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.