I am back after many months of absence and I apologize greatly! I have been keeping up with my life here and just in the everyday rythmn that is Brasil.
In March I applied to attend a university in Belo Horizonte, called Potentia Universidade Catolica de Minas Gerais, or PUC, instead of attending high school. I was accepted and I am now studying International Relations. I am taking three classes during the week. Anthropology, Introduction to International Relations, and Asian-Western Relations.
I am enjoying university much more than high school because the students are obviously much more mature and I am interested in the subjects I am studying.I am do not have to take tests and I dont have grades so I am only assisting the classes but I am still getting a lot out the material.
By taking these classes I am seeing if I would like to study this course in the US which is very convenient because I don’t have to pay for the course and I didn’t have to take the test to get into the university. How lucky am I?!
I am still living with my second family and will be until I return to the US. I have stayed with them for over 7 months now and I am so greatful they still want me in the house! I am now truly like a daughter.
My brother Markinho, 17, is going on exchange to a small town in the outskirts of Houston, Texas. He will be leaving in August right about when my actual brother, Chase, is leaving for Cucuta, Colombia. I am so excited for both of them!
Markinho needs to get his student visa done in Sao Paulo so I think the entire family is using it as an excuse to go on a vacation. I have never been there so this is a great last little vacation to see the other enormous city of Brasil. Sao Paulo is supposedly much much much different from Rio and the rest of Brasil so I have been craving a visit. We will hopefully be going in a couple of weekends so I will get it in right before I come home.
My return date is July 16th and it is coming fast! I started counting down the days until I leave but it is just making me extremely anxious. I have to only think about my life here and focus on the people and experiences surrounding me.
This is an odd example but yesterday I walked into the small kitchen that I have inhabited for over 7 months and was grabbing juice out of the fridge when I realized how comfortable and at home I am here. My life has been here for so long that imagining myself going back to my “normal” life in Northfield just julted me for a few seconds. It also made me very happy about how I have adapted to my family and the culture. When I go back I will be bringing a little of my new life back.
After much delay, I am once again back in BH after 5 weeks of traveling along the Northeast coast with my family and on a Rotary trip.
My family vacation was a week long trip to Porto Seguro/ Arraial d’ajuda. two days after New Year’s my dad, brother, sister and I drove from BH to Porto Seguro which took about 12 hours! There ended up being many more trucks and traffic than we expected. My mom ended up flying there and arrived in the tiny one terminal airport just as we drove into the outskirts.
We stayed in a hotel filled with basically only people from Minas Gerais or mineiros and a few Argentinians. Porto Seguro is a town where almost the entirity of BH and Minas vacations during the months of January, Feburary, and where all upperclassmen in high school go during school holidays. The hotel was right across the street from the beach where all the little restaurants, called barracas, are situated with their designated tables. The beaches in Brasil are all open to everyone except you have to pay to sit at the tables or eat or drink something from their menus.
Everyday we made little day trips to beaches around Porto Seguro. My absolute favorite beach of my enitre life and absolutely the most stunning was the beach called Caraiva. We drove about 2 hours on terrible back roads and through a native reserve, where i held a sloth and a little parrot, to get to the dock where the wooden boats take you to the town on a peninsula. We parked our car and then proceeded to wait for a boat to come from the other side of the mangrove river to pick us up. The boats were so picturesque and were all painted bright blues and oranges. The town has no cars and only sand paths where you can walk bare foot if the sand isnt burning hot from the Brasilian sun.
One side of the town is located on the mangrove river and the other side is on the beach. The beach is half on the river with fresh water and then leads to the ocean where the water mixes together and is absolutely clear as glass.
When i saw the beach i just stopped and starred in awe at the entire beach. I then said to my brother that i didnt think i had ever been to a more beautiful place in my entire life and his response was… you need to get out more Hattie! I didnt even react to his comment though and just kind of laughed at how beautiful and picturesque it was.
After lounging in the shade made by cloth tied to four sticks with wooden chairs and straw mats we ate at one of the only restaurants in the tiny town where everything is brought over the river by small wooden boats.
When we were leaving i seriously thought i was leaving a slice of heaven.
Christmas or Natal in Brazil is not as filled with as many traditions and well… snow as it is in Minnesota and the United States. It was extremely bizarre to not have a Christmas filled with snow, stockings and warm winter jackets yet it was an experience that made me appreciate the winter wonderland of Minnesota.
On Christmas Eve my family and I drove early in the morning to Santo Antonio do Amparo, my country house and sitio (farm), where my mom’s parents live. That night my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins came over to our house and we opened presents at midnight and then ate a late dinner of turkey, ham, rice and beans. The desserts here are always my favorite part because Brazilians always use condensed milk in everything and I absolutely adore condensed milk! My mom made a dessert with doce de leite (from Argentina), whipped cream and then cookie bits within it. My grandma also made a pudding but pudding here is more like a cake mold with a type of flan thing made of condensed milk, of course!
