Monday, December 27, 2010

Wow. Update.


Sorry. It has been FOREVER! I have gotten so bad at this and you want to know what, I haven't really been up to that much! Well in a way I have. It's weird to me. For example I don't do a whole lot of different things, but I do so much.

I spend lots of time watching movies and walking around with friends, eating new food, exploring the city, visiting shops, or hanging out in homes talking.

To catch you up a little on my life:

December 4th was my birthday. I spent my whole birthday weekend hanging out with my best friends here from 12:00 a.m. until 12:30. then 3:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. the following day. My brother was traveling and so he felt really bad about leaving me for the weekend. When I returned home after going to church with my friend Isa, we were going to go out again. Then she invited me to help her get tereré ready to drink. I complied of course and we walked into the kitchen where my family and friends had set up a surprise birthday party for me! It was wonderful, I don't think I've ever been so surprised in my life and I couldn't sleep or stop smiling from pure happiness!

I've spent most of December hanging out with my friends in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I have been to a lot of "Secret Santa" holiday parties with my parents as well. These are always interesting! I've been learning to play Truco, the very popular card game here.

December 22nd we had a 50th birthday party to attend. I invited Alejandra to come with me, she accepted. We arrived there and there happened to be another exchange student there, not from our district. He happened to be from the United States, and when we talked to him, I found out he's from IOWA! What a wonderful coincidence!! It was a nice evening and it was wonderful to know another exchange student!

My sister and her boyfriend arrived here December 23rd to celebrate Christmas with us. We spent a lot of time visiting and drinking tereré. Most of the time we stay up until 3:00 in the morning just talking to each other and enjoying each other's presence. My sister and her boyfriend have been dating for 7 years and have talked about marriage together, but my "brother-in-law" had to ask my dad's permission. That was interesting to watch because he never gave them a for sure answer, he just talked around it, in circles.

Christmas without snow and without normal holiday baking definitely didn't feel the same. I didn't feel the Christmas spirit that is impossible to miss back home. It just seemed like another day to me. As much as I missed the Christmas lights on every house, the snow, the cold, the smell, the feeling, I had a pleasant Christmas/Christmas Eve.

Christmas is celebrated basically at 12:00 a.m. Right when it changes. We had a dinner with a bunch of family friends and we ate, played UNO, and talked. Then it turned midnight, we all wished each other a Merry Christmas and about 10 minutes later everyone went home. When we got home we all exchanged gifts in the home, it was a nice time! It wasn't a materialistic thing where people were upset or disappointed with their gifts, it was just pure contentment.

Christmas day we slept in, ate lunch with the same people in the same place, played BINGO, and then the "kids" (my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, a son of a family friend, and I) left and drove around drinking tereré before we returned home to watch a movie. I got the chance to call my parents and grandparents back in the U.S. via skype! That was a nice treat!! For dinner we went to the same place with the same people and when we left we picked up my friend Alejandra and at about 12:30 we went to a club to go dancing.

Mateus, the boyfriend of my sister, left on the 26th, but my sister is staying until January 3rd. I'm loving having her here!!

Overall, this was a really crappy update, but I've had a wonderful December without snow, and I'm really content here. I couldn't have asked for more!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings only the best for you!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Almost A Year Ago

Today is December 1st. I've been thinking lately that a year ago I was getting excited to go to the Country Fair and District Interviews and get one step closer to my exchange year. Now I'm here and I still have a hard time believing it. It all seems so unreal and yet so normal at the same time. As I've been thinking, I remember the night before Saturday December 5th, 2009. It was my birthday so my family and I were eating our traditional homemade chicken noodle soup and Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. I don't remember if I had candles on the cake or anything, but I do know that before I went to bed, the only thing I wished for was that my interview would go well and I'd be on my way to any country that following summer.

When I woke up, I don't remember being nearly as nervous as I should have been. We loaded up in the car–Mom, Dad, and me–and I remember Mom and Dad asking, "Are you nervous?" and I told them, "Not really, I should be, but if I'm not the type of person their looking for I'm not that isn't going to change now."

This seems so much truer now. The interviews people are about to have this Saturday aren't like a chapter test where you can cram the night before and pass with flying colors. It's not even like a final where if you put in a good two weeks effort and you do almost perfectly. These interviews about being yourself and who you have been for the last 15-18 years of your life. Of course there are better ways to speak to people and treat other people, but there is no reason to be nervous. We'd all been training for this day, without knowing it, just by being the type of people we'd always been.

My life here isn't something I could have prepared for. Of course I learned a little of the language, I made myself aware of some of the customs, I learned a little bit about the history, but I couldn't prepare myself for how I was going to interact with the locals, how I was going to deal with people that dislike me, or how I was going to represent my country. Sure there are times when I am more aware of what I am saying and doing and I do it more correctly and politically correct, and of course I could always fake liking people, being happy, and being perfect. However faking things tires after about a day, imagine a year.

In the end, by being here, I've realized that I'm still me, I still get frustrated by the same things. I still put my family (new and old) before just about everything, I still am horribly optimistic, I still like to do things independently, I still procrastinate too much, and I continue to make the same faces at friends sitting across the room from me. There are somethings I've adapted to, but there are some things that I can't change in the blink of an eye even if I'm aware it's a bit of a problem. I guess it's becoming more about who I was and that becoming more prominent, than some big dramatic change of being for me. I'm noticing some of the characteristics I've always had and I'm becoming happy and comfortable with them.

So I guess what I'm thinking as I think about a year ago is that I hope you guys don't get too nervous, it's not a big deal. Be true to yourself, because Rotary isn't looking to lecture you on your values, but they are looking to see if you would make a successful youth ambassador and have a successful exchange. Imagine passing every interview and orientation and arriving in a new country and not enjoying yourself because you just weren't ready as a person. Everything is going to go great and picture it: in a year, you'll be in a different country, excited for, yet slightly envious of, the people that are about to start their exchange.

Good Luck!! Boa Sorte!!
I look forward to hearing where you are all going next year!

p.s. Brasil is by far the best country... soo, put it as you're #1. Just saying. :P

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swimming with Alligators and Piranhas

Like I promised, here is what I did last weekend:

Thursday: I graduated from high school again, it was a big ceremony (but not even the fun day, that was the next day when they had their dance, similar to prom/a club/a feast) where we sat around and listened to people talk, we received our diplomas and chocolates, lots of people cried (I teared up a little because when I go back to study it won't be with any of these people again!), and we went on our way. I walked in with Alejandra and my dad here and we were introduced specially as intercambistas. After the ceremony a large group of us went to a restaurant to eat and joke around more. It was a good time, just hanging out and eating pizza and not worrying about anything.

