Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It´s May??

Where does the time go? Once again months have flown by without me stopping back to update, but in my defense, it feels like I wrote my last blog post just yesterday. Things have quieted down a bit since carnaval has been over. I´ve been back in school and the weather has gotten a bit cooler again. My sister came to visit for 10 days in March and that was amazing for me. It was like my two worlds coming together. Getting to show her around my town, introducing her to my friends and family and just spending some time with a person who has known me for more that 8 months was priceless. We also were lucky enough to get to go on a trip to Iguaçu Falls with my host parents. The waterfalls were absolutely incredible... Definately something everyone should put on their bucket list. Just so everyone has an idea, it´s more than twice the size of Niagra falls. The trip was also great just to get to soak up some sun and get away from my routine for a bit. I was really sad saying goodbye to Emily after the 10 days, but I´m forever grateful that I had the opportunity to share a little bit of my exchange with someone from home. In April the rodeo took place here in Palmital. In my city, this is the biggest event of the year. The rodeo goes on for 5 days during which there is no school and no one works. In many ways it is similar to the rodeos I´ve experienced at home: fair food, rides, games, and of course the actual rodeo. But one huge difference here is the events after the rodeo each night: the show and the dance. When the actual rodeo competition ends each night, the gates of the arena are opened and thousands of people rush in to watch the show. By show I mean concert, each night by a different and very famous country singer. If anyone has ever heard the song Ai Se Eu Te Pego, which was an international hit and one I was singing before I even got here.. Yep! That singer came and sang in Palmital. I even got within a few yards of the stage that night! The shows start around 11-midnight and go on for a couple of hours. The best part is that all of this..the rodeo and the show, is completely free and put on by the city! The only part of the rodeo I had to pay for was the dance which happens each night after the show. So yes, the party starts around 2-3 AM and lasts until 6-7. I´ll never forget walking into my house at 7:30 AM when it was totally light out already and thinking "Wow, normally I would be starting school right now". Brazilians, man. Anyways I can feel how quickly my year is winding down which can only be described as bittersweet. I think leaving Brazil will be one of the hardest things I ever do. I have gotten so attached to my life here and the people in it. On the other hand, I have begun to feel like I'm just sort of spinning my wheels here, and I know that I have new and exciting things ahead of me back in the US. It doesn't hurt either that I have such a wonderful place and people to go home to :) Of course, I can see both sides of going home now, but at the airport I'll probably be clinging to my host parents sobbing and begging for them to legally adopt me. I know I keep promising pictures but technology is just so much work sometimes, ya know? I'll try to put up some pictures this week though! Beijos

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Well, it's safe to say I have failed as a blogger. Partly this is because I've been without a laptop, but honestly I've also just gotten so caught up in life here that it's hard to pause sometimes to update everyone. Anyways here goes. Seeing as it's been over 3 months since I posted I'll do my best to explain what I've been up to without this getting too lengthy. Bear with me!

In November summer began (I know who weird that is..) so my host parents and host grandma took me on a 10 day vacation in the south of Brazil where we visited several different beaches and did a little sightseeing. We were in the state of Santa Catarina and visited a few different towns. It was absolutely beautiful and blew me away. What I was most impressed by is that all of the beaches are totally public and accessible but were still 10X cleaner and less crowded than any beaches I've been at anywhere else. Another thing is that almost everyone on vacation there was Brazilian rather than foreign so there is no "touristy" atmosphere. The cities we visited also impressed me because despite being big urban centers they were extremely clean, quiet, well organized etc. Remember, this is because I was in the South of Brazil which is the richest part with a lot of European influence, I've heard very different things about the Northeast.

I had summer break from school from December until the beginning of February. Soooo much happened in that time! Brazil seems to come to standstill in the last/first months of the year with most adults getting holidays from work and kids being out of school. There were lots of parties surrounding the holidays, some with family and some with friends. It doesn't seem to me that most brazilians have very formal christmas traditions, mostly everyone just gets together christmas eve and christmas day for meals, drinking, present exchanging, and lots of good conversation and laughter. Christmas was definitely very informal and laid back. For New Years, my family all got together to eat dinner, then I went out with some friends. First we hung out in the street where there was some live music and a stage and just tons of people in the street. At midnight there were fireworks, and instead of kissing your significant other, the tradition here is just to hug everyone around you. After all of that we to the club here in my town. One cool tradition is that everyone here dresses in all white for New Years to symbolize a fresh start.

