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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Campo Grande and Back

I spent the last week or so in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil. It is the capital of the state underneath my state. They used to be one big state and when they broke off Campo Grande took over as that capital and Mato Grosso's capital remained Cuiaba. The culture is very similar between the two areas due to close proximity and similar climates, however it was a different adventure as well. In Campo Grande I stayed in an apartment with my tío (uncle) João (John) and tía (aunt) Sandra. My sister, Laura, lives with them, and they have two adopted kids Helen (17) and João Paulo (15). [[Sidenote of Interest: I asked where they were adopted from and everyone kept telling me 'here', thinking there was a misunderstanding I repeated the question explaining that I had adopted cousins from Russia and Guatemala, and they told me that in Brasil kids are adopted from Brasil, from the cities nearby or other states, not from other countries. This is because they have too many orphans here and need to find homes for them first.]]

First the bus ride. The bus ride was long. My mom and I left Tangará da Serra on a Friday afternoon (2 p.m.) We arrived in Campo Grande on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. Now during this time there are about 5 or 6 maybe 7 stops. One is 30 minutes for dinner, the others are ten or so minutes. I didn't take the precaution of not drinking a lot of liquids (I was dying of thirst most of the trip so I'd drink some water). There was a bathroom on the bus so I didn't worry too much. About 2 hours in I had to go to the bathroom and the bus was breaking down so we were stalled on the side of the road. I thought 'PERFECT' it's not moving I should have no problems. I walk back to the bathroom open up the door and the smell just about killed me. There was toilet paper thrown everywhere, used toilet paper, and the floor appeared to be sticky. Well I plugged my nose and decided I had to go anyways, sometimes you can't help it. Then the minute I stand up in there, lock the door, and am avoiding touching anything except the toilet seat, the bus lurches forward. Let's just say that lots of hand sanitizer was needed. Also, apparently this bathroom door locks in a very false manner. It looks locked, it feels locked, but it isn't (or wasn't for me anyways). Some old guy came back and yanked open the door while I was using the bathroom, then I grabbed it and reclosed it and relocked it. I also held onto the door this time just incase it wasn't locked, good choice because it wasn't. Another guy or maybe the same guy about 15 seconds later yanks on the door, but I was holding it thank goodness. So this is where I learned to NEVER drink liquids when you are going on a bus ride. Just don't.

The first afternoon I met my grandma, she is the biggest sweetheart in the world. She made me miss my grandparents even more. Her food was delicious but I must say I prefer the cakes, cookies, and other desserts at my grandmas' houses. I met some aunts that are divorced and live with her (there are two houses on the lot), and I met my cousins Thalita and Felipe. Thalita is nice by any standard and she was wonderful to visit with although the similar names confused me often. She is around 17. Felipe is 8. He is a ball of energy, reminding me a lot of my cousins in the states. He always wanted to play and was a lot of fun to spend time with!

The first night I went out for Sobá which is Japanese.
There was a huge immigration of Japanese people to the Campo Grande area, so not only are there thousands of Japanese-Brasilians, but there is a high demand for Japanese food. Sobá is a soup with beef or pork, noodles and vegetables. It was delicious.

Then I went to a barzinho, which translates to little bar. It is a mixture of a club and a bar, except it's all open (similar to being under a lean to). We went to Miça, which believe it or not sounds like Mass in portguese. So the new friends of my cousin I had made invited me to what I thought was mass and I thought, sure I haven't been there in a while and every church is different, so I was like "ok, that sounds good", then they said "It's a barzinho." and I said "OH. That's SO cool, I haven't really gotten the chance to know places like that." Everyone found the retelling of this story hilarious and now everyone in my family there knows it.

The next day Marie, the exchange student from Minnesota, arrived in Campo Grande to spend the week with us. This was nice because we had each other to lean on for the language and for everything that was strange and new, however we took too much advantage of English. One thing I learned was that we can both be speaking Portuguese and understand each other almost completely, when other people can't. This is because we speak some things incorrectly, however it's incorrect in a way that we both understand (it translates well to English or it is a word we made up, this means its English with a poor portuguese accent).

Now instead of day-by-day replays I'll list off some of the bigger things.

