Shaina Feldman
2009-10 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Port Saint Lucie, Florida
School: Lincoln Park Academy
Sponsor: Fort Pierce Rotary Club, District 6930, Florida
Host: Santos Rotary Club, District 4420, Brazil

Shaina's Bio

How YOU doin'? I'm Shaina and I'm doin' mighty fine! I'm fifteen and a freshman at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, Florida. I am the oldest of four children and we run a tight ship. In order, we are Shaina (15), Sara (12), Michael (9), and Mathew (6). We have two dogs- Osito the shih tzu, and Precious, the miniature schnauzer. I live with my mom and my Papi. My dad lives in Boynton Beach.

I was born to The Sound of Music literally, my mom was watching the movie while giving birth. I am on my school's rugby team, and it really is a great outlet- believe it or not. I talk... a lot. I play acoustic and electric guitar, it keeps me going and I have to admit that I really love it. I read as much as I breathe. I speak fluent Spanish, and I'm hoping that it will make my trip to the land of futból, Carnaval, coffee, and the Amazon that much more successful. I sing subconsciously. The music-fueled culture of Brazil is so captivating, I cannot wait to be apart of it. I like to dance salsa, merengue, and even waltz! Hopefully, soon I will be able to say that I can samba! Thanks to Rotary I get to embark on the journey of a lifetime. I love movies and if there was a movie of my life it would entice the romantics, the action freaks, the soundtrack lovers, the artist followers, the story lovers, and even the horror junkies. The movie trailer of my life next year would sound something like this...

James Earl Jones would be the narrator and he would say:

"IN A FAR OFF LAND

WHERE NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS

ONE EXCHANGE STUDENT

WILL WANDER FOR HOURS IN A SUPERMARKET

BAFFLED.

BY THE LACK OF COCO PUFFS."

Shaina's Journals

August 15 Journal

Bom Dia Communidade! Four Score and eight days ago, I arrived. Really it has been eight days, and my mind and body are just starting to assimilate to my crazy ... new ... world. Months and months of preparation and Poof! I am here. Can you believe it?

I know everything is just getting started, so it would only be fair if I at least described my first week. Here it goes-

WEEK ONE: THEY HAVE COCO PUFFS. As if this country wasn't the bomb.com already!

August 6th, 2009: "Pilot Episode" - I went to Brazil sozinha (alone) and managed perfectly. No missing baggage, flights, important documents, etc. Leaving the airport, I had a whirlwind of emotions, except none of them came out in words. While my host dad, Alberto pointed out things around São Paulo (while driving), the combination of my nerves and awe made the gargantuan billboards pass by in a wave of psychedelic colors. It was sickening and amazing at the same time. I felt like I was on the Gravitron ride at my city's yearly carnival! When we got into my city, Santos, I was so excited to hear that we would be visiting my second host family right then and there. My second host sister, Ana Carol was leaving the next day for Illinois. Although our physical relationship was brief, we both wished each other a great year in our host countries (I in hers, and her in mine).

August 7th, 2009: "Another Departure" - My host sister from my first family, Clarissa, was leaving the next day for Florida so most of the 7th was focused on getting her ready to go. I liked spending time with Clarissa and her boyfriend, Thiago. Later on that day, Clah & Thiago drove me around in then raining Santos. I saw so many foreign things my mind was up the ying-yang. The beach, aquarium, and the many busy people were enough to have me bouncing up and down in the car with happiness. That night, I met the head-honcho of Rotary Youth Exchange (Aguinaldo Borges) and his family. They are all lovely people and I believe that we have made a bond already. Mr. Borges eldest daughter, Maísa introduced me to all of her friends and it was truly a cool experience. One of them started to speak to me in French! The sound of French with a heavy Brazilian accent is beautiful. What a day!

August 8th, 2009: "Coming and Going" - I attended my first Churrasco today! It was ótimo! An exchange student in Germany had just returned, I arrived, and another exchange student from Canada had almost spent an entire year in Brazil. Three reasons to celebrate! I met all the Rotex today, and Ai Meu Deus that was an adventure of its own. Each one had swell stories to tell, and ALL of their tales were so captivating. I hope I can achieve this and more during my stay in Brazil. The United States, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, France, and Mexico are only some of the countries that had Brazilian exchange students from Santos! Meeting them and exchanging cards was so riveting. We were all different. The sensational part was that we all were connected by this unique, but equally strong force- Rotary Youth Exchange.