Another thing is that the school year here starts in February and ends in December, so everyone graduates around the end of the year. Graduations here are crazy. The graduates each get a certain number of tickets to sell, and they sell them for around $30. They take place in a sort of place you might have a wedding reception. They are all you can eat buffets and open bar all night. They start around 10 pm and end around 6 am (although most of the adults and families leave much earlier). There is a dance floor and DJ all night as well. I went to one and as you can imagine, it was a really good time.

Then of course, in February, came carnaval. There are a variety of ways that Brazil celebrates carnaval, but in my town we have "street carnaval" (which in my opinion is the best). For 5 days there were DJS, live music, lights, and thousands and thousands of people dancing in the street. One night it was even pouring rain all night but the streets remained packed with people. There are things going on all during the day as well but most people go out into the streets from about 10pm and the music stops at 5am. The cool thing is that all of this is completely free and organized and put on by the city. You don't have to spend a dime to enjoy carnaval and I think that's awesome. There was also a small parade which showed off my town's two samba schools and a few floats but it really wasn't a big part of the festivities here.

Well, as you can see I've been having way way too much fun. Brazilians just love to celebrate and party and enjoy life and I absolutely love that. Now I'm back in school and my "normal" life which is slightly depressing, but I'll never forget all the crazy memories I made during my "summer" break. And I still have something to look forward to: my sister Emily is coming to visit in 3 weeks! And as if that wasn't exciting enough, my host parents will be taking us to vist Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 wonders of the world and something that has been on my bucket list forever.

By the way, since I can't (unfortunately) stay here forever I recently had to pick my return date, so I'll be home June 16th!

Ill post some pics in the next few days when I can get them all off of my phone and onto my laptop.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bom dia!!!
It's been a while! I've now passed the 3 month mark here and that's terrifying to me. Being placed in such a cozy and small town, without much contact with any other foreigners or exchange students, has given me the chance to form really strong relationships with my friends and family here. Yesterday I was with a couple of my friends and one of them began talking about how she never thinks of me as  any different from them. She said that the day before, it hit her that it's not a forever thing, that I won't be graduating and going to college with all of them, and that she couldn't sleep that night. The scariest thing is that I myself forget that I won't be living here forever, and I know that leaving will be the hardest thing I've ever done. As much as I miss so many things about home and so many people, everyday that I'm here I fall more and more in love with Brazil. Anyways, this isn't meant to be a sad post, and I still have PLENTY of time left here.
So what have I been up to lately?

September 12th to 14th I had a district conference/orientation in a city called Pirapozinho. Us 50 exchange students from all of the district as well as countless Rotarians, Rotex, future outbounds, District Governer, ect. stayed at a resort called Terra Parque for two nights. The orientation was decent.We had a few long lectures on rules and expectations, an introduction/opening ceremony, a few rotex-led games, information session on the trips available to us, a "Festa Junina" (will explain in a second), and lots and lots of free time. Luckily the resort had tons of delicious food and a big pool area so we kept ourselves pretty entertained. So, Festa Junina is a typical Brazilian party which is normally held in June (which is the height of winter in Brazil) where people dress "caipira" (basically the brazilian term for someone veryyyy country. Think redneck) and dance, eat, and have bonfires. The dancing is a lot like square dancing. Imagine 50 foreigners with iffy portuguese skills trying to square dance to instructions being shouted at them...hilarious. All in all the orientation was a good time because it gave me the chance to meet a lot of people from all over the world who also gave up everything they know for a year of adventure!

