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Kira's 1st Month
Monday, August 31, 2009
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Dear Fort William Rotary,
Hello, from all the way in Brazil! These are the days I have been waiting for; days full of new adventures, new culture, new friends, and new scenery. Though they are never what I expected them to be at all, in fact I find all things are never as you expect them to be. If you do not try them though, how do you know what they will be like and in the end don’t you regret not doing them? I hope to share with you my new adventures, culture, friends, and scenery I have discovered in my first month here in Brazil.
It all started on Monday, July 27th. I woke up out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and went for a very early morning run were I thought of everything to come and everything I would miss. I did not feel any regret in this or in my whole 24 hour trip to Brazil. I left from Thunder Bay around 11:00 a.m. and said a quick goodbye to my parents and my brother Karl. I sat beside a very friendly man from Australia and we talked the whole trip and I learned all about Australia and found out he had worked down my little road in the country where most people in even Kakabeka don’t know exists. It’s a very small world.
When I arrived in Toronto I had to wait for 12 hours for my flight to Sao Paulo. I spent this time mostly walking around and talking to people. Most people were very interested in my bright red blazer with hundreds of pins on it and so I was stopped many times and asked about it. Later on in the day I met up with a few Brazilians travelling to Sao Paulo. They had been told that they might not have seats on the plane and would have to wait until tomorrow evening for another flight. This was absurd and they were very distressed and were talking so fast back to each other in Portuguese and caused quite a scene. It all worked out in the end and they didn’t have to sleep in the airport. I met up with another exchange student from Canada going to Brazil from B.C. and we had our last Tim Horton’s tim-bits together.
Before I knew it I was on the plane to Sao Paulo. The plane was the biggest plane I have ever been on and had two aisles and an upper class cabin also. I sat beside an elderly man who could not speak any English but spoke French and Portuguese. I tried to speak to him combining my little knowledge of French and Portuguese but he kind of ignored me. I don’t think he liked me very much and when I was taking my bag out of the overhead compartment I accidently knocked two bags out, managing to catch one, but the other landed right on him which probably made him more fond of me. I love watching out the plane window and I got to see a stunning sunrise over the Amazon. As I travelled more the landscape became much more flat with some hills and much less vegetation. It resembled the prairies in Canada, with lots of farms and not a lot of lakes. Next the flat, grassy, land turned into a hilly and more luscious landscape and then buildings started forming. I saw huge sky scrapers for miles and miles and that was when I realized I was here, I was entering Sao Paulo, I was going to land in Brazil.
I rushed down the hall to baggage claim, got my bags, filled out forms for the Federal Police and for the Swine Flu and met up with Regina my host mom, and my two sisters Isabella and Isadora. They were in a mob of people and it took me a while to realize who they were. They rushed up to me and gave me huge hugs and kisses, just like everyone I meet here. They are a perfect family and I love them so much. My host sister Isadora recently went on exchange to New Zealand and it was her idea to host me. She and Isabella speak perfect English and we talked the whole two hours home to Sorocaba. I also tried speaking to my mother who speaks just enough to get by. As we exited Sao Paulo I saw many buildings, wildlife, and rivers. I also found out a motel is not at all like a motel in Canada, you do not sleep in them.
Before I knew it we had reached a hill that overlooked my new town, Sorocaba. Sorocaba is a beautiful city with lots of culture, parks, huge churches, little shops everywhere great for shopping, bustling streets, restaurants, and full of tons of things to do. It also has MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s and a lot of the same shops and brands. Something that makes it very different though is that everything is gated, along with the community I live in. There are huge walls around it and the entrance gates are opened by the police working there or your residence card. It kind of resembles the border between Canada and the States. Inside all the houses are very large and very beautiful and there are lots of plants, trees, and there is a park with a pond, tennis courts, and a quiosques which is a place for Brazilian barbeque, churrasco. *You can take a look at these houses on Facebook along with all my other pictures from Brazil.* Five minutes away from the neighbourhood where I live is a country club with many pools, a water slide, a gym, a running track, outdoor and indoor soccer fields, a place to fish, quiosques, tennis courts, a salon where you can get your hair and nails done for very cheap, and then a place where you get massages, can take a steam bath, hydro massage, etc. I do not like walking there due to all the honking and calls (even some by the police) but I love going there to work out, play soccer with Brazilians, and well sometimes get pampered. I am spoiled rotten here but I do not have a slave. Our family does however, have a maid that washes clothes, makes meals, and cleans everything and a gardener. They are very cheap here along with other luxuries such as all the stuff at the country club and salon because there is a very low minimum wage. There are also a lot of poor people, there are a lot of people in Sao Paulo sleeping under bridges under blankets and there is tons of graffiti everywhere. However, Brazil is full of tons of friendly caring people who are so welcoming and happy to share their culture and show you new things.
