It's been over a month since my last post so I am forcing myself to sit down and grind something out. I am almost a third of the way through my exchange and I can barely believe it. The last time you heard from me I had just turned 19 and was still in school. Since then a lot has happened. Here is my attempt to fit 35 days into a couple paragraphs.
The weekend after my birthday, the Interact club from my city hosted a camping trip event at a small farm a little ways out of town. Interact is Rotary's service club for young people ages 12-18. The larger Rotary organization can offer support and guidance, but from what I understand, Interact is self-governed and self-supporting. I was dropped off on Saturday afternoon at the place where Rotary meetings are held and was introduced to Celso, who would be the adult in charge of supervising the trip. We arrived at the 'campsite' at about three o'clock in the afternoon and my goodness, I swear you could have fried an egg on the sidewalk, had there been one. There were plenty of little kids there, and thankfully some older kids who were 17 and 18 years old. It took a while to become comfortable with the kids there. It's not always easy to jump right into friendships, especially when there is somewhat of a language barrier involved. But after a while we were all smiling and getting along just fine. One thing I enjoyed about this group was that they weren't constantly battering me with questions and allowed me some time to ask them a lot of questions and learn more about life here in Brazil. Our conversations felt more like, well, conversations and not interviews. As night crept closer we had churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) and sang while someone played the guitar. I learned popular card game played here in Brazil called Truco, which reminded me of Bridge a little but had its differences. After cards we played 'Verdade ou Consequencia' which is the Brazilian version of 'Truth or Dare'. Before we knew it, it was 4am and we headed to bed. Keep in mind it was still probably 80 degrees Fahrenheit and completely dark. I crawled onto my pad, stripped down to my boxers and tried to sleep... Zzzzzzzzzzzz.... I woke up at about 5:30am exhausted and absolutely DRENCHED in sweat. Yes, I know it's disgusting. It's really really hot here. I woke up just in time to see the sunrise which was pretty stunning, especially since of a couple of friends were up and we watched it rise together. After every one had woken up we ate breakfast and I taught them how to play a couple cards games from back in the states. We took a quick dip in the pool, took a few pictures, and then all headed home.
My Portuguese is coming along bit by bit. The most exciting part of the process right now is that I am getting a lot better at writing and reading. I started reading the first harry potter book in portuguese which has proved to be quite a challenge, but the accomplished feeling I get from finishing a couple pages is well worth it. As far as writing goes, it is still the worst aspect of my portuguese, but it's coming along as well. I've started having more in-depth conversations with my Brazilian friends over Facebook and have started trying to discuss topics such as politics, economics and social policies.
Speaking of politics, I would like to talk a little bit about the election last week. I regret not sending in an absentee ballet, but I would have regretted it much more if everything hadn't turned out exactly how I wanted it to. I am very proud to be Minnesotan, not only because we are masters of the harsh winters and are all practically professional ice fisherman/fisherwomen, but also because the majority of us voted NO and kept Referendum 74 from passing. It was cool to see some Brazilians get excited about our presidential election back in the United States. I got a couple of 'Parabens!' (which means Congratulations) texts right after Obama was declared the winner because a lot of my friends knew I was rooting for him. I had an interesting realization because of the election. Everyone down here knows who the President of the United States is, but how many of you reading this blog know who the President of Brazil is? I understand that the United States is a very powerful country, and I am proud to be American because of this. But as much as this realization made me proud, it caused me to become a little embarrassed. Why does every kid here in Brazil know who our president is but only a fraction of kids (if any) in the states know who Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, is? Do we deem it as unimportant? I get the vibe sometimes that we, as the United States of America, have this thought in our heads that we are better than everyone else. I mean sure, there are aspects of the US that might be considered 'better' than other countries, but we definitely have flaws. Being in one of those 'other countries' has helped me realize that a couple of us Americans could maybe learn a thing or two from becoming a little more educated on how people do things around the world, in countries that might not be as advanced as ours, as rich, or as arrogant. Maybe the way we do things isn't the best way. Just some food for thought.
