Anna Shipley
2011-12 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
School: Vero Beach High School
Sponsor: Orchid Island Rotary Club, District 6930, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Itapetinga, District 4550, Brazil

Anna's Bio

“Growth means change and change means risk, stepping from the known to the unknown." Anonymous

Ola or hello, my name is Anna Shipley. I have been a Floridian for most of my life, but for my junior year of high school I will be living in Brazil, or Brasil. The adventures I am going to have will be beyond the imagination for most high school students, but that is just the kind of thing I like to do.

I live in Vero Beach, FL and I am a sophomore at Vero Beach High School. I am a teenage girl who is ready to break out of this small town and see more of the world. I am very outgoing and will start a conversation with anyone who is willing to talk. The ocean is my secondary home and I enjoy nothing more than just being in the water. My favorite sport is soccer or futebol. I enjoy long walks on the beach, sunsets, shopping, laughing ‘til I cry, dancing to any music, being with people, playing with animals, going to foreign places, and being adventurous. I think that standing out and having your own unique personality is the only way to really have an impact on other people. I am always volunteering and trying to do my part in our world.

I have two sisters including one who is a 2010-2011 Rotary Youth Exchange outbound to Turkey. She wrote something about her experiences and it is what made me want to go on the exchange myself:

"Culture cannot be defined by any one person. Culture is what

happens when the hopes and goals and love of a people are joined

together in a way of life." Nancy Shipley

Nancy is my best friend and we share everything. This past year without her has helped prepare me for being without the people I love while I am away. My mom and my dad are very supportive and loving parents. Lillie, my little sister, believes that this exchange will be a fantastic opportunity for me and I, well, I can't wait! I don't know what lies ahead of me in my new country and home, but whatever happens, I know that I will change and more importantly, I will have experiences that most people can only dream of!

Anna's Journals


 "I'm a new soul

    I came to this strange world

    Hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take

    But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear

    Finding myself making every possible mistake"- 'New Soul' Yael Naim

   "I'm a new soul

    I came to this strange world

    Hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take

    But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear

    Finding myself making every possible mistake"- 'New Soul' Yael Naim

Is it possible to only be living in a place for three weeks but feel like you have lived there your whole life??

   For three weeks now  I have been living in Itapetinga Bahia Brazil. It is a tiny little city, but it is filled with my family friends and all around amazing people. These past three weeks have gone by so quickly, yet I feel as if I have lived here for an eternity. The funny part is that I can remember the exact moment I realized this whole experience was not just another dream, I had in the weeks coming up to me leaving. It was not as I waved goodbye to my family, and saw them for the last time acting like crazy people waving and jumping goodbye to me, nor was it as I sat down on the plane realizing that everything was in Portugues and that no one knew any English. It was not even when I landed in Sao Paulo, or in Salvador getting closer every minute to my new life. No it was when I stepped off this tiny plane, and walked in to a small room filled with twenty to thirty people and half of them were clapping. They were clapping for me. As I stood there getting embraced by strangers, it truly hit me. This was my new Rotary Club, and this was my new life. My new family was there and so were some of my new friends. At the time I did not know them, but I could tell they cared about me. All of them. They made sure I did not have to do one single thing, and they helped me. It felt like a stone had been lifted off my shoulders. I guess in the back of my head I was worried about meeting everyone, but I felt a flood of relief when they embraced me into there Brasilain World.

    In these past three weeks here, I have seen things that I know I will remember for a lifetime. From my first day of school, where everyone mistook me for a movie star and ran out of their classrooms to stare at the new girl from the EUA.  I was surrounded by people during breaks in between classes, with everyone trying out there English on me. I heard “hi how are you” so many times in a matter of seconds, I forgot I was a Portugues speaking country. I got to go to Salvador, and there I meet some of the most amazing people. I made friends for a lifetime and in a matter of hours we went from strangers on a bus together, to realizing that we were the only people who really understood what was happening in our lives right now. We are the inbound Bahia exchange class of 2011-2012! I saw the beauty that this one state could hold on my 10 hour ride to Salvador and all over the city itself. I was in awe that such a city even existed with poverty and wealth so close and mixing together with no problems. There was no definitive line between the two, they blurred together in a way of beauty. I also went to a Brasilian funeral. Someone from the staff at my school died, and on the night of her funeral I thought that for a little while it felt as if the whole town had stopped to mourn her death. It was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. At one point, they did something called wailing, and the family's cries to mourn her death brought tears to my eyes. I did not know this women, yet I felt that if all these people took the time to mourn her loss, I should too. That weekend a Rotarian took me to a farm, and I could not believe the differences. It was a real farm. Their power was from a solar panel, they did not have hot water, and they had huge fenced areas with cattle. I was in awe by the beauty that surrounded me, and the woman told me, this wasn't even that pretty. It is gorgeous in the summer time. I could not believe that in one state you could travel around, and see ever type of scenery known to man.

    I will understand soon and that one day, the wifi will get fixed, but for now it does not matter. Life here may be different but I love every minute and everything about it. It is my new home and my new life.