I had just arrived for lunch, the biggest meal of the day. My first meal was lettuce, rice, beans, and chicken. I ate salad first with a ton of lemon juice and some vegetable oil. This made my eyes squint and I had to try really hard to look serious when talking to my new host family. It was funny. They have a lot of great food here and my sister loves to bake so we always have the best food. They have tons of different fruits I enjoy including; little bananas, mexericas (a type of orange), plums, grapes, apples, papaya, etc. My favourite though is açaí which they have a frozen dessert made out of just like gelato. I t does not have milk in it and so I can eat a ton of it with out getting sick. They also have good soya milk and amazing soya juice that I can drink instead of milk. I also love guaraná (pop made out of the plant guaraná), goiabada (a sweet like hard jam substance made out of the fruit goiabada), coxinha (a truly Brazilian food with a bread outside full of meat etc.), palmito (a vegetable/tree that’s white and tastes similar but better then asparagus) and tons of other foods that I haven’t tried before. I am still trying more and more things. People love to feed me, more and more and more and more and more and so on. I have to go to the gym a lot.
I stayed up all day talking and showing Regina and my sisters, stuff from Canada and then I realized I hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours. I fell asleep on the couch while talking and I felt so bad because my new sisters and I were going to go out to the movies but because of me we didn’t. The next day however, I met my host father João and my half-host sister, Ana Laura. Anna Laura is older and does not live with us but I got to see her a lot during the first weeks. She is studying medical herbology in University. João is a doctor and can speak excellent English. Well enough, only sometimes I do not understand him. Regina is a lawyer and is very organized and takes care of all the paper work including my VISA which took a while to get after numerous visits to the federal police. Isabella is my age and loves to cook, play soccer, go to the gym and loves most of all the stuff I love. This is the same with Isadora, if Isabella does not like something that I do Isadora will. For example Isadora loves chicken hearts and I am not really that fond of them along with Isabella. Ha-ha, yes I tried them. Everyone loves them here, especially the children who eat tons of them. I love my sisters, they are like the sisters I never had. They bug me all the time and goof around with me. I love to cook with Isabella, go to the gym with them, tan, go to parties, go out with friends, and do everything with them.
In Brazil people love to party. There are tons of different parties and get togethers. This night was my first party. It was not at all as I expected it to be. It was at a seven million dollar house and was very nice. The food was great and I made a lot of new friends that go to my school and other schools. I was very surprised at how much English they all could speak and amazed with the number of them that had gone on exchange. People are very friendly here and whenever you meet some one you kiss them on the cheek and give them a hug. This is very common.