August 9th, 2009: "The More The Merrier" - My host mom, Marli brought me to a big surprise. I didn't know where we were going. I had been in the country for two full days. She drove for a short distance, parked, and led me to a secret destination. It was a building quite like ours. She buzzed the bell and I followed on inside behind her. We stopped at a door, and she knocked three times. The door opened and I was greeted by all kinds of family! "Oi! Tudo Bem?" "Oi! Tudo Bem?" "Oi! Tudo bem?" We were at my mom's brother's house and he had prepared a smorgasbord of food. The table was adorned by incredible dishes. Salads, platters of rice, skewered chicken, meat, mozzarella, and Guaraná (a Brazilian beverage) laid on the table. The table begged me to try each one. The word for try in Portuguese is experimentar, and trust me I did a lot of that. Everyone was curious about me and my country, and no one was afraid to ask any kind of question. Some interesting ones were, "Does George Bush like war?", "Do you have public transit in your city?", and "How much does a Honda Civic cost?" I had trouble answering the last question and admitted that I could only guesstimate. All in all, a terrific day.

August 10th, 2009: "The Foreigner" - This was register my visa day, so the excitement reaches an all time low today unfortunately. I got my fingerprints stamped and stored away in a locked file cabinet. The best part of the day would have to be dinner. My parents took the three of us out to pizza. When I saw the menu, my jaw dropped. If it had the capability to literally hit the table from falling so fast it would have. Every type of pizza you could think of. My host dad says pepperoni so cutely. It gets me every time. "Peep-eh-roh-nee, você gosta?" or in plain English, "Pepperoni, do you like?" After I told him that I was game for whatever kind of pizza he ordered he went all expert on our table. It was excellent to watch, truly entertaining. Even though he ordered quicker than the speed of light, I was hypnotized. When the waiter returned a while later with our two pies, I laughed out loud. All that spiffy ordering for a pepperoni pizza? The next one was a bit more understandable. I'm still not sure if we have the type of green lettuce-like vegetable here but whatever it was- they put it on pizza. It was the unidentified vegetable, olives, cheese, and spinach. Delicious! I was hesitant for .05 seconds before jumping in with my... fork and knife?! Yeah, no more picking up my pizza slice. It's fork, knife, and proper cutting from here on out. I would also like to mention the Maracujá drink I had. Maracujá is passion fruit and it is AMAZING as a liquid.

August 11th, 2009: "Siren Fountain" - If I haven't mentioned it yet, I am the luckiest exchange student of all time. All three of my families are good friends and it just makes me want to squeeze them with love all the time. It works out so well! My third family has two daughters, Luciane (who goes to the University of São Paulo) and Alessandra (she's a year younger than me). I was dropped off at their house this morning, so my parents could go to work. The three of us get along really well. For some reason we're always laughing. It's the universal way of saying everything is alright. Today Lu, Alê, and Shai went on a mini-trip. Santos has two major shopping districts and one of them, Praiamar, is within walking distance of the apartment. The stores in Praiamar mall each call my name. It still defies me how I haven't made one purchase! I just love to look at all the fabrics, colors, and designs. On our way out of the mall, I stopped in shock. My breath was taken away. The most enchanting fountain I have ever seen stood in the middle of the square. A statue faced each location on a compass: North, East, South, West. They were all mermaids or as I like to say (after reading the Odyssey) sirens. It was constructed out of blue marble. The blue was like that of lapis lazuli, just incredible. For dinner, all three of my host moms (and my second host dad) took me, Luciane, and Alessandra out to dinner. It was the most estranho restaurant I have ever been to. It was two stories and looked like an antique shop from the outside, or some crazy cat lady's lair. Upon entering you are greeted by a mannequin dressed as a maître d'. As you walk in further, you realize that there are mannequins all over the place! Some dressed as disco queens, some as regular Joe's. Bizarre, but a truly unique dining experience. My moms (hah) ordered pizzas. In Santos, pizza is like a religion. It is a common food to go out to eat, and always available anywhere in the city. For dessert, I had pizza doce. Sweet Pizza! Imagine a waiter bringing out a pizza pie. This isn't just any pizza. Now take your imagination further. Picture sliced bananas, cinnamon, syrup, a cream-cheese filled crust, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of each slice! Now that's a dessert.