Friday: I woke up at about 9:00 and got all packed up for my weekend trip to Cáceres (about 3 hours away by car). In Cáceres we would have an orientation for all of the exchange students. We picked up Alejandra and Clovis (my chairman) around 1:00 and after running back to my house and Alejandra's to pick up our rotary blazers, we began our journey. Everything is Green now so I didn't sleep much, instead I just watched the scenery and when Alejandra was awake we talked about random things. We arrived in Cáceres at about 4:30 ish, and we met up with the other cochairman Fránsergio (who lives in Cáceres). We were early because Clovis had to be there to prepare some things, the event didn't actually start until 8:00. We ate some ice cream while everyone was visiting and then we headed out to the hotel boat where we would be staying for the next couple of days.

We were it's first trip (imagine Titanic, but in the Pantanal). We joked about it and I got to be Rose, because of my middle name, which is slightly different then my normal Jack role with the diving girls. :). We even had a moment where the kitchen windows were fogged up and a Brasilian made the car scene reference! It was amazing! Anyways we arrived on the boat. I met two journalists that were there for the event, one 20 years old and the other 21. They were a couple and they were really nice and fun to get to know. Then slowly other people and other exchange students began to show up. We had a Rotary meeting on the ship at about 10:00, took some pictures, and spent the rest of the evening playing uno, eating supper, playing uno again, and getting to know each other.

There are 7 intercambistas in my district. Starting in the back row we have Fránsergio and Clovis. Front Row: Claudio from México, Alejandra from Colombia, Alejandro from México, Darren from Australia, Patrícia from Brasil but spent a year in México, Aaron from The United States (Detroit Michigan), Marie from the United States (Eden Prarie Minnesota) and me from the United States (Northfield Minnesota). All of us are fairly new except for Darren, he's been here for roughly 9 months and will be returning to Australia in January. Aaron is the newest, he's been here for a little less than a month.

Saturday: We went to bed about 4:00 in the morning after playing uno. The boat left to start traveling down the river about 9:00 and this was also when breakfast was supposed to end, so I got up at about 9:00 (the first one from our room/first exchange student, go me!) and I went to start eating breakfast. We eventually came to a beach where the boat stopped and docked for a good amount of the afternoon, we ate lunch here and spent almost all of our daylight here. Before lunch we went down to the water and the beach to explore a bit. This area is a very wild part of Brasil, there are lost of exotic animals and lots of snakes and other things. In the river there were piranhas and alligators as well as other strange fish and snakes. Here we found these really cool plants that close when you touch them and we played a little in the water. However the little taste of water we got wasn't nearly enough for us, it was just a little teaser of an appetizer, leaving us starving to jump in completely. However we hadn't eaten lunch yet and we didn't know if we had to wait until after. So we got on the boat again and were sitting around visiting, getting really antsy for lunch and swimming, when we saw a guy checking the depth of the water around us. It was probably 9 feet deep. One of the journalists looked at me and said: "Wanna jump from the boat." and without even hesitating I seriously replied: "Lets." Of course we had to get permission, so we all changed into our swimsuits and everyone asked me to ask permission because I'm from Clovis's club and these girls always get their way easier :P. Darren and Marcio (the journalist) jumped in first from the boat to test it out for us, then it was our turn. I am pleased to say that Minnesota represented well, Marie and I were the first two girls and first two people after Darren and Marcio to jump in. We did it quite fearless, I might add without hesitation or squealing. Everyone hit the bottom but the sand was so soft and wasn't sticky at all, it didn't give us any problems.

After a few people jumped from the second floor (shown in the picture above) we decided we wanted more of a thrill. There again I was sent to ask Clovis for permission, which he granted. Then we went to Fránsergio who was a little more hesitant. He first told us no because the other rotarians would get angry, then he told us we could, but only once. I sought out my dad to make sure that he didn't have any problem with it, because after all he is the most responsible for me. He told me to be careful but he gave me permission to do it. Here I had another proud moment, where I was the first girl (3rd person) to jump from the 3rd story (after Darren and Marcio). I jumped more with excitement than fear and it was SO much fun! Marie followed shortly after and eventually everyone did it. Everyone jumped in from every level with the exception of Aaron, who doesn't know how to swim that well so he just waded in and stayed near the beach.

After we jumped in Darren, Alejandra, Marie, and I went for a boat ride around the river (think Minnesota fishing boats) to see if we could find any cool wildlife, we were mostly looking for alligators. The scenery was beautiful and it was relaxing, although we didn't have cameras to take pictures. When we got back it was time for a meeting where the owner/creator of TerraBrasil (a program that sells trips for rotary students) talked about all of his trips, and I got even more excited for the Northeast trip I'll be taking with them the whole month of January. I will for sure be with 3 other people from Minnesota and more than likely Alejandra AND ≈94 other exchange students!!!!!! After this we went on a cruise to an old farm site and we were there just in time for the beginning of the sunset, the rest we got to watch from the boat. This was the first time I had seen such a colorful sunset in Brasil, it was beautiful!

As it got dark the boat docked on a different beach for the night. We had dinner and began to play UNO again. We played with different rules that were a lot more fun than regular UNO. I'll explain it someday when I get back in the states. We played lots of music and joked around until it was midnight.

Sunday: Midnight came and the birthday of Marcela (an ex-interactian) began (the 14th, the same as my host-mom Ederly, and my beautiful sister Quinn). We celebrated by singing and people brought her a cake, which wasn't cooked, and I never saw it again. I just know I didn't get to eat it... After that all of the exchange students, the two journalists, and the 3 other people our age went down to the beach to play night games and visit. It was nice. Alejandra, Marie, and I explored the beach a little searching for animals and found a dead fish skeleton, but the fish had pointy (resembled a chainsaw) fin bones that stuck straight out and made a cross with it's spine. It was strange. Then we all got back on the boat and began to play English music and sing and dance. We played some more games, and by now all of the Rotarians had gone to bed. Alejandro was shining his flashlight into the wilderness to find animals and when he saw some glowing eyes looking back at us a couple of us got off the boat to explore. We only found a small bird, but I don't believe that was the eye that we originally saw. After that we played more games, looked at the sky, we couldn't find the southern cross which made me a little disappointed because it had been a long time since I had seen the stars and I HAVE to see that before I go. Then about 5 in the morning we made our way to bed.

7:30, 8:00 the next morning I woke up and tried to take a shower, we were out of water for a little bit. So I went to eat breakfast. Once again I was the first person from our room up (and the first young person), I'm sure my host-dad was proud because I sleep very late in our house here and they always make fun of me, but I was not that lazy on our trip. I had all my stuff packed up before breakfast and we (Alejandra, Clovis, my host-dad, and I) left at about 9:00 after the boat docked in the original location, to head for home, before anyone was really even awake.

We went straight to Tangará's RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, I think...) when we got back into town. We ate lunch there and gave a little speech about ourselves first in our native tongue, and then in Portuguese. Then we headed for home to shower, unpack, and take a nap.

