Monday, September 13, 2010

A day in the life...+ some insight into moodswings and homesickness

I realized that my blog posts have mainly been about specific experience occurring on specific days that are often more exciting than the average day here in João Pessoa. I haven’t written much about my day-to-day life in general or about my feelings about this experience thus far, so that’s what I’m writing about today.

My average daily schedule
6:30- Wake up, take a cold shower (no hot water here, brrrr!), eat breakfast, which varies, but is usually something along the lines of a hot cheese sandwich, cake, and lots of fruit.
7:10- Go to school, where I have 6 classes. There is a break between the 4th and 5th class where the kids have a snack and chat amongst themselves.
12:40- School ends. Go home and have lunch, which nearly always contains rice, beans, 2 kinds of meat, pasta and a salad. There are usually additional small dishes as well, and a dessert. We eat a LOT for lunch here.
1:00- Digest (which takes some time here) while watching ‘Friends’ for an hour. It’s always on from 1-2 on weekdays, and in English!
2:00- Do some facebooking, emailing, blogging, etc.
3:30- Go for a run on the beach! I am often happiest when I’m running. It’s so beautiful right next to the ocean that I can’t help but enjoy myself. I’m often running without other people around, which is also nice, because mid-afternoon is usually the ‘siesta’ time, and most people prefer to run around 5 when it’s cooler. True, it is hot when I run, but after sitting all day I like running sooner rather than later.
4:30- Swim in the pool! Very refreshing after running
5- Read or some other leisure activity. I read a lot here, I’ve already finished 5 books! Most of the reading has been done during school though...haha
6ish- Go out with friends/other exchange students. I actually go out quite a bit here, and I know I’m really lucky to be able to. My house is in the perfect location, right next to the beach, so I just walk down and meet friends and we hang out and eat together, usually. Food is really cheap here, which is lucky, because I feel like all we ever do is eat!
10- Go home and get a good night’s rest! On week days I seriously do go to bed at 10 most nights. Brasil is a tiring place!
Weekends are slightly more exciting. Sometimes I go to the beach to swim with friends, or to the mall, or to see a movie, or out dancing, or to some other random rotary/family event. My days aren’t all that exciting, but overall I’m pretty content with the way things are.

Mood swings
Daily changes in my mood mainly involve feelings toward this exchange, feelings toward other people, and feelings about myself. Sometimes I feel absolutely euphoric and over-flowing with happiness, and then like five minutes later I could be filled with anxiety and worry. Each day has its highs and its lows. The times I’m feeling the most mood-swingy are when I’m alone at home with nothing to distract me. Then, I sometimes dwell on the day’s activities, especially if there was a situation that particularly bothered me. I also definitely tend to be in a worse mood when I’m tired. Sleep is like really important to me here, which is funny, because it never was in the U.S. When I’m out doing something with friends or otherwise busy or occupied, I’m happy as a clam. It’s when there are hours at a time with nothing to do that I start to become anxious, and worry about things that don’t really matter. Before I came here, I already knew it about myself that I tend to get anxious when bored, so it’s just important to keep busy. I’m lucky enough that when there’s nothing to do, I have the freedom to just leave my house and go for a walk on the beach or go get some açaí or something. Sometimes, when I’m in a particularly bad mood, I find myself getting frustrated with the people I spend the most time with, or with something the Brazilians do differently than what I’m used to. For example, the fact that Brazilians are always late. It’s totally normal for a Brazilian to show up like an hour and a half later than they said they would. At first I thought it was kind of funny, and I still do sometimes, when I don’t mind waiting and I’m in a good mood. Other times I’m like, how hard is it to show up at 7 if you say you will?! Or at least have the courtesy to call? But Brazilians don’t think the way we do in the states about time or obligations. And I feel like Paris Geller in Gilmore Girls as I tell myself ‘Just breathe, accept it, and move on’. Haha, I try not to get frustrated by these little things, but sometimes it’s hard. I know that getting used to these types of cultural differences is of course perfectly normal, and I bet I won’t be quite as timely as I once was when I return to the states after this year.

For the first two weeks that I was here, there literally wasn’t room in my head to be homesick. I was meeting sooo many new people and trying to remember all of their names, seeing lots of new places, and getting used to all the cultural differences that come with an exchange. I think I rarely thought about home during that time. Also, I didn’t have internet for the first month I was here, which, looking back on it, I actually think helped astronomically with not being homesick. Although I was really frustrated at the time not having internet, getting that initial distance was just what I needed to fully adjust to my new life here. I had my first skype conversation with my parents three weeks in, and by that time I was comfortable enough where I was to handle seeing their faces and not feel extremely homesick. When I finally did get internet, it was extremely over-whelming. I was closer to home than ever as all of a sudden I was able to facebook, email, and skype whoever I wanted whenever I wanted. I felt like I had this huge luxury. Incidentally, I’ve probably missed home more since I got internet than before, which I think is a combination of being here more than a month, when things are more routine and less new and exciting, and being able to contact home if I want to. I don’t think I actually am homesick though. I just have a little bit of a runny nose, if we’re comparing it to being physically sick. There are certainly things that I miss, but I’m very happy here for the most part. Here are the things that I miss the most (in no particular order):

-Free water and drinking water in general here. NO ONE DRINKS WATER. And you’d think they’d be dehydrated all the time because it seems like they just drink guarana and coca-cola! Its trivial, but I really miss going out to eat and ordering a water for free. Water is more expensive than food in some places!
-Playing organized sports. I got this huge lump in my throat when the pictures of girl’s soccer started going up on facebook. I want to play soccer so bad! But the only girl’s soccer teams I’ve been able to find here are for like ages 14 and under. I’ve been running to keep in shape, but its not the same. I even had a dream about playing basketball last night and that season doesn’t start until November! Hopefully I’ll be able to find some sort of team I can play on for some sport. Even volleyball would do!
-Hanging out at people’s houses. Whenever I hang out with friends here, we go to the beach or mall or something. Its sort of rare to go to people’s houses, maybe because most people live in smaller apartments. I sort of miss the comfort of being in a house with friends.
-Ice Cream. The one and only food I feel is inferior to American food here is the ice cream. Its sort of icey/frosty and not as creamy. I miss Hogan brother’s ice cream, culver’s custard, and DQ’s blizzards!
Of course I miss my family and friends too, but that’s sort of a given. For now I think I’m doing pretty well concentrating on the things I love about here rather than what I miss at home. So I think the real homesickness hasn’t quite hit me yet.

I’ve been in Brasil for about 6 weeks since yesterday. This is so weird to me! It feels like I’ve been here for months already. Although graduation was just a little over three months ago, it seems so far in the past, and as though the memory belongs to a different person’s life. As the days pass by here, I feel like time should be standing still back in Minnesota. I finally realized that that was not the case when people started moving into college, and school started up again. Although I do feel like graduation was ages ago, I also feel like summer just started. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that its getting hotter and hotter here every day, but still, it just doesn’t seem right to me that time, and along with it, everyone’s lives back in the U.S., are moving forward too. I don’t know if I thought time would just freeze when I left for Brasil, but I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that things will change while I’m gone, and that in some ways I’ll come back to a different life than I left behind. Although it is Northfield, so at least the town itself will likely stay pretty much the same.
Tchau e beijos amigos!

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