December 12, 2013
It’s been a little over three months in Brazil and I can honestly say I can’t believe it. I’ve already done so many things and meet so many people from all around the world. I’ve been whale watching, hiked in the mountains and seen some amazing views, swam in caves, and live in one of the most beautiful cities right on the beach, that people travel from all over to see. Now I’m on ‘summer’ break now, so my schedule is a little relaxed. I get up in the morning have breakfast and then go into the city to meet up with the other exchange student sometimes, or stay at home with my host sister and watch a movie. My family own a restaurant on the beach so at lunch time we usually walk there and have lunch before walking around the main square. During school however my schedule was very exhausting. I would wake up at 6 am to travel to school that started at 7:30. I took two buses (often in the mornings however I would need to take a taxi van because the first bus would be to slow and I wouldn’t make it to class on time) , a ferry boat, and then about a half mile walking to get to school, all together about an hour and a half. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays school would let out at 1pm, and on those days I would have my Portuguese lesson from 4pm to 5pm. But on Wednesdays and Fridays I would be let out at 1pm for lunch and then return at 3pm for afternoon classes until 6pm and take the commute back home, usually a little longer than it would take in the mornings. I take Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Sociology, Geography, Portuguese (two glasses one is more of a writing, the other is Literature/Grammar), History, Math (which is more college algebra) and English. It sounds like a lot, but every day you have a different set of them, so it’s not so bad. When I go back, I’ll be with the same group of kids and teachers, just in a different room which is nice.
The food here is so amazing I honestly don’t think I can explain it. But these are a couple of my favorite things.
- The fruit juices
- The fruit here is like anything you’ve ever tasted believe me!
When I would read these I really liked the culture differences/things they know about America so here we go…
- Lunch is the big meal here, while dinner is more of a snack; a soup, sandwich, or a small pizza.
- Most restaurants are self-service/buffet style
- Sodas aren’t as popular as the natural juices (My favorite thing!)
- You will hear every Brazilian Rotex/Rebound/Inbound say that the fruit here is better. They are right.
- Everyone is obsessed with red solo cups.
- The first thing my host sister asked me was “What is twerking?”
- I arrived tail end of the VMA’s/ the Wrecking ball video, so I got a lot of Miley questions.
- Michael Jackson
- Obama vs. Romney
- I got asked about Syria quite a bit.
- Guns (not just the Brazilians, the other exchange students as well)
- Shopping (everything here is expensive, so when I mention $20 jeans, at the store I use to work at, everyone is amazed.)
- Always eat with a knife and fork. I’ve hardly ever used a spoon.
- Trayvon Martin (There was an exercise in my book for my English class based on politely cartoons and small article about it in which it changed the place from Florida to Oregon.)
- One Direction
My exchange started a bit strange, having to fly immediately to my orientation before meeting my host family, and from then on it’s been pretty much out of the ordinary. By now I’m sure you’ve read about all of the other journals expressing how much they love their country and how fast the time has gone by and most popularly “I can’t imagine leaving!” and I envy those kids. Not to say that I don’t love Brazil because I do the people are generally friendly, I’m only a walk away from the beach and the food is phenomenal. However I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about home every day or that the hours don’t seem longer here. Nothing about my exchange has been ‘normal’ thus far. Sure I’ve had the typical exchange mishaps. Made some cultural mistakes, said some things I didn’t mean to say, or translated something wrong. The usual good old stories that always seem to get a laugh, but I never had an ‘ease’ into the culture, or a proper introduction to friends. I was alone. A lot, nearly every night, I was left home alone most of the time without internet (which is why I don’t have other journals like most of the other students.) And for a month with no phone, and about a mile walk away from any stores, with little money, because although we do receive allowance, you will quickly learn the value of money. So from very early on I’ve felt abandoned. I wanted my friends, and the comfort of my life in Florida. I was stuck in this foreign country, with very little language skills, or resources. I wish I could say that I’m a lot better now, but then I want to be honest, and I’m not going to sugar coat this. Sure, my situation and living arrangements have changed but my feelings remain the same. And the fact is. I’m miserable. I’m not having the time that I was told I would have, not entirely anyway. Not saying that you won’t, but what I’ve learned, don’t expect to have the same stories that you’ve read form Rotex/Rebounds or what’s on this website, because there is only so much you can say in a three page word document.
They express to you how hard it is and you spend two weekends at Lake Yale or maybe a few meetings with your district discussing how troublesome this year would be but nothing could possibly prepare you for this. It could be my personal experience, or maybe not. I don’t want to scare you, but for the new kids, just know that last year I was in your shoes. I was sitting at my computer spending a lot of time going through journals, and getting so excited about the things they experienced and the places they traveled with the trips through rotary. But I don’t remember reading about the harder times. And honestly, there are no words to explain to you how it feels. I could sit here at my computer and write a novel about how difficult it is, and how I’m feeling but you will never truly know until you’re here. It’s not just missing home, that’s the wrong word. It’s more than just missing your family or your friends. It’s more of a loneliness than anything. It happens at night when you’re about to go to sleep, after all the excitement has died down, and your just lying in your bed, looking up at the ceiling and realizing that your thousands of miles away from home, in a country that you may still be struggling for language, and discovering new things about the cutler. You’ll feel it when you’d have to defend yourself, against stereotypes, or explain yourself or your strange behavior to your host family and friends, realizing that you’re the only person that eats that way, or that you’ve forgotten you’re shoes to where around the house in your room by your bed, because you still haven’t gotten use to the idea. That’s ‘homesickness’. It’ missing the feeling of belonging somewhere, its feeling like you’re alone with no one to speak to or no one understanding you. And sure you have you counselor, but they’re not going through what you are. You maybe with other exchange students, and they are great! Or you could be in my situation with one other exchange student, where it’s difficult/expensive to get to them, and you might not be able to see them like you would want to, or they could be form another as well and still won’t understand your view.
I remembered on one of the last days of our last orientation at Lake Yale. They sat all of the outbound in a room with the Rotex, no adults just future and past exchange students, and someone asked about homesickness. And one of the Rotex said “Yes it will happen to you. It happens to everyone.” And I didn’t believe her. I thought sure, I’ll miss home but I’ll be so preoccupied living my own life I won’t be bothered! I’ve moved around a lot as a kid so I understand missing old friends. But I couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t want to scare you but I want you to know that it will happen to you. And you’re reading this and they might just seem like letters on a screen to you and I could be just spending my time writing for my own good, but if, just if, on your exchange you’re feeling the way I am, you’ll be able to think back to this and think that you’re not crazy. That this is what happens on exchange, because believe, from this day on everything will be moving so fast. One minute you’re in a room in Florida, listening to Al Kalter about the D’s and the next thing you know you’re taking your daily bus route to school on the other side of the world.
This hasn’t been the time that I was expecting or hoping for, but I’m hoping that at the end of the day, I’ll be able to look at this and say that this was the best days of my life. I’ll be fluent in another language and have friends from all over the world and eventually it’ll all be worth it, no matter how much it may not seem like it right now.