2003-04 Outbound to Brazil
Date of Birth: December 11,
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
School: Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
Sponsor: South Jacksonville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida USA
Host: Lauro de Freitas Rotary Club, District 4550, Brazil
|July 28 Journal - "This
has been the hardest month of my life, but I wouldn’t change a thing."
|September 30 Journal - "I'm
starting to understand what my teachers are lecturing about... in certain
classes. Trigonometry is a foreign concept no matter what language the
teacher is speaking!"
|November 8 Journal - "I’m doing my best to
learn Pagode and Samba but I can’t get the foot movement down just yet.
Sometimes when I think I’ve got the hang of it my friends just look at
me and laugh."
|December 3 Journal - "Somehow a
lizard had crawled onto Caroline's pizza, made its way over to Samantha,
crawled on her hand, which she then flung on my arm."
name is Jessica Johnson. I do not have a middle name, but I often wish I
had. I was born on Wednesday, December 11, 1985 in Belle County, Texas. I
have no brothers or sisters. Some people say that I am spoiled, and they
may be right. Throughout my first few years of life, I traveled with my
parents as my father was in the military. My thirteen year-old Poodle and
I recently moved to Tallahassee, Florida from Jacksonville with my mother,
who was offered a job at Florida State University. I formerly attended
Douglas Anderson School of the Performing Arts in Jacksonville, where I
was a Theater major. I now attend Rickards High School, which is the polar
opposite of my old school. I am not really involved in any clubs at
Rickards, only because I enrolled so late in the year. I am trying to
convince the Spanish Club to let me join.
I have a million hobbies and special interests, but for
the sake of space I will keep it short. I love theatre; I'm such a ham! I
think I am most comfortable when on stage performing in front of an
audience. I really like Choral Music; it's the complete opposite of
theatre. In theatre you have a partner, but the two of you work against
each other to get the desired effect. In chorus, everyone has to blend and
make one sound. In chorus, it's all about teamwork and the creation of one
voice; while in theatre, it's every one for themselves, but that's my
opinion. I'm also starting to learn Salsa dancing. I find it is great
exercise and great fun. I love doing volunteer work. Before I moved to
Tallahassee, I was volunteering at the Jacksonville Zoo every Saturday and
Sunday (plus week days on school vacations) for about a year. It was great
because I learned a great deal, and I got to hold some really cute
animals. I also confronted my fear of cockroaches. I had to work with
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. They are about two to three inches in
length. My all time favorite pastime is sitting home with some of my
friends eating pizza and watching the program Road Rules on MTV.
When I return from Brazil, I intend to enroll at Florida
State University. I have not made a decision about whether I will major in
Linguistics or International Business. Perhaps during my sophomore year of
college I will study abroad for a semester, preferably in Spain or Latin
America. After college, I will enroll in graduate school.
I am so very excited to be involved with the Rotary
Youth Exchange. It is an honor to be chosen as an ambassador for America
in Brazil. I also love the people involved with the Rotary program.
Everyone I have met is great. They are all very helpful and supportive. I
love that I was able to find a group of people that share my interests.
can’t believe it! I’m here; in Brazil writing my first journal of the
year! I can honestly say this has been the hardest month of my life, but I
wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know where to start; there is no way
I can cram all of my experiences into one journal entry without making it
I think I’ll start from the beginning... the very
beginning. A few interesting things happened to me on the way to Brazil.
On the plane from Jacksonville to Miami, I found out how interested people
are in foreign exchange students. I got asked a million questions by
everyone on the plane about anything you can imagine - like “how long
are you staying”, “Are you scared”, “Where did you get your
blazer” and my favorite “Why did you choose Brazil”. Everyone was so
excited for me and of course they all had some piece of advice to give me!
Also on my plane ride from Miami to São Paulo I met a
really nice flight attendant named Cyomara and a passenger named Fernando,
we talked in the back of the plane (or the “galley”) for hours. They
told me stories about Salvador and Carnival and they even danced with me!
It was nice to have people that didn’t know me take the time, to teach
me a little history and give me a dance lesson. And yes Al, I got their
addresses and sent them Thank You cards! J
My first night in Brasil my parents, sister, her
boyfriend Gostavo and my friend Mila took me to a “Foho” (it’s a
type of music and dance). It was great, I tried to dance a little but it
didn’t work too well, I still loved it! The next day I went with
Rana (my sister) and a few of her friends to the beach, it was gorgeous!
That night I went to a “Rotaract” meeting with Mila. Interact and
Rotaract are basically Rotary clubs for the younger generations, Interact
is for 13-17, Rotaract is for 18-30... and then you have Rotary for the
old people (just kidding Al J).
The meeting was really cool, I didn’t understand much, but they have a
club song that the President of the club - Sergio - wrote. The Interact
meetings are the same as the Rotaract meeting - minus the song.