On Monday, August 10th, I went to school for my first time in Brazil. School starts early at 7:00 a.m. and I go with Isabella, Isadora, and my neighbour. I get a ride to school usually with my host father João and he drops me, Isabella, and Vivi my neighbour off at Objectivo and then goes to drop my other sister, Isadora off at another school. It was very exciting going to school for the first time and meeting everyone. My first class was perfect, it was English but the teacher just spoke in Portuguese. I did really well in the work and everyone wanted my help. I had met a lot of the kids at parties before but all the new kids I met were super nice. I introduced myself to the class in the morning by saying, “minha chama é Kira”, “eu sou Canadainsé”, and “eu sou intercambista”. This means, “my name is Kira”, “I am Canadian”, and “I am an exchange student.” Everyone finds it so funny when I say this and people like my accent. Some people call me Shakira-Shakira and some call me Barbie. It is so funny because there are hardly any other blondes here and if they are they are not real blondes. School is very different here and there is tons of breaks and classes only last for 50 minutes. My school, Objectivo, is very small and you have just one class room with the same pupils. The teachers however, rotate. You are not able to choose your classes and there are no different levels. There is two different math teachers and classes, English, Portuguese, lots of different sciences with different teachers, history of Brazil, history of America, and geography. My school is very clean and there is a cafeteria, library, computer labs, pools, tennis courts, a gym, only about 20 classrooms, and it is from kindergarten to 3rd grade of high school (the level in which you graduate). The teachers are very friendly here and joke around with me and try to speak with me. I met the principal prior to going to school and he is also very nice and welcomed me to the school and gave me a hug. You get out of school very early, at 1:00 p.m. and I get a ride home with my neighbour.
I went to school for two days and they were so much fun. I can’t believe how much I could love school. I was learning Portuguese so fast there, making lots of friends and learning a lot about Brazil. However, the swine flu is very bad here and my host father being a doctor thought it was not worth the risk to send me to school and so I haven’t been going to school for more then two weeks. There has been more then 60 cases of swine flu here in Sorocaba and the day where I stopped going to school five people died from it including a seventeen year old healthy girl. We take a lot of precautions not going to the movies, washing our hands, putting hand sanitizer on every five minutes, and sometimes not hugging people when saying hi.
Even though I am not going to school I stay busy with a lot of other things such as travelling, visiting, partying, eating, baking, going to the gym, making a 3000 piece puzzle, shopping, and learning more about Brazil. The weekend before last Regina, Isadora, João, and I went to Sao Paulo to meet up with some friends from New Zealand. They were good friends of Isadora’s host family and had met my host family in Brazil this prior year when they went to visit. It was tons of fun to be with them because they just spoke English and so there was no awkward conversations where I just sat and listened. (I get into a lot of these) I was able to translate a bit, especially for my host mom, Regina. We met at a huge mall and went to the Sao Paulo soccer museum. Before we went to a country market where I drank coconut milk out of a coconut and tried some dried bananas. I saw and was taught all the names of different foods at the market. The museum was gigantic and just outside of a huge soccer-plex. It was very modern and really cool with lots of pictures, artefacts, T.V.’s, etc. Next we went to a churrascaria, which is a restaurant that serves the Brazilian barbecue along with other great food. All the waiters dress up in the dress from the south of Brazil where the quiosque came from. The girls wear dresses and the men baggy pant, a blouse, and a vest. The men walk around with different meats including pecinha, which is the most delicious meat I have ever tasted. It is even better then steak. Next we went to our hotel and on the way we got really lost. By the time we had realized we were going the wrong way we had travelled to the other end of the city. It was fine with me though because I got to see a ton of new things, buildings, parks, gigantic churches, buildings, and lots of historical parks. So, we travelled back in the right direction and twenty minutes later we were in our hotel. Me and Isadora shared a room and had a Jacuzzi and got ready for our night out. We were going to learn how to samba. Everyone got fancied up and we went to a nice restaurant with a band playing in every room. We went upstairs where the samba music was being played and stayed up really late dancing and enjoying each others company. A man that teaches samba at a dance school taught me how to dance and I picked it up fairly quickly. I was even told I looked Brazilian when I danced, this made me very happy. I feel very Brazilian now being able to samba, knowing some Portuguese, and having havaianas (Brazilian sandals).