We met some cousins on my other side, they are body-builders. Ages: 15 and 20. They are half Japanese. Their dad lives there and their mom returns there often to work. Many people in Campo Grande look for work in Japan because the money is better there, however you must be married to, or be Japanese to enter (at least from Brasil), so my mom told me that many people marry Japanese so they can work there. I like to believe that there is love there first and it just reinforces the fact that they should be together, but I didn't think to ask. Anyways the mother (my aunt) told my 15 year old cousin to take us to his gym (a lot smaller than mine) and then we went to a park and walked around.

The new group of friends went to the mall and then to the movie Amor a Distancia, sadly I don't remember what it is called in english (long distance love?) It has Drew Barrymore who meets a guy (the actor from accepted) in New York and then moves to California and they date long distance. It was in english with portuguese subtitles, it was funny and nice to be able to compare translations. Translations for movies and songs are awful here. This is due to the heavy use of slang that doesn't translate both from portuguese to english and english to portuguese. [[Sidenote: I learned from a girl named Thaisa that People magazines and magazines like that cost roughly $20 here, and they are in english so people can't even understand them anyways.]]

With the same group of girlfriends Marie and I went to an memorial park of the indigenous people. It was just a large park with a walking path and a lake on one end. It was green and beautiful although the water was a little dark and not cleanly looking. There were also capivaras there, a lot, like our squirrels here. In one area there were roughly 50, just hanging out. It was so strange.

Shopping, nails, hair, and waxing. My mom took Marie and I to the mall. We both have cellphones (although my battery lasts literally two hours and dies and my mom knows this so it is for emergencies only), so we asked my mom if we could stay while she went to a doctor's appointment. She said we could and that she would call for us when she was back in the building. We first got ice cream, Marie got a McFlurry and I went somewhere that had a product similar to Dippin' Dots. I was allowed to pick 4 flavors, I only wanted chocolate. That was a fight with the guy selling it. So i settled for two flavors and it was good, although not as delicious as ours in the states. [[Ice cream here is not as good by far, although I've had some that tastes pretty decent]]. Then we walked around and looked at clothes and jewelry, we purchased a few things, and then we came upon a book store. Now for any of you that don't know me, I buy books before clothes, before shoes, before just about anything with the exception of food. Books, movies, and music are staples in my life, even here. I am constantly downloading new songs (in portuguese because the music here is amazing) watching movies, both familiar and from Brasil, and of course I had to be missing books (with the exception of the buttload I brought down). So entering the book store for me was very similar to how I enter them in the United States, except imagine a lion that hasn't eaten in weeks and comes upon a group of sleeping campers or some zebras. Anyways I looked at many many books and found some translations from english to portuguese and I was very excited. I eventually settled for buying a couple that had been translated from english that I had already read to help me settle into the swing of reading portuguese books. Then Marie and I walked around and shopped some more. My mom eventually called Marie's cellphone but there was some confusion about where we were meeting, however when we tried to call her back we couldn't because we didn't have the proper area code. [[Now before I left my brother, Henrique, made me a list of all the numbers and what provider they belong to and all the area codes I would need, how to call people collect from my cellphone, and other things, however who carries a notebook shopping with them]] So remembering that we needed area codes we went to a near by store and asked for help. They gave us the area code for the other half of Mato Grosso, not my half, therefore we called someone else and tried to explain that they were our mom and we didn't know where to meet them. Then we continued to wander for another ten-20 minutes and eventually saw a lady that looked exactly like my mom who we creeped on, but it wasn't her. So we got bored and sat in front of a shop (our understanding was a yellow shop on the first floor) which was yellow and on the first floor and gave up, waiting for my mom to come. We tried calling her one more time changing the area code this time and it went through and as Marie said "we're lost", my mom tapped us on the shoulders. Then we spend even more time looking for our car because there are two similar parking lots so we checked all over the wrong one first. What an adventure. Nails are a weekly thing here, they cost between $10-20 to get done, and EVERYONE has nice nails here. It's a staple of life which I am not accustomed to, because not only do I dislike having nailpolish on, the last 3 years of my life I haven't been allowed to wear it as of work. So we got our nails done which was an adventure as well because my aunt picked tons of colors that go well with my skin and tried to persuade me into some I had no interest in. They ended up a medium dark pink/red. Marie went with dark blue. Getting your hair washed is common here also, washed and styled, just because. We didn't partake in this either. Now Brasil and waxing. Everyone here waxes everything. Legs, eyebrows, armpits, chests (guys), everywhere. My aunt believed that my eyebrows needed fixing up so we went and got them done. The biggest change now is that I live in a society where everyone worries about how they look and I grew up on a farm as a tom boy. I'd rather play in the mud and have dirty feet than be in a beauty pageant and some people in my family are only trying to get me to try harder on my self-image.

We went to one of the largest farmer's markets in the area, lots of shops and good food. It is well-known in the area and it was a very cool experience. Helen, Marie, and I had a caricature drawn while the whole world watched and we also creeped on anyone that looked foreign. It is really exciting to see foreign people because Marie and I both haven't met any other foreign exchange students (well I met one today but that's a different post in itself).

Acid Rain here is common because it doesn't rain for months on end. The first rain after a long dry-spell is always a bit acidic. Marie and I didn't know this. We woke up, noticed it was raining, asked for permission to go down to the main floor where we could get outside, and we ran and played in it. Oh I had missed rain so much. It was a common thing for me to do in the states, sometimes I even was late for class or delayed because the rain had kept me outside. When we returned to the apartment we were told that it was acidic, and that my hair would be gross for a while. Little did they know, divers are accustomed to this. Oh well I'll learn how to deal, it isn't that awful. I did get the go ahead to take a bath in the rain during the rainy season. From what I've heard exchange students from Minnesota in Brasil like to play in the rain.

We had a churrasco (BBQ) the first Sunday we were in Campo Grande. It had delicious food, but the funniest thing is that there were so many appetizers and I thought it was just food coming at random times. Nope, just appetizers, appetizers that were chicken wings, sausage links, and chicken hearts. Enough meat to make me full before we even at lunch. Chicken hearts, DELICIOUS, when prepared correctly. These were marvelously prepared. They were amazing. Now, I also come from a family that raises chickens, and cleans them by hand. My job is to clean out the inside, it has been my job since I was old enough to handle a knife, so I am not afraid of chicken hearts and am completely familiar with them in their raw form. I also come from where eating soups with squirrel or cow tongue, or eating chicken hearts, livers, and gizzards, isn't a strange thing at a family get together. My mom had prepared them in my house and they always smelt good but I never wanted to try them. Well, when in Rome...or Brasil.

On the topic of food, we went to a Rodizio, this time it was a pizzeria and not a fundraiser for anything. The pizza was delicious I tried bits of everything, one (two) with corn, one (two) with cheese, egg and balogna, one (two) with ice cream, one with chocolate and strawberries, one with banana, one with stroganoff, and one with chicken hearts. When I heard the word chicken I was like okay it's safe after I accepted it, it clicked in my brain that he said heart before chicken, Marie pointed this out as well. It wasn't bad if I must say so.

Shameless brasilians are everywhere. No one here is ever embarrassed and they are very loose. They dance and sing, even when they obviously can't. They aren't afraid to tell you straight up that you have a huge zit, even though you've been trying to forget about it all day (I have seen friends do this to each other, and acquaintances too). They aren't afraid to point out that they don't like your hair or that you've put on a couple pounds. It is taking getting used to and I don't take criticism that harshly anyways, but I don't know if I'll be able to completely copy them in this area. Although I have been becoming more talkative, more jokey, and more willing to do things on the spot (like handstands in class). My family all tells me that I am becoming more brasilian, but we still joke about how I wake up American.

Marie and I celebrated our one month anniversary of living in Brasil by going out to eat and hanging out with our family, and our new cousin/friend Helen who we spent every day with. It wasn't a big thing, but it was fun to realize that one month before we were freaking out on the airplane because we were going to be living with complete strangers, and now those strangers are family.

