Joel Haznedl
2009-10 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Orange Park, Florida
School: St. Johns Country Day School
Sponsor: Fleming Island Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Araguaína Rotary Club, District 4530, Brazil

Joel's Bio

Heyy! I'm Joel and I was so excited to be selected as a foreign exchange student this year and even more ecstatic to find I am traveling to Brazil, my first choice. I am a junior at St. Johns Country Day School, a college prep school that has a 100% college acceptance rate, so it definitely provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully complete the next step into college.

I live with my mom, dad, and twin brother, Jake, who doesn’t look a thing like me… I wish. I love playing soccer and volleyball, but I prefer watching football because then I can paint myself blue and white with a bunch of friends and cheer on our tiny team. My mom is super chill and so is my dad, and both of their heads are turning gray, I mean they have to put up with twin boys! My brother Jake is one of my best friends no matter what I say sometimes, I know he will always be there to back me up or catch me when I fall. Seriously though, he is the starting quarterback and he could really catch me if I fell. Mainly, he is my bro and he is just awesome. Last but not least, my dad. He has bent over backwards for me, plus he is probably the goofiest guy you will ever meet, but when it comes time to be serious, he is a pretty good guy to talk to.

I have been playing soccer for most of my life, since I was four, and surprisingly 12 years later, I am still at it hoping to make it to the next level. I love volleyball as I said, but I don’t play competitively. Soccer and school take up too much time for that but I play whenever I get the chance. A lot of times the volleyball players at school say I should try out, but coach says that it would be way too much of me to be in that spandex! So I just stick to school soccer. I play club soccer and some of my best friends are on my team. Sometimes it is like I have more brothers.

I am also very involved with school. I am part of the Varsity Soccer Team, St. Johns Interact Club, volleyball club (started by my brother and I), and also the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I love doing service projects and helping people. Outside of school I am actively involved in my church and I am a certified lifeguard, soccer coach, and referee.

Some of my other interests include singing, any kind of athletics, eating, and this might surprise some people, but I absolutely love to shop. I love clothes shopping, my favorite store is American Eagle. My second favorite store is in North Carolina, but I often order from the catalogs. Can you guess the store? It's Eurosport! There isn’t much better than opening a new pair of boots. Another hobby of mine is cooking. I love inventing new things for dinner. So far no miss hits!

There's a little bit about me, some fun facts if you will, maybe something you'd find on the bottom of a Snapple lid a quick summary of me. Now before I wrap it up, I want to thank everyone who has made this experience possible and especially everyone who has helped me throughout my journey so far. Thanks mommy and daddy for always pushing me to pursue my dreams, and my brother for always being great competition for me, even though he must be slacking lately, and also everyone in the Fleming Island and Orange Park Rotary Clubs for putting so much time and effort into making this experience a life changer. Most of all, thank you to my future host families for having the courage and the hearts to take me in and assist me in my experience.

Joel's Journals

September 2 Journal

It's been just over a month since I arrived here to this wonderful city, Araguaina, this wonderful state, Tocantins, and wonderful country, Brazil. When I hopped off the plane at the dinky Palmas airport, I figured... "O, this is what I expected... I think I'll head over to the belt and get my bags." As I got my bags I was looking outside for a sign with my name with a bunch of people standing around it. Well, there was a sign, but a small one. It was an 8 X 11 sheet of paper with my name printed in 48 point font under a 3 in. Rotary International logo. I was kind of... surprised. There were men around the sign, too, but they all looked... confused. Until they all turned and saw the only non-brasiliero in the airport strolling towards them. When they noticed me, they sprang into life, all but jumping for joy. I was swarmed with man-hugs... all 8 of them. then I saw a boy with his Rotary blazer on too... I would soon learn that he was on his way to Mexico. We exchanged pins and we went our own separate ways, I with Andre, my exchange counselor, and he with the other guys from his host Rotary club. I threw my bags and blazer in the back of his small manual VW pick-up and we started the final four hours of my journey.

All the way he talked about himself, about Tocantins, and my favorite part... soccer! It turns out he is a really good player. When we finally got to Araguaina, there were loads of people out in front of a big Rotary statue holding a huge sign. As we drove up, horns were blaring... this is the biggest surprise. Andre and I walked up and were shrouded by a herd of people and pictures. This was very very fun. After an hour of chatting and trying to talk in Portuguese, Diego, Etienne, mae, e pai beckoned me to the car. We put my stuff in the trunk because we had somewhere to be.

It was a college graduation party. it was very different than anything id ever seen. This graduation party for his uncle was the first time I saw a Brazilian dance called foro. I'm learning. The next day we went to the farm. We played volleyball all day and went to the waterfall. That’s right, there is a waterfall in the farm grounds. I love it. It’s so fun to jump into the pool at the bottom. It is so great. I’ve gone three times and I finally got to ride a horse. We also had two concerts, Chiclete was the first and Jorge e Mateus was the second... they were very fun... and very crowded. My highlights so far have of course been soccer... I’m finally getting accustomed to the play here... it is very different from what I know.

