Day(s) in the Life

Sara Ahlich - Brazil


March 3, 2019

My schedule has changed up quite a bit since the beginning, as has my
mindset on my GCY year. Correlation? I think yes.

The following was my schedule from September to December.

7am to 10am: wake up naturally, as my job starts late and is a 30-second
walk from my house. Have breakfast – usually a bread roll with margarine,
sometimes I’ll make an egg. Usually go back in my room and wait for my host
siblings to go to school at 11:30.

1:00pm: Get ready for work. Have lunch, get dressed, etc.

1:14pm: walk to work. I could leave at this time, crawl, and still be
early because the church I work at is 30 feet away from my front gate.

1:15 to 5pm: work. My first apprenticeship was an after school program
at a church. I really liked the kids, but disliked the apprenticeship as I
did not feel there was a place for me. My usual day was handing out fruit,
braiding hair, and sitting in one of three classrooms, watching and/or
trying to help with the lesson. A few times I was asked to teach English,
but generally the teachers prepared crafts and activities. Sometimes I
would spend the whole shift cleaning dishes, mopping and sweeping the
floors, cleaning the windows.

This was a frustrating apprenticeship for me. Many times I felt that I was
more of a nuisance than a help, as the kids would not listen to the
teachers and interact with me instead. The project does do great work for
the kids (who come from my neighborhood, which is generally lower income –
so providing food, activities, and a place to go is quite helpful for may
of the students).

I did have some fun – on Wednesdays I would accompany a group to the beach
where they had surf lessons, and I would usually play soccer or volleyball
with the kids while they waited to get in the water.

5pm: walk home. Usually read or watch Netflix until dinner.

9pm to 11pm: Dinner. Usually consists of rice and meat. My host family
doesn’t eat much in the way of fruits or vegetables, and drinks soda with
every meal, which was hard for me to deal with. I went from never drinking
soda to drinking twice a day (to try and fit in to the family), but I was
pretty concerned about my health. So I stopped drinking soda and would find
ways to get some fruits/vegetables.

My host family stays up pretty late, while I tend to sleep earlier, so I
usually would sleep around 11pm.

This period for me was not great, mentally. I like being busy and doing
activities, so staying in the house for the majority of the day was not
ideal. I was also struggling with finding the purpose in my apprenticeship.
I think this was made worse by my skill level in Portuguese – I knew
practically nothing, so I didn’t have the confidence and/or ability to go
and find activities. Even in my homestay and apprenticeship, I was a bit
stressed about my Portuguese (ever had 15 kids speaking to you in
Portuguese at once so you just nod at anything??).

From December to February, the schools are on summer break – this, my
apprenticeship was closed. Luckily, my dad and sister came to visit from
the US for a week or two, so I had things to do then. But it was really
difficult for me to know that I had 1.5 months or so with absolutely nothing
scheduled to do (language classes also had stopped). I would try to go out
with other fellows without jobs everyday, which was fun. However, I was
pretty unhappy and wanted to go home. After all, the apprenticeship is a
major piece of GCY. Even though I didn’t love mine and only worked a few
hours a day, at least it was having me do something productive.

Things turned around for me in late December to early January. Having my
family here was much needed, and getting out of Florianopolis with them
made me realize that being in Brazil wasn’t what was making me unhappy, it
was just my overall situation. Luckily, my situation changed. My team
leader found me (and a few others without summer apprenticeships) a job
working at a retreat center, doing environmental work like gardening and
planting native trees. My Portuguese and my speaking confidence had also
steadily improved. Here is my schedule for the current routine (although it
is a bit different all the time);

7am: wake up, get ready. Sometimes there is bread for breakfast, but
sometimes no one had woken up to buy it yet.

7:40 to 8:30am: take the bus to my apprenticeship.

9am to 4pm: work! I work with two other fellows and we generally are
weeding, collecting seeds, drying corn, planting seeds, etc. It can be hard
if it’s very hot, but I really enjoy working outside and seeing how my work
is making a difference. The staff at the new apprenticeship are SO nice and
interesting, and make us feel very welcomed and appreciated. From noon to
1pm, we will take a break and make lunch and eat together.

On Tuesdays, I go to a school close to my house at 2pm and teach cooking
classes for 2-3 hours, as part of my final community project.

4:00pm to 5:40pm: leave work and wait for the bus. Take bus home. On
Wednesday and Friday I go to my canoeing group after work or language class
(canoeing is from 5:30pm to 6:30pm).

Once I get home, I’ll take a shower and relax.

9pm to 11pm: There isn’t a set time we have dinner, so sometimes it’s
really late (around midnight), but usually closer to 10pm. After, I’ll
watch some videos or something and then go to bed.

As mentioned in the beginning, my mindset has changed with my schedule. The
beginning schedule was very sparse, with not much going on – the great
amounts of free time made it easy to think of home and how much happier I
was. I had even made a countdown, and some days all I looked forward to was
being one day closer to the end. As my language skills improved and I could
communicate myself and get around, I found things to do – joining canoeing
was great, as I had really missed exercise and being in a competitive team.
My new apprenticeship was work I like to do and our help was needed. My
mindset became much more positive. I forgot about the countdown. Although
I’ve looked forward to going back to California the whole year, now it’s
not so much of a need, it’s more of a gift after a few good months in
Brazil. I’ve been quite happy with what I’ve been doing and the progress
I’ve made over the last few months, especially with the things I’ve found
myself to make my time better.

To conclude – things can get better, if you try to make it better. This
program is a mix of structure and independence, and it’s important to find
the balance that fits you. In my case, I didn’t have enough structured
things, so I found an outside activity. In the beginning, I really thought
I may leave the program early, but I’m glad I stuck it out and found things
that made me happier to be here.

Pictured:

A field day with my first apprenticeship (fun day of soccer, hanging from
trees, looking for fish in the pond); products of the gardens at my second
apprenticeship (corn we harvested and dried, plants we picked to dry for
their seeds, and herbs from the garden).


Sara Ahlich