Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rotary training, time, thirst, and big fat Americans??

I haven’t blogged in awhile, and when that happens I get all of these ideas building up in my head that I want to write about, but they really have nothing to do with each other. So this is a real hodge-podge of my random thoughts and experiences over the past few weeks!

This past weekend I went to a training camp for rotary in a small town called Maragogi. All the exchange students from Norbrex (Northern Brazilian Exchange-my district) drove down together in a big coach bus. It was really fun to meet all the other exchangers, and they came from all over the world. I’d say the majority were actually from the U.S., but there were students from at least 20 other countries there as well. In Joao Pessoa there are 7 exchange students, and we come from Hungary, Germany, Finland, France, Denmark, and 2 from USA including myself, but altogether in my district I’d say there are more than 50 exchangers. Maragogi was actually pretty cold the whole time we were there. It was the first time since I’ve been here that the temperature got below 70, and it actually felt really chilly compared to what I’m used to! While we were in Maragogi, we had lots of free time so we swam, ate, played volleyball, soccer, and other games for most of the time. Just playing a game of pick up soccer made me really miss organized sports! I’m hoping to start playing handball here since they don’t have soccer for girls my age. We also got to see a capoeira show, which was really cool. Capoeira is sort of like a mix of kick-boxing, break dancing, and karate. Music plays and the…I don’t know…capoeira-ers…dance around each other while doing all kinds of acrobatics, high kicks, and other impressive things. This is also something I’ll hopefully try when I’m here! We also got to go to these natural swim pools out in the ocean. However, we rode there on these tiny little boats that did not seem fit to navigate the ocean on that particular day, as it was very windy and rainy. Basically everyone made the mistake of not bringing anything warm to Maragogi, (because its Northeasten Brazil of course! Who would think it every got cold?) so we were all shivering the entire boat ride. Once we got there however, the water was lovely and warm. All the important rotary chair-people from Norbrex were also in Maragogi with us. They are all delightful people who are so willing to help with anything and everything the exchange students need! Rotary here is quite well organized, I feel very lucky to be here with people who are experienced and know what they’re doing. Brazilians in general are always so outgoing and eager to do what they can to make you feel comfortable and welcome, which is one of the many things I love about this culture.

The concept of time is completely different in Brazil than it is in the U.S. In the U.S., we never have enough time. We are always trying to think of ways to save time, and no matter how many seconds we shave off of the drive to the store, or how fast we eat our food, there is always more time that can be saved. We rarely just enjoy the passing of time. The Brazilians act like they own time. That, or they just don’t care about it at all. We don’t even have a clock in my house here. I have to use my cell phone as a clock/watch. Brazilians have their own way of measuring time as well. If one of them says we’re going to leave in 10 minutes, you can expect to leave in about an hour and a half, but even that isn’t guaranteed. If they say they’ll pick you up at 7, it’ll be around 8:30. I can’t tell if the same situation applies when I’m coming home at night. If my mom tells me I have to be home at 12, does that really mean 1? Probably best not to test this theory I suppose.

I miss free water!
Brazilians never drink water. Ever. I am the only one in my house who drinks water, and I have never seen a Brazilian carry a waterbottle, or drink water with any meal, or order water at a restaurant, etc. This may be because water is expensive here. I am so used to being able to get water basically anywhere I want in the U.S. for free, but here you have to pay for a bottle of water at a restaurant, as well as for filtered water at your house, since you can’t drink directly out of the faucet. There are also no water fountains in public places. Whenever I am out, I feel constantly thirsty. I think this is psychological, though, because I know I can’t just get some water whenever and wherever I want. Luckily, there are fresh coconuts sold every few feet on the beach and their water is better and cheaper than a regular bottle of water! When I am at home, I drink water all the time, which my family thinks is funny. Back in the U.S., I basically only drank water and milk, with the occasional glass of orange juice. I haven’t had a single glass of milk this whole time, which hasn’t bothered me too much, but I can’t live without water. The Brazilians drink Guarana and Coco-cola with nearly every meal, and I’ve never really liked pop that much. I’m definitely adapting to it, though. Guarana is pretty delicious! And I love it when we drink juice here, its always fresh-squeezed with tropical fruits!

What does Brazil think of USA?
The main things that Brazilians seem to associate with the U.S. include the following: McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and other fast food, Lady Gaga, fat people (this actually seems unfair, because I definitely see just as many fat people, or more, here as I do in the U.S.), cold weather, TV shows (such as friends, two and a half men, and supernatural), and bad soccer teams. When people ask me questions here about the US, it’s usually involving pop-culture or food or something. I’ve only been asked once about politics, but it was my history teacher who asked me. He asked me who I liked, Obama or Bush. I actually got really excited then and started rambling about how great Obama is and he looked sort of overwhelmed so I stopped. Anyways, Brazilians always seem genuinely interested in the U.S, and I enjoy answering their questions. Its just interesting to see what sort of associations other countries have with the U.S. There is a Finnish boy here in João Pessoa this year as well, and I asked him what he thought of when he thought of the U.S. He said he thought of a fat guy sitting on his couch watching TV while eating McDonalds. I thought this was extremely sad and said that by the end of the year, I will change his mind!
Atè mais, um beijão!


  1. BERET! I can relate to all of this :) minus the rotary orientation part!! But, it really is wierd when 60-70 degrees feels cold in the beginning it was so nice, and now people make fun of me and say "aren't you used to this from Minnesota?" I LOVE WATER too and NOONE drinks it here either! Only with tereré, but I drink so much and my family finds it amusing. I've experienced the same thoughts on America too, they thought I was gonna be uma gordinha...then I showed up...hahah Everyone asks me if parties are like American Pie movies and if school is like Mean Girls. I have to tell them over and over again that it's not. I really enjoyed reading this dear! Hope to see you sometime within the year! Beijos!

  2. I AM THE SAME WAY WITH THE WATER!!! Seriously, Brasil, what the heck?! Hahaha I feel bad because I always empty the jug of water that's kept in the fridge...oops. I just can't get used to all of the pop that they drink, and the lack of water.

    The weather here has been relatively cooler than where you guys are. A couple of weeks ago there were days when I was going to bed in sweatpants, a sweatshirt and my fuzzy socks. Thankfully, it's warming up now :)

    But, p.s., I love Brasil :)

    tchau e beijos de sete lagoas