September 11th was the day I arrived in Campo Grande. I thought about it randomly throughout the day, but I didn't see much on it until that night when we were watching television. There was a show talking about the Twin Towers and it replayed the news clip from that day over and over again. We talked about how it was so long ago(we=my sister, my mom, my sister's boyfriend, my uncle, my aunt, and me) and how I was so young. My sister's boyfriend and I shared the same memory of being in a classroom at the time and everything kind of stops and they clue you onto what was going on. I got to watch part of it on television. I watched the clip and got really somber, and everyone talked about how it was sad, but it was a weird emotion sitting around people that didn't have the same connection with it, they weren't from the same country. Kind of like how I can feel compassion for the people in Haiti, but I will never share the exact emotion they have towards the earthquake.

On a happier note, I ate feijoada again. I ate more rice and beans, more beef. I tried really delicious drinks as well. Juices of fruits that don't even translate into english. I showed off some pictures I have on facebook and orkut to my aunt and uncle who were in love with the land my house sits on. They like the country and the fact that in the U.S. people can have big free space and no walls or gates or fences.

It is a joke around here now that I am an animal killer, all because I have hunted a few times before and have been successful, and because I chose to share this with them. Everytime we see animals or talk about animals they tell me to put away my guns and that I can't shoot and eat it. For example we were sitting on my aunt's porch one night and my uncle was holding a turtle, he then set it on the ground and let it run loose and the comment "watch out for Aletha. Aletha-you can't hunt this." shortly followed.

I learned some old folktales from Brasil as well, but I am too afraid to screw them up so I am going to look more into them before I retell them. My uncle also taught me new words. Piranha=hair clip, the fish, and a person that has lots of boyfriends. Capivera=[of 4 legs] animal, [of 2 legs] ugly woman. Dragão=ugly man. Vialão=Guitar, beautiful woman. There were more but I'm struggling to remember them.

Last but not least, living with a family has its ups and downs. I get along with every single person in this family well, but on the day we arrived at the bus station my dad sent Henrique to pick us up. Henrique doesn't have his license and he got into a small fender bender. Everything but $500 is covered by insurance. However being the truck still ran and Henrique was fine, the worst part for me was that everyone was tense for a while. They seemed to want to yell at each other, but were holding everything back because I was there. I hate witnessing people yell at other people, or at me for that matter. So I retired to my room to unpack my clothes. Although I'm certain that they weren't happy with one another and I'm sure some unpleasant words were used in unpleasant tones were used, the next day the air cleared a bit more. No one is holding a grudge and although it isn't quite what it used to be everyone is beginning to act the same. This I think is amazing because what is done is done, we all have to move on with our lives and no one is remaining angry. Man that was an awkward night though, because I didn't know where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to say or do, if anything, but it all passed and everyone and everything is okay.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and I had my mind opened even more. I learned more music, tried more foods, and watched more brasilian soap-operas. Conversing with different people has brought me new perspectives and has made me a better speaker because it has broadened my vocabulary. I returned to Tangará and everyone was amazed at how much I'd improved, although there is a long ways to go yet.

New post soon. I may add more pictures eventually to this post, or in another. They'll for sure end up on facebook and they are already on my orkut, but I'm getting really slow at uploading things and really busy with life here so I'll let you know.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Quickest Update In The World


I've had a few people ask me recently and yes, I am still alive.

I am still in Campo Grande, we are leaving on Monday at about 10:15 p.m. and I should arrive home at sometime the next afternoon.

Marie, the other exchange student from Minnesota, came down the day after we arrived. I have been meeting tons of people from schools, many aunts and uncles! I come from a big family here as well!! This is exciting for me, however on my hostmom's side there is only one great-grandchild and one grandchild that isn't in highschool. Definitely not as many cousins, but just as much noise. It definitely made up for missing both the Duchenes and the Biseks. Although of course nothing comes close to replacing the 'bagunça' (mess/loud/rowdy-ness) we call a family back in Minnesota.

Well all in all, without the gym I'm sure I am gaining weight here, the food is more delicious everyday. I'll post a full update about my week, one month anniversary, and pictures when I get back home, or a couple days after. Believe me, I have some very amazing stories to tell you about. Sneak preview: stories about shameless brazilian boys, one month anniversary, acid rain, and bus bathroom doors that apparently don't lock when I'm inside will be included. Stay tuned.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Exposerra and Farms and Finals.

