Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Annnnnd, That's All, Folks!

You know that strange feeling when you think back on your life and wonder, wow, where did the time go...that feels like it was just yesterday? That is my exchange year, times about a thousand. I remember sitting at the desk in the Arts Guild Shop updating my blog for the first time about leaving for Brazil in one month. Now, I am updating it four days before I am on a plane back to the United States. The intensity of this "strange feeling" as mentioned above cannot be put in words. The only thing I can think to say right now is, "WHAT. THE. HELL." (excuse the language...).

I am confident that any exchange student you talk to in the coming weeks as we return home, their reaction will be about the same. It's kind of in a state of shock that we return home now. I am currently avoiding packing my bags in fear that the reality of my return date will finally hit me--because up to now, it's not real. It's just that day that will "get here...at some point", but not now. Not now.

To say that I am not excited to go home is false. I am looking forward greatly to seeing my family, friends, dear pets...sleeping in my own bed, going for Arb runs, etc. However, saying goodbye to the people I love here, not knowing when I may see them next, will be harder than saying goodbye to my family in the airport in Minneapolis.

I have changed. There is no denying it. However, the extent to which I have changed will not reveal itself until I arrive back home. I am a little worried to see what happens with that. I am worried I may not find pleasure in the same things I did before...that I won't just be satisfied getting Indian food and renting a movie from Red Box.

This year has meant a lot to me. I have learned so much about myself, and about my place in the WORLD....not just Northfield High School, or Northfield. Now, it is the world. I am empowered and ready for my next adventure. The only question remains...where will it take me?

I just wanted to thank everyone who helped make this year a success: my Rotary Club both in Brazil, and the United States, my families, in Brazil and the United States, my friends, and the other exchange students. Without all of you, none of this would have been possible. I wouldn't be sitting on my bed nearly in tears with the thought of packing up my Brazilian life. OBRIGADA!!!!!!!

Beijos do Brasil....para sempre <3

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The "I Love My Life" Post

In all honesty, this could very possibly be my last blog entry before I return home in June...I'm done making promises I can't keep in terms of updating regularly. I apologize for being such a horrible blogger...and for my writing. My English grammar has gone down the drain entirely....

So, here's my life as I know at at this point in time:

I am studying at the local university in my city--UNIFEMM, in the course of "Direito," or Law. It has been a really great experience so far, and a much welcomed change from my previous school where I spent most of my time playing games on my iPod and nodding off in day dreams. Now that I am understanding and speaking Portuguese proficiently I can participate in class more. I am studying things such as philosophy, sociology, political science, Portuguese literature, history of Law, and Constitutional Law. I quite enjoy it! Plus, the other students are my age, which makes it easier to make friends.

I have about three months left of exchange. My return date is set, which means it's now real. I really am going back. I will not get into all the feelings I have about this--the strongest being mixtures of sadness, excitement, and a little bit of fear, to be honest. I don't know if I am ready to get back to reality. Brazil has become my reality--My life, my home. I love my family here, I love my friends. I love the food, I love the warmth, I love the sun, I love the stray dogs on the streets, I love catching buses across the city, I love the flowers. I love my afternoon naps, I love doing Pilates with my mom, I love Galo, I love Cruzeiro, and I love fighting about the two teams. I love the smell of churrascos, I love the fresh fruit juices every day, I love Pao de Queijo, I love the "abracos e beijos", and the "jeito brasileiro". And more than everything, I love being happy. Because that is my reality at this point in time--I am happy. Really happy. I don't have the same stresses here as I did in the United States, and the ones I do have are small and I have learned how to manage it better than ever. I find joy in the littlest of things here, and can hold onto that feeling for hours.

Brazil is joy. Brazil is happiness. Brazil is love....That pretty much sums up my feelings at this point. Obviously, not everything is as shiny as this all the time. But, honestly, life has been pretty good to me here. It's hard to dwell too long on the crappy things when you are surrounded by all this good.

Until next time, gente (which may in fact be in June...), BEIJOS DO BRASIL!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Brazilian December

Hello, everyone! I have returned from my one-month-long "viagem". Best. Trip. Of. My. Life. I spent 28 days on a bus with 51 other exchange students from 16 countries living in all different parts of Brazil. There's no real way to put into words everything that happened this past month, but over the next month or so, I am going to try. I will update my blog every few days with a new story from my trip and some new pictures. I don't have the patience (and neither do you) to go through an entire trip in one blog post. However, before I start in on my trip, I am going to just make a few other comments about things.

1) Christmas? What?
That's kind of how I am feeling right now. I spent my afternoon laying outside in my bikini reading Harry Potter in about 90 degree heat. I was listening to Christmas music, thinking that it would help me get in the spirit, but it just didn't feel right. I have never experienced a Christmas without at least some snow, cold weather, hot chocolate, and, of course, my family. It's hard for me to feel connected to the holiday when I feel so far from it. Christmas, for me, is at home in Northfield with the two-feet of snow and my loved ones. However, I am trying my best to appreciate the "season" here in Brazil. But, honestly, it's hard not to laugh when you walk into a shopping mall and see a bearded, Brazilian man dressed up as Santa Clause surrounded by fake snow.

2) TODAY IS THE DAY! Isn't that right, future RYE Outbounds of 2011-2012? I just got off the phone with my dad hoping to talk with my brother and find out which country he will be traveling to next year. However, my dad informed me that the letter was in his hands, but that my brother, in typical fashion, was out snowboarding. I tried convincing my dad to just open the letter, but he refused. So, as of now I still do not know where he will be going. I cannot even begin to explain how bizarre this is for me. I remember the day that I found out I was coming to Brazil like it was yesterday. I can literally describe that entire day to you. I won't, but just know that I can. Time can really screw with you. Keep that in mind, future Outbounds. At this moment, holding that letter in your hand, your departure to your country will feel like ages away. You are probably on your way to the computer to start researching everything you can about your new home, or creeping on the photos of the current Outbound who is there now. It's exciting, isn't it? Be excited. Be more excited than you think is normal, because you are just about to embark on the rest of your life. This country where you will be traveling to (before you know it...seriously) will change you forever. It will become part of you for the rest of your life. Congrats on making the best decision of your lives by choosing to be a Rotary exchange student! Parabens!

My only warning is this: time will go faster than you will be able to understand until you are five months into your exchange. So, be excited and start preparing for your exchange, but don't forget you are still in Northfield. You still have to get through school and you want to be able to enjoy your time with your friends and family while you are still on the same continent.

Alright, so once again, CONGRATS to Northfield's new group of RYE Outbounds! I cannot wait to hear about where you all are going. PLEASE if any of you have any questions, concerns, etc. send me an e-mail at carly.davidson23@gmail.com or a Facebook message. I would love to hear from you. Plus, I am on my summer vacation so I have plenty of time to spare ;)

To all of my blog-readers, I will have my first trip update soon. As in the next day or two. I promise!

Feliz Natal, beijos do Brasil

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Note from a Horrible Blogger...

SORRY!!!!!!!! I am a horrible blogger, it is official. Instead of doing a huge update right now, I am just going to say that Brazil has been busy but great. I had my last day of school today, because tomorrow I leave for a month-long tour of Brazil! I am excited, to say the least. I will be traveling by bus with around 100 other exchange students from all around Brazil and Argentina. We will start in Belo Horizonte bright and early tomorrow morning and then travel to Brasilia (the capital of Brazil). We will be there for two to three days before heading out again for the beaches of the Northeast. Along the way we will be stopping at various locations. I will return on the 16th of December. If I have the opportunity to update at all along the way, I will try. I have decided to start writing shorter blogs, more frequently...or, at least, that is the hope. For now, please follow me on Twitter. If I come across internet I will be updating my Twitter page more frequently, so be sure to check it out.

Tchau e beijos! Ate Dezembro!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Decision 2010

Prepare yourselves...it´s time to talk politics--Brazilian style. As some of you may have heard, yesterday was election day in Brazil. However, because none of the presidential candidates received a majority of the votes there will be a re-vote on October 31. I will briefly walk you through the election process in Brazil and explain how they got to this point, and what will happen in the next month.

To start off I will run through the basics:

-Brazil is a democracy and has a similar set-up to the United States. There´s a president who is elected every four years by the general public. The current president is Lula, a member of O Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Worker´s Party).

-There are 26 states, plus a Federal District, and each one has a governor, who is elected at the same time as the president. My state is called Minas Gerais, and the new governor is Antonio Anastasia of O Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democrat Party).

-There is a national and state congress, and senators are elected along with everyone else.

-You can vote at the age of 16 here. It becomes manditory once you turn 18.

