Wednesday, July 15, 2009
About a week ago we went on a family vacation to the Porto de Galinhas in Northeast Brazil for a week. It was really cool to travel with them because I´ve become so much more comfortable as a part of their family and we all know each other so much better now. Also I am speaking Portuguese now so that helps a lot. Earlier in my exchange we took a trip to Rio for a few days, which was also a really fun trip, but comparing that two it was really cool to see how much closer we had all become. My host dad Ricardo always making jokes and telling embarrassing stories of when my host siblings were younger, I remembered a few of my own but it wasn´t the same as my parents telling them.
It was also really nice to be on vacation because I spent some quality brother time with him. My brother Ricardo goes to the hardest school in the area and normally has to study a lot. Pretty much the whole week there me and Ricardo hung out and I got the chance to get to know him a lot better. He´s leaving in September to do exchange in Germany so it is really interesting for both of us for me to live with his family. For me I get to remember all I was going through when I was in his place, getting everything lined up to go, receiving your host family (in my case his family), and starting to learn the language of your exchange country. For him he gets to see an example what its like to be on exchange as I go through my experience.
While living with another family you find over time the differences that you have from each other. I have to keep reminding myself that this exchange is an experience for all of us and that by being me, even if it is completely different, is good If I tried to just fit in and slide by I wouldn´t be giving them the experience they deserve. I hope that in my time here I have stood strong to this and really given them a different kind of experience through my being here.
First it was "wow a month has already passed, that was fast!" Then it was "dang three months....wait... that´s halfway through my exchange!" Then the last two months just flew by and I´m left here thinking " I´m going home? in three weeks? that can´t be!" I´m filled with so many mixed feelings, Im excited to see my friends and family, and my new niece! Im excited to be back on the island and back to nature and my garden which I hear is full of fruit right now. Im not looking forward to coming back and after a few days realizing that nothing has changed in six months! haha and Im not looking forward to leaving my new friends, my host family and all the amazing connections I´ve made. So what I´ve done is told myself Im not allowed to think about it, not until I'm on the plane. I have to take advantage of every last moment and enjoy everything to the fullest. If you havn´t done something yet, quick do it! or you´ll regret it later!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
A little over a week ago I returned from one of the most amazing trips of my life. First of all I would like to say thank you so much, all of you that made it possible for me to do this, without your help it would never have been able to go.
It was 10 days in the amazon with 56 other exchange students from all around the world. We spent three nights in hotels, the first night in the Tropical Hotel, a five star hotel and the best in the city of Manaus (the capital of the state of Amazonas), and the next two nights in a hotel two hours out of the city in the middle of the forest. Then We all boarded two boats (there was a third boat that was the restaurant boat) for the next 6 days on the river.
The experience was so amazing in so many ways, I have been thinking of what to write about on my blog for days now and still can´t seem to find the words. It was a trip of a lifetime and I feel so fortunate that I was able to go on it. Though it cost a lot, the price was well worth it. I met so many amazing people from all over the world, and by the end I felt like I had known some of them for a lot longer than ten days. Even though the trip was only a little more than a week we really got to know one another in that short period of time. We shared the bathrooms and showers, we ate together every meal, we slept in hammocks all hung up so close together that every time you would shift you would hit the person next to you, and we all shared the amazing experience of being in the Amazon. Also we all had stories to share about our exchanges, all of us going through similar experiences brought us closer together. The majority of the others had already been here in Brazil for almost nine months and were going to stay for almost a year. It made me feel like six months is such a short time.
The trip was so different from any other I´ve been on. I Compared it to a class trip with school and found it different in so many ways. I mean it was a bunch of students together, but we were all so much more grown up. There were rules we had to follow, but I can´t even remember them because there was never any problems with them, everyone respected the rules, as well as each other. The staff on the trip was also really cool. Most of the staff lived in the Amazon, or grew up in the area. We were taking a trip through their back yards, literally, we were passing by on one of the canoes and the guy at the motor said "look over there, that´s my house" pointing to a floating house on the side of the river. It was really cool because we could ask them anything about the area, the history, the flora and fauna, or the people and they knew it all. Though most of the exchange students knew Portuguese really well, there was also a translator who spoke Portuguese and English. Everyone on the trip knew at least a little English, if not fluently.
The trip was so packed with exciting events I couldn´t tell you about them all. We toured the city of Manaus, went for hikes in the forest (all three types of forest), had a survival presentation, swam in the river (almost every day!), went to waterfalls and caves (one cave with a waterfall over the entrance), swam with dolphins, fished for paranas, held an alligator, slept in the jungle, heard stories about the natives, met a native tribe, played soccer on a reservation (and lost), ate good food and more.
For me I think my favorite part was just being in nature, to breath some of the cleanest air in the world and to swim in some of the freshest natural waters. We adventured into the flooded forests in canoes, the forest is flooded for almost six months out of the year, it is amazing to see. The guide said that with the rain this year the waters are higher than they havebeen in 100 years. I Also really enjoyed going to the reservation. We visited the school and the students all welcomed us with a song and some fresh fruits from the region. Then a few of us talked about our couturiers and our different cultures. After that we played a game of soccer, the exchange students vs. the natives.... we lost 7-2. Then we had dance with all different types of Brazilian music. We also visited a tribe that was living in the forest. When you think about "Indians" and how they live (or lived in most of the world now), this tribe was the closest to that image I have ever seen. I felt so lucky to get to meet them, but at the same time it made me feel so sad. The fact that we were there, the "white" influence had changed their lives and you knew it when you saw a barbie sitting next to a alligator skull. It was like they were on display the way we all showed up, took pictures and left. That was the one part of the trip that I didn´t feel completely good about.