Smaller than the State Fair, larger than the Rice County fair, a few animals (mostly cows and goats), a rodeo (the professional one starts tonight), tons of DELICIOUS food, $0.50 to use a dirty bathroom, sketchy carnival rides, opens at 7:00 p.m. and people stay until 6:00 a.m., thousands of drunk people, country (sertaneja) music concerts free excluding price of entry, cow auctions, a night club, tons of music, all rolled together you could call it EXPOSERRA.

Exposerra is my towns festival, like their Jesse James Days or their county fair. It started earlier this week, I think Saturday. However we couldn't go the first day because it was too dangerous. We didn't go the second day because people our age weren't attending that night, we did however go the third and fourth night, and my parents went last night but my brother and I didn't because it was an auction and not many teenagers would be present. The third night (Monday) Marie, the exchange student from Eden Prairie living six hours away, came over to visit because her family was visiting people about an hour away from my town. She got dropped off and we made my family sloppy joes, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter bars for supper and dessert. Oh how a little slice of home was nice. Then we got dressed up for exposerra.

This was my first night in attendance so I was a little nervous because my brother had told me how he gets in a fight almost every year because either he or one of his friends are talking to a girl and the girl's guy friends don't appreciate it. He also threw in the line "I win everytime. I throw one or two punches and then run as fast as I can." I don't know if that qualifies as winning, but it didn't make me feel any better especially because being foreign draws a lot of attention. Marie had some previous experience with this because she had attended her city 'fair'. She advised me on what to wear (boots and nice shirt with jeans) because that would be what most of the other people wore. Thank goodness for that, I blended in a little bit. Either way we got ready, my dad gave us some cowboy hats to take pictures in, and we left for the evening.

We arrive at the fair grounds and there is a line about 30 minutes long to buy a ticket and a shorter line to take your ticket and enter the grounds. We waited for a while, then my brother ran ahead to see if he knew anyone or could find someone selling them so we could get in quicker. He eventually found a friend who took our money and ran ahead jumping in line with a friend and bought our tickets, we were set and only waited about 10 minutes.

We ran into a bunch of people I knew and even more that my brother knew but I had no idea who they were. None-the-less I was introduced to even more people whose names, and some faces, I can't remember. I really enjoyed being able to introduce Marie to some of my friends though, because more than likely they'll all run into each other at some district rotary event.

We started at the rides, after barely looking through the animals, because there isn't much to see. The rides are a bit sketchy. Many don't have proper safety equipment, no seat belts, no pull down bars. One didn't have anything, you had to hang on for dear life. I think that is what made it my favorite. We started on the safest ride we rode all night. It reminded me of the school bus at Camp Snoopy. It wasn't bad but it wasn't Valleyfair, and we were laughing the entire time because some middle-aged woman in front of us was screaming like she was dying the entire time. Then we went on the roller coaster "Russia Mountain". It was a lot like the mad mouse ride at Valleyfair except that instead of seat belts we had two belts that went over each shoulder, sure to dislocate our arms in case of derailment. Last we were going to go on the Ferris wheel, but my brother prefers fast spinny rides. Being I get a bit motion sick I was a tad nervous, but we chose one that involves sitting down holding on to bars behind you, because there are no belts of any kind, while it spins round and round and tilts at insane angles meanwhile jerking and bumping (I'm not sure if that was part of it when it was new). Either way the worker of the ride walked around in the middle and I swore he would fall to his death, and people were squished up against one another due to gravity and one girl almost fell to the other end because she happened to be quite drunk and if it weren't for my brother grabbing her as she dangled she probably would have hurt more than just her arm. All in all, that was my favorite ride.

The rest of the evening we walked around and ran into more people I knew. I got the pleasure of introducing my Interact friends to Marie, many of them were asking about where she was the next day and many made comments about her to me. The most common, she was a cutie :). Now by about 2:00 a.m. almost everyone was drunk. Teenagers carried around bottles filled with alcohol and they would just walk up to a stand because apparently they don't I.D. here and order whatever they wanted. Brasilians are very animated funny drunk people and they kept me entertained. Although when we were with certain groups of people I felt like Marie, my brother, and I were the only sober ones. It was an interesting experience. It also gets really crowded after the show ends and so to make our way through the crowds we all had to be hand in hand.

