Tuesday, October 19, 2010


What have I been up to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tchau. Beijão :*

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, October 11, 2010

My family's tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, October 2, 2010


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

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

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

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