August 12th, 2009: "Speak Up" - My first Rtary function! I got into my blazer for the first time since the airport and I wore it with poise. Today was the annual Rotary Youth Exchange Meeting, so I was extra excited/nervous. I practiced my introduction speech in the car with my dad and Alê came along to support me. The annual meeting was held at a banquet center and the room was filled with Rotarians. In fact, it was the biggest Rotary club I had ever seen in one place. Hmm... I just noticed that I have written 'that I had ever seen' and 'for the first time' 'never before in my life' many times. I am only one week in! I sat at the head table next to the president of the club. Her name is Hortensia. Maísa sat next to me because she is the president of the Rotex. When it was my turn to speak, Maísa whispered "good luck." When I was announced up there, everyone was talking! Which isn't an oddity. They do that a lot. I went up to the podium and did my thing. I yelled into the microphone. "OOOOOOOOOOOOiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!" It was a crazy minute of my life. At least one-hundred and twelve Rotarians sat silently listening to me. I felt pretty good when I received a thunderous applause at the end. That made my week.

August 13th, 2009: "The End of The Beginning" - Today marks the end of my first week. I had a sleepover with Lu and Alê and we really had some hardcore fun. This morning, we woke up extra early. We ate a quick breakfast and then walked to the beach. Again, a speedy ten minute walk if you power-walk. When my eyes met the smooth waves on sand it was pure bliss. We walked in our bathing suits and shorts. All three of us removed our shorts and then we walked. Santos is famous for its 5-kilometer long garden, and while we walked I stole glances at it. It was a marvel to me. The hustle and bustle of Santos could never take away from its beach. It's like serenity meets the city. We walked until our legs were sore. After returning closer to the various kiosks and carts, Lu and Alê decided it was time for me to try coconut milk. So you walk up to the hut, ask for a coconut and this guy with a machete hacks at it until a suitable hole is made at the top. You sip the delectable liquid until you finish. The second part is optional, but it is still apart of the tradition. You go back to the coconut guy and then he'll slice it in half. Experts can do it in one moment's time. When this is done, you peel the skin out of the bottom half of the coconut and eat it. É UMA DELICIA!

First Week Remarks: I never imagined I would write this much, but when I sat down to write this, my fingers lost control. If you have gotten to this point, thanks for reading. One week has passed me by, in the blink of an eye. I am in love with Brazil and its people. I would like to take this time to give my thanks to everyone involved in helping me get here. Mom, you're like that lighthouse that helps lost ships get back to land during the storm. Thanks for always getting me back on land. I miss you, but just know I'm doing great things. Mr. Kalter, thanks. I'm learning so much and the mystery that was Portuguese is unraveling before me a little bit more everyday. When I got my luggage and walked through the gate I heard my name being called. "Shaina! Shaina!" I looked until I saw smiling faces and a huge sign with my name on it. It read, "Shaina, Welcome To The Best Year of Your Life." Looking back now, I think the sign was telling the truth.

Can't

   Wait

      Until

         Next

            Time,

               Shaina

September 15 Journal

I have been in Brazil for a little over a month now, and the changes in me are becoming visible. My hair is getting longer, my fluency in Portuguese is increasing everyday, and I'm starting to discover new things about myself. My everyday activities have been arranged into a schedule and what seemed like a vacation only a small while ago is turning into a life.

School is different everyday. I never have the slightest idea of what might happen. All sixteen of my teachers are poles apart when it comes to their style of teaching, but it keeps life interesting. Many things are relaxed. We call teachers by their first name, and students can get up and use the restroom without asking. My grammar teacher (Vitor) is a surfer, who is in a band. He wears a lab coat and sandals. Most days he will come into class saying "Tudo joya?" (Everything great?). When the class simultaneously replies "Sim!" (Yes!), he shouts "Beleza!" (Beautiful!). On the other hand, my philosophy teacher always has her hair pulled back and sounds like the contents of a fortune cookie.

After school, my time consists of volleyball, boxing, classical guitar, beach or the gym (depending on the day). I go to Rotary meetings every week on Wednesdays. Where some Rotex informed me that it would not be pleasant, I always look forward to it. There are four exchange students belonging to my club: Me, Deborah (Mexico), Gabrielle (Canada), and Momoko (Japan)! Weekends are mostly unpredictable.