My exchange year hasn’t been all terrific though. My
third day here I went to get a haircut and the barber was really dumb or
drunk or something because he gave me the worst haircut I have ever had in
my life. I gave him a picture and had Rana translate that was what I
wanted. He said, “okay, no problem” and thirty minutes later I look
like Macy Grey! It was awful! And to make matters worse my family and I
had to go to a Rotary meeting that night! So... I just sucked it up and
went. And of course it wasn’t that bad. I actually ended up having a
great time, I danced with my dad, and this really old guy told me I looked
like Donna Summer!!! I also gave my family their presents that night, they
loved them. It was really nice to watch each of them open their gifts and
”ooh” and “ahh” over the things I got them. My sister even
wore the black velvet purse I made her to the Rotary meeting that
My grandmother came to visit us that week. She’s
really nice - she bought me earrings, they’re little stars. She told me
that they are the stars that surround the moon and create the eternal
circle of love - or something like that (she told me in Portuguese and
that’s all I could translate). We went out to eat that night (my dad
wore the FSU shirt I got him and told us “I am too American for you all,
don’t talk to me” HAHA). My dad’s really cool, he and I were
listening to music in the car one day and there is a song that I really
like by this group “Tribulistas” called “Velha Infância ”
that we heard, so I hummed along with the music and my dad told me about
the group. The next day he came into the living room and handed me the
c.d.! He went out and bought it for me! Anyway back to what I was saying.
The day after my grandmother or “avô” came to visit I got food
poisoning, that was really crappy! I had to stay in bed for two days and I
couldn’t eat anything. I really missed home and wanted to be back
in my own bed, in my house, with my mom, in my country and I think my host
mom knew that. She took such good care of me; she stayed up with me,
talked to me, brought me water and medicine and rubbed my back. I really
felt like her daughter.
A week after I got here, the second inbound, Samantha,
arrived - she’s from Oregon. I asked Mila’s dad, Clovis (Rotary
Member) if I could go with them to greet her at the airport. When we got
there Samantha’s family was waiting for her to come out; they all looked
so excited and anxious. When Samantha finally did come through the doors,
she had this look on her face like “WOW” and I remember feeling the
way she looked. It was kinda weird seeing her first moments in Brazil and
having already experienced all the things she was feeling. I gave her my
card and told her to give me a call when she got settled in and that
we’d go out for Pizza or something. She was very appreciative to have
already made a friend within minutes of her arrival, then we hugged her
goodbye and went back to Mila’s house to hang out. Since then,
Samantha and I have seen a lot of each other. She and I are even taking
Portuguese tutoring together, starting today.
I started school a few weeks ago. I really like it. I
don’t know why foreign exchange students hate school! It’s great. It
took a little getting used to at first. It’s really loud, the kids
scream for no reason, they get up while the teacher is addressing the
class and walk from one side of the room to the other, they throw paper at
the teacher, it’s crazy! The teachers do the same thing, they throw
paper at the students and bang on the board to shut the kids up. It ‘s
different from American school, that’s for sure. Honestly after the
first day I hated it, I never wanted to go back again, it felt more like a
zoo than a learning environment! The next day Rana didn’t go to school
so I was all by myself, and that’s when I started to love school! I made
my own friends instead of hanging out with Rana’s friends (like I
usually did) and I spoke Portuguese when I had something to say. It was
like I was forced to become one of them, I didn’t have a choice Rana
wasn’t there to translate for me. I realized that I was judging my
environment by American standards and as an exchange student that’s
something you CAN’T do if you want to be successful. I ended up changing
classes though. I’m now in a class with my best friend Tanile, I think
it’s better this way. I don’t want to feel like I’m Rana’s
replacement when she leaves on her exchange. I don’t want her life; I
want to create my own, with my own friends in my own class. I go to school
with a guy that was an exchange student in my district in America last
year, his name is Felipe. He’s really cool (cute too!) I talk to him at
school almost everyday and I can actually see how American he is compared
to his peers, it’s funny. I look at him sometimes and I think - how
strange it is for me to be in his world, when just a few months ago I
remember seeing him in mine.
The kids at school are cool I get along great with
everyone; they love to hear me sing American songs! They get so excited.
Tanile heard me sing and she told EVERYONE in her class about me, so when
I went to go visit her class for a day (before I decided to become a part
of it) all the kids surrounded me! They told they wouldn’t leave me
alone until I sang so, of course I sang and they all cheered and clapped
and chanted my name! When I told them I wasn’t staying in that class
that I was only visiting for the day they started chanting “FICA, FICA,
FICA” which means “Stay” it was really nice to have all these people
who didn’t speak my language or know anything about me want to be near
me. By the way, Brazilians chant all the time, it’s just something
that they do. So I’m not this amazing person who got all these people to
shout in unison for the first time, I’ve actually heard them chant for
beer, cheese and a bathroom break - I just wanted everyone to know that.
Okay back to what I was saying - I have so many friends at school who
don’t speak any English but we get along like family! We just carry our
dictionaries around with us all the time! Really we do!
A couple weekends ago I went on a trip to Itanhem,
Brazil with the Rotaract Club. It was a meeting for all the clubs in Bahia.
It was great! I got surrounded ... again but this time I was working in my
Portuguese workbook and they all came over to talk to me. No one spoke
English but they all had things they wanted to ask me so everyone was
shouting things out to me in Portuguese that I couldn’t hear because
they were all talking at once or understand because everyone was speaking
so fast! It was a little overwhelming, but I loved it! Finally I got
everyone to quiet down and ask me questions one at a time. They asked me
about America, if I liked Brazil, if Brazil was better than America and if
I liked any Brazilian bands. When I told them I liked “Tribalistas”
they all went crazy! I hummed the tune to “Velha Infânciá” and
they taught me the chorus. They also taught me “Foho” and
another dance that I won’t even attempt to spell but was fun to do!
I learned a lot on that trip. It was really good for me.
I had been homesick since I got here, I cried all the time! I even started
to doubt whether or not I could stick it out for the whole year! I thought
I was a terrible exchange student - I was given this great opportunity and
all I wanted was to go back to my world and be away from EVERYTHING that
was Brazilian. I started to think that maybe the IDEA of being an exchange
student was actually better than being one and that I wasn’t the kind of
person fit to be a foreign exchange student. I also have something else I
want to say about Homesickness. I thought I could just stay busy or
exercise and I’d be okay, I didn’t think it would affect me very much.
I was wrong! I was so depressed I was seriously considering giving up and
going home. I didn’t want to be here! And because I was feeling like
that, I made it hard for my family. I’m the first exchange student
they’ve ever had so they haven’t had any experience with depressed
foreign teenagers. The only things that made me feel better were staying
in my room for long periods of time crying and talking to my mom (my real
one) which are the worst things you can do. But in my defense, my mom is
the most rational person I know so there really was no chance of her
getting upset (plus nothing was wrong, I was just homesick). But that only
worked sometimes and it even had the reverse effect on me a few times. My
cure was Itanhem, but if I hadn’t gone it would be something else. I
learned that you can't make a plan for homesickness; you just have
to let yourself live with it, until you get over it.
When I came back home I apologized to my family for
being such a wet blanket and promised them things would be different, now
I’m fine! I get a little sad sometimes because I miss my mom or my dog
or my friends but then I remember, I have a great mom here, I have two
great dogs here (we just got a puppy, he’s the little brother of Rubão,
our other dog) and I have AMAZING friends here too. So I think I’m
literally, getting the best of both worlds two great moms, two dads, three
dogs, a brother and a sister and more friends than I can count!
About a week and a half ago I got really sick... again!
This time it was Strep Throat and my mom told me her friend’s daughter
had my same symptoms and that her daughter had Mono. So my mom took me to
the doctor. I really like my doctor - she’s Tierney’s host mom! I got
a shot in a very unpleasant place and while I was laying down on my
stomach, recuperating, Tierney’s mom showed me some pictures of Tierney
that she had in her wallet. Thought it was nice that even though
Tierney’s back in America, her mother still carries pictures of her in
her wallet and still considers Tierney her daughter. Oh something really
funny that happened that day - I didn’t want the shot, at least not
where she was going to give it to me. My host mom had had enough of my
whining I guess, because all of a sudden she looked at me and said, “I
am your mother, lay down and SHUT UP!” It was hilarious! I had no idea
my mom knew how to say shut up!
Saturday was my sisters going away party. We all danced
and sang and took pictures, it was a lot of fun! She leaves Tuesday, I’m
going to miss her so much. She really is like my sister, we fight and make
fun of each other and take each other’s stuff, it’s great! I love
having her around. She was the first one to treat me like I was apart of
the family. For the first week everyone waited on me (they brought me
drinks and my food and anything else I wanted). Well Rana had a drink and
it looked.. different and she asked me if I wanted some, I tried it and I
liked it and she said “well there’s some more in the refrigerator, you
can get it yourself and bring me a napkin.” I knew I was home then.
After the party there was a Rotary meeting that I had to
go to, my parents were already there (they left the party early). The
meeting was actually over, it was the reception I went to (that’s the
fun part, you dance and hang out with the other kids). Well I walked in
and I knew EVERYBODY! I had no idea I knew that many people. For the first
twenty minutes I went around hugging and kissing everyone, it was great to
see all the people I become friends with in the one month I’ve been
here. I danced and sang watched my parents laugh at me. I love Rotary
Okay now for some random things that I want to get off
my chest. I started answering the phone my second or third day here,
it’s really cool! It sounds like nothing, but when you can have a short
conversation with someone on the telephone in another language it does
wonders for your self-confidence! My language skills are really
improving, I read Portuguese fine my auditory skills are pretty sharp too,
but pronunciation and sentence structure are kicking my butt!
I’m trying not to watch so much television unless
it’s my soap operas (in Portuguese of course) like “Mulheres
Apaxionades.” I love that show! I have no idea what they’re talking
about but I still can’t stop watching it!