I woke up to the power out and rainy cold weather. I said "oi" to my parents and they sent me to the kitchen to eat dinner. When I was eating my brother walked in and said "I'm going out to eat pizza with some people from interact, if you want to go, I didn't tell you because I didn't want to wake you." I said, "nah, that's alright, go ahead without me." He came back in 2 minutes later and asked me again and I decided I'd go. I need to be more social anyways. So we ended up going to Tia Cida's house and visiting with people from Ryla who were still in Tangará. We ate pão de queijo and pizza and people played the guitar and sang.

Monday: At about 12:30 a.m. we loaded up in a couple cars and we went bowling, this was a lot of fun as well. Although I'm awful at bowling and so was my partner, we never took last! We almost won even!!! At about 2:00 a.m. my brother and I went home and went to bed.

About 10:30 the next morning my brother woke me up and told me we were going to a churrasco (BBQ) with the same people as the night before. So we went there and got everything all set up and ready to go. The only weird thing was that the people that weren't there were my girlfriends from my interact. I did get to visit with the other people from other areas as well. The food was good and we had some entertainment from people playing music on the computer and singing and dancing. At about 3:00 we all loaded up again and took them to the house they stayed at to pick up their things. They loaded up in their van, and they were off for their homes. A lot of people were crying because they had been so united all weekend and would part for an undefined amount of time. Once they were gone we went to the casa de amizade to clean up and put everything back in order. Then we went home and watched a movie and visited.

That's all for now although I do have a highlight: I MADE BRIGADEIRO (it's not hard at all) SUCCESSFULLY ALL BY MYSELF YESTERDAY! :) and I was dubbed the translator during the intercambista trip. My family here and my friends are so proud of my portuguese, although I have my moments I'm so much better than I was. My dad told me that it is getting better every day, and my friends always tell me when people talk about me behind my back and talk about my portuguese being good (i.e. their mom's, or the guy at the post office today to the other guy after I left). I think they are all so happy because they are the ones that have been working with me everyday and it's as big of a success for them as it is for me. My parents also love the fact that I'm forgetting my English. One quick example besides the many times I forget words was when I was giving my speech in English at our RYLA. I said: "I am staying with the Ribas fa..(to start família)..[pauuuuuse]]]]] :)

I'll try and update again soon!

I've been having a great time!

Take care,

Monday, November 15, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

I'm sure almost everyone has experienced the feeling you have when you are away from home and all you incredibly miss your bed, your shower, your home cooked meals, and every other little thing. I'm sure you all remember the refreshing breath you take as you set your bags on your floor after ending a trip of any amount of time and looking around the house you remember and nothing significant has changed while you were gone. Everything is calm, everything is right, everything feels at peace. Even if you had the best vacation of your life there is always something nice about coming home. There is absolutely no way for me to explain to anyone the feeling you get when you realize you are missing home so incredibly much, when you arrive home and you are so glad to see everyone and everything, and then you realize that you are finding this comfort in a place that you never imagined. A place that you left your home to come to three months before. This place where you didn't know the language, the customs, or the people living there.

It isn't something where you wake up one day and everything is perfect, it is something that happens over time. But for me it was something where I stepped foot in my house and realized that this change that had been happening without me noticing actually occurred. It was everything come together at once. And think I'll soon be switching homes.

Being we are talking about homes. I still don't know who my second family is. I asked my chairman and he said it is a secret. I also asked when I would be changing families and I was told that they still didn't know. My family here talked to him and told him that they'd like to keep me for Christmas and until after I get back from my trip to the northeast (Jan 5-Feb 5) because it doesn't make sense to celebrate Christmas with people I hardly know and it doesn't make sense to move until after I get back because they don't want me getting back from my trip to a family I have only spent a week with. We're just not ready to part yet but it's inevitable and that makes me sad. It helps that I'll be in the same town for the year and I'll see them over and over again, but I also find it weird that I'll have to call another person "mom" and "dad". Now you're thinking, hey you did this when you arrived in Brasil, however for some reason it feels different. When I arrived I didn't have a family here, and now I do and it's going to be so strange having another one. I'm very lucky to have this experience and to have amazing relationships with lots of people but that doesn't mean I'm not nervous nor feel strange.

Like my dad (my real father:]) continues to tell me: home is where the heart is. This has never been more true for me until this exchange experience and never have I had so many homes, so far apart from one another, until now. I can't wait for the day I will be reunited with my family, sleeping in my bed, and eating mother theresa's home cooked meals again, but I am also dreading this day extremely and afraid that it'll come too soon because that means I'll be leaving my home here. My thoughts about this are bittersweet already and I'm not even half way done, I can't imagine how torn I'll be in 9 more months.

I have many stories and realizations to tell you about and being I'm on summer vacation I'll try and post tomorrow or the day after. I had my orientation for rotary this past weekend and I caught the end of RYLA here, plus I have some interesting discussions to tell you about, interesting point of views.

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Victories

On one hand I can be one of the most lazy people you know, on the other I can work really hard to create fairly decent results. With my schoolwork I always had a tendency to do more than average, never anything fantastic, but definitely worthy of the notes I received. So while I was putting together my presentation for rotary my super-nerd work ethic kicked in. The result was nothing miraculous, but it was well rehearsed and put together well. Let me tell you my process.

First, I was a young girl of 18 years and 3 months (vs 18 years and 11 months). I was on my way to the final rotary meeting, nervous as could be. I had been told a few weeks before that I had to create a power point presentation for people that didn't know anything about the U.S., Minnesota, Northfield, the Duchene family, or me. I spent time creating mine, starting at the U.S. and working my way down to me. We presented ours (or as far as we could get in 5 minutes) and we tucked them away to bring to our countries to fix up here and present for our rotary clubs. I forgot mine, or it was deleted when the computer crashed, either way I only had the notes people left me and my memory.

When I arrived here my mom told me that when I was speaking portuguese better I'd present my slideshow or the next time my club had a party night rather than just a meeting, whichever happened first. There was a close call the second week I was here for a family night, but I snuck by that one. About a month ago my dad here told me that I would be presenting when the governor of rotary for our district came to visit our club. I had a month, how awesome. I didn't worry much at all, I have a knack for leaving things until the last minute, this is the not-so-amazing quality of (---insert word here because I can't remember the word, in any language, just the feeling and that I put things off until the last minute---) that I have perfected over the years. So I procrastinated [[THATS THE WORD :)...seriously after 5 minutes of thinking about it]] like normal and I started working on it Saturday when I had nothing to do until today (Wednesday) when I was to present it.