To give you an update of my grasp on the language I'll tell you about my inbound orientation. It happened last weekend, the flooding of youth from around the world gathered in one place, experiencing the same things in different ways. The countries represented in my district are: U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, France, Poland, and Denmark. On Sunday (the last day of the orientation), our district governor paid us a visit. Everyone spoke English except for the governor. When he looked to the back of the room where I was seated and asked me to translate, I was taken by surprise. I stood and translated his beautiful, exotic words from Portuguese into the universal language- English. At that moment I realized how much my heart and soul was in love with this language. Portuguese.

Random occurrences in my first month that I wish to mention:

It is rare to find someone who speaks in a monotone voice.

I often find myself silent and observant then suddenly yelling "Culture Shock!"

I've eaten strange things, but so far trying pig ear won that award, hands down.

I still haven't ridden a bus, but my parents tell me that it will soon become my main way of getting around.

I can say that I have friends who care about me .

All I drink is juice; pineapple, banana, passionfruit, you name it.

I can sing "Happy Birthday to You" in Portuguese.

I have yet to meet a Brazilian in a rush, going anywhere.

Speedos, unfortunately, are very apparent in my beach city of Santos.

The best rush is being at a soccer game here, it is a truly unique experience.

Everyone is friendly, unless you don't like the same soccer team as them.

My host dad puts olive oil on everything- even pizza!

Brazil has the largest population of Japanese people other than Japan.

Needless to say, Japanese food is better here than in the U.S.A.

They play American music on the radio.

If someone doesn't know where Florida is, all I have to say is Disney World and they get it.

I am apart of something bigger than myself.

Shaina

October 15 Journal

Oi, meu nome é Shaina e eu adoro Brasil!

Hi, my name is Shaina and I adore Brazil!

October sixth was a Tuesday and at around 7:16 PM my time and 6:16 PM your time, something incredible happened. I'm sitting in the passenger's seat in my host mom's Toyota Corolla, mesmerized by the traffic light which had just turned red. My host mom, Marli always drums her fingers to the rhythm of whatever is playing on the radio. She stopped to check the time on her phone and gasped. "Parabens! Você é minha filha por dois meses hoje!" "Congratulations! You have been my daughter for two months today!"

The only way I can describe this past month to all you avid readers is by looking through the outrageous amount of pictures that I have taken. A habit that I learned from Brazilians is picture-taking. This can take place In mirrors, on the sidewalk, at meals, anytime-anywhere. I caught on to this fast! Let's get a recap of September 15th-October 15th: Among all that I've done, these are a few of the many interesting things I did.

I...

 ... Went to a Brazilian wedding!

(A hot church filled with all the inhabitants of Bertioga. A bride and groom reciting their vows. Rice being thrown every which way. The reception that contained more alcohol in one place that I've ever seen in my life. A moment in which I realized how special love, family, and friends are. In an instant I couldn't help but think of home and my old life. I shrug. Another moment passes and I'm the happiest, most radiant girl in the whole room (except for the bride). I'm living my dream, speaking a language I adore, and getting the most out of every minute. Ana and Bruno, I hope you live happily ever after!)

 ... Danced the night away at a balada.

(If you're ever in Brazil and you're young, GO! It's a guaranteed good time.)

 ... Made and royally adorned my head with multiple flower crowns.

(Almost all the events I attend have flower centerpieces that everyone takes home anyway, so go figure)

 ... Got to be a part of Melhor Companheiro!

(A student of the month type deal that my Rotary Club has been doing since 1975. Basically, a classroom of students pick one of their fellow classmates for the award. It is not based on academics or who is the smartest. The award is given to the student who is the "Best Classmate." This 'student' gives a helping hand, helps solves problems, and lends his/her shoulder to cry on. He/She is the best all around. I went to an elementary school and the classes sung to me and my other exchange friends! They were enchanting! I got to give the award and all in all I loved the experience.)

 ... Visited a creche, and received hundreds of smiling faces and "Obrigados" "Thank-Yous" in return.

(A creche is a day-care for under-privileged young children. I played Uno and helped make lunch for a school of 135 kids, they were adorable and their smiles are contagious. It's sad to see the conditions where they live, and to actually be there experiencing what they live through every day. My Rotary Cub helped open the creche and I've never been so proud of my club. It's one thing to live by the Rotary mantra, "Service above self." It is another to actually be out there helping the community the way my Rotary Club does.

 ... Cooked an American Meal for my 1st & 2nd host families.