    Eu sou Anna Shipley. Eu moro em Itapetinga, Bahia, Brasil, com Adson e Juci Brito. Eu assisto Cooedita e meu Rotary Club é o Rotary Club de Itapetinga. Eu amo minha nova vida aqui!

September 28

I am standing in my house. I know it is my house but it looks different. I can see my older sister sitting messing with a cup, I think she is painting it. I can hear my mom call my name and I walk into our kitchen. I am having some conversation with her, when I realize I cannot find my little sister. Then another thought occurs to me. Why am I here? I start running, and I am crying, no bailing, begging to go back. “What am I doing here?!?!” I scream at the top of my lungs, “This is not my house!”

I woke up. I was sweating, and my eyes were puffy from crying. My heart was racing at the speed of light. I was so scared. I looked around the room. It was dark but out the window I could see the lights of my city. As I starred out over Itapetinga, my heartbeat slowed down, I stopped sniffling and started to smile some. I was home. As my eyes wandered over the beauty of the sea of lights, I realized I had my first nightmare. It was not about missing my family, or any other thing to do with Florida. I was scared because I had gone home early. Then I started laughing out loud. It dawned on my that I had been so scared to go home to Florida, and what had relaxed me was looking out onto Brasil. I thought to myself Brasil is my new home. I am here, and I do not plan on going anywhere. I fell back asleep with a smile on my face that night.

I am so lucky. I know that. Not just because I am her in Itapetinga thanks to Rotary, or that I have so many great friends and family, but because I am so unbelievably happy. And that feels so strange. I see things from my fellow exchange students, weird things or little struggles they have gone through, but nothing like that has happened to me. From the moment I stepped off that plane into my new life, it has been a non-stop ride of fun, amazement and lots of laughs. My friends are crazy, and some are very weird people, but I love them all so much. My family and Rotary club has accepted me with so much love and care, and for that I could not be more greatful. I am overwhelmed by the beauty that Brasil has to offer, and I still feel like I have barely even uncovered the surface yet. I swear I am like a little kid at Christmas ripping off the wrapping paper, only to find the most amazing gift and another wrapped present inside. I just keep finding new things that I love, even as the time keeps passing by.

Being here is so fun and it is all because of the people in my city. Brasilians are some of the craziest, funniest, and weirdest people I have EVER met, but I love them SO much! They have the weirdest sayings like oush, and they write haha like kkkk. They do not know what personal space means but it is not awkward, it actually makes you feel more appreciated. Waving and talking to a stranger on the street as they pass is normal, and so is being close friends with your teachers. If your teacher is not in school, oh well you get to all hang around until the next period. Going to your teacher’s house is a totally normal thing, and so is napping in the middle of the day. Everyone knows each other, so no one is really strangers. Being too friendly is not a bad thing here unless you are creepy guys passing in a car.

Soccer is life, and you must have a favorite team (BAHIA!) Walking everywhere is normal because most people don’t drive. Showering four times a day is considered normal, and if you do not, you have some serious hygiene issues. People weigh themselves constantly, why I am not sure. The normal driving style here is going 140 kmph and then slamming on the breaks as you near the bumps every five feet. People here love to eat bread, or any other form of carbohydrate. And people also love drinking. The beer here is much lighter so you can drink a lot more with out getting wasted and that is exactly what people do. Soap operas are a must, and so are watching the soccer games. Singing and dancing are the past times here, and being bad does NOT exclude you, trust me. People here love to party. When people get together to party, it is big. A normal festa here is half of the town, and a giant band and LOTS of alcoholic beverages, plus some juices for us kids.

I could go on forever with all of the things Brasilains do, and how it is all so different yet so normal for me now. It is hard for me to remember sometimes how to write in English or that if I was not here I would be living in Florida. Florida feels like a distant memory and all I can think about now is Brasil, its people and my new town. I do not know how I will feel 2 months from now or even a week from now. But what I do know is that right now I am having the time of my life, and I feel like as I discover more about Brasil, I am discovering more about myself. I feel like I am at an amusement park, having the most fun ever, and I never want the day to end. I do not, nor can I even think about going home. All I want right now is to go get in line for the next ride with my friends and remind myself that the day is still very young.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I can’t believe time is passing so quickly. One minute I am stepping off a plane and the next thing I know three months have gone. Christmas is right around the corner. And everyday I am waking up, in the most amazing country. I don’t know when I realized, how much Brasil meant to me, but I was trying to describe how happy I was to be here, and I said “ If you could see my heart, I feel like it would be divide in two one half covered in the American flag and the other in the Brasilian flag.” I can’t sit here and tell you which country I like more, because they are too different to compare. It is like trying to compare an apple to a dog. It just does not make sense. All I know is that I have my life in the United States and I have my life here. I guess I should take this time, to explain what I am doing everyday since I have not really gotten to that yet. I am in summer break now, which of course means staying up late, and sleeping in, which I love! But I do miss school… I know I just said I miss school. All of my friends go there, and I really enjoyed getting to see them all the time.