Things I’m still not used to - Andrew Lloyd Weber
music in Portuguese, and bad 80’s music on the radio, the way Brazilians
drive and bug bites!
Okay I’m almost finished, I just want to say that
I’ve learned Brazilians are some of the most caring and compassionate
people on earth and if you’re open enough to let them, they will smother
you with affection (sometimes literally J).
I’m so happy I’m here. I’m learning so much about this culture and
what it means to be Brazilian. To all my friends in Jacksonville and
Tallahassee I wish all of you were here, but you're not and I am, HA! Just
kidding, have a great year and I’ll see you when I get back. Oh and to
all of the outbounds that haven’t left yet, have a safe trip and good
luck. I love and miss all of you!
is my third full month in Brasil. Some days seem longer than others but
overall the time seems to be passing very quickly. A few interesting
things have happened to me in the last two months, but most of my
experience has been centered around my growth as a person and my ability
to adapt to my surroundings. These couple months has been a rollercoaster
ride for me, full of ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. Where
At the end of my first month and the beginning of my
second, I had basically decided that I was Brazilian. Despite the fact
that I knew very little about the culture, people and language I was
absolutely sure that I was supposed to be Brazilian and just happened to
be born in the U.S. It was great, I would go out with my friends and ask
them not to tell people I was American and no one knew (except of course
when someone spoke to me and I was clueless as to what they were
Then reality started to set in. I started having
problems with my family or at school because I was doing things the
American way without realizing it (which isn't wrong, it's just not right
in this culture sometimes). Things were hard for a while, I couldn't
figure out what I was doing wrong. I kept hearing about all the bad things
I was doing and the problems I was causing for my family and my school but
I didn't feel like anyone was trying to help me solve them. I was honestly
doing my best to fit in and do what I thought was right but I was failing
miserably. So I spent a day or two crying because "no one liked me,
no one understood me and I wanted to go home" but that passed. I
stopped and thought about all the things I did and said and tried to
remember people's reactions to them. I couldn't remember EVERYTHING in
great detail but I did realize that sometimes people did act differently
towards me and I would shrug it off thinking "she/he must be having a
bad day" not realizing it may have been something I said or did. I
now have a better understanding of what was causing my problems thus I
understand how to fix them or at least prevent them from happening again.
I was trying to fit in to the culture and do what I thought was right but
I was doing it with an AMERICAN mind-set. It was just a matter of me
altering my way of thinking to "Brazilian Mode". Changing the
way I handle people and situations doesn't mean that I completely forgot
who I am and became a new person. I'm still me with the same personality,
attitude, goals and values firmly intact but now I have a better
understanding of what to do and what not to do. That was another important
lesson I learned - being able to change aspects of my personality and
behavior while still remaining true to who I am. I learned how to be more
flexible without feeling like a doormat. I think the most important lesson
I learned in these two months was to "suck it up and tough it
out" when things feel impossible. Not giving into the temptation of
wanting to go home just because things get really hard. My confidence in
myself is concrete; I think I can handle anything now. Working out your
problems and overcoming bad circumstances while in a FOREIGN country
really boosts one's self-esteem. To a certain extent making mistakes and
learning from them is part of being an exchange student…but that's my
Okay onto the good stuff! I moved and now I live with
the Pimentel family. I share my room with my sister Rafaela, she's 15
years old and about the sweetest girl I've ever met! She's very
affectionate and very dramatic! She hit her finger the other day and she
made it sound like she was dying! It was hilarious. We spend our time
together watching "Friends" or "Mulheres Apaxionades"
or downloading music on the computer. We share many of the same interests.
A few weeks ago the two of us were in our room getting ready for bed and
she mentioned she was hungry so I volunteered to go downstairs with her to
get something to eat. Well we sat in the kitchen for an hour talking about
EVERYTHING. It was wonderful, I honestly felt like she was my sister. We
go to a lot of places together too, she took me to the beach with her a
few times, invited me to a couple concerts and to hang out with her
friends. If I had a sister I would want her to be exactly like Rafaela. My
brother, Rodrigo was an exchange student in Oklahoma City last year, he
just got back in July. He and I have the same birthday (year and all) and
we were born almost exactly an hour apart! He's a third year at a school
deep in Salvador (an hour drive or so from our house), and he spends most
of his time studying for the Vestibular (the equivalent to the S.A.T.s but
100 times more difficult.) He and I don't get to spend much time together
but we're still good friends. Rodrigo is an English teacher at an
afternoon tutoring school; he's taking me to meet his students next
Jessica with Kika and Téo
(click to enlarge)
My host parents are cool too. My dad spends much of the
week traveling for his company and so there are some times that I only see
him once or twice. I like him; he's talkative and really funny! My host
mom works at a preschool and I go with her sometimes and play with the
kids and teach them little English phrases. I have two poodles Kika and
Téo. Kika looks like my dog back in the states - she's small and black
and has a really pink tongue. Téo´s the same dog only white. Last
weekend we went to Praia do Forte; it's this beautiful
beach/aquarium/shopping center. We spent the whole day there walking and
talking and laughing, I really enjoyed myself.
