So it’s been a little over two months since I arrived in Brasil, and for the most part I feel like time has gone by really fast. Summer is on the brink of arrival here, which makes me miss fall, but also appreciate the incredible beauty of Joao Pessoa. It never rains anymore, the sky is always a cloudless blue, and the ocean a perfect turquoise. Yesterday I was running on the beach with my friend Anna, and I just had this moment of pure bliss and awe as I was gazing out at the sea. It was at my favorite time of day, just a few minutes before 5, when the sun is starting to set. Where the ocean meets the sky, the sky turns a pinkish orange from the reflection of the setting suns light. The contrast of the colors is something I would want to paint, it’s so beautiful! The sunset seems so much grander when you see it on the ocean, but at the same time it gives me a calming feeling. I never lose sight of the fact that I am unbelievably lucky to be in this city, mostly because the beauty of it reminds me of this every day. I really can’t thank rotary enough! Now for a few other thoughts and musings:
There are 7 exchange students besides myself in my city, and I feel like this is quite a lot. It has been both a blessing and a burden. Don’t get me wrong, I really like all the other exchangers here, and we’ve become quite close. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone else on a daily basis who’s going through the same thing you are. However, rotary warned us, and I was also warned by previous exchange students, not to hang out with only exchange students. At first, this was rather difficult, especially because none of us spoke great Portuguese, but all of us spoke great English. During the first 2 weeks I became especially close with Anna (from Hungary) and Charlotte (from Germany). I really love them both, and I feel like we’re going to be lifelong friends. However, we were probably together more than we should have been. But as time has passed, I’ve made more and more Brazilian friends, and in a lot of ways us exchange students have each other to thank for the Brazilians we meet. My exchange student friends have introduced me to a lot of their Brazilian friends that they’ve met, and I do the same for them. I feel like I have a lot more Brazilian friends than I would’ve if I was the only exchange student here, because we help one another out. And I now go out on a regular basis with other Brazilians, which has been really nice because I speak Portuguese at all times with them, and with the other exchangers I usually speak English. Also, I just love Brazilians in general! I don’t know if I’ve said this enough before, but they are the kindest, most generous, most fun-loving souls I’ve met. This country and its people have welcomed me with open arms, and I’m so grateful!
As I’ve made more Brazilian friends, school has become easier and easier to bear. There was a period like a month and a half ago where I absolutely hated school, and dreaded going so much that I purposely tried to ignore the maid or my mom when they knocked on my door to wake me up, and pretended like I slept through it. I’m not proud of this, but school was seriously the most miserable thing ever. I read seven books during the first month and a half! Now however, things are different. First, I sort of adopted the attitude that there isn’t really much else I’d be doing between the hours of 7 am and 1 pm. I’d just sit in my house and be bored doing nothing, so it’s better to be at school with everyone else. Also, I've gotten to know all the other students SO much better, and sometimes I actually look forward to school so that I can see them. I have yet to look forward to the part where I sit in the class watching the teacher ramble on in Portuguese about stoichiometry and the Russian Revolution (about 80% of the time) but I no longer hate it so much. My friends are super cool and nice, and they help me out with Portuguese, understanding the culture and just anything I need, so it’s really fun seeing them every day. However, I have no school for the rest of this week because the Brazilian students have tests, and I’m definitely not complaining!
I’m starting to feel less and less like a tourist here. Of course I still look like a tourist, probably even more so because my hair has gotten blonder from the sun, but I feel like I could probably give someone directions or something if the place they wanted to go was in my neighborhood or the surrounding ones. I also find myself wanting to show people around and introduce them to my favorite areas of Jampa (that’s João Pessoa’s nickname). I want someone to visit me so I can show them this amazing city! So if you know anyone who wants to come to João Pessoa, I’ll be their tour guide!
Before my exchange, I was really used to having lots of things stressing me out, and because of this I think I was really good at handling stress. What with balancing a schedule full of AP classes, three sports, music, and a host of other things, I had a lot on my plate and was able to handle it well. Here, however, it’s really not obligatory for me to do anything. I think I keep myself busy enough, though. Its not really hard to find things to do here. The thing is that I get stressed out about the smallest things that really don’t matter at all, and I feel like I wouldn’t have worried about these things back home. I just get sort of anxious, and there really is no reason for it, which bothers me. I just need to stop worrying about the little things, even though there really are no big things. It should be a good thing that I have nothing big to worry about, but it’s definitely made me worse at handling stress, because I think my mind is sort of trained to stress itself out about something! My mood can change at the drop of a hat too! I can be in a bad mood and then some small thing can happen and I can be over the moon. I think you have to be an exchange student to know exactly what this feels like. It’s so weird!
My Portuguese has also become much better. The language barrier is still there to some extent, but I can carry on a conversation quite well. I’ve been told that I have a huge American accent, but by the end of the year hopefully I can speak more like an actual Brazilian. I also just love speaking in Portuguese in general now! Its fun for me! The exchange students always want to speak in English while we’re together which just makes sense because some of them can’t really carry on a conversation in Portuguese, however, I have so much fun just talking about nothing in particular in Portuguese with my Brazilian friends! Also, yesterday I had a fun moment when I was talking to my friend Maria, who is in Argentina, on skype. She was speaking in Spanish, and I in Portuguese, but we understood each other perfectly! I love languages!
Anyways, life is good on my end here in Brasil. Hopefully everyone’s fall has been enjoyable so far! Beijos!