Another fun thing I've done is go to my first "balada", which is basically a combination of a concert/night club and are a big deal in Brazil. I'm really lucky because there is one of these right here in my town. Unlike most places at home, they don't have a balada every weekend, it's about once or twice a month. At first this didn't seem very economical to me, to have this nice building and only open one or two days a month. However, I have come to see the reason behind it. Because it's only an occasional thing, when there's going to be a balada EVERYONE goes. The week or so leading up to it everyone is talking about it, buying their tickets, planning their outfits, and getting excited. I realized how much better it is this way because instead of having mediocre crowds every
weekend they get a huge (and excited) crowd once or twice a month. The night of, the place opens around 10 pm (although most people go a bit later). First they have a DJ, then live music by someone famous (this is the main event), and then another DJ to end the night. It usually ends around 6am.

Recently I got to go to my first Brazilian rodeo. Two friends and I caught a ride with one of their uncles to the city next door where the rodeo was being held. A lot of what I saw was very similar to the fairs/rodeos I've been to in the US. There was lots of greasy and delicious food, carnival rides, expositions of various agricultural things, the actual rodeo, and finally to end the night was a concert of a famous "sertanejo" duo. The show was definitely the main attraction for most people, including my friends and I. Around 11 they opened the arena up and everyone rushed in to get close to the stage. It was packed because it was totally free! The show was really fun because I actually knew a few of the songs, and my friends tried to teach me to dance sertanejo. Another fun thing about brazilian rodeos is that EVERYONE goes in full cowboy/girl gear. All the guys were wearing button ups, jeans, belts, boots, and cowboy hats, and the girls mostly in jeans or jean skirts, tank tops or button ups, belts, boots, and bright red lipstick. Even though most of the people there
aren't really all that "country", it's so awesome how everyone gets so in the spirit of things here, and it definately magnifies the fun 100 fold.

All in all things have been going pretty smoothly here. My daily routine doesn't change much, but I am slowly learning how to be more independent and navigate the town by myself, which helps me to get out more and do more during the week. The weather has gotten a lot warmer lately as we are going into summer here, which gives my friends and I more to do such as swimming, going to drink juice (which is like a "thing" here), going to eat ice cream, or going to fish at my family's site out in the country.

So there's a quick update on some of the fun things I've been up to! Once again, I'll leave you with some photos!

"Festa Junina"

Some cows and horses who just casually live in the middle of the city.

At the "Festa Junina"

At the rodeo!

One of the residents at the nursing home where I visit every two weeks with some classmates

All of the countries represented at the district conference!

Snapped this on my way to the gym one evening

My host mom and I at the family's farm

 Baby birds and my friend's house

 Other exchange students and I wearing our traditional "Festa Junina" clothes

Monday, September 8, 2014

Time has been flying by here. As of yesterday I have been here for 7 weeks already! The strangest thing is that even though I have been doing all kinds of things lately and having lots of busy days, I'm finding it hard to decide what to blog about. The thing is, my life here has begun to feel so normal and routine that I don't think of the things I do everyday as interesting or blog-worthy. Anyways I thought I would just give a quick update on some of the things I've been up too!
I joined a gym with a couple of my friends and it's lead to a lot of sweating and a lot of laughs. We usually take classes such as Zumba or trampoline aerobics which are a lot of fun but we are constantly laughing at ourselves being that we are always the only people in the class who don't know the choreography. I have also begun taking portuguese classes at a University in the neighboring city. The class is free and organized by Rotary for all of the exchange students in the region. I have only had one class so far and honestly was a little disappointed-- we spent the whole 2 hours going over how to greet someone/ introduce yourself in portuguese which was a little overkill for me seeing as I've been living here for almost 2 months. However, it was worth it to go just to meet the other exchange students in the area because I'm the only Rotary student in my city! Speaking of Rotary, I have my orientation this weekend! I will be taking a bus to a city about 2 hours away and staying at a resort with the other exchange students in my district (About 50-60 of us). Yesterday was Independence Day here in Brazil which they commemorate with a parade. I actually had to be in the parade twice, with my school and with Rotary. It was a pretty gray morning and drizzling but at least it wasn't burning hot! The parade was a lot like the ones at home only with less big floats and candy and more horses and patriotic things. They also hold competitions and tournaments between all of the high schools in my town the week leading up to Independence day, so I went almost every day this week with my classmates to watch my schools teams in the soccer tournament. How great it is to live in a country that truly appreciates and is passionate about soccer!!! :)
Mostly I've just been spending a lot of time with friends and family and keeping busy with classes, volunteering, and what ever else comes up!
I will try to blog again soon! :)
Here are a few pictures of what I've been up to:
My Brazilian parents <3

 The lake that my host family built (yes, you read that right!) for fishing in. 