I have not been able to go to any Rotary meetings yet this month but I have been able to meet a lot of Rotarians, my counsellor and family, my two next host families, rebounds and inbounds at conferences, school, and other places. The first Rotarians I met were my counsellor and her family. Miriam and Elias have two sons and one just left to the States on exchange after I met him. The other, Elias (jr.) is in University and in rotary. The family was very nice and took me to a paderia, which is a bakery in Brazil. They bought a whole bunch of food and forced me to try everything and I willing did. I try to try everything... even chicken hearts. (I spat it out though) They are a very nice family and I was really looking forward to having them as a third host family, but unfortunately they are not. My second host family I just met recently. They took me for a ride to the federal police where I tried to get my VISA again, and then to where my next brother, mother, and father work, at a law firm. I was very thankful we finally got my VISA. I also met Amanda, my new host sister who is a year older then me. When I went to my first Rotary conference I met my actual third family, well just my mom. She seems very nice and talks little English, but by the time I will be living with her I will hopefully be speaking fluent English. At the conference I met tons of new exchange students and then met up with some that I had already met at school. There is a boy from Texas, a girl from Denmark, and then another girl on exchange but not through Rotary who I haven’t had the chance to meet yet. There are seventeen kids in rotary and they are from the Brazil, States, India, and Mexico. We had an awesome time meeting each other and going to a horse university where we were given a tour, danced, played games, had churrasco, and saw a cavelaleiro ride a horse (a cavelaleiro is similar to a cow boy, and they travelled long distances in the south from city to city).
As you can see I have been introduced to a lot of Brazilian culture, foods, and places and I have been trying to do the same for my host family. On fathers day I made the family pancakes and gave my host Dad a bottle of maple syrup. I think he really liked them. The kids at school were really happy to when I gave them pencils with Canada leaves all over them. They really loved looking at my yearbook and pictures from Thunder Bay. I haven’t had to do my presentation on Canada yet but I already showed it to my family and am thinking of bringing it to English class. I went to Isadora’s extra curricular English class and I talked about Canada and was told where to go in Brazil and what foods I should try.
Well, that is just a little bit of all of what I have been doing and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. I have been very busy and have been having an amazing time here. I love Brazil so much and am so happy I am here. I love Brazil’s food, culture, people, scenery, and love discovering so much more everyday. I hope everything is going well in Thunder Bay and all of you are having a great summer! If you would like to see pictures from Brazil, you can check them out on Facebook. Finally, I would like to thank you again for making this experience possible.
Hope to hear from you soon,
Merry Christmas everyone
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Merry Christmas everyone!
Hope you can get a little bit warmer reading my letter about Brazil. I cannot believe it is time for Christmas already. Time has surely flown away here in beautiful Brazil! I have had so much happen, so many changes, and have learned so much through everything and everyone in so little of time. I can remember this special time; all the snow, the Christmas lights and decorations, hanging ornaments on the tree, baking delicious Christmas treats, snowshoeing with my family in the backyard and having bonfires with ooey-gooey marshmallows, skating, skiing, having a sauna or hot tub and running into the snow to make snow angels, singing Christmas carols, going to church and lighting the candles on the advent wreath, and waiting patiently for Christmas day in. Things are surely different here during the Christmas season but they try to make it like a wintery Christmas even though it is more then fourty degrees out sometimes. It is summer now; there are Christmas lights on the palm trees, tons of beautiful vibrant flowers, it is so green and lively, there are Christmas decorations hanging in many places around town, my new host family and I are going to buy a Christmas tree tomorrow, there is even fake snow and I love it more than ever. It is so funny to see poor Santa in his huge winter coat for he must be so hot. He should be wearing a bathing suit. I hope to learn lots of their Christmas traditions and plan on sharing lots of ours. I hope to bake Christmas cookies and a ginger bread house with my little sister and teach everyone our Christmas carols while playing the piano for them. I’m really excited its Christmas!