(My friend Meghan from Wisconsin and I have an unlikely situation. My first host family is her third host family. Her first host family is my second host family. Her sister from her second host family is my Rotex counselor. Our last families are best friends and live down the street from each other. It's a twisted tale, and usually easier to explain in person. Why am I telling you this? Does it even make a difference? Well, let's just say Meghan and I see a lot of each other. One day I was watching TV. at her house trying to recuperate from a crazy weekend when suddenly Meghan has a craving for chocolate-chip cookies. That's how it started. We ended up deciding to cook an "American meal," for our families. We made:

Appetizers: Salami & Cheese mini-wraps, Beer Dip with bread slices, fresh-fruit smoothies

Entrance Salad: Caesar Salad

Main Course: Baked Chicken with a traditional BARBECUE SAUCE (my host dads FIRST time eating bbq sauce!!) accompanied by loaded mashed potatoes with all the garnishings-sour cream, bacon bits-we had to fry and slice the bacon ourselves they don't sell bacon bits!, and shredded cheese-

Dessert: I BAKED SOMETHING. an M&M Cookie Cake (like Ms. Fields if you know what I'm talking about) with two scoops of créme-flavored ice cream. Also, a shot of iced capuccino with whipped topping.

 ... Attended a chá da tarde :)

(My friend Isa, turned 15 years of age. As an alternative to having a humongous coming-of-age bash, she had a tea party. I for one had never heard that one before. Really, it's crumpets, tea, and a ridiculous amount of picture-taking. I had a nice time and it was funny going to school then spending time with all my friends hours later.)

 ... Witnessed how convex my mom is through a computer screen via skype.

(Did I mention my mother is pregnant? No, I don't think I did. She's my mom/giver of life/psychiatrist and it would be strange if I didn't mention it since this is a journal of my year abroad. I'm in Brazil, but I feel like this should reflect all of me. This was a major event because it made time stand still for me, if only for a minute. I left Florida knowing that I would get home to another sibling, but nobody warned me that while I was away my mom would grow and grow until I couldn't recognize her anymore. I checked my Youth Exchange Handbook twice, and nothing.

 ... Met a poet who is famous in my city and attended her 70th birthday.

(Talk about spunk. This woman could recite a poem and make an entire room come to tears with emotion. Actually, she did recite a poem and she did make an entire room come to tears with emotion. She's lived a spectacular life so far, and her poems helped me learn a bank of new words. Thanks and Happy Birthday!)

 ... Planned and executed a surprise party.

(I called up all the exchange students in my area and we surprised Meghan for her 17th birthday. Her host mom and I got the cake, rented Paolla Pizzeria for the night and planned secretly for weeks. It was a success! Food and exchange students go hand in hand.)

 ... Pulled my weight in school and was given the school's pin in reward for my efforts.

(My guidance counselor spotted me in the hallway one afternoon and we had a "talk." I was scared. In Florida when administration wants to "talk," something's wrong. I broke a sweat for nothing! Ocirema just wanted to thank me for working hard so she gave me the official pin for my school and gave me a big hug. Kudos!)

 ... Boxed my way to the top.

(I've been doing boxing for a while now and I just found out what I've been doing is really called Chinese boxing. It is not only the foundation for Chinese kung fu, but most martial arts that developed in the Eastern part of the world. I really enjoy it and my master says I am improving significantly. Next week I will attend my first actual Kung Fu class. Never say No, right?)

 ... Vacationed in Aguas de Lindoia.

(The extreme difference between the fast-paced, traffic-filled city of Santos and the tranquil city of Aguas de Lindoia is fascinating. Most of my time was spent exploring the city, laying by the pool, and sleeping. I did go to a Churrascaria and I was offered chicken heart more than once. Yes, they wanted to feed me chicken heart; you read my writing correctly. Over my three-day holiday, I had a really good time. I got to see Capybaras for the first time! It is the largest rodent in the world. They can weigh up to 160 pounds! Its other name is giant water guinea pig and that's exactly what it looks like. The relaxing state that the city transformed me into made up for the SIX hour bus ride.)

Two months into this journey and I can't help but be grateful. Obrigada Rotary, for letting me live a part of my life in a place so beautiful to me.

Why has time slipped from me so quickly?

There is that stone-age old quote, "Time flies when you're having fun." The truth of the matter is, I'm not having fun. I'm having the time of my Life.

Love,

Shaina

December 7 Journal

Here it is again, the sixth of the month.