In the parade

"Going out with the girls"

Friday, August 15, 2014


Right now I feel like the observations I've made and all of the things I've experienced here are like being handed a bunch of puzzle pieces. I feel like over the course of the year I will be able to start putting together a clearer picture of what Brazilian culture is like, but for now all I have is glimpses and clues. It would be impossible to turn all of these observations into cohesive paragraphs, so for now I'm going to make a list as they come to me and hope you can take something from it. :)

-- You greet EVERYONE with a kiss on the cheek (Unless it's two guys, then they sort of bro hug/handshake)
--The biggest meal of the day is at lunch and parents come home from work to eat with the kids
-- Almost everyone has a maid/chef
-- Very loose with a lot of laws such as traffic laws, underage drinking, ect
--No one wears a seatbelt unless they are on the freeway
--All of the cars are stick shift
--It's unheard of to ever be barefoot (even in your own house)
--People dress in jeans and long sleeves even in 80 degree weather
--They almost never eat with their hands.. Sandwiches, pizza, ect is all eaten with a fork and knife
--Music is a huge deal. The main genres of Brazilian music that i've heard so far are Sertanejo (sort of like country but wayyy better in my opinion. This music mostly originates from where I'm living, the interior of Brazil), "Funk" (More typical of the Northeast region of Brazil, tends to be more racy, and usually comes out of poorer areas), Samba (I think everyone has a good idea of what Samba is). Brazilian music is so diverse and there are lots of other kinds of music that I haven't gotten to know yet. 
--The food is incredibly healthy, natural, delicious, and unprocessed (and labor intensive)
--Houses don't have central heating so seeing as it's winter I sometimes wake up in a room of about 50 degrees
--Even though it's winter here, during the day its about 70-80 degrees and blue skies :)
--Brazilians LOVE to laugh!!! :) and they don't seem to worry as much about offending people with their humor. 
--People are very laid back about things. They don't get overly worked up when there are problems
--Timeframes are very loose. It's super normal to show up to something an hour or so late, and no one will be upset with you!
--No one worries about their appearance for school. Girls usually have their hair in a ponytail and no one wears make up.However, they get very dressed up when going out or going to a party
--every girl's nails are SUUUPER long (and real, I asked!)
--the soil here is a bright red color, and when it rains, it looks like tomato soup running down the roads 
--Cities and towns are pretty spread out
--Tons of security on houses. Every single house I've seen has an alarm system, tall walls/gates surrounding it, multiple locks on all doors. My bedroom window for example has a heavy metal shutter which is about 3 inches thick that i lock every night, that's followed by built in metal grating which doesn't open, and finally the actual glass which I can slide open or close and lock.
--The plants are so colorful, interesting and bright and there are palm trees everywhere!! Yesterday I also so a cactus taller than the house it was next to hahah
--This part of Brazil is fairly mountainous with lots of rolling hills and i can't say enough about how beautiful it is
--Modesty seems to be a bigger deal here when it comes to clothing, and parents tend to be stricter when it comes to dating
--It's rude and weird to ever be in your bedroom with the door shut
--kids can legally drive at 18 and this is also the drinking age
-- A lot of diversity in appearances. For example, in my class, there are about 3-4 people with lighter skin, eyes, and hair than mine but then there are also a handful of people with very dark skin. 
--Although school is very short, lots of kids take extra classes at night or on the weekends
-- super steep roads and sidewalks in places (because they don't have to worry about snow!!)
--I don't think carpet is a thing here
--Kids can vote at 16 and at age 18+ its obligatory
--they love their telenovelas (brazilian soap operas)
--schools don't offer extra curriculars, but most kids have jobs, clubs, sports, or night classes apart from school
--BRAZILIANS LOVE BRAZIL. Although sometimes you will hear them complain about the politics or prices of things here, ect, Brazilians in general are very proud of their country (as they should be!!)
--drinking among teens seems to be more common here that the US but they seem to do it in more moderation

So.. there you have a tiny glimpse of some of the differences that I can think of off of the top of my head! 
Everyday Brazil feels more and more like home and I fall more and more in love with the culture and the people here. Happy weekend everyone! :) 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2 Weeks!