School has just finished up for the summer. School has had its up and downs but I have tried to make the best of it. It can be very boring sometimes for even though I may understand what the teacher is talking about I do not understand the topic. I try to pass the time by studying Portuguese, reading, writing, and sometimes drawing. I am always looking forward to those days where I am able to participate in class; I was able to do my presentation for rotary for the class and they loved it especially the girls who loved the picture of my blonde thirteen-year old brother, I have tons of fun singing English music in front of the class, am always learning Portuguese music to sing in front of everyone, and am dancing the samba more than ever. I am always looking forward to Portuguese class with all the other exchangers on Tuesday and Thursday. A Rotarian has graciously given his time to teach us and everyone loves him so much. We love doing work now; its so much more fun than being in class. I have fun sometimes joking around with the teachers and my classmates but most of the time I have to be real quite. In Portuguese class we do exercises, talk about everything in Portuguese, and are reading a novel called Fernao Capelo Gaivota, about a bird who lives differently from all the other birds to be happy not to follow along with everyone else. It is full of metaphors that show life lessons and we have many discussions over these lessons. We are learning a lot so much more than Portuguese in this class. We are also trying to get Rotary here to let our teacher take us out around town to learn Portuguese and experience the culture. We are also thinking of doing plays in Portuguese for the school which will help with our Portuguese and get us a better reputation. I unfortunately will not be having any more of those classes since it is summer holidays now. Next year we are planning to have so many more activities for all the exchange students during class, for it is not good to have all the exchangers in a school not doing anything and well wanting to get into trouble. School ended pretty well, we had a party with tons of Brazilian treats and food, and danced and took lots of pictures. That night was my schools prom and well it started off horrible and ended well super amazing. I got all fancied up; went to a hair dressers got curls, got a dress designed just for me, and well my hair went straight for the lady never put in any hair spray and I found out I could not sit, eat, or pee in my dress. It was very funny, I felt horrible, and thought I looked horrible. It wasn’t all bad though after all. I went to the prom with my neighbor and she loved my dress, and everyone loved it too. The party was also super great. There was over one-thousand five-hundred people there, over ten open bars, a huge stage and dancers and singers like a rock concert, lights, cameras, mimes, a parade full of samba dancers, people hitting drums just like in carnival, wouldn’t be surprised if a elephant came in, the samba dancers had hardly anything on but sparkles and high heels, feathers, one of the girls from the parade came up to me and danced with me, I danced up on the stage with some of my friends in front of everyone, dancing, champagne flying everywhere, and the best part was it never ended till eight in the morning! It was really funny to see grandparents leaving the prom at eight in the morning. Wow, Brazilians really like to party! I even saw a girl wearing a dress I had just worn in a fashion show a few nights before, which was super cool to see. I am surely going to miss my school.
Rotary has been trying harder and harder now to get us more activities to participate in for we have so much time on our hands since we do not have to do any school work or participate in class. On Mondays and Wednesdays we have Portuguese class after school. Every so often all the exchangers get together and have meetings and tours. The last one we went on was to Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and one of the largest cities in the world, with over 20 million people in it counting the surrounding areas. We went to many old cathedrals, churches, went to the top of the Santador where you could see the miles and miles of sky scrapers, went to 25th of March street where you can find tons of really, really cheap counterfeit items, went shopping, and took the Sao Paulo metro/subway. I have so much time here, and I really would like to make it worthwhile. I went to a school for people with mental disabilities just recently and well I think it would be really worth my time to help them. Some people say it is so sad to see people with mental disabilities but it is their smiles that really make me happy and I know they have hope. They just have a different life, but still need so much attention and love and care. When I went to the school a little girl came running up to me out of her group of friends. She gave me a huge bear hug and looked up at me with huge brown eyes and told me I was beautiful. That day seeing those kids play ball, sing, dance, do art and that little girl made me so happy. I would love to help there. I love reading, helping them with art, look forward to teaching them dances, singing with them and playing the piano, for it really makes me happy. I also think I am going to help out with an orphanage close to my house. Helping others makes me happy and isn’t that the point of life, to be happy?
I have had many changes in my life recently, and one of the major ones was changing houses. I am no longer living with my first host family. Normally, I would have stayed with them for only three months but I had stayed for four and I was even going to stay a lot longer, until January even. Unfortunately, my father’s dad is very ill and weak and is now staying with my family. There is also a family from New Zealand coming down to stay with my family (my host sisters last host family from New Zealand) and the house is going to be already packed without me. I am going to miss them a lot but I still see them around. I am going to miss going to Clube de Campo and going to the gym, playing soccer there, swimming, going out for dinner and talking with them, running in there condominium, and especially going to the beach with them. I loved the beach so much even though each time I went it rained every day. The last time I went to the beach I went with my younger sister Isabella and about five other girls. It was super fun, going to the beach, running on the beach, swimming, going out at night, and being girls. I really loved all the guys at the beach. I wanted to buy a kanga which is like a towel but thinner and for wrapping around your body and it was perfect since it was the Brazilian flag, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough money. Don’t worry though, it all worked out. The lady came back with the kanga and asked if it was okay for the guys behind me to buy it for me, and well how could I say no? I love the beach. I found a few jelly fish there, am eventually going to learn how to surf, love tanning there, and well I miss it so much. Can’t wait until January where I go on the thirty day trip with other exchange students to all the Northeast beaches and other real cool places!
