Laura, outbound to Brazil

Ave Maria.. Nossa Senhora... Puxa.... Eitaaa... Oxeee.. Meu Deus! Where has the time gone?! 225 days have slipped through my fingers and now only a mere 133 remain. It’s unreal that my days are limited here. I fell in love with such an extraordinary place...

My good friend Mackenzie Teek, who also did her exchange from Florida to Joao Pessoa, said to me once, “My city [our city] is my little piece of the universe.” I couldn’t agree more. Like each place, my city has its downsides and annoying quirks.. but they’ve become MY quirks. The people, music, food, love, language, way of life: it’s all become a part of me.

In the past few months of my exchange much has gone on. Chronologically...

December: I spent my summer break in my city, and being the biggest city in my state, we had a lot of exchange students visit me and my friends. Exchangers from Mexico, US, Taiwan, Finland, Poland, England, Scotland... it’s safe to say I have a couch to crash on in any country in the world practically! I enjoyed many shows and music festivals here, mostly electronic music.

By the time Christmas rolled around, I spent it with my first host family in Boa Viagem, Recife. I got to know the ENTIRE city with them, including Olinda, Recife Antigo, Casa Amarela, and Mercado de Sao Jose, which has everything imaginable for dirt cheap. There I also enjoyed the company of more exchange students! On Christmas Eve, we had a dinner party with very traditional Brazilian food and music. For New Year’s, we returned back to Joao Pessoa and my host brother and I celebrated on the beach for a free show with some of the Northeast’s most well-known artists. There must of been millions of people, all dressed in white, counting down with us! It was magical.

January: Shortly after New Year’s, I traveled to Aracaju and Salvador to visit yet MORE exchangers! We went down to Bahia and got to see David Guetta at a rave, and we had a goodbye party for our only ‘oldie’ (the exchange students from Germany, Australia, etc who arrive in January instead of August). A week there, and I was back to my city to enjoy the rest of my vacation with my friends. At the end of January I started school again, this time in the same class with my best friend from Denmark. I am really enjoying this new class as opposed to my previous year!

February: Ah the best month so far because of the famous Carnaval! The entire month it seems has been block party after festival after party after show! The entire country stops what they’re doing to celebrate before and during the 4 day Carnaval. Joao Pessoa has amazing block parties where we shut down the biggest street in the city and have themed parties for days on end! My absolute favorite was ‘Dia Das Virgens’ where men of all gender and sexual orientations dress up as women and parade down the streets! It was the best thing I’ve seen in my life. My friends in makeup, heels, and dresses.... I will never forget.

For actual Carnaval, my American friend and I went to Olinda, in Recife for one of the most famous parties in all of Brasil. At Quatro Cantos, an intersection in the historic downtown center, there are literally MILLIONS of people in costumes and with music parading around the city. Out of amazing luck, we found our two friends who live in Natal, from France and Hungary. From sun up to sun down we stayed and partied with the most hilarious Brazilians in the most creative costumes. My friend and I wore our American flags and that got us an amazing amount of acceptance from the locals. Each one would quickly think of an English word to yell at us to impress us.. most of them were entirely random, like ‘XBOX!’ ‘Beverly Hills!’ ‘Freezer!’ etc.

Beside Carnaval, I had the amazing opportunity to do a photoshoot with my amazing, talented friend, and we appeared on a TV interview because of it! I also switched families, to my wonderful mommy and my beautiful sister. We get along really well. I continue to spend my free time on the beach, practicing my Português, singing Wesley Safadão, and loving my friends.

That’s just about up to date with today. In the upcoming months I have plenty of more travels planned (Buenos Aires? Sao Paulo? Rio? Amazon?), plenty of more festivities and shows, and plenty of more to learn from my incredible Brazilian friends. Stay tuned for more excitement from the best year ever.

PS. 4500 may have to be the second best Rotary district in the world (after 6990 of course) because of my chairman and club here. I am thankful to be able to travel so much, and to have the opportunities that they’ve given me. Amo vocês demais!