Where do I begin?
I have done so much in these past two weeks that it's hard to believe it's only been that long. I have started school, done some volunteering, attended my first rotary meeting, gone on a rotary sponsored "camping" trip for kids my age, started yoga/meditation classes, met tons of people, learned tons Portuguese and so much more!

This past weekend I had to say goodbye to my host sister as she left for her own exchange in Germany. Early Friday morning we headed out to Sao Paulo city (about a 5 hour drive from my house). Everything went smoothly , and after some teary goodbyes she was off! I was so sad about her leaving because we spent so much time together (not to mention she was the only person I knew who spoke any English!). Maria's aunt, uncle, and cousin met us at the airport to say goodbye to Maria, and afterwards we drove to their apartment in a city about an hour from Sao Paulo called Jundiai (population 400,000). When we were going up to their apartment, the elevator stopped and it was probably the scariest moment of my life. The alarm and phone in the elevator didn't work but luckily my "uncle" was able to pry the door open and get the attention of someone on the ground. The electrician had gone home for the day so we ended up trapped in the elevator for what felt like about an hour until FINALLY they got the door open. In hindsight it's pretty funny, and seeing as that's the worst thing that's happened so far I count myself pretty lucky :) Anyways, we spent two nights in Jundiai and during that time they took me to a botanical garden, really nice mall, and to a movie (all things that we don't have in my city). It was cool to get a taste of urban Brazil!

I have really started settling into my life here in Palmital and everything has started to shift from being all new and different to more normal and everyday. I have school from 7-11:30 and the rest of the day is pretty much free for what I want to do! Sometimes I will go to friends houses to watch movies or do on school work together. On Mondays and Thursdays I take a yoga class with my mom. Once a month on Wednesday I have a rotary meeting. If I have nothing to do, I usually just sit outside and read or watch some soccer on TV. On weekends people usually go out with friends, go to parties, ect. and on Sundays the whole extended family gathers at my grandma's house for a big lunch and to hang out. The whole Brazilian lifestyle is very laid back and less scheduled than I'm used to and I'm learning to love it very quickly!

The language has definitely been the hardest thing for me. A lot of people are surprised by this because I speak fairly fluent spanish and they ask me things like "Well portuguese and spanish are pretty similar right?" Well, yes and no. I could go on for hours about the similarities and differences in the languages. The biggest for me difference is the pronunciation and accent. Here are some examples:
In spanish it's pronounced like TEH. In portuguese it's pronounced like CHI
In spanish is's pronounced DAY. In portuguese it's pronounced GEE.
In spanish it's pronounced just like english. In portuguese it makes the "sh" sound.
In spanish it's pronounced MAY. In portuguese it's pronounced ME.
....The list goes on and on. Portuguese is spoken much more nasally and at a different rhythm than Spanish or English. Also, portuguese has several letters that spanish doesn't such as:
ã à â ç ê õ ô. 
I think people tend to group the two languages together because they have a lot of cognates (words that are the same) and have a somewhat similar grammar pattern. But again there are some HUGE differences in the grammar. Also, there are tons of "false friends" (words that are spelled and pronounced the same but mean totally different things). For example:
Pelo in spanish means "hair". Pelo in portuguese means "for the". Pronto in spanish means "soon". Pronto in portuguese means "ready". Mas in spanish means "more". Mas in portuguese means "but/however". Again... I could go on and on.
Despite all of this, I am still glad for my background in spanish, and I'm getting better every day. I really don't speak english to anyone here so I'm fully immersed in portuguese almost around the clock.

I have so much more that I could say about Brazil, so I'm going to do another post soon just about some of the observations I've made about the culture and about some of the big differences I've noticed. There is so much to cover that it's impossible for me to say everything I want, so if there's anything anyone wants to know more about let me know:)

I'll leave you with some of the pics I've taken so far.
Beijosss :)

View from relatives' apartment in Jundiai

Monkeys in botanical garden!
My house :)

Sao Paulo city!!

First Rotary meeting

More pics of my house
Sao Paulo


A few pics of my city

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

First days

I'm in Brazil!!!!!!!!

On Saturday morning I left for a year. Saying goodbye to all of my family and friends was incredibly hard and painful, but once I was boarding the first plane all I felt was excitement (and of course a few nerves). The flights went smoothly, but unfortunately I never really got any sleep during the overnight flight to Sao Paulo. When I landed in Sao Paulo, my family (my host parents and my sister Maria) were there waiting. They were very nice and friendly, and from the airport we took a bus through the city to the hotel they had stayed at the night before. The hotel was very pretty and I got to shower, change, and eat breakfast there. Then, we headed out to Palmital which is about a 5 hour drive. Although the drive was  long I couldn't really complain because I was blown away by how pretty the interior of Brazil was. There are just miles upon miles of rolling hills covered in palm trees, other tropical trees and vegetation, grazing horses and cattle, and this bright red soil. Finally we reached my new home in Palmital. The houses here, particularly in my neighborhood, are stunning! They are big, with all interesting architecture, all different colors, and a lot of them have beautiful stain-glass windows. Anyways, we put my bags in my room, and then went straight to my host grandma's house for lunch with a bunch of family. Right when I walked in everyone started yelling "Hi" and "Welcome" and hugging and kissing me. It was an amazing feeling to know that all of them were just as excited as I am. They had made me signs too and balloon decorations in the colors of the our two countries. The food was good and everyone was very nice but I felt like a zombie the whole time because it was Sunday afternoon and I had't slept a good night's sleep since Thursday. My host parents told me after we finished eating that I could go back to our house (less than a block away) and take a nap. I napped a bit, unpacked, and let my parents and friends at home know I had arrived. Around 8 that night my host dad ordered a pizza and we all sat there for a while just eating and talking (even though my portuguese is still pretty rough and my host parents don't speak any English). It was really great because it helped me feel much more at home and comfortable. My host dad told me more than once that I don't need to have any worries about living with them and that they now think of me as their own daughter. After that I finally, finally, got a good night's sleep in a bed.

On Monday, I got a tour of my school (which I started today) and bought a few school supplies. A few of Maria's friends came over later to meet me and they seem great. I'm beginning to realize how hard it is to be separated from all of my friends but not have any new friends here yet. Hopefully that will change soon! Later that night the Palmital Rotary Club president and his son (who will actually be one of my four host families) came over to my house and we went through the "first night questions" and just kind of talked about expectations and such. It sounds boring but it really wasn't, they seem like very cool people and very very nice. It was a really good first day!
Today I started school at 7 am, and seeing as my body is still on Minnesota time, it was like 5 am. Luckily, it also ends at 11:30 am so it was bearable. My class consists of 40 kids at a technical high school, and I'm in the second to last year. My host sis hasn't been attending school this year because she is leaving for her own exchange soon, but she is coming with me this week to school until I get the hang of things (which is super nice of her). Mostly I talked with her and her friends at school today and they are all super nice and made me feel welcome and comfortable. The biggest difference about their school system is that the class all stays together in one room and the teacher changes rooms. Also, they have 12 different subjects a year but only 5 classes a day so the schedule changes everyday. So all in all I think I can handle the 4.5 hour school day and the people will probably make it worth it :) After school Maria and I and some other people in their class went to volunteer at this place called Gota Verde which is a place for young kids to go after school who might not have the best home situations. It was super fun and all of the kids we're super sweet and energetic and constantly asking me "How do you say ..... in english??". I think I get to go like once a week or something like that, and I'm super excited about it! It also gave me a chance to talk to some of my classmates more :) 
Now I'm back at home and ready for a nap!

All in all I have really enjoyed Brazil so far. It's only been a few short days but I can already tell that it's going to be a great experience! 
I'll do my best to update again soon!