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.”

In-Country Orientation

September 18, 2016



September 15, 2016

“Curitiba is not a safe place.” A lot of people said this to me when I first arrived in Curitiba. After a few days, I started rolling my eyes whenever I hear this statement. What is everyone talking about? From what I’ve seen, Curitiba is perfectly fine. My naiveness lasted until last Sunday and now I tell everyone safety is just this city’s disguise.

Last Sunday, I went to the Sunday fair with my host sister. She doesn’t usually take the bus and it was my first time taking it without the rest of my cohort. After the Sunday fair, we started heading back around 1pm. At the bus station that’s shaped like a tube, two homeless guys showed up. They asked for money to buy food. My sister said in English that she doesn’t know how to speak Portuguese. But then to our surprise, the two homeless guys spoke fluent English. One of them started shouting, “Do you want to die? Do you want to die right now? Are you deaf?” Then he reached for his pocket. My sister and I started freaking out because we both thought that he was reaching for his weapon. My palms started sweating and I could hear my own heart beat. A few seconds later, luckily, the bus came and my sister and I sprinted into the bus. Later on, I asked my Team Leader and she told me that my bus station is in a very bad area and I should have never taken the bus there.

Having lived in Shanghai and Newton, I’ve been very sheltered my entire life. I’ve never encountered anything like this before. It was a very scary situation but I am happy it happened so early in my bridge year. From now on, I will take other people’s words seriously and prioritize my safety over everything else! Stay safe everyone!

Peer Connection

September 15, 2016

In essence, having a Bridge year peer brings the same, if not more, benefits as reading a book. People love reading because it is a great way to connect and absorb knowledge from other people without actually meeting them. The same goes with having a peer. Even though Erica and I will be having completely different experiences, we can still learn from each other. How to deal with culture shock and emotional distress, how to make local friends- we will encounter a lot of common challenges even though our countries vastly differ. Sharing strategies and experiences will only make our paths ahead smoother. Also, isn’t it super cool to learn more about another country? Having a peer who is going to another country can provide me with a different perspective, a different angle to approach problems.

The biggest and the most obvious challenge I can think of is of course time difference. Brazil and Spain are not in the same time zone, so it may be difficult to communicate in a timely fashion. However, with the help of What’s App and other social media, if we really put effort into making it work, I am sure this problem is easily solvable. Another concern I have is that since we are in different countries, we can see and approach things differently. Difference should be embraced, not scolded upon. As long as we stick to the rule of “curiosity before judgement,” I am sure Erica and I will make amazing partners. We will celebrate each other’s growth and witness each other’s setbacks. It will be a hard journey but we are in this together!! 🙂

Photo Essay

August 25, 2016

Past, Present, Future: The Journey Ahead