Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taken For Granted

There are so many things I'm realizing I miss having in the United States. Not things like clothes or books, but things we don't think much about having because they are parts of our lives.

The first thing I have taken for granted is my cellphone. Although I never had it glued to my face and I couldn't even remember where I put it half the time, it was still nice to have something in case of emergencies, to get together with friends, or to call home for a ride. Here I don't have a cellphone, yet. My only way of communication with friends is face to face (the best kind), messenger, or orkut (brasilian facebook). None-of-these tend to be as efficient for a quick let's hang out situation. I make them call my brother. People now joke that he's my secretary, but I don't think either of us mind, because he comes on every outing I go on anyways. However I realized I was completely stranded twice over the last two days. The first was when I was at school and my brother left early because he was sick. He told me they'd come get me after school, but what if they had forgotten, what if something came up and I had to walk home? They didn't, but it was still enough for me to be thankful back home that I had a cellphone on me. The next time I noticed this was today. My brother was taking me to a public english class given by volunteers for lesser fortunate children. I was there to answer questions and help them use their English. We couldn't get a ride with our parents because they had the truck somewhere else so we called a taxi. Correction, two taxis (they were moto-taxis a.k.a. motorcycles). Before I got on the guy asked me where to, I wasn't sure exactly so I asked Henrique. Henrique said where we were going so we were off. I had trouble getting my helmet strapped so we lost sight of them, but that shouldn't have been any big deal. Then the guy asked me again, where to. I started to get worried, I told him everything I knew, I told him where it was near, what it was, everything Henrique had told me earlier that day. However it didn't seem to be enough and he didn't seem to understand. So he drove around and was like, "is it here?" and I had no idea, so I repeated "It's near the Rotary Club, Its a masonaria" or something along those lines. He stopped the bike and we waited from 5 or so minutes while he called around to find where the other driver had dropped my brother. Eventually we made it, but I didn't have a cellphone, nor did I know the number of my brother so I couldn't use the driver's. All I know by heart here is my address, but we just came from there so that didn't serve me well, although my plan was to go back if we couldn't figure anything out. I think they'll be getting me one soon. Tomorrow I'm visiting a public school without my brother. Let's hope it goes well.

Along with cellphones, I miss the freedom of driving. Very much taken for granted in the States. I have been driving since I was 16 years and 7 days old. I could get anywhere I needed because I always had a car. Here is not so. I can't drive, and our family shares one vehicle. It's frustrating sometimes, however I'm getting used to having my host parents drive me everywhere.

Laundry is another thing I have taken too much for granted back in the United States. Here we have a maid, she cooks, cleans, and does our laundry. This should be awesome right? Right. However, if I give her my dirty laundry on monday I don't get it back until Wednesday, granted it is washed, air dried, ironed, and folded, HOWEVER I don't have much clothes here to begin with and over the weekend I wear a lot. I left her all of my dirty clothes on Monday and was planning on keeping what I was wearing and what I wore to bed until I got my other clothes back. She is sneaky though and now knows where I keep my dirty clothes, so she grabbed all of my dirty clothes today as well, leaving me with the pair of jeans I have on, some nice jeans in my drawer, and sweatpants. This means as of right now I have no shorts to wear around town, and no shorts to wear to bed. With hot weather I may just perish. I also only have one uniform shirt for school because I don't want to buy another one just yet, since it takes two days and she's not here on weekends I'm going to have to, because it'll get gross (especially since we have school on saturdays too). So sorry mom for not being that great with my laundry before, but I do/did really appreciate having laundry done with a quick turn around multiple times a day!

Home cooking is something I thoroughly enjoy here and there, and it is something I live for. However in Minnesota it was a given. We are at home every night and we have a homemade sit down meal. Here is about the same, however the menu is different. It is delicious don't get me wrong, but there is something comforting and perfect about eating my mother's food, in our own kitchen. Even on other vacations with my family, the food always tasted better at our Northfield address. I have had delicious foods here, unbelievably delicious, but there is still a part of me that yearns for homemade chicken noodle soup, or chicken and mashed potatoes. I know I can probably get ahold of stuff to make it here, but it isn't the same when it's not at home. Thank you for spoiling me dear family, because now I'm forever comparing stuff to "Bisek" food and "Duchene" desserts.

I have been able to express my thoughts in words since I was a young child. I have always had someone that would understand when I spoke to them. Yes, here I have freedom of speech, in fact socially it is more acceptable and less rude to interrupt people and to say slightly rude things about people as well. It's all in a joking manner and it doesn't offend many people here. However, I have less ability than ever. I'm slowly learning enough portuguese to throw in my two cents and to send around witty comments as well. I also am becoming better at understanding other people so that I can understand more jokes now and don't have to give a little giggle just because everyone else is laughing. Today in school I talked almost too much, I think some of the teachers will get sick of me disrupting their other students (but most of the time they start the conversation!) As awful as that sounds, it's good for me, because the more talking I do the more I learn and the more outgoing, friendly, and normal I can be. However I think it is too taken for granted by anyone in any country that everyone understands them. I don't want to be silent here and I want to understand everything, and it is coming, but it's rough when you have no idea what is going on. (Although sometimes it does give a good excuse for not taking tests or doing homework ;) ) [[[sidenote: I scored better on my history test (still failed...passing is a 7/10, I got a 4) than another boy in my class (he got a 3.5). I felt bad because the teacher made fun of him/yelled at him in front of the whole class saying that I didn't even know portuguese and he does and I did better. It was multiple choice on some stuff I had learned in AP World History. I'm not that bad at reading portuguese. I felt really sorry for him.]]]

