Monday, July 29, 2013

O Último Post

For my last post I decided to write in Portuguese because it's the language that I have been thinking in whenever I reflect on my year in Brazil.

Finalmente estou percebendo como o meu ano no Brasil me mudou.  Estou vendo como minha vida é diferente- como é melhor.  Um ano atrás, eu era muito estressada e nao aproveitava muito a vida.  Agora eu fico impressionada porque parece que todo dia estou feliz. Eu acho que é assim porque Brasil me deixou com tanta clareza na vida.   Eu tenho mais paz porque eu aprendi no Brasil que a vida nao tem que ser uma corrida.  Como eu gostaria se todo mundo aprendesse umas coisinhas da America do Sul!

Agora toda vez que minha irmã me pede para usar uma coisa minha, eu sempre falo "claro que sim" porque minhas famílias no Brasil me davam tudo que precisava e mais com tanta compaixão.  Eu admiro isso muito e tento dar as coisas como foram dadas pra mim.
E meus amigos queridos... como eu tenho que agredecer eles!!! Eles me mostravam a Annika verdadeira, a Annika mais confiante, a Annika mais libertada.  Eles me mostravam o que realmente é amizade.  Por isso, fico feliz.

Quando eu percebi que esse post será o último, fiquei muito triste.  Mesmo que nao usava muito durante o meu ano, esse blog significa uma época na minha vida que agora passou.  Saudades do Brasil, das minhas famílias, e dos meus amigos vao sempre ficar no meu coração.  Mas por causa dessas saudades, vou ficar percebendo como tenho sorte e como a vida é maravilhosa.  Eu tenho pessoas amadas no mundo inteiro!!

I'm finally realizing how my year in Brazil changed me.  I'm noticing how my life is different- how it's better.  A year ago, I was very stressed and I never really felt satisfied with my life.  Now I find myself impressed by how happy I feel all the time. I really think it's because Brazil gave me so much peace and clarity.  There I learned that life is not a race. Wouldn't it be great if everyone learned a little something from South America?

Now every time that my sister asks to use something of mine, I say, "Of course," because my Brazilian families always gave me everything that I needed and more with so much compassion.  That was something that I always admired them for.  Since I have returned I'm trying to pass on that wonderful Brazilian compassion just like how it was given to me.
And my amazing friends... how I have to thank them!!! They showed me the real Annika, the more confidant Annika, the more free Annika.  They showed me what friendship really is. For that I am so happy.

When I realized that this will be the last blog post, I postponed it as long as possible.  It was sad for me because even though I did not use my blog constantly throughout the year, this blog was a time in my life that has now passed.  I will always miss Brazil, my families, and my friends, but because of that feeling, I will have a constant reminder of how lucky I am and how great my life really is.  I have people that I love all over the world.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Agora Começa as Reflexões

Well when I think about how to express my reaction to making the 7 month mark, it's pretty difficult to describe.  Hopefully these baby faces will help explain my emotions a little bit better.

Sometimes, I'm shocked that time flew by so quickly.

Other times I just want to cry when I think about having to go back home.

A few times, I get a giddy feeling when I think about seeing old friends or family.

But the majority of the time, I think to myself, "Only 3 months left?! Nope, no one's taking me away from Brazil!"

It has been such a fast 7 months.  The days have been long, but each month seems to pass more quickly than the last.  With this passing of time, I have found myself reflecting more and more- which could very well also be the result of my continuous journaling.  Either way, I have begun to analyze how I have changed this year.

I don't mean how my hair has become much longer and is now slightly highlighted, how my wardrobe has become full of Brazilian clothes, how I can't keep from dancing when I hear Brazilian music, or even how my nails always seem to be painted (something that never intrigued me when I was in the states).  I'm talking about the non-physical, deeper internal changes that Rotary claims that you will go through during an exchange.  Those Rotarians, they're always right.

Since the day I stepped off the plane in Joao Pessoa, an inner peace has been growing within me.  I think a part of that sense of peace has to do with how my view of time has changed over these months.  Time used to be a guideline to my life, but now it plays such a small part of my daily schedule.  I have become able to be more true to my body. I listen to myself when I need more sleep, exercise, or food; when I need more time with friends, family, or to myself; when I need to laugh, cry, or just breathe.  I have created an internal peace by understanding myself internally.  It's only when I skype home do I remember the stressful, crazy United States lifestyle.  It reminds me of the stress-crazed girl that I used be- snapping so easily by the littlest problems.  Believe me, I haven't completely conquered this yet, but my stress level has gone down immensely, and my ability to handle stress has risen.  My life in Brazil is like a dream; no day has a full plan.  I am able to choose on a whim what I'd like to do for the majority of each day.  This is something that will be really hard to leave behind when I get back to Minnesota.  Now, the only role that "time" plays in my life is to restrict how long I have left here in this loving Brazilian country.

