Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swimming with Alligators and Piranhas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll try and update again soon!

I've been having a great time!

Take care,

Monday, November 15, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Victories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beijos e boa sorte with your presentations to come :)

com amor,

Sunday, November 7, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

until next time.