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!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Q: How has your program been? Have they been checking up on you? Organizing group events with other exchange students?
A: My program has been good. They have not been checking up on me that often, usually I have to call them if I want anything and sometimes its hard to get ahold of them, though now that Ive made the inicial contact it is easier. I would say they should have checked up on me more in the beginning, it would have made me feel a little more supported. They didnt call me at all during the first month, and when I called them because I wanted something it took me another week and a half to get ahold of them. like I said though, now that I have made contact it is better. There has been one meeting so far with other exchange students, but it was mainly for the brazil exchange students who will be leaving in a few months and I was invited. It would be nice if there were more events organized to help me get to know others, at least in the beginning. I think that they leave pretty much everything up to you, getting ahold of them, making contact with new people and other exchange students, and making things happen.
Q: How many other exchange students have you encountered/became friends with?
A: Here in Sorocaba Brasil there are only two other exchange students with AFS and I have only just starting making contact with them. next week they are going to show me around the city because they are on a year program and have already been here 6 months. but I have been talking online with other exchange students as well, a girl who lives here in Sorocaba but is in New Zealand for 6 months, and two other kids in other parts of Brazil I met on the plain on the way here. Also Ive meet quite a few kids who have already been on exchanges all over the world. Making friends with other exchange students or others who have been on exchange is really important. Others dont have as good of an idea of what you are going through, and when you are new in some place it is really hard to make new friends.
Q: What have you learned about being an exchange student so far?
A: Hmmm, Im going to have to think about this one. I dunno, I dont think that a lot of what I´ve found here as an exchange student is a lot different from what I thought before. But that is becauese I am lucky to be a very cultured person and also quite a few of my friends have gone on exchange already and I have talked with them. So what I´ve learned by being here is that what I believed about being an exchange student seems to be true. Now what I believe about being an exchange student is this. You are a representative of your country, how you present yourself people will see and make generalizations of your country by it. It is interesting for me because I dont think I am anything like the generalized American, or what I think the average American is. I feel lucky to be able to make an impression on people that will have an affect on their perspective of my country. Also I believe that you have to be outgoing and try everything, you have to take a lot of iniciative and really go after what you want, take advantage of every opportunity. you have to not take things personally, and think outside the box, analize things as though you dont know how the culture works and how one behaves, maybe that gesture is friendly in this culture though it is offensive in yours. that is what I believe and have found to be true.
Q: What are some major cultural differences?
A: A few of the cultural differences that have been apparent to me are the timing, interaction/communication and meals. The timing here is very different, the timing of meals, the timing of when you meet, and the timing of events. On the weekends it is normal for people to not go out until 11, and not return until early the next morning. Interaction and communication, everywhere its different, here you greet with a kiss on the cheek with women, and a hand shake with men. You say hi to everyone you meet, except for people in jobs such as security or the doorman. the meals are very important, though breakfast is the least important. lunch is the most important and is usually spent with the family, school ends in time for eveyone to return home for lunch.
Q: How have you been affected by your experience? Homesickness?
A: I think that most of the affects of my experience I don´t know yet, and I dont think I will know until I return home. What I have noticed is that I am way more independent than I thought, I mean I am in a totally different country where I dont speak the language (not yet) and I am alive and doing really well. I have been a little homesick at times since I´ve been here, but way less than I thought. More than missing home though Ive grown to appreaciate things at home that I look forward to returning too. Being away from home I really see what a great place it is and how privilaged I am to live where I do. But at the same time it has made me want to travel more!
Q: How do you think you will feel coming home?
A: I really don´t know that one. that´s four months away, and every day something new is happening that is a new experience, some I enjoy, and some not so much. I feel that this time is too short, already! I´ve been here for almost two months now and thats a huge chunk of time out of the whole trip. I think it will be a perfect amount of time for me in my life, though I do think that a year abroad is really different and I would love to experience that as well sometime. anyways, as for how I will feel coming home... I will be filled with mixed feelings, I will want to stay, and I will look forward to the moment when I can see my friends and hold my cat. I will feel it was too short I know that, but I will feel content with my time here, at least I think I will, the way I have been pursuing everything that comes my way so far, if I keep it up, I wont have any regrets when I leave, I will just miss being here.