The other main way that I've changed is my attitude. Leaving the United States, I had a slightly pessimistic outlook about the state that our world was in, and that often reflected into how I acted.  When I would think about all the problems, I would become internally angry and wanted to blame others for others for these issues.  Strangely enough, this year I've gained even more knowledge about the world after spending time with people from all over the world, but my attitude has changed completely. I've become so much optimistic and overall happy.  I have begun to think of the ways that I could work to understand and fix problems instead of resorting to anger.

This aspect as well has contributed to how I act now.  Brazil has made my smile wider, my laugh fuller, and the happiness last longer.  I notice myself feeling happiness in the moment, not just when I'm looking back.  The Brazilian life has helped me to live in the present.  I really feel happy here.  The kisses that I receive in school from my friends, the laughs that I have with my sister, and the nights making inside jokes with the other exchange students- these things make me so grateful for my life here.

I'm in love with all of my friends and family here in Brazil- I even love school!  I thought that leaving home for a year would be the hardest part of exchange, but in all reality, it will be coming back home that will be so much more difficult.

...Can I just stay?? Eu te amo, Brasil.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Demorei demais...

Once again, I'm very behind with blogging, BUT this time I have an excuse.  Between traveling for about a month without internet and switching host families, it was hard to find time to write down- in a presentable fashion- all the experiences of the past months. On the bright side, I have LOTS of stuff to talk about!

Itatiba, Christmas, and New Years

For part of the months of December and January, I went with my host family to a small city called Itatiba in the state of Sao Paulo.  This is where my host parents grew up, and almost all of my host parents's brothers, sisters, neices, and nephews live there.  I really loved spending time in Itatiba because I feel like every time I travel to a new part of Brazil I gain a better understanding of the country and the culture.  Another great part about the trip was just spending time with family!  It's not as if I hadn't spent any time with my host family in Joao Pessoa, but it was so great to have a month of really getting to know each other better.  We spent every day together drinking coffee, playing cards (even the Anderson family game, Nuts!), spending time with the little nephews and neices, swimming in the pool, and going to the nearby mall.  I also got to know some of my cousins and my aunts and uncles.  I really felt like part of the family.  All this family time reminded me of going to the French Lake cabin with all the Hanson's and spending half of the summer playing in the water and catching toads in the bushes... It was a nice memory to dig up.

On Christmas Eve I found myself walking into a house filled with at least 70 people.  Disco lights danced across the yard, people were sitting around tables drinking and laughing, and the kids were chanting, "Santa, where are you! Santa, where are you!"  I was definitely overwhelmed.  Luckily for me, my host sister, Tati, grabbed my arm and said, "Come on, let's go introduce you to everyone!" So one-by-one, I was introduced to all 70 of my cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces- Brazilians have this way of making you feel comfortable so quickly.
After a couple hours of chatting with all of my new relatives, I heard the kids getting louder. "PAPAI NOEL, CADE VOCE?" And then the adults started to join in.  The lights dimmed, and out walked none other than Santa Claus... and then all hell broke loose.  As he picked up each present he yelled the name of the child.   The kids went crazy running to him, pushing each other to stand in front of him, and the parents crowded around as well in order to help their kids get their presents.  On top of that, each time that Santa pulled a new package from his bag, there were the crazy aunts and cousins that teasingly screamed things like, "I WANT PRESENTS!!!" or "SHE DOESN'T DESERVE IT!"  Once again I was overwhelmed, but this time I couldn't stop smiling.  This Christmas was nothing like I had ever experienced- it was so Brazilian.  So much love, so many people, so much craziness.
Once the kids were satisfied with their presents, everyone went onto the porch.  As my host mom and a few of her siblings held the hands of their mother, they talked about how blessed they were to have such a flourishing family with four generations and so many new kids.  Then something happened that I will not forget.  Everyone reached for the hands of others, and in some places there were groups of three hands- no one was left with a free hand.  As they said a prayer, I looked across the room at the web of hands, and I almost started to cry.  It was so beautiful to see the love of everyone together holding the hands of each other.  Family is a beautiful thing, isn't it?
But as quickly as this peaceful moment began, it ended.  Before I knew what was happening, I heard multiple shouts of, "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" and the hundreds of kisses began.  Everyone made a point to wish each person a Merry Christmas and give them a kiss.  Two beautiful moments in the same hour.
Later that night I was in the kitchen with my cousin when I heard Gangnam Style booming from the porch- the dance party had begun.  I decided to be an exchange student and say "yes" to this opportunity.  Before I knew it, I was addicted to dancing.  I spent the rest of the night with my host sister, Tati, and many of my cousins dancing non-stop.  As I write about this now, I still smile.  Brazilians really are some of the best people around!

A few days later we found ourselves getting ready for another party.  New Years was going to be held at my host sister, Dafine's house- the house that we were staying at.  It was, once again, a completely different experience than New Years in the US.  For one, everyone dressed in white.  Here is a picture of my family with my parents, all three of my sisters, the spouses, and children.

I also found myself saying the rosary with my host family like a good little Catholic girl.  I finally have the Lord's Prayer memorized in Portuguese, so I was able to say that part when it came up.  Then later that night we had a nice dinner of turkey and lentils.  The turkey was delicious, just like all the other Brazilian meat, but lentils was the first food that I have tried in Brazil that I didn't like.
As we waited for the night, we pulled out the glitter masks and hats and danced to New Years concerts on tv.  When midnight came around we ran outside to watch all the fireworks, and then I convinced my host sister, Paula, and my cousin, Rafa, to jump into the pool with me.  All the adults thought that we were going to get sick because "the pool must be freezing."  I couldn't help laughing to myself a little bit because they were so concerned and in Minnesota no one would have said anything or worried even the slightest.

I loved the time I spent in Itatiba with my host family, and the holidays were ones that I will never forget.

New News

About a week ago I switched families.  Normally, this would be very hard for an exchange student because they miss their old family and have a hard time adjusting to their new family, but Rocco (another exchange student from the United States) and I were very lucky.  He went to my house, and I went to his.  We spent so much time together before the switch that we saw each other's families almost everyday, and continue to see them almost everyday still.  Because of this, we were already very used to each other's families and it was super easy to adapt.
One day, I was walking home from stopping by Rocco's house, and realized that I was grinning.  I was so happy.  Everyone was so close.  I live right down the street from Rocco and my old family, another exchange student now lives right under my balcony, I was living with my new family, and our other friend, Alberto lives just down another street.  We are so lucky.
This past week has been great.  There has hardly been any time to sit down at the computer and surf the web- which is always AWESOME.  Besides spending time with friends almost everyday, I have done some fun things with my family as well.
On Thursday I went with my host sister, Vanessa, to play a game called "Mafia" with all of my host cousins.  Though it was difficult to participate because it was a game based on argueing, I loved it! They all helped me to understand what was going on and were overall extremely welcoming.  I love having another set of cousins!  Then when Vanessa and I got home, we were a little hungry, so we got a snack and ended up talking for a long time.  Vanessa is studying to be a lawyer, so we talked about Brazil, some of the inequities, and a few systems that they have set up.  Well, and we talked about hair, nails, and other feminine things as well :)  But hearing about her point of view of many of the inequalities was something that I had missed because these were topics that I loved talking about with my friends from the states.  I felt so at home already after only four days!
 Then on Saturday, I went with my host mom, her boyfriend, Rocco, Alberto, Andre, and Lais to Recife for the day.  It was a great little trip! We first went to the new mall that is the biggest in the region- but it doesn't compete with the Mall Of America.  After that we went to a museum that had many artifacts and models of things from when the Portuguese first colonized Brazil.  Oh, and there were lots of naked statues to take pictures with!  After getting lost quite a bit, we finally arrived at the amusement park.  We had so much fun!  It ended up being a day of fun with my host mom, my friends, and the others.

Finally, I have saved the best part for last.  Last week, I received a package from home- my family has been trying since November 5th to get a package to me.  I was EXTREMELY excited.  Inside, I found a surprise: a letter, two pieces of art, and two pictures from my favorite two little girls, my next door neighbors, Averi and Taylor.  I got teary eyed as I saw these things inside.  Here is what the letter said:

"Merry Christmas Annika.  I miss you so much. Happy birthday.  I saw the cool, cool, cool picktures.  I hope you are haveing a fun time in brazil.  are you going to go to leo's graduation party? My 3erd grade teacher is Mrs. tempel.  This letter is for a great babysiter annika hanson :)

So, here is my response. Mom, you are in charge of making sure that they get this!

Averi and Taylor,
What sweethearts you are!!! I loved your art, pictures, and letter!  Did you know those are the FIRST two pieces of art that I've gotten all year?? I put them above my bed so that I can look at it every night.  Here's my picture with Averi's art:

I also put on of your picture on my desk next to the frame you gave me before I left and the other on my magnet board. Did you two go to Disney World?? I see that you are with Minnie Mouse in one of the pictures! How cool! 

I miss you girls so much! I think about you two all the time.  When I get back we will have to jump on the trampoline and go on walks around the ponds!!

Did you know that you two are some of the people that I miss the most from Northfield? Averi, I hope you're loving your new teacher, Mrs. Tempel! And Taylor, are you liking your first year of school??  I'm sending lots of love to my two favorite girls!!! ♥ ♥ ♥ I want to thank you two again for those things.  That was SO sweet of you guys to think of me. 
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Não sou perfeita, mas estou aprendendo!

Yesterday, I watched my host sister return home after finishing her exchange. As she weaved her cart of belongings through the clumps of people, all of her friends and family ran towards her. Each person pulled her close as if love could be passed through their arms. They laughed, they smiled, they hugged, and they showed her how much they loved and missed her.  I couldn't help but get tears in my eyes as I watched these interactions. (Of course, I was the only one to tear up... but that is besides the point.)  As an exchange student, it is very easy to identify with other exchange students, and I often find myself feeling the emotions that they are feeling.  I still cannot look at other exchange students' pictures of their departures because of the immediate trigger of all the feelings that I experienced when I watched my family walk away from the glass on the other side of the security gate.  Exchange students will always have this connection.

The same thing happened when Paula arrived.  I began to see myself in her situation, and I thought about when I would return home to see my family run to me and give me long, awaited hugs.  My brain was beyond confused as I felt the excitement of having a sister again and the slight pain in knowing that my time to experience such a reunion wouldn't be for many more months.

As we piled into the car, I couldn't keep my mind from wandering to Minnesota.  I began to get angry with myself.  My host sister had arrived and all I could think about was my home back in the States?  Everyone was asking her questions, and she was telling stories, but I was in my own thoughts.  Seems quite selfish of me, don't you think?  Let me speak for all the exchange students out there when I say, as an exchange student, you ALWAYS feel guilty when you hold back from conversation. ALWAYS.  Even if you have no clue about what they are talking about, you will still feel guilty.  So then, I had two emotions: anger and guilt.  I was getting myself so worked up that I couldn't even reflect on my thoughts or anything else that was going on around me, for that matter.  I told myself, "You shouldn't miss home. Stop thinking about Minnesota. Stop thinking about Minnesota."

When we arrived at home, I attempted to take a nap, but instead my mind started to think more clearly, so I laid in bed and thought.  I realized that I was wrong.  Missing home is inevitable.  It would be impossible for an exchange student to go through a whole year without missing where they came from.  Suddenly, a thought ran through my head.  "So if homesickness is inevitable, I cannot avoid it. I need to find a way to deal with it."  It sounds like the stupidest and most obvious realization, but I am not joking when I say that the next thought that ran through my head was, "Wow, Annika, you are so smart! That is so right!"

I have found that my homesickness is triggered when I stay at home for a long time, when I skype people in Northfield too often, or when I hear pop music from the United States (strange, huh?).  Here are the cures that I have found: hugs and keeping myself busy.  When I tell my friends that I'm feeling homesick, they don't tell me to stop feeling that way, but instead listen and give me a hug.  Suddenly, my homesickness is gone!  I have found that when I identify that I am missing home, it's much easier to overcome it when I realize that it is normal and I know how to handle it. I am so lucky to have people to listen to me and things to do to keep myself busy!

The other realization that I had was this: I shouldn't keep myself from thinking about Minnesota.  Making an exchange is not about forgetting one's past, but rather, learning how to intertwine the two lives, the two cultures.  No matter what country you were born in, an exchange will always make you more grateful for what you had.  Now, I am so much more grateful for my country, my state, my city, my family, and my friends.  On the other side, I cannot get over my love for Brazil.  My host family has made me feel so much more comfortable here. It really is like home for me.  I love the culture.  The Brazilians that I meet are so warm and welcoming. Sometimes I just look at Brazil and think to myself, "Why isn't the rest of the world this way?"  I see how I want to become because of the things that I have learned here in Brazil.  I know that when I do return home, I want to be Brazilian.  I want to love everyone.  I want to give lots of hugs and kisses.  I want to accept all different types of people.  I want to be able to just "chill out" and appreciate.  How amazing Brazilians are!

The goal of my exchange was to come to this beautiful country and experience the type of people that I had only heard about... and to return to Minnesota with Brazil in my heart and Brazilian love to pass on to the rest of the world.  So, until then, here's to making Annika a stronger, more loving, and compassionate Brazilian!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Estou apaixonada pelo Brasil!

NOSSA! It has already been over a month since my last update... Sorry! Time feels so much faster here.  I can already see how this year is going to fly by.  I mean, I have been here for two months, and now there are only 8 or 9 months left!  That statement already makes me feel anxious... I can't image how I'll be at the 9 month check point.

So many things to catch everyone up on!

At the end of August, all the exchange students in my district were piled into a bus to travel to a city called Maragogi.  This part was fantastic. As each person entered the bus, we drilled the question, "Where are you from?" and with each response, there was a corresponding cheer from the people of the same country.  As we drove over speed bumps and through the mountains, everyone was too excited to sit in any type of confined space, so we stood in the aisles, or sat on laps, or sat on the floor, or held onto anything in sight.  Being that the buses here have no shocks whatsoever, we were thrown all over each other.  At one point I went to wash my hands in the bathroom and I hit my head on the ceiling from such a big bump.

I had thought that Brazilians were outgoing and loud, but in a bus-full of exchange students you can't even hear anyone clap their hands.  We just couldn't get enough of each other.  We made the Europeans try peanut butter and laughed at the awkward stories of the struggles of learning a new language. The 6 hour bus ride down the coast felt like a short trip across town, and before we knew it, we had already arrived.

Well, being as amazing as Rotary is, we arrived in paradise.  As we unloaded the bus, we walked into an area surrounded by palm trees, adorable little cottages (which ended up being our hotels), hammocks, and a beach more beautiful than any I have ever seen before.  I don't know if this means I'm crazy, but it was so beautiful that I wanted to throw my hands in the air, run circles around the area, and scream how happy I was. So I only did what I thought was acceptable: scream and run circles around our little cottage.

Turns out, there are 10 people from the United States in our district! There was Florida, California, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, two from New York, and two Minnesotans! By the end of the weekend we all struggled to remember each other's names because we had only called each other names like Mr. Colorado or Mrs. Minnesota.
I absolutely adored that weekend. THANK YOU ROTARY!

2. My Amazing Family
My love for Brazil is a definite reflection of my wonderful host family.  I live with my host mom and host dad, but I also have a sister doing an exchange in Red Wing and two sisters that are married and out of the house.  OH, and I cannot forget my ADORABLE nephews.  I feel so blessed to have been given such an caring, fun, loving family.

My host mom does so much for me.  Not only is she is always taking me wherever I'd like to go, at any time of day or night, but she is constantly trying to help me.  She sits with me in the car before going inside until I figure out how to say a Portuguese sentence.  She uses a Portuguese word in as many sentences as I need to figure out the translation.  If I have things that I want to do on exchange, she is my number one supporter, and she helps me make things happen.  When we drive to school, she teaches me "O Pai Nosso" or, the English name, "The Lords Prayer."  Above all, she always listens to me.  Her patience inspires me.

3. Skype Home
My host sister, Paula, is an exchange student in Red Wing which is about an hour from my house in the United States.  A couple weeks ago, she was able to stay the weekend with my family.  It's strange, but knowing this made me "morrer de felicidade!"  She was able to see my town, my family, my room, my dog, my friends, and do our "typical family things" like playing spoons and taking the kayaks down the river.  On her last day with my family, we were able to skype them.  It was one of those moments when you feel like saying, "I love life."  To have our families speak together in two different languages across the computer, to see both families happy with the well-being of those at home and those far away, to say the Lords Prayer together in two languages, and to witness the love shared by two families from two different parts of the world.  In this moment I realized how lucky I am to be apart of the Rotary program. Our families would never have known each other if it weren't for Rotary, and now I believe that we will have connections together for a lifetime.  There will always be a home for both families in the United States and Brazil, and for that I cannot thank Rotary enough.

Goals: Memorize "O Pai Nosso."

To see pictures of Maragogi, my family, school and much more, click on the "Pictures" tab.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tres Semanas

Well, today it is three weeks and one day since my arrival... Last week, I finally figured out how to flush the toilet.  I will not go in depth any farther, but let's just say that I am very happy with myself that I've got that one down!
On another note, I went to my first "festa" on the Saturday following my arrival.  Although "festa" translates to "party," to me it seemed more like a concert with a little bit of dancing!  It was a German DJ that played lots of electronic music. I was surprised by how much I liked it! Many things were very different from anything that I had ever experienced.  First of all, let me tell you that the stereotype is true.  Brazilian girls really know how to dress up!  I felt like I was in Beverly Hills; everyone was SO BEAUTIFUL.  I mean, I was expecting to be around beautiful people because I'm in Brazil, which is the home of the most stunning people in the world (in my opinion, at least), but a room full of perfect people? Not something I've seen before.
I really enjoyed the festa! With so many people dancing and having a good time, it would have been hard not to.  But around 3:00 am, I was afraid that I was going to fall over from so much pain.  Brazilian women make heels look like nothing.  They wear them shopping, to church, running errands, around the house, etc.  So I figured that one night as a Brazilian couldn't be so bad... Well, I wore my prom heels.  I think I wore them for an hour on prom and I thought that I was going to die then, so I don't know why I decided to wear them all night... DANCING.  I remember feeling light-headed and pain shooting through my legs.  It was probably the most pain I've had since 10th grade when I broke a bone in my hand.  Acutally, it was probably worse than that.  I have so much more respect for those women in high heels... Men, it's really something you should try out sometime.

Another thing that is new since my last post are the exchange students.  I couldn't have asked for a greater blessing than these people.  The first time I met Johan (an exchange student from Finland), I was with my host mom driving past the sidewalk along the beach.  It was then that I spotted the whitest person that I had seen in a long time.  With blonde hair and light skin, he stood out completely.  I must not have seen a white person in a long time because I remember thinking that he could lay down in snow and no one would ever find him with his matching bleach-blonde hair and light skin. I hopped out of the car and introduced myself because I was sure that he could only be the exchange student from Finland.  And sure enough, I was right!
Frank, an exchange student from Taiwan, arrived about one week after me.  Then, Rocco, an exchange student from Florida, USA, arrived another week after that!
Rocco and I are lucky to attend Motiva Miramar and be in the same class together, while Johan and Frank attend another school called GEO.
If I had to describe these three with a few words, I would say that Johan is quite intuitive, intellectual, and goofy;  Frank is considerate and the biggest sweetheart; and Rocco is compassionate, silly as well, and always thinking about others.  The best thing about this is the dynamics that our group has.  For example, today, Rocco, Johan, and I went to Mag Shopping (a small shopping mall in Joao Pessoa) and by the time we left, my face ached from so much laughing.  I haven't laughed so hard in years! Something small would turn into at least 10 minutes of good laughing.
I am endlessly grateful for having these exchange students with me to make me laugh through the amazing and the difficult.

There are so many more things that I could talk about, but I only have enough time tonight for one more: ELECTIONS!!
Everyone that lives in Joao Pessoa extremely dislikes this time of year because it can seem very obnoxious.  I, on the other hand, love it! Every day there are people standing in the center of the city holding flags, and every night you hear some sort of fireworks show.  But the best part of all, is the music trucks!  When you're walking on the sidewalk along the beach, these trucks blasting musical advertisements for the candidates will pass by.  I absolutely adore this.  It always brings out some of my dance moves.  Once I start to understand fast Portuguese, I may not enjoy these music trucks as much... but until then, I'll keep dancing in the streets!

Goals: Get used to wearing high heels!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eu moro no Brasil?

It's been awhile since I last posted and I thought it was time for an update!  Things have changed quite a bit since the last time I posted.  I am now sitting in my new bedroom on the 9th floor of an apartment about 3 blocks from the beach listening to the music from a concert downtown.  I feel like a princess sitting here with a full sized bed, a private bathroom, and a balcony that has a constant breeze from the ocean.  This alone is a great indicator of my host family's hospitality towards me.  They have been very patient with me.  The first two days that I was here, I understood close to nothing that was said in Portuguese.  Now, after only a couple days of school, I am so surprised by how much I can say and understand! Don't get me wrong, I am miles away from being fluent, but I will admit that I am a bit proud of myself for the improvement that I have had already.
Before I go off topic, I want to write about my flight and school here because these are two things that I don't want to forget!

My Flight
Well, goodbyes are hard, to say the least.  Most people say that they had tearful goodbyes, but mine was a sob-ful goodbye.  I didn't actually realize that I was leaving for a year, until I gave my mom, dad, and sister once last hug.  It still makes me tear-up thinking about it.  But after leaving them, I met Laura Keuhn and Avery Nelson (both flying with me to Brazil).  It was great to have each other to distract ourselves! We wandered the airports and laughed about all the crying that had occurred already that day. Having each other was comforting, but also it made me extremely excited for Brazil! 
After Laura departed for her next flight, Avery and I boarded the plane to Brasilia.  Looking back, this part was the most amusing.  Our plane was scheduled to leave at 9:00 pm, but around 9:25 the pilot announced that our plane was 2,700 lbs overweight.   This meant that they would need to take out many bags in order to take off.  I remember wondering if I would have to wear the dress and pajamas that I brought in my carry-on everyday until my bags were returned!  Luckily, around 9:40 he announced again that they had decided to leave the bags on the airplane that were only on connecting flights.  By the time everything had been rearranged, it was 10:30, and I was anxious to get in the air.  After the flight, I found out that over 100 bags were taken off the plane!  
When we reached ground in Brasilia, we said a quick goodbye before running to check our bags for the next flight.  This part was a little scary because I couldn't figure out which line I should stand in and no one was understanding me when I asked for help.  I would try to explain what I needed, but either they wouldn't know the answer, or they would respond with something that I didn't understand.  It became very frustrating and began to worry that I would not make my flight!
Finally, a blessing came my way.  With the help of an older woman, we found a young man working at the airport that knew some English.  When I explained to him the issue that I was having, he helped me bring my suitcases to the front of the line and then gave me the first open spot to check my bags.  I couldn't stop saying, "Obrigada" to him (the only word I felt confident in at the time) after all was finished.
On my last flight, I loosened up at the sight of my beautiful state.  I looked down and everything was green.  I had no idea there were so many lush forests around my city!  On top of that, I met an amazing Brazilian sitting next to me that increased my excitement infinitely.  We talked to each other about many things, but one thing I remember the most was impersonating the different accents of our own country.  By the time we had landed, I was laughing so hard that I couldn't remember what had been so difficult today.  It was a great welcome into the country!
Upon my arrival, my host parents, my host sister, and her boyfriend were all waiting for me.  I cannot explain how great of a feeling it is to be graciously welcomed by a family after a long, stressful flight!
Despite what I've heard from all the previous exchange students in Brasil, I LOVE SCHOOL!  I have never been in a place like this.  None of the students openly judge each other.  Everyone talks together, no matter their appearance or actions.  Because of that, I feel completely comfortable in the school.  Something I heard recently is that there is no direct translation for the word "awkward" in Portuguese.  I think that this is because it's not needed here. People are constantly asking me questions about my life here and in the United States.  There is no time to feel uncomfortable because there is never a pause in conversation!
Another thing that is different about the school is that everyone knows me.  I feel a bit like a superstar with everyone watching as I walk through the school.  I stand out in the sea of brown eyes, brown hair, and typically, dark skin.  People are constantly smiling at me- whether I have met them or not!  I will look across the room, and someone will be staring back with a smile.  
I've also decided to give everyone the option of calling me "Anni" because I have found that sometimes people struggle to remember "Annika."  My favorite part about this nickname is how they pronounce it.  It sounds more like "uhh-nee."  It puts a smile on my face every time I hear it!
The last aspect of school that I adore is the teacher-student dynamics.  Although the students are constantly talking during the teacher's lecture, they have a very loving relationship!  The students are continually making jokes with the teachers in my class, and there is not one hour that we go through without a good belly laugh.  Sometimes, a couple of the boys sitting next to me will tease the teachers and say, "We have an American in the class. Speak English!"  I'm sorry that I can't tell you how they respond... Understanding Portuguese in a classroom full of laughter is a bit difficult!

That's all for now! Hopefully, I will have more time to put up pictures soon.

Goal for the next few weeks: understand Portuguese better!