I really love my new host family, condominium, friends, and all the more activities I am able to go in. My Japanese host dad is always mistaken for my real Dad, he is the principal of my school and a few other schools in the city and so he always knows about all the trouble I get in, he is super funny and talks a lot of basteira as my host mom says which is a polite word in Portuguese for bullshit, and is teaching me taekwondo and how to use a num-chuck. My host mom is a stay at home mom and has a lot of time for me which I love so much, she loves to paint and do art just like me and she said she would teach me how to paint, she used to be a super model and has so many interesting stories about her travels to different countries when she was a model, I love going for walks for her and she is even starting to run with me, and I go every Tuesday to get my nails done with her. My sister is eleven years-old, she plays the piano just like me and I have been teaching her a bit here and there, she likes riding horses just like me, we love to go to the pool together, and she says she will go biking with me. She is very shy but I think she is getting more used to me and she is hanging out with me more at the pool. Last week I went with her to the pool to hang out with some other girls and she just wanted to play in the pool by herself and didn’t want to ask the other girls to play. I got some other girls to play with her and they played all day, it seems like she just needs some help for she really loves to play with others. When I came home she said she was really glad I introduced her to the other girls and that made me feel so happy, I’m trying to get her out of the house lots. My host brother is on exchange in Germany right now and I get to talk to him over skype ever so often. There is also two maids that work at our house and they are super nice. I love them so much for they are so fats with washing my clothes, cleaning and they are super nice to me and talk with me all the time. They cook super well, and are always experimenting things without cow’s milk for me since I am allergic to it. I have discovered that I am able to eat buffalo cheese which tastes even better than regular cheese, Discovered condensed soya milk, and even chocolate with soya milk! I am able to eat so many sweets and deserts and delicious dishes I would never dream of eating here in Brazil. My family just speaks Portuguese which makes it really great for me since I am constantly forced to speak Portuguese and so am always with my Portuguese dictionary. I think my language is coming along very well and I can say pretty much everything now but when everyone is talking at the same time I am not able to understand for it is too fast. I am unfortunately forgetting my English though. I really love my new condominium since it is so much larger than my old one and I am to run in it and have found friends to run with, I met a lot of other kids my age here too and I love to hang out with them at the pool in the condominium, play volleyball, soccer, and well go to parties too. I am eventually going to go into Jujitsu classes or maybe even Judo classes here. There are horses just outside of the condominium and my sister and I are going to go ride them some time soon. I also may be able to go to Clube de Campo (the gym I used to work out at with pools, saunas, massages, etc.) with one of my friends that lives near my new condominium and so everything has really worked-out. I really love my new family, condominium, friends, and activities.
Over all as you can see, I am really enjoying Brazil and haven’t had many worries in my life. I am starting to try to put my time to use, make changes, and having so many experiences, and making memories and stories I can tell when I am older. I am so glad I went to Brazil and am so glad since I feel like I am living my life. I would die to live and love. I feel like I am doing that right now. I feel really great. I hope everything is going well in Canada and everyone has a wonderful Christmas! Hope this letter has made you a bit warmer. If not, check out the pictures and what not on Facebook. Hope to talk to you guys soon.
Sending you all the warmth, happiness, and joy. Have a very merry Christmas!!!
Kira White (thrid from the right), our outbound youth for 2009,
at Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
Kira (sitting, third from the left) at a meeting of District 4620. Also at the table are exchange
youths from India, the USA, Denmark, and Mexico, as well as two outbound Brazilian youths.
One picture says it all...