Q: How have you adjusted to being away from home?
A: I think I have adjusted really well. The other night I spend my first night away from my host home, and when I returned the next day it was like coming home (I went straight for the fridge!). I dunno, I feel like Im really here now. I realized this when I was walking through the shopping mall and say a bar of chocolate, I knew I had seen the same chocolate bar before, the same brand, but I didnt know if it was here in Brazil or from back home. It made me happy because I then knew that I was really here, and no longer arriving.
Q: What is most difficult?
A: Lets see..... I would have to say school. This is the one thing that I am struggling with here. The system is very different than the U.S. and I am having a hard time with the way school is here. This is partly because Im going to a very difficult school, but also because of the way it is set up and run. School is only academic, where as in the U.S. it includes things such as sports, art, music, and all sorts of extra-curricular classes.Another difficult part of the experience is the language. The language is HUGE! I think its very important to learn it as fast as possible.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
So someone out there asked me to describe the food here. Here in Brazil the biggest meal of the day is lunch. There is four "meals" of the day, breakfast, which is usually light, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee (and you add quite a bit of sugar and sweetener to the coffee), or some fruit. Then you have lunch, usually it will include some form of rice, some kind of beans and meat. Also lunch is usually eaten at home with the family, school gets out at around 1:00, and then sometimes there are classes after lunch. Next is an afternoon meal, not usually too big, some bread, cheese and meat, or some pão de queijo (cheese bread, literally a roll filled with warm melted cheese). Then there is dinner. Often eaten fairly late, on week days at around 8:00, and on the weekends as late as 10:30!
Ive eaten quite a bit of bread and cheese and meat, that´s what Ive noticed the most. at school during the breaks you can get something to eat, your three choices are bread with either cheese, meat, or chese and meat. There are all different kinds of meats cooked in all kinds of ways. Also there is quite a bit of Italian food, at least in Sorocaba because there´s a lot of Italian decendents. Another thing Ive noticed is that people eat way more sweet things, almost every day there is desert after lunch. The coffee is taken with lots of sugar, and there´s just sweets all over the place, and its normal. What Ive missed the most in terms of food is the green foods, salade and vegetables. When there is salad it usually consists of letuce, and tomatoes, maybe one other thing, but not usually. What Ive been enjoying the most is the meat, there are so many different ways they have it, my favorite at the moment is calebresa, covering a pizza, or filling a roll, the salty meat is delicious. Also the fruits here are great, I havnt gotten to try any strange fruit yet, but the mango, watermellon, and papaya are all so much fresher and sweeter than at home. The people here think its funny that I like to eat more "natural" food, but they have no idea how natural I actually eat at home!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Carnaval was a good time last week. There is a club across the street and there was a huge party the opening day an the closing day of Carnaval. There were two rooms, one with more traditional Brazilian music, like Samba, and the other with a DJ. There are pictures of both in my last post. The Brazilian music was really good and danceable and I enjoyed it because I could just dance and be with everyone without having to try communicating with the barrier of the language difference. Everything here happens late on weekends, me and my host brother didnt even go out to the club until 11:00, and we were some of the early people! haha
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
I got to play soccer for the first time today! Here in Brazil they play a game called futsal, which is soccer indoors on a small court. It has a few different rules, but its still soccer (futebol they call it here). It was a good experience because it was a way for me to make new friends without having to talk. Also I just love soccer so it was just fun.
It´s Carneval here right now, a huge holiday and I think that my family and me are going to go somewhere for the weekend, though I´m not sure where! I´ll have stories when we return though I´m sure!
Tchao, boa noite
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tchao, ate logo