About 15 minutes ago... I'm in my room, trying to tackle some history work. My host mom magically pops into air and space, surprising me with a rose and says: "Congratulations on completing four months in Brazil!" After thanking her, and slipping into a deep thought, I suddenly hear James Earl Jones' voice. "So Shaina? That journal of yours won't write itself. How long do you plan on waiting before you write it?" Internal conversations with celebrities aside, I think it's time for a journal.

Time is passing right before my eyes.

August, September, October, November, December ... School is OUT and I don't return until next year! In reality, I go back to school in February. My school friends are really great people. Every person is completely in-di-vi-du-al-is-tic. One of my good friends from school is Caio. He's a diva. On the last day he burst into tears! "CAIO! What's wrong?" His answer made my stone heart shake in its cage. "Shaina, you're LEAVING! I won't see you again!" I wanted to laugh. I would be returning to school with the same class after the break. Although he was wrong about me leaving, I felt so important.

Ah! In other news about school, I have a new nickname. In Brazil, there is a fast food Chinese joint called, China In Box. If I haven't explained already, upon my arrival to this wonderland my name was changed. The 'SH' sound in Portuguese is 'CH.' The 'ai' in Shaina is pronounced like pain or gain. In Portuguese, it translates to the 'ai' in words like eye or pie. So basically, on their first try, Brazilians call me China. I correct them, because, well, China isn't my name. To sum this up, my new nickname is Shaina in box. In my class, there's a Japanese guy named Alexandre. Everyone calls him Japonês or Japanese. Because of our "names," we were kind of a duo.

Halloween & Thanksgiving

Halloween here is nothing compared to Halloween in the states. I did have fun though. A few, select clubs join in for the festivities. Needless to say, I dressed up and found one. In Brazil, some families recognize Thanksgiving as a religious day. It is a day to give thanks to God. My second host family had a quaint little gathering, and all three of my families joined hands in prayer. Did I eat a smorgasbord of food? I ate chicken, rice, and corn... with soy sauce.

Different? Yes, but definitely an experience!

I traveled to a faraway place in November. The name of the town that I refer to as a village is São Sebastião Da Grama. The highlights of this place are the church, the main square, and that’s it. The way people speak is completely different. Sometimes I was completely lost! It felt like I was going through a new exchange year all over again. I made friends and went to churrascos. At the highest point of the town there is a statue of Jesus (a smaller, statue-version of Rio's), so I climbed it. Atop the statue was an incredible view. For a second I questioned where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. The next day, my family and I ventured into Poços da Caldas, a city that lies in the middle of a once-active volcano! The ground is very fertile and all you see is green. I walked with my host sister through the brush and later cooled off by eating pineapple ice cream. On this trip I also traveled into another state, Minas Gerais. Inhabitants of Minas are referred to as “people of the interior.” The way of life is relaxed and slow moving. I said this already, but their accents are indecipherable. At the highest point of Poços we spotted wild guinea pigs!

Other points of interest:

I saw a Wal-Mart in São Paulo! It was nice seeing a little piece of home right smack in São Paulo.

One weekend, friends from Denmark and Canada & I swam to an island. The tide was high, but it was well worth the journey. It was nice seeing the city in a way I had never seen it before.

I witnessed my newborn sister's BIRTH through Skype

Ate a flaming banana. No joke.

Dressed up as Lady Gaga for my school's talent show and sang a medley of, "Love Game, Paparazzi, and Cha Cha Slide" in front of my whole school

Cut all my hair off. I'm in Brazil, so why not?

Ate mais!

xoxo,

-Shaina

March 9 Journal

Let me get right to the point.

Rotary Youth Exchange has changed my life.

The last time I wrote was December 7th. On December 11th I ventured an hour away from Santos into one of the world’s largest cities- São Paulo. I spent the weekend there with my Taiwanese friend, Chi-Hua, Wu. I rode the metro and visited Liberdade. Liberdade is a district in the borough of Sé in São Paulo. It is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan in the world! Chi and I managed to find a small Taiwanese restaurant and my senses were magnificently shocked by a new cuisine. In my travels in São Paulo I visited Ibapuera Park, a planetarium, walked down Avenida Paulísta and ran into my friends from Ecuador, Poland, and Mexico. I also walked into an ornately decorated cathedral. The crypt underneath the cathedral was shocking. On Saturday night, Chi's host dad had some of his friends over. Funnily enough they were all former exchange students. In that moment, as I watched a group of seven grown men drink and laugh together, I witnessed first-hand how exchange bonds never break. These guys were outbounds more than twenty years ago!

