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This post, I want to start of with the lows and make my way up to the highs.
Month 3 was definitely a struggle emotionally, but enduring it brought clarity to my frustration: I discovered that I sincerely hate being ignored.
Around the end of Month 2 and 3 , your ‘newness’ as an exchange student wears off a bit. In my situation, I felt that fewer people were willing to struggle through a conversation hindered by my limited Portuguese with me. At school, I found myself on the periphery of conversations, often not participating at all. I felt overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar topics and words. These moments were boring. I felt boring. I was annoyed by the fact that I could hardly make any decent comments. All I could do was ask what ‘this’ or ‘that’ was. I was also afraid people would find me annoying, so I refrained from asking at times. I tried to concentrate more on listening, and understanding the gist of the conversation, responding if someone happened to ask me a direct question.
Even at home, people were content to full-out conversations while I remained in silence. Almost as a defense mechanism, I had my phone on me at all times just in case I had to suffer through these long periods of silence. I understand that people have lives and matters to attend to outside of conversing with the exchange student , and I wouldn’t be described as a needy person, but I needed more attention than I was receiving in month 3. I realize now that a bit later into my exchange that I could have made it easier on myself by talking to my host parents. But since I’m in the habit of handling things myself, I worked even harder on my language abilities: studying, reading, watching everything dubbed in Portuguese with subtitles.
Another low was my violin performance at the music festival at a local public school in Ceres. The event itself was beautiful. There were student singers, student dancers, a flag ceremony, and even children performing a song in Brazilian Sign Language. I played Gavotte by F. J. Gossec, a song I played ages and ages ago, with a fellow classmate. I hadn’t memorized the piece so I had to put the music on a stand, which seemed to take ages to set up. As we were starting the second page, the wind blew it off the stand. I stopped playing and froze, like a deer in headlights, while another student began chasing the page as it attempted to make its escape. It was quite comical really. Thank the Lord for my partner who had memorized the piece and kept playing, albeit a bit flat. It was pretty embarrassing , and I was frustrated that I hadn’t tried to memorize it. I resolved to try to memorize more pieces in the future.
Moving away from the lows, I also participated in a school science fair. Our group developed a model of a sustainable house. In my life, it was the biggest model that I had ever participated in making. After the experience, I am definitely more interested in making my future home a greener place to live.
I've also made mashed potatoes for my host family. It was the first thing that I actually made for them. I would’ve gone for pancakes, but they said they already make them so I wanted to go for something different. Brazil actually has a dish quite similar to mashed potatoes (purê de batatas), but the key difference between the way my host family prepares that dish and my mashed potatoes was that I added cheddar cheese (in this case, requeijão (a type of light cream cheese) because that’s what they had at the store). My host mom said that my mashed potatoes was tastier. 😉
I also had to switch houses. 2 months and 2 weeks into my exchange, I switched to my second host family. They are family friends of my first host family. My first host mom and my second host grandma thought it would be a good idea for me to go a bit early so I could get to know Sofia, my second host sister a bit more. Sofia, at the end of January is going to study in Goiânia, the capital city three hours away. She wants to be more thoroughly prepared to take the ENEM , the crucial public college entrance test. This family was originally supposed to be my third host family, but because of the circumstances, it became my second.
My first host family commemorated my departure with a bowl of açai topped with condensed milk, leite em pó (powdered milk), and granola on the side. Also, my second family happened to be going out for sushi the day I arrived. All of was absolutely delicious. Did it sit well in my stomach? That doesn’t matter… :p
Now I live with a host grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, sister, and brother. Since there are more teenagers here, in general , I feel like I get more attention. Even my first host mom said that its better for me to be around more young people. Additionally, I live in the middle of Ceres. I can walk to school as well as the other shops in the area. I enjoy the freedom of being able to just go somewhere to get something when I want it instead of waiting on other people to get it for me. I sincerely appreciate everything my first host family did for me, but this second house is more convenient. Especially since I’m next door neighbors with my music teacher. I find myself over there more often since going is simply effortless.
I’ll finish of this rather long post with writing a bit about my visit to Brasilia. I went with my host mom, sister, brother, and my brother’s daughter to visit. The purpose was to find alternative to the dress that my host sister had purchased for her Quinze (the equivalent of a sweet sixteen) if the alterations weren’t finished on time. We stayed with the brother of my host dad who lives there with his family. We didn’t find a suitable dress, but we had fun shopping at the mall where I ate my first McDonald’s in Brazil, dining at restaurants, and visiting the 12ª Feira Internacional Das Embaixadas (12th Internatinal Embassy Fair). At the Embassy Fair there were a multitude of stalls for each country offering goods, foods, and travel information.