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)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sete Lagoas, and a Day in the Life of Me!

Here is a quick rundown of my city, Sete Lagoas:

-Located in the state of Minas Gerais, 70 km north of the capital city of nearly 3 million people, Belo Horizonte (about an hour drive).

-Sete Lagoas has around 250,000 people, which its inhabitants consider to be small. Some people I have met call it a farm. I beg to differ.

-In a recent issue of Veja, the Brazilian version of Newsweek magazine, Sete Lagoas was named one of the "20 metropoles brasileiras do futuro," or one of the future metropolitan areas of Brazil. Called "O balneario industrial," (the industrial bath) Sete Lagoas has an annual economic growth rate of 13%--one of the highest in Brazil. The city is a big producer of automobiles (or
parts of), milk products, beer, and even some clothing.

-Speaking of dairy products, cheese is very popular. Apparently it's a regional thing. "Queijo, queijo, e mais queijo," says my host dad (translated as "cheese, cheese, and more cheese"). The favorite is "Pao de queijo", which are these little bread rolls with a hint of cheese. At first I hated them, but they have started to grow on me! The other dairy product that I was surprised to find I really enjoy is fermented milk. It's sweet and apparently good for the digestive system.

-There are so many bars in this city it is ridiculous. There are anywhere between one and five on any given street. Most tend to be small little buildings on the corners with a couple of plastic tables and chairs, however, even these small ones are full by about 8 pm.

[Pictured on the left: View of Sete Lagoas from my bathroom window, and below, "Centro", the center of the city]

Now, a day in the life of me:

On a typical weekday I wake up at about 6:20 am (my host dad knocks on my door) and am dressed and eating breakfast by 6:50. My breakfast is basically the same every day--chocolate milk, a little cafe com leite (coffee with milk), and a delicious cheese and ham panini sandwich called a "misto." My host dad, sister Isabela and I are in the care by a little past 7 and drive about eight minutes to school, which is located in the central district of the city. My school is called "Regina Pacis" and is one, if not the, best school in the city [pictured below]. My host dad drops us off and we go to our classrooms after saying "bom dia" to the door guards.

We are usually late for class (I don't actually know the exact time class is supposed to start...)
and when I get in the teacher has usually started teaching. But, this is Brazil, so it's not a big deal. No tardies here! Each class is an hour and a half long and varies day to day. Today, for example, I had math first, but yesterday it was biology. We get a ten minute break after the first class and people usually hang out in the classroom looking at magazines or listening to music. Our second class starts (today it was half philosophy and half Portuguese), and at the end of that,
around 10:20, we get a longer break. A group of us go out to the open gym area and sit in the sun and talk. The school sells food at this time too, so we all have a snack. (Note: food is incredibly cheap here! It's great.) After break it's our last class. Today it as biology again. By the end of the day everyone starts getting more and more loud. The last half an hour of class today was ridiculous. Everyone was just yelling across the classroom, and the teacher kept on lecturing, occasionally joining in on the yelling. I played games on my iPod. It was a little too much for me to handle.

At noon class is over. My sister and I walk across the street to my host dad's business, Felt (kind of like the Home Depot of Sete Lagoas) [picture on the left]. We hang out for a couple of minutes, then he comes down from his office and we drive home for lunch.

Lunch is the largest meal of the day. We have a cook (which is normal for most Brazilian households) and the meal is always prepared by the time we arrive. The entire family eats together. The meal consists of these three things ever single day--rice, beans, and some kind of meat. There is always other supplemental foods of course, but those three items are the same. Every. Single. Day. Surprisingly, I have yet to get sick of it!

After lunch, if I don't have class in the afternoon (which I do on Tuesday and Wednesday that I occasionally go to), I will take a nap, read, watch a movie, or go on the computer. My host parents have to go back to work between 1 and 2, and they come home around 6 in the evening.

Evenings are pretty laid back. Sometimes we will have a larger meal, or other times it will just be some bread and ham and cheese. I try to get to bed around 10 (which is ridiculously early for Brazil).

Weekends are more exciting! Last weekend we went to Belo Horizonte [pictured below], and parties and Churrascos are always popular as well.

Tchau e beijos de Sete Lagoas :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Simon & Garfunkel have a song entitled "The Sound of Silence." I don't listen to their music much, though I do enjoy this song and it makes for a good title. Since I arrived in Brazil a month ago "silence" has taken on a new meaning to me. Clearly I am not talking about the noiseless kind of silence--the kind when you literally can't hear anything. I think Brazil is probably the loudest country I have ever been to. Around the city people are honking horns and yelling across streets greeting each other. In school it is a constant chatter that slowly increases in volume throughout the day. At home it is the sound of Nikelodeon in Portuguese. No, I am certainly not without noise in my life. This is how I discovered the new kind of silence--the silence of hearing all this noise, but having no idea what any of it means.

