Monday, October 11, 2010

My family's tips

I often sit down and just visit with my family here, similar to my family in the States. We sit around the living room or around the kitchen table and talk about things like the justice system, politics, cultural differences, and other things. It is never a super grueling conversation where I feel like I'm in school. It is always a discussion about the way their country is and what aspects they agree with and what aspects they don't. With the election that had passed (October 3rd) politics have been a big issue here. Their voting system is very fast and had no major flaws. It is all electronic, the polls close about 6:00 or 8:00 I don't remember and the brasilians take extreme pride in the fact that they have their results by about 10:00, 11:00 that evening. Everyone in my family is eligible to vote, and when you are 18 or older it is mandatory an you will be fined if you don't. So they all went off to vote, however the night before and on other random occasions they would talk to me about who they were voting for and why. For the presidency no one got the majority so there will be another voting day held at the end of October. Dilma, is the chosen successor for the party of the current president, who can't run again because he's already served 2 4-year terms. Similar to John McCain however she was chosen more directly my Lula than by the people. If she wins she will be the first woman president. Now an important sidenote that I noticed was that no one told me they disliked her because she was a woman. Also no one pointed out too much of their personal life, or the person life of their children. When people explained things for me it had nothing to do with the person themselves, not their gender, their color of skin, or that they come from a family who is a little out of control. All of their reasons were based on the politics of the person and the party they belong to. Now I can't say the same for everywhere else in Brasil, but for me it was a nice breath of fresh air in comparison to the U.S. where everyone points out things about the candidates that have nothing to do with how they are going to run the country, just to deter people from voting for them. I must say though, the political advertising here is much worse. Everyone here has things in their lawns, windows, on their cars. There are hours of television where every channel (on regular tv) is about the election and the candidates. There are millions of commercials as well (most of them promoting the candidate, very few completely bashing the opponent). However the day after every thing is gone, or in the process of being taken away. You won't find a 'vote Obama' bumper sticker on anyones car a few years later. Of course there were more parties and such the night of elections, there were parades of cars and fireworks that were fun to watch from our veranda. But I kind of got sidetracked, this was just something I found interesting, back to my family.

So, I am the second exchange student my host family has received in their home. They have been giving me, throughout time, attributes that they think every exchange student should have to be successful.

1. Open-minded. Reasoning: You are an exchange student, you might not like eggs in your home country, but eggs are not the same in your host country. You have to try everything (food, activities, trends), within reason, to know if you like it or not. You can't refuse things based on previous ideas about them and get back to your home country and have done nothing. Also on the food, my sister told me "what happens if you try something and really like it? If you try it early then you can eat it time and time again before you leave, if you try it the last day and like it, well, you are out of luck." My experience: I dislike eggs on anything, they're really good on sandwiches here. I have tried pudding (is like really mushy pancakes) time and time again and I can eat it but I would never choose to make it for myself or buy it, but I have tried it so I have reason to not like it. I tried sushi for the first time ever and enjoyed it and now I've eaten it multiple times. I took a dance class and I'm really enjoying it. My brother is teaching me guitar and making me sing, as much as I dislike singing to anyone but myself and my sisters, I am getting over that and enjoying myself.

2. Be Patient. Reasoning: You are an exchange student, things are not going to happen at the speed you expect and you have to be patient. You won't always understand the language and you have to be patient with yourself and the person explaining things to you. You can't drive and not everything is at your reach, calm down, everything runs on the time of your country. My experience: It's been taking me a while to learn to speak. I definitely speak well enough to survive and that's not a problem, but it is slang and when numerous people are speaking at one time that I get a little lost. I can't get frustrated and give up because I need to learn, sometimes it takes five minutes to explain what one word is and then we can't remember what happened. This happens a lot with jokes they tell me, they aren't funny after they've explained them for a minute or so. Also we now have two cars for our family, however my brother can't drive and my parents work all the time. There is a lot of waiting around, or walking. Either way you have to be patient and not freak out because in reality it's not a big deal. You get there when you get there, there is nothing you can do to change it at that time.

3. Adapt to your country. Time and time again my family has told me and their friends that although exchange students bring important cultural aspects that they leave with their host family and friends, the student must adapt to their host country and host family, not vice-versa. Of course anyone would be thinking, yes obviously, but I suppose it's different when you have someone that is extremely uncomfortable and not in the mood to change. My experience: I haven't held on to too many American traditions. The one I held on to the longest was our trend to wear tank tops underneath shirts because we never show our stomach or want that awkward moment where your underwear are showing while you are sitting down. Everyone thought I was crazy. After a while I decided, I'm in Brasil, I'll do it their way. I've also adapted to their joking-ness, and I'm working on understanding their sense of humor. All in all my parents keep telling me I'm becoming more brasilian everyday. I take this as a good sign. However I have been spreading a couple things I brought with me, candy and cookies, how to solve the rubik's cube, hemp jewelry, and some games we play when we are bored.

4. Don't be shy, say what is bothering you. Reasoning: People can't help you if you don't tell them what is wrong. If you are hungry tell people that you are, if you are sad let someone know. Nothing can be fixed if no one has any idea what's wrong to begin with. My experience: This is the on I struggle with the most. I mean when major things are bothering me I do tell people (like the week I had really bad headache on and off, and the huge puss filled bump on the back of my leg) but I don't worry too much if I'm a little hungry, or if I'm a little cold. These are things they'd like me to let them know as well, but I have a hard time seeing them as anything but annoying things that don't bother me all that much anyways. I've got to work on this area a lot.

5. Be outgoing. Reasoning: If you are a outgoing you'll make friends easier, you'll try out just about everything, and you'll have a great time. My experience: I don't think this is something you can completely change. Some people are naturally more shy and reserved, but being in a different country definitely helps you open up, especially if you are in a country where there is no embarrassment. I'm still working on saying things that come to my mind and dancing and singing in public. For example it takes me some time to get into the groove of dancing here, because these people are amazing dancers and I'm, well let's just say I'm not. They try to teach me time and time again how to move my feet and my hips, and every time I pick it up a little quicker. I also have a Colombian friend here who stands on tables and dances and sings in school. I'm not to that point of outgoing but I sing with her sometime, so that's a start.

Anyways, sorry about it taking so long, it's just that things are becoming more and more normal here (in the sense that it seems normal and not as strange) so I find less and less things out of place and have no need to share them with you if they are seemingly normal.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading your blog, but I especially liked this post with the tips! I have been thinking about these things here in Sweden as well. We may be having very different experiences, but I have also been working on trying to be more outgoing, less passive if something is bothering me, and more patient when it comes to learning Swedish and in everyday life. I think you have the right mindset.

    Have fun,