So, I’m not sure how other countries are when it comes to going out with their families, but this is what my experience in Brazil has been so far.
When your family tells you that you are going out or you going on a trip with them they usually give you some general details. They might tell you dates or some time, but not everything necessary to actually know what’s going on. In my experience I will sometimes ask for more details here and there. I use my Portuguese to the best of my knowledge, but again you may never get the answers you want or need. Sometimes you may even miscommunicate. You think you know what’s about to happen, but in reality you just don’t and that’s okay.
There have been countless times where I just don’t know what is happening or what we are doing. I’ll give a recent example.
You are on a family vacation visiting your host family’s extended family for the holidays. You have gone out to dinner for the night and your family mentions there is a party and it is the next day. You are excited for the party and it’s close to the holidays so you assume it must be a holiday party. You have no concept of when this party will be. You don’t know what to wear. You don’t really know where it is. So you ask where it is and your family simply names an entire town. You ask if you need to wear a dress and they say no and to wear whatever. Since the party is the next day you just don’t worry and go with the flow of things. You simply end the night with your host mom telling you what time to wake up. 7:30.
You are careful and wake up around 7:15. Try to get in the bathroom, but because you are staying with other family members everyone is fighting to use the bathroom. Finally, you get in and realize you are the last to get ready and so you start to just hurry up a bit. Going through your skincare routine and a small amount of makeup because after all it is a party. You pick out clothes from your bag that are not too casual, but also don’t look like you are trying too hard. You hear some people start to leave the house so you finish up and leave. It’s 8:00.
You ride with your parents over to another relatives house. Simply thinking you are stoping to pick people up. You get out and go inside. There you see that some of the family is wearing matching shirts. The shirts say that this is the third annual family reunion. You suddenly realize what the event is for.
As you look outside a bus is pulling up next to the house. Your family is excited and you all start to pile into the bus.
Thankfully your host brother is there and he speaks some English so you can really get a better understanding of what’s going on. He informs you he has never gone to one of these because he doesn’t like going to big family events like this so even he doesn’t know much of what’s going on.
After a 20 minute ride to the venue. You get off the bus and go into this large event center that is really in the middle of nowhere. So many cars are arriving and people are flooding the doors. It’s a beautiful day, but a little chilly so it’s nice to be in the sun as you wait to go inside. You are happy with the choice of outfit because everyone else was in an array of either beautiful dresses or a similar pants and blouse attire.
You get in the entrance and are given a cup with the family names on them. This reunion as you realize is quite large and there are about 150 people in attendance. You haven’t had breakfast and to your surprise there is a traditional Brazilian breakfast complete with sausage, fresh bread, polenta (regional dish originating from the Italian immigrants that settled in the area), jams, cake, and some assorted cheeses. It’s quite good and you are happy you are now full. It’s 9:15.
Your immediate and close extended family find a good table and you all sit down and begin to chat. Then, they turn on the music which is so loud that talking is no longer an option. Your already mediocre understanding of Portuguese just gets worse when trying to read lips. An older man gets on the microphone and begins to sing at the top of his lungs some traditional Brazilian songs that everyone in the room seems to recognize except you. Some sing along and others just wonder why it is so loud. Your cousins who are about your age and siblings come to the rescue. They show you a small restaurant and fishing area that is a small walk away from the venue. It’s 10:00.
The fishing spot is strange and you wonder what it is. You ask your brother and he says that it was made artificially and that many people come here from the community to spend the day here either alone or with their family. It was made because in this area of Brazil there are not many lakes and certainly no oceans nearby. You all venture to the small restaurant and there is a pool table. Your pool skills are not very good, but your curious cousins want to get to know you better and ask you to play anyway.
You play game after game. Your cousins and brother show you ways to get better at pool. You really use your language skills and speak in Portuguese for hours with them. Asking them questions and focusing on their mouths to understand their replies. You feel good about yourself because it’s probably one of your better days and experiences bonding with people who are not from your cohort. Time flies by and one of your cousins looks at his phone to say it’s lunch time. You suddenly realize you haven’t used your phone or any other distraction in hours. You simply just spent time with your family. It’s 12:30.
You, both of your siblings, and all your cousins enter the building passing the steaks being grilled to perfection. You immediately see the long buffet display of food and the line of 30 people following it. You hop in line and as it slowly moves up, you get to the table. Some older relatives come up and ask if they may go before you and of course as a courtesy you set aside your hunger for just a couple more minutes.
After going back to your original family table and enjoying a delicious lunch you look around to see what will happen next. All your cousins insist on going back to the pool table. So, you start for the little fishing area once more. It’s 1:30 by the time you reach the pool table.
You are informed the restaurant has WiFi and this is the first time you’ve had it since you left your host house. So, you look at some WhatsApp messages and emails. It’s only a few moments before your younger cousins insist you play with them though. This goes on until your host mom comes to tell you the family raffle is happening. You realize that the table full of gifts you got a glimpse of when entering the event was for this and things click in your head. It’s 3:30.
The day went on and raffle happened. You didn’t win anything, but it was okay you were just happy to be there. You ended up doing more of the same things and playing some cards as well. Even teaching a card game to some relatives. You leave around 6:00.
You see you really didn’t know what to expect when you were told about the party and in my experience those things are usually some of the best moments here. That day I felt like I had connected with my family and it reminded me of spending time with my own cousins. I had gone into the day thinking it was going to be a day of me sitting around and just sorta watching people talk and perhaps reading a book. I had no idea it was going to be so fun.
My family here may not tell me all the details when we do things or have events, but I’ve grown to be okay with that and even a little excited. It’s an adventure every time I leave the house with them. Of course you may think not knowing what’s going on is scary and chaotic, but in retrospect you are with people who all want to keep you safe and happy. I know that I can trust them and I know that no matter what they have planned for the day it’s usually going to result in me learning something new or seeing some new aspect of their culture.
I went through high school and most of my life before this always planning every little detail of my life. Having a strict planner with all the things I had to do each day. I missed out on spontaneity sometimes because I just wanted to always know what was happening. Here, I’m not afforded the ability to always know what’s happening and it’s helped me realize how much more exciting it is to just let the day take it’s course.
This is experience thus far has given me many unexpected gifts and experiences and my interest has only begun to peak and I’m ready to see what comes next.