Free water is also something not common here. If you get water it is in a bottle, or distilled at your house. Our school has a drinking fountain but I haven't managed to work it without getting sprayed in the face. (It shoots water straight up instead of sideways.) I miss free water.

I also miss free green space to run and play and do whatever. On 5 acres in Northfield we did just about anything and we could do anything outside we imagined. We dirtbiked, made homemade water slides, played sports, camped, and did just about any other thing you can do in the country. Here I live in what they call an apartment, because it is above their shop. It was raining today for about 2 minutes, I heard it and lit up like the 4th of July. Now everything here is locked for security purposes (the need to not have to lock your doors and to not have walls all around your property is another thing I have taken for granted) so I couldn't get outside quickly (I have no idea where the keys are...if they left me for a weekend, I'd be locked in here forever. haha). So I rushed to unlock the porch door even though our porch has a roof over it. I couldn't get it and my brother then helped me. I rushed outside hoping to be able to reach it, all I craved was to run around barefoot in it, but I couldn't even reach it. All I could do was smile, smell it, and watch it pour on people that probably didn't want to get wet. I miss that freedom and the green space.

One last thing I took for granted in Minnesota was the air conditioning. We had a system that cooled our whole house and was on all of the time in the summer. Our house was always my perfect temperature (more or less). Here there are only fans and a few air conditioners in bedrooms. I took a nap on the couch today and my brother had to put the fan on me because I was sweating so bad. In fact I am almost dripping in sweat now and it's 7:30 p.m. and I haven't done much. Cold may get annoying, but sometimes it sure would be nice.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Miley Cyrus,

I hate to break it to Miss Miley Cyrus, but just like the facebook group suggests: the party really is better in Brasil. I'm not talking about teenage parties like are typically seen in American Pie videos, I am talking about parties in general. They really know how to kick back and enjoy themselves down here. So first and foremost if you are going to graduate from college, you might as well graduate from a Brasilian college.

Earlier this week my family and I went to a graduation ceremony for Bruno, a guy that works in their shop. The graduation ceremony itself wasn't that special, and I thought that was it. Then a few days later we went to a mass for the graduates. Once again I wasn't thinking anything special, because when I graduated from high school my church had a mass as well. The only difference was that every step of the way, here, they had a thousand cameras and video cameras to document everything! At the mass I asked my sister Laura, what all graduating from college meant here, besides the obvious degree, new life aspect. She told me that it is five days of partying. It all starts with the actual graduation, then there are different things every day until it completes itself with a huge formal dinner and dance.
So of course we not only went to the mass and the ceremony itself, but we spent all of Saturday getting ready for the dance/feast. It didn't start until about 8:30. My mom painted my nails and had a lady come and wash and dry our hair (which was probably something I could have done myself, but I wasn't going to complain). We all put on nice dresses, make-up, and high heels were a must. We arrived and handed the people at the doors our tickets and this was how the evening started.

We were seated and they had servers coming around with unlimited amounts of water, guaraná, coca, and beer (of course). Some nice music was playing in the background and there was a video slideshow of all the past days events. At about 8:45 we were told we could go eat, I was a little confused by the fact that all the food that was set out was appetizer type food. However I grabbed different sandwich meats, salads, and breads. Then we returned to our table.

I began to lose track of time but sometime later, however early in the evening, they announced each of the graduates. Then the announced graduate would make an extreme entrance through a gauntlet of family/friends/strangers, and make their way down to the front (sometimes backtracking so they could be in the limelight longer). The entire time they were followed by video cameras and people taking pictures. There were tons of noise makers and lots of jumping up and down and dancing.

After this dinner was set out and we went to eat it. Everything was delicious of course. Then the DJ started up the lights, turned down the lights from dinner, and turned up the music. In the beginning it was a lot of remixed American music, but I must say everything they played (whether I understood it or not) was amazing. They even played the typical American wedding songs (like Brown-eyed girl). We got up and danced for a little bit, they didn't remember the macarina and seeing as it's about the only thing I have the ability to dance, I gladly taught them. They taught me some dances, one involved the phrase "now let me see you get sexxxxy" or something to that accord. They also liked to laugh at the fact that I couldn't dance. Some of them even tried to teach me how to partner dance, I might be able to get the hang of that.

After that we sat and visited for a while and I'd figure we'd be leaving for home soon. However then they served dessert! So of course we had to go get some dessert. It was delicious as well. Then Henrique, Laura (my host-siblings) and I went down near the DJ and danced to a bunch of songs. It's really amazing how everyone here, my age, dislikes Justin Beiber just as much as I do. Eventually my feet were hurting so Laura and I returned to our seats (I was also getting creeped out by one of the guys dancing with us, and I don't deal well with creepers). Now
my dad had had his fair share of beer and he was dancing and having a good old time and it was fun to watch him.

We sat around some more and then funk music came on, but I was too tired to get up and return to the dance floor, and once again I fear awkward creepers, so I stayed put. Even when "Creu" played. I watched my dad on side of the table and a little girl on the other attempt to dance it. It was unbelievable entertaining. Yet of course this still wasn't the end of the evening.

