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!