I worked slowly collecting photos, of the millions I have on my external harddrive, putting together slides in an order that made sense, and deciding what was most important to express about my life and the culture in the U.S. to the people here in Brasil in 30-40 minutes. I spent Monday night, Tuesday morning and afternoon, and this afternoon finishing the slides while working steadily, meaning without facebook, msn, orkut, or skype. Then this afternoon I began to practice. I practiced once all alone, reciting what I would say for sure, then my brother came home and told me to practice for him. I did my presentation for him and he helped me with words, pronunciation, and spelling. I had also thrown in a couple slangs that weren't formal enough for this, but how was I to know? Then he left and I practiced one more time all alone, to work out all of the kinks.

I showered, got dressed up and went to the meeting. First, my MAC of a computer doesn't connect to things down here because everything in this world is geared towards PC's. Luckily I had saved on my external harddrive, but no one brought a laptop. My brother and another guy ran to get a laptop, but this laptop didn't work because when we went to restart it, it never restarted it just remained with a black screen. Then my brother went to another person's house and borrowed another laptop. (This all occurred while the meeting was in progress). We got it to work and then all eyes were on me.

My presentation had some errors in the words, but overall it went very very well. I had a small note sheet with random words I needed to remember how to pronounce, or remember in general, but I never once used it because I talked around things I forgot and it just felt nice to have it there, just in case. It was about 40 minutes which is getting a little long but I didn't lose everyone's attention so that wasn't a problem. I began with the basics on the U.S. our president, the flag and what the symbols represent, then I talked about the culture there (our typical food, the fast paced life we live, our love for sports, movies, and music), and then I went on to talk about our holidays (I mentioned of course one of my personal favorites May Day). After that I talked about Minnesota, where it's located, what we do for fun, typical food in Minnesota, our sports teams, the weather and the seasons, the State Fair, the Mall of America, and how our school system operates. I went on to talk about Northfield after that, our town, the colleges, its location, and Jesse James Days. Then came my family. I explained my parents jobs as well as my brother and sisters', where our house is and what it's like, the fact that my family has always hunted deer and bear (a lot of people poke fun and are curious about the process of hunting because here the jail sentence is worse if you kill an animal than if you kill a person), our animals and pets, and what responsibilities I have to gain certain privileges. Then I talked about myself, what kind of things I enjoy doing, what I was like as a child (I had a video here of my riding a bike but it didn't play), what schools I went to, the sports and activities I did, where I worked, and what programs I participated in. I went on to talk about why I chose to be an exchange student, my fears, expectations, and hopes I had before I arrived in Brasil, and then I talked about my life here in brasil. I talked about the amazing family I have, where I was studying, and what types of things I do in my spare time (i.e. the gym, dance class, spinning class (this is new!), and interact). I finished by talking about my plans for the future which quite frankly came out like this: "I have no idea anymore, honestly. When I arrived I was so sure of what college I'd return to and what classes I'd take, and no I have no clue." That is where it ended to applause and a few whistles from my interact friends who knew I was nervous and came to support me.

I received hugs from a few people, Clovis (the chairman who helps organize the inbounds and outbounds), my dad, and some other rotary members. The meeting continued for an hour and a half more because the governor continued to talk and talk and talk. While he was talking my friends were telling me that I did well and that they understood me and that now I am one of the few people from the United States that speaks Portuguese. We also talked about a few things I said incorrectly. One was when I was talking about Minnesota's teams. Everyone asks me about our soccer team which I didn't even know we had until I arrived in Brasil, I told them all the name and that quite honestly I didn't even know the name until yesterday when I was researching for this. However the funniest thing occurred when I was talking about my family. I was talking about my sister Quinn and how she is the most outgoing. Then I went on to say that she was always doing bad things with my brother when she was younger, however the way I said it in portuguese made it sound that they were doing things naughty in a sexual manner. People came up to me afterwards saying: "So, your youngest sister is a naughty/dirty/wild one eh?" Sorry Quinnie. I still love you.

Other than that everyone was pleased. Many people came up to me and told me that it was wonderful and that I did well. Clovis told me that everyone understood everything I said. My dad talked to the president of our club and he said it was one of the best he's ever seen. Not because it was extravagant, but because it told a story. It was organized and had a beginning, middle, and an end. It was direct to the point (not too much extra none-sense or details) but yet explained enough so that everyone left knowing 'Who Aletha Duchene is'. My dad told me to bring it to the exchange student weekend in Caceres this weekend, just incase. Being Clovis is from my club and him and my dad are going and have seen this presentation, I know that if they need an example they will more than likely ask me, but this isn't bad either.

Now I'm no professional speaker, I have mind blanks, I say the wrong things, and I have technological errors. However, finishing this and hearing good reviews as well as sharing my culture and my life with people (for once without questions directing me) felt really good. It is this small victory that will keep me on a high for the whole weekend and into next week, and every time I set foot in the House of Friendship (casa de amizade, where the rotary meetings/interact meetings are held) I will remember how nice it felt and a part of me will always be happy with myself.

I just can't imagine that 3 months ago I spoke basically nothing of Portuguese and tonight I gave a 40 minute presentation that the whole world understood.

Like I said in the beginning, I'm so thankful not only for rotary here that chose to receive me as their exchange student, but also my district in the U.S. and the Northfield Rotary Club that chose to give me this opportunity and entrusted in me the responsibility of strengthening existing connections while creating others and creating a positive image for the whole world back home. I am also greatly thankful for all of the orientations. They prepared me more than I could have ever imagined, and all because of this I had a small victory tonight and my exchange is becoming more and more successful everyday.

Well if you don't hear from me, I'm graduating tomorrow night, then I'm off to a House (Hotel) Boat for the weekend, be back on Sunday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY QUINNIE [and know that if you were here it'd be the biggest party of your life because 15 here is our 16 there]. :)

Beijos e boa sorte with your presentations to come :)

com amor,

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It has been quite awhile since I last posted here. I have been ever so busy enjoying life down here but I do feel a tad bit guilty.

Anyways, last weekend (over Halloween), from Saturday to Tuesday my interact club hosted a huge camping district olympics event. It is called ODIC. Most places host ODIC at the end of October as well, however they have about four months to get ready. We found out that there wasn't going to be an ODIC if we didn't accept, 3 weeks before the date it was planned. Being the interact club we are, we accepted and got to work straightaway. Now this is where I sometimes feel like a deadweight. I don't understand completely everything and I don't give much advice. However I've always been one of the best for setting up tables and chairs, taking down tables and chairs, washing dishes, setting up tents, or anything that is involves less verbal communication. This also happens to be the area where a lot of brasilians like to skip and 'rest'.

So Friday I went there to help set up our tents and get things cleaned up. Originally I was to return home (even though I had packed my things) because I was to pick up Marie, the other Minnesotan exchange student, and two other girls from her city at the bus stop Saturday morning. However my friends here were a little frustrated and wanted me to spend the night camping with them. It was great to hear their excuse. "Aletha, you have known her for what, 2 months? and you have known us for your whole life!" I must say this was one of the greatest things I have been told for persuasion because it is so incredibly untrue and it was hilarious because we all knew it, yet for some reason it felt so truthful, these people I see everyday that I feel like I've known forever and that I can't imagine life without. So I told them, alright I will spend the night and try and get a ride back in the morning. We went out there and explored the view (finally grass and green space) and we set up our tents. Then I had to go home and get my stuff to bring out, but when we got home we couldn't get a ride back out, so I slept in my bed one last night.