Then they set out soup for us to eat. By now I was too past tired to think about eating soup, and I wanted them to continue enjoying themselves so I tapped my feet to the music and let my thoughts take over. Eventually we decided it was time to go, so my family went off to find my brother. He was nowhere to be found, and about 10 minutes later he showed up. We left and although I ended up exhausted it was so much fun. It was a lot of fun to be around people that were there having a good time, not embarrassed of themselves, not worried about anything, just taking advantage of the time. It was like a Duchene wedding mixed with Prom mixed with Thanksgiving. We returned home at the early hour of 3:15 a.m. and I was off to bed.

It was a fun Saturday evening :)


Tchau e beijos.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Policia Federal

Today I went to the Federal Police Station, to register so that I don't get deported. The nearest one is in Cuiabá, a roughly 3 hour drive from my house. We wanted to get there at 8 a.m. when it opened, so we all woke up at 4:30 a.m, and left by 5:00. We were running early (the speed limit was 80 km/hr, we only drove between 100km/hr and 160km/hr), so we stopped by a pastel shop and I got a delicious chicken pastel. I remember eating these in London [NADS and KATIE:)] I hadn't eaten them since so this was a delicious mix of old and new. We got to the police station and they started filling out my paper work. We then went on a mile walk through the city to make copies of my passport for them (they conveniently didn't have a copier we could use). Now I am not fussy and I like to explore cities on foot, just not in 44 degrees celsius weather. For all of you not familiar with how hot this is, it converts to around 111 degrees fahrenheit. Now I am becoming accustomed to the heat slowly, where I live it is always 37 degrees (99 ish), but I was not prepared for this! Let's just put it this way, I strongly dislike extreme heat. After that we returned and I got my finger prints taken and I turned in a sheet (with a picture for my identity card, a very awful picture) so that everything was complete, however they marked me as masculino. So some of the paperwork had to be redone. None-the-less we were finished by 9:00 am.

Finishing early wasn't a problem except we were also in the city to pick up my sister Laura from the airport (she lives in a different state/city and is visiting for the weekend). She was to arrive at 1:00 p.m. So we killed time by going to the construction mall and the regular shopping mall, where I ran into some girls I knew from school (they were skipping). I ate a baked potato filled with chicken stroganoff for lunch, it was delicious. They also found my weak spot, Coca, although I LOVE guaraná (the typical brasilian soda), the coke here is soooo much better than that in the United States and we don't have pop in my house, so I don't feel bad when we go out and that is what I have. They will buy me one even after I have turned down the offer because they know I will drink it.

We eventually went to pick her up. She is always talked about with so much pride and love from her family and I was so excited to meet her! She is FABULOUS! She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and I can understand her when she talks, major plus! We then continued to make our way home. Like before; they don't follow speed limits, they don't stay on their side of the road, they like to pass everyone, and it is pretty much the same as playing frogger.

Once we were home we sat on the porch for a while drinking tereré, which my father told me is the only type of water he is accustomed to. It is common here, it is an open cup with a metal straw in it (kind of like the cups/bowls that were around when I was a kid, built in straw) and you fill it with some herbs and pour cool lemon water over it. It wasn't my favorite at first but I keep trying it and am growing accustomed.

On water. I love water. I crave water. I drink lots of water here. My family noticed this and pointed out the fact that they really don't drink plain water, and they think I have extremely healthy eating and drinking habits. Like I said before, the only water they drink is tereré.

On sharing. People are always offering me things, and most of the time I accept. However sometimes I don't want to impose and so I kindly decline. One kid was offering me candy in class, he offered me two different types and I wasn't in the mood for candy at the moment so I told him no thank you and he looked at me and said "so in America you don't accept anything from anyone else?" Strange assumption, but I understood it. It is also the most normal thing in the world to share drinks or food with other people. For example, when we drank tereré today, there were five people, one cup, and one straw. I'm still growing accustomed to this idea, seeing as the people in my family share but we also share the same DNA. It isn't just family though, I've noticed it is everyone, no worries about other people's germs.

On assumptions and observations. A have a round face and because of this my brother and everyone who had looked at my pictures/videos on facebook (our spanish one.... ;P) thought I was 'gordinha' aka a little fatty. Then I showed up and now they think I'm anorexic and don't eat enough. Truth is, I eat so much, I'm always full and well fed, but compared to them I eat little and slow! I eat less than them but take double the time, talk about food eating contest champions! I also can only eat about one small sweet here every once in a while, because their sweets are extremely sweet--delicious, but too much for me at times. When we went to a churrasca (BBQ) I ate my weight in watermelon (one of my favorite fruits and delicious down here). I also ate a bunch of other fruit because the only fruit we have at my house is manga (which is also delicious). Today my pai came up to me and told me that I have great eating habits and that I only eat small portions and little sweets, then he told me I had a beautiful body (not in a creepy manner at all, that's just how it translates and I find it amusing). They all assume I'm watching my weight and that I am trying not to become fat, I try and explain it to them but they don't take "no thank you, I'm full" to mean anything other than "I want to stay slim". It is rather hilarious to me but it gets kind of old after a while. I also want to join a gym so I can go swimming and actually get some what in shape (ya know? six pack abs ;)), I'm hoping they'll let me! :) Another assumption from everyone is that because I speak English and am American, I MUST know all lyrics to every song in english and I must be able to sing them. They are incredibly wrong. They also point out the fact that people in brasil are very hospitable and people in the U.S. aren't always as welcoming. I try explaining to them that it is only in certain circumstances and that we just have different cultures. People might view them as loud and rowdy, where as they might view us as quiet, arrogant, and stuck-up. They also ask me quite often if our high school parties are like that from American Pie and if our high school is similar to Mean Girls. Oh what great examples have been set of Americans.

