We spent the weekend doing family things and going bbq’s. During the week I had a new instructor. My fourth and final Portuguese professor didn’t speak any English but she was very nice and class went at a more relaxed pace. on Monday we did some sightseeing and historical things, going to museums and hanging out with the instructors from GCC. We went out to Santa Barbara, a nearby town. The museums were fun, it’s very interesting to see how much of an impact the U.S. had on the local history. It’s interesting how relaxed the museums were compared to the ones in the U.S. Here in Brazil, people were touching the artifacts, opening things….In the U.S. if you breathe too close to an object security will yell at you. The museums we went to may not have been as grand as some of the ones you might find in the States, but still, it was a very pleasant way to pass an afternoon.
Almost every evening I go with Jess to English class. I spend time studying and talking with the students and the teachers from Fatec. I feel like I’ve met a lot of wonderful people doing this. Sometimes, I skip. I get tired and I need a break, but I like going and talking to some of the new friends I’ve made. I’ve also been helping make the coffee during break, so I’ve been at the very least, a little helpful.
On day 24, it was cold! After class, we were going out shopping. It was raining and really cold and Fatima and Jess insisted on dressing me up. I brought mostly ripped jeans to Brazil, as an American ripped jeans are completely normal, in Brazil not so much.( at least I haven’t see them anywhere!) If left up to Fatima and Jess I would’ve been dressed in a winter coat, wearing a pair of pants from Fabiana, Fabiana’s sweater, a scarf, gloves, and a pair of boats from Jess. Basically, I would have had on enough clothes to go out and build a snowman. I ended up agreeing to a compromise: Fabian’s sweater, my jeans (with tights underneath them, due to the rips) my sneakers, a scarf, and gloves. Jess still insisted I would be cold. But I can be just as stubborn as she can and I insisted that I was a New Yorker, and therefore from the land of MUCH snow, a little bit of rain wasn’t enough to make me put on winter boots. After class that night a bunch of us from school went out to get some food and drinks, it was another late night, but it was the final night to all hangout before the English instructors from GCC would be leaving so of course, we needed one last night out.
It was a bittersweet day. I had my final Portuguese class. My last instructor was really very sweet, and I enjoyed the time I spent with her, but like any kid who just gets let out of school…you can’t help but want to celebrate;) Unfortunately, the end of Portuguese classes also marked the end of English classes and that meant, it was time to say goodbye. I had made a lot of wonderful friends in the two weeks of class and I knew it was going to be really emotional and sad to see it all come to an end. It was really really hard. They planned a sort of farewell evening for everyone. There were presentations from each of the classes, and later, a ton of food! A lot of people swore they would be coming to visit me in the states and I really hope they do! I really did meet so many awesome people; I feel really blessed. I keep saying this: the best part of my trip to Brazil were the people<3 If any of you guys are reading this, thank you, and I love you all!:)
It wasn’t my favorite day. I went to Portuguese class and after reviewing my homework, we went to put my Portuguese into practice…..didn’t go well at all. I didn’t feel confident in my vocabulary, pronunciation, or my ability to recall the terms I learned the day before. To sum up the experience, it was me, my instructor, my host sister (who was instructed to take pictures of the excursion), the instructors grandson who was acting as a sort of translator for my instructor who spoke almost no English, and lots of people staring as I was told to “speak Portuguese” again and again as I stood there mute and at the brink of tears. People were staring at me, a lot of people, and I was frozen, the panic and discomfort I was in erasing any amount of Portuguese I might have actually known. My instructor was frustrated with me, I felt ridiculous and like I wanted to go crawl under a rock somewhere.
At home Jess explained what had happened to my family and they were really sweet and sympathetic. All I wanted was to talk to someone that would understand that I was trying, but that I was also completely overwhelmed. I was taken to My host brother’s work and introduced to lots and lots of people. A few of them spoke English, the family wanted to find me someone to talk to, and it was a really sweet gesture but I needed more. I needed a full blown conversation where I could unload all of the pent up emotions and things I was feeling. That meant I needed someone who spoke English fluently. One of the guys I had met the other day with Jess and I had been talking on Facebook and he offered to come over to help me with my Portuguese. Vinícius is Brazilian, but he lives in Ohio and was back to visit his family for the month of July, he’s really nice and his English is flawless. Jess went to English class that night and he came over to help me with Portuguese. We ended up just talking most of the night. He probably still has no idea how much I needed to talk to someone, and how his being there gave me the strength I needed to keep trying. I felt so much better after he left, it was like having a little piece of home there letting me know it was going to be ok, and it was, everything turned out perfectly.
