Here, Portuguese dominates my life. It’s good because I’ve been learning so much! Everyday I improve; however I’m still not comfortable hearing it all the time. I have no friends near me because school hasn’t stared yet. I am unable to go places alone because I don’t know my way around or how to stay safe. My parents aren’t here to hold my hand anymore. It is all very frustrating.
I spent a few minutes figuring out how to start this journal, how to sum up everything that’s been going on for the past two weeks; while 12 days sounds like nothing on the exchange spectrum, it’s been an eternity of learning, excitement, confusion, chaos, and emotion for me. I’d sum it up like this: “What is a comfort zone?!”
As soon as I left my parents in the Fort Lauderdale airport to wait in my terminal, I was launched off my pedestal of comfort right there. I got lost in the airport and went through security twice... all in my hometown! I thought I was such an established and independent person, but I couldn’t navigate in my own language or city. How could I do this in a new country, in a new language, with nobody!?
I was mollified at the airport in Recife when my host family came to meet me.. They were extremely nice and helpful in my first moments. From then on, I’ve had a great relationship with my host parents, three host brothers, and host puppy.
(I’d like to add that I arrived the day of the final.. so I was technically here for the World Cup! Right!?)
So far, I have noticed a few things that really struck me as different than the US. That’s right, not good, not bad, but different, exchangers!
-The first thing that is incredibly charming to me about my city is the pay phones. It sounds strange, but they’re all shaped like little eggs! I’ve also seen some in other cities that look like umbrellas, and even trash cans shaped like coconuts!
-It gets dark here at 5:30 pm which is very early compared to my 8:30 sunset in Florida.
-Things that are made here in Brazil are super cheap, like coconut water which is the USD equivalent of 50 cents! Also, hand-made things like jewelry and art is very inexpensive. However, anything not from here is heavily taxed and costs a fortune! Things like clothes and phones are incredibly overpriced in comparison to US prices.
-The fruit here is so delicious, ripe, and abundant. I’ve tried several new fruits that I didn’t know existed. I feel like I’ve discovered a new color or a new number each time I try a new one - something essential and great that I had no knowledge of!
-I’ve gained the reputation of Miley Cyrus here. Apparently being a blonde, short-haired American makes me her twin. I don’t see the resemblance!
-Besides the news and novelas, all the shows are American with Portuguese voice-overs or captions. I find a lot of the shows hilarious because the actors have completely different voices; however, I don’t know how I’ll get over Will Smith with a carioca accent...
-It might just be my family, but coffee is a big thing here. Sometimes we/they have coffee four or five times a day!
I’d like to talk about the difficulties as well, because although Rotary says the first few months are a honeymoon, I didn’t have this experience so far. I didn’t expect to feel so frustrated, confused, and lonely here already. I thought my maturity would equate into loving every second I’ve been in Brazil, but that’s far from the truth.
As I said before, I’ve been kicked out of my comfort zone of English, friends, security, and family. Here, Portuguese dominates my life. It’s good because I’ve been learning so much! Everyday I improve; however I’m still not comfortable hearing it all the time. I have no friends near me because school hasn’t stared yet. I am unable to go places alone because I don’t know my way around or how to stay safe. My parents aren’t here to hold my hand anymore. It is all very frustrating.
However more so than the difficulties, stepping outside my comfort zone has trusted me into incredible experiences, new friendships, and unforgettable memories. I’ve had so many ‘first times’ here in Brazil already.. my first taste of good sushi, my first horseback ride (on the side of a mountain!), my first luau, my first açai, my first Rotex friends.. I can go on.
Through the tears, doubts, and bashful moments, it’s been well worth it. For all you students teetering between doing exchange and backing out, it’s worth it. Finally, to myself later on, when it becomes even harder for me here in Brazil, it’s been worth it.
Posted on Fri, July 25, 2014
by Catrine Fredrikson