Over The Past Ten Months…

Photo Jul 03, 15 47 58I lived in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil as an exchange student.

I learned how to speak Portuguese fluently.

I lived with two different host moms.

I met other exchange students from all over the world.

I cried.

I took a surfing lesson.

My family came to visit me.

I laughed.

I studied in a Brazilian high school.

I suffered from homesickness.

I drank coconut water out of actual coconuts.

I made cookies.

I made Brazilian friends.

I ate so much acai it’s embarrassing.

I went to Rotary club meetings.

I learned how to make torta de limao.

I drank enough passion fruit juice to fill up a small lake.

I made tapioca.

I went to the mall enough that I practically lived there part time.

I bought (and wore) mountains of bracelets.

I stood out like a sore thumb pretty much everywhere I went.

I binge watched Netflix.

I filled my blazer with a mountain of pins.

I went to the Amazon Rainforest, the Pantanal, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguaçu, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Gramado, Florianópolis, Bonito, Recife, Joao Pessoa, Olinda, and Pipa.

I had a year I will never forget.

 

I leave to go home tomorrow. I will have been here for exactly ten months at the time I leave. I have a lot of mixed feelings about my departure, but I am mostly excited. I am happy and proud of what I accomplished this year. I will miss the friends and family I made, but I am ready to go home. Bye bye, Brazil. I’m gonna miss you.

Slump

Things that make me happy:

  • Harry Potter
  • The West Wing
  • Watching figure skating videos. My parents are looking at each other right now and wondering if I’ve been abducted by aliens or something. I’ve never told anyone this before, but two years ago I saw a clip of that 2014 Nationals on YouTube and I’ve been hooked ever since, becoming somewhat of a closet fan. I’ve watched the same four or five clips of my favorite skaters over and over again, and the artistry and athleticism is very impressive to me. Over the past few days I’ve been watching Gracie Gold, the 2016 national champion, over and over on YouTube. It’s been cheering me up.
  • Spotify
  • Taylor Swift. I’m listening to her album 1989 right now, and it is still very much my jam. It also makes me very happy that she has so many Grammy nominations.
  • Coffee
  • Videos from shows like Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice where someone unexpected surprises everyone with how good they are.
  • J.K. Rowling’s Twitter presence
  • Washing dishes. It’s weirdly therapeutic.
  • Feel the Bern
  • RadioLab
  • Basketball. I’m so thrilled to have something to do three times a week. I am absolutely terrible, but having something new to learn is awesome.
  • Adele
  • Fresh fruit
  • Lemon thing that I don’t know the translation to but it’s really good
  • The Broncos making it to the Super Bowl. I have invited all of the exchange students in my city to come to a sports bar with me to cheer them on. If we lose, hopefully it won’t be as terrible as it was a few years ago.
  • Pioneer Camp
  • F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Enough said.
  • Humans of New York
Some mango for you since I didn't really have a picture that matched this post perfectly

Some mango for you since I didn’t really have a picture that matched this post perfectly

I’ve been kind of depressed lately, and it’s been the appreciation of small things that have been getting me through the past month. I’m in a slump. Not everything’s perfect with my second host family, it’s really hot, I haven’t had anything to occupy my time with no school, my host city is the second most dangerous city in Brazil, it’s January and people are generally depressed in January, it’s raining a lot, etc. etc. etc. There are many different explanations for why I haven’t been feeling so happy lately, but I guess the simplest is that I’m a little homesick. I miss American food, I miss my family, I miss schoolwork, I miss being busy, I miss cold weather, I miss my friends, I miss libraries with books in English, I miss a lot of things.

At this point I just feel like I’m in limbo, waiting for things to happen. Waiting for my next exchange student trip. Waiting for my family to come visit. Waiting to go home.Things aren’t so exciting and exotic once you get used to them.

