Monday, December 24, 2012

It's That Time of Year

Last time you heard from me I was getting ready to go on vacation with my host brother, switch families, and start a whole other portion of my exchange here in Brazil. That has all passed now, quite quickly in fact, which is partly why I haven't had much time to fit in a blog post.

For vacation, my brother and I went to Maceio, a coastal city in the northeast of Brazil. We were there for about ten days. We took day trips to visit cool tourist locations nearby, rode little carts on the beach, went snorkeling, played frisbee on the beach, got sunburned, got more sunburned, and all in all just had a great time. We stayed in a cheap hotel, about a block from the beach. The hotel wasn't by any means fancy, or expensive, but ended up being perfect for us. Not only is the landscape there different, with the beach, the tall apartment building and hotels, but the people are different as well. I was told that their accent was different, but it was SUUUPPPPERRRR different, much more than I had expected. They people seemed to be a little more laid back as well, and unfortunately I saw a lot more people living on the street. I didn't know this, but Maceio has 120 favelas. For those of you who don't know what a favela is, favelas are 'shanty towns' often located outside of big urban areas. They are very poor, very dangerous areas. Maceio has 120 of them! On a brighter note, the food in Maceio was great. I got to eat a lot of fresh seafood. Yum right? 

After getting back from vacation, it was time to switch families. Switching families turned out to be a little more difficult than I had thought it would be. Imagine that. But after a couple of weeks in my new house I am beginning to warm up to the new surroundings, the new schedule and rhythm of this family.  I am excited to build relationships with the people here at my new home, but I am definitely missing my first family, and I don't think I will ever be able to duplicate the relationship I made with them. 

Three weekends back, the Rotaract club here in my city helped out at what was a essentially a 'publicity fair' for the Federal Deputy here, Neilson Leitao. There were a bunch of games for kids, free ice cream, bands playing. It was located in a poor neighborhood here in my city. Our club went and helped hand out ice cream and popsicles and it was a really nice event to be a part of.

Two weekends back. the Rotaract club had another activity for us to do. We drove into a different poor neighborhood here in Sinop with a couple trucks full of toys, tents, trampolins, cotton candy machines, popcorn machines, and a buuuuuuuuunch of pop, water and cups. We set up our own little christmas fair for the kids and families in that neighborhood. It was a very enlightening experience. We handed out little dolls, painted flowers on the cheeks of cute little girls, and tried to keep the bigger boys from knocking over santa with their hugs when he arrived. The smiles on some of those kids' faces as Santa (our rotary club president) picked them up and handed them a little $4 soccer ball was something I will never forget.

Last week we had our second exchange student gathering in the capital of our state. Unfortunately, not all of the exchange students were able to make it, but the majority of us were there. I am not able to explain with words how much fun we all have when we are together. We have grown into an extremely diverse, slightly immature at times, family that is constantly laughing. We stayed in a mansion that is owned by a rotarian who lives in Cuiaba (the capital city). We had two pools, a sauna, a whole team of chefs and cleaning ladies, and most importantly, 17 of our best friends from all around the world. If the Mayans had been correct, and had the world ended on December 21st, I don't think I could have asked for a better, more fun, or more interesting group of people to spend my last days with. 

While we were all in Cuiaba, we went to a "Casa de Papai Noel" or "House of Santa", which was full of lights and christmas decorations. Christmas doesn't seem to be a super big deal here in Brazil, or at least not as important as it is in the US, so I haven't seen very many houses with lights, or decorations, etc... We entered the house and were surprised to see reporters there, ready to interview and film us. They interviewed one person from every country, and had us all say "Merry Christmas" in our native language. We were filmed by the channel GLOBO, which is a nation wide channel, and the special on us was on tv this morning. Unfortunately the interview I did wasn't in the special, but they did include a clip of my me saying "Merry Christmas". Yay I made it on tv!

I arrived home a couple of days ago and have been trying come to the terms with the fact that I will step outside christmas morning and be bombarded by a wave of 95-100 degree heat. I was swimming in my pool this morning, got out, and was reading by the pool, gettin' my tan on and all, when I realized that it's christmas eve day. It's christmas eve day and I was swimming, trying to COOL DOWN. I have to admit that this time of year, the holidays, is proving to be a little difficult. I'll log on to facebook and see a bunch of friends reuniting back in MN, back home from college for the holidays, while I'm still trying to create a relationship with the family I am living with. I am also definitely going to miss waking up with my family christmas morning, opening presents together, and then all heading to my aunts house for the huge family reunion with all the extended family. 

This next paragraph doesn't only apply to me, but I think to a lot of other exchange students as well. When I speak to people back in the states, almost everyone says "Oh my gosh! Your pictures make it look like you're having such a great time in Brasil!".  Exchange is full of great times and great experiences, and those experiences are normally what I write about here in my blog, or post pictures of on my Instagram, Facebook or Flickr. But along with those moments when you think to yourself "I am NEVER EVER leaving Brazil, EVER!", come the moments where all you want to do is go into your room, lie down, sleep and hope tomorrow will be better. At our Rotary orientations this past spring, we (the exchange students) were told that we would experience somewhat of a "roller-coaster of emotions". Turns out what they said is true. We, as exchange students, don't write about the hours we spending reading alone in our room, or the moments where we wish we were back in the states, speaking english with our friends and family.

I am absolutely loving my exchange, but I just wanted to give you all a little insight on the fact that the great moments; the vacations to the northeast coast, the parties, the exchange students gatherings, etc, don't come without the difficult moments. 

In order to not end on such a serious note, I would like to say CONGRATULATIONS to all of the students back in Northfield who just received their Rotary acceptance letters. Most importantly, Elise Hanson, WHO IS COMING TO BRAZIL NEXT YEAR!! WOOOT!! I remember the day I got my letter. I was standing in my kitchen, next to the front door, opening the letter with my Mom. The second I realized I got my first choice, Brazil, I was overwhelmed with excitement and of course had to send a text to every person I had ever met, ever, telling them that I had just become a future outbound. haha. I wish you all the best with your preparation for your upcoming year abroad, and as always, my email and facebook inboxes are forever open if you have any questions!

Coming up.
For New Years, a couple of exchange students from the south of my district are coming up to visit.
On January 8th, I am headed on my Northeast trip where I will be traveling from city to city in the northeast of Brazil for 22 days with 103 other exchange students. Sofie Scheuerman is going to be on the same trip, which is really exciting. It will be nice to see a familiar face.

Until next post. 

1 comment:

  1. Avery! You Rock! What an amazing blog post! Great perspective and incredible maturity, with a bit of boyish delight sprinkled in there! Happy 2013! Stay cool!