Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not Hurt, No Deaths, but Possibly Sick.

If you're not bleeding, you're not hurt.  If nobody died, you don't cry.  If you're not throwing up, you're not sick.  This was the way my parents had weeded out our angry tears we used to get our siblings in trouble and our actual hurt.  It was how they persuaded us to go to school with a headache and only miss on the days we were actually sick.  Although sometimes a bit harsh, there isn't a time I come to them in pain and in tears now that they don't know they aren't real and I really do need them.  Even as a 21 year old woman, I follow—subconciously—these rules and I carry them with me.

Thus when I woke up with a pounding headache this morning, I tried to sleep it off.  I didn't cry or fuss and had I had my own medicine (which I failed to pack) I wouldn't have even told anyone.  I couldn't stand it much longer and so I went to my pais' bedroom door at 6am seeking help.  They gave me some tylenol and when I went back to lay down I had this strange need to throw up again.  I ran to the bathroom.  Now the awful yet ironic part is that I was throwing up (sorry about all these stories) and I strained my back (which had been doing so well lately) in the same way I had strained it on Christmas Eve.  As embarrassing and overwhelming I assume my own problems that I don't think others should have to deal with them, a part of me is glad they know here, that way they can help take care of me and understand my weird behavior a bit.

I was supposed to have traveled to a different city with my pais today to visit their other shop but instead I stayed home and slept in and am now watching movies with Laura and Henrique.  Being inside today is going to be nice though, as I was out exploring the city again with my friend Bia.  I love being back, even if I hate how my sinuses and my body are reacting to the warm weather.

Sorry about all the posts of being sick, but when one is sick, there isn't much else to do!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Never Have I Ever...

Never Have I Ever...thrown up on an airplane.  That statement was incredibly true and I was very proud of it, seeing as I am motion sick often, until my last flight yesterday from São Paulo to Cuiabá, Brazil.  Let me start at the beginning.

I moved my stuff out of my apartment on Friday before work that night, and I went straight home after for Christmas.  Work ended in the best fashion.  We brought in goodies all week to share and on Friday we had a feast.  It's crazy to think that after seeing all of the same people five days a week, I won't see a single one of them for the next five months.  Being home also started in the best fashion; my sister and my older brother and I went out together to end the world right.  It was fun being able to hang out with them, outside of the house, and be around mutual friends as well.

I spent the next five days around home, helping with chores and cleaning and fighting with my sisters.  It's always great to be home!  My lower back had been stiff for a while, and with all of my studying and work it had begun to bother me when I would sit for long periods of time.  On Christmas Eve, I was angry at my sister and as she so politely requested, I went to unload my car of all of my boxes of stuff.  That was when I strained something, which trust me, did not make the festivities or the plane rides any more fun and comfortable.

My first plane took off from Minneapolis at 3:00 p.m., the day after Christmas.  Dad came to the airport to drop me off, where we also met with Marcos, a really good friend of mine. After a fairly quick check-in, a quick goodbye, and an even quicker trip through security, I was on my way to the gate.  I had to wait a bit of time, so I decided to start a book I had brought along.  Then I eventually boarded the plane.

My layovers this time around were quite short.  I had an hour in Atlanta, which was just enough time to get to the plan in time to board.  I had almost two hours in São Paulo, but after customs and check in, I wasn't left with much time either.

On the first flight, I sat next to a man who was from St. Cloud originally, lives in International Falls, and teaches for six month periods in Georgia.  Our conversation began we he thanked me and the guy sitting on his other side for not being fat and pouring into his space.

On the second flight, I sat next to a woman who is from North Carolina and was an exchange student five years ago with the program AISEC.  She was headed back to São Paulo to visit family and friends.  She was probably one of the most plesant people I have ever met on a plane.  We talked about our exchanges, about our families, our jobs, how we've changed, our friends, men in our lives, and how we plan on living in the future.  She came from the same background I did and appears to have the same identity problems I do, trying to decide between the world traveler or the settling down country girl.  It was interesting to get her perspective because she has 15 years of experience on me.  Overall we visited most of the night away and I didn't sleep a wink.

While I was going through customs, I met another 21 year old American from Texas.  She was visiting her boyfriend and his family in Brazil.  She doesn't speak a word of Portuguese, but she enjoys every minute in Brazil.  We complained about the weather, because as we stepped into the São Paulo airport, which mind you is not airconditioned, and we were met with 80 degree weather, we started dying.

Now the airport...  I hadn't been in a Brazilian airport for a year and six months, when I set foot in São Paulo.  Not only was I not preparred for the heat, but I also realized, for the first time, how unorganized everything is.  There are people everywhere, there are few proper lines, and it is pure chaos.  The security is less strict, they don't make you jump through the post-9/11 hoops we have too, but this relaxed feeling also makes me nervous.  I sometimes feel as if they aren't doing their job and that they aren't as adequate, but then again, maybe our country is just over protective in all aspects.

