I have been putting off writing this blog because I have had so many different experiences since I left home that its hard to put them into words. However, I have been taking plenty of pictures, to the point that I have to download them all to my computer on a weekly ritual and since “a picture says a thousand words”, I have decided to share some of those in order to attempt to share my experience so far. From now on I will be focusing on writing about more specific experiences, but for now, this is the first 6 weeks.
I left my home in Irvine on August 19 and directly flew to San Francisco. I spent a week in The Redwoods and Stanford University where the Ecuador, Senegal, Indian and Brazil cohort united for Pre-Departure Training (PDT). This week was the longest and most intriguing week of my life. My days consisted of listening to guest speakers such as Jen Dulski, the President of Change.org, who helped me realize that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Through the act of improvisation, Lisa Rowland taught me that the best way to succeed is to choose FUN over FRUSTRATION and CURIOSITY over EXPECTATIONS. By listening to these, and the other various guest speakers talk I was continuously impressed by the incredible people that exist in this world who are working to make it a better place.
During PDT I made life long friendships and meaningful connections with my fellow Fellows and GCY staff that I will forever cherish. They all taught me that the most beautiful way to connect with people is to be vulnerable and share a part of youself because naturally, they will share a part of themselves. Through them I also learned how to genuenly listen to others points of views, and that by practicing this, it will eventually lead to the discovery of your own beliefs. I am forever greatful for their endless love and support because I do not know if I would still be sane without them as a support system.
After a reallyyyyy long week in San Francisco, and a whole 24 hours of flights and waiting at busy airports, the Brazil cohort and I finally arrived to Brazil. We first stayed in a “posada” in the outskirts of Curitiba, where we were welcomed by a really sweet family who introduced us to the wonders of Brazilian cuisine. They showed me that a hug and a smile are more powerful than any word, and that communication without a common language is surprisingly possible. The posada was the first place where all 19 of us in the Brazil cohort stayed together and as a result, 19 very different personalities became really close because we were forced to be together 24/7.
After three days in the posada, we finally got to meet our temporary host family, with whom we stayed for 2 weeks. My family and I instantly clicked, I live with my 23 year old sister, Michele and mom, Marcia. They opened up their home and treated me as if I was a part of the family. I currently miss them so much, they will forever occupy an immense part of my heart.
During these two weeks, I rode the bus to PUCPR everyday, a university where I was taught some Portuguese. I have learned color while I navigated the streets full of vibrant murals and graffiti, and also met some incredibly nice people on the streets. As much as I appreciated my stay, my time in Curitiba made me realize how much I do not like living in big cities and how much I cannot live without the ocean.
And finally, after unpacking and repacking four times, after adjusting to four different homes and having to say goodbye four times, I am finally at my Homestay. Today marks the 15th day out of 7 months that I have been staying in Florianópolis, which is an island in the south of Brazil in the state of Santa Catarina. I was placed in the cutest little house with my new host mom and 7 year old sister who are extremely sweet and welcoming.
From Monday to Friday I am working with a non-profit organization called Projeto Tamar. The main objective of this program is to save sea turtles from extinction along the Brazil coastline. I will be helping to rehabilitate sick turtles and return them to the ocean as well as guiding tourists through the location and educating them in environmental conservation once I have the knowledge (and know enough Portuguese) to do so. At nights I accompany my host mom to her Capoeira classes, which is an Afro-Brazilian form of dance that incorporates dance, music, and martial arts.
It feels strange to say that I will be living here for such a long time and am finally able to start a routine of my own without having my entire day planned by someone else. This island is an incredibly beautiful place full of genuinely kind people. There is something about the way people live here that eases my spirit. I am now embarrassed to say this, back in California I would have been so lazy if someone told me that I had to walk 35 minutes to get to work every day. However, here I am happy to do it.
I am learning how to live like the locals who have no notion of time and live a relaxed life with no worries. Like my host mom who doesn’t mind waking up at 8 am to hike around a mountain for 2 hours just to get to the beach, and who at 49 years of age has a better physical condition than me at 18. And I also discovered that it is not possible to get tired of eating rice, beans and brigadeiros.
So far, this experience has definitely been the most insightful one of my life, and ever since I left home on August 19th I have learned more about myself as well as the world around me than I have in 18 years. I have found that when you work with passion and love towards everything that crosses your path, you will attract good experiences and good things will automatically come your way. Therefore, I am excited to continue this journey of self-growth, continue to be inspired by every person I meet, and do things that benefit my soul starting today and for the rest of my life!