After about two months of summer vacation, school is finally starting up again on Monday, and I’m hopeful that the sense of routine and having something solid to do every day will be good. Also, my first host mom knows that I haven’t been so happy lately, as well as Veera from Finland. Even if they can’t make me magically happier, it’s nice having people to talk to. At first I wasn’t really interested in writing or posting this blog post, since I didn’t really want sympathy or Rotary to know. But then I decided what the heck. I’m allowed to be sad and homesick, despite the stigma on the internet and social media that every post out there must show happy you are and how perfect your life is. My life isn’t perfect.

I know things will get better, but I just need a little time. I’m also craving a little human interaction from the States from people that aren’t my parents and my friends, so if you want to FaceTime or Skype or something, send me an email and we’ll set up a date. I might wait a little while to actually agree to talk, though, since at this point I feel like talking to people at home is just making me more depressed. But drop me a line anyways, and we’ll set up a date.

A Little Bit of Nostalgia

 

IMG_3804I wouldn’t say I’m homesick, but my thoughts have definitely turned homeward as Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I think the weirdest part for me about not being home with my family is that I’m out of the loop. I had no idea that my family was traveling to Washington D.C. to visit my relatives over the holiday week until my brother and sister snapchatted me on the airplane.

 

Some things that I miss:

 

  1. My family (that’s obvious). I also miss knowing all the family gossip, so thanks to Grandbob for catching me up.
  2. Rudy, my dog (or rather, my mom’s dog). I didn’t realize how much I would miss the adorable fluff ball until I started looking for something to cuddle and he wasn’t there. Yes, I have dogs to pet here, but I’m scared that Zeca will turn on me and bite me again, and Caffoo is always shut in the back room smelling faintly of mildew as he never moves. He’s afraid to walk anywhere since he’s blind, and Virna has to drag him outside.
  3. The food. I miss American food. I’ve gotten used to the food here, yes, but I really miss American food. When I tell people this, they assume that I eat hamburgers and McDonalds every day, but that isn’t true at all. I’ve found it quite hard to explain what American food actually is, because they do have things like spaghetti and pizza and sandwiches here, but it just isn’t the same. Speaking of food, I miss variety. I miss spices. All the meals resemble the same thing, and nobody adds spice, except for an excess of salt, to anything. I’m finally starting to cook but when I went to the store, I quickly realized that they do not have the variety and quality of spices that we do. There were only two or three brands of spices, and about the quarter of the selection.
  4. Doing school work. I know, you are thinking I’m crazy. But I like learning and it’s quite boring doing nothing all day, and then coming home and doing nothing on the internet. I would like a happy medium. I’m happier now since I got a book in Portuguese and I’m really working on reading it, so I feel like I’m studying again. It also makes me happy since I’m actively trying to learn Portuguese.
  5. Playing in a band and orchestra. I finally dug my clarinet out of the closet after almost three months of being here (ouch, I know!) and it just made me long for a band to play in all the more. I haven’t been able to find any venue to play the clarinet in. Now that I’ve actually put my lips on the mouthpiece again, it will be easier to keep up as a solo gig, but I love playing in groups.

 

Some things that I love about Brazil:

 

  1. The selection of fruit. I haven’t had an apple since leaving Colorado, and I’m completely fine with this. Instead, I’m eating fresh mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew every day.IMG_3457
  2. The coffee. I finally figured out how to make coffee that isn’t as strong as the stuff they brew here on a regular basis, but even with that, I’m starting to like strong, black coffee. It also makes me very happy to drink it in the morning with the cute little cups and saucers that my host mom uses.
  3. Learning a new language. I feel like I’m on top of the world. It’s like my brain is on fire and I’m processing new things every day. I already have plans to study either French or Italian yet, and get the Romance languages under my thumb.
  4. Public transportation. Last week I took the bus for the first time, and I’ve quickly grown super comfortable with the bus system. I feel like I’ve gained a huge amount of freedom, and that I’m looking more like a local (albeit a local with blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin) since I’m comfortable navigating the bus system.
  5. Becoming more independent. Since coming here, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and learned how to rely on myself a lot more. Yes, I still have a host family to go to for help, and an organization with a huge support system, but I’m starting to see what living independently can look like. If I can move to a new country and learn a new language without my immediate family right behind me, I can do anything.