My school is Cooedita and it starts every morning around 7 am. It would have 8 classes, sometimes teachers taking more than one of those classes to teach. I never really understood the schedule. I was in Second Year, and we stayed in our classroom. The teachers would all have to change the classes, which I thought that was an interesting concept. My classes included History, Biology, Math, Geometry, Algebra, Brasil’s History, Geography, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Grammar, and more. School would end at 12:20, and we would go home. My parents would get an hour or more off to come home and eat lunch.

Lunch is the most important meal of the day here. After lunch, I either go out with friends, go over to my besties house, or hang with my brother Lucas. It is difficult to do too much after school because my only means of transportation had to go back to work. Also Itapetinga is landlocked, so my get away at home would be the bea

My first host family has been amazing. So much more then I could have ever wished for. I have a mother, Juci, my dad, Adson, and my little brother Lucas who is nine. They were so welcoming right from the start. I cannot believe I have been so lucky. They treat me so well, like I am there own daughter. In the house I have my own bedroom and bathroom, which is really nice. We also have a house cleaner Zana, who is so cool! No one in the house speaks much English, so I have been speaking Portugues on a daily bases. Zana and I always have the funniest conversations. She would always ask me the silliest questions, and we would get into long conversations about nothing. Also because most of my family lives here too, I really get a completely different family scene then from the one at home. My mother here has 8 brothers and sisters, and her parents are still alive. We go over to her parents’ house all the time for dinner, and to meet everyone else. My dad’s mother is still alive and she will also come over for lunch sometimes or we will go over to her house. It is just so different for my to see family like this on such a regular bases, but I love it!

There are so many other things about Brasil like how at mealtime you always see beans, rice, and flour. Or how here I never know what the climate will be like because half the days it is cold and raining, and the other half are crazy hot. Or how no matter where you go in Brasil you will see banana trees and palm trees everywhere. Or how none of the houses here are decorated for Christmas, because it is not as big of a deal to them, as it is to us Americans, Or how radio commercials here come from the speakers attached on the roof of slow moving cars, for the world to hear.

There are so many more things too, how inventions such as the washing machine, dishwasher, and dryer are rare commodities, that no matter how many different fruits and vegetables I try, they always seem to be better here, or how at parties here, people dance. Not just like a little room off to the side with music playing, but everyone has to dance and if you don’t you are weird. I could probably go on forever describing Brasil and my new life here. But that seriously would take forever. But what I do know is how happy I am, and how completely thankful I am to Rotary for this opportunity. I cannot believe there was a time in my life when I thought exchange was not the way to go for me. I am so happy to be here with my amazing new family and friends, and I am forever indebted to Rotary, and the amazing Rotary clubs I have here and in Florida for that.

February 16, 2012

I am sitting in my window looking out at the rolling hills and mountains that surround my house that seem to never end. The mango and palm trees that are at every turn. I can hear the car mechanics that work near my house, and the radio playing Eu Seu Te Pego in the background while our housemaid works. I don’t know at what point it happened, but this became life.

I come home after school and eat lunch with my family of women including my mom, carol and Jec. At night we all stay up laughing, and making the stupidest jokes. I am always going to other cities for a day or two with my mom for work. Washing my clothes in a sink, and eating rice and beans everyday at lunch. Walking to the park, to go buy things, and all around just being a true Bahiano and Brasiliera.

I have experienced so much in these past five months, and I just can’t believe how quickly the time is flying by. Nor can I believe that at one point in my life, I was jus t a newbie who could not even read a menu in Portuguese. I feel so different from the little 16 years old who walked into a whole new world. Now I am just a part of that world. I have seen beautiful cities, breath-taking beaches, gone shopping in a three story mall, had my taste of chicken heart, seen the vast farm land that is Bahia.

I wonder when it happened. When I really became a part of Brasil. This time here, with my two families getting to experience all these different things from farms, to beaches, small towns to huge cities, it has made its mark on me. But I don’t look different, nor do I feel wiser but feel at home like this is where I belong. I can have conversations with my friends and family. I can go shopping, and order food. I may not yet be dreaming in my language, and my Portugues may be a little rough, but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is I am at home. I am happy, and having fun. Brasil has become a part of me, and every city I visit is leaving its own impact. I am being changed and there is nothing I can do to stop it. My mind is being filled with memories of things like the story of the African goddess of water guarding the river in Canavieras or when my uncle got the nickname Macaco in Iguai. And all the nights I stay up late with Carol, Jec and my mom here in Itapetinga. Laughing about everything from their fear of tiny frogs, to why we always eat noodles at night.

I have come to love my family, my house, my school, my friends, and everything in this crazy little town. Most people think I am unlucky for being stuck in such a tiny city, and at one point I was pretty upset about it too. But now, I understand all the amazing things a small town has to offer, like an abundance of friends, my huge family, and some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We may not have a movie theatre, or a mall, but we have each other. And it is the one thing that has made the biggest impact on me, and w hat I take with me when my time is over.

Someone once told me in time you will forget what you were doing, but you never forget the friends you made while you were doing it. And Itapetinga is just all friends and family. I know that this city is perfect for me, and is giving me experiences unlike any other. It is where I belong.