On Recent Happenings. Yesterday I went to some friends' house (Isabella and Ricardo) with my brother after school for lunch. They have a beautiful home with two dogs (Wendy-Maltese, and Hannah-golden retriever) None-the-less I filled the much needed dog void I had been having. I got to sit by them and pet them for hours and play fetch with Hannah. They are wonderful dogs. They also have a pool and a bunch of tennis balls, rackets, and american footballs. We played around for a while. For lunch we had feijoada. Typically in ancient times this was a dish of the random unwanted pig parts (nose, ears, feet) however more commonly now it is just a soupy mix of pork, put on top of rice and sometimes vegetables. I have no idea what parts of the pig it contained but it was delicious (even though Ricardo told me that he didn't like one of the pieces of meat I ended up scooping onto my plate). Everyone watched me for my reaction and I wasn't anything other than completely pleased! Their parents asked me many questions and they were some of the nicest people I have met thus far! Everyone did make jokes about me and my strange habits and facial expressions. They told me I was patient and a wonderful person and I am really hoping to get more time around them. We also created a home-made fire cracker. They normally work when they make them, this one was a fail. EPIC FAIL. That is what I am teaching them:) It was fun never-the-less and I walked around barefoot which I haven't done since I got here! Man have I missed that!! We then went to take my picture and try out my debit card for withdrawls (there are miscommunication errors). After that we went to a college graduation, long and not all that interesting, but good to experience.
On Tuesday I went to the special language school, where people of all ages take spanish and english classes. The lady who teaches it is a brasilian who lived in London for nine years. She has a british accent, I love it! I went to her class to have a conversation with her advanced classes about my life and what it is like in Minnesota. It was a lot of fun, although I probably spoke too fast for many people, I feel there pain on both ends. It is hard to speak slowly and it is hard to understand people that speak fast. They asked lots of questions and I tried my best to give them answers. Then I showed them pictures, the seasons especially amazed them because they have but one, summer. One lady was extremely shocked when I showed a picture of our German Shepherd and said "This is our dog Josie", her name is Josie and she didn't care for sharing a name with a dog. They were also amazed that I had hunted/killed deer before. Here owning a gun is illegal and you can't kill anything wild. I gave them Smarties and Jolly Ranchers. Apparently they have Smarties here, but they loved them anyways. Jolly Ranchers blew them out of the water though, they were all grabbing more, some for themselves so they could try more flavors, and some for their family members to try. They served me guaraná and a delicious caramel cake! After class Isabella, Larissa, Lays, Henrique, Hiago, and I went to an ice cream shoppe. The ice cream here isn't as delicious by far. It tastes a little freezer burnt, but I never pass up ice cream. That is about all of the interesting things that have been happening lately. I'm getting better at school, making many friends, remembering more names, and having an infinite amount of fun!

Well, Miss Wordy is going to go try and use some words in Portugues.


P.S. The bubblegum here is quite good!
P.P.S. People ask me to say "Trident" over and over again.
P.P.P.S. Halls (the coughdrops) are sold every where and eaten by everyone as candy. I refuse them often because they are exactly the same as the medicine we have [Clair-you would like it] and I have also been told that if you are going to hook up with someone, halls are a must (for good breath of course).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The American Curse

One of the main differences I have noticed from Brasilian culture to American culture, is that in Brasil they never sleep. I swear they don't need more than four hours a night to operate on full speed. They are always happy, even with no sleep, and they are always running on full speed. Now I on the other hand can't function on that little amount of sleep for very long, I am often found taking naps after school and going to bed at a relatively early brasilian time (10:00). When I was at Northfield High School, I would often find myself staying up until 12:00, 1:00 a.m. to work on projects or catch up on reading, or even just to relax and watch a movie. Then I would wake up as close to 6:00 as I could (normally 7:15) and get ready for school. I wake up at 6:00 here for school so it could be assumed that I would be fine, however the culture here is exhausting. I never stop smiling or laughing, and my mind never stops running. We are all over the place here and it gets very tiring. In comparison in the United States when I would stay up late and get up for school it would be low key most of the day. Wake up, go to school, try and pay attention and stay awake during classes (sometimes a test or two), sports or work (these weren't very intense either), go home and procrastinate homework by relaxing and doing nothing, start homework, give up on homework and leave it for 1st period the next day, go to sleep, repeat. Here my day involves school, lunch at home, (I try and steal a nap here), some outing with friends or family, dinner, sometimes another outing, home, sleep. It probably doesn't help that life is always harder when you have to try really hard to understand everything that's going on, and you have to think before you speak (not because you are being polite, but because you can't remember how to say a word or conjugate a verb or both).

