Grace, outbound to Brazil

Every day on exchange is an adventure. Every day something new and memorable happens. Sometimes I have to go out myself and search for something to do, but I at least try to make the most out of every day here.
That being said, I've now been here FIVE MONTHS, and I can't imagine a time in my life better than my past few months here in Brasil! SO much happens every day, which is why I think the best way to update you all is to try to give a list of the highlights of my past few months:

- Introduced the wonders of American food to my host family by teaching them how to make brownies, pancakes, and cheesecake (which truthfully I had never made by hand before but my host cousin had always seen cheesecake in American movies and wanted to know what it tasted like).

- Performed with my classmates at our school's dance recital, costume and all, it was the first time I had done something like that.

- Spent endless weekends at sítios (little farm houses outside of the city) with family and friends. Sítios are where a lot of Brazilian families go on the weekends to spend time together, relaxing, swimming, playing cards, and generally enjoying life. I also went to a sitio for a weekend with some of my classmates as a end-of-the-year celebration of sorts!

- Speaking of end- of-the-year, I graduated from Brazilian high school! There were two ceremonies, a mass for all the graduates in one of the city's most beautiful Catholic churches, and then a formal ceremony that took place in an auditorium. Everyone looked their best, wearing very formal dresses or suits.

- I actually made A SPEECH at my graduation(completely in Portuguese of course), thanking my classmates for helping me with my Portuguese, to adjust to life here in Brazil and all the wonderful memories they had given me. At the end of the auditorium everyone stood up and clapped for me, my classmates, my amazing teachers, my principal.....It truly was a special moment I don't think I'll ever forget about my exchange, I was moved to tears.

- Went to my cousin's graduation and graduation party (with was complete with a live Carnival-style band that didn't stop until 5 AM- they literally served breakfast at the party and my whole family arrived home at 7 AM as the sun was rising).

- Went to a Brazilian wedding! It was gorgeous, and the reception afterwards was a lot of fun- I almost felt like I was back in America with all the English party songs they played ('YMCA', Michael Jackson, 'Party Rock Anthem', The Black Eyed Peas).

- Had a paint war on the last day of school (traditionally Brazilians paint themselves with the names of the university they will go to and what they will study, on the last day of school).

- Helped out at an English school a few times, talking to the classes about the United States and answering any questions they had about the culture.

- Gotten the hang of taking the buses around the city and into Belo Horizonte.

- My Birthday!!! My host family is absolutely the greatest and planned a party for me, all my family was there and my friends from school came and I couldn't have asked for a better day!

- Brazilian Christmas! They celebrate Christmas mostly on the 24th here, so that is the day the whole family got together for a dinner and gift exchange.

- I visited the zoo in BH the other day with the other exchange students, but yesterday I went to this amazing animal sanctuary that my host aunt helps out at and I got to see onça- pintadas (leopards) and mountain lions and every type of bird imaginable! I even got to go into the exhibit of a one-armed monkey and play with him face-to-face!

- Among other little things, I'm reading books in Portuguese and trying to work on my pronunciation, as well as writing my handwritten exchange jornal completely in Portuguese. I've come to find that sometime I want to use a Portuguese word when I'm talking in English because I feel that it just "fits" better.
Overall, I'm having the time of my life, and there are many adventures yet to come- I have the Nordeste trip in January- a trip all along the coast of Brazil!
Até logo!