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 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, 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.