I also had an awful bathroom experience because after I paid $0.50 to enter, I ended up in a dirty stall that had a very unclean toilet seat. Let's just say that half my toilet paper I was given (they give it to you when you pay) was used to clean it. Other than that we eventually went home at about 3:30 because Marie had to get up at 7:30 to catch the 8:30 bus back to the town where her family was staying.

Exposerra experience number 2 for Aletha wasn't as exciting. There were less people I knew there although I got to meet a girl named Talita (I met her the night before, but I actually spent enough time with her to remember her name this time). She was really nice and when my brother would go talk to people neither of us knew we would tell jokes and talk. I went and watched the show this time. It was Victor e Leo, who are pretty big sertaneja singers down here, so that was cool. They reminded me of Rascal Flatts because everyone knew all the words to every song they played. People tried to teach me how to dance, of course that doesn't work well for me, but I'm trying and I'm sure I'm slowly getting better...or not, but it's fun. I did however eat an open Krep which is like a pancake taco almost. It was filled with cheese and stroganoff. It was the most delicious thing I've eaten down here so far. When we return tonight I might just have to get another one. After the show we went home about 2:00, because we had school bright and early at 7:00. Let's just say I was exhausted and it was finals at school which was kind of a nice break, I didn't even have to go, but I did and upon my return home I took a 3 hour nap.

My family owns a fazenda (farm) about an hour away for a day or weekend getaway. We went there this past Sunday so that I could visit it. The day was pretty relaxing. We left a little after 8 a.m. and spent the whole day away. It was a lot of eating watermelon, fried chicken, drinking coca and juice, and laying around in hammocks. My brother and I bonded quite a bit as we have now begun to talk about anything we want. He tells me about pranks he pulls at school, stories about people we both know, and about anything else that pops into our heads. He's really patient with me and we are even fighting like brother and sister now which is a nice too being it's all a big joke, my family claims I'm becoming brasilian because of this:). Anyways besides soaking up the slow life I got to visit their old house on the site and the new one they are building (they don't live there nor have they ever, they just have it as a hobby), I got the chance to ride horses (which I turned down that time because the horse was a little jumpy that day), I got to visit their cows, and Henrique and I also shot cans with his pellet gun, and one or two shots with a very weak shotgun. Either his sights need to be redone, or I need lots of practice, probably both. It was nice to just slow things down for the day. Then we went to my Uncles house for a while, who lives in Tangará also, but has the farm for hobby as well. He had the most beautiful horses I've ever seen and tons of shade. The day was wonderful, just like walking onto the set of an old western. I couldn't have asked for a better change of pace.

Finally, Finals. Every day from this past Wednesday until next Tuesday we have 3 finals a day at school. They are just like regular tests, not even bigger (like the longest one I've taken was 3 response questions of roughly one sentence, defining 2 words, and answering 8 multiple choice questions). You get two hours to finish them and if you finish them earlier you just leave the class and do whatever you want. Also if you finish the last one early, you just go home. I've been home around 11:00 everyday this week. I have taken 5 so far, one is this afternoon (math) I'm going to watch Gossip Girl at someone else's house instead because as much as I try everything is worded different and I don't understand any of the tests, I just put in a good effort until 3 or so people have finished, then I call it quits. I took a writing one where my understanding was to right about equality and if it is possible or something along those lines, so I tried. I'm still not sure what it was on, however apparently after I left the room the teacher read it to the class and there were lots of errors, well things in spanish, oops. I took philosophy which was crazy, I could only answer one or two questions on John Locke. I took physics which was a joke because I didn't like, understand, nor take physics in high school. Our teacher handed out a formula sheet (I'm pretty sure everyone in Messer's class would have aced it), so I took a couple problems and guessed what meant what and used whatever formula the first letter of what they were asking for matched. I took history today which was the longest one yet, I answered everything except for 2-3 questions but that was because it's really easy to do multiple choice. ;P There was another one but I don't remember which one it was. Either way it's a lot of down time and joking, or sleeping, or studying. Tomorrow I have English and some other ones I have no idea about.

