November is supposedly the rainiest month of the year.  Here in Ouro Branco, after the rain, it becomes pretty cold.  But everything is becoming green again, taking away the depressing atmosphere you’d usually see in a big city or somewhere with little nature left if it were to rain for 19. days. straight.

This is my last week of school.  Next week everyone has to take their final exams and then soon after, summer will be here again.. just for me. 🙂  I can’t really study the material like a normal student nor am I expected to take the tests and study the material like a normal student because it’s only my first semester.  However, when school starts again in February and I have all of my books, I’m going to have to receive good grades for the sake of the AFS program.  No more being a lazy student.

I spent the 4 day weekend last week in Guarapari, a little beach town in the state of Espirito Santo.  To my luck, it rained since we arrived and the sun came out 2 days after we left.  I had a good time, regardless.  I ate “Mexican food” (it was close enough), something I’ve been craving for the longest time, and some really good lobster, something I’ve also craved.  When I stepped on the scale after 4 days of vacation, I had gained 5 kilos.
Since then, I’ve dieted and managed to lose most of the weight but I still must continue to diet until my holiday in Rio which is slowly approaching.

 

Me & my AFS President.
I don’t know which motivated me more to stop eating, being called “puffy” by my Dad and my grandparents or not fitting into my favorite jeans.

Why exchange students gain lots of weight in Brazil.

I found Nappy’s twin.  He’s too cute to be stray.

 


College Essay

27Oct10

So here you can kind of get inside my mind.  The more mushy/emotional side of my exchange that I have to send to colleges in 4 days.  Tell me what you think.  NYU material?

I’ve always wanted to be rootless – attach my heart to someplace and other people halfway across the world.  I knew that was the type of person I was, however, I never got to put myself to the test since my family and I moved to the US when I was at a very young age.  I had periods of fascinations with different countries, people, and cultures all throughout my youth.  I dreamed of being an exchange student since middle school.  I didn’t really care where I went at that time, just that I wanted to make myself into a citizen of the world.

I knew that life would still be life; an exchange wasn’t going to be like some adventure-packed movie plot or a year-long vacation.  The expectations and ideas I had about Brazil’s culture, people, and life that lured me to exchange there were partly true.  I expected Brazilian people to be very lighthearted and down to earth.  I expected to eat beans and rice everyday and have a simpler life than I had in the US.  Not only am I appreciating the life I had in the US because of being in an underdeveloped (when compared to Europe, Canada and the US) Latin American country, I’m learning to speak another language fluently and adapt to another lifestyle and culture on its actual motherland.

At times, my life here feels as if it were just a dream rather than a new life happening 6,000 miles away from the comfort zone I grew up in.  Every day, I’m speaking Portuguese as though I were a local, eating barbecued chicken hearts from my host family’s “churrasqueria”, driving by cows and horses wondering freely around my little host city, and seeing the huge mountains of Minas Gerais right outside of my window.  Am I really living in a foreign country?  The realization hasn’t really hit me yet.

There is a humanity here and all over Brazil (including its biggest cities) within the people that you cannot find in Europe or the States.  Many know that Brazil is progressing into an economic world power; however, I don’t see the people becoming colder or the clothes and buildings becoming more lavish.  Brazil is the opposite of Qatar; the progress of the country isn’t silencing the Brazilian peoples’ warm spirit or the beauty and zest of their culture.  During Carnaval, all Brazilians, whether they are from good or bad financial conditions, come together to celebrate an almost never-ending party.  I admire them for being able to maintain such important aspects of what define them as a people, regardless of how rich their country becomes.  There is a lot I can learn from being here and actually becoming Brazilian rather than solely visiting as a tourist. I think this aspect of Latin America is underestimated and misunderstood by many people.

An exchange to any country is a life-changing experience.  Even though study abroad is available in almost every American college, high school exchange remains to be fairly uncommon.  CSIET.org released statistics for the academic year of 2009-2010 comparing the amount of non-American students who exchanged to the US during high school (28,142) and the amount of American students who went abroad during high school (1,980).  Unfortunately, one of the largest barriers many students who would like to do an exchange face is the expensive tuition. However, scholarships, fundraising, and other options are available.

At this moment, I cannot tell you that I’m no longer American, because from day to day, I am still called “gringa”.  But Brazil is becoming my adopted home just as I am becoming an adopted Brazilian.  After just three months of being in this country, I have made great friends and developed a second family which I love deeply.  Even though my exchange is challenging in every way I could have ever imagined, I know I am becoming a stronger, well-rounded, and overall better person from it.  Going on exchange is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.  The only thing I fear is how returning to the US and having to start my old life again will be after splitting my heart in two places, each on two different continents.  But I know I will still be able to feed my hungry world citizen soul at NYU, and probably find a little bit of Brazil in everywhere and everyone I encounter.


I’ve been in Brazil for over 9 weeks now, but the relationships I have here make me feel like I’ve been here for years.  I have good friends, a good host family who I can act dorky around (and my real family knows just how dorky I can be).  And although some people call me retarded, it’s with a good vibe and everyone here more or less understands my humor.

I now know how to get around Ouro Branco as if I were a local.  My Portuguese is becoming better every day-when I’m not feeling lazy.  I can successfully get around with transportation to other cities and order food (or drinks 😉 ) in a restaurant or bar. I can walk in tall, crazy Brazilian heels without falling everywhere. And I’m beginning to like Brazilian country music (sertanejo) which is strange because in the US, I couldn’t have been caught dead listening to American country music.

I love and really appreciate my placement in Minas Gerais.  After visiting São Paulo to take the SAT, I’ve realized why Mineiros are famous for being so wholesome and overall a good people.   It’s only here that people I hardly know invite me to their house to eat good, hearty, Brazilian food.  Homesickness quickly drew by me because the people here have really big hearts, like me.  🙂  Of course I miss my family, friends, and dog,  but my exchange is worth all of the hard work I put into making it happen last year.  A lot of other exchange students say that the first 3 months are usually miserable since it’s the adapting period, but I haven’t really felt totally miserable since I’ve arrived here, at all.

By the way, I’ve lost 2 kilos while the German exchange students have all gained 4-8 kilos in the 2 months we’ve been here.  I’m doing something right!

Just letting everyone know I’m fine since my father was asking me to update my blog.  I’m probably going to go to sleep right now as I’m still tired from the 6-day festival that was here in Ouro Branco.  And I only went 4 out of the 6 days. 😀

An English teacher who invited me to her house to eat really good food in Con. Lafaiete

The “Christ statue” in Lafaiete.  One day, I will see the real one..

Jumping into photos @ fraternity parties in Ouro Branco,  🙂


So yesterday was the end of the Arrival Orientation for all of the exchange students in Minas Gerais and I miss them, they’re some really great people.

All of the exchange students arrived to Ouro Branco from different cities around Minas Gerais including Varginha, Patos de Minas, Capelinha, Belo Horizonte, and Montes Claros.  On Friday night, we all went out and all of us immediately connected.  Since I’m the only exchange student in Ouro Branco, it was so refreshing to meet other students going through the same thing as I’m going through.

After going through the AFS orientation on Satuday, which really was just a discussion about our experience in Brazil, about its culture, etc. so far, we went out to another choperia and we were drinking some caipirinhas this time. 🙂  All of the Germans, Belgians, Italians, the other American girl, and the one French boy are so much fun.  I got to practice my Italian and made some really good friends I know will be important for the rest of my experience here in Brazil, and in my life.

Sunday, everyone left but I’m already planning a trip to go to BH to visit the Belgian and the Germans who are placed there!

Friday night at a choperia with some of the intercambistos.

Saturday night out with the intercambistos.
Left to Right: Giulia from Italy, Ana from Germnany, Joelle from Utah, Henrike from Germany, Lisi from Germany, Me, and Gianfranco from Italy.

During Orientation.
L to R: Saco (top- he kind of looks like Leonardo di Caprio lol) , Hendrik from Germany, Me, Joelle, Elie from France, Ana, and Giulia.

@ the choperia Friday night.
Saco from Belgium Flanders, me, Giulia.

Before they all left 😦


Feriado

09Sep10

In case you didn’t know, Brazil has a lot of holidays.  Last Tuesday was Brazilian Independence Day so that meant a 4 day weekend.  Students still take the rest of the week off because it doesn’t make much sense (to them) to go to school for only three days.  It doesn’t apply to me anyway, because I am switching schools.  My original school was about 20 km away so it makes more sense if I just go to school in Ouro Branco.  I have mixed feelings about the transfer.

Friday night was the birthday of my host sister’s best friend, Luana. We went to BH and stayed with their friend, Marcela.  She has a beautiful apartment in a nice neighborhood in Belo Horizonte.  Belo Horizonte is probably my favorite big city in Brazil- it reminds me of San Francisco.  Marcela’s husband is an important man in the bar/club business so they tried to get me into a night club but it wouldn’t work.  So I stayed in the apartment with the cute shitzu, Fluffy.

Fluffy

The Dog, fluffy

Me and Luana (dressed up to go nowhere, really, lol)

Belo Horizonte- I want an apartment here!!

Driving back to Ouro Branco with Fluffy

I went to a new choperia (bar/restaurant) on Sunday and on Monday, I went to a concert of Axé Bahia “artist” Tomate.
I don’t want to turn you off from Brazilian culture, people, music, nightlife, etc.  But I’m going to tell it like it is- I felt like I was in the red light district in Thailand.  It seemed to me that the guys go there to break their records of how many people they kiss in one night.  I became appreciative of the nasty lawsuits people make in the States for once.  The men are without shame, of all ages, from 12 to 50 touching any attractive girl’s hair, body, arms, face, etc.  They are the most boldfaced men I have ever encountered in my life, and I thought I would never encounter a race of men worse than Trinis.  They grab your head, forcing you to kiss them, they put their face in yours, grab your arm really tightly, say the stupidest pick-up lines I’ve ever heard- all for kissing a girl they probably won’t see or talk to ever again.  Guys are retarded.

The 2 girls I went with from my town and I became tired of the crowd and we left “early.”  Most people went on until 8-9 in the morning, but we left a 4 🙂

Other than that horrible experience-which was good for me to experience- I didn’t do much for the rest of the holiday.  On my Portuguese, let me say I had to show all of the Brazilian guys my Florida ID to prove I was American because they didn’t believe me when I was speaking Portuguese.


I just want to share something (again) which I said in my previous blog post:

“I ate so much even though I was sick. I can’t wait to eat it again however, I think that won’t be until at least a few months because feijoada is pretty heavy and fattening.”

Guess what I ate today? Feijoada.

And yesterday? Feijoada.

I guess I’m developing the Brazilian palate?

ahahahaha


So my exchange started with a weekend to Belo Horizonte and a farewell party with teenagers my age acting like, well, Brazilians teenagers. And now, my exchange has slowed down a bit. I guess it’s because I arrived at the end of the 2 week ferias (vacation) and they were still in the ferias-party mode. Now, my classmates are studying and getting back into their daily routine which means I must adjust to their daily routines as well. My weekdays go like this: wake up at 6 am, go to Lafaiete (20km away) for 7. Go to school until 12:20 with one breakfast break at 9:30. Come home at around 1, go eat a huge lunch (rice, beans, cove, and some sort of meat/sausage/chicken EVEEEEEEEERY DAY), go to Icbeu(the English school my host sister teaches at). Do homework, read a book, listen to music, help the kids with English, practice conversational English with the adult classes. Leave Icbeu at 9. So, it really gets interesting only on the weekends. Last weekend was a bad one for me except for Saturday afternoon when Tatiane’s friend from Vitoria, Davis picked me up to eat reallly good feijoada with his family. I ate so much even though I was sick. I can’t wait to eat it again however, I think that won’t be until at least a few months because feijoada is pretty heavy and fattening.  I’m trying to take it easy; I prefer my clothes to most of the clothes here.
I’ve been in school for a month but I’m still having trouble speaking Portuguese although I understand about 75% of it. School is different though. I’ve never done Physics in America so I’m probably going to get slammed on the exams. Chemistry, Biology/Anatomy, Geography, etc. are all pretty hard to understand in Portuguese too. I’m really trying to learn Portuguese and all of the students are trying to learn English so it works out. None of them speak English well though, so my brain is fried at the end of the 5 hour school day (yes, 5 hours).
Last weekend I was sick so I stayed in bed for 4 days. I had bronchitis and I didn’t even take antibiotics. I went to a Brazilian doctor for the first time and she told me to inhale the vapor of eucalyptus. I’ve done that for 3 nights in a row and I’m good as new 🙂 The doctors office in Ouro Branco was interesting to visit. And I’m not used to seeing people just walk in and not pay anything for the doctor, wooo cultureshock. kkkkkkkkkk
So far, I’ve only been called a gringa once. I’ve been here 27 days- I’d think that’s a serious accomplishment. Otherwise, everyone thinks that I am Brasileira. Muito legal, neh?

Just because I forgot to show you photos from my weekend in Belo Horizonte:Me eating Brigadeiro (condensed milk and chocolate) in Belo Horizonte. FAT!! kkk

Minas Gerais não tem mar, então iremos ao bar!My host-cousin! kkkkkkkkk

Host cousin and aunt in Bh

The 2 kids from Ouro Branco that left for Belgium