Hangin' with her host mom
(click to enlarge)
My new house is six houses down from where Samantha
lives (the exchange student from Oregon). The time we spend together
consists mainly of us complaining because we're fat (I've gained 3
kilos!), eating, talking about food that we love here or miss in the U.S.
and watching E.R. M.T.V. (Brazilian) and Soap Operas (Brazilian of
course). I like living close to her because now I can leave her house and
make it back to mine before the commercials are over! For the last three
weekends or so we've had this routine: Friday - hanging at the pool and
going to the mall. Saturday - going to the beach and hanging out at my
pool. Sunday - going to the all you can eat pizza place in our
neighborhood. Two weeks ago she and I went through a small depression
because we missed our moms and our dogs, it made me feel better knowing I
had a friend that was going through the same thing | was and understood
exactly what I was feeling when we talked.
At the end of August, all the Exchange students in Bahia
got together for our first orientation. David Ferrell had us stand and
talk about our experiences starting from the newest arrivals to the first
(ME). He gave a short speak about how Samantha and I were the
"professors" of the exchange students for this year because we'd
been there at least a month or so longer than the rest of the inbounds.
After Samantha shared our stories about her good and bad times it was my
turn to speak. I talked about my problems with the food at first and how
some of it took a little getting used to, my problems sleeping and all my
sickness in the first month. David asked me what my biggest problem is now
and I said "I miss my mom. I've gotten over home sickness and all but
I just wish my mom wasn't so far away from me and it gets hard
sometimes." We had a little socializing time afterward and that's
when my friend Alex (New Yorker) introduced himself to me. He told me he
completely understood how I felt about being away from my mom because he
and his mother are best friends! All the exchange students are really cool
and I like and respect each of them but the one I think I get along the
best with Alex. We spent a lot of time talking about our exchange year so
far and he and I share similar experiences and interests. Not to mention
he and I are both only children and consider our moms to be our best
friends. The weekend before I left the states I remember talking to
Tierney and she said " …that's how it is with exchange students -
you're either best friends or in love in the first few minutes…"
and she was right! Alex and I had known each other for about 2 hours when
he looked at me and said "I think I found my best friend right
here" and gave me a hug. He lives about seven hours away from my
city, so we don't see each other very often, which is actually a good
thing - it makes our time together more enjoyable because it's rare. That
was a great weekend, we went boating that Sunday and went to two islands.
We swam, sang and took lots of pictures!
School is good, a little boring but I like it. I'm no
longer the center of attention and I don't get asked a million and one
questions about my life and my culture back in the states. I'm just like
everyone else now. I think it's better this way, the kids are starting to
see me as apart of their world and not as someone from the outside
observing their culture. I'm starting to understand what my teachers are
lecturing about... in certain classes. Trigonometry is a foreign concept
no matter what language the teacher is speaking!
I bought a bathing suit! Not just any bathing suit a
bikini! My host sister told me that she would be embarrassed to walk with
me at the beach wearing the one I had and that it looked like a GRANDMA
bathing suit! So we went to "AreoClube" and bought a new one for
me. I'm so proud of myself! When I first got here I was a little body
conscience and only wore jeans and blouses that covered my arms to my
elbow! But I quickly learned it's TOO HOT to be body conscience in BAHIA!
I wear more halter-tops now and lots of skirts all VERY tasteful and of
course NEVER too revealing! J
I help my friend Bruno teach an English class at
"Pink and Blue School of Languages", and in return he gives me
Portuguese lessons. Portuguese is coming along very well. My pronunciation
skills are really improving and sometimes I even think in Portuguese!
Hopefully by Christmas I'll be fluent. My first Rotary trip is coming up
in late October; I'm going to Pantanol/Bonito. I'm taking two other trips
as well but those aren't until the New Year.
I think that's about it for now.
entry is a little late because I just got back from my FIRST Rotary trip!
There aren’t words to describe how beautiful it was, and how much fun I
had and all the cool people I met. I could go on for days…but I won’t
(or at least I’ll try not too).
I flew from Salvador to Belo Horizonte with four other
kids from my district Clemens (Austria), Caroline (Denmark), Heather
(Canada), Samantha (U.S.) and a friend of Clemens from another district
Florian we just called him Flor (Austria). It was a pretty short plane
ride but it gave us time to talk and fantasize about the next ten days!
When we arrived at the hotel we met up with some kids that had arrived
earlier in the day. Most people saw kids from their home districts, so
there we lots of hugs and kisses!
midnight we all got on the bus and headed for the Pantanal! It was about a
day and a half drive but it felt like an eternity! I sat with Alex my
friend from New York and we caught up on things that had been going on in
each other’s lives in the few weeks before the trip. I missed him, so it
was nice to have what seemed like an endless amount of time to talk and
just enjoy each other’s company. We stopped somewhere in the state of São
Paulo and went to a mall to get something to eat. After we ate we went
around and introduced ourselves to some kids on our bus that we hadn’t
met. Everyone was really cool and we did our best to try to remember names
but it was pretty much a lost cause at first.