In a nutshell, the month of December was a community-service project. I visited more creches (daycare for little kids) in the poor centers of the city. I was well equipped with my Santa hat and bag of presents. The bag of presents made my Rotary Club and I well received by the children. One Sunday, I went to a Christmas party for kids with cancer. When my friend's mom invited me to participate, I wasn't hesitant, but I really didn't know what to expect. When I arrived, I could see that they needed all the help they could get. The gymnasium was full of bubbly, bouncing kids. The majority of my services consisted of painting faces. For boys, Spiderman was the character of choice. The girls were more creative- butterflies, princesses and tigers too!

When l arrived in Brazil I joined a musical group that gives people with disabilities an opportunity to play an instrument. We had a concert on December 21st. The whole group played recorders and I played acoustic guitar. The music performed included: “Yellow Submarine,” “Como é Grande O Meu Amor,” and other classical Brazilian music.

Holidays…

My Christmas was spent it in São Sebastião Da Grama. It was a lovely holiday! We hung chocolates on the tree instead of lights and ornaments. On Christmas Eve (during the day) I went and handed out packages at a nursing home.

In Brazil they wait up until midnight for a gigantesque Christmas Eve feast. Christmas day isn’t anything notable. A few gifts are normal for exchanging, but the day is truly dedicated to family and laughter. New Years was for lack of a better word, incredible. My host family and I were a part of the millions of people on Santos’ beach. The whole experience was out of this world. Several vessels played a part in the magnificent show. The fireworks all simultaneously burned bright against the midnight sky. The city was awestruck.

The first weekend of January was a tad melancholy. I had found a place in the Pereira family. They welcomed me into their home with open arms and I found it quite hard to leave. On my last day in their home, I was on the go all day! My host mom Marli took me on all the tours of Santos that you can do. At nighttime we made the switch and everything went smoothly. My new family, the Almeida’s are just as sweet. I don’t have any siblings again. My host parents, Deise and Marcos own a printing company. I am enjoying my time in this family very much!

On the eve of January 21st, I was completely flabbergasted! I thought that I was going to a dinner with my host parents when in reality I walked into a surprise birthday party… for ME! It was all so beautiful! Friends from all over partook in my festa. At midnight-because my birthday is the 22nd-I was surprised yet again. My friends turned me around and I started weeping like a baby! Singing to me through a sleek laptop screen was my family from the States. I couldn’t have asked for a better sweet sixteen. To top it off, for my birthday my 2nd family took my friends and I to a samba school in São Paulo! It was AWESOME! They compete every year and last year they won first place. The name of the school is Mocidade Allegre.

You know a year ago I read through all the past outbound journals and all the exchange students in Brazil didn’t do Carnaval justice. The truth is there is no way to capture the essence of this weeklong party in a journal. Let me just say that it’s the biggest party on the planet. This year, even Beyoncé and Madonna partied it up in Rio for Carnaval! So to all of you future outbounds to the country of Brazil- get ready.

A few weeks ago I skyped with Brandon in Sweden! You’re so grown-up and different! I had flashbacks from the orientation and culture boot camps! It’s crazy how life passes you by. Also, many months ago I spoke with Michael in Japan. You’ll see our screen shot at the bottom. It feels like our little chat was ages ago!

Every month, whenever the calendar hits the sixth, something magical happens. It’s like the stroke of midnight in the Cinderella tale. I keep trying to fit as much as I can in before midnight. Luckily, none of my rides home have turned into pumpkins, so we’re good there. The funny thing about exchange is that there’s a timestamp on everything you do. Soon, before any of us knows it really, we’ll be back home. Three days ago, the clock struck midnight (yet again) and I couldn’t help but wonder where all my time went. I’ve gone through this seven times so far and I can’t help but feel a certain curiosity towards the five to come.

Novidades! News!

My mom and newborn sister will be here to visit me in 2 DAYS!

My dad is stopping by at the end of the month!

I’m taking a trip to the Amazon in April!

I can say penguin in polish!

My exchange student friends quickly turned into family.

I love getting henna tattoos- they’re pretty inexpensive and look sweet.

Graduation parties in Brazil are better. There is no question about it.

It’s perfectly acceptable to go to the beach every day.

Yours truly,

Shaina