but I’ve just been really lazy. Sorry. So Brazil has been amazing for the last 3 months. I switched families in November and I prefer my second family. They’re great. They always take me places and try to show me more of Brazil that I haven’t already seen.

I speak mainly Portuguese these days. My host mom and brother don’t speak English that well so even If I wanted to speak English I couldn’t. I only speak Portuguese to my friends and other exchange students, except for the Americans. I just need someone to understand my slang. I miss it. My Portuguese has gotten really good. I’m almost fluent, and I am really close to thinking in Portuguese. I only speak English with my host dad. I’ve asked him a thousand times to not speak English with me but here in Brazil, only the rich people speak English, so when someone speaks English they really want to show it off.

I got out of school December 8th. School doesn’t start back up until February. It’s summer break. In Brazil the seasons and the school year are opposite from the states because it’s the bottom half of the world. So on the 20th of December I’m going to this really nice beach called Florianopolis. I’m going with my family. It’s going to be so much fun. I’m going to surf like every day and finally get a tan. I’ll get back January 3rd. then 10 days later I will go on the Belo Brazil northeast dream trip for 30 days. This trip is going to be so much fun. All the exchange students from my district are going on it. We’ve only lost one exchange student so far this year. He was a German and he didn’t break and rules but he just didn’t like Brazil. We were all really sad to see him go, but if it made him happy, I suppose it was the right thing.

I’ve basically become accustomed to Brazil by now. It’s not all new for me anymore. But I seriously think that back in the states we should have more Brazilian restaurants. In Jacksonville, we have one but it’s a churrascaria, steakhouse, and it’s super expensive. We need like a chain restaurant or something. That sells traditional Brazilian food. Like coxinhas, a teardrop shaped fried thing. It’s usually about 3.5 inches tall and it generally contains either beef, chicken and cheese, or ham and cheese. It’s amazing. They should also sell pastels. Pastels are like, you take bread mix, flatten it out. Make a pocket out of it and put some kind of filling in it. Basically whatever. You fill it up about halfway, close it, fry it, then eat it. It’s so unhealthy but hey, that’s what makes it good! Brazilian sweets too. They have this thing called brigadeiro. It’s condensed milk mixed with something similar to Nesquik. Then they heat it up and let it cool. It get’s hardish then you roll it into little balls and cover it in cake confetti type things. I can’t explain it. It’s all soo godly.

Brazilian pizza is SO different. It’s like 50 times healthier then American pizza. And they don’t have ‘cheese pizza’ and ‘pepperoni’. They’ll put like chicken on pizza bread without sauce. I went to Pizza Hut here. It’s NOTHING like Pizza Hut back home. People actually dress up to go the Pizza Hut restaurant.

Clothes are really expensive here. But food is very cheap. Nike Shocks have to be the coolest shoe you can wear here. People LOVE them. You’ll find them for sale for what is equivalent to 250 American dollars. Sorry to basically give you a description of Brazil’s market but I find it SO different. I’ll write next month. Promise. Sorry about the delay.

Tchau from Brazil.