Encountering the Unexpected

By Steven, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Sometimes the best things are those that are wholly unexpected. For me, this doesn’t sit easy. I don’t even like the idea: as a child I would spend countless hours questing to discover the hidden treasures that were my Christmas and birthday presents. I would spelunk in the dark confines of my grandfather’s closet and take a visual inventory of everything in my garage, searching for the gems I knew were hidden there. Sometimes I would find success while most of the time, my plans were foiled. I would discover nothing because my grandfather got smarter, trickier perhaps. But, as he got smarter, so did I: my grandfather would certainly hide the present, but what about the receipt?

So, what does my questing for presents mean? It means that I love knowing and I’ll do almost anything to discover new things – to conquer the unexpected. There’s nothing wrong with expecting a few things or even knowing something. But, sometimes the rewards are so much better when things are completely unexpected.

lab brazil
The lab at IFSC

In Brazil, learning to embrace the unexpected has provided me with some of the best experiences thus far. Never did I expect that I’d be working at a local university called IFSC (Institute Federal Santa Catarina) where I’ve had the opportunity to work in a biotechnology laboratory, to help teach English, and to expand Google maps to places that they haven’t ventured yet. Never did I expect to be living with my capoeira teacher and his family – a surefire way to improve my capoeira skills! Never did I expect that my new host brother would be progressive, open-minded, and excited to help me explore Brazil. Never did I expect to venture to the jeweled crown of pizza places: a rodizio pizzeria (imagine unlimited pizza with never imagined toppings that are magically brought around by servers). Never did I expect to be sitting at a batizado, an epic capoeira event I can’t yet properly put into words, typing this entry. I can’t wait to see what other unexpected experiences I will have.


Now, all of that being said, I’m still going to search tirelessly for these amazing experiences, for the Christmas and birthday presents, I request. However, I realize that along my journey I cannot and do not want to avoid the experiences that are wholly unexpected. Even though I can’t exactly be sure if I’ll check off the few things on my hypothetical wish list, I know I’ve already checked some things off that I didn’t know were on my list. It’s only been two months, but I know that I’m no longer the young man that hopped on a plane to the one and only Brazil. I’m changing not only from the experiences that I expected to change me but from those that were entirely unexpected as well!

New Settings

by Zoe, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Exactly one week ago I left my temporary home in Curitiba. It was here where, although I ultimately really enjoyed spending time with my host family, I experienced my first “low” (clearly shown in my previous post). Luckily, almost immediately after posting, I made it out of the trough and began to feel much more comfortable in my new setting. My temporary host family, Elaine, Julia, and Henrique, lived in an apartment building in an area of Curitiba called Cristo Rei. They were amazing and really welcomed me into their family. I experienced various new, Brazilian things, including my first feijoada, a huge gathering of extended family and friends with a ton of food.

The actual feijoada is rice and black beans cooked in pork, with various different toppings and peeled oranges on the side to help with digestion (that’s when you know). It’s a big tradition in Brazil, and one of my Curitiba family’s favorites.

zoe2Although I ended up having a relatively positive experience in Curitiba, I was definitely ready to move to my permanent community, get out of the city, experience new things, breath some fresh air, and live freely. I was ready to start my life as I will know it for the next 7 months. My life in Imbituba, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

zoe3My house is on this big hill at the southern end of Praia da Ribanceira, a beach about 5 kilometers north of the town of Imbituba, Santa Catarina. The neighborhood in which I live, called Vila Esperança, is situated on both the hill and the sand dunes, and is home to about 1,000 people. My host parents, Anne and Laureci, both grew up in this village and all of their family members live on the hill with us. In Vila Esperança, if you’re not family, you’re friends. Everyone knows everyone, something completely new to me after having lived in such urban and suburban settings my entire life.

zoe4Everything’s different here.

  1. My family speaks absolutely no English whatsoever, so it’s 100% Portuguese all day everyday.
  2. Sleeping until 7:30 is considered sleeping in and going to bed after 10:30 is relatively unheard of.
  3. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and it’s usually eaten with extended family and friends (especially on Sundays). We have coffee in the late afternoon, and rarely have dinner.
  4. There are bugs. Everywhere.
  5. The beach is right outside my front door.
  6. There are more cats and dogs than mentally possible to keep track of.
  7. When you look down at the ocean from up on the hill, or when you drive on the road along the beach, or basically any time you look at the water, there are whales. Without fail.
  8. Everyone eats a ton of seafood.

zoe5I love it. The papaya and coffee every morning for breakfast. The walk down the hill to the beach, followed by runs along the beach, followed by sitting on the wooden whale-watching platform built off the side of the hill above the water, followed by the steep, thigh-killing hike back up the hill and back home. The random visits made by various family members. The tiny bananas. The seafood risotto. The nighttime drives along the beach with Anne, Laureci, and Dyllan, blasting and singing Dyllan’s favorite (North) American music like Timber and Whistle. He knows all the words even though he has absolutely no clue what any of them mean. It’s all so great. Even the fishing. When Laureci asked me if I wanted to go fishing for shrimp (camarão), he didn’t mention that it entailed going thigh deep into this lagoon separated from the ocean by a sand bank…when it was an hour after sunset and raining. Oh yeah, shrimp only come out at night. I didn’t know that until I was knee deep in water. Literally.

zoe6Anyway, long story short, I’ve absolutely loved my first week in Vila Esperança, Imbituba, and feel so comfortable that I can’t believe it’s been only a week. I can’t wait for what the next six and a half months brings, and whether it be ups or downs, I’m so ready to take it head on and let it change me for the better.


Baby Bugio

baby bugioby Gabriel, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Several weeks ago I walked out of an airport in Curitiba, Brazil with mixed feelings of doubt, excitement, curiosity and homesickness. I have experienced a lot since then, yet those same feelings persist. As I crossed the threshold into a new country, the atmosphere felt surreal. I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, expecting to encounter sun and warmth. Instead the temperature was barely 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with clouds heavy with rain hovering above. I, along with the five other Tufts Fellows, headed to a hostel where we were able to climb a rock wall, race on a rope bridge/obstacle course and go on a small zip-line. After spending another night at a different hostel, we were promptly sent off to our host families for a three day weekend including the Brazilian Independence Day.

I met this transition with equal amounts of anticipation and anxiety, thinking I would be mentally shocked. I quickly began to realize that these feelings were unwarranted as I was welcomed into the home of my host mother Selma and her twenty year old son, Marcelo. Selma is an excellent cook and made sure that I had snacks, delicious meals and my favorite foods (ice cream of course) available to me. She speaks enough English for limited communication with me, and her son, who completed a foreign exchange program in the United States, is fluent in English. Most weekdays, for the two weeks which I spent in this city, I made a short trip to SESI International School to take a Portuguese class and a culture class with the other fellows from Global Citizen Year. In short, between the fact that I lived close enough to only take a single, simple bus everyday and had a candy bowl repetitively refilled on my nightstand, I lived in comfort. During this period of my experience in Brazil, I could not help but to repetitively think, “what the heck am I even doing here?”

Two days ago I boarded a bus which brought me to the island of Florianopolis, and my life until April 2. I met my new host family, who speak practically no English, and we proceeded to my small community. Though I had been told that Lagoa da Conceição was a tourist destination, I was unprepared for its beauty. Right down the street from my house is the lagoon, along with all of its shops and restaurants. Partially surrounding the lagoon are picturesque mountains begging to be climbed. A short walk past the lagoon and over the following ridge brings you to the ocean.  Sand dunes towered above as I walked along the road to the beach, dune-boarders descending their vast expanses. Directly within their view, surfers paddled among the towering, chilly, antarctic waves. This all seemed glorious, but I was still wondering, “what am I even doing here?”

This morning I entered R3 Animal, and that question was answered. Before I even passed through the “authorized personnel only” gates, I could hear the calls of the animals within. R3 Animal partners with the Brazilian Environmental Military Police to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate animals into their natural habitat. Nearly all of these animals have been victims of illegal trafficking or human action. During my first three hours here I met an amazing number of animals from a variety of species. So many questions bubbled in my mind but so few Portuguese words surfaced to be able to form them.  I was in awe to observe and get to see some of the inhabitants including owls, penguins, a baby ocelot, a baby seal, tortoises, LOTS of birds, many monkeys, some kind of tiny baby marsupials just removed from their injured mother’s pouch, a blind fawn, etc. I was in heaven. I was even able to hold the ridiculously cute baby Bugio (Howler Monkey). Though the aforementioned feelings I felt upon arriving here are still present, I am beyond thankful for this opportunity I have been given.