The next day I waited until my brother picked up Marie and the other girls from the bus stop (there wasn't a lot of extra room for me in the car). They were 2-3 hours late arriving here. Then we took them out for lunch and after that for ice cream. It was nice to show a little bit of my town to Marie because the last time she was here to visit I didn't know a whole lot and we didn't go to normal hang outs. Eventually we all loaded up into my dad's truck and we headed to the campgrounds.

I got there and my best friend, Isa, who I was to share a tent with wasn't there. People told me that she had gotten frustrated with another girl and left and possibly wouldn't be returning. My really good friend, Hiago, had returned to the city with her because he was going to practice with his church band. Isa's tent had fallen down because one of the rods had broken and so I was tentless, without my closest friends, and in search of company. Of course I was with Marie so that was nice and I had all of my interact friends to hang out with and I made a bunch of new friends as well, but there is something about being with people that you click instantly with. I set up plans to sleep in another tent with my friend Jianny and my friend Camila. Later Hiago and Isa showed up and the only thing my weekend was missing was Alejandra (the Colombian exchange student).

The first night we ate dinner after setting up our tents. It was incredibly windy and starting to drizzle while we were setting up everyone else's tents that it was an insane adrenaline rush to beat the weather. We had an opening ceremony a little before dinner as well. Then dinner began. After dinner we had a little bit of free time to readjust things in our tents and visit with other people. That night we had a show of a sertaneja duo (similar to country) from our Interact club. It was the same duo I had watched, and mentioned, from the first week I was here at the Rodizio, Ricardo & Luis Felipe. They were really good, they played a few songs in English too!!! They played for a while and we danced and I was proud of myself to know a lot of the songs they were playing. Then after they were done a DJ played for a little while longer and I attempted to dance funk. About 12:00, everyone was sent off to get ready for bed, except for us. We were the organization crew, not there to participate in the fun and games except for the night parties, we had a meeting.

The next morning our group was to get up at 5:00 a.m. and get everything ready for the rest of the day. My tent and my brother's tent got up on time and went to take showers so that we were all ready for the day at 5:30. Due to the insane usage of showers the day before by ignorant campers, the water had been shut off (we used our ration) the night before so we didn't get to take a shower. It was still shut off that morning. Lovely. So getting ready for the day went a lot faster than expected. At 5:30 when everyone from Tangará was supposed to be preparing things for breakfast the walk-up fire works were set off. They weren't supposed to be set off until 6:00. So we spent the rest of he morning telling people they couldn't leave their tents yet, we didn't have water yet, and it was an accident.

First test: After breakfast the first Olympic challenge took place. Everyone was split into their team which was based on shirt color. Each team picked one competitor to represent them. Each competitor would have to eat 5 bananas as quick as they could. The person to eat the fastest won this challenge for their team. The funniest part was, as organization, we were judges. We were B.O.P.E., the highest armed forces in brasil, who usually dealt with favelas (slums). In the movie Tropica Elite, they show a B.O.P.E. training session and this was what our camp was based off of. With this being said everyone was yelling ridiculous things at the competitors about how they wouldn't succeed and half the time the comments made no sense and everyone burst out laughing.

After this we had lunch and I was put on guard duty with some other people to insure that no one (especially couples) snuck off into the tents or onto the trails. We basically spent our lunch telling people to go back to the cafeteria area. I continued on this job during the next test as well.

Second test: There were a bunch of balloons in the pool. Every team could send in one person at a time. This person would grab a balloon and set it in a pail on the side of the pool and then jump out of the water while the next person jumped in. The team with the most balloons won (I think).

Now this is where our weekend got even better. See being the Minnesotan I am, before leaving for camping I checked the weather. The weather forecast indicated rain everyday of the camp except tuesday when we were leaving. Now I love rain, but campers don't. So during this aquatic test it began to rain. It started drizzling, then it began to pour. It was the best rain I have seen in a long time. Being on guard duty I got the privilege of helping campers cover up their tents and get all of their clothes and towels inside their tents. Then I got to send them all to shelter and I got to stay in the rain to help other people. This was a perfect set up for me. Everyone here knows by now that I love playing in the rain. So a bunch of my girlfriends were searching for me to play with me and I had made a bunch of new friends that came out to play as well, and there were a couple other people playing tag and tackling each other. This was probably one of my favorite moments.

After dinner, well every meal, we have to wash our plates and if the veterans ask the 'newbies' to wash their plate for them, the 'newbies' have to accept. It's a hazing-type thing. So I had snuck away with just my plate and I was in line to wash it with a girl who had four plates. I offered her my help and she declined. Then she asked if I was a veteran and I replied "Nope, I'm an exchange student so I'm a 'newbie' forever." We got to talking about where I was from and she was excited to use her English, she called over a bunch of her friends and my favorite friend of hers said this comment: "Oh really, I saw you speaking English to Gabriel earlier (there is a joke in my interact group with all the english gringas, they are always greeted with HI, HOW ARE YOU?) and I just thought you were really good at it." Some people didn't know there was a single exchange student present until close to the last day of the camp.

That night we finally got to take a shower and we got ready for another sertaneja show from another group in our interact club from Tangará (we are musically talented). This time it was a regionally well known brother duo, Diego & Junior. They were really good as well! They played a lot of dancing music, so I attempted time and time again to dance, but I can't say I was extremely successful. After they ended the DJ picked up where they left off, but by then I was too tired to even attempt to dance, so I just sat there and watched. At 2:00 everything stopped and we all went to bed.

That night it rained. An extreme amount. Many people, like my brother, woke up to swimming pools inside of their tents. It was cold, there was no sun the next day, and a lot of people got moved to the chalet rooms. My tent was fine, the only problem was I got up at 7:00 instead of 5:00. Due to the rain we had a slow moving day.

Third test: An obstacle course. A trek into the forest, more like an army march. A race around an obstacle course that was basically a mud pit (yeay!) was completed by 5 people from each team, and then a lucky two other people got to break open a cow eye to finish everything off. I was dubbed the photographer. However being a "newbie" I was also prone to some hazing. The hazing for all of the "newbies" was to run this course. I love mud and I love obstacle courses like this so I thoroughly enjoyed this. We also ran out of time before lunch to have all of the "newbies" do the course so it ended up just being the ones from organization. It was basically a mud fight and it took forever for the stains to come out of my too-pale skin.

After lunch we had a speaker come and present types of difficult people to us, people that you have to use different technics to deal with in life; people that get really angry and explode, people that always say no, people that think they know everything. We did a few activities and then we broke off for a little rest time.