The last couple of nights we have been out until late evening and I was doing okay, especially with my naps. Then last night we had an Interact (Rotary for teens) pizza feast, where we spent the last two days preparing the vegetables, making the pizzas, and cleaning and setting up. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being able to help out. It turned out to be a huge success! I worked a lot during the days but I didn't have to help to much at the actual event, I just got to enjoy the pizzas. We made a brasilian supreme one (corn, sausage, tomatoes, cheese, olives (whole olive), oregano, onion), a shredded chicken one, a bacon one, a brigadeiro chocolate one, a banana one, and something else I'm not sure about. Now I'm a sausage pizza kind of person and I don't eat very exotic pizzas, but brasilians really know how to make pizza! Every kind I tried was delicious!! Now as awesome as this event was, we prepared from 1-6 (I was only there from 3-6) and then it didn't actually start until 7:30, this would be no problem if brasilians weren't such big visitors. So my mom, dad, and I got there around 7:45 and started eating and after I was done, I went to help everyone else and hang out with the people my age. We started dancing (they attempted to teach me) and then someone went and got a guitar and we had singing and dancing entertainment!! All of the brasilians seem to be born entertainers and amazing with music! They made me sing "I'm Yours" or the first part of it anyways. It was a lot of fun. So the evening continued like this and we cleaned up here and there. Then it turned 12:00 and it being my brother's birthday today he was pig piled, had raw eggs smashed on his head (tradition), and we sang happy birthday. Now about 1:00 we all piled into a couple different cars and moved the festa elsewhere, someone's house. Here there was more singing and guitar playing, more joking around too and I got to meet some pretty cool adults that I can go to with any problems. Now me being exhausted from the move, school, and the new culture, I was going to go home at 1:00, but I was persuaded otherwise. I didn't mind too much besides the fact that when I'm tired it is much more difficult to focus on paying attention. We were supposed to be at this person's house until 5:00 a.m. and I had school at 7:00 a.m., however one of the great ladies I met was leaving and offered me a ride, so my brother and I left with her. We arrived home at 2:00 a.m. to no furious parents, no questions, just a tired mom who opened the door and we all went to bed. My brother went to school this morning to help with the festa da familia we have today (they didn't wake me up, so I didn't go...it wasn't real classes today anyways). I slept in until about 8:00 and then layed in bed trying to go back to sleep, I eventually did and now I'm plenty awake. :)

Some new faces to make yourself familiar with, you'll probably see a lot of them.

.................................................... ^^Larissa
.............................................. She decided we are best friends.
........................ She's pretty cool, I think we'll get along quite wonderfully.

Oh yes..
Rua Celso Rosa Lima 233-N Centro
Tangará da Serra Mato Grosso Brasil 78300-000

Well I'm in for an exciting day today too.


P.S. I dreamt in Portuguese, don't know what was going on, but in portuguese none-the-less :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More on School

So I've almost finished my school week, I'll officially be done on Saturday at noon. Then I'll start again 7:00 Monday morning. How awesome. I don't understand much at school, but I've grown very fond of my classmates, they are enthusiastic and nice too me. They speak slowly and teach me what words mean, both good and bad. I decided I must know all the bad words as well, of course only so that I know when other people are using them or telling me to use them. Anyways, school can be awesome and not at the same time. I've met some really cool teachers. One of the teachers, I don't remember what subject, goes by the name Batata (Potato) I'm still confused as to why, but he's really cool!

Tests. Students freak out the same way here as they do in the states before tests, quick cramming and last minute asking each other questions to clarify information. I have been asked to take the last 3 tests that were given, two yesterday and one today, one was only multiple choice which means I could have gotten some right, and it was on ancient world history up to the renaissance, so I knew a little bit. The other two, let's just say it's a good thing I already graduated. [[Anya...APWH. No joke, I thought about you and that class the whole time, hitting myself in the face figuratively because I couldn't remember half of the things but I knew we knew them when we were studying for the exam, I should have asked for the help of CN.]]

Cheating. Cheating happens all the time, and there is a lot of talking during tests, I've only seen one teacher shush everyone harshly during the test and not allow talking. People make cheat sheets and slip them up their jackets, and they talk while the teacher is right next to them practically. Someone told me that if you don't cheat, you aren't brasilian. Well, I don't know enough to cheat at the moment, and since grades don't matter I don't think I'll put in the effort to develop that habit.

Classes. All of the classes are lectures. I have them on different days at different times then the day before. It lasts from 7:00-12:00, but some people just show up whenever and sleep the entire time. For classes I have: Math, Spanish, Chemistry, English, Literature, History, Biology, Physics, Writing, Philosophy, Geography, Art, Religion, Portuguese, and Sociology. I've had all of the classes except for the last two. We also had a free period today, but then we had an afternoon class. This happens every thursday. During the free period everyone ran around crazy and I talked about music with a couple classmates, it is weird how much we have in common. During art, we did absolutely nothing. During religion we had an intense conversation about homosexuals. This was because one of the boys in my class went to see Eclipse by himself, apparently that is enough for people to call him "Gay", then the teacher told stories about homosexuals she knew and she talked about the religious aspect and the social aspect. I actually understood quite a bit of that class. I'm pretty sure we got in trouble today, I'm not sure why though. Then some people went wild and were going to jump from our floor to the ramp below, certain hospital trip.

