After being in Brazil for almost 4 weeks the time has arrived for me to send in my first journal entry. From leaving my family in the U.S for a 12 hour flight to Brazil on August 14th to this moment right now sitting in my living room with my dad watching “Everybody Hates Chris” (dubbed in Portuguese) I have had such a variety of different emotions. From heart wrenching sorrow to amazement, awe, and excitement to contentment, nervousness, and frustration.
Leaving my family and friends at the airport was one of the hardest things I have done-so far- in my whole life…though it was somehow possible for me to feel the complete opposite when I stepped into my new mom and dad’s (Izabel and Amauri) waiting arms for the very first time! When I first arrived we went to the mall in Londrina to get food from the food court. This was when I first found out that everybody in Brazil eats with their fork in one hand and their knife in the other at ALL times!! I’ve also come to realize that rice and beans are served with nearly every meal (also that my new favorite drink is the Brazilian drink Guarana!!)! Driving to my new town (which is quite small, though I love it because it is such a close knit community) and home I was in shock because of the beauty I saw through the car windows. There is just so much to see and it was all so beautiful; I still get that feeling and moment of awe when I wake up and look through my window to look upon my town and Brazil.
My house it the perfect size and I love my room. My mom even got towels with my name and flowers embroidered on it; I thought it was so sweet and thoughtful. My Portuguese is still kind of bad but I can understand most of what people say, but my dad makes fun of me because most of my responses are just “Sim” (yes) because I have yet to be able to answer in full sentences.
My first day of school I was super-duper nervous, but by the end of the day I thought I was insane for ever being nervous in the first place. I was treated like a celebrity with everyone crowding around my desk and trying to tell me their names (and the next day asking if I remember all 30!!) and asking about me, though I really just sat there and smiled. Though I am not as famous with my friends as I first was-because they now treat me like one of their oldest friends; we already have inside jokes which I think is just awesome!!-but the younger kids still stare and smile tentatively. Some that I have never met call me by my name and say hi which i think is super cool…though I wish I knew all of theirs!
I have so many other amazing stories but I will save those for another time! All there is left to say is that I am absolutely in love with Brazil and could not be in a better country!
P.S The true meaning of an exchange student is to be able to adapt because not only will you have a wonderful experience that way but you will also let the people around you be able to enjoy and share those experiences with you. It is not your host club, family or countries job to adapt to you, it is yours to adapt to their new and exciting culture that they are willing to show and share with your very lucky self! So I have a goal for myself: that by the end of my year in Brazil I will have no regrets because I will know that I adapted to the Brazilian culture in all ways possible and was able to get the most out of my life-altering experience! So thank you to every single person in the Rotary organization that gives kids like me the chance to have this experience…I also would like to thank my huge support system from home; my mom, family, grandparents, Doug Lobel, and every other Rotarian in Citrus County!
It seems that I have only been in Brazil for a week yet I've already been here for 3 months, I am in love with the people, country, and culture! I celebrated my 17th birthday here which was really fun; and i mean how many people get to say they had a birthday in Brazil?! My host family threw me 4 parties. It was totally unexpected by I appreciated everything they did because I was a little homesick but when I saw how much time and effort they put in for me I was astonished! I can't tell you that you will never have homesickness because there are those little times that you miss, like your little sisters birth, but those are also the little times that bring you closer to your host families because they are there to help you and you can lean on them.
I am glad because we kind of have been getting into a schedule during the week. Not one of those day by day exact thing routine, but where it's comfortable. On Monday nights my brother has classes so it's just me and my host parents at home and my dad usually makes dinner. Then Tuesday and Thursday nights I go to an English class, where I help the kids with their English and they in return answer any questions I have about Portuguese. Thursday nights are also "churrasco" nights (like a bbq); I always look forward to them because I get to see all the other adults that have become like aunts and uncles or grandparents to me. Also on November 24th I am going with my school to a water park resort and I'm so excited. We have to take a bus 9 hours to get there but I'm looking forward to it because I've never ridden that long on a bus before!
My next family also keeps asking when I'll will be switching to their house, but I decided that I'd rather not switch until after the holidays. I don't want to feel even the littlest bit awkward around those times that are supposed to be for celebrating with my family. I will miss my own families traditions for the holiday season but I am happy that I get to see another perspective of celebrating Christmas and the new year.
All in all I am loving my experience here; it's exhilarating they way you learn new thing's everyday and meet somebody new everyday. I know that once it is time for me to leave it will be difficult because already this place and these people are becoming my new family, they welcomed me with open arms and have never stopped making me feel loved or that I belong here with them!
These past couple of months have given me some of the best and worst parts of my stay here in Brazil. But even the worst is nothing extremely bad.
For Christmas I was able to stay with my first host family, with whom I got close with, especially my dad. We went to my moms family house in one of the big cities. They welcomed me in as if I've been a part of their family for forever; it felt wonderful. ON Christmas Eve we all got together and waited till mid-night to eat. After eating all of their delicious food we did "Papai Noel" (the Brazilians way of saying Santa Claus). We all sat around a little Charlie Brown tree and one of my uncles was dressed up and pretending to be Santa for the little kids. Instead of everybody getting the enormous amount of presents that most people get in the U.S they instead call their presents "remembrances". Most of the adults don't get anything and that's kind of the same for teenagers as well (they usually just get money). The little kids get the most...and for me I also got a couple! I got a slinky, a little red bird that chirps and lights up, a jersey to my favorite Brazilian soccer team, and a pajama set.
Throughout this time I can't tell you that it won't be hard at all because it is. I actually teared up when they all held hands and said a prayer together because it was hard to believe that I wasn't with my family and little brothers and sisters. But then I realized that all of these people are my family and that it brought me so much closer to them because I was so grateful that they welcomed me in that special time.
After New Years Eve I switched to my second house and my new family. They are also an amazing family! I couldn't be any more grateful then I am right now that Rotary was able to place me with such wonderful families and people! I keep enjoying my stay here more and more everyday! I have matured so much more then I could have ever have imagined and this experience has been life changing for me, and it's only my 5th month!
So as I am writing this journal I am in my third and last house…I absolutely love it! To me each of my houses has given me different experiences; though I must say this house is my favorite. I seem to be clicking well with both of my parents and siblings, where at the other houses I was just sort of comfortable with my parents (though that’s not bad at all either!). It’s exciting to be a part of a routine now and feel like I really belong here.
There was a time a few weeks ago where I hit the “homesickness stage” yet after a week it had already passed! There are times when I am sitting at “churrasco” (Brazilian bbq) with friends and family or when I am with a big group of friends watching a volleyball game wondering how on earth I became so lucky to have so many people that love and care about me on two different continents!
I have enjoyed my eight months so far and I know that I will be extremely upset when I have to leave my new ‘home” in three months…but I also remember all the times I have had here and everyone I know and I know that I will never, ever forget anything! These people have helped me grow in 8 months, just as much as my own family and friends in the U.S have in 17 years.
In a few days I will be going to Rio de Janeiro and a few other places with my real grandparents from Florida, and though I am excited I am still a little sad because whole I’m gone my brother and sister will be having their birthday party. It is weird how all though I am having my birth family come visit I would rather be with the people who have become my family in such a short time.
This exchange has done so much for me that I cannot begin to explain all the ways but I do know that for me it will never really end, even when I am back on U.S soil I will always have the exchange and all it has brought me with me in my memories and heart!