My Younger Sister

by Aberdeen, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Growing up in a family of six, with three siblings, I thought I was accustomed to being a sister.  What I couldn’t have known was that Brazil would bring me a younger sister.  I knew it was a possibility but I hadn’t contemplated it that much.  Biologically I have an older sister, an older brother, and a younger brother.  Now, experientially and host-family wise I have a younger sister.

The experience of having a younger sister is entirely new and I’ve entirely loved it.  She’s weird, funny, supportive, smart, annoying (if I hear the song “Dear future husband” sung one more time at top pitch I might pull my hair out), fifteen, beautiful, and one of my best friends.  She’s all that I could hope for a younger sister to be.

Upon first arriving to my homestay we were strangers, now I find it strange that she was ever not my sister.  In fact, I’m sitting on her bed writing this post.  Having a younger sister is much different than having a younger brother.  From my new position I’m seeing lots of my past self appearing in her actions, her worries, her every day high school experiences.  I never expected our sisterhood to be such a reflective period of my life.  I now have a better understanding of perhaps what my older sister has experienced watching me grow up.  Sometimes you can give the best boy advice in the world, knowing that it won’t be heeded, watching as the situation goes up in flames, and all you can do is just shake your head and be ready with open arms.

Every day I am astounded by how mature my younger sister is and how much wisdom she already has.  She is often the one giving me advice.  She helps me with Portuguese, we terribly sing Abba at the top of our lungs, we have movie nights with popcorn, we walk to town, we’ve done a lot.  I can’t tell you how many dishes I’ve washed by her side this year followed consequently with fights to the death by flicking wet dish towels at each others’ legs.  There is no way  I can express my gratitude at having a younger sister.  All I can say is that she’s been an integral piece of my experience in Brazil and that even though we aren’t connected by blood, we are just as close.

15 signs you’re becoming culturally Nicaraguan

by Isabel, Tufts 1+4 Participant

1. When an 80 degree morning feels like a warm fall day to you…


2. …And when when wearing jeans in 95 degree heat is so normal you don’t even feel hot anymore. Almost.


3. You practically set your alarm by the cats walking on your roof in the morning.

We woke up like this (at 7:00 because of the cats!)
We woke up like this (at 7:00 because of the cats!)

4. When your neighbors and family blast music at all hours of the day/night, but you’re so long past being annoyed you just dance along.


5. You walk in the shade even if it means going out of your way to cross the street. The sun is no joke here, so if you don’t want to fry, you’d better find some sombra. Fast.


6. Eating everything from bags (snacks, fruit salad, milk, entire meals…) is normal.


7. You see volcanoes on your way to work in the morning.

Ok, you’re right. This isn’t on my way to work. But I can see those same volcanos on my walk, so that counts, right?

8. You know and love Rubèn Darío, the famous poet who lived in León. Everyone here knows his biography and at least one of his poems, so if you want to fit in you’d better get researching.


9. Crowded busses/camionetas don’t faze you. And by crowded I mean so full that people are hanging off the outside. If you like your personal space this mode of transportation is not for you.


10. You can only get around if the directions are something like “two blocks west of the cathedral”. There are no individual house addresses like we’re used to in the US, and if you try to use street directions with me I will have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

I live 12 blocks west and 4 blocks south of here (La Catedral)! Just kidding, my actual address is 1 1/2 blocks west of Lobito bar, but still.

11. Cold showers are your jam.
…Ok, maybe not. I’ll always prefer warm showers. But I have gotten used to them, and after exercise or a hot day they can feel alright.


12. If you’re making a schedule you actually plan a half hour “waiting for people who will be late.”
… And then you expect a few will show up after that anyways.

13. Stop lights? What are those?
Maybe this is just a León thing, but in this city of 210,000 people there are maybe 4 stop lights.


14. …But that’s ok because you’re an expert at crossing the street without them. Even when that means a near death experience by speeding bus, taxi or Motorcycle.


15. And finally, you know you’re becoming culturally Nicaraguan when you can joke about diseases like chikungunya, dengue, or Zika.

Nicaragua brings you the latest summer fashion. Because if they’re going to fumigate like they did for Chikungunya, we’re fried!

A Visit to León

As the Tufts 1+4 Program Administrator, I have the amazing privilege of working with our fabulous Fellows throