My First 2 Weeks

Hi.

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.)

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

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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. 

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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). 

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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.

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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.

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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….