-The top three presidential candidates are/were:
  • Dilma Rousseff, Lula´s hand-picked successor, also a member of o Partido dos Trabalhadores.
  • Jose Serra, of o Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, and
  • Marina Silva, of o Partido Verde (the Green Party).
Since no one received a majority of the votes, the top two candidates, Dilma and Serra, will go into round two. Voting is scheduled again at the end of this month and either Dilma or Serra will be elected president after another month of campaigning.

An important thing to note about Brazilian political parties is that there are a lot of them, and power can shift among many of them. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between Brazilian and American politics is that there is a lot less partisianship in Brazil. Because voting is mandatory, peope are forced to take the time to really learn about a candidate and vote beyond political parties. Each candidate is assigned a number, and the voter must know the number in order to place their vote. This is another convenient way to make people do at least some research about the candidates. The other thing that I have noticed is that people here openly talk about who they are voting for--something that is kept very private in the United States, people being afraid that the information could be used against them as some huge personal judgement. In Brazil, it's not necessarily party versus party, rather than issue versus issue. Hey America, let's take note of this.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to through the actual voting process with my host family. Similar to the U.S., you are assigned a location to vote based upon where you live. They split you up even further once you arrive based upon your name. I went with my host mom and sister to a classroom (voting was being held in a technical college) where there was one booth set up. Voting was done electronically this year, which greatly sped up the process. We had a list of the numbers of the candidates and all you had to do was enter in the numbers in the booth and you were done! We had cast our vote in about 2o seconds! Afterwards we went to meet up with my host dad who was still waiting in line and I was able to vote a second time with him.

Electronic voting is a very convenient method of voting. Not only is it fast while you are actually voting, but the results are announced much faster as well. Only about 45 minutes after the polls closed we knew who the new governor of Minas Gerais was. It took longer for the presidential results to come together because the Amazonian states had voted by paper, and their ballots had to be counted. By nine o'clock that night we learned that none of the presidential candidates had received a majority vote and that, as a result, there would be a second round.

Over all, I found the whole process incredibly interesting. I look forward to comparing my voting experience here with voting back in the United States (I am missing my first election year as an eighteen-year-old back in the US).

As for Decision 2010 here in Brazil, there is still one more decision to be made. I am sure I will have some more political comments after election number two. For now, tchau e beijos do Brasil.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


When people ask me what I knew about Brazil before I arrived I have two answers: the Amazon, and soccer. I am going to devote this blog entry to the latter, and in many respects, more well known aspect. There's a reason Brazil has won the World Cup more times than any other country in the world--they are obsessed with the sport, and (excuse the language) they are damn good at it, too. At least, the boys are. Girls have yet to embrace the actual playing of soccer, though they are equally enthusiastic about all other aspects of the sport.

(Pictured below: Cruzeiro's starting line-up. My little sister was one of the kids who walked in with the team. She's in the middle wearing blue shorts and a blue jersey.)

The "futebol" culture is taught at a young age and begins with the selection of a team. In Minas
Gerais you are either a "Cruzeirense" or an "Atleticano".

I will now take a brief moment to interject with my bias.....CRUZEEEIIIRROO!!!!....The team selection can vary family to family. My family right now is Cruzeirense. My next family is Atleticano (my host mom's grandfather was one of the original founders of the club), and my third family is divided between the two teams. Once you have chosen your team (or have been born into a team), it's your team. There's no going
back. No matter how many times Atletico loses this year they will still have their fans screaming that "Galo" is the best (the team's mascot is a rooster, or "galo" in Portuguese). And no matter how many times Cruzeiro wins, Atleticanos will never jump ship. There just is not a true comparison to Brazilian futebol fans' dedication in the United States. I think the greatest contributing factor to this is that Americans follow many different teams of different sports and levels, whereas in Brazil, it's soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Their enthusiasm is concentrated in a single sport, and therefore, general craziness ensues.

(Pictured below: Fans celebrate after Cruzeiro scores their first goal of the game.)

I have experienced three Cruzeiro games (four after tonight) and consider myself a new Cruzeirense for life. It's hard to put a Brazilian soccer match in words, though I will do my best, accompanied by some photos. The first thing that you should know is that Brazilians are
generally very warm, welcoming people. However, at a soccer match, they are not. There's not really such a thing as good sportsmanship here. The other thing to know is that the fans also have a very limited vocabulary at these games, comprised mostly of swearwords, inappropriate name-calling, "VAI!" (which means "go!"), and when it occurs, "GOL!" ("goal!"). In general, the swearing and name-calling is reserved for the opposing team and referees, and occasionally the coach. Whenever a player from the other team gets close enough, for example, when there's a substitution, fans take the opportunity to bombard the player with name-calling, as illustrated by my host father and sister in the picture below.

