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Hi Rotary Club of Pocket Greenhaven and Rotary Club of West Sacramento Centennial. As of the 19th of January, I have been in Brazil for one month! The month has flown by and I look forward to the remaining 11. I have had the opportunity to do lots so far and there’s too much to talk about so I’ll simplify this summary down to 4 things that have been important in my first month of exchange: family and friends, travel, food, and religion.
Family and Friends: My host family consists of my host mom, host dad, older host brother and older host sister. I am so grateful for my first host family. My host parents are very good at speaking to me in a way that I can understand. They speak at a pace that I can understand and know the words that I have learned so far. My host sister is one year older than me and has been generous enough to let me join her in participating in social events with her friends. My host brother works hard to keep my year running smooth by organizing all of my paperwork, cell phone plan and documents. They all work so hard to make me feel welcome and happy to be in Brazil. I have yet to begin school but my host family has made sure to create connections with friends so that I can get out and socialize. I often hang out with our neighbor Livia, our family friend David, the friends of my hist sister who is currently in Thailand and of course the exchange students in my city. I’ve been surrounded by amazing people and am so so grateful to know them all.
Travel: In early January, my host family and I took a week long trip to the coast of Sao Paulo. We stayed in Praia Grande and visited the beaches of surrounding cities such as Santos, Sao Vicente and Guaruja. I spent my 18th birthday there and we went paddle boarding to celebrate. It was great fun swimming in the Atlantic ocean and eating acai every day. On the way home, we stopped in the city of Sao Paulo. We visited the Cathedral of Sao Paulo, ate in the mercado and walked the streets of the city center. The streets came alive with the shouts of vendors advertising water and the rings of the bells of the acai carts.
Food: So far I have gained 3 kilos. Exchange student weight gain is no joke! I’ve eaten so much food and have become obsessed with beans and rice. A typical lunch includes meat, rice, beans and lettuce with diced tomatoes. It sounds pretty healthy but mix that with McDonalds, Burger King, brigadeiro (gooey balls of chocolate), pastel (a fried food typically with meat and cheese on the inside), coxinha (another fried food with meat and cheese inside), pao de queijo (cheese bread) and juice or soda with each meal, you get weight gain, But it’s exchange and in the end, it’s worth it. The food is just that good!
Religion: Religion here as been something that I have needed to work on adapting too. It’s not something that the other exchange students I have met have needed to adapt too but with my host family, I have. My host mom is Evangelical and finds great strength in living with Jesus. The passion she holds and other members of her church holds is actually pretty amazing. Because of her commitment to church, I have felt the need to go to church also. In the search for a church that I’ll enjoy while socializing with friends, I’ve attended her church which is a small and traditional, a more modern evangelical church that is centered around music and the Catholic Church of my neighbor. I’ve enjoyed attending all three of the churches and witnessing the passion all of the people hold through their singing and prayers.
It’s common for strangers such as the baggers at grocery stores to say, “Stay with God” as you exit. Family members say, “Sleep with God” before going to sleep and a town next to our city has many signs that read, “Jesus reins here” as you exit the freeway. It’s been a change but I am grateful for the opportunity to experience it.
Thank you guys for providing this opportunity! I am beyond grateful for all of the fun I have had, difficulties I have had and everything in between while here in Brazil.