Class was better, but I was slowly becoming more and more defeated. I had a lot of fun when we got home. Jess was in a crazy mood and we ended up dancing around in the living room to ACDC, Fatima came in and all three of us started dancing switching from Brazilian music to rock, to hip-hop, and comparing American dance moves with Brazilian ones. Later, Jess and I hung out with Vinícius and then went to English class that night.
Class was bad again: verbs. I was on the brink of another melt down. I had a test the next day of verbs, and I had only had one class on them and I was suppose to know how to conjugate them, and also study adverbs and adjectives, which we never covered in class. I was also beginning to think my arm might be broken. It was still really messed up from my bike accident and I was starting to worry it was more than just sore from flipping over into the road….oops! Even though I really didn’t want to say anything It was getting better and I figured I needed to talk to some people about going to the hospital. I really didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, I was still embarrassed I even had the accident and here I was over a week later having to remind everyone about it again. Also, I don’t like making problems for people or complaining, but I figured maybe, I might want to take care of my arm if It was really broken.
We did one of my favorite things since coming here: we saw the Capoeira. The Capoeira is a traditional fight/dance. It combines music, martial arts, and rhythm. It’s original purpose was as a way for slaves to practice and learn fighting techniques without raising any suspicion from their masters. Slaves had no way to obtain any kind of weapon and therefore if they were going to attempt an escape needed to learn how to fight. The dance and music of the Capoeira allowed slaves to practice fighting techniques that helped many slaves avoid recapture once they’d escaped. It’s really very beautiful to watch, the whole event is very ceremonial and takes you back to another time!
Later we got ready to go to another festa junhia only this one would be held at my family’s church. I met a lot of people, and ate a lot of strange food. Toward the end an older man who probably had a little bit to drink grabbed my and held me to his chest professing his love for me and telling me how beautiful I was. I laughed and I’m positive my face was as red as a tomato. Jess laughed, “another new husband?” she asked with a grin.
We spent the day at home and didn’t go out until seven that evening. We ended up going to what I can only describe to be like a youth-group. I saw some of the people I had met the night before, and even though I’m not Catholic and don’t speak the language, I participated as best I could in the singing and dancing. At the end one of the men in the praise band announced who I was, and they all sang a song to me about God’s blessing and being with me wherever life may take me. I was embarrassed and feeling shy about all of the stares, but It was a really beautiful gesture and I was really touched by the love they showed me.
Another new instructor! She didn’t speak any English, but she brought her grandson along who spoke English well enough to help explain things to me. I didn’t think the class was bad, I learned some geography, about the seasons and climate, and names for clothing. After lunch Jess and I went for a run and then a bike ride. We had school that night, it was English class and Jess and I would be going every night for 3 hours for the 2 weeks. I sat in beginners English with Jess and no, I didn’t learn any new English words that evening 😉
Between my cough and my sore body from my bike injury, I had a rough night of sleep! Exhausted and feeling under-prepared for a test in Portuguese, I trudged rather glumly along to class. Elisete assured me the test would be easy; it wasn’t. I was tired and cranky and stressed out! After correcting the test with me she took me to the mall for coffee and to buy a dictionary. Bless Elisete for having compassion on the cranky American student who was slowly but surly discovering she was about as good at Portuguese as she was at math! I’m constantly amazed by the kindness of the people I meet, and I wish I was a better Portuguese student! I get out of class some days and I don’t want to try and learn anymore, I’m tired and grumpy and as much as I want to make everyone happy, I don’t want to speak Portuguese because it’s embarrassing to have everyone stare at the foreign girl as she clumsily butchers the most basic Portuguese phrase. And what”s worse, the only way to keep from being lonely is to talk to someone, and I can’t do that in Portuguese. I keep feeling like I’m not trying hard enough. Try harder, study more, those are my options. The way I see it I could curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself, or I could work my butt off and practice my Portuguese until something finally clicks in my brain! I’m not a person who is easily defeated, I get discouraged and I may want to give up, but I hate quitting, I hate feeling like I’ve been beat. I’m representing my school, my community, my scholarship foundation, and my country, you better believe I’m not going to throw in the towel and call it quits!