Overall things are great. Thank you Rotary for all the opportunities laid in front of me and thank you Fleming Island and Araguaina Rotary clubs for all your support. Until next time, this is Joel Haznedl, signing off.

October 19 Journal

What an incredible past month and a half this has been... I’ve done so many things! I moved to a new family, I got to ride new horses, and I found my favorite one. He is white and brown and he loves to run, which is fine with me... even though when Monday came, I felt like I was kicked in the bum. My family also took me to aabb, a big club for swimming and various sports. I saw some of my friends there too and we played tennis all day... barefoot.

A few days later I would be leaving for my trip to Rio so I needed to get some clothes. I bought some jeans and underwear... it was very very expensive. Another thing... shopping here is much different, when they ask you what you want they take out literally every article within range of your size and lay it in front of you. It’s great!

Also, a great thing is my Portuguese is coming along splendid; I’m so excited to understand almost everything! Some people even missed the fact I was American... until they said something I didn’t understand and heard my signature catch phrase “nao entende,” which means I don’t understand.

Okay, so we finally left for our trip to Rio... our 36 hour bus trip... with loads of stops and days in between. We went to many cities... the only names I remember though are Brasilia, the capital, Rio, of course, and Ouro Preto... which means “Black Gold.” While in Rio, we went to a game... Flamengo v. São Paulo. Flamengo has the support of more than 30% of Brazilian population, and the rivalry is equaled only by Florida and Georgia. The game was so fun and was good because it was a “V” for Flamengo. We also went to the Christo and Pão de Açucar, both were excellent!

I met so many people too, I grew closer to people in my class and on our expeditions I met at least fifty Germans, a Swiss, former Rotary exchange student to Texas, and many others. With one of the Germans it was fun debating and conversing American politics. I find myself in political debates more often than not however. Some even get heated, one when I was at aabb, with a friend of my host family, he was getting hot and wouldn’t back down. Well I had to go and he swore in Portuguese. But it’s fun seeing foreign view of the republican, I haven’t met a single person that was pro-McCain. It’s funny, their limited view of American politics, yet they are still itching for a debate.

Also, while in Rio, I got a tattoo... well... I’m leaving it at that. Actually I am on the bus on the way back typing this. I think we’re going to stop in another city... great... I’ve already had to wash my clothes in a sink once. It’s 1:15 a.m. and I think I’ll go to bed.

December 7 Journal

OK... I have to admit... November wasn't as difficult as everyone said, and boy am I glad for that! Now, having said that, it was tough. I loved all the Thanksgiving wishes but with each wish came a memory, a memory of home, a memory of family, a memory that stung my heart.

Another thing that's been tough is the friends, always feeling the odd man out, always knowing you're never THE best... Always second. On the soccer field, the good thing is the look on the other players’ face, but the bad part is when they tackle cleats up, every time. When they come in five times as hard on you, when they just mess with you till you can't take it.

When all these things happen, I’ve learned, you just have to be yourself. Play your game and watch your step. The life of an exchanger is different than any other. We might hear about how hard the life is at home with our friends in high school, but they haven't felt the solitude, the hardship, the pressure to do what we are asked, whatever it is. It's very difficult to hold up, without mom or dad, always coming last... Dead last. Never the first, getting used to your family, or leaving a family you love near the same as your own.

I can officially say these first few days of December have been the most difficult yet. The first time I thought, “man, this next eight months is gonna feel like eight years... I need to get home, back to normal.”

I am excited for Christmas though. I get to go to Goiania which is a city in the state of Goias. It's only about a ten hour car ride, but I’m used to it, going to Indy every Christmas and summer and sometimes Thanksgiving, 18 hours to grandma's house.

Well enough for now, everything's been great apart from the missing home. To the other exchangers, good luck and keep on truckin’. Thanks Rotary:)

January 7 Journal

In this past month and a bit I’ve seen some things, learned some things, and felt some things. These... ‘things,’ are the pieces that I know will put together the puzzle of my exchange, but not only my exchange, but me. These things, anger, loneliness, happiness, and togetherness. I’ve felt all these things in this roller coaster of my late November through December and on to these few days of January. This small composition will probably make some of you laugh, but the idea of this is to help prepare the future outbounds. This month has definitely been a fast, twisting, somersaulting, realization of life in general.