My bus was the first to arrive at Pantanal but shortly after our arrival
the second bus made it. After everyone settled in we had lunch and again
went around introducing ourselves trying to remember names (if I had a
dollar for every time someone called me Jennifer, I would be one rich
kid!) J. It
was beautiful there. There was a huge lake full of alligators on the
property and this hammock area, which became the ultimate hang out for all
of us. I would like to add- I had several very comfortable naps in one of
those hammocks as well. We had tons of activities while we were there. We
went trekking (my least favorite) nature has never and will never be a
friend to me. We saw an alligator carcass, Capybaras, Blue and Gold Macaws
and Scarlet Macaws (which I spotted immediately because of my work at the
zoo. No one cared but I felt cool anyway! J). I went Piranha fishing for the first time and
caught two fish! On the last night we went Alligator spotting and ended up
seeing very few alligators but lots of other cool looking animals. The
morning of the day we left my group went horseback riding! That was my
favorite part of the Pantanal! We rode for about an hour and saw the most
gorgeous scenery! We rode through a lake that had alligators in it! My
horse kept stomping in the water; I was sure she was going to through me
off and an alligator would eat me! Other than having water issues my horse
was amazing, she made me look like such a professional. All I had to do
was sit on her and she did the rest…we had an understanding…I miss her
Bonito was awesome too! We went Rafting, Snorkeling, Shopping (I bought
so much stuff!) and there was a dance held in honor of the exchange
students, it was cool. They played mostly Brazilian music and a little Red
Hot Chili Peppers! I had a great time! My favorite part of our stay in
Bonito was the Talent Show! Everybody sang their countries national
anthem, one guy did impressions of all of us, someone did a comedy
routine, some people did group or solo dances and other people sang duets
and solos! I was part of a Duet, my friend Christian (Demark) and I sang,
“I don’t wanna miss a thing” by Aerosmith! It was actually kind of
cool J. All and all I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait until January
(that’s the Northeast Tour) almost everyone I met on Pantanal/ Bonito is
going on that trip. We all keep in touch sending emails and MSN messaging
each other, but of course it’s not the same. I miss them all so much! L I
can’t believe that in 10 days I made over 80 best friends.
Before I go into detail about the rest of this month I want to correct a
mistake I made in my first journal. There is a popular Brazilian dance
called Forró- well when I wrote about it in my first journal I wrote
“Foho” that’s incorrect the word is “F-O-R-R-Ó”. My friend
Danielo has been making fun of me about it for a while now and I just want
it known that I do know how to spell FORRÓ. J Not only can I spell FORRÓ
I can dance FORRÓ as well, thanks to my friend Tanile. She’s an
incredible teacher and an even better dancer. It’s actually pretty easy,
not to mention great exercise. I’m doing my best to learn Pagode and
Samba but I can’t get the foot movement down just yet. Sometimes when I
think I’ve got the hang of it my friends just look at me and laugh…so
I can usually assume I’m not making progress. Now I truly understand
what it means to think you’re doing the same dance as everyone around
you but in reality you’re just embarrassing yourself and your friends. J
One thing I find really pleasant in this culture is that
people love pictures. They love to sit with you and look through your
photo album and ask you questions about the people and places in the
pictures. It’s the total opposite in the American culture- if you’re
not in the picture or maybe a friend/relative isn’t then you don’t
want to see it. Brazilians LOVE to BE in pictures too! I remember my first
week of school I took my camera with me to take pictures of my sister and
some of her friends. Well when I went to take the photo everyone and their
cousin jumped in the picture, it took about fifteen minutes for everyone
to find the spot they wanted so I could snap the shot! So I have a photo
of about 30 people huddled together, all smiling and excited because they
got to be in the picture! I love that.
I walk home from school
three times a week now. It’s about a thirty- minute walk, which actually
isn’t that, bad. It’s great exercise (and man do I need it!J) also it gives me time to
be alone and think or just enjoy the beautiful neighborhood I live in.
It’s really pleasant and relaxing (minus the INSANE heat!).
On October 5th I went to my first Brazilian
concert (“Babado Novo and Kid Abelha”) with my brother and a few of
his friends! It was loud, people pushed passed me, shoved and tugged me in
every direction, screamed in my ears, flung water on my new halter-top and
stomped on my feet I had a great time! I knew many of the songs Babado
Novo sang (they’re my new favorite Brazilian band) I didn’t know any
of Kid Abelha´s music but one song they sang had the exact same music
that India Arie uses one of her songs! I thought that was interesting. The
concerts here are SO different; they’re outside in a big open space
without any chairs to sit in! So everyone pays the same amount of money
and you can stand as close or as far away from the stage as you like
(that’s cool). During the chorus of every Babado Novo song the audience
started jumping up and down and moving forward so it’s not uncommon to
be pressed up against people you’ve never met before, for long periods
of time (kinda gross…depending on their sweatiness and all)! I don’t
quite understand it but “axe” (that’s the bands’ genre of music)
requires this mosh pit-like dancing! The guys also do this one dance where
they make a big circle and take a boxing stance and punch at each other.
