By Trevor Hall
Sometimes, I feel as if I have an extra subconscious in Brazil.
Besides abacaxi, muito, and beleza, these words are the most common I speak in Portuguese. I like the feeling the farewell has as it rolls around in a rhythmic circle in my mouth. No, I do not enjoy saying goodbyes to everyone I meet here in this welcoming country. I am actually thrilled to practice my broken, gringo Portuguese whenever I have a moment. In fact, departing from conversations is quite challenging here because the majority of people love rambling on about how cold the weather is whenever it drops below 70 degrees. Through learning and being immersed in a new language, I am constantly inside my head. My new subconscious presses me to use different parts of my brain while tearing my confidence into shreds. And although my high confidence is torn apart, I have had time to realize I have a phenomenal opportunity right in front of me to start new again in another language. In this experience thus far, I have identified things that I never had recognized before. And during this reflection time that is filled with conflicted ideas I cannot grasp, I noticed that I am very good at goodbyes—hence why tchau tchau is a common phrase I use.
By Leonardo Ruiz
Before coming to Brazil, I never really walked anywhere. Being from rural Tennessee, I was always forced to drive to places. The only times I actually went out and walked was on my way to my car. For this reason, one of the biggest changes I have faced here is the amount of walking I do. Until recently, it never occurred to me that it would be smart to start using a bike to get around my neighborhood. I can’t remember the last time I rode a bicycle. Fortunately for me, my host father has a brand-new bike he never got around to use. It had definitely been a long time since I had mounted a bicycle but once I got on, it was as easy as riding a bike. I did not expect that something as simple as riding a bike could be as exciting and freeing as it was. I could not help but to smile ear to ear as I sped up and felt the wind on my face. As I biked, I saw parts of my community that I didn’t realize were so close to me—cafés, stores, and even the Florianopolis botanical garden. It was at this time that I also noticed that there was so many people on bicycles. I realized then that I was part of this community, except that unlike everyone else I was actually wearing a helmet—and a slightly over sized one at that. I gained a new sense of independence at that moment.
I am used to being independent. Growing up with parents who did not speak English, I was forced to grow up. I realized that I, in some way, had to be my own parent. I would fill out and sign parent forms, field trip forms, doctor forms. Senior year of high school, when college loomed, I dove headfirst into the college application process mostly alone. I scheduled and took standardized tests, filled out FAFSA, poured my heart out on essays, and everything else that is required in the pursuit of a higher education. Although this independence has certainly been beneficial here, living in foreign country requires another type of independence—another kind. The kind of independence that allows for one to go out into a foreign world with minimal language skills. An independence that permits one to realize that sometimes it is necessary to reach out for help—that facing something alone is not always the best way.
So, as I pedaled faster and faster, I made a decision. A decision that for the longest time, I knew I had to make. I had been avoiding the issue for weeks, but that bike ride finally convinced me to move forward. It involved my host family. I won’t get into specifics, but I realized that we were not a good fit. I realized that I was not improving the way I wanted to because of this mismatch. I realized I needed a change.
By Savion Sample
I sat alone in the living room, laptop in front of me, watching my hands do their little “dance” in place on my keyboard – a new hand-fidget I’ve unconsciously started to do ever since arriving to Brazil, and seems to happen only when I get too nervous. I’ve come to call it the quick-fidgety-tapping-on-the-keyboard-keys-so-that-it-produces-a-somewhat-audible-noise-without-actually-pressing-down-on-the-keys sound. It’s hard to pinpoint why this has started happening, but I think it’s because I no longer have my friends, my family, and the comfort of my home at the end of the day to fall back on when I get anxious, so these odd little habits spawn as a way to cope instead.
So, why was I so nervous? Because it was the day that I was finally supposed to introduce both my families to one another, my Brazilian one and my American one. I’m a person who likes to keep different parts of my life very separate from each other. I act very different around my friends, as I do with my family. The way I act depending on the social groups in my life is very different, so the fact that two very important pieces of my life were about to come together was a very strange feeling for me. What would they think of each other? What would they say? What would they say about me? What if they don’t get along? All these questions were hurtling through my head, which only made my hand fidgeting intensify. Continue reading