Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rio de Janeiro

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.

Before the game.

The Flamingo side during the game

The Copacabana beach.

The View from the Pão de Açucar.

The Pão de Açucar.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tuesday April 28

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

7 weeks

Gwenna asked me these questions for her senior project and so I thought I would post it here for you all to read.

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.