Tomorrow evening I also leave for Campo Grande until the 20th (around then). My sister lives there as do the families of both my mom and my dad. I hear my cousins are already planning everything down to the day, I'm extremely excited to meet them all and explore the capital of a different state!! My mom and I are going down by bus (12-16 hours) so it'll be an interesting trip I'm sure and I'm also excited to miss my house here, and my school here, and my friends, because I like the feeling of having things to miss here. So if you don't hear anything from me for a week or so, I'm probably still alive but having an amazing time so that I have more interesting things to blog about later.

until next time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Adjusting and Being the Exchange Student


There are ways to tell that I am becoming very at home here. The first is that I am starting to eat a lot more, not at one sitting of course I'm still without a Brasilian stomach, but I find myself eating more in between meals because I am hungry now in between meals. It's a few more cookies, treats, bread, or fruit, this excites me to no end.

I'm starting to run into people everywhere I go that I know. Even when I was at a mall 3 hours away from home I ran into two girls I know. This tells me that I'm at least starting to know people and remember faces. Although the other day I was eating with friends and I went to the bathroom with a girl I had met that evening and as we were walking in some girl ran up to me and gave a big hug, like she was so happy to see me again...she didn't even look familiar. Oh well. I even ran into one person that only I knew! It made me so happy to know that I had made one friend (although no one approved that I was talking to him because he is a little flamboyant) and I had an inside story with him (he accidently spilt worm blood on me), that no one else witnessed that no one else knew about. I'm starting to befriend people even my brother doesn't know!! :)

Another way to tell I'm adjusting is that I have started joking around more with my family. I always did at home in the states but here I more or less lack the ability to speak my thoughts out loud, so as I'm learning more I am joking around more. It's a lot of fun.

I have started moving around a lot in my sleep. When I sleep over at new houses I tend to sleep in one position the whole time, where as in my own bed I'm all over the place. For the first couple of nights I didn't move at all, now I wake up sleeping sideways or all twisted in my sheets, just like the good old days. I'm sure if my family was awake I'd probably be talking in my sleep too. (Sidenote: I've made my bed here everyday Mom, even though there is a maid here that remakes it proud)

I also have stopped looking well kept with my family in our house. Before I tried to look at least half decent because they weren't used to seeing me all grungy, and now I don't worry a thing about it, because how I wake up is the way it is. Although I still try and look nice when going places, but let's just say my hair has been in a lot of ponytails lately.

I'm growing more and more used to the heat although somedays I swear I'm going to die anyways, but at night it gets a little chilly, where in the spring it would be sleeveless shirts and shorts, here I feel like I need pants and sweatshirts.

I'm also slowly figuring out my way around town which is exciting for me. Although I have a long way to go until I can do everything by myself, I think I could successfully make it to school and back alone, and to the gym as well. I'm also getting used to what street my house is on, and the bank, and the central park.

Being the Exchange Student.

I always get shotgun, I always get the best seat, I always get to choose the music, I always get the only fan, and I always get the last dessert...why you may ask...because I'm an exchange student in Brasil.

I'm incredibly guilty of wondering what the new exchange student in school is like. Back in Northfield the thoughts running through my mind were: "Are they nice? Where are they from? Boy or Girl? Are they attractive? Are they good at sports? Are they fun?" Well the strange thing now is that I am the exchange student. EVERYONE knows my name and things about me, and I have never met them before. The other day in school my brother was looking at the facebook page of the Colombian exchange student that will be coming here, all the boys gathered around and were discussing what they thought about her. I can't say this is entirely rude because people are curious and I'm sure many people all over the world do the same thing.

I get a lot of special treatment because I'm the exchange student. The other day I was hanging out with a friend from school and she introduced me to her best friend. Her best friend and I went for ice cream as she was shopping for clothes. Her best friend paid for it. Now this is something I would do for my friends back at home, but it was still the fact that she didn't even ask if I had money, she just ordered. Because I am the exchange student I also get to meet anyone I want. I talk to my friends that have uncles and aunts and grandparents that would like to meet me, so I make plans to visit them. I have friends that have friends that would like to meet me, after I meet them they introduce me to even more friends who introduce me to even more friends who's names I can't even remember in the first place.