The next morning we all woke up early and drove to Sao Joao del Rei a town about 45 minutes away from Santo Antonio to go to my dad’s parents house. Sao Joao is a university town and much bigger, filled with beautifully, slave built bridges and a delicious popsicle shop that makes the most fresh popsicles i have ever tasted. My dad’s family is much bigger but the funny thing is that some of my mom and my dad’s sisters and brothers married each other so there was some overlapping. We all ate the usual rice and beans plus chicken and turkey and my grandma’s famous pudding. After about 3 hours of just lazing around and waiting for the whole family to arrive we played a type of white elephant game where everyone is assigned a person who they must buy a gift for but when giving it to them they have to say clues about the person until everyone guesses. The clues that we gave about each other were all funny clues like,”this person will definately go bald eventually.” By the end of the game my jaw hurt from laughing so hard and smiling continuously.
My family was so gracious and bought me sandals, shorts and a tank top. I was so surprised they had bought me so many gifts but it felt good to get something just like at home.
Every year on Christmas Eve my family hands out barbies and little toy trucks to the extremely poor people who live in Santo Antonio. It was such an exprience to see all these little children being given these simple toys and seeing their little faces light up with smiles. I have seen poverty in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica but i have never been in such procsimity to these people. It felt so good to give a present to a person who appreciated it so much. the over all experience made me appreciate how wonderful my life is with my family here and how priveledged I am to be here in Brazil.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!
I went to my first Corinthians soccer game tonight with my dad and sister who are extreme fans. Corinthians is a team from Sao Paulo so there are not that many fans here in BH but surprisingly there were tons of people to cheer the team on. Corinthians hooligans and fans came from Sao Paulo to come to the game and they were absolutely crazy! I cant imagine how a game would be in Sao Paulo with tens of thousands of fans.
We were standing next to the Camisa 12 hooligans group and they were all screaming for the entire game, which Corinthians ended up winning 3-0 against Galo, which is very embarassing for them because Corinthians is placed 10th in the Brazilian league and Galo is around 7th.
It was definately the best game I have been to here and Corinthians fans are much more exciting than Cruzeiro, a team from BH.
For my birthday on the 29th my brother, sister and their friends made a lovely little cake for me decorated with candies spelling my name. It was hilariously because while my cousin was spelling my name everyone started to realize that my name wouldnt fit in the cake and then started making all these other designs. The cake turned out to spell my name very nicely with little embellishments to go along with it.
My family and I also went to a Mexcian restaurant for my birthday later that night. We planned to go to an Indian restaurant but it was unfortunately closed so I felt that Mexican food would give me a little spicey kick that I have been so missing.
Now that the school year is over, I have been chilling with my exchange friends everyday and having relaxed afternoons eating picnics, reading, and making friendship bracelets in the park. The school year is opposite of the US so I am having my second summer vacation in the past 4 months. What a wonderful life!
Yesterday I went to my favorite park in BH, Praca da Liberdade, with my two great friends, Kristrun (Icelandic) and Sophie (Dutch), to eat a picnic. It ended up raining when we arrived so we sought shelter in the small circular pavillion in the middle of the park. We met some guys training to be in the circus doing little acts of juggling. I started to make a friendship bracelet and the jugglers were really impressed so I had a bracelet making class right there teaching both of my friends and a juggler. I love living in a big city because there are always so many different people to meet and talk to.
The British series called Skins is dragging me in. My brother introduced it to me and i am completely addicted to the series that follows a group of teenagers from Bristol as they go through life filled with partying, dysfunctional families, sex, drugs and death.
Today is my birthday (aniversario) and i am having a wonderful day so far! it started at midnight in the wee hours of the morning with all of my friends at a praca (park) singing happy birthday in 5 or more different languages! I loved it! It felt so great to have so many good friends from all over the world wishing me a great new year.
Today I am celebrating with my family by dining at an Indian restaurant, the only one in Belo Horizonte, because i miss the great Indian food from Northfield. There are not that many ethnic restaurants in Belo Horizonte, for example there is only one Mexican restaurant here!
I am about to complete my fourth month in Brasil and like so many people told me, every month goes by more quickly than the last. While hanging out with my exchange friends, who i got out with every weekend and spend most of my spare time with, i brought up how we are not going to be just lazying around Brasil forever and we are going to have to go back to our lives full of responsibility in less than 8 months!!!!!!! We all just looked at eachother and realized how much we loved eachother and how we have all become suck great friends in such a short time. I love my exchange friends because we are all going through the same adjustments to the Brazilian cuture and are all here by ourselves. I have come to realize how much i appreciate their friendship and support.