You don't realize how many thoughts actually go through your brain in one day until it's the only thing you have to listen to any more. Unfortunately for me even my thoughts tend to be in translation mode the majority of the time. However, when I am not being spoken to, or not trying to pay attention to a conversation around me, my mind begins to wander away as I sink into my newly found silence. I find this happens the most during school. While the teacher lectures away and my classmates yell across the classroom to each other, I sit back in my silence and think.

I do a lot of thinking these days, and I am beginning to feel slightly schizophrenic. A couple of weeks ago I was walking with my family through this nearby hilly park and I distinctly remember having a minor conversation with myself. I think I was exclaiming over something bizarre I had seen (though I don't entirely remember) and I didn't know how to translate it into Portuguese, so I just said it to myself instead. When I realized what I had done, I just laughed. I had to break the silence.

Communication. You take it for granted until you can't share your snide comment with someone anymore, and start talking to yourself in parks. Though I am learning more Portuguese by the day I am still immersed in my own little silence, and my desire for a good, long conversation can only be satisfied by a Skype conversation across the world.

That all sounds a bit depressing, doesn't it? It's actually not as bad as it sounds. Though I could do without the schizophrenia, I have had quite a bit of time to think over things I haven't had time to think about before. It's interesting, and I kind of like it. However, I really do look forward to the day that I will be able to join my classmates in yelling across the classroom in Portuguese.

Tchau gente. Beijos.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Little of Everything

Okay, so this blogging thing is going to be a little harder than I thought it would be. When I'm not at school, eating delicious meat, or being shuttled all across town meeting this person and another, I am sleeping. It's an exhausting culture, but I love it. I am typically the first person to bed at night (some time between 10 and 11pm), which I feel a little bad about since my six-year-old sister can manage to stay up later then me! I don't know where to begin in describing what has happened, so I think I will just let this flow randomly--which I apologize for, seeing as my thoughts tend to not come out very orderly.
You know what, I am going to make a list. I love lists.

  • Ana Clara, my six-year-old sister, is adorable. She is hopelessly in love with Justin Bieber and continues to bring me pictures of him she has printed off the internet. Love it.
  • "Exposete", the festival, finished on Sunday with a group called Exaltasamba performing. As their name indicates, they are a Samba group--a traditional dance of Brazil that I am horrible at! I am determined to learn, however.
  • School continues and I have been getting to know my class much better. Communication is still hard (obviously), but they are all incredibly patient with me. We take turns grabbing the Portuguese-English dictionary to translate various words. It's been very helpful.
  • There are so many American television shows here! The popular one is iCarly. Here, when I am introduced, instead of people saying "Carly Davidson, like Harley Davidson?" it's "Carly, like iCarly!" I think I prefer the latter.
  • The main bonding point between my classmates and I is over music. They love music here and always ask me what kinds of music I like listening to, and we have a lot in common. "Funk", pronounced "Foonkee" (kind of..) is very popular dance music. I LOVE IT. I went to my first dance at my school last night and as soon as that kind of music came on we rushed to the dance floor and the girls proceeded to teach me how to dance to it.
  • The weather is pretty chilly here right now, to be honest. During the day it is nice, but as soon as the sun goes down (which is at around 6pm) the temperature drops to the low 50's. I need to by another sweater!
  • Everyone has really good nails here. All the girls have then manicured and painted and I am very envious. I have awful nails. However, this morning I went for my first manicure! I think the woman was horrified at the state of my nails...but, now they are all nice and pretty! Maybe Brazil will cure me of my nail-biting....
  • I am completely in love with Churrascos. Last weekend I went to one on Saturday with Luisa and her family, and on Sunday with my host family. They are five-hour affairs in which all you do is sit around, drink beer (the adults, of course), talk (a LOT of talking...in very fast Portuguese) and eat a continuous flow of meat cooked to perfection. It's amazing, to say the least.
I hope everyone is doing well, and best wishes to all of the Outbounds who have just left and those who are following shortly! It truly is one of the craziest, most bizarre experiences, but so incredibly worth it. Brazil is a very different culture, and I am enjoying learning more about it each day. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time. Right now my real issue is the language. As soon as I can master having a conversation in Portuguese, everything will fall into place ( I hope).

I miss you all, and please stay in touch!

Tchau e beijos.

Sete Lagoas :)


My one true love.

The crazy "vacas", or cows that they have here. This was at Exposete.

The rodeo at Exposete. The winner won a trip to compete in Las Vegas. They're serious about their rodeos here!

At my grandparents' house celebrating Father's day last Sunday.

Learning how to make this delicious chicken stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes with my uncle!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Week Later...