First thing ‘I’m gonna throw at ya’ is the anger, I figure to start with the ugly first so you’ll forget it by the end. There has been many times I got angry, whether my dad forgot me at school, or I got ditched, or even because I got stuck at home. The first one was being left at school, that's a two mile walk, if you know where you're going at least, but, I wasn’t too sure of Araguaina at the time. Well it was the afternoon session that ends at five and me and him had it set up to meet there at six. Now, I knew he was always late, so I figured I’d give him some slack, a thirty minute cushion. After the wait, I figured it wasn’t too long so I just hoofed it. I had taken this walk before with my good friend, Edwin, the Mexican exchange student living in Araguaina, so I thought I could make it back quick and easy. That quick and easy walk turned out to be an hour and fourteen minutes, forty-five of that in the dark and light rain.

When I got home, tired, wet, and angry, my mom saw the sarcastic smile on my face and asked where my dad was. I told her, “o, he’s at the farm, he forgot me at school.” I think that's where I went wrong. The next day I didn't say a word to him, not the drive to school, not the way home from school, not at lunch, not at dinner. Nothing. The thing was, he seemed oblivious to the whole thing, which not only surprised me, but, well it just surprised me. So I decided I’d talk to him the next day, it was Friday, so, I had to be nice. Well that was when he iced over. That soon came to not talking, “free” money, and not saying ‘no.’ Now some of you guys might see these as a good thing, and at first I tell you I did. It really felt like I had all the freedom in the world, like I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But I soon figured out this wasn't the case. Take a second and think what is would be like if a parent didn't say a word to you, not a word. After the excited feelings left I figured, wow, this is really bizarre, and I tell you it definitely was.

Living in the states I never looked at myself as spoiled, my parents talked to me, they said no, they didn't always give me money, but that wasn't a problem... I mean who wouldn't take a fifty to go to a party or somewhere, where you won't use it. But all that is just kidding, I never took the money, not because I didn't want it, not because I didn't need it. I didn't take it because I knew that's how he was trying to apologize. He was literally trying to buy my happiness. But when they say money doesn't buy happiness, it's true. All the money buys is something to add to your mask to cover how you really feel. But this offering was different, it almost felt insulting. I can't explain exactly why, or what I was feeling, maybe it was resentment, maybe it was fear, maybe I just plain didn't care, but the fact was I couldn't take the money. I knew that the only way to make it right would be to talk to him, however, due to my feelings, I waited for him to come talk to me. If you were wondering, that rarely ever happens, and I’m sure I knew he wouldn't come talk to me, but I just didn't care anymore. So I let the time pass until the last few weeks in the house, after I was hanging with Edwin at his house nearly everyday. This was after I had completely disconnected with my host dad. He had started forcing me to go to parties with the family, well he had my mom force me. I think he finally figured I was mad and the only way he was gonna fix it was to talk and I think he was a bit afraid of the outcome, or he just doesn't know how to talk about things like that.

I finally figured why I was going to all these parties. The first one I arrived and knew lots of people but the ones I didn't he made sure I met them quick and talked with them a good while. So that's what I did, at first I thought nothing of it, until his party for his office where it felt like I was the poster child for the customers he had there and for his boss. I noticed I was being forced into talking to people, ‘no ifs, ands, or buts.’ Once I figure this out I just dropped off the face of the earth. This was about 2 weeks or so before I moved houses. Edwin had left, but I'm still really good friends with his host brother and I do enjoy hanging out with him every once in a while. It came to the point where I was chillin'’ with Guto, Edwin’s host brother, everyday, and sometimes even night too. The last week in that house I spent few hours at home. I can honestly say the hours at home were for sleeping. I had two lunches in that time, one dinner, and short nights of sleep. Well, only about four to six hours a night.

The final weekend came and they were headed off to the farm, and he didn't even plan on me going, which was great because I was offered to stay at Guto’s house over the weekend, but, my host mom wanted me to go. The phrase that finished it for me was when he said that I had to go unless I had any parties. Well what do you know, of course I did! I had three barbecues on Saturday and Sunday and he seemed right pleased that I had the plans. He didn't even tell my mom until after they got there. I spent my whole weekend there, three nights and days. Friday night till Monday, night. I thought this was the coolest thing in the world because I was leaving on Tuesday, and some of you might scowl because at this remark, but, I absolutely could not wait to get out of that house. Now don't get me wrong, my brother’s non stop talking was obnoxious, but bearable. My mom actually treated me like her son, which was pretty cool, even though I still had to make my own plate for lunch when I was there. I guess I was just little exhausted. The day to move came, my brother, I think is still rejoicing, my mom was crying, and well, my dad, I think he was indifferent. O well, it didn't bother me anymore, but I finally got into my new house. Looking back on this whole thing, I can definitely say I’m still angry with him, but I think I should have looked at all this in a different way. I view him as the bad guy, and for one thing, he was, but I then noticed how much of a jerk I had been by not forgiving him. I don't know what I was feeling - I think it was just that time, being around Thanksgiving and all. But the feud is over now at least, because I moved houses.