The ramp. We have a ramp, no stairs. You may be thinking "how handicapped friendly". No, it's not. It's a steep ramp that would take forever and a lot of muscles to get up in a wheelchair, however it would be a wild ride down. Maybe I'll take a picture of it, to better explain it. Let's just say, I get a work out going up and down it 2-3 times a day.

Teacher Student Relationships. Everyone jokes around, always. Even during tests. Teachers aren't an exception. Most of the time the teachers spend more time joking around with the students than they do teaching. It's very personal which makes me stick out like a sore thumb, but I'm sure by the end of the year I'll be buddies with them all as well.

Cellphones. Everyone here has a nice cellphone; internet to look up things during class and tests (cheating of course); mp3 player for all their music and nice speakers, sliders/touch screens. Their phones are much nicer than what remember seeing in the United States. They use them ALL the time during class, no exceptions. Most of the time they don't even try and hide their cellphones. It's strange, there are no signs or set rules against it, although some teachers will take them (I haven't witnessed this yet though).

I have so much more to say, but I can't exactly tell you every detail about everything, I've started a list for when I have less to say. Be in touch soon-ish.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Church and School

Last night I went to Church with my family. They happen to be Catholic and being a Catholic myself made the mass a little easier to understand, and it gave me something to compare it to. First of all their church was packed full of people and mass started at 7 p.m. as compared to 8 or 10 a.m. with only half the church filled. It was more full than my church on Christmas or Easter, and their church was a little bit wider and about the length of my church and a half. It took us forever to find a seat for all four of us to sit, we ended up sitting in folding chairs. Now if you don't have kneelers in the churches I've attended back home, you don't kneel you just remain seated, however even on the hard tile ground, you kneel. They likewise had the stations around the church but didn't have stained glass windows, however they had a huge cross window (stained-glass style) on the ceiling. They have no booklets but do have a projector that shows the song lyrics and readings on the front wall. However these differences weren't that big of a deal. However they sing and dance for almost every part of the mass, my brother joked about how it was like the high school musical of masses. I only knew what part of mass it was because of a phrase or two I could translate or the actions being made. Everything was animated and being as I have NO experience in dancing in church, I awkwardly copied everyone else. I do that a lot here, copy other people, they could easily do something wrong just so they could laugh at me when I do the same action. Anyways in church there were ushers with "construction" type vests, who helped people find seats. All went well because mass pretty much followed the same pattern as it does in the United States. However at the end of mass before the final blessing, they call up all the new people or guests to the church and they are blessed and are supposed to give a small introduction, nonetheless I turned that down for this week, perhaps next week.

Today while everyone was waking up to start Northfield Sports, I started school. My mom woke me up around six and I showered, ate yogurt, and left my house about 5 minutes to seven. School was interesting. First we had a meeting where I had to stand up and introduce myself in front of the entire school, that was lovely. But it really did go over fine. In my school there are 15 other students and we all stay in one class while the teachers move around, we are in 3rd year B. I went with my brother to our class where I was reunited with Daniel, a brasilian who was an exchange student to our district in Minnesota this past year. It was nice to finally have someone who spoke fluent English and could explain almost everything. We had math first. I didn't do much during math because I didn't have any books, so I read my portuguese dictionary. They were learning about mean, median, and mode. As easy as that sounds/is, it is far more difficult in a different language. After that class was over we had spanish. Spanish class insisted of this laid back young teacher who talked had us read one section aloud, it looked similar to the ACT Reading areas, (once I again I didn't have books to participate), and then he spend the rest of the time talking to one of the girls in the front of class. I was expecting myself to at least be able to do something in Spanish class, but most of the time they spoke in Portuguese anyways and then when they switched over for a sentence or two I was confused because I wasn't expecting it. Then we had lanche "snack". We all went outside to the little snack stand and I got passion fruit juice, it was good, but I don't eat much in the morning nor drink so I just sipped it here and there. After that was over we went back to our classroom and started chemistry. I got interrupted to go receive ALL of my material, this consists of one master book, 16 other books, and 4 pamphlets. In chemistry they corrected a test and then we worked on problems. Everything looked familiar from my Wiebe Sid the Science Kid days, but I needed a small refresher on how to do somethings, so I watched and had a very nice girl and guy explain in portuguese how to do it. After a couple times of explaining, I remembered. By the end of that class they were checking my work with theirs to make sure they got the right answer ;). [more or less]. Then we had the much anticipated, English class. I had been warned about my English teacher and how she was awful and wouldn't like me, but I thought well I've yet to meet a teacher that hates me before they know me or once they get to know me, now I have. She spoke above me and told me that we learn proper english not that coloquial stuff we speak everyday, she thinks I'm an idiot. About 20 minutes in she asked me some questions in portuguese and my brother responded for me, she got mad because she was talking to me not him. Then later she was writing examples of the present perfect on the board "Lisa has read Harry Potter". But before I could figure out where the lesson was going she was yelling at my brother for using my dictionary. I still am confused. Where the other teachers didn't care that we talked and goofed around the entire class, she was the strict "Mrs. Neibuhr" type, except I get along and enjoy Mrs. Neibuhr. So she kicked my brother out of class and then she followed him for the rest of the class. Once the teacher was gone EVERYONE was all over the room doing whatever they wanted. Some kids were sniffing chalk...yuck, but it seems to be a popular habit among the guys. I visited with the more quiet studious people, the ones that helped me with my chemistry, one said I could swim at her pool whenever and the others helped me carry my books when I needed to go. Also in English class, even with the teacher there, the most common phrase in actual English (because it is mostly in Portuguese) was "mothafuckas"...pardon my French. Many times someone would be saying something and one person would yell "mothafuckas" and everyone would repeat shortly after "hahaha mothafuckas". They really enjoy using our swearwords. During lanche one of the kids went on an English rant pertaining to nothing using the 'f' word. "I'm gonna go to my f'ing home and sit on my f'ing couch and watch my f'ing movies and...." Overall though I was greatly entertained and I'll slowly start learning names I'm sure. School ended at 12:00 and we had about a 15 minute walk home.