Later, the family was taking us to a classical concert. I was excited because I didn’t have to understand Portuguese to understand and appreciate what I was hearing. We saw Maestro Joao Carlos Martins and the Bachina Filarmonica. But before we went, the director of Fatec (the school I’m studying at) introduced himself and welcomed me to the program. They are excited that I’m here, and expanding their program to include bringing students here. After the concert we went out and got some food with another one of Jessica’s friends. It was a nice night out, and I was happy that I could sleep in the following day!
I feel less and less like I’m traveling. I’m in a bit of a routine, and it’s really been just day-to-day living. School, lunch, grocery shopping, reading a book on the couch, it’s all very normal. Later, Jess and I went on a walk with some of her friends and we got acai (fruit desserts made with acai). I was happy as a clam because both of her friends spoke English, and I could talk as fast, and as much as I wanted and they both understood! I was even sarcastic and joked around with them a lot, it was like a breath of fresh air feeling like I could be myself and not having to apologize for not speaking in Portuguese.
I would really like to learn the language to speak to my family. I don’t want to make someone else do all the work! I want to meet them halfway and be able to build relationships and friendships with people in their own language. That being said, Portuguese is really hard! I keep trying to explain to people, “I’m not homesick, I’m English sick.” I would honestly stay in Brazil longer if I could get some of the language down because I really do feel like I have a family and people that really care about me here. But I feel like I can’t be myself when I can’t speak in English. I speak and write in English. I process thoughts and feelings in English. I’ve learned that so much of my identity is expressed solely through my use of English. I can’t be sarcastic, or really talkative, or make strange voices, or be the quirky bubbly person I usually am. I will say this though, my Portuguese may not be coming a long but my skills in charades have got to be phenomenal at this point of my journey! I don’t want to complain, and I want to give a positive report on every aspect of my journey, but I also want to be honest, and I want future students who are considering going abroad to a country where they can’t speak the language to be aware of some of the challenges they might be up against.
A final note on day 10, there was going to be a protest going on through much of the country, and I was warned as a U.S. traveler to be aware of this and to stay away from any areas they would be taking place. I read the list of cities that they would be taking place in and didn’t think much about it, as I was safe and sound in Americana and it wasn’t listed on the report. That night, walking back home with Jess and her friend, we saw a lot of police and heard people shouting. Ahead of us was a group of protesters yelling and chanting as they marched down the road towards us. I tried to stay calm, I was aware of the issues they were fighting against and I admire those taking action, but in the night with people shouting loudly in a language you don’t understand, and half of their faces hidden behind white mask, it wasn’t easy to calmly continue to walk home as the group marched past us. It wasn’t late, it wasn’t violent, and we made it home without incident, but I would be lying if I said the experience didn’t get my heart racing a little!
Day 9 was pretty mellow. School, lunch, nap. After waking up we went to purchase tickets for a classical concert we planned on seeing Friday night. Then we came home and decided to go on a bike ride…..oops!
The bike ride was fine, for a little while. I’ll confess right up front that I’m a major clutz. Ask anyone that knows me; it’s ridiculous! By the grace of God I haven’t managed to trip and fall of some random cliff since being here because that’s the kind of luck I’m prone to having. So anyways, the bike ride was great, until something went very wrong. I still haven’t figured out quite what happened, suddenly I was laying on the pavement, I couldn’t breathe and my bike was on top of me. People we sticking their heads out of their cars and yelling to me in Portuguese, but I was too dazed to really notice. I somehow managed to pull myself out of the road, Jess was half-laughing at me, half concerned. Everything hurt…and I mean everything! My hands we bleeding, my face bloody, and the wind was knocked out of me. (upon closer examination later, I have giant bruises all over my legs, my shoulder, my knees are scrapped up, my forearm, as well as my face and hands bleeding) I was mostly embarrassed, I felt so stupid! There had been a car coming at me, and I was watching it, but when I turned to face forward there was a giant pothole (that I’m sure I would’ve died in!), and I must have panicked and braked wrong. I was propelled forward, flipped onto the pavement, and my bike flipped on top of me. I ride my bike A LOT at home, so this was a first for me, thank goodness I wasn’t seriously hurt. My clothes were ruined, I looked terrible. I was picking straw and bits of garbage out of my hair, I was sweaty, bloody and a mess so Jess suggested we walk into a pet store and ask to use their bathroom so I could clean up. There was a strange incident there. For some reason, the owner’s son must have thought my frazzled bloody dirt coated self was very attractive because he was very intent on talking to me and wanted me to know it was his birthday and how It wasn’t happy anymore, because of my crash. It was very strange. I can never tell when someone is actually hitting on me, or if the guys are just being regular Brazilians because they’re all super friendly.