...And I am finally updating this blog! I apologize for the lateness of this, but the transition into Brazilian life has been a pretty crazy one. I will attempt to take you through the past week as best I can by dividing it into some nice little categories.

The "Getting There" Part

Goodbyes were hard, enough said. There were
five of us exchange students leaving for Brazil on
the same day--Beret, Killian, Frank, Paige (who we met at the gate) and then myself. Killian had a separate flight itinerary, but Beret, Frank, Paige and I all traveled together. Our journey went like this:
Our flight from Minneapolis left for Atlanta at about 2:45 in the afternoon on Friday, July 30th. We landed in Atlanta at about 6 in the evening and had a bunch of time to kill before our 9:30 flight to Brasilia, Brazil. We ate our last American meal at a Mexican restaurant before boarding the rather small 757 plane. The flight was an uncomfortable, very bumpy (I don't think the captain ever turned off the seatbelt sign...) 8 and a half hour flight to the capital city of Brazil. However, we finally arrived and then it was a matter of claiming our bags and getting through Immigration--which, thankfully, went smoothly. After that we had to recheck our bags through our domestic airlines. I was very thankful to have had Beret with me to navigate the airport with (Paige was staying in Brasilia and Frank had had an
earlier flight to Sao Paulo)! Beret and I said our goodbyes as she boarded a plane for the Northeast and I to Belo Horizonte.

I arrived in Belo Horizonte at about noon, Brasilian time--a solid twenty-four hours after boarding that first plane in Minneapolis. I was exhausted
and hadn't quite realized I was actually in Brazil, just minutes away from meeting my new family. It was a surreal experience claiming my baggage (which, thankfully, made it through) and then walking out to meet them. I was met with the loudest of welcomes I have ever experienced! My new family, Luisa and her family, and some friends were there waiting to give me a big hug. It was a great welcome, and it was so awesome so see Luisa there!

Sete Lagoas, and my minha familia

This is my new family: Eduardo, my host dad, works for a company called Felt. Luciana, my host mom, works for a transportation company called Sete Lagos (not to be confused with Sete LagoAs, the city). Isabela, my host sister, is 16 and goes to school with me. Ana Clara (or Clarinha), my other host sister, is six years old and absolutely adorable. My family is very loving with each other...which, seems to be pretty characteristic of Brazil. Everyone is very friendly, and whenever you greet someone it is with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I am having trouble remembering to do this!
Sete Lagoas is very different from Northfield...which, obviously, I had expected. All the homes here have walls or gates in front, so you can't actually see the house most of the time. There aren't any large, manicured lawns like in Northfield. My house does have a backyard, but it's all
walled-in. Everything is made out of stone or clay--no plastic siding here! In general, it seems like a nice city. The streets are very confusing and I still have no idea where I'm going, but I think it will get better. There are a couple of large lakes
in the central of town, but not for swimming.

This past Wednesday night was the opening night of the big "Exposicao" festival thing. The best way I can try to describe it is like this: MN State Fair + Jesse James Days + LOTS of Brazilian craziness. I went Wednesday night with Luisa and my family. The actual concert didn't start until about 1 am. I am serious. We got home at about 3 am and I woke up three hours later to go to school! I was going to go last night, but I was too exhausted. I am planning on going again tonight, and Saturday and Sunday, too....Wow. Brazil is tiring!

Oh, and a note on the language. It's HARD. There's a lot of pointing, "que?" (what?) and me just nodding and smiling. I think I'm getting better though!


School is interesting. The people are super nice and friendly and I am able to communicate with them by a mixture of Portuguese and English. The really different thing here is that instead of moving around to different classes, we are all in one classroom with the same people all day and the teachers are the ones who come to us. I don't think I like it all that much, however, it is nice not to have to try and find my way around! Also, we have a different schedule of classes every day. For example, yesterday I had Physics, Math, Philosophy, and Biology. Today I had Philosophy again, then Religion, World History, and Portuguese. The teachers are pretty cool here and a few have been incredibly nice and helpful!

School starts a little past 7 am and we get done at noon, at which time Isabela and I walk across the street to my host dad's shop, and then get a ride home for lunch. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have classes in the afternoon.


Meat, meat, and more meat. Meat is the staple of the Brazilian diet, along with rice and beans, which are served every day. Lunch is the main meal in Brazil, and my family has a cook (as do most families here) so the meal is always waiting for us when we get back fr
om school. For breakfast it's bread, cheese, and coffee. I've been having a hot ham and cheese sandwich, and it is pretty delicious. Dinners are kind of random. It's usually something light like soup or a pasta. My family will also eat or have milk right before bed. My host dad and sister were eating a dinner when we got back at 3 am the other day! It's kind of odd, but okay!

