Tomomi Sawaguchi Souza

Croatia

Hometown: Pompano Beach, Florida
School: Pompano Beach High School
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Coral Springs - Parkland Club, Florida
Host District: 1913
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Dubrovnik


My Bio


Bok! Ja sam Tomomi. Hi! I am Tomomi. I am a 15 year old sophomore at Pompano Beach High School. I am half Brazilian and half Japanese. I speak Portuguese and I am currently in Spanish 4. I am quite active in my school. I play cello in my school orchestra, participate in Interact Club, and mentor freshmen. I live with my mom, dad, a dog named Spike, and Valerius the Parakeet!. We recently adopted Spike from the Humane Society of Greater North Miami and we love him so much! I volunteer at the Morikami Museum with my mom; we enjoy experiencing our Japanese culture, especially the bento boxes from the Cornell Cafe. Culture has always been a big part of my life due to my multicultural family and friends. My dad always says that the beauty of America is that you can experience and learn about different cultures and it is true. I have learned about many cultures because of my friends and foods. I am absolutely honored to be given the opportunity to be a Rotary International exchange student and an ambassador for Rotary. I am thrilled to be going to Dubrovnik, Croatia for my junior year (2018-2019). I am still trying to believe that all of this is really happening! Although, I will miss my family, friends, and pets they are all really happy for me. I hope to gain a new perspective on life, experience the Croatian culture, and inspire future exchange students. The “Tomo” part of my name signfies friendship between two nations and “Mi” signifies beauty; I hope that I can make beautiful friendships on this incredible journey! Hvala Rotary! Thank you Rotary!

A beautiful Dubrovnik sunset

A beautiful Dubrovnik sunset

My arrival!

My arrival!

My cousins and I in Norway

My cousins and I in Norway

View of Dubrovnik from Srđ hill

View of Dubrovnik from Srđ hill

My host grandparents and I

My host grandparents and I

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Winter Festival on Stradun

Winter Festival on Stradun

Inbounds

Inbounds

I kayaked to a cave

I kayaked to a cave

My school

My school

Journals: Tomomi-Croatia Blog 2018-19

  • Tomomi, Outbound to Croatia

    Dobar dan svima! Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last journal so, let me catch you up.

    Activities

    I started school in September. I have 17 classes. That’s right, S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N. It’s definitely a big change from my 8 classes back in the U.S. Here’s a list of my classes: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Biology, Art history, Film history, History, Geography, Sociology, Religion, Croatian, Spanish, English, Homeroom, Music history, P.E, and Logics. Each class is 45 minutes and we have 6-7 classes every day. There are two schedules: morning (8am-2pm) and afternoon (2pm-8pm). To be completely honest, it isn’t much fun. Since my Croatian isn’t exactly the best, I’m unable to participate. I do participate in my English and Spanish class though! I enjoy my English class because my teacher is fun! He grew up in Australia and teaches more Australian English; the students have a very slight Australian accent. My classmates speak pretty good English however, some are shy to speak it; only half of the class speaks to me. The ones who do speak to me are very nice! They are always happy to answer my questions about school, Croatian, and Croatia. Aside from school, I’ve done quite a lot of traveling! A couple days after I arrived, my host family and I drove to Austria for my host dad’s triathlon. I got to see Ljubljana (Slovenia), Graz (Austria), and Bratislava (Slovakia). It was a lot of fun and a great chance to bond with my host family! In mid-September, I went to Hrvatsko Zagorje, the Zagreb region. It was a Rotary trip so, I was able to meet the other inbounds! In the end of October, I went on a Rotary trip to Slavonija, the east region of Croatia. My host family and I went to Split and Zadar for my host dad’s marathon where I saw the Zadar Sea Organ in mid- November. I did a lot of traveling in December! Mid-December, I went to Salzburg, Austria for a rotary trip and got to meet the Austrian and Bosnian inbounds.I also saw snow for the first time! A few days later, I flew to Norway! I have a cousin who lives in Norway, so I went to visit her and her family. My aunt, uncle, and other cousin also happened to visit her, so I was able to see them as well. I had a blast! I have to say, December has been my favorite month so far. On New Year’s Day, my host family and I will be taking a 2-week trip to Seville and London! I have been very fortunate to have a host family who travels a lot. I really like my host family. They are very nice and I’m extremely grateful to have them.