It’s hard to tell the difference between people dancing and fighting!
thing that I saw that I really didn’t like at the concert- guys pawing
at and grabbing girls! It’s very common here when there’s a big party
or concert for the guys to grab girls and try to kiss them! They call it
“ficar” but I call it harassment! It’s terrible, the girls are
dancing and the guys just rush at them pulling their hair, grabbing their
waste or tugging on their arms! The girls literally have to fight some of
these guys off! I don’t know, I think that’s one thing in this culture
I could never agree with. Other than that, I thought it was a fantastic
concert! It was crazy, exciting, loud, fun and the music was wonderful!
When the night was over I was absolutely wiped out I don’t know how
I’m going to handle 7days AND nights of Carnival!
I did some volunteer work for Interact recently. I’ve
always enjoyed volunteering but I find it extremely satisfying being able
to do it in a foreign country. It’s great for social skills, meeting
people, making friends and of course helping your cause. A little while
ago, Interact held a Surfing Contest and they needed the exchange students
help work it. I loved it. It was an excuse to spend ALL weekend at the
gorgeous beach in Vilas (about a five minute walk from my house) and hang
out with all my friends plus we got T-shirts! It was actually very
successful tons of people came to watch and compete. I’m not sure when
our next project is or even what it is but I’m really looking forward to
The Rotary Club here isn’t very involved with the
students. Other than the orientation we had, Rotary has done much with us.
I’ve been to a couple Rotary meetings they’re ok. I didn’t
understand what was going on so I was a little bored but afterward it’s
a lot of fun. There’s a reception after each meeting and we all get to
mingle and they have a band so everyone dances. I just wish there were
more things like that for us exchange students here.
Shopping here is great! I love the mall it’s so big! It
has about three floors, movie theatre and food court. As much as I adore
clothes I think my biggest obsession is Earrings! I’ve never seen such
beautiful jewelry and it’s all so cheap! Every weekend I go to the beach
and buy at least three pairs of earrings from the vendors! After I reach
fifty (that will probably be next month) I’m moving to rings and
necklaces! It’s so addictive; I find myself buying odd color shirts just
so I can get the earrings to match. I also love belts here! They’re so
chic and stylish!
My other addiction is food!
I am absolutely in love with Acarajé and Bejiou! They are the two best
things in the world. I honestly don’t know how I survived without them
all these years. It’s hard to explain what they look like but the taste
can be summed up in one word “Gostoso!” Brazilians have this dish that
they serve on the 29th of each month it’s kind of like a
tradition. It’s called “Nhoque” (look Danielo if it’s spelled
wrong it’s not my fault, I asked my host mom how to spell this one! J) it’s potato pasta with tomato sauce and meat (optional, it tastes
better without the meat in my opinion). They also say putting a Real
(their currency) under your plate while you eat will ensure a good
financial month for the family. No one really believes in it but it’s
fun to do anyway. I make sure
we have Nhoque every month, I’ll only be here 10 months that’s only 10
times I get to eat it… it’s GOSTOSO too! As great as the food is here
I would by no means turn down a Taco Bell Chicken Quesada with the
cinnamon twists, or Burger King Chicken Tenders with B-B-Q, and Honey
Mustard Sauce with a Milk Shake, or Krispy Crème doughnuts with the
chocolate frosting instead of the regular kind (I think about this a lot)
I think the only type of Brazil food I don’t absolutely adore is the
meat at barbeques. It’s so much different then the B-B-Q in the states,
the main (and sometimes only) ingredient in the meat is salt. They cook so
much of it too! At the last Barbeque I to there was at LEAST six or seven
pounds of meat. But they don’t cook it all at once; you just eat small
portions all day long. The meat is tough and really salty and they don’t
have B-B-Q sauce here! Other than that I love everything!
My language skills have come a really long way. I remember how worried I
was that I wasn’t going to learn the language because so many people
were speaking English to me (I honestly didn’t think they’d ALL speak
English…but they do!) I would be having a conversation with someone is
English and then they’d realize that I needed to be practicing my
Portuguese. So we’d speak Portuguese for a while and then they’d say a
word or expression I wasn’t familiar with so they’d explain it in
English, I’d say “oh I understand” and then we’d start back up in
English! The people that couldn’t speak English would talk to me like an
infant sometimes, I know they meant well but I couldn’t help but feel a
little stupid. They would point to me and say (really slowly) “Você….
Esta…” and complete the sentence at the same pace. Samantha and I
laugh at it because the made us feel so dumb at first but they were really
trying to help. Most people
only speak Portuguese to me now but I still use my English sometimes...
I’m stopping that soon. I think my biggest compliment about my language
skills came from my friend Robert a couple of weeks ago. He’s from
England originally but he and his family moved here three years ago.
