I apologize for not posting for the past two weeks! I have been super busy! But I have so much to tell!
I'll begin with talking a little more about the food here. Almost every day for breakfast I have a Panini-esque ham and cheese sandwich with some coffee and yogurt. It's interesting because here, eating sausage or bacon or even eggs for breakfast seems not normal by any means. The coffee is a lot stronger here so I can't just inhale a 16 oz. cup of coffee here like I could back at Blue Monday and the Hideaway. For lunch, it's always juice, rice, beans, a salad or some greens, and the days choice of meat. The meat here is FANTASTIC. I live in a very agricultural area so I am pretty sure there is a lot of fresh meat readily available for purchase. We eat pork, lamb, beef, steak, ribs, chicken, and a bunch of different cuts of all of those things that I really don't understand when they explain it to me in Portuguese. Lunch is always freshly cooked by my host mom when I get home from school around noon, and is a big step from the greasy cheese pizza I would always buy in the lower caf at NHS. Dinner is the meal that varies the most out of the three. Since lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, dinner is usually fairly small, which has taken a little getting used to. We go out for pizza sometimes, have left overs from lunch, or cook a little bit more meat but it's really not a huge meal and a lot of time we are eating dinner at Rotary meetings or at the houses of family friends.
I thought that May 25th, 2012 would be my last day of high school. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Here I go to a school by the name of Colegio Cristhiane Archer Dal Bosco, or CAD for short. It the best private school in my city and most of the kids who attend are pretty wealthy. Because both of my brothers are unable to give me a ride to school in the morning, I have to wake up at 5:30am in order to catch the van to school after a shower and a little breakfast. I live about 10 minutes away from my school by car, but the ride in the van is about 45 minutes because of all the stops we have to make to pick up other kids. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, I have school from 7am until 11:30am, which is really not too bad. But on Wednesdays and Thursdays I have school from 7am to 11:30am, then a lunch break and then more school from 1pm to 5:30pm. My school day on Wednesdays and Thursday is essentially 12 hours long because I have to wake up at 5:30am and I finish school at 5:30pm. The reason I have so much school is because I am a third year student here, which is the equivalent of a senior at a high school in the USA. At the end of their third year, students here have to take a big test called the Vestibular which will determine which college they are allowed to attend, etc, which is why they have so much school. In my mind, I don't see the need for me to go to all this school because I have learned it all before in English and have already been accepted into college in the USA, buuuuuuuut Rotary and my school here think differently. I'm not a huge fan of school here at the moment, but I think once I learn more Portuguese and can understand a bit more, I'll enjoy it more. For those of you that know me well, you know that I was never a huge fan of math class back in good ol' MN. But here I can't get enough of it! Because my Portuguese is still coming along, it's still different for me to understand what the teachers are explaining a lot of the time. When it comes to math class, when the teacher is writing an equation on the board or assigning problems as homework for the next day, I CAN ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND IT! I am probably the best at math in my class here and helping other people in class with the problems is the best part of my day some days. It's hard to be seen as intelligent when I have the Portuguese vocabulary of a two year old, but when it comes to math, I can actually understand and explain a lot of things with numbers, which I really enjoy.
Although I'm not really enjoying the "school part" of school. I LOVEEE the people I have met. They are constantly asking me if they can help me, whether it's with understanding what the teacher said, or completing the assignment for the next day. Every school day they ask me if I can hangout with them after school or during the upcoming weekend. They are always smiling and laughing together and have been so hospitable towards me as they have invited me into their little groups of friends. It's impossible to better my best friends from back in Northfield, but here in Brazil, all my new friends are fantastic and I don't think I could have asked for better :)
I have also had the pleasure of meeting the other two exchange students in my city. Barbara Mendez from Mexico and Domenica Toro from Ecuador. They are both amazing and speak Spanish, Portuguese and English very well. They have been so helpful both in helping me learn Portuguese and helping me learn what the Rotary people are actually telling us when they are giving us important information. They are both super nice and funny and make great company at the gym. Unfortunately we all go to different schools, so it is hard to share that part of our experience. Although initially I wish we went to the same school, I think in the long run it is a better choice because it forces us not rely on the comfort and company of other exchange students and make more Brazilian friends. Below is Domenica (Left), Barbara (Middle) and Me out on the river.
If you haven't yet seen pictures, I had my first experience on a Brazilian river last weekend. A client of my older brother at the bank owns a boat and took us out to swim and have lunch. It was a great time and a great way to meet some more people and connect with the other exchange students. The river looked very "Amazony" with a bunch of crazy vegetation, etc. I can't even imagine what the Amazon river is going to look like!
This past weekend was pretty eventful. On Friday we had a very fancy Rotary dinner with the Governor of our Rotary district and his wife. On Saturday, I was invited to my friend Talitha's house for lunch and a day by the pool. I honestly don't know if I have ever laughed so hard and so much over the course of 6 hours. The company at her house was fantastic and I had a great time. I had a wonderful, long conversation (in Portuguese! yay me!) with her father, a journalist here in my city, about his experiences traveling the United States. It is really interesting to speak with people here about their opinions about the USA, because they have a completely different understanding about the US because they grew up in Brazil.
After Talitha's house on Saturday, I went to this festival thingy at a school in my city with my host mom and some family friends. I met up with Barbara ( the exchange student from Mexico) there and had a good time with her and some of her friends from school. I learned a lot more about Brazilian culture at the festival and also just a lot more about the Brazilian way of life. After the festival, I went to a super fancy black and white dance which started at midnight. Yes, STARTED at midnight. Here in Brazil, parties and social events start late at night and end at five or six in the morning. I really enjoyed the black and white dance. I met up with some friends from school there and got a few quasi dance lessons (which I desperately need). On Sunday, my family spent the day at the house of a family friend on the river. We played soccer and went swimming and had a nice relaxing day.
A scary little tid-bit. I learned yesterday that in Castelo de Sonhos (the city to which I traveled two weeks ago to visit my father at work), a man killed his son and drank his blood and was then lynched and burned by the townspeople. Kinda nuts huh?
On a happier note. I have become a lot closer with my little host nieces and nephews here. They LOVE Photo Booth on my computer. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a picture program that distorts your face and makes it look all funny and stuff. No one in my family has ever seen something like that before and they could not stop laughing at all the funny pictures we took. Below and left is me, Gabriel, and my host niece Isabella. Below and right is me, my host nephews Joao Peter and Helluan, and their friend from down the street.
As usual, my host family is amazing. I get closer and closer to them every day. I now feel like a true part of the family instead of someone who is just very welcome in their home. I think sometime soon, I'm going to attempt to make omelets for them. We'll see how that goes. I'll be sure to tell you about it.
Apparently my family back at home doesn't miss me too much because they already replaced me with an exchange student from Japan :) I'm kidding of course. Mizuki Oeda arrived in my house a couple of days ago and is in very good hands! I wish her the best of luck on her exchange in Northfield!
Make sure to check out my Flickr page for some more pictures!
I will try and post more frequently from now on!