My closest friends here are Kristrún (Icelandic), Sophie (Dutch), Rui (South Africa), Cristian (USA, MN), Madelene (USA, Ohio), and Nilo (Brazilian). I am constantly with them and we have become our own little gang that all of the restaurants in Savassi, a district where a lot of younger people hang out, have started to recognize! We all have so much fun together and I cant even imagine what i am going to do when i have to leave them!
The Brazilian school year is almost over in a few weeks and then i will be home free from school for 2 months! At the moment i am in high school but i am looking into taking anthropology, sociology, or studying another language at a university here in BH because i can attend classes for free and they are much more interesting than repeating all the material from my high school years!
From Jan. 4th to the 28th i will be on the Northeast Dream Tour to all the beaches of the Northeast with 50 other exchange students from my district. Estou muito muito muito animado para o viagem!
Now that i am in a happy new family and am very accustomed to my new daily life, i have realized that i have no troubles, besides having too many things to do that i can´t fit them all in.
Right now i am taking Portuguese classes with about 20 other exchange students who are living in Belo Horizonte with me. They are three times a week and i have gotten to really enjoy them because i have gotten to know all the exchange students very well because we are together for six hours of class and then go out afterwards. I am so happy that i have a solid group of people that i can count on at any moment. Unfortunately the lessons will end next week on Monday so i guess we are going to have to try a little harder to get together but that wont be a problem because we are always in touch.
I also am going to start taking kick boxing classes two days a week so i can stay in shape. In my last house i was able to run outside and around the lake because i lived out of the city but now i live in the heart of the city and there is no running area. People do run in the middle median which separates the two lanes of road but i am always returning home around 7 or 8 every night because of my late school schedule and hour long bus ride so it is not very safe if i ran at night time. So boxing and the building work out area is where is am exercising now, or attempting to.
The exchange students in Brazil have an option to go on several trips around Brazil and i have decided to go on the Northeast trip. This trip takes a bus load or two of exchange students for one month to tour all of the Northeast beaches of Brazil and Rio! I have heard from everyone that this trip is the best trip that they offer and you get to see so much of Brazil. I am extatic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The trip in from Jan. 4-26th so hopefully i will be a little tan by the time i return to BH and not a tomato!
Since my last entry much has changed. I have moved to my second family and my life has taken on a marvelous glow. I now live in a district or bairro called Ipiranga, which is about 25 minutes by bus to the center or the bairro of Savassi (where all the teenagers hang out). This is a magnificent change since I was previously used to an hour to just get to school. Unfortunately the bus ride to school is pretty lengthly yet I only have to take one bus instead of two.
I now live in an apartment which I love cause i get to have my own set of keys, which I find extremely fun. It must be because in Northfield we don´t even lock our doors so a set of keys to myself is very grown up! Living in an apartment means very little space so I share a room with Raquel and also a closet! At this time of the year, spring, it rains almost everyday which effects the electiricity so our lights go off and on during the storms. I don´t mind it in the least except that we have to unplug all the computers and tv because otherwise they might get electricuted. Also here when it is raining most people dont pick up their home phone lines because they think that they will get electricuted.
My new family is wonderful and has helped me so much with my sudden move. I have one brother, Markinho (17), one sister, Raquel (15), my mom´s name is Regane and my dad´s name is Marco. I also have a poodle, Maggie, who is 15 years old. I have never even seen a dog that old before and it surprisingly can still jumps onto beds and beg for food without much difficulty.
My mom is a Portuguese teacher and is also at the moment taking night classes to get degrees in both Environmental Conservation and Sociology. She also paints and there are a couple paintings in our apartment.
My dad works for an insurance, Liberty Mutual. He is passionate about three things: soccer, coffee and Carnaval! I seriously can´t think of anything better. Due to his coffee obsession, my family has a country house about two hours south of Belo Horizonte, in Santo Antonio, with a coffee farm! We usually go to the sitio every other weekend. I love going to the country because it gives me a needed break from the city. Similar to Minnesota where every family has a cabin, in Belo Horizonte everyone has a sitio or fazenda (farm) in the country where they go on the weekends.
Here in BH there are three teams: Atlético, Cruzeiro, and Galo. Yet my dad, sister, and brother are Corinthians fans (from São Paulo). And almost every Sunday my dad and sister go to the Mineirão, the enormous soccer stadium where some of the World Cup games are going to be played in 2014. So on Sunday I went to a Cruzeiro vs. Botafogo (Rio) and entered the world of futebol. It was amazing to feel the togetherness of an entire crowd all against the other fans and team.