    Christmas

    Christmas is a very big deal in Croatia! There are decorations everywhere! For the whole month of December, there is a winter festival that takes place in the Old Town and Lapad (a region in Dubrovnik). There are little kiosks lined up on Stradun, selling food and drinks. One of the foods they sell is Prikle! Prikle is the Dubrovnik word for Fritule, a Dunkin Donuts munchkin type dessert. It’s really good! Bubble waffles are also sold and they’re ukusno (delicious)! As you can probably tell, I really love Croatian food. In fact, I’ve gained about 2 kilos. On Christmas Eve, there is a big bakalar (cod) lunch because meat is forbidden. Eating Bakalar is a Dubrovnik tradition. Afterwards, everyone goes out with friends to the Old Town and some go to a midnight mass. Christmas day is reserved for family. Presents are opened in the morning. In the afternoon, there is a big lunch with the whole family. Croatian meals consist of an appetizer (bread with cheese or cold cuts), main dish, and dessert. French salad, a salad of peas, carrots, potatoes, and mayonnaise, is a traditional appetizer. For the actual meal, we eat Sarma, cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat, and mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, I was already full from the appetizers but Sarma looked too good to resist. Don’t even get me started on dessert. My host mom’s raspberry Swiss roll was DIVINE. Everything was delicious. I might’ve already gained a kilo or two just from Christmas.

    Difficulties

    Homesickness, friends, and Croatian are what I struggle with most. I miss my parents and my dog. I also miss fast food places. There are no fast food places here; it’s either you go to a restaurant or cafe. Making friends has definitely been a struggle. Making friends has never been an issue for me until I came here. I have friends in school but they’re only school friends. I never go out with them because they’re always busy. Fortunately, I became friends with a former exchange student (she went to Zagreb last year) who studies at R.I.T Dubrovnik. I have also become close friends with some of the inbounds. Unfortunately, they live very far from me, so I only get to see them on Rotary trips but, I keep in contact with them. Another struggle is Croatian. I have never encountered such a hard language such as Croatian. It is so difficult that it is starting to become unmotivating… Even though, there are difficulties, I try not to dwell over them. After all, what’s exchange without ups and downs?

    Tips

    1.Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when in doubt! If I hadn’t asked about which bus to take, I would’ve ended up in a city an hour away!

    2.If you are traveling with more than one bag, pack clothes in each bag. I brought 2 suitcases to Norway: a carry-on and a checked-in bag. My checked-in bag was lost on the way to Norway and coming back… Thankfully, I had some clothes in my other suitcase, so it was okay.

    3.Be prepared for STAIRS. Dubrovnik= stairs. Stairs are EVERYWHERE. There is no escape.

    4.Enjoy the little things. Yes, this sounds very cliché but it’s true! I love to watch the cotton candy sunsets, or the turquoise waves wash over the rocks… I could go on forever, but the point is to enjoy while it lasts.

    5.Be prepared for hard times. I thought exchange was going to be like a fairytale- every day would be perfect- oh boy, was I wrong. It’s definitely harder than I thought it’d be! You will encounter problems sooner or later. It’s just how life is. An exchange year is still life so not every day will perfect. Don’t be intimidated, I know you future outbounds can handle it!

    That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in to TCT! Ćiao!

    P.S. Locals in Dubrovnik are the only ones that use “ćiao”! There is a lot of Italian influence present in the language and culture.

    Click HERE to read more about Tomomi and all her blogs

  • Tomomi, Outbound to Croatia

    Dear friends, family, future Outbounds, Rotarians, and everyone!

    As you probably already saw, my name is Tomomi and I’m 16 years old. I left my home in Pompano Beach of about 110,000 inhabitants for Dubrovnik, a town with a population of about 40,000 and can I just say that it was the BEST DECISION I EVER MADE!!!!! Dubrovnik is BEAUTIFUL. Yeah, you can see pictures on Google and say “how pretty” but it is truly breathtaking in person. Dubrovnik is so unique because there is mountain and sea. Usually, places have one or the other but not Dubrovnik! I’ve been here for three days and I just can’t believe it. It feels like I’m in a dream. Every once in a while, I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I just can’t thank Rotary and my parents enough for this amazing opportunity. My wonderful host obitelj (family) consists of a mom, dad, 17 year old brother, 16 year old sister who is on exchange in Florida, and a 13 year sister. I don’t have siblings, so this is a new experience for me. I am very excited to be a younger and older sister!

