Monday, December 27, 2010

Wow. Update.


Sorry. It has been FOREVER! I have gotten so bad at this and you want to know what, I haven't really been up to that much! Well in a way I have. It's weird to me. For example I don't do a whole lot of different things, but I do so much.

I spend lots of time watching movies and walking around with friends, eating new food, exploring the city, visiting shops, or hanging out in homes talking.

To catch you up a little on my life:

December 4th was my birthday. I spent my whole birthday weekend hanging out with my best friends here from 12:00 a.m. until 12:30. then 3:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. the following day. My brother was traveling and so he felt really bad about leaving me for the weekend. When I returned home after going to church with my friend Isa, we were going to go out again. Then she invited me to help her get tereré ready to drink. I complied of course and we walked into the kitchen where my family and friends had set up a surprise birthday party for me! It was wonderful, I don't think I've ever been so surprised in my life and I couldn't sleep or stop smiling from pure happiness!

I've spent most of December hanging out with my friends in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I have been to a lot of "Secret Santa" holiday parties with my parents as well. These are always interesting! I've been learning to play Truco, the very popular card game here.

December 22nd we had a 50th birthday party to attend. I invited Alejandra to come with me, she accepted. We arrived there and there happened to be another exchange student there, not from our district. He happened to be from the United States, and when we talked to him, I found out he's from IOWA! What a wonderful coincidence!! It was a nice evening and it was wonderful to know another exchange student!

My sister and her boyfriend arrived here December 23rd to celebrate Christmas with us. We spent a lot of time visiting and drinking tereré. Most of the time we stay up until 3:00 in the morning just talking to each other and enjoying each other's presence. My sister and her boyfriend have been dating for 7 years and have talked about marriage together, but my "brother-in-law" had to ask my dad's permission. That was interesting to watch because he never gave them a for sure answer, he just talked around it, in circles.

Christmas without snow and without normal holiday baking definitely didn't feel the same. I didn't feel the Christmas spirit that is impossible to miss back home. It just seemed like another day to me. As much as I missed the Christmas lights on every house, the snow, the cold, the smell, the feeling, I had a pleasant Christmas/Christmas Eve.

Christmas is celebrated basically at 12:00 a.m. Right when it changes. We had a dinner with a bunch of family friends and we ate, played UNO, and talked. Then it turned midnight, we all wished each other a Merry Christmas and about 10 minutes later everyone went home. When we got home we all exchanged gifts in the home, it was a nice time! It wasn't a materialistic thing where people were upset or disappointed with their gifts, it was just pure contentment.

Christmas day we slept in, ate lunch with the same people in the same place, played BINGO, and then the "kids" (my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, a son of a family friend, and I) left and drove around drinking tereré before we returned home to watch a movie. I got the chance to call my parents and grandparents back in the U.S. via skype! That was a nice treat!! For dinner we went to the same place with the same people and when we left we picked up my friend Alejandra and at about 12:30 we went to a club to go dancing.

Mateus, the boyfriend of my sister, left on the 26th, but my sister is staying until January 3rd. I'm loving having her here!!

Overall, this was a really crappy update, but I've had a wonderful December without snow, and I'm really content here. I couldn't have asked for more!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings only the best for you!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Almost A Year Ago

Today is December 1st. I've been thinking lately that a year ago I was getting excited to go to the Country Fair and District Interviews and get one step closer to my exchange year. Now I'm here and I still have a hard time believing it. It all seems so unreal and yet so normal at the same time. As I've been thinking, I remember the night before Saturday December 5th, 2009. It was my birthday so my family and I were eating our traditional homemade chicken noodle soup and Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. I don't remember if I had candles on the cake or anything, but I do know that before I went to bed, the only thing I wished for was that my interview would go well and I'd be on my way to any country that following summer.

When I woke up, I don't remember being nearly as nervous as I should have been. We loaded up in the car–Mom, Dad, and me–and I remember Mom and Dad asking, "Are you nervous?" and I told them, "Not really, I should be, but if I'm not the type of person their looking for I'm not that isn't going to change now."

This seems so much truer now. The interviews people are about to have this Saturday aren't like a chapter test where you can cram the night before and pass with flying colors. It's not even like a final where if you put in a good two weeks effort and you do almost perfectly. These interviews about being yourself and who you have been for the last 15-18 years of your life. Of course there are better ways to speak to people and treat other people, but there is no reason to be nervous. We'd all been training for this day, without knowing it, just by being the type of people we'd always been.

My life here isn't something I could have prepared for. Of course I learned a little of the language, I made myself aware of some of the customs, I learned a little bit about the history, but I couldn't prepare myself for how I was going to interact with the locals, how I was going to deal with people that dislike me, or how I was going to represent my country. Sure there are times when I am more aware of what I am saying and doing and I do it more correctly and politically correct, and of course I could always fake liking people, being happy, and being perfect. However faking things tires after about a day, imagine a year.

In the end, by being here, I've realized that I'm still me, I still get frustrated by the same things. I still put my family (new and old) before just about everything, I still am horribly optimistic, I still like to do things independently, I still procrastinate too much, and I continue to make the same faces at friends sitting across the room from me. There are somethings I've adapted to, but there are some things that I can't change in the blink of an eye even if I'm aware it's a bit of a problem. I guess it's becoming more about who I was and that becoming more prominent, than some big dramatic change of being for me. I'm noticing some of the characteristics I've always had and I'm becoming happy and comfortable with them.

So I guess what I'm thinking as I think about a year ago is that I hope you guys don't get too nervous, it's not a big deal. Be true to yourself, because Rotary isn't looking to lecture you on your values, but they are looking to see if you would make a successful youth ambassador and have a successful exchange. Imagine passing every interview and orientation and arriving in a new country and not enjoying yourself because you just weren't ready as a person. Everything is going to go great and picture it: in a year, you'll be in a different country, excited for, yet slightly envious of, the people that are about to start their exchange.

Good Luck!! Boa Sorte!!
I look forward to hearing where you are all going next year!

p.s. Brasil is by far the best country... soo, put it as you're #1. Just saying. :P