Dear Mum and Dad,
My hair is longer and my skin darker. My family has expanded, stretching from America, England, Australia and Brazil. I have friends who speak several languages, who have grown up in the Middle East, South America, and Europe. I have argued, agreed and changed. I learned how to cook rice in many different combinations and how to work together at churrascos to feed an army of family members.
My first day I could only say my name and where I was from, though I wouldn’t have understood if someone actually asked me my name in Portuguese. I presented my family with several small gifts, one of them being a “Sisters Oregon” board. My host dad immediately put a nail in the wall and hung the little souvenir up right in the living room.
One time I sat through an entire conversation not understanding anything, but too embarrassed to stop the passionate preacher. So I just nodded my head and inserted “yes” at timely intervals. My family taught me their customs, as we ate acai, drank guarana, took walks to the beaches, the dunes, and had churrascarias.
I loved every second as I fell hundreds of times while dune surfing, because I stood up for another hundred. I was able to climb the mossy rocks that rimmed the ocean, so that when I got to the top I saw my town from a distance nestled between the brazilian forests. I danced at the beach all night and stayed to watch the sunrise.
Another time I helped cook dinner with my host dad and we both ended up crying while cutting onions. It was the ultimate Hallmark moment!
I have had coffee in all of the cafes in town, and can’t decide which is my favorite. I tried countless foods I had never heard of including quindiums, chicken hearts, eel, and pasties, all of which I would eat again.
I witnessed the joining of two families when you came here and were graciously accepted into my host family’s house for lunch. Sure, neither of you spoke the others language but smiles transcend barriers.
I celebrated birthday parties, Dia de Finado (Day of the Dead), Christmas, and New Year. I attended church, even though I am not religious myself. I sang in the streets with my family during the Day of the Three Kings. I counted down the seconds to the New Year perched on a mountain and watched as the fireworks hurtled through the sky.
I wasn’t the only student. I taught my community what my life is like in America. I told them stories about our record breaking snowfall from last year, and the scorching heat that followed in summer. They would commiserate with me about Michel Temer and Donald Trump, and we realized how similar our countries are. I laughed it off as my younger brother declared that the only type of soda we have in the U.S was Coca Cola and we had never seen or heard of orange soda. We would watch documentaries that almost always took place in America and because of this I was able to show them where I live. There was a moment during the show Grey’s Anatomy, where I exclaimed triumphantly that I had taken that ferry, and had been at the top of the space needle. It made the show real for my brothers and their eyes opened wide with excitement as the show came to life. I realized these things seem normal to me but to someone else it’s something out out of a fairytale.
I’m inexplicably happy to be home with you now. I love my small town and I have a renewed appreciation for the things we have here in Oregon. I love the smell of the pine trees, sharing coffee with you in the mornings, and the snow. How I have missed the snow. I see the job opportunities we have and feel an endless amount of luck that minimum wage is not four reais ($1.50) per hour. My next big adventure awaits me at University and I feel prepared, with a little more common sense and a lot more knowledge of global events, than I had one year ago.