I didn't start to feel sick until I woke up from a short nap, on my thrid and final flight.  My stomach had decided that it didn't want to keep down anything anymore.  I hurriedly asked the woman next to me, in English, if she could get up so that I could go to the bathroom.  Of all my luck, on the only flight I wasn't sitting on the aisle, I needed to frequent the bathroom to throw up.  After the lady stared at me blankly, I asked in Portguese, but because of my distress my portuguese came out roughly, I was tripping over words and pronunciation.  After the third time I got up to go to the bathroom, the lady offered me some Dramamine, which I accepted, however towards the end of the flight it started coming back up.  This time I started gagging into a bag, in my seat.  Now, there wasn't much for me to throw up, because I hadn't had time to eat properly in the airports, and all I had been served was airplane food, and a few drinks.  I also hadn't slept a wink in the last 24 hours.  I made it to the bathroom in the back of the plane and I thought I was going to throw up the medicine and the water I had just drank, however nothing came out.  Then we began our descent and I decided I should probably find a seat.  I started throwing up again as we taxied to the airport, to get off, however once again, nothing came out.

I found my bag and I found Ulysses and Ivete, who had come to pick me up.  I told them that I wasn't feeling well and they took me for food.  I could hardly eat, but I knew I needed a little something in my stomach to start getting better.  We had a four hour drive ahead of us, but the most calming thing was when Ivete said, "if you feel like you need to throw up, tell us and we'll pull over, we're all family here."  She had given me permission to not be embarrassed and to slow their trip considerably because I wasn't feeling well, and I can't begin to explain how much that meant to me.  In the end, we didn't end up needing to sleep.  I slept off a lot of what had me feeling bad.

I arrived home to see my pai visiting across the street with someone, once he saw me he excused himself and came right over to give me a hug.  My mãe and Henrique were down right away to say "hi" too.  It is still hard to believe that I am back.  We drank tereré like normal and then I took a shower and a four hour nap.  When I woke up I came out and watched soap operas with them.  Laura came home from work and we all ate dinner, as a family.  Nothing has changed, not the city, not my familia, and not the food.  The biggest difference in all is the fact that everyone comments on how my portuguese is still wonderful, but the accent isn't like theirs as much anymore, and how I've gotten so thin.  I continue to tell them that I was only ever fat in Brazil.  I went to bed before 10:00 last night and I woke up at 10:00 this morning.  I feel rested and well.

I can't believe I'm back, there really isn't  a way to describe how normal and at home I feel here.  I'm not the scared 18 year old I was when I arrived, nor am I the exchange student.  I am just merely the daughter that came home to visit after being a way for a while.  I don't know Venezuela will be, but here, we're all family.


Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sometimes I am an emotional wreck, I never really was before I had the emotional roller coaster experience that was my Youth Exchange.  I had one of these moments the other day when I was looking at airplane tickets, one-way, from Minneapolis to Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brasil and I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't help but tear up.

About a month ago I started to plan for a semester abroad to improve my Spanish and take care of most of my major credits that I have to complete still.  I looked at programs and eventually decided to apply for the most suitable one that happens to be in Venezuela.  When I was telling my best friend, Isa, about this, she asked if I was going to stop by when I was down there.  My first thought was that I couldn't possibly pull it off.  It would be too expensive and I wouldn't have enough time.  However, once the seed was planted I was hooked.  I had to go back, I had to make it happen.  In my mind it all made perfect sense, I was already taking a leave from work so why not incorporate this into it.  I hadn't planned on going back to Brasil until 2014 at the earliest, but this seemed too good to pass up.

I started talking to my brother, Henrique, and asking him if he'd be around in January for me to visit and if I could stay with them.  After a while of reassuring myself that it would all work out and that I wouldn't be a burden on my family, I contacted him and bought the ticket.

I am officially going back to Tangará da Serra!! I will spend the end of Decemeber and most of January with them before I continue on my way.  I was crying when I bought the ticket of how real this going home experience has become.  I can't wait for everything that comes with it.

On a sad note, one of my best friends, Hiago, was planning a trip to Minnesota to visit myself and Matthew at that exact time!  We may miss each other all together, which bothers me a lot because I miss him to pieces and want to see him, but I know that it will also be okay because he will finally get to see snow and the U.S. while using his english and that happiness of his is more important to me than seeing him in Brasil would be.  I am nervous however, I mean who wouldn't be?  I am going back and it isn't going to be the same, I am not going to be under any rules and I will be thrown back just as I was when I returned to the United States for the first time.  I can only hope that the "reverse culture shock" that I will go through will be hardly anything and it will seem like a mere homecoming/vacation!!

Some of the things I am most looking forward to are listening to my favorite type of sertanejo (country) music, maybe go fishing, going the farm and ride horses, dancing with my friends, eating açaí, and hanging out in the living room watching soap operas and movies with my family.  I also can't wait to go to church with my family and then again with my friend Isa and her family!  One of my last desires is to go out and party because I want to be able to experience all the small moments and the down time I had last time that were so important to me, but I've always been up and ready for anything!

Até logo, Brasil!
Aletha Rose Duchene