Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

You know when you have a dream that is so good, then you wake up and are a little dissapointed that it wasn't real? Right now, I am feeling like I will be waking up any second from the best dream of my life.

Ever since I have arrived in Brasil, God has never ceased to fill each day with countless blessings and moments that I will never forget. Most recently, moments like waking up at 5:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise with Lorencia and Abigail. Or having an entire conversation with my host brother via Google translate. We felt pretty ridiculous doing that, but it worked; and I learned more about him than what I knew before!

On Friday, Helio, Lorencia, Lakshmi, and I went to Mercado Central. It's a market, very much similar to Pike Place in Seattle; but about 10 times bigger, and they sell animals. Guess who is going back to America with a new puppy? Just kidding. But they were very adorable and quite tempting. As we made our way through only a portion of the market, there was a faint scent of anise and incense in the air that added to the experience. It was a great way to start my weekend.

Then, Saturday was my other host mother, Teresa's birthday, so we went to a party at her sisters. And quite the party it was! I couldn't tell if I was in a movie or not. The apartment was on the top floor which displayed a beautiful view of the city. Yet, again, I felt so incredibly welcomed and was so happy to be there! After, Lorencia and I spent the night at Abigail's house; and like mentioned before, woke up around 5:30 the following morning to watch the sunrise. Soon after seeing the breathtaking sight, we quickly walked back to Abbey's house and went back to bed. Lorencia and I then went and had lunch with a woman named Fatchima, who knows Lorencia and Abigail through their Rotary clubs. With us were here daughters and another American who lives in a small town called Caritinga. We ate at deliciously good pizza place; it was so good in fact that I was kicking myself for not packing tums afterwards.

Yesterday, I was able to watch the sunrise, but for a much different reason. I had to go to the Federal Police to get an identification card for my stay in Brasil. Bless my host dad's heart; he was up by 4:30 a.m. and woke me up at about ten to 5:00 and we left both a little groggy. Once arriving there, we found out that it doesn't open until 8:00...However, it was very smart that we got there when we did. We left around 9:45, but had we gotten there later, we easily could have sat the whole day away and not even been helped. Later that day, I experienced my first BH Shopping trip. BH Shopping is a huge mall here that puts many malls in America to shame. It was a very successful day of shopping to say the least! :)

Of course I have had my few moments of homesickness, but they soon dissappear as I 1). Remember that I am in Brasil on the trip of a lifetime! and 2). I think about how this is exactly where God wants me to be. This is all apart of his great plan that he has for me and He will lead me to where I need to go.

Life is good :)

Sending all my love from Brasil,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One week already?!

I can't believe that I have been here for over a week! The days have flown by and my time in Brazil has been amazing so far. The people, the places, and the memories created have been wonderful! Here's what I have been up to within the last few days...

I began school! On Tuesday, I started school at Escola da Serra. The school is great! It is a smaller school, with about 500 students (that includes elementary through high school); but this way I am able to meet more people. And I have been doing just that! My classmates have been so helpful and have made me feel so welcome!! So welcome in fact that one boy even told me that I am "very pretty, and he is newly single". I politely declined in the best Portuguese that I could speak. Luckily for me, all of my classmates are very patient with my Portuguese; however, about 99% of the time we revert back to English (as most of them know it), or I ask them to talk very slowly. I feel like I am catching onto the language fairly quickly; and I don't think I will have a very difficult time learning it. However, it is such a strange feeling not knowing at all what is going on. But this unknowningness makes me want to learn it even more! Throughout the day, I was asked tons of questions. Everything from "what kind of music do you listen to?" to "are you related to Madonna?", or "oh yea, Washington. That's where 'Twilight' was filmed, right?" But I loved every second of it; and I felt so flattered that people seemed genuinely happy to meet me and have me at their school.

So after my first day of school, I went to my first Rotary meeting. And just like school, everyone was so warm and welcoming, which made my hint of nervousness completely dissapear! After Rotary there was a shop conveniently located right across the street from where the meeting was held. So, I learned some Brazilian culture through shopping; this lesson continued the next day couple of days after school as well. Almost everyday since then, Lorencia has been so helpful, and has shown me around the city. My feet are aching by the end of the day, but it is so worth it, and I am loving getting to know more about my new "home".