I have some friends that don't go to my school and so one day I didn't have to go to school because they were taking a big standardized test all day. I went and spent the day switching between 4 classrooms at a public school. I met a bunch more people and the experience was insane. I was used to 2 classes per year, here there were 6 or 7. It was huge and there were a lot of people, and the teachers cared even less because it was a free education, the kids could do what they want with it seemed to be the popular theory.

The other day my brother took me to his old private school (is similar to Holy Angels in niceness of facilities) here I was introduced to even more people, all of who were wonderful and showed me around the school. I met some adults that told me to come around whenever I wanted and I ran into a guy friend of mine who also went there who made sure to introduce me to some of his classmates. No one seemed to be upset that I was there, they were all excited to share their school with me and get to know me.

I joined a gym. I love it, I miss sports so much and this is a nice compromise, it gives me something to do in the evenings. All of the trainers go out of their way to make sure I am doing okay and that all of the machines are fit for me and they give me way too much attention. They also know I don't speak portuguese to an incredible extent. Yet they all find other ways to make sure I understand and they are patient with me. I also met this little girl at the gym who must have been the niece or daughter of my trainer because she was taking to him about buying something from her (I thought of girl scout cookies, but I'm sure this was not the case), he then introduced us and explained that I was American. She followed me around and made small talk about where I was from and that she is planning on doing an exchange program in 2015, or some time around then. She even went out of her way to say goodbye to me.

The other day our school participated in a parade in celebration of their country (Independence Day is tomorrow the 7th) It was burning hot out and way too sunny. When we finally came to a stop, everyone made sure I had shade and water. On the walk to the place a bunch of people made sure that I didn't get lost, and on the bus ride to the drop off location even more people made sure I had a spot to sit. People go out of their way for exchange students here, not that they don't for other people as well, but they spoil me too much.

Along the lines of meeting whoever I want, the other day I went to the "Mister/Miss 29" contest, for the public school I visited a couple days later. Now I had seen a real cutie (one of the cutest guys I've seen down here) at this event. He was running for Mr. Now my friends decided (because they wanted to have an excuse to talk to him) that they would introduce us. It didn't bother me, they got to talk to him and I got to meet him, win-win. :) But I find it entertaining that I am an excuse for many people to do things they normally couldn't/wouldn't do. Like staying out later is more common now because they are helping me out or hanging out with me. They also use me as a "meet my american friend, I have one you don't" kind of thing, but I don't mind because I like meeting people down here, I'll never know who is super awesome if I don't spend time getting to know a random mix of people.

I have given two English classes already while I've been down here, one to a very poor school and one to a tutoring center. They all ask me to come again and again because they want to practice their English and they also want to learn more about me. I get asked to do a lot of things and meet a lot of people.

Other than that I know people talk about me and tell stories about me and often they make fun of me for doing something strange or saying something wrong. The other day I was out to eat with friends and my brother and the boy across from me dropped his french fry so I gave him the "tsk tsk" motion and he thought my brother had told me to do that to make fun of his skin color (he's tanner than most people here). Another example was I was asked if I had any paper clips. Said 'Clipsees'. The movie eclipse is said very similar. I said "nope I haven't seen it yet." They laughed at me and passed on the story to everyone in class. I find it entertaining though, knowing that I'm comfortable with them making jokes about me, and they are comfortable with not offending me that they don't.

It's also really weird to be introduced as 'the exchange student, from the U.S.' I feel like they have it wrong, like I'm just someone visiting and that there isn't anything different, I still haven't come to terms that I will always be the exchange student. It feels so weird trying to realized that that is what I am. I stick out like a sore thumb too, I'm incredibly white (although I met one person more white than I am ;P) with light eyes and strange colored hair.

Over all I couldn't be any happier with the way people treat me and how I'm adjusting here. It's nice to know that people are excited to know me because it makes spending time with them easier, and running into them later easier as well.

Hope to write more quickly this next time around.