Sundays in Brazil means Churrasco--the great Brazilian barbecue! I experienced my first one on the Sunday after I arrived. We went over to a family friend's house and it was a solid four hours or so of eating delicious meat cooked to perfection. "Carne do Sol" is my new favorite food.


This is another very important aspect of Brazilian culture. On that same Sunday as the barbecue there was a soccer game in the Sete Lagoas between the two largest rivals of my state: Cruzeiro and Atletico Minero. My family supports Cruzeiro, but the people at the barbecue were Minero fans. They kept trying to make me say all these things in support of one team or the other. Only Atletico Minero fans were allowed to attend the game to avoid violence. I kid you not. Two hours before the game started there were police forces out and a helicopter in the sky. These people are serious about their football here!

We watched the game at a fellow Cruzeiro supporter's house. When Cruzeiro scored everyone leaped up and yelled and cheered. It was awesome! Oh, and Cruzeiro won :)


The driving is ridiculous. No one pays any attention to the "Pare", or "Stop" signs. Thankfully, they stop at the red lights. Also, they drive very very fast. It's like Rachel Wille-speeding times ten (Rachel, I love you). At one point we were driving down a street marked 40 km/h and we were pushing 90. And, we passed a police car. I wonder if a Brazilian police car has ever pulled over someone for speeding....


Alright, well I am going to go take a nap in preparation for another late night! I hope to try to update this at least once a week...so, we'll see. Thanks for all the well wishes and e-mails. I really appreciate it and PLEASE stay in touch! I miss you all!

Tchau e beijos.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Time

To try and convey to you the intensity of emotions that are going through me right now is nearly impossible. My head is a mess. I can't decide whether to be excited, scared out of my mind, or indifferent to the matter (as indifferent as one can be!). However, the fact is I will be boarding an airplane in about 15 hours. I will be leaving everything I know and everyone I love behind...or at least, the pessimistic part of me thinks so. The reality is that I will be connected to home throughout this entire year. Facebook, e-mail, and my new best friend, Skype, will allow me to never quite forget my loved ones...So, don't worry ;)

Look at that, I'm being all positive. As my mother can attest to, I have never been one to look at the glass as half full...so, this is an improvement already!

Here is a note of advice to those Rotary Outbounds that will be following in my footsteps shortly: PACK EARLY. Do not leave this until two days before you leave. Thankfully, I did not, but even with the week that I gave myself, I still found this task to be incredibly stressful. I thought packing would be kind of fun--it's always been a task I enjoyed. However, packing for a year is NOT fun. My two bags are currently at a solid 67-ish pounds, with a 70-pound limit. Mind you, I still have to put in my toiletries. I will be seriously lucky if I manage to get these beasts through check-in tomorrow.

Alright, I am going to keep this entry short. I love you all and I can't wait to stay in touch throughout the year. I would love to hear from you--whether through this, an e-mail, or better yet, a letter! Good luck to everyone, whether you are college-bound, Rotary-bound, or any other -bound! Thanks for all your support.

Tchau e beijos


Saturday, June 26, 2010

T-minus One Month

"Time is making fools of us again."
-Albus Dumbledore

It is hard to believe that five weeks from today I will be arriving in Sete Lagoas, Brazil, my new home for the next year of my life. It is another example of how quickly time seems to pass these days. I graduated from high school a month ago--a milestone I have yet to fully appreciate--and a month from now I will be preparing for an even greater, life-altering experience. If graduation had seemed years away whilst sitting in my second-hour calculus class, my departure to Brazil certainly seemed a lifetime. I am now faced with the strange reality of having to meet the latter in a relatively short amount of time, and by relatively I mean a very, very short amount of time.

I still haven't completely grasped the concept of leaving for a year. I signed into the Rotary Youth Exchange program quickly and completely eight months ago, without so much as a second thought. I was doing Rotary. That was that. My mind had been made up the previous year, and I wasn't going to change it after that. While I have certainly thought about how great it would have been to go to college with my friends, I have not truly doubted my decision to postpone college in exchange for a year abroad. However, that is not to say that I haven't been anxiously anticipating my departure to Brazil, or believe it will be an easy transition to make. To be perfectly honest, I am terrified--but, where would be the fun if I wasn't a little scared? It would be far worse if I
wasn't a little freaked out, instead thinking it would be a consistently happy and easy year. Once again I reiterate, where would be the fun in that? It's the challenge of overcoming my fear that will make this journey all the more exciting...I think.

It's hard to contemplate everything right now, and it's difficult to find a way to put all of these contemplations into coherent sentences. Not to mention I am trying to make this blog interesting for you, my dear reader. So, with that, I will wrap up this first entry. Thank you for reading, and I hope to keep you updated on my adventures every (other) step of the way.

Tchau e beijos.