Tonight I might go to the gym with my brother and then an English class with him as well. My mother and I are also going to go buy flip-flops which I happened to forget.

All is well here! Hope everyone is having a great time, be it at home or somewhere new!

Beijão :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lessons Learned

Where to start? I suppose the beginning would be a good idea. I suppose you are all interested as to how the trip went, and all I have to say is I'm here in Tangará da Serra writing this.

First I left my house a little after 11:00 a.m. on Friday August 13th after a half hour of working with my dad to reorganize all of my bags so that none of them were over the 70lb limit we get for Brasil. We drove up to the airport, nothing out of the ordinary except that just as I leave they open Hwy 19, just my luck. We shared some laughs in the car and I realized that that is one of the things I will miss most, the way we all understand each other's sense of humor and make each other laugh.

While checking in the lady was going to make me pay for excess weight on both of my bags because they were between 50-70 and the normal limit is 50, however I had printed off the sheet that stated the 2 70lb bags rule and she checked them after apologizing. Lesson #1 print off anything that could be controversial.

We then said our goodbyes before I went through security, we all balled our eyes out but we made it. I was awkwardly carrying my two super heavy carry-ons all around the airport when i realized that one had wheels and the other could sit on top of it. Lesson #2 always have one carry-on with wheels...or a backpack. I think everyone thought I was crazy because I would all of a sudden start tearing up while huffing and puffing my way through the airport.

I got to my gate where I sat around and was met by Marie, an exchange student going to my district, about 1/2 an hour later. I got a mighty kids meal at mcdonalds and we boarded our plane.

On the flight down Marie and I sat next to each other as well as a lady named Amy Murphy who had just been to the Mayo Clinic and was told her tumor was benign and all would be okay. She talked to us about accounting and told us that when we get back we must go into secure job fields, ones that are being recruited for. She is the graduate counselor for accounting at Aubu
rn University in Alabama. She also told us that she has a lake house, and when asked how many lakes there are in Alabama she replied "probably four or five". Lesson #3 Don't move to Alabama if you love boating. She also told us some interesting stories about her childhood, it was a pleasant flight.

Next Marie and I made our way to our gate in Atlanta, we had to switch areas from domestic to international. We arrived in Atlanta around 6 and we were set to leave about 9:30. We got through everything with no problems, got dinner (mine was chicken strips...surprise there) I gave away the toy I had from McDonalds and it made some girl's day, and called home. Then we sat around our plane to board. At this I noticed we were flying with about a thousand little children, some couldn't even walk. On a 9 hour flight this was superb. But actually. Everyone was so relaxed and the little boy sitting behind us (1 1/2 ish) would just crawl whereever he
wanted and everyone would be friendly with him and play games. Behind me was a 3 year old girl named Isabella, she was officially my first Brasilian friend because her mom introduced us as friends so she wouldn't kick my seat, she did...but her mom was training her so she didn't do it often. There was also this lady who got an entire row of three seats because the flight was so empty it was spacious (Marie and I had three seats for the two of us, as did most people), and we befriended her as well as avoided a creeper who stared at us whenever he was awake. I slept about an hour because I was so excited and nervous, yet I didn't do anything productive either.

When we got out in Brasilia we had to switch to a domestic flight and first we went to the wrong airplane check-in, then we went to the right one but the line was incredibly long and slow moving, luckily the lady in front of us on the plane with three seats to herself, got as through a shorter line. Lesson #4 Be Friendly to everyone, you never know when it will help you out. Now we may have got through quicker but when my bags were rechecked, one weighed over 20 Kilos, it was about 30 and for domestic flights (not with Delta) the previous rule didn't apply. So I had to go through the drama of coming up with about $125 in Reais. I used my debit card but that was denied 3 times (we never told the bank, oops) then they ran a credit through and it got passed. Now Marie had a bag the same weight as I did, but she happened to go to a male attendant who was too excited with the fact that she spoke English, was American, and was too busy giving her his contact information that she snuck through without a fee. Lesson #5 Go to male attendants if you are an American girl in Brasil. We got through and waited at our gate (Gate 12) as it is boarding, later than expected we get to the front of the line and we were at the wrong airplane so we had to race to our gate because they had started boarding when they were scheduled too, thank goodness the airport wasn't that huge.

On the plane Marie sat in front of me and it was empty
enough that no one sat directly next to either of us, I slept the hour and a half flight, thank you Dramamine and exhaustion.

