Oi, where has the last month gone?
I cannot believe that I have already been in Brazil for over 2 months! Now, I completely understand why Rotary told us to not arrive with any expectations. Nothing could have prepared me for the experiences I have already had and the surprises I have every day. One year ago, I couldn’t imagine the life that I am living now.
A typical day for me begins at 6 am when I wake up and get ready for school. I have a small breakfast which is usually coffee and toast with ham and cheese. I walk to school with another exchange student from Ohio who lives down the street from me. School begins around 7:20. I have a block schedule so every day I have a different set of classes. I love my classmates so much and they have been very helpful with teaching me Portuguese and translating when possible. Math, history and Spanish are my easiest classes. The math courses I took in the US are more advanced than the classes here. I am learning world history again and I have had several years of Spanish. My school day ends at 12:40.
After school I have lunch with my host family. We either go out to lunch at a restaurant or we have a meal that my host mom cooked. Sometimes my host grandmother joins us. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and it is a time to talk and laugh with family. We usually have rice, a type of meat, fruit, and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are very fresh here and I have enjoyed trying the different types. My plate is usually an array of bright colors.
After lunch I walk my younger brother, William, to school. His classes don’t start until 1:30. I try to go running or walking every afternoon for about 4 miles. I love being able to run alongside the ocean and I can usually watch the sun set behind the city. I study Portuguese on my own for at least an hour a day. I read articles, conjugate verbs, and expand my vocabulary. My host parents gave me books that they used to teach my host siblings Portuguese when they were younger. I sometimes feel weird using a book that is meant for a two year old, but they have been very useful with expanding my vocabulary. My friends and I try to spend one or two afternoons together per week. Right now it is difficult for them because they are studying for college entry exams. When we do spend time together, we go to the beach, mall, and the small shops.
There are a few other exchange students in my city and we have enjoyed exploring it together. I love being able to have the whole afternoon to relax and spend time with friends and family. Now that summer is approaching, my friends and I meet after school and spend the rest of the day at the beach.
My family and I have dinner around 7 pm and it is typically leftovers from lunch or sandwiches. Dinner is followed by dessert and tea. Desserts range from candy bars to cake and are the reasons I need to go running every day. We spend the evening watching TV and movies together. I have had very relaxing and very busy weekends here. Now that the weather is becoming warmer, my family and I will be spending most of our weekends at the beach house. The beach house is located on a beach at the northern tip of the island. My other weekends have consisted of family and friend parties, going to the beach with friends, and Rotary events.
When I arrived in Brazil, I was focused on learning the Brazilian culture and a few weeks ago I was able to see two cultures blend together. At the beginning of October, my Rotary district took all the exchange students to Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest has become one of the most popular festivals of Brazil. It was inspired by the German party, which originated in 1810 in Munich. It started on Oct. 12, 1810, when King Luis I married Princess Theresa of Saxony and they celebrated by organizing a horse race. It was so successful that the party is now held every year with the participation of the people of the region. Currently, the Munich Oktoberfest receives an annual audience of nearly 10 million people.
The Oktoberfest in Blumenau, Brazil was first held in 1984 and 102,000 people attended the 10 day celebration. The following year the festival attracted the interest of neighboring communities and other cities. The 18 days of celebration are filled with cultural richness, music, dance and cuisine and is attended by over 600,000 people. It is to preserve and recognize the customs of their ancestors from Germany who formed colonies in southern Brazil. Oktoberfest is a huge party and celebration that includes amazing food, folk dancing, parades and other cultural activities. I remember reading and writing about Oktoberfest when I was first selecting a district to go to in Brazil. I thought about how amazing it would be to experience Oktoberfest, and that dream came true. It was great to be surrounded by people from all over the world and to be celebrating with them. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One of the best things about exchange is that you are surprised every day and have moments that will stay with you forever.
Caitlin Briggs is a Cooperstown Rotary Exchange student in Brazil. You can read more about her at http://beijosfrombrasil.wordpress.com/