Reflection 10/21

October 20, 2016

I always tell people that I like changes because routines are boring and I am not. As time passed, I actually started to believe it myself. But do I really dislike routine? When I first arrived in Florianópolis, Brazil, I was very unhappy about how Global Citizen Year is set up as a program. After spending only a week with my host family in Santo Antônio de Lisboa, I had to leave my host family and participate in a 3-day regional reconnect in Santinho.

I didn’t quite understand why that 3-day retreat bothered me so much. I enjoyed spending time with other people from GCY, speaking in a familiar language actually releases a lot of stress caused by the language barrier. Then, as I thought more about it, the answer started to surface – the routine that I strenuously set up in the first week was broken. I was gradually getting used to the life of having free time in the morning and heading to work in the afternoon.

Yesterday marked the end of my first month in Florianópolis, and even though I miss my family and friends back home incredibly, I am still having a great time in Brazil. And a big part of my happiness originated from the fact that I have a routine.

8:00-9:00     Exercise

9:00-10:00   Shower + Breakfast + FaceTime

10:00-12:00 Reading + Journaling + Freetime

12:00-12:30 Lunch + Getting ready for work

1:00-7:00     Work

7:30-9:30     Bonding with host family + Chores

9:30-10:30   Dinner

High school was busy beyond imagination. Enjoying some free time was a luxury to me. And here, in Brazil, when I finally have time to just sit down and do some self-reflection, I feel peace and security. Gap year is all about finding your true self. GCY keeps emphasizing how this year is supposed to be a very selfish year. You should live it for yourself and only for yourself. Now I am starting to get what this really means. Discovering more about myself is a fascinating process. It’s like peeling an onion, one layer at the time. It’s only the first month in Brazil and I already discovered a little more about myself – routine is truly my thing!

Reflection 10/7

October 10, 2016

I think the biggest cultural shock I’ve experienced so far is regarding people’s reaction to me being a Chinese. I didn’t learn to appreciate America’s diversity and all these talks about stereotypes until I came to Brazil. Last week, when I went to a family barbecue, a woman told me I am very beautiful. Of course I was very flattered, but what she did next made me highly uncomfortable and upset. She put her fingers next to her eyes and stretched them, then said, “Olhos (eyes), bonita.” To be honest, I was very horrified. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing this to me in America. I was very upset and during the rest of the barbecue, I kept seeing a man stretching his eyes to mimic eyes of Asians and I kept hearing “Chinesa, Chinesa” but I couldn’t understand what people were saying.

Last night, I finally got a chance to talk to my host dad about stereotypes and racism in Brazil. He was very shocked when I said Brazilians don’t seem to be very friendly to Asians. Due to my limited Portuguese, it was very hard for us to have a deep conversation like this, but I was still able to get my point across. I couldn’t really understand what my host dad was talking about, but he was saying something along the line of, “People are not racist here. They are just curious about China and when they talk about Asian eyes, they mean it as a compliment. Racism is not a big problem in Brazil. Interracial marriage is extremely common here.” It was a concept very hard for me to grasp because something like that is clearly stereotyping. Having lived in the United States, I’ve been so used to being sensitive when it comes to racism and stereotyping. Therefore, I am having some trouble adjusting right now, but I am definitely trying my best to follow GCY’s saying – “curiosity before judgement.”