It was 10 A.M when I woke up on Saturday and heard a familiar voice coming from my front yard. I knew that my best friend, Alondra, had planned on coming over that day, but she also said she was going to wait for me to call her, so I asked myself why in the world she was already in my house. But because I was obligated, I rolled out of bed, put on the first outfit I could find, and went to investigate.
I did not find my best friend, but instead I found my team leader, sitting in the front yard having a cup of coffee with my host mom and aunt. Then I wondered why my team leader had made a surprise visit to my house.
She stood up to say, “Hi Amanda” and afterwards told me that my host mom had called her and asked for help with a problem. I, reasonably, thought that this was code for, “you’re in so much trouble” and began to rack my brain for what terrible thing I’d done in the last four weeks to get me in trouble with both my host mom and Giana.
This was not what the visit was about.
My host sister in Florianopolis had gotten sick earlier that week and it was pretty bad. She had been taken to the hospital a couple times and her daugher had caught the virus as well. Giana had come to tell me that my mom would be leaving to help take care of the kids, and in the meanwhile I was going to be relocated, only for a week, to another family’s home. I was immediately relieved that I wasn’t in trouble, but then another fear hit me. I had to meet another host family, and I wasn’t prepared for that.
I immediately asked when my mom would be leaving, hoping that I would get a few more days to prepare, but to no avail. I would be leaving that day, living in a different city, and starting with the family of a fellow that had left.
Needless to say, I was not excited. I, of course, understood the necessity and was not angry or annoyed, and I also knew the family I was staying with would be amazing, but I was not happy and I couldn’t put a finger on why.
The second Giana left, I called my best friend and told her the news, before telling her to come over and say bye. She wasn’t sure if she should, but when I told her I was leaving at 5, she changed her mind and came.
While I waited, I told a couple other people what was happening, and they seemed to think it would be an exciting experience for me. I didn’t agree but I wasn’t about to argue with them. As soon as Alondra got to my house, however, the feelings all gushed out. I’d already done this two times, and I’d learned that there was nothing I hadted more than meeting a new host family, except for maybe, saying goodbye to an old one. I was now going to have to do both of these things in the short span of a week. In addition, I was gonna have to relearn how to get to my apprenticeship and become accustomed to a brand new family. Sure, I could see the good side of it, but frankly, I didn’t care.
The air in my room was sad, as though we were mourning the loss of an old friend. In a sense we were, because along with all the other apprehensions, I was sad about how far away from Alondra I would be, and as far as I knew, she was thinking the same thing about me. I told her we were being ridiculous, because I was only leaving for a week, but it just didn’t feel that way.
After a bit of walking around the city, and hanging out in my room and hammock, Alondra went home and I moved into the kitchen to have a conversation and a cup of coffee with my host mom, while I waited for it to be time to go meet my temporary host family.
The drive there was definitely an experience. It wasn’t more than ten minutes, but in that ten minutes I left my urban life behind and ended up in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, where there were definitely more cows than people.
I honestly wasn’t that far. If I walked outside right now I would be able to see the city and it is bem pertinho (very close), but the way the road works, it takes at least an hour to walk there.
I slowly climbed out of the car, grabbed my stuff, and entered the house. It was adorable but I did not want to be there. I was more than ready to head back to my home, because meeting people in this setting was not my thing.
After Giana left, and I had met all the family, I went to my room sulked for a bit, read Harry Potter in Portuguese and then finally got off my bum and went to talk to my new family. This is when things started to turn around.
I started to really get to know the family. We made pizza together, and everything from making the dough to eating the food was a fiasco. I had so much fun and when I sat down, I ended up eating maybe ten slices of pizza, and as my stomach was stretching I realized that I was too.
This was my stretch zone, and while the situation wasn’t ideal I was only going to be better for it. I was learning how to navigate a different part of my community. I was pretty far away from the city, but with all the food I’d been eating lately I definitely needed to walk more. I was pretty far away from my friend, but I saw her way too much anyway and outside of her presence, I would be speaking more Portuguese, and forced to grow by myself, which were all incredibly important things.
Plus I needed to re-evaluate my privilege. I was ten minutes away from the ocean, ten minutes away from town, and ten minutes away from civilization in general yet I spent barely any time enjoying these things, and now that I’m an hour away from it, I miss it more than anything.
After thinking about all of this, I definitely decided that while I needed want this week (and I still kinda don’t) I needed it. I’m now going to try to make the most of this experience. This is stretch zone, and I’ll only be better for it.