procurando meu coração leve

10Apr11

One week ago when I chatted on facebook with my sister, I found myself crying for the first time this year.  My grandpa went to the hospital after falling and hitting his head.  I contemplated on going home there, on the spot.  Once in a while, exchange students go through crises.  Mine happens once a month more or less- probably during PMS, but it still counts.  I doubted everything I had gone through on my exchange, whether all of the great moments I had here outweighed the terrible ones, and whether my exchange would progress any further these next 3 months I have to endure.  Endure sounds harsh, but at times, I honestly feel like that’s what I’m doing here, enduring.

Exchange is a whole lot of being bored out of your mind, tolerating people because you really have to, and doing things because you have to.  For example, my host-father is recently retired and he enjoys sharing everything Ouro Branco has to offer because God forbid the American exchange student miss something here and say Brazil is just a bunch of indios!  Last Friday, he took me to a vegetable and fruit market and explained all of the different species of potatoes, okras, beets, and pears that exist here.  I realized for the first time how tolerable I’ve become here; I have so much more patience than ever.  I listened to him talk, actively asked questions because I was semi-interested for the entire 50 minutes while the rest of the people in the market stared in amazement and sympathy.  It’s little self-recognitions like this that demonstrate how much living in another environment can really help one better themselves.

When I think about why I was put into a town like Ouro Branco with a population of 35,000 narrow-minded and provincial people and no mall or movie theater, I convince myself that one day in the great scheme of things, I’ll completely understand the purpose Ouro Branco had on me.  Sometimes I think that this entire exchange has been mundane and uneventful, that I would have achieved so much more progress and knowledge by staying in Orlando and taking up 5 AP classes.  But in those warm moments I have here with the great, simple, humble people I’ve met here always make me realize “Oh, this is why I’m here!!” and it occurs to me like an epiphany.  Ouro Branco isn’t Rio de Janeiro or Florionópolis, for sure.  It’s not a destination tourists want to visit and it’s not necessarily the ideal city for young adults and adults to live in since nothing really happens here.  But it’s still a place.  It was that random town I was placed into and that random Catholic school I now am considered a part of with those random classmates who frequent my school who are now my closest friends.  It’s a place with people I’m going to miss so much more than I know now when I’m missing my family and friends in Orlando.  It’s completely normal because what’s taking place is you’re splitting your heart in two places, or planting some of your roots or leaving some of your seeds there so you have another established home there, wherever they’re placed. But you won’t be able to ever be over there to care for the tree (life) that grew and continues to grow there, so it gradually dies.  It’s not easy to just pick up and go from an exchange since you know if you ever happen to come back, you’ll never have the same situation you had.  This whole life you create on another part of the world just comes and goes, and it’s really fast once the majority of it has past.

I have done something not even 2,000 American students participate in per year.  I went out of my way to get extra credits in order to come to a school in a foreign country where I would be instructed in a foreign language and expected to do tests in that language.  I had time to really reflect and discover new layers of myself I would have never cultivated had I stayed in my comfort zone.  This all accounts for the experience.

Last weekend was a weekend that made me think “I want to stay here forever,” because I really did love being in secluded waterfalls and forests.  These kinds of moments make me just marvel at how beautiful this country really is, and how much of it is preserved.  I can say that even though I’m completely miserable with all of these brutal bug bites that have been all over me for over a week.  I have no idea what awaits me in the amazon.
My American friend from UPittsburgh is doing university study abroad at UniCampinas in São Paulo.  He decided to visit me for a weekend to grace me with his presence.  No, he actually just wanted to see some waterfalls. haha

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One Response to “procurando meu coração leve”

  1. 1 Irving Thomas

    Cousin,

    You inspire me. I can absolutely relate to your experiences abroad. As you know, my story is quite similar. I kept a journal during my time in Italy and as I look back, as challenging as it was to live abroad and endure the differences, when I look back I only remember the positive impact it had on my life.

    I’m sure you will look back on this time there as a thing of beauty…

    I am proud of you and thank you again for sharing your life with our family!

    Sincerely,
    Irving


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