Fast forward to Thursday; Lakshmi, Lorencia, Teresa (other host mom), Hudson (other host dad), and I went to a modern dance performance at a beautiful theatre. The dancing was quite "artsy", but incredibly impressive; and the music was beautful.

Then the weekend began! It started off by going to a flower fair after school, and a much needed night of relaxing. Saturday, we went to lunch at a friend of mine's house; and then I was really exposed to some Brazilian culture as friends of Luciana and Helio's came over for a "jam session" complete with congas, a guitar, shakers, and beautiful voices. The evening was filled with good food, music, conversation, and an attempt at matchmaking; as a friend of Luciana's was telling me about her son, and how I should meet him. They tell me that he is tall, dark, and handsome. Don't worry mom, I haven't fallen in love yet. In true Brazilian fashion, we ended the night with a Samba lesson at around 1:30 in the morning. Then on Sunday, Lorencia, Abigail (an Australian exchanger), and I went to a huge hippie fair that takes place every Sunday. There were easily over two hundred booths, and thousands of peope. It was a little overwhelming at first, but I quickly got used to it. There, I tried coconut water, and some delicious Brazilian barbeque for the first time. Later that night, after a much needed nap, Lorencia, Abigail, and I went out to a birthday party of a friend of theirs. It was pretty fun and I met some more super cool people.

I am learning so much everyday. Not only about the culture and my peers, but about myself. This has been a learning experience since day one; and I have loved every second. I see new and exciting things every time I turn a corner, and at the end of each night, I take a minute or two to thank God for the wonderful day, and I pray that the next will be just a good.

Just a little bit of Brazilian culture... :)



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Where to even begin?!?!

I have been in Brasil for two days now, and I feel like I have stories and memories that I could talk about for days!! I can't even describe how amazing this is, and how lucky I feel to be here! Ok, so I will just start with the landing, and then go on from there...

So, the 10 1/2 hour flight from Detroit to São Paulo wasn't as bad I as I thought, I sat next to a Brazilian man who gave me excellent tips and words of wisdom, and then I sat next to other exchange students and got very little sleep as we talked about how excited we were and almost everything else! Once in São Paulo, I had to pay for my extra luggage, even though I was allowed 70lbs per. bag; but did Delta care to tell me that I had to show a piece of paper stating that to the Brazilian airline? Nope, they wanted my first Brazilan purchase to be a luggage fee...Eh, whatever, I then eased the pain with a keychain that had red peppers and bells to put on my jacket! Flying from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte was nervewracking and exciting all at the same time. All I could think about was what my host family was going to think of me, what should I say, how should I say hello, etc. But as soon as I rode down the escolator and saw them with a sign of my name and their big smiles, the biggest sign of relief crashed over me.

Once I was settled, we went out to a bar for dinner. *Sidenote! Bars are pretty much restaraunts. Minors are allowed in, but not served alcohol. You can order food and you have a waiter. They just aren't called restaraunts* In fact, we went to a German bar because my host brother leaves for Germany tomorrow. After, we went home; and at this point, exhaustion was an understatement and I crashed!!

Today is Father's Day in Brazil, so my sister and brothers and I went to our grandparents house for lunch. *Another sidenote! Lunch is the big meal of the day here, and dinner is a light a'uorderve type of meal that you eat around eight.* I felt so welcomed the second I walked in the door! I was greeted with lots of hugs and kisses! The food was delicious and meeting some family was so fun! After lunch, my grandfather, who I might add is one of the sweetest people I have ever met, made a lovely toast. Luckily for me, my host brother's stepfather knows English and was able to translate some of it for me. I didn't get most of it on my own; but there was one word that stuck out that I actually knew. Agape. He talked about the love he has for his family and how lucky he is to be a father and a husband to his beautiful wife. He talked about how his love for his family is unconditional (Agape) and then turned to me and another American exchange student and said that we are forever apart of this family and will always have a place here. Hearing that made me explode with happiness inside. It was for sure the highlight of my day and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Lorencia, the other exchange student who has been here for about 11 months, told me that we would be going out at six to another German bar for my brother's going away party. That meant that we didn't leave until a little after seven. :) There, I was able to meet some of his friends and more friends of the family. Most of them even knew English, so I didn't sit in the corner all night! I found that some of them like the same music and movies as I do!