Loneliness, it started about the time of Thanksgiving. I started noticing that I had good friends, really good friends, but not one could I talk to about anything. When I say anything, I mean, AN-NY-THING. Lacking that I started thinking about what I had at home, and quickly realized that nothing could match, Ty, my best friend pretty much since I started at my school in tenth grade. I mean, I used to think about her everyday, and I missed her a lot, but I finally figured out how much someone like that means to a person. That's when the loneliness set in. It got to the point where the only things I had fun doing were soccer, volleyball, computer, and watching people with just as much loneliness on “Two and a Half Men.”

This soon became the cause of my days, everyday, I would wake up and go to school, after school I would take a short nap or sign in to my computer. Depending if I had soccer or not I would go to soccer, or just wake up and get on the computer and wait. Wait till I could drown my loneliness with laughter at someone else’s problems. Even if they are made up, but grossly true. The point of this ramble is the fact that to not be lonely I was alone, day in and day out, with the blinds, windows, and door closed. I finally saw that I was still lonely. After all, the base of the word alone and lonely are the same, ‘L-O-N-E.’ The word ‘lone’, an adjective, meaning having no companions, being solitary, or single.

I found something that would help, the guy who had the most in common with me, after all, I’m an Republican American with blue eyes and light hair in a democratic environment where only around one percent of the population has light hair and/or eyes. You could definitely say I stick out like a sore thumb. The guy I decided I need to get close with doesn't have light hair, blue eyes, or even light skin. It was Edwin. Right now you’re probably thinking... “What did yall have in common?” The truth is, except from appearance, everything. He is the other exchange student, he is away from his friends, he is away from his best friend, he is feeling the exact same things as me. This is when we started hanging out nearly everyday. I can honestly say he became my best friend... Definitely no replacement for Ty, but a pretty darn good fill in.

This is when I started letting the loneliness go. I started missing my shows and getting off the computer to hang out with him, I started feeling better, talking to him, and we both started getting way better. We are about as close I can get to someone who is not Ty. This is the thing that helped me the most. Not the synonym, being alone, but getting a “substitute.” I dunno if our friendship will last long after the exchange, maybe it will, maybe it won't, but I hope it will and I know it's something I won't ever forget. Not for the rest of my life.

The next one, happiness, this one is the most interesting I think because it's not happened to me in a long time. By long time, I mean before I really got interested in girls, which was like, sixth grade. It has been at the point for a long time that the only way I could find ‘happiness’ was, to “Put a Girl In It,” that's in quotes because it is a song by Brooks & Dunn. There’s a quote in that song that says “if you’re ridin’ in your truck, put a girl in it,” and in the song it is meant how it's said, but me being me, I took it for more than I should have. I used that phrase as a symbol filled allusion to my life. The truck became my heart, the empty seat became the space in my heart, and what did I think should fill it? Of course, what it literally said, I put a girl in it. I didn't look at girl as a friend, or in a religious way. To me that part of the statement was just, girl. The double X chromosome.

Well I soon found out that wasn't the way to do it. I always had my best friends but I had them pushed up against the wall of my space and filled the rest with good smelling perfume and pretty faces. It got me in loads of trouble ever since middle school and I just realized that that wasn't the way to do it. Perfume doesn't fill holes well, it just leaks out until you fill the hole with another one that smells good to you. Then the scent dies away and you need a new one again, and it soon becomes a never ending downward spiral. Let me tell you, relationships are not the key to happiness. Well relationships like that aren’t. The relationships that lead to happiness are your friendships, the ones you should really focus on. I found out, when I became really close to Edwin, that I had found it. It felt weird.

The first thing that crossed my mind was the feeling I hadn’t felt since I was a child. What is this? What do I do with it? How do I keep it? I figured out that your friends and family should take first place, that's the first step to filling that hole. The second is to stop being lazy, get out and go have fun, don't stay on the computer or watch television all day, that stuff just adds to the hurt. The third thing is, that in your fun, you remember who is with you, who is there for you, and kick it with the funky cats who you can truthfully call your best friends. They’re the ones that help you get out of trouble, they're the ones that get in trouble with you, they’re the ones that know what's best for you, even if you think they're class five bonkers. Now saying this, Edwin is a normal chill dude, not entirely crazy, I mean, he has his moments when the monkey is definitely clapping the cymbals, but when it comes down to it, he’s boss at bestfriendmanship. He helped turn my frown upside down and see the light that I had turned off for so long. He helped me see that I didn't need a girl to be happy, not even to be content, which I view as a step lower than happiness. He gave me that final kick in the bum that showed me who my happiness comes from. The ones who wipe my tears, my best friends.

