What they don’t tell you.

Curitiba: Probably 2x bigger than Chicago

As I sit here writing this, it is a bit strange. As I approach the end of my time in Brazil, I feel somewhat torn. I have grown more and more accustomed to life in a new country. A country with a totally different language, culture, city landscape, political spectrum, different problems, advantages and way better food. When I arrived to Brazil a bit more than 4 months ago, I was so uncertain of what I was getting myself into. Nevertheless I still wasn’t expecting just how different life would be.


And I will be honest, sometimes my expectations were unrealistic, or just straight up wrong. (We’ve all been there, right?)

So, I am not going to lie to you and say that people didn’t tell me that Brasil isn’t dangerous. (More importantly Brazilians told me this.)

I am not going to lie to you and say that I am that great at Portuguese. (I’m good for 4 months, but to become confident in a language usually takes about a year of practice, depending on the difficulty of the language.)

I am not going to lie to you and tell you that being abroad wasn’t or isn’t difficult.

I am not going to tell you that I never cried during my time abroad.


What I am going to tell you is that being away from your perceived home for a long time is probably one of the best things that you can do for yourself.


You are forced to understand who you are. Being in a familiar setting allows one to live in a way where certain things are on autopilot. We are more comfortable because we are around things that are familiar to us. For me, sometimes I didn’t really know what things were actually important to me. I was so used to the comfort of my own life that I didn’t have to question what was important. Comfort sometimes can equal complacency.

When we are away from familiarity and things that are familiar for long periods of time, we end up longing for or desiring for those things that seem so distant. Our priorities in life become obvious because sometimes we don’t have them while abroad.

This phenomenon applies to human relationships as well and can be paraphrased in the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” We long for what we don’t have. And sometimes in order to realize what our priorities are, we need to be put in a totally new environment, where we don’t have those very things we long for.

Curitiba street art

I am not going to tell you that I am happier in Brasil. I am not going to tell you that I am enjoying life here more. I am not going to tell you that I don’t miss my friends, my family or the life that I live in the U.S. I will tell you that happiness isn’t just a destination. I think part of happiness just involves seeing the positives in each day, and doing what you can in the moment to improve yourself, as well as others. Through this mentality I have become much more open minded and less self-pitying. I have spontaneously met a lot of new people and made some amazing friends along the way, which has undoubtedly made my time here in Brasil all the better.




Overall, what I am going to tell you is that I have become more accustomed to adjusting my life to change. Living my life one day at a time is something that I do now, because I have to. When I realized that my commute to and from work each day would be 3-4 hours via omnibus and Metro/Subway and then walking, I wasn’t thrilled. When I realized that I was losing money instead of making money, I wasn’t thrilled. When I realized how much damn effort (and more importantly, time) it takes to REALLY learn a language, I wasn’t thrilled. When I realized that Portuguese is perhaps the most difficult latin language to learn (besides French), I wasn’t thrilled. When I REALLY realized just how dangerous life can be here, I wasn’t thrilled. (Last facebook post 🙂 ) When I was judged or used by others because I was an American/gringo/foreigner, I wasn’t thrilled.

I wasn’t thrilled. But as time went on and all my expectations were flipped over on their head, I wasn’t as perturbed.

I got used to change.

I also came to a realization.

Humanity’s ability to change is so powerful. It absolutely riveting. It’s in our nature, and perhaps in all nature in general. Cough Cough* evolution.



I know that when I return to the U.S. in about 6 weeks, I will be adjusting to a huge amount of change. Just as I have formerly been accustomed to life and living in the U.S., I have become adjusted and accustomed to living in Brasil after more than 4 months and then some….

I guess one thing I want to say is that while change is difficult, it can and probably is a good thing. Change provides newness: new advantages and new disadvantages. And while we may fail at first to adjust to these new advantages and disadvantages, we can and often do learn how to live and cope with those advantages and disadvantages.


We become more acclimated to dealing with new problems, finding new solutions and understanding who we are along the way. I think we learn about ourselves the most when we need to change. It can be a painful process and sometimes we need to question what certain aspects within ourselves are causing pain, discomfort, or unwillingness to change. When we are able to pinpoint the cause, we have an opportunity to crush that weakness, or insecurity and become better people. 🙂

We’ve all heard about how going abroad “changes you.” I would agree with that, but I think theres more to it. If you slapped me down in a different area of the world and just said “change”, it might not happen. Change doesn’t just happen. Change happens when you adjust your mindset, expectations, lifestyle, and habits in order to be able to live in a way that gives you more of whatever you are needing or wanting. Change requires you to constantly struggle against yourself to set the bar higher.


The crazy thing about change is that it’s a daily thing. Living one day at a time all the sudden makes a lot more sense. Take that, anxiety.



~David Gapp


Self realization: being happy, and being you.

As an extrovert, it’s easy to value yourself based on your network. (I swear I wasn’t trying to rhyme that.)(Also the word “network” makes me want to vomit, pour gasoline on the vomit and burn it while vigorously gargling with listerine to cleanse my mouth and the ground of any possible remnants of the word.)

Anyways, for many people including myself, it can be confusing to understand how a social life affects our happiness. There’s the idea of finding real joy from meeting new people and making new friends. Then there’s the idea of finding value based on what others think of you or the amount of people you know.

They are two different things.

One involves enjoying the process

The other involves thinking about the goal.

One thing I’ve learned in life in the past year or so is just how important it is to enjoy the process rather than just working for the goal. And this is important for any part of life. Whether it’s work, hobbies, relationships, health and fitness, fashion…ect.

I think another way of saying, “enjoy the process, not the goal” is “finding happiness in the moment.” I’ve heard this term of “destination happiness”, the idea that you’ll be happy when “this or that happens…whether it’s a new job, new relationship, new apartment…” That’s something we need to avoid.


As a guy that’s kinda considered by others and also by myself as an outgoing individual, one would think that I always would want to be with people. At this point in my life, I would clarify that statement and say I like being put in the situation of meeting new people. But I like having the choice of who I meet or spend time with.

One thing that living in another country and going to different places with new people has taught me is that sometimes it is good to be alone. Sometimes being alone is the best!

People are cool and everything but there’s a reason that we as individuals make friends with certain people, and not with others. We are all different and find certain qualities in others to be either pleasant or unpleasant. Sure, some things like being kind and polite are usually universally appreciated (but not always).

Living in a foreign country for a very finite time has made me realize how important time is. When you spend time with people that you don’t really want to be with, you also take time away from being with others you’d rather spend time with, including just yourself. You need to prioritize your time based on the relationship.



One thing I think that is very common in American society is the glorification of the social extrovert/butterfly.

The person who is popular, has the most friends, goes to the most parties, has a strong social media following, always has a full social schedule ect….we tend to value people based on not who they are, but what they are to other people. And I totally get that! If this person seems to have a lot of friends, they’re probably pretty cool right!? Not necessarily.

Creating an identity from other people is dangerous. Valuing ourselves and other people based on what we may seem to others is not only wrong…it’s  inconsistent and superficial.

It creates a 1 step forward, 2 steps back mentality when it comes to self realization, and happiness. We want to be accepted by others in order to be happy. Thus we over listen and over internalize what others say or think. We then end up doing things and thus becoming something based on others, and not ourselves. No wonder so many of us struggle with identity.


The idea of being genuine and authentic doesn’t mean you say or be what others believe is true. Being genuine and authentic involves truly trying to understand the perspectives and experiences of other people and then relaying who you are to them in a relatable way.

I have definitely had the mentality in my life that my worth was based on the friends I had, the type of friends I had, the amount of people that wanted to hangout with me…ect.

Such bullshit.

I truly believe some of the most lonely people in the world are the ones who have the most “friends”.


When it comes down to it, valuing yourself and others as individuals is so important. A person is who they are as a soul. We don’t have souls, we are souls and we have bodies. Value yourself and others base on their souls and things will fall in place.

Additionally, always be aware of your intentions for the things that you do in life, so that you understand your actions. I hear of so many people who feel like they are just going through the motions of life. I think part of that is because they don’t reflect on WHY they do things…Self reflection is important for everyone. For me, praying helps we to look at my life and try to assess where things are going.

Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?, why do I want it?” Understand yourself so that your intentions of your actions in life align with what your soul truly desires.

When this happens, you end up knowing who you are. You end up living a more purposeful, truly joyful life.




My guess is perhaps lot of readers might think something along the lines of , “Who is this 23 year old dude to tell me how to be happy? Self actualization? Calm down, you’ve been reading too much philosophy.” Perhaps. But when it’s all said and done, I’m just giving you my thoughts and learnings that I have garnered, especially while in Brazil. Many people speak on the idea of how one learns much about themselves when abroad. I guess this is one of those instances for myself. I have been forced to grow and change my mindset in many ways and that has changed who I am. Take it how you’d like.

My First 2 Weeks


It’s strange to think that I have been here in Brazil for more than a month already. I guess at this point I think I will just tell you some of my initial experiences, where I am at now, and some funny or interesting things that have happened in between these times. As some of you may know from my Facebook posts and such, I spent my first 2 weeks here at a beach-town called Caraguatatuba. (This town shows up with spell check every time I type it on my computer. I’m not surprised.)



But let’s back track a little. As soon as I had touched down in Brazil, I essentially brought all of my belongings to the house I would be staying at in Sao Paulo. I unpacked and “Sela” as the Brazilians would say.…I was on the road again to Caraguatatuba. This initial and sudden change of scenery would be a theme for my next month, and essentially what I believe to be my whole time in Brazil. Things are always changing.




After driving through vast country sides with paper-tree plantations, jungles, coastal mountains, and all sorts of wonderful, natural scenery, we arrived to my host mother’s extended families’ residence in Caraguatatuba at about 10 pm. This was the same day that I had arrived from a 24 hour flight  from the U.S. I was freaking exhausted. As I and Katja (My host for my time in Brazil) got out of the car and walked toward the Condo Apartment, she informed me that the family I would be spending my time with in Caraguatatuba spoke very little to no English. This was a surprise to me. As I said before, things are always changing. This has been something I have become much more accustomed to in Brazil. Change. Different things. I always heard from friends about their experiences abroad. It was always something along the lines of “Oh dude, being abroad is so scary but freeing. You learn to adapt and shit…” I can attest to this.




As Katja opened the door to the condo I was greeted to a host of many Brazilian family members along with many “Opa’s”, “Tudo bem’s?”, “Ola’s”, “Oi’s” and so on and so forth. At the time I did not know what any of these meant except for “Ola”, thanks to some Spanish learning in the past. I didn’t know whether to feel overwhelmed or just laugh. I was so disoriented it was comical. One of the fathers came up to me and offered me a beer instantaneously. This guy got me. 

A familia e eu.

As the night went on, I was introduced to about 15 different people, all with names that I constantly forgot or pronounced wrong. The constant offering (and acceptance) of cold beer may have had something to do with this. The more I had to drink, the more I attempted to speak Portuguese. This also started partly when one of the family members named Bruno told me in English to try to speak Portuguese. He spoke very little English but was always asking me questions in Portuguese about English. He was genuinely an awesome, patient, and kind dude. From that night, I started to teach him English and he started to teach me Portuguese. Bruno was a few years younger than me (18) but that didn’t really matter much. Bruno would end up being one of my first and most important friends I have made to this point.




In Caraguatatuba, many of the days were filled with a lot of the same thing: going to the beach. It was great. One of the most difficult things in the first few days was the mental exhaustion of always speaking (or trying to speak) in Portuguese. I hated not being able to express how I felt and I really wanted to be able to learn what I needed to be able to communicate quickly. Living with people that only spoke Portuguese in my first two weeks was great because it forced me to speak and thus learn Portuguese. It was also a pain in the ass because if I wanted to learn a new word….I could be very hard to communicate what work I wanted to learn, especially if it was an adverb or a preposition.


As I have said, the first week was especially tough for communication. That was a huge hit to my ego. (Phase I of personal growth complete.) I had always thought of myself as being somewhat of a good communicator. At times during my first 2 weeks, I felt like it was impossible to let know people know how I was feeling or what I was thinking. If you know me, you know that I kind of share how I feel a lot. I get energy from conversing. I learn through conversation. Back in high school, I learned Calculus more because I just talked about it in conversations with friends and tried to understand it by just talking about it….Even if I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.



In regards to learning Portuguese, I sometimes felt like I never would….but patience young Padawan. As I write this I am able to have conversations, am learning more each day and constantly get surprised looks from Brazilians when I tell people I have only been speaking Portuguese for a little over 6 weeks. That makes me feel kinda kool.




This is not to say that my Portuguese is great right now. I may have accidentally asked a man selling bread if I could sleep with him when all I wanted was a damn loaf of carbohydrate goodness. I may or may not have accidentally said that I like to have relations with cows when I was really trying to say that I like to eat beef steak. I may or may not have caused a line at a restaurant because I was trying to order my food but had no idea how to do so at the time….So many glares paired with different  mutterings containing the word “gringo”…. But this is all hypothetical of course.



Ends blog with paragraph starting with phrase “I guess what I am trying to say” in order to seem nonchalantly teaching and inspiring*


“_____________________________” is that my first 2 weeks were probably my hardest, but most important weeks both for growing as a person, and as a linguist. I love the people I spent my time with and continue to spend time with. As of now, I have been back in Sao Paulo the last 4 weeks teaching English and this has been another layer of humbling growth for me as well. I look forward to all my new experiences that I will undoubtably encounter in the future. In my next blog post, I plan to talk about some of the experiences that go along with teaching English, but until then, Tchau….Tomorrow is Carnival and I need to get ingredients for caipirinhas. 


The Journey there.

Friends, family and whoever is viewing this post… Besides Facebook posts and such, this is one of my first times putting my writing out to the public. I’m definitely not perfect and neither is my writing…but here we go. I was not sure were to start so I guess this first  post will simply be about the very beginning. (A very good place to start. Vomits*)



It’s a different world down here.


And I barely made it.


I ran through the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport (which is insanely enormous) and arrived in the nic of time to board the plane departing to Brazil. Over the airport intercom I could hear “Last call for Brazil, I repeat….last call for Sao Paulo, Brazil.” I rushed to board the plane and was greeted by a female, Brazilian flight-attendant. She was tall, dark and drop-dead gorgeous. (Shocker) She raised an eyebrow as she stared at my passport and then handed my passport back to me. “Boa noite, boas viajens” She smiled wryly.

As soon as I got onto the plane I realized that everything was totally different.

No one spoke English. 


For the next 12 hours I sat in a semi spacious seat next to an elderly woman from northern Brazil who knew how to say “thank you”, “yes” and “goodbye” in English.

Our conversation was short.

I didn’t know really any Portuguese at the time so I kind of kept to myself after noticing how exasperated she seemed when I tried to communicate with her. Communication involved a lot of hand gestures and the occasional “sim….sim” (Yes in Portuguese) with a smile. (Smile and wave boys….smile and wave.) I had studied Portuguese on and off for a month before departing to Brazil but I realized you really can’t speak the language……until you actually start speaking the language. Go figure.

It was about 8 o’clock when the plane departed for Sao Paulo. After a few hours on the plane I started to uncomfortably doze off. I woke up about 7 hours later, a bit dazed. It was early morning and we were flying over the countryside of Brazil. Farmland and mountains rolled by, tens of thousands of feet below. Puzzle pieces of gridded farm land continued for hundreds of miles. Below me, Brazil was a mosaic of 50 shades of green….(Sorry, not sorry). 


I had a window seat and I sat transfixed not only by the view, but also by the unknown that lay before me.  I turned on some Coldplay to become more emotional. The feels. I thought to myself about how quick things were happening. Soon the airplane would be landing and I would be in a new country, in a new continent, with a new language, a new culture, and totally new people.

The plane landed and I quickly realized just how hot it was. The air was thick with heat. I immediately started sweating. I looked at my iPhone and changed it from airplane mode to connect to the airport wifi.  And then I  saw the temperature. It was 92 degrees Fahrenheit. When I left Minneapolis, Minnesota the temperature was around 10 degrees. 

After I got off the plane, I made my way through customs. (Which was a much more carefree experience than I anticipated.) As I stood in line waiting to have my baggage inspected and my documents reviewed, I noticed there were only a few other people that appeared to look non-Brazilian. They were the quiet people. They were also the people that seemed to look like they were on a vacation, wearing floral shirts (the stereotype is true), American baseball caps, and brandishing Apple iPhones.


I couldn’t help but chuckle. One thing I had learned before I got off the plane was that if you had an iPhone, don’t make it obvious. iPhones are commonly stolen in Brazil due to the fact that Brazil has a 60% tariff  on foreign electronic products. American electronic products such as Apple are thus much more expensive.

ANYWAYS….After a few minutes in line, I went to a customs official. She asked for and scanned my documents quickly and that was it. I bumbled my way through the rest of the airport to find the exit where my host-mom Katja was waiting for me. I asked a few airport workers for directions in broken (obliterated) Portuguese, and by the skin of my teeth I found the area where Katja was waiting to pick me up.

We hugged and I instantly felt more at ease. Katja was the first person I had spoken English with in more than 24 hours and I already felt so much more comfortable. 

The drive from Guarulhos Airport to the house I would be staying at in Pedra Branca was about 45 minutes. We weaved in and out of traffic. It reminded me a bit of New York City in terms of size and such, just more hectic. If you think that New York City traffic is stressful or crazy, go to Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo has 12 million people….That’s not a typo. 12 million. New York City has 8 million. I’m not a math expert but I did a little number crunching and Sao Paulo is 50% bigger than New York City.

My first impression of Sao Paulo while driving was a deep hit of realism. We drove through pristine neighborhoods with perfect resort-like facades. We drove by favelas (ghettos), neighborhoods full of graffiti, strange (loud) smells, loud music, and even louder people. In ways, it was just like any other large city. It had its nice parts, and its not so nice parts.


High rise buildings surrounded me in all directions. (Sao Paulo has more high rise buildings (or skyscrapers) than any other city in the world.) It’s a big city. Imagine being in a metropolis much larger than New York City that is also more dangerous, and poverty stricken. Also most people don’t speak a lick or English.

I was a little overwhelmed. But I was here.




For the sake of brevity, I will stop here. More to be continued….