My favorite is when the older men yell, like the man pictured on the left, after the picture of my host dad and sister. I can't put it in to words, firstly because it would be hugely innapropriate, and secondly because I don't know how to spell half of what was said.

The third thing about Brazilian soccer matches is that there can be a lot of violence. This is why only fans from one team are allowed to watch the match--at least, that's how it happened in Sete Lagoas in the game between Cruzeiro and Atletico. Only Atletico fans were allowed to attend that game in order to prevent fighting between the fans. The three other Cruzeiro games were attended entirely by Cruzeirense, minus maybe a dozen supporters of the other team, who sat in a small section on the end. Not only is there violence between the fans of opposing teams, but there can be violence directed at, and between, members of the opposing team as well as the referees. One of my favorite parts of the game (besides Cruzeiro scoring goals, of course) is when the referees are walked off the pitch by five fully armored police officers (pictured above). It's great.

These games are not all violent and hateful, as it may have come across. The fans are just very passionate people! One example of the love shown by fans was at the last game the entire stadium sang "happy birthday" to Cruzeiro's amazing, beautiful goal keeper Fabio (pictured on the left). It was seriously so cool! I want a stadium of 17,000 people to sing me happy birthday...

I get so much joy from going to these games, and will never miss a Cruzeiro game in Sete Lagoas if I can help it. The stadium is conveniently located just up the street from my first host family's home. Before the game there are usually between a dozen and twenty other people all hanging around, drinking beer and talking about the upcoming match. We walk up to the game, watch and cheer, and return only to turn on the television and watch interviews with the players, highlights, and clips from other games. The next morning at breakfast, the television is on and once again we watch highlights from the night before. So. Much. Soccer. But, I love it!

Tchau e beijos gente......e VAI CRUZEIRO!

The pre-game huddle and the "Raposas", the Cruzeiro mascot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

International Peace and Cooperation...According to Rotary

Many political scientists have made the claim that "international peace and cooperation" (or maybe it is peace and security...but, for my purposes here we will modify it to cooperation) is the endgame of global politics, when analyzed through both Realist and Liberal lenses alike. In many ways, Rotary International has come closer to acheiving this goal than even the United Nations. While the United Nations remains a tangled web of old alliances and power plays between members of its Security Council, Rotary has bypassed old politics and created an organization truely based on international cooperation, and definitely a bit of Idealism.

This past week I had the opportunity to experience this cooperation in action. I traveled to Belo Horizonte last Saturday for my first District 4520 meeting. Throughout that day I met students from Australia, France, Taiwan, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and others from the United States. Although some of us were separated by the rather large and imposing barrier of language, we were united under a similar purpose--to live in and learn about Brazil and eachother. The thing about Rotary is that not only are you sent to learn about your host country, but you are given the opportunity to learn about many other countries as well. However, this puts a bit of pressure on you--If another exchange student is going to learn about your country based on how well you represent it, what do you do?

This week taught me the importance and responsibility that comes with being such an ambassador. The first and foremost thing to remember is that there is always someone watching--whether it be a Brazilian, another exchange student, or Rotary. And Rotary is always watching. This is not a bad thing, because when you understand that your actions are constantly being analyized you learn to control them. Of course, it is impossible not to mistep along the way, but as long as you learn from these mistakes, then you are doing everything you can. This is a year about changing. It is a year about making mistakes and learning from them--with everything from the language, to the public transportation system, to more sensitive topics. It is all about choices. Will you choose to learn? Will you choose to change? If your answer is yes, then Rotary is your friend and your tool to success. If your answer is no, then you better start packing now.

I have made the decision to learn and to change, which I think is a pretty good decision. I have so much yet that I want to see, to do, and to learn. I look forward to getting to know the other exchange students and am excited by the relationships we have already begun. If one thing is for certain, we are all strong individuals. Never underestimate the power of united exchange students. Today we may just be a bunch of teenagers from around the world, but tomorrow? Who knows? Tomorrow we may be policy makers, doctors, ambassadors, and presidents. If we can remember the lessons from this year, then we might just be able to get closer to acheiving the endgame--true international peace and cooperation. How cool is that?

Tchau e beijos.

(pictured below, Belo Horizonte, view from my apartment)