(Heads up: I’m not going to edit this heavily before posting so you will probably encounter spelling errors. )
As some of you are circling above me in hopes to peck at some scraps of information on what exactly I’m up to, I’m here to settle your vulture desires and write another blog post.
I arrived in Brazil last Wednesday, and arrived at my first host family’s home on Friday. As I discussed earlier, the weekend consisted of some gardening and visiting with my host mother, as well as walking through a park where the capybaras waddle free. Monday was Independence day and Tuesday was Curitiba’s 215th anniversary so I didn’t return to school until Wednesday. While I’m in Curitiba I’m attending and international school called SESI, where we take our own Portuguese language classes in the morning and culture classes in the afternoon where we meet up with the Brazilian students and do different activities. Today was very interesting because I was able to discuss U.S politics with some Brazilian students to see what their perspectives were and to find that their perspectives changed after my friend and I explained some of the major controversies/issues occurring in the U.S today. They first said “We think the U.S politics are better than Brazil and… perfect”. After explaining some of the challenges we are facing (with lots of effort to be unbiased in my explanations) one of them said that he didn’t realize the U.S even had issues like that.
Brazil is currently experiencing a lot of corruption in their government and an economic crisis where the U.S dollar is worth 3.87 reals, as of today. It was interesting to hear a perspective of the U.S from people of another culture. I had actually expected them to say things about the U.S from a more critical perspective and was surprised when they said what they did. Through this discussion we also talked about how much the media plays a role in the public’s understanding of political events. The media sells countries in certain ways to cover up real issues, or to portray things in a negative light, or however they decide. For example, when I told people I was going to live in Brazil this year they were surprised when I explained that no, I was not going to live in the rain forest, they were surprised that Brazil actually gets really cold (I was surprised as well…), and they were also surprised at how big Brazil is geographically. The point is, once we learn about a place through the media and don’t look into the whole picture, we receive a skewed version of what that place is actually like.
In other news, my friends and I walked to an ice cream shop that was next to both a skate park and a cemetery. The cemeteries I’ve passed by thus far in my trip have been filled with tombs rather than small graves and so we decided to visit the cemetery to see the differences from U.S cemeteries. This cemetery we walked through was 1) huge, and 2) incredibly beautiful. The tombs in this cemetery were grandiose and intricate and it was intriguing. I will forever be fascinated in the human’s obsession with death and the dead, I may never be able to understand. I think that since it is such a complete unknown, we like to give answers to it and wonder and invest lots of time and money into everything involved in death. I mean, people could live in these tombs they were so nice and some, quite large. It’s evident that the people here care about their deceased loved ones. There were faucets lining the rim of the cemetery, I’m assuming for the purpose of refilling flower vases, or watering grass that surrounds some of the tombs. Here are a couple of pictures:
This venture through the cemetery has been a highlight of my trip so far in that it was just pretty amazing. I definitely recognized some blatant culture differences and got to see something I’ve never seen before. It’s very interesting to consider how we treat the dead versus how we treat the living, and how those two actions vary from culture to culture.
So, how have I been feeling? Well. I’m incredibly home sick. I’ve started to realize that when you truly miss people, it’s not always that they’re front and center in your mind and consume your thoughts (although that’s a possibility) but the smallest pieces of your every day life may remind you of those back home. For example, there are motorcyclists zipping around everywhere here and one boy was riding around with a leather jacket and a helmet and he was thin and somewhat resembled my older brother. Another instance was that I met a Brazilian boy at SESI today who had some similar facial structures to my younger brother. Furthermore, walking by the skate park reminded me of Michael. The point is, the smallest things can spark homesickness. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you don’t focus all your energy on missing people. I’m learning how to manage that.
I’m still struggling with Portuguese, as I imagine I will do for this whole year as this is a learning process, but I am improving and I know that progress takes time. I guess I just didn’t calculate how unnerving it can be to not be able to communicate with the people around you. I feel that people may think I’m cold or shy or angry, when truly it is just that I do not know how to communicate. I can understand a lot but responding is a bit harder. However, there are some situations where I fully understand all that occurs. For example… tonight I was waiting to be picked up in a very public area, I was alone, people were bustling around me left and right. I was not in the nicest neighborhood but I also wasn’t in an area I shouldn’t have ventured to. As I was standing there two men pulled up in front of me and were basically catcalling me and asking me if I wanted to get in the car with them. I just walked away and it was fine but it was a bit scary and uncomfortable. You have to be careful here in what you do and how you respond to certain situations.
Soooo…. the weather here…. it is so cold. The actual temperature is not anywhere near to the temperatures I’ve experienced but it is so wet and humid here that the cold just feels different. The constant cloud cover is also a bit depressing but I hopefully will encounter some sun soon. My rain jacket is my savior.
I had a moment today when we were sitting down eating new and never-before-explored flavors of ice cream, doce de leite, and I was feeling pretty down. Sometimes nothing huge has to happen to make you feel down but it’s just the accumulation of lots of little things. There I was, eating my ice cream, when I felt it immensely important to just acknowledge that I never thought I’d say “Oh yea, so this one time when I was eating ice cream at this little shop in Brazil…” but yet there I was, thousands of miles away from anything I know and that’s pretty crazy. I always used to say “I’m adventurous”. It has a nice ring to it. But now I can honestly say that I am as I’m on an adventure worth discussing.
The fact that I’ve navigated public transportation alone is a big accomplishment for me, coming from a town where I thought public transportation meant a school bus. I have not been lost yet, but I’m not counting it out. This place is huge and I would have issues navigating if all the signs were in my native tongue. I recently looked at the actual numbers and there are more people in Curitiba than in the whole state of New Hampshire. I came from a school with my graduating class having about 30 kids… it’s a bit different here. It’s pretty challenging for me but I think this is good and although I’m having a hard time, I relish the fact that I’m out of my comfort zone. This trip is a big challenge for me, but how could I figure myself out if I was just handed situations to me that I was accustomed to?
Well, thanks for reading, I will continue to post as regularly as possible, email me with any questions!