It was such a fun night and these past few days have been wonderful! Everyone from my host family and even complete strangers have been great! And the name of the city, Belo Horizonte has sure lived up to it's meaning. It means "beautiful horizon"; and there have been gorgeous sunsets. I try to take a moment a couple times a day and thank God for this amazing expericnce. It's almost two in the morning now, and I am still pretty exhausted from the trip, so until next time!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tchau America!

As I write this, I am on my way to Brazil! Right now, we are flying over Madison, Wisconsin! And it has been nothing but smooth sailing for the last 4 hours. One more hour, and we will land in Detroit, where I will make my departure for Brazil!
To give an update on the past week: I was packed by last Thursday, then I re-packed about 3 times throughout the week. Then Tuesday and Wednesday were days filled with double-checking, triple-checking, and even quadruple-checking to make sure I had everything. By Wednesday afternoon, I came to the conclusion that if I forgot something not to sweat it...I'm sure they have toothpaste and athletic shorts in Brazil. :) By Wednesday around 4:00, all the good-bye's had been said and we we're ready to go to Seattle, so I could leave on Thursday (today). Last night, I was able to talk to my two brothers in Colorado. My brother Aaron gave me some pretty good advice for when I go to the Amazon; he said that if a monkey throws its feces on me then it wants to fight, and to not throw mine back. I am so glad that he is the only one in our family that watches the Discovery Channel. And my other brother, Scott, ironically enough, has a friend who lives in Brazil; and even is from Belo Horizonte! I am finding it amazing how everything is serendipitously lining up perfectly in it's place. God has been blessing with these great connections and moments that will make my exchange even better! Not to mention that one of my flight attendants was an exchange student too! Although his was in the Philippines, I still thought it was pretty cool.
And today, my wonderful parents took me to the airport and we said a teary (yet not ridiculously weepy) goodbye and I was off! Checking in and security were a breeze and I found myself with almost two hours to kill. So what did I do? Got Starbucks (after a night of little sleep due to excitement) and shopped of course! I found perfect Seattle Space Needle keychains for my host family and friends :)
Well, we are 30 minutes away from landing, so I must go! Thank you to everyone who has helped get me here! I can't wait for all that lies ahead!
Goodbye America and Ola to Brazil!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. :)

So, I found out last week that I will be leaving on August 11th! Which means that I only have 10 days left in America!!!!!! AHHHHHHH!! When, I found this out, I will admit that I was pretty disappointed that I wasn't leaving sooner. However, I am realizing that when our Rotary peeps told us to always keep the saying, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape" in mind, they even meant before your exchange! Who would have thought?! ;)
Irregardless,  I AM LEAVING IN TEN DAYS!!!!! I can tell you right now, that these next few days will be the longest and the quickest days of my life. Filled with almost every emotion you can think of and a to-do list the size of Brazil ;).
And now for the details. I leave SeaTac airport at 9:30 a.m. on the 11th. I will then fly to Detroit (arriving at 4:45 p.m.) and have a three hour layover there, and then depart for Sao Paulo, Brazil at 7:50 p.m.! Now here comes the biggie...I will arrive in Sao Paulo at 7:20 a.m on the 12th! In other words, I will be a plane for 12 hours at one time!!! Thankfully, a friend gave me a sudoku book, so I'll be pretty content :) After a 5 hour layover in Sao Paulo, I will fly directly into Belo Horizonte arriving 1:15 p.m. on August 12th! After almost 31 hours of traveling (including the 3 hours at SeaTac before I go) I will be ready to start this wonderful journey that I have been waiting for for months!
Thank you to everyone who has helped get me here! To all my family, friends, and Rotarians, you have been so supportive, and that has meant the world to me! And to my dear parents, you two have been the best parents any exchange student could ask for. Words can't describe how incredibly blessed I am to be your daughter. Thanks for everything Mom and Dad. "We're really doing it lil' buddy!"

So, now the good-byes are beginning and the excitement is growing! I am ready to get this show on the road!

Tcahu tchau!