My rotary club was in charge of dinner that day so my mom and dad came. I had missed them a lot and we talked about how everything was going. My mom introduced me to some friends of hers from São Paulo. They had lived in Michigan for a while. It was nice to talk to them about the states and about my life here and there. They are returning to the states, this time to New York, to spend the new year. They will get to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

After dinner there was a Mr./Miss. show. Each city chooses the prettiest girl, cutest guy, and two cross dressers (one for each gender) to participate. Sadly Organization didn't get to participate because we have some very attractive girls and guys and the best cross dressers in town ;). I would have been Miss Gay (dressed up as a guy) and my friend Luis Otavio would have been Mr. Gay (dressed up as a girl). We would have won for sure ;). I was once again put on camera duty. [Most of all of my pictures will be on facebook. Feel free to add me if you want to see them, just let me know why you are adding me, otherwise I won't accept. I'll also have some videos up eventually]. It was a hilarious event.

The hazing ritual: Every year there is one test that all of the 'newbies' have to do, no matter what team, that the veterans come up with. It was supposed to be the dirt trail and then something else, but only our group did the obstacle course. The real ritual that took place was as follows. A piece of a banana was ripped off. The girls were in a single file line, and the boys were in a single file line next to them. Starting with the boys. They were given the piece of banana and had to pass it from mouth to mouth until they made it to the end. If it dropped they were given a new piece and had to start over. Now the piece wasn't that big to begin with (less than half) and bananas when pressed to hard break, if a piece broke off, you kept going just with a smaller chunk. The girls had to complete it after the boys successfully completed it. My only bit of luck was that our veterans felt sorry for us, we were all exhausted, and we had done the obstacle course (which wasn't that hard or repulsive) so they let us get out of it and just watch.

After that we went back for the party of the night. It was just a DJ. I was so exhausted so my brother, Isa, and I went and slept in the kitchen on an air mattress the entire night, until the rightful owners came and kicked us out about 2:00 and sent us to our rightful beds.

I didn't sleep well that night. The tent was stuffy and I hadn't eaten regularly (some days we ate at noon and the next day at 3 for lunch) and I had such a small amount of sleep and I used a lot of energy during the day that I was having problems with my stomach. I ended up waking up about 4:00 that morning and going to the bathroom. I was so dizzy that half way there I threw up, then I felt a little better and returned to bed. At 7:00 I woke up again (no one was up yet either) and I wen to the bathroom. I got really dizzy and I ended up throwing up twice more. I didn't feel good the rest of that day, but it was the end so I packed up my stuff (it was mostly ready) and when we got home my mom gave me medicine and I slept on and off that afternoon. I went to bed at 9:00 that night and went to school the next day, I was more energized than some of the other kids even! (Although there was one kid who went to bed at 1:00 p.m. when he got home and woke up at 6:30 a.m. to go to school) WOAH.

Either way it was an amazing weekend! I saw my first snake (people have medicine on hand for snake bites down here, scary), I got to play in the rain, I played in the mud, I made new friends, and I strengthened older friendships as well!

Next weekend I'm off to a house boat to spend the weekend with exchange students, through a rotary planned event! I still don't know my second family and it'll be three months in a week, but I'm not worried because I'm happy and it'll all come in due time. I graduate again on Thursday of this coming week but it's only finals now so I don't have to go to school. So just incase you aren't in the southern hemisphere. I'm on summer vacation until February, be jealous. :)

until next time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


What have I been up to?

Well I've been continuing at school, of course, but we've also had a huge vacation (2 days of school in the last week and a half) due to "Children's Day" (dia das crianças) and "Teacher's Day". My sister came to visit the past Saturday until Tuesday and my cousin Igor came from Campo Grande and stayed from Sunday until this past Saturday. We went to Salto das Nuvens with them Alejandra and Hiago. Salto das Nuvens is a huge waterfall with a swimming area and smaller waterfalls hidden in the forest. It was beautiful, even though it wasn't at it's most beautiful point because we are still in the dry season. We had a lot of fun with it, playing in the water and joking around. We also went bowling one night, we watched a bunch of movies together (one of them being Paranormal Activity for the first time) and our week was filled with tons of interact meetings as well as tons of time at Alejandra's house.

Interact has been helping prepare a group of rotary women (a club for only women) prepare for their ice cream fundraiser. Every night for about a week at about 8:00 p.m. a bunch of us would get together and set up and bag cups for these ladies. I went almost every single time to help out. I also attended my rotary meeting, and the actually interact meeting. Interact was also invited to eat dinner with a different rotary club so I attended that as well. Then this past weekend yet another rotary club's (there are 3 different ones not including ASR [the women's club] in Tangará da Serra) fundraiser. They asked for interact's and rotaract's help, for volunteers to be waiters and to help set things up and put things away. So of course I decided to help set tables up one day. This was from 1:00 to about 6:00. Then they served us dinner at 7:30 and we were all hanging out and goofing around. After dinner it began to rain so I grabbed a few friends and we went and playing the rain. It was amazing!! Then we returned to the building and I attended the beginning of the Rotaract meeting.

The next day the time changed. We are now in "Summer Time" meaning we jumped forward an hour. My brother's clock didn't change like he thought it would, so we were a little late for being waiter's at the fundraiser, but we were still there before it started. We ran to the farmer's market to get breakfast (pastels, it's becoming a sunday tradition), and then we went to CTG (where the fundraiser was being held), and had lunch there before we started working. I was put in the position of waitress. This was extremely scary for me because it meant talking to complete strangers who had no idea I was foreign and taking their beverage orders and bringing them their beverages as well. After I got the hang of it, it wasn't so bad. I once forgot where I was supposed to take some drinks and they always pay before you bring them the drinks, so I was a little flustered. It was so nerve-wracking because I'd have to remember the drinks and the location (it wasn't zoned off with certain tables per person, it was just whoever called you over) and some people would stop you on the way, coming or going, from the beverage stand to ask for something and then you had to remember their order as well. Everytime I went to get their beverages, the guys who were handing them to me across the counter would make fun of how I said coca, or a certain type of beer, then they'd ask me to repeat phrases, or ask the band to play a song, or they'd ask me if my eyes were always that color. All in all I would get extremely confused. When I took the "lost" drinks to the table I thought it was they told me that they had not ordered them. I was almost positive it was that table because I had no idea what other table it would be. Meanwhile other people kept ordering beverages and I was running back in forth. Eventually I went back to that table and asked the other end if the "lost" drinks belonged to them. They said no again, so I got even more frusterated. About two minutes later that same table called me over because the drinks were theirs. Nossa. That was an experience. Then after that I helped clean up (a lot of people get lazy and go hang out outside sitting around visiting, so the clean up was a lot more work than it should have been, but it was okay because I like helping and I missed out on my church festival this year so I was making up for it ;) .