One of the things that helped this exchange a lot is the feeling of togetherness that starts to grow on you as you find your group of friends, the binding force you feel when you get to know your family, the feeling you have when you are on a trip with other exchangers. This is one of the most refreshing feelings you will find on the Rotary Youth Exchange. You will find that there will be good times, and there will be bad, but just think about the amount of other students who are having the same problems, who are away from home, who have that same lost feeling you do. Always, always look to them. They are looking for the same thing from you. On your exchange you will have many friends native to your host country, but many of them you won't remember, and many of them won't remember you. The ones who really stick are the exchangers, once you've had your first encounter with the other students the desire for more time with them will arise. Let me tell you from experience, the other students will like a lot of the same things you, for me things like soccer and other sports. Another big thing most of us like to do is just have a bit of quiet, a bit of time to ourselves. Using this time will come in handy in tough times, times when you miss home, times when you're alone and have no one to turn to, times when you are just tired of hearing your new language because you have literally been having to think through every word, every phrase that you speak. The best feeling of togetherness is when you get with the other students, there isn't a more secure feeling in your exchange year than that little time you will have with them. Those are the things you’ll remember. When you get back home your stories will start with, “Well, I was at blank with the other exchange students and so-and-so did this and my friend Kain said this.” Those are the best times you’ll encounter.

Now that I got most of the things I learned off my chest and out into the world, I figure I should talk a bit more about my last month. Like I said, it was a bit rough with my past host family but with the fifteenth of December, I moved into my third house. I know it seems a bit early for that, but so far I’ve been moving houses in two month increments. My first house, I am going back for another month and I expect to stay in this one three months in full. I had many Christmas parties up to Christmas Day. The first party was of my second host father’s business. I knew no one, but this is the party where I felt like the poster boy. This is the one where I got stuck talking to his boss for nearly an hour. But I ended up having fun, I mean, it could’ve been worse. The second was the Christmas party for my first host father’s business. It was fun and I knew some people, but I didn't take part in the secret Santa. I then had the Rotary Christmas party in which I got a new shirt and a picture frame. The next day I went to a barbeque with Guto and his mom to another Christmas party and I didn't take part in that as it was for the old people. By old I’m talkin’ older than me.

The house we were at I’d been to many times and I can still say I love it. It's big, it's beautiful, and they have a nice pool. One guy even came and landed a helicopter in the back yard. It was so cool! The next day we went back for lunch to help finish the rest of the feijoada. Feijoada is a Brasilian stew that uses all kinds different meat and beans and all sorts of things. It is great mixed with hot sauce in a cup. I’m gonna learn how to make it so I can bring it back to Florida.

The Tuesday after that was the day I was moving out. There wasn't much left to do. Guto left for Sao Paulo, Edwin was already there, and I had only a few friends home. So most of my days of the last week were organizing the music in my library. That's over twelve hundred songs, one at a time. My time was finally full and being put to use. I also had to unpack into my new room and repack to have more space in my suitcase. I need more space because I am currently traveling for two full months. Before I started my travels I was hanging out with my friend Gabriella, her brother, and her brother’s girlfriend. We went to the clubbe to go swimming and play a bit of volleyball. The funny thing about AABB, the clubbe, is that to swim, you have to wear a sunga, which is a speedo. I must say, I do enjoy my bright red sunga. I’m actually going to buy some more, well I have to. Those are the plans for now anyway.

But later that day I went with Gabriella to a friend's Christmas party where an old lady, who I didn’t know, read some parts from the bible. We then did the lord’s prayer in portugues and they recited a catholic prayer. It was really different. We also had a gift exchange which was cool but I wasn't originally going to go, so, I didn't take part. I got home at around 11:30 and watched the Simpsons and Criminal Minds until the next morning when we left for travels at five in the morning. The first place I stayed was Goiania. I was there for twenty-three days staying in my brother’s apartment. We were there for Christmas and to wait for my plane to Sao Paulo. The trip is only five hundred kilometers from Goiania, whereas from Araguaina, the trip is something like thirteen hundred kilometers. It's a lot shorter, and a lot cheaper from Goiania. I think it's worth staying in Goiania with my brother extra time for the cheaper faster flight. While there, we had three Christmas parties. The first was just a Christmas dinner where we read the same things as the other party the night before. We also sang hymns in Portugues. It really surprised everyone when they heard me singing.

On the twenty-third, we had a party at my aunt’s house. I didn't participate in the secret Santa because I wasn't expected to be there. My aunt had no idea I was coming. So the first one was fun, I got to meet my dad’s side of the family and my Grand got me some cologne. The day after, on the Twenty-fourth, we had another party in which I did participate in the secret Santa. I got my cousin who I hadn’t met but holy goodness is she gorgeous. She is the blonde in the picture with me at the bottom. I got her some earrings and a ring to go with it. My sister, Rayssa, the dark haired girl in the other picture with me, drew my name so she had to get me a gift. She got me a new pair of jeans, which I needed. I also need to hem them because my legs are way too short to fit, story of my life.