I made a few really good friends on the Amazonia trip that I will probably keep contact with for the rest of my life. I´m going to have to travel all around the world now to see them again, but I think that´s a good problem! One of my friends from Germany is going to visit me this weekend. He lives in Rio de Janeiro and after he comes to visit me for a few days in Sorocaba I'm planning on heading up there to visit him.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Our flight left just after noon on hot sunny day with only a few clouds in the sky. As we took off you could see the city of São Paulo below reaching out into the horizon, tall sky-scrappers for most of it. Once we were past the city it was rolling hills with patches of lakes and squares of land being farmed. The dark green landscape converging with the light blue sky above. About halfway through the flight we reached the Ocean, and the plane was low enough we could see the waves crashing against the beach, The white sandy beach that stretched on and on. Flying into Rio we passed between the steep hills and came to a landing right beside the water with the view of the statue of Christ in the distance.
The ride from the airport to the hotel was quite a view, the city of Rio de Janeiro is beautiful. The landscape is tall hills with steep valleys leading all the way up to the beach. The city is built in the middle of it all. You drive at the bottom of the valley looking up at the buildings on the hillside wondering how they were built, and how they don´t fall! Then you turn and cut through a hill heading through a tunnel to come out the other end in another part of the city with tall buildings built closely together, vines and trees everywhere climbing the buildings and arching over the road.
Then we arrive at the hotel. There´s the Copacabana beach, the sidewalk with little shops down the length of the beach, the avenue and then out hotel, 100 feet from the beach, at the most. My room that I shared with my host brother didn´t face the beach, but you could go to the 13th floor, the top of the hotel with a bar, pool and lounge, where you could look out across the whole beach from end to end.
The beach was the most crowded beach I´ve ever seen, I mean it was packed! Copacabana is a place for tourists. There were people walking around trying to sell you things, tattoos, sunglasses, necklaces and bracelets and more. This part reminded me of Mexico. Every night there was a tractor that would come and smooth out the beach for the next day.
While in Rio the main thing we did was eat. We ate out more times than I ever have in three days. But besides eating we went to the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf), the Corcovado (the giant statue of Christ) and a soccer game at the Maracana Stadium, Botafogo and Flamingo semi-final with about 83,000 people. the views were amazing and hard to put into words and so I'm not going to try. These are a few of the many pictures I took on the trip.
One of the longest bridges in South America.
A view from the plain.
At the corcovado.
The Flamingo side during the game
The Copacabana beach.
The View from the Pão de Açucar.
The Pão de Açucar.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Well I think its about time I wrote another blog! its been almost a month! sorry I haven´t been keeping up to date. There´s been a lot going on, the part where I have all the free time on my hands and don´t what to do with myself has passed! When I arrive I watched more TV than I think I ever have, and I read a whole book, not asigned for homework (I havn´t done that in over a year!). It felt good to have the time to relax, I have worked really hard to get to where I am and so it was like a vacation when I arrived, days spent by the pool reading and watching TV. It was short lived though as I started making friends, understanding the language, and playing soccer. Back to my buissy self!
I thought that the beginning would be the hardest, not understanding the language, not knowing anyone, everything being unfamiliar. I thought that I would have a crash upon arrival and have a spell of homesickness. But that didnt happen. Instead the hardest part was about a week or two ago. About two months into my stay here. In the beginning everything is new, and so, not understanding anything and being the new foreign kid worked to my advantage. Everyone at school wanted to talk to me, all sorts of new amazing foods were coming at me, I was seeing new things all the time every day! And I slept a lot! The first month or two was full of sleeping! Almost every day after school I would come home, eat lunch, then head straight for my bed and take an hour or two nap.
Then things started to be less strange and exotic. The food less exciting, and I started thinking of my mom´s cooking. The people here..... I wasn´t so new anymore, and I had to make an effort to connect with anyone which was difficult and frustrating not knowing the language and culture. The language I began to learn, but I didnt speak it fluently yet and I felt limited by it. At the same time I was having less contact with my friends at home. I was really "gone" to them now and we talked less often. I felt lost, I didnt feel like I belonged here, and I felt forgotten about at home. This was the hardest part of my stay here so far, and it caught me off guard.
I got through it however and from it I have been seeing more clearly what I want out of this experience, and am feeling myself growing from it. As I am here longer I can see the expectations that I had before coming here. Though there are few (so far), there are more than I had thought. I am not in the setting that I imagined myself in. First of all I had imagined myself to be by the beach, but that one I let go when I found out where I was going to be living. The rest are expecations I had about the culture. I´ll just say it´s not what I expected, that´s all I can really say at this point. I am learning a lot that I look forward to sharing when I return.
I have to get some sleep, but I´m going to write about my vacation to Rio in the next few days and post some pictures!