Marie and I arrived in Cuiaba around 11:00 a.m. and waited for our bags, mine had kind of spilt open due to the over stuffage, but nothing was lost. We then met our families for the first time they were waiting and clapping as well as taking pictures of us coming towards them. Then we went out to eat together, that was a nice transition to have someone in my shoes with me for a couple extra hours. We had a buffet, I had chicken, mashed potatoes, arroz e feijão (rice and beans..my mother pointed out that it was soo brasilian.) I also had guarana a typical drink here, and this type of pork where the pig is on the table whole (the whole apple in its mouth thing) and the back is peeled apart to create a bowl for this pork and stuffing, it was delicious.

Then I left Marie and drove for 3 1/2 hours to Tangará da Serra, where I live. My family finds it funny that I speak spanishportugueseenglish, I throw in some words from each without knowing it sometimes. They also like to tease me by saying things like "Welcome to Tangará da Serra" then I go, "wow, is this really it? It's beautiful here." and then they reply "hahaha não it's a little farther." This happened twice, then I stayed awake to wait for signs and eventually came to one that said "Bem-vindo a Tangará da Serra" (Welcome to Tangará da Serra). They also joked about how our house had 2 bedrooms total, and about that fact that their white daughter with freckles has tan parents. Lesson #6 Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself because it's far less embarrassing that way. I'm getting the hang of their jokes though, they happen often and I buy them way too quickly, but they are fun wonderful caring people. My house is huge and I have a beautiful bedroom.

After we were home for about 10 minutes, my mom fed me abacaxi (BERET) e lemão geletin aka pineapple and lemon jello. Now I've never liked jello nor either pineapples or lemons, but I tried it and it was delicious! As well as some strawberry yogurt (I'm not a huge fan of yogurt in the States either), however it was quite good as well! Lesson #7 Try a little bit of everything, things taste different in different places.

Then my mom helped me unpack and organize everything, it was so sweet of her! My brother and my dad fixed the lock on my door as well. So I was all moved in by 6:00. I also took a journey to the supermarket that was quite interesting, but I'm too tired as of it is 11:00 and i've gotten maybe three 1/2 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours.

I remember landing and freaking out wondering why I even decided to do this, I was terrified and I was so unsure of myself and it finally hit me that it was a year of being gone, but once I met my family and spent time with them and moved in, I became comfortable and at home here and everything is wonderful one day in. Lesson #8 Don't quit and run, everything takes time (including my portuguese skills, which are enough to survive but will hopefully be amazing in a month or two).

Well I'm off to bed. Boa Noite e Beijos.


(pai[dad], mae[mom], eu[me], Clovis[chairman of our district--he lives in my town], Clovis's wife, Marie's mae, Marie's pai)

Friday, August 6, 2010

7 days...

7 days. I like to say this in the same manner as the caller on "the Ring", however I will not be dying in seven days, but doing something much more awesome. Seven days ago I was supposed to board a plane with the other students from my district and make my way to my new home in Brasil. Today I received my Visa in the mail (my departure was delayed due to some late paper work) and in seven days I will be boarding the plan along with another exchange student, Marie (who was also delayed for the same reasons and who will fly with me the entire way because we live in the same state/district about 5-6 hours apart), and starting my journey.

Every day I announce the remaining days to whomever I happen to be around, most of the time my family, and I get varying results. In the beginning I'd get a "hmph. okay, well you still have to clean your room". Now I get an "are you sure you really want to leave?".

I started packing July 30th, the day I was originally supposed to leave, because I figured it would be best to start organizing early. This has proved to be helpful because my remaining seven days are heavily planned, seeing as I have to spend as much time with as many different people before I disappear for a year. Thank goodness I have less shopping and packing left to do.

I've never had an insane need to hang out with friends and be busy every day of my life, although I do enjoy company quite often. I've also never been this busy and away from home as I have been the last week. Granted most of the time I'm with people my sisters are involved but I am missing out on the peace and quiet of being able to curl up in a chair and read a book for half the day, there just isn't enough time. I feel like I'm trying to get done everything that has every been dreamed up in our minds, all of the things that have been procrastinated over time, as well as things I have to and should get done. However this does seem fitting, I am and always have been a procrastinator-it makes my life a little more exciting.

As for the language, I've been doing everything except preparing. I remember telling myself I would study more with my extra two weeks, and I try but it's hard to focus on especially with no one to speak it to. I try and study vocabulary and I also attempt to talk to my fellow exchange students already in Brasil and all the people I know in Brasil only in Portugues, but this sometimes requires me to use a translator to check my sentences. Too bad I can't use a dictionary, my 501 verb book, or a translator when I'm there.

Something I don't truly comprehend, and probably won't until I am a good week or two into Brasil, is the fact that I have already said goodbye to people and I won't see them for a year. I've never liked goodbyes, they seem to definite and they make me sad when I shouldn't be. I said my first official goodbye to my brother when we left his home in Wyoming around July 20th. Ever since then I have been saying little goodbyes to friends and family, sometimes I know it'll be the last time we will see each other and other times we just part without realizing we probably won't run into each other for another year. I used to think 'oh, don't worry I have a month and 1/2, of course we'll hang out and see each other' but due to busy schedules on all parts I'm slowly realizing that it just isn't possible anymore. I definitely don't enjoy this new realization. However, as sad as I am to be saying goodbyes and to not get the chance to personally say goodbyes to some people, I have never been more excited to throw myself into something where I only know a handful of people, something with no guarantees, and meet tons of new people whom I will share my next year's experiences with.

I'm in for an adventure :)