Then Christmas Day came and I got to talk to literally everyone. I talked to Ty, everyone on my dad’s side of the family in Indianapolis, my mom, and a few other friends. It was pretty cool seeing everyone and they were definitely surprised at my new four eights of an inch hair cut, considering it's been since third grade that I’ve had my hair this short. I also found out that I had a bunch of things sent to me, however, I won't get them until mid February because of my travels. After a few days of nothing, we went to a wonderful place with natural hot water. The name of the city is Caldas Novas. It has many hotels that have pools of this water. It's so great, I could just live in the water. After three days in Caldas we returned to Goiania. For New Years, we went to a show. The singer was Claudia Leite, her name about describes her music. We’ll just say its a good thing that I brought some headache medicine. I mean, the show was fun, but I was ready for bed about half way through.

These last few days were great, some barbecues, parties with the family, going out with my brother and sister, everything you could imagine to complete a stay in Goiania. These few weeks were great! Now I’m waiting at my aunt’s house, here in Goiania, for my flight to Sao Paulo where my Northeast Super Dream Trip will start. It's going to be a month of fun and beaches with a bunch of other exchangers. I can't wait!

March 9 Journal

This journal consists of many things, for starters, it involves a month of fun...

So, the day of December 19 my third host family and I left the house where our next 12 hours would be spent riding in a cramped Hyundai Santa Fe. it wasn’t cramped as to there were so many people, I mean, we did have 5 people in 5 seats, but the fact of the matter was all our stuff. We had Rayssa, my host sister, both of our host parents, and the... what is she called... o ya, maid! Well due to my host mom and Rayssa packing 5 bags apiece and my suitcase the back seat wasn’t too pleasant of a place to sit. I had brought my big suitcase because directly from Christmas, I was to travel, but I will save the details for later.

So by the time we got there, we were all stinking to high heaven, tired, and most of all, hungry. We arrived at my host brother’s apartment in Goiania where he and my host sister live during their school. They don’t study in my city, they go to a big university in the state of Goias, UFG. UFG is the Federal University of Goiania, and it is no easy task to enter. They are both studying law.

Back to my Christmas. So the minutes there I met my host extended family... and, well, some of them are a bit strange. They even remind me of some of my dad’s side of my real family. Christmas was very very... interesting. We ate, a lot, like normal, but there was a tradition I had never seen in my life. Everyone got in a circle, and had a little paper with songs and scripture and even a little picture of Mary. We all sang, then ate, and some people prayed. By the time everyone got out, I was ready to crash. I ended up returning to my host grandma’s and lights out right as I hit the pillow. We had a few Christmas parties... six or something like that. We also did gift exchange which was fun and pretty funny. I got jeans from Rayssa. For regular presents, my host parents got me a pair of shoes, six t-shirts, a pair of pants and I think that’s it. I got a load. After Christmas we spent a few days at this wonderful place with natural hot water... The hotel had huge hot tubs, the size of swimming pools. I will remember the name and always return there.

So I was set to travel on my long trip that started the tenth of January, but my family was leaving to go home on the eighth. It was decided that I would stay at my host aunt’s house. I stayed for a few days and was at a churrasco, then I hit the airport.

So I waited for my plane and I saw my friend and fellow exchanger, Hugo, from France waiting also. I didnt talk to him until we landed in Sao Paulo because I knew that he didn't recognize me, after all I had shaved my head a just few days prior. I got on the plane, put on my music, and my snores soon could be heard through out the compartments. Yes, I snore and yes, it's very loud. Well, when we finally landed in Sao Paulo and I arrived at the baggage area, he had his bags and was with the Belo Brasil girl. Belo Brasil is our touring agency. So I got my bags and the two of us hopped in our taxi. We left her there because there were more students arriving later. We got to the hotel to find all the other exchangers in one room. We joined them and talked for hours and eventually went to get some food, but by that time everyone was starving... almost literally!

Well as the night drew to a close we all found ourselves out front of the hotel listening to stories and talking in groups. Those of you who don't know me, well, I was one of the story tellers and in my new group of friends it was easy to talk to them and just have a good time. I met some of the funniest people that night.

So the next morning, 5 new students arrived and we were to get on our bus, however there were two buses leaving from the same point. Mine was destined for Brasilia and my friends, well of course they were off to Rio. This meeting was short but real sweet. The few of us hopped on my bus and were on the road to Brasilia. It turned out good, my friends Philipp and Jay were on the bus and we had some fun on the way. We made many, many stops to get to Brasilia. We had to pick up students and soon our bus was full except for 3 seats. We did a city tour in Brasilia, and watched the sunset off of the huge TV tower... at least that's what I think it is.

After Brasilia, we were off to the real part of the Northeast Dream Trip. We were to cities and small towns, some had roads, some didn't, some were brick, some were sand. The town that had no paved roads, Jericoacoara (jer-ree-kwa-kwa-ra), there was a beautiful beach and it didn't stop by the water! The roads throughout the village were composed of sand, and there was a big rock called Pedra Furada that was excellent. My friend from Denmark, Alex, and I wanted to see it, but we missed when the group went. So we asked our... leader if we could go and he said it will be difficult to make in the two hours before dinner. He told us it would take a minimum of three hours without taking pictures. Well, of course, Alex and I were off. We went at a jog and a sprint, up and down the mountains of sand and sparse vegetation. We ran past other tourists and were told, at a run, we could make it by nightfall. Well, being the fact that we were half way there, it was too late to turn around. We kept on truckin! We made it with light still, and got a few pictures done. Now being me, I led us back through the hills figuring on physics and gravity to help us. Get up higher on the hills and find the paths going to the beaches first. These paths all went down, that's where the physics and gravity comes in. We were armed with a camera that had our time, but neither of us were sure it was right. To see what time it was or how much we had left, we shot a blank foto and looked at the time it said. We were on our run back and, no lie, I kicked 11 rocks and one huge piece of wood. We made it back with forty-five minutes before dinner, so we hopped in the pool and still had time to shower.

At dinner, my big toe was really big. In our days there, we also took a dunebuggy ride and got to do sand boarding... It was an excellent experience. We went to other beautiful cities like Natal, which means Christmas, and Itacare. Both beautiful beach cities. Another City we visited which was my favorite was Fortaleza. We stayed in an absolutely breathtaking hotel right on the beach. The water was the color of the sky and the sand was white as snow. Fortaleza just was the perfect description a beautiful beach. We went to a bunch more cities, all with shopping malls and beaches. We even had one day where we were at a beach and they had a load of people dancing to Axé music. That's the music they play at Carnaval. My favorite bands are Chiclete com Banana, Ivete Sangalo, and Banda Eva. At the end of the day, a few of us guys went to dance with them... that's when it started. First my good friend, Jakob, from Denmark, got called up to dance samba. He got up and faked a ridiculously bad samba, that was hilarious. The next to be called up was of course someone who could dance single ladies... Well, all my friends had heard about my single ladies experience at my school before I left. So I got called up, and danced to single ladies with another guy... Of course it was videoed, and it will be in my memory forever. In front of three hundred people, dancing single ladies... excellent. Then two more guys, one from Germany and the other from Mexico got called up and they had dance like girls... there is a story inside of that, but I will save it for a living room chat.

We finished in Rio with samba and funk lessons where we learned the dance to Créu. Sexy sexy... We saw the Sugarloaf and the Christ and wrapped it up. Some of us were off to our cities on the way back to Sao Paulo, others, like me were back to the hotel to wait for our flight. The long bus ride went really really fast. The end of the trip came with tears from some and laughter from others, but one thing's for sure... Everyone gained lifetime friends from that trip. For you future Brasil exchangers, the two trips you have to go on. The Northeast Dream Trip and I hear Amazon is a must. Those are the two.

So back to my travels, yes, I got home 2 months after I left for Christmas. That's a long time away from home away from home... get it? So Carnaval, we were at the parties for 4 days but did other things too, we stayed in Salvador for a week, we, being my family. So after my northeast trip, I took my flight straight to Salvador, where I would land and stay at a family friend's house for a night and a day and wait for my host family to arrive. So the tenth they met us at the shopping mall. Fantastic, we had lunch in the food court. I ate Burger King, the thing is, Burger King is excellent in every country, there is not a better international fast food restaurant. This is a strong recommendation for exchangers, always go with Burger King, it's the better choice.

So after the food court we were getting our "abadás" ready. I say the actually word because I'm not sure what it is in English, you future exchangers, this will also happen to you, but an abadá is what we had to wear to get into our block. Carnaval in Salvador has many blocks, each of which is composed of one band or dj and two huge trucks. These trucks are rigged so the VIPs can go to the top and the band also can, they also have a men's and women's bathroom in the second one. They both blare music at deafening volume, I still have trouble hearing and it was a month ago from the 13th. They play music at the volume where everyone can jump up and down and dance and sing and go crazy and still hear it. After the first day I kept yelling because it was like I constantly had water in my ear. To decide where the blocks ended and began, there was an incredibly long and heavy rope held by the "Cordeiras," the people paid to carry the rope. It was incredible!

The Carnaval sometimes started very early. One day, the first block left at 3 pm and the last one usually leaves at 12 or 1 am. There are also people who don't go inside the ropes. There is "camarote" and also the "pipoca." "Camarote" is where the people have a type of box. It's raised off the ground and at some of the bigger boxes, a band might stop and do a minishow for the people in the camarote. The "pipoca" is for the people who didn't want to pay. They are on the outsides of the street and in street clothes.