School ended last week for me. Thank the lord. I enjoyed school, but mostly because of my friends there. Well actually, just because of my friends there. Waking up before 6am just really isn't my thing I don't think. My last week of school was full of a bunch of fun things. Last Tuesday we had this sort of party in class all day with cake and pop and a bunch of food. We just talked and ate and took pictures all day long. It was kind of an interesting situation. A lot of my classmates were crying and hugging and at times I felt like I didn't belong. They had been studying together for who know how many years, a lot, and I had only been there for two and a half months. We watched a video one of them had made about all the good memories they had all had together, and I couldn't help but think of my friends from back home and all the good times we have had. Mates4Life. It was definitely a fun day, but also a little difficult when it came to the 'missing home' category. After school we played a game called 'Futebol de Sabao' or 'Soapy Soccer'. We laid out these huge tarps on the soccer field and sprayed a bunch of water and soap on them, and then played soccer on them. It was essentially just a giant slip'n'slide without a hill and with soccer goals on either end. It was quite the fun time. Thursday morning my entire class, all 75 of us, woke up early to go watch the sun rise together. We drank coffee and little breakfast goodies as we watched the sun come up over a lake. Then to finish the week off, we had a party Thursday night for our class. It was a nice send off, but I am definitely going to miss my friends from school. I won't be going to school with them next year because I was in 'senior year' here so all my friends just graduated. I also might be attending college here in Brazil next year instead of high school. Hopefully I can pull it off with my rotary club. It's an exciting possibility at least.
Last weekend I was on a hotel boat for 3 days with all the other exchange students in my district. Since I live in a very rural part of Brazil, my district, district 4440, is composed of my entire state, the state of Mato Grosso. Mato Grosso is twice the size of California and has a population equal to Iowa, about 3 million. What I am trying to say is that our district is pretty spread out so it is hard for us exchange students to see each other very often. The weekend was SUPER fun. It's amazing how little time it takes for exchange students to become best friends. Our district has kids from the US, Mexico, Turkey, Slovakia, Denmark, Canada, France, Italy, Columbia, Ecuador and Germany. So it's quite the collection of culture and language when we all get together. I spoke english face to face with someone who speaks english as their native language for the first time since I've been here. A lot of my friends on exchange have the luxury of having another american exchange student in their town, but I do not, poor me right? It was really fun to finally be able speak english to someone besides a screen with a face on it and not have to worry about whether what I was saying was making sense or not. We slept on this hotel boat type thingy that had three levels. The bottom level was all rooms. The middle level had a big party/dining room, a bar, a kitchen and the captains quarters. Then the top level was just a covered deck with a mini bar. None of us slept very much over the course of the two nights. We took millions and bazillions of pictures with our native flags which was fun and provided for some pretty cool pictures. I was in a room with the boy from Turkey and one of the boys from Mexico (there are four), and in the room next to us was the other american boy and another Mexican boy. The five of us became really tight over the three days, not to say that I didn't become close with any of the others. At the end it was like we were all a big huge family. On the second night, we tied off at a big farm and received a presentation of all the different types of dance they have here in Brazil. Brazil really is full of culture and this dance demonstration reminded me of this. OH. We traded pins too. I finally have more pins than the three or so I received back in Minnesota from rotary. I am no longer embarrassed because of my lack of pins and am excited to trade and receive more. It was hard to say goodbye but hopefully we will all be able to see each other soon.
|The three americans being nice and civil|
|The hotel boat|
|A presentation of Brazilian Samba|
The mexican girl on exchange here in my city just about exploded from excitement yesterday because yesterday was 'Mexican Night' at one of the clubs in town. We all went, decked out in our Sombreros and danced the night away. There is a girl in my city who was on exchange in Mexico last year who came with us as well. It was really cool to see how excited she was about Mexican culture. She was speaking Spanish and loving every minute of it. Mexican culture had become part of her during her exchange last year and it was awesome to see how it stuck with her even though she is back in Brazil now. I hope Brazilian culture sticks with me when I return for the states like it stuck with her. Towards the end of the night, they started playing some more dance/party type music that I knew the words to. The DJ noticed this and called me up to the stage with him. I pretended to spin those DJ disk things (or whatever DJs do) and the whole crowd got a big kick out of it.
|"Mexican Night" with our sombreros|
|Me, doin' what DJs do.|
My friend Annika from Northfield who is currently on exchange in Joao Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil is coming to visit for about a week starting tomorrow.
Towards the end of November I am traveling to the northeast coast of Brazil with my younger host brother to spend 10 days on the beach in Maceio.
When I get back from that trip with my host brother I will be switching host families. I really like my host family I am with right now and I really don't want to switch, even though I know it's part of the whole 'rotary experience'. I'm sure it'll provide for an interesting blog post though!
Thanks for reading. Until next post.