I've been returning to academia (the gym) almost every day, but I'm also eating so much more now, so I'm not even sure if they are evening out. I keep getting invited to hang out with friends and do things, and I love this, but I also feel bad when I'm not home in the evenings with my family. It'll all balance out eventually.

Upcoming events: this weekend I feel like there is something I'm doing with interact, or another orginization but I don't remember what it is...OH YEAH I'm working at the icecream fundraiser. The weekend of the 30th, we have ODIC. It is an Olympic style Interact camp for everyone in the district, just about. It is going to be in Tangará this year so there is a lot of planning going into it. There is a slight smell of hazing in the air for the newbees, but its all fun and games. There are a lot of challenges for groups, and there are shows every night by people in my interact group (they are amazing performers) so it'll be a good time. Plus I'll get to know a buttload of more people. It's like the Triwizard Tournament with people coming from all over to partcipate and special events every day. As the Goblet of Fire would have it, I was chosen to be our representative for the Mr&Miss Gay pageant, as well as my friend Luis Otavio. This means he will be dressing up as a girl and competing against other guys and I will be dressing up as a guy and competing against other girls. The weekend after that we have a youth leadership meeting in Tangará that I will help at if I don't attend, it is another RYLA (I think, or else it is two weekends after). Then the week after that my classes come to an end, I graduate, I have an exchange student orientation :]:]:] and I return home on November 14th, Happy Birthday Mãe (host mom) and SISTER QUINN ELIZABETH. Little rest will be coming my way and with the time change it'll be harder to talk to people in the states, but I'm sure I'll have some good stories and some good pictures.

Well I'm going to go iron my laundry, so I have clothes to wear tomorrow, then I'm off to the gym.

Tchau. Beijão :*

P.S. I am being told more and more often that I am obtaining their accent here. I am also having troubles "pronouncing things in English" for example: people give me portuguese words or names and say "say this like they would in English" but I have a really hard time because I read it in portuguese and it just seems right that way. I'm also forgetting words and sayings in English, of course I still understand them but sometimes my mind draws a blank. This excites me to no end!! I love portuguese, and hopefully soon I'll turn pro, just give me a few more months! :)


It's been a while since I blogged so I figured I'd type up something quick. When I am frusterated I always put it in writing and by the ending I feel better, with that being said this is more for my personal need but feel free to read it. ;P

I hate making decisions. The only decision I've made recently without second guessing myself was deciding to apply to the rotary program. I had the hardest time choosing colleges to apply to, choosing my college in the spring, deciding if I was going to participate in a sport, even deciding where to eat. Ask anyone these are tough decisions that take a lot of time for me to make because I don't like to miss out on anything and I want to be able to try everything.

Lately I have been doing wonderfully, but it seems that everyone around me is getting stressed out. The end of the school year is approaching quickly and many people are on the border of passing the year, or even graduating. This means everyone is a little crabbier and quieter. However just for a little while longer. Now I'm beginning to get a little stressed out, nothing bad compared to balancing family, friends, church, school, work, volunteering, college decisions, sports, and rotary during my senior year, but it doesn't help because I am in a foreign country without all the comforts of home.

So knowing that stress is in the air and the honey moon stage of course is wearing off, although I love it here and feel very much at home, I was bound to catch some sort of bad mood disease. This isn't affecting my interactions with people or how I'm behaving but it's leaving my mind racing with thoughts and decision making. First I was working on a really cool school project with Alejandra yesterday. I ate lunch at her house, we worked on our project, we went to academia, and I didn't arrive home until about 7:30 p.m. The cleaning lady disappeared for about a week without notice and my family hadn't been cleaning the house because they didn't know when she was coming back and they didn't want to have her show up and get paid for doing nothing. So my mom called her and she had broken her arm and was going to have surgery, none-the-less I came home and everyone was cleaning yesterday and I felt bad for having been away all day and not doing too much, so that was weighing on my mind. Then my brother had to switch to private classes (leave my school) in order to graduate and continue onto his exchange year in January, this made me sad because I love having class with him. He's taking classes all day now so he can be down with school in about 10 days, so I won't get to hang out with him as much.

Then last night I received an email about an exchange student orientation type thing. It was late and I forgot about it until lunch today. It happens to start the exact same day as my graduation dance. Now this wouldn't be a big deal except that graduation is a HUGE thing here and it is a lot of fun and it is overdone and it is like prom mixed with a wedding mixed with thanksgiving. This would be with all of my friends, the orientation would be with all of the people I have been dying to meet since I arrived here. I'm pretty sure the orientation is obrigatorio, but there is always some wiggle room. I'm pretty sure I know what I am going to do but the fact that I have to miss out on one makes me a little sad. It is like suddenly everything is starting to come together quickly but some smaller things are diminishing as well. On one hand I am obligated to attend the exchange student event, and I am here through rotary so they come first, and I have never been more excited in my life because I get to meet new people and make new friends and have a weekend to let loose and play games. On the other hand I'm also here to experience everything about the culture here and I will be missing my own graduation which is going to be amazing from everything I've been hearing.

Well, I'm all better now. That was nice. I've made my decision, 99.9% postitive (although it was kind of made before I even started this, it's just more clear now), and I feel good about it. I also had my brother, Henrique, to vent to (via messenger because he is in school). Nothing big but now I can take a deep breath. I think I'll write you guys and update about what I've been up to... :)


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.


Saturday, October 2, 2010


I loved the idea of Rotary Youth Exchange from the start. A year in a foreign country, living with a family, learning the language, learning the culture, and making new friends and family. However the most important aspect to me know, but wasn't at the time, is the fact that I don't think I could ever do anything awful to Brasil.

My family had the Colombian exchange student over the other night and my host father (ex-president of rotary) was talking about the fact that when we participate in rotary we build national relations. If we do a good job, the people in Brasil we leave our marks on will never want to go to war with our country or make unfair business deals. Every person that we impress is one less enemy to us and our country, even if they are only acquaintances. This wasn't the first time I had heard this, and I had agreed with it the first time as well, but here it hit home. I have been in this country for a mere month and a half, yet I have made amazing friends and I have family here. I don't think I could ever want anything but the best for my new countrymen. I absolutely love the people here, I have learned so much, and to deprive someone from experiencing this culture by ruining it through war or faulty treaties is absurd to me.

With ever person I meet through rotary, be it an exchange student in my home town, or an exchange student (or person) down here, I am exposed to a new culture and I begin to think differently of the countries around the world. I have friends from all areas of the world, so now when people are poking fun at their countries I feel a little defensive. Some people don't understand other cultures and so it is easy to make fun of something that seems absurd. However what I am doing here is building friendships, opening my mind, and gaining knowledge and experience so when I return I can try and open the minds of others. It's not easy and sometimes I think things they do here are crazy and pointless, but I'm trying to understand and that's the difference. If I can understand then I can explain for other people. I find it all about making the unknown known and dealing with our differences to make our differences smaller and make them weigh less on our decisions.