The crazy part about Carnaval is the police. There is one group that wears all black, they are riot groups and they do not have rules. If you touch the police in anyway, you usually take a shot in the gut with the nightstick, but I was warned the "black" police were the bad ones. Often times we would walk through an area and there would be tear gas in the air. It was in small amounts, but it's impossible to not notice it. The security was very tight, but there were still many many fights. One time, we even saw a man who had gotten his head smashed against the sidewalk. It was so crazy.

The one block where the pipoca is the most dangerous was at Chiclete com Banana. Chiclete is a band that everyone in Brasil knows and out of everyone I have met in Brasil, I only know one person who doesn't like. So it's always full and always crazy. One day we were on the pipoca walking back to the car because our block finished and we walked by Chiclete. It took twenty minutes to pass two hundred feet of people. Two hundred feet of shoulder to shoulder, back to front, and sometimes people broke out into a fight and it would get dangerous because the bad cops would storm the area. Everyone knows they're bad so everyone moves and that space of shoulder to shoulder back to front minimizes tenfold. There were times when I would have fallen but it was so tight I was literally held up off the ground.

One specific time I remember was one fight that was really close to our group so we backed off and my feet were literally off the ground but it looked like I was standing. My arms were one on my chest and the other at my side and I was "standing" in the supercrowd waiting for the cops to finish their work. I know I'm talking about the bad stuff but don't get the wrong idea, it's not all that crazy, it's actually really really fun.

In my block, I was there three days. The first day we had Tomate, a singer who isn't that bad but he isn't one of the big guys at the show. The second was Banda Eva, one of my favorite Axé bands and the third was my favorite, Ivete Sangalo. The day of Banda Eva was the craziest in our block. There were many many people and everyone jumping up and down. To jump you had to stay with the people near you otherwise you would get some, what I like to call, "Carnaval burn." That's when you're jumping up and down and you are rubbing against the people and friction literally gives you a burn similar to a rug burn.

The days were crazy and like I said, when I got home, my ears were ringing and talking was at high volume. Now I know how my Grand feels:) Love you Grandma!

The day after we did our three days of blocks we went to camarote. We had an excellent camarote. They had free drinks, two floors, and a club! It was amazing! When Claudia Leite, a crescending singer, was to come by, she stopped at our camarote and did a minishow for us! The TV cameras were from above us because the stage was on the second floor, the next day we were watching national TV and guess who we saw! It was so cool!

Back to the 11th, we had a show to go to. We went to see one of the most known American artists, Beyoncé. Her show was brilliant. Ivete Sangalo opened for her, and was also brilliant. I used to not like Beyoncé's music, but I guess that was just what I needed. I have most of her show music on my iTouch now! It was fantastic, that is something I will always remember. This week was incredible, as was the two month travels. I love Brasil.

June 23 Journal

A few weeks have passed since my best trip on exchange. The trip to the Amazon was the most memorable yet. No, we didn't see many animals, catch many piranha, stay in a bunch of great hotels, relax on beautiful beaches, or have any good parties, but, what our group had was memories. We danced on top of the boat, the guys team beat the Indians in soccer for the first time in the trip history, we got to jump off the top of our tour boat, we stayed in a hotel that rivaled a castle in size, we took boat rides into the forest to see Indian tribes, we visited a school, we had a canoe trip in hollowed tree canoes that sunk with the slightest movement, we made jewelry, and we just had fun! There is nothing I could say or even show you that would describe this trip. If you have heard the saying, “pictures say a thousand words,” it doesn't matter how many pictures I show you, it won't show you the power of this trip. The only way to show justice for you and the trip would be to experience it in the flesh. It is my highest recommendation for everyone to see the Amazon.

Because a few weeks has passed, it means my time is coming to an end. I am in my last month and my date is coming up. I’m leaving home to go back home. Saying that statement feels just as weird as it sounds. A part of me says I’m ready and another part thinks I’m crazy for leaving. Honestly, I don't know which part is right. I was sent here to Brasil with 2 goals, to learn the language, and to learn the culture. Within six months, these goals were completed. With my last few months, I just honed my Portuguese and became even more Brasilian. I have done my job, and it is up to the next exchanger to finish his work and so on. So as my time finishes, I know that it's my time to step aside and open the door for the next student to step into my shoes. I wish every one of you new outbounds... and inbounds, the best of luck in your exchanges. This is my last journal... Thank you everyone for your support and belief in me.

Lorena and Me

Lorena and Me

Rayssa and Me

Rayssa and Me

Family minus Dad plus Cousin

Family minus Dad plus Cousin