Well. No training could have really prepared me for coming here.
As much as you tell someone that it will all be different, you will be frustrated while trying to communicate, you will not be accustomed to anything, you will miss your family, you will be tired, you will be, you will have, you will you will you will, you cannot share the true feeling of culture shock to anyone.
As I understand it, culture shock is not something that means I do not enjoy or appreciate a new culture and country. I do, I really like it here, it is interesting and new and wonderful. Culture shock does mean that I feel uncomfortable, and disconnected, and often sad. It’s easy enough to say that the language is hard but you cannot understand unless you are the one in the situation where you can tie together some sentences with meaning yet you cannot possibly respond because you cannot summon the words to reply. Often, when I feel I can reply, I can’t. The Brazilian accent for Portuguese is very distinct and although I may feel that I am saying the correct word, I am not because intonation and pronunciation mean everything. Reading Portuguese and speaking are two different tasks completely. Reading, got it. Listening and talking, help please. This language barrier is only teaching me more though. I’m learning true patience and trying to improve my communication skills. This frustration is definitely worth it. Smiles will get you a long way, I’ve discovered. Also, saying “Sim” (yes) confidently works well too.
People keep thinking that I’m Brazilian because I apparently have Brazilian features. This is helpful in that I haven’t been questioned or recognized as a blatant tourist, but it is also difficult when ladies come up to you in the grocery store to ask if you can watch their cart for a second and you have to explain that you don’t speak much Portuguese only to realize what they were asking you 30 seconds later when they’ve already walked away.
ALSO, BEIJAS! I have been told about how Brazilians are warm and love to greet with beijas ( little kisses on the sides of the cheek) but the first time a Brazilian did this upon meeting me, I wasn’t prepared because I didn’t know which way to go so it was a very awkward side hug, after which my host mother explained to my poor companion that I’m Americana. The boy then apologized profusely because he didn’t realize he was “kissing a non-Brasilian” and he hadn’t meant to make me uncomfortable.
This country is beautiful. I cannot wait for when I understand the people around me. My host mother is incredibly patient as she speaks a little English and I speak a little Portuguese, we mash up languages and patience so it has been alright so far. Most everyone I’ve met is kind and welcoming which is inspiring and reminds me that, that is how I want to treat people that come to the U.S and cannot communicate well.
Today my mom took me to a country club where she is a member and she has several garden beds which she takes care of and harvests. We gardened together for several hours and it was really nice. I started to learn some names of vegetables in Portuguese and the area was comforting as Curitiba is a GIANT city compared to my hometown and the country club was in the woods with ponds and animals, it was beautiful and nice to step outside of the city for a bit. As much as I enjoyed the gardens, I realize that being in a city is making me uncomfortable and in my learning zone which is right where I want to be. Hopefully when I receive my final placement from Global Citizen Year I will be able to continue challenging myself in a city because I don’t want to be surrounded by familiarity and comfort because I will learn more otherwise.
Speaking of Curitiba and urban life, the city has loooooooots of street art. The graffiti is very cool and creative. I’m excited to see more Brazilian art this year as I feel this is an important aspect of many cultures. Art is an expression of self and thus I feel I can connect this to other cultures.
Here are some pictures of the street art I encountered: