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.


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