Anyway he and I were in line getting something to eat during Intervalo and
his best friend’s little sister walked over and started talking to us.
He offered her some of his Coke and she “I need a straw” in Portuguese
well I was standing next to them so I grabbed one and handed it to her.
Robert told me how jealous he was of me because it took him one year to
understand the language and two years to speak it. He also told me that he
just learned the word for “straw” in Portuguese a few months ago! I
felt kind of cool knowing that I, in 3 months know more than he knew in
10! It gives me confidence that I’ll be fluent before I leave this
One last thing, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY I LOVE YOU! And I know it’s a
little late but I want to wish Danielle in Japan (Oct 2nd) and
Janka from Slovakia (Oct 3rd) a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I
hope you guys had fun! PARABÉNS J!
month was pretty laid back. Nothing extremely interesting happened, I
didn't make any life changing discoveries about this culture or myself.
I've simply lived as a Brazilian for one more month. I think that in
itself is pretty amazing.
My host mom took me to the zoo. It was nice because it
was the first time in a while since I got to spend time with her alone. We
walked around and looked at the animals and tried to pronounce them in
each others language (it was pretty bad on both accounts). I'm glad I got
to go - I wanted to see what the zoos in Brazil are like compared to the
zoo at home.
I've spent much of my time getting to know the other
exchange students better and trying to learn bits and pieces of their
native languages. My friend Caroline (Denmark) taught all of us a few
expressions in Danish and my friend Clemens (Austria) has taught me a few
German phrases too. Who'd have thought I would go to Brasil and pick up a
I've decided to learn the bus routes to Salvador and
Lauro de Freitas. My host parents work a lot so they don't have time to
take me all the places I want to go and I feel bad having my friends host
parents take us everywhere so the bus is the next best thing. I always
travel with at least one other person and make sure to get home before it
gets dark- for safety reasons. It's pretty safe and very convenient. I
like having the freedom to go where I please without having to bother my
I had the chance to interview the potential outbounds
for next year. It felt weird being on the other side of the desk asking
the questions, because less than a year ago I was going through the same
thing. To make things even weirder my friend Felipe (exchange student from
my district back home) was there and he INTERVIEWED ME in Jacksonville. He
and I joked around about my interview and laughed at some of the things
that he and the other exchange students had me do. We interviewed some
really good candidates the Brazilian outbound class is going to be awesome
this year. I think the best part of the interview was when we made them
SING!!! That was pretty funny!
School ended this month so I don't go back until
February. I really don't know what to do with all the time I have now! I
like it though, being able to wake up an hour or two later than usual is
always a good thing. I guess it just gives me more shopping and beach
Thanksgiving was interesting…kind of. I actually
didn't do anything on Thanksgiving Day except hang out with Samantha and
help her pack her things because she was moving to her new host family the
next day. The weekend before Thanksgiving was a lot of fun though. An
American friend of mine from school invited me to go to an early
Thanksgiving Party with her and her family. I really enjoyed myself. A
couple of the other exchange students were there too; we all talked and
ate turkey with gravy and then later we had BROWNIES!!!!!!!!! It had been
like five months since I had seen brownies. I was so happy I almost cried!
It felt really good to be with several other Americans on Thanksgiving
(well sort of). I felt at home again, it was nice.
Most of this month involved PIZZA; there is this
all-you-can-eat Pizza Restaurant in my neighborhood. The other exchange
students and I go there ALL the time (I'm talking four and five times a
week); it's a nice place to hang out, talk and eat all the pizza you can
possibly consume. The waiters almost know Samantha, Caroline and me by
name. The three of us have this obsession with chocolate pizza and all the
waiters know it; they come by and basically put the entire pizza on our
plates. Oh Funny story: About a week ago the three of us went there for
dinner. We were sitting at the table eating and all of a sudden Caroline
screamed and stood up, less than a second later Samantha did the same
thing and then a spilt second later I felt something cold and damp on arm…it
was a Lizard! I screamed and shook it off. Somehow a lizard had crawled
onto Caroline's pizza, made its way over to Samantha, crawled on her hand,
which she then flung on my arm. It was scary and really embarrassing
because everyone in the restaurant was staring at us but we laughed it off
and continued eating. That's just one of the many bizarre stories that I
have about that place!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think that's about it for this month. Like I said
nothing especially interesting but to me being here is amazing
Até Mais Gente!
P.S. I've gotten a few emails from my friends in the
states and they wanted me to give them a shout-out in one of my Journals
so here we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Jacksonville: Samantha W., Courtney G, Jeremy M.,
Katy B., Brian G., Tom C., Ryann G, Greg W., Steve W., Kristen G. and the
rest of the D.A. clan that I love soooooo much BEIJOS!!!!!!!!!
From Tallahassee: Priyanka P., Art H., Michael M., Cody
B., Camilla B., Jimmy S., Mannie H. and David A. along with the rest of
Rickards High I Love and miss you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!