Finding my Why

Caroline Smith - Brazil


October 18, 2017

Most people who have decided to take a bridge year know that there are some standard questions people ask when they find out you´re taking a bridge year instead of going straight to college. If other GCY fellows are anything like me, they had their go-to answers perfected well before leaving: 

“Where are you going?´´  (Brazil, but I´m not sure where yet. I´ll find out once I´m there.)

“What will you do there?´´  (Live with a host family and work at an apprenticeship, but I don´t know the family or work yet.)

“Do you speak Spanish already?´´  (Yes, but they don´t speak Spanish in Brazil…)

 

But the last question on my FAQ list was one I never figured out how to answer: “Why?´´

 

Many fellows knew exactly why they wanted to take a bridge year. Some weren´t ready for college yet, others wanted to get in touch with their heritage, others wanted to work in an apprenticeship similar to a career path they planned to pursue. I had no concrete reason to choose a bridge year or to choose Brazil other than a gut feeling that told me to go. I usually gave people a vague, cop-out reason: I´m going to Brazil to learn.

 

I am not one to try to explain things that I don´t think need explanation- I think “because I want to´´is a perfectly valid answer, but I am also finding that coming to Brazil with the goal of learning has gven me purpose and a positive outlook on the countless mistakes I make every day.

 

Here are some of the lessons I have learned so far:

 

1) Rubbing a citronela plant over your arms and legs will do wonders to repell mosquitoes when even 97% DEET repellent won´t work.

 

2) Never pass up an opportunity to chat with a stranger- it´s the best way to learn how to dance, visit the best beaches on the island, and be offered a place to stay in São Paulo when you visit.

 

3) Some words are completely harmless in Spanish and very inappropriate in Portuguese- and the only way to find out is to use them in conversation and backpedal as quickly as possible when you find out what you just said!

 

4) When lost on the bus, it´s almost always better to stay on until you reach the terminal instead of getting off in the middle of nowhere.

 

5) When you go to a friend´s house for cafezinho, expect to stay for at LEAST four hours- even if you meet up at 8pm on a worknight.

 

6) The phases of the moon affects everything in nature, and dictate when you should prune trees, plant seeds, and pick fruits.

 

7) Unlike in the States, when people in Brazil ask your star sign they aren´t using a lame pickup line- they genuinely want to know so they can figure out your personality.

 

8) When it rains, everything is cancelled and people usually don´t leave their houses. For people who live on an island, Manezinhos seem to really hate getting wet!

 

9) Always show people you care about them- since coming here, I´ve been greeted by every person with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, been told “I love you´´ by children I´ve known for three hours, been offered coffee and cookies by seemingly everyone in my town, and been welcomed by everyone I have met- whether an extended family member, a store employee, or a stranger on the bus.

 

10) Sometimes, problems only become as big as you let them- mosquito bites only itch if you scratch them, and my host dog only throws up from anxiety if you play fetch with him for too long.

 

These are only a few of the many things I´ve picked up since starting my journey in Brazil. There are many lessons not on this list, and many more to come.

 

I would love to include photos in this post, but my phone which also served as my camera broke, so I have very few pictures of the past couple of weeks. That´s another lesson I´m learning- not every great moment has to be documented!

 

Até mais, gente. Beijos!!

Caroline Smith