In the end, the outcome is the same. I love my home, I love my friends, and I love my family. I would do anything to make their lives more comfortable, to help them deal with what is going on with their lives, and to protect them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Other Exchange Student

The day I arrived home from my trip, María Alejandra a colombian exchange student who is through rotary as well, arrived in Tangará da Serra. The next day she was in school with me and we instantly bonded. Now there is always a warning of caution that we must be careful not to spend all of our time with other exchange students because we need to make friends with actual brasilians. Being the only exchange student for a month and a half I have some really amazing brasilian friends and "Alejandra" (as she prefers) fits in just right.

She is studying in my class and she doesn't speak any portuguese, only spanish. She speaks a little english too, more than she does portuguese and she instantly dubbed me her translator. This I find hilarious because although I speak decent english, okay spanish, and okay portuguese, I don't understand some things anyways so I can't explain it if I don't understand it either. We are learning together. I am just glad that when I arrived I had taken a little bit of a portuguese course and learned some slang and naughty words because it is so easy to say "repeat this: @#*)$@#*" and it is repeated. Example A: "Alejandra, profesora is idiota in portuguese" Had Alejandra not spoken spanish (which is similar to portuguese with these words) she would have raised her hand and asked "Idiot, may I go to the bathroom?" Either way it is a lot of fun.

The first day of school for her we invited her over afterwards to eat popcorn and tereré, then we took her to our gym and asked if she wanted to join. It's a common thing for exchange students due to the different lifestyle and food. Afterwards we dropped her off at her house. She is very outgoing and talks more than I do here. I find it really easy to understand her though because she speaks spanish and to me it isn't that difficult, everything here is a mix of all three languages and sometimes I speak the wrong language for the wrong people on accident.

The next day I went to an Interact meeting for the first time in 2 weeks due to my travels. I was going to bring Alejandra but her brother was throwing her a party at their house (practically a mansion). So of course I was invited to attend after my meeting was over. I went to my meeting and said my hellos to everyone there and then left for Alejandra's house. There we ate hotdogs, popcorn, and cake. We played around with a soccer ball, learned how to dance samba and salsa (samba is from brasil, Alejandra taught us salsa) however neither were completed perfectly by me. Then I got thrown in the pool clothes and all, that was fun however because the water was warm enough and we played pickle in the middle. Eventually I dried off and went home.

The next day I went to school and Alejandra wasn't there because she was watching a baby be born. Her dad is a doctor, and I'm still not sure why she was invited to see this, but she was excited. She even took lots of pictures that I got to see later. I went to Isabella and Ricardo's house to eat polenta which is like mashed potatoes but it's corn based instead of potatoes. It was delicious. Isabella and I went swimming a little and watched Gossip Girls. Their mom made a banana cake which was also delicious and we ate it with ice cream. I returned home long enough to get ready for a festa of the Rotaract club. Rotaract is like Interact except for people 18-25(?). Our Rotaract club completed 20 years so they were throwing a huge party. We went to the party and there were belly dancers and other dancers for entertainment. There was a couples dance where they danced to the portguese version of "Eso No Es Amor" by Aventura. I got really really excited and started talking excitedly to Alejandra about the song because I knew it and because it was a part of my Costa Rica experience. Sadly the words are changed a little bit to translate to portuguese but Alejandra and I sang the Spanish version together. Later a bunch of people talked and we all joked around, then we ate dinner which was a bunch of different pastas. It was delicious as well. After dinner a DJ started music and Alejandra and I were taught how to dance sertaneja, funk, and other strange things. I'm not a pro dancer but it was an incredible amount of fun. Alejandra is a lot of fun and brings out the crazy fun loving outgoing side in me. It's so much easier to make a fool of yourself with another person that has no idea what they are doing and being in Brasil helps too because the whole world here doesn't care what others think, they just want you to try. I love having another exchange student around to be on the same level with, plus she is an amazing person and we get along well. The only bad thing is that we talk all of the time and in the 3 days of class we have had together we have gotten in trouble every day. Oops. Eventually around 2:30 in the morning the DJ stopped and we were all sent home. We piled 6 people in the back of our car (rental from insurance). Isabella, Alejandra, and I sat on down and Henrique, Vinicius (the brother of Alejandra), and Ricardo sat on our laps. It was interesting going over speed bumps because we about bottomed out every time. Although I was tired it was a great evening with a great group of people.

Today (Sunday) I slept in a little, then Henrique woke me up and we went to the farmer's market right outside of my house. There we ordered pastels, tapioca (not like our tapioca at all), and another corn based treat (it is like mushed corn packed together in a ball with a little cheese). I didn't eat much because I can't eat much when I'm tired but I tried everything. I cleaned my room eventually and skyped home. Then we had Isabella, Ricardo, Larissa, and José over to drink tereré. Isa and I made it together and we had music playing and it was a lot of fun. Here I experimented with some new things as well which were different but not bad. I was once again taught how to dance sertaneja (it is similar to our country and is really popular in my area). Then Isa and I went inside to make popcorn and decided to make cookies too. So we made cookie dough from a bag (something I never did in the U.S. but I had brought down because it was easy to bring down) and we ended up making half of the cookies and saving the rest of the dough to eat. We also made popcorn. I brought down some Runts, Hot Tomales, Jolly Ranchers, and Twizzlers for everyone to try as well. Twizzlers are a big hit here!! I taught them how use them as a straw. Then everyone left and Henrique and I had about ten minutes to get ready to go to church with Isabella and Ricardo.

They came by the house and picked us up and I went to a Presbyterian church. It was so different than anything I've ever experienced. There was a lot more music and the Reverend didn't stand and preach. There was a little bible time where there was a sermon but it was nothing like the Catholic or Lutheran churches I had ever attended. Different but good as well, although I don't plan on converting. When we arrived everyone in the middle of mass walked up to Henrique and I and welcomed us to the church, afterwards I was told to come back often. There was no Communion or prayer that everyone said in unison, it was just a bunch of people hanging out and praising God.

After Church, a bunch of people from my school that were in the choir (band) and us went out to eat at the mall. I ate sushi and yakisoba, both of which I had never tried before coming to Brasil and both of which I have come to like very much. We all sat around and joked a bit and then we were off to our homes. That's when I ended up here and decided to tell you how my life is going.

Overall I have had an amazing weekend, made an amazing new friend, and everything has seemed to fall into place. I'm enjoying it more and more everyday and everyone is really good to me here, I couldn't have asked for anything better and I can't thank Rotary enough for this experience. It is truly amazing and I'm incredibly sad that a month and a half has already passed, but I'm excited to live what is to come as well.

Até Mais.