    Activities

    On the day I arrived (August 25th), my host family took me swimming! I forgot my swimsuits at home, but my host family was so kind as to buy me a new one; a very nice Rotarian in my sponsoring Rotary Club, Mr. Bob or as I call him Royal Highness Bob, is coming to Dubrovnik in late September and is bringing me my swimsuits. The beaches here are very different than the beaches in Florida. Here they have PEBBLES! Also, it’s very deep. I can’t even touch the floor! The water is quite choppy. The next day, I met with Lara, a Croatian inbound that came to my district (6990 IS THE BEST!) and we went out for coffee. Now the thing about coffee is that it is VERY bitter. I am not a coffee drinker so maybe for me it was bitter. I put 3 bags of sugar and it was still bitter, but I still drank it anyway. I learned that in Croatian culture, people sit in cafes for HOURS even if they’re finished with their meal or drink. They just keep chatting. After about an hour, I could not take it anymore and we left to go explore the Old Town. Lara then showed me Stradun. Stradun is the only street that is level in Dubrovnik. She also showed me my school: Gizmnazija Dubrovnik. I’ll be starting school on September 3rd , if you’re wondering. I also learned the greeting Adeo. It is like a hello but only if you aren’t going to continue the conversation with the person. For example, if you were walking down an ulica (street) and you see a neighbor (susjed), you could say “Adeo”. For dinner, we had Palačinke. It is like a pancake and crepe in one. I got the limun or lemon one and it was great! In Croatia, lunch is the biggest meal. Dinner is usually something light. My host mother’s cooking is DELICIOUS. My host dad also cooks well. Sorry, pai (dad in Portuguese), but you might need a couple of lessons from him. Tomorrow, my host family and I will be driving to Vienna, Austria and Bratišlava, Slovakia for my host dad’s triathlon. I’m so excited!

    Tips

    1. Make a list of things you are going to bring. This helps you keep track of what you pack. I made a list at first but then I completely forgot about it. I totally forgot to bring my swimsuits, Ranch (sadly, no ranch here), and noodles.

    2. Buy a converter in your host country. I bought a converter on Amazon a week before I left, and it doesn’t fit in Croatian outlets. Here in Dubrovnik, the outlets are type F. So, if you want to buy a converter before you leave, do some research to buy the right one!

    3. Say “Yes”! You may have already heard this a bunch of times but it’s true! When I arrived, my host family wanted to take me swimming. I was a bit tired from traveling so I honestly was not in a mood to go swimming. I was going to say ”Ne, zao mi je” (no, sorry) but then I then I saw how much they wanted to take me, so I agreed. They even bought me a swimsuit! So moral of the story: SAY “YES”! You won’t regret it!

    4. Don’t drink coffee when you’re jet lagged. If caffeine doesn’t affect you then you can go right ahead and have a sip of coffee but if it does, then I strongly discourage it. I went out for coffee with Lara and drank a small cup. I was already having trouble sleeping with the time difference, but the coffee made it even worse. I went to sleep at midnight and slept until 1a.m. I could not sleep so I unpacked and started this journal. I was finally able to sleep at 8a.m. I ended up waking up at 3p.m… that was not very fun so don’t drink coffee when jet lagged.

    5. Be patient with your host siblings. My host siblings are quite shy. They don’t really talk to me unless I talk to them. They are very nice though. Today, my host brother talked to me for the first time yay!! My host sister talks to me occasionally. I’m sure they’ll warm up. After all, I’ve only been in their house for 3 days!

    6. Read and pay attention. Turns out I have been using lotion as soap oops… I didn’t pay attention to the label and thought it looked like soap, but it was lotion.

    7. Change your money to your host country’s currency at the airport. It’s better to be prepared when you arrive in your host country. I didn’t change my currency and I thought to trade with my host family, but I keep forgetting to ask.

    So that’s all for now! I hope these tips are helpful! Thanks for tuning in to Tomomi’s Croatia Talk (TCT)!

    Vidimo se!

    Click HERE to read more about Tomomi and all her blogs

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