“Bom dia. Tudo bem? Como voce esta?” has become so embedded into my vocabulary that returning to the English, “Good morning. How are you?” will be very difficult. As I speak to my mom on SKYPE I sometimes say Portuguese words not knowing that I have spoken in Portuguese unless my mom makes a confused facial expression and tells me, “Pauly, what does that word mean.” My ear has become so accustomed to the sound of the beautiful Portuguese language that walking down the street I do not need to listen intensely to understand what is being said, the sounds find their way to my ear themselves. Although it has taken time to grow accustomed to the language and to be able to speak it without effort I feel like I just fully arrived in my home stay and would do anything to stay just a week, maybe a month, even a year more in Brazil. As the other fellows and I say, “The passengers on the plane will be asking what happened when we all start crying as we sit in our seat and understand that the trip truly is over.”
Currently, the last thing that is on my mind is that in a week I will be saying goodbye to my home stay family, to the people at my apprenticeship, to the animals I see every day, to Florianopolis, the beginning and end of my journey, and to Brazil; to some people Brazil is the home to Samba, Futebol, and Carnaval, but to me the place of beautiful people, wild animals, my room, the smell of Pastel, beaches, and my current comfort.
Even though it may feel as if I just arrived in Brazil a few weeks ago, it has been eight months. Eight beautiful months in which I have found my voice, the confidence that I have never had before and which will guide me throughout my life, an appreciation of who I am, and, most importantly, an understanding that everything grows with a little discomfort. Returning home, it will be difficult to be in the same place I was eight months ago because the girl that left is not the same girl that is returning. Throughout these last eight months I have gone through a lot of internal struggling.
During the first month it was very difficult to get accustomed to Brazilian life as I wanted to be back in the comfort of my high school with people who I have known for the past four years and teachers who took care of me. Although people cared about me during the first month I felt alone, building friendships with other fellows or struggling to speak with my host mom in a language I did not yet know. Building friendships, I knew some of them would be hard to continue after fellows get moved to different areas of Brazil. In late September, Brazilian staff decided that I would be staying in Paulo Lopes for the remainder of my time in Brazil. Arriving in Paulo Lopes, I knew it would be a place where I would have the time and environment to rethink many things from my entire life. My host family was special, as the Brazilian staff would say, “The perfect fellow for the perfect family”. Although my host family was special, I spent days missing my family but I think it is normal for someone who is very family oriented to be homesick when they are spending so much time away from their real family. Unfortunately, things did not go as well as everyone hoped and I had to change home stays to my In-Country home stay family. I tried to handle this change very well, although it was emotionally very difficult for me. This change made me rethink many things about myself and also made me become more self conscious; it is at this moment that my thoughts changed from “I am average” to “I am special and therefore I should care more about my well being”. Arriving in my new old host family I became to understand that everything is about perspective.
Although I arrived in my new old host family with conflicted emotions, not understanding what just occurred I was welcomed very warmly by my current host family. Being in Florianopolis again made me understand that I have changed from the last time I was here. Most importantly my perspective changed, I was no longer thinking about my time in Brazil as two more long months to go but as just two months left. This change of perspective from “I want time to go faster” to “I do not want to go home” made time fly. It was a change of perspective caused by the situation I was in. Currently, I am still in honeymoon mode with my host family and as I have said I am not ready to say goodbye. I know I will have to say goodbye in less than two weeks and it will be heart breaking. I know that one day when I return to Brazil things will not be the same as they are today and that I will be different, marked by even more experiences. One thing that keeps me optimistic is that I will see my host mom and host sister in July in New York City where they will be staying at my house. Yet, this does not mean that I do not wake up every day, trying to grasp every second that is going by which makes people back home upset that I do not want to return. When they ask me why I do not want to leave, I tell them,
“Brazil has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Brazil to me has become the definition of change, growth, and understanding. The girl that left is not the same that will return. She matured and looks at the world with a different perspective. Yet, she knows that she has many more roads to travel until she will know who she really is.”