“Ok, happy birthday” was my confused response to him. Jess couldn’t stop laughing about it later. This was going to be my new husband, forget vegetable man, I could have bird man, and have little angry bird children! Goodness the girl is crazy, but I’ll admit the whole thing was really ridiculous. I think maybe the birthday boy had had a drink or two before I showed up;)
At the house it was a lot of fussing and then laughing at me and my clumsy ways. I was lucky I wasn’t seriously hurt though. Just another day in Brazil!
School on Monday and I have a new instructor (I will be switching every week) Elizete. I felt very at ease with her as I had already spent some time with her on my first day of arrival, she was in the trio that picked me up. Her style of teaching was very different from Professor Flavio, Elizete was much more fast paced. I think the biggest thing I struggle with is I never get to review the material. I read something once, or repeat it to the instructor until they’re satisfied and then it’s on to the next section and I can’t process it that quickly. I’m fine in the classroom, but nothing is sticking in my head, I feel like an idiot, nodding and smiling and saying thank you about a hundred times a day; it’s frustrating. Doing homework at night is an interesting challenge as well; needless to say my Portuguese hasn’t much improved since my arrival. I know different words, and if I hear something I can usually remember, but trying to pull them out of some remote recess in my mind in an actual conversation is a feat I’ve yet to accomplish. However, Elizete is a marvelous instructor, and is relaxed and friendly in the classroom. For our break Elizete, compassionate soul that she is, suggested we get coffee with Chris and Caio so together we got our caffeine fix.
After school I went on a bike ride with Jess. It felt great to get outside and roam around. Riding bikes is such a wonderful way to see the city, but the traffic is a little crazy and It can get dangerous for bikers at times (more on that later!) and we stopped in at the park and fooled around for a bit. Fun fact: they have gym equipment in the park! It’s as normal to have ellipticals as monekybars and swings!
Later Jess and I helped Fatima prepare dinner for Elizete and Chris who would be coming to dinner. Dinner was very good, Fatima out did herself. There was TONS of food, but everything was wonderful. After dinner (which consisted of way too much food for me to even list off) Jess and I hung out and listened to some music while I edited some photos.
It was a holiday so no class! We spent the morning visiting relatives, everyone was very kind and it was an honor to meet more of my host family’s loved ones. After our visit we stopped at a vegetable stand, as Fatima has made sure that the table is always stocked high with veggies for me to eat! Also, when you’re a foreigner people are automatically more curious about you, so as soon as people realized that Jess was by my side translating the stares increased tenfold. It can get uncomfortable, but no one is unkind. Mostly, they’re just curious and I can’t fault them for that. I ran into this at the vegetable stand, where a woman and the few guys that were running the stand were watching me and talking to Antonio about me. You can’t do anything except smile and look apologetic about not being able to answer their questions.
And apparently, I had an admirer at the vegetable stand….and now Jess has decided that this will be my new husband and I will have little vegetable children! It’s now a running joke: me and the vegetable man. Jess even put a picture up on my Facebook with a painting of a man made out of vegetables! She’s a lot of fun and we get a long really well. I wish I could do more for her, I always feel like they’re taking care of me and I can do so little in return.
After that we went to the Zoo with Ciao’s family and Chris. It was very crowded with the holiday, and I, having already been there, was a little less aggressive with my camera than the previous trip. However, it was a beautiful day, and the zoo is a lovely place, it’s certainly a place you can visit more than once so it was nice.
Later, Jess and I went on a walk and I met another one of her friends. He was very nice and spoke English really well. He’s a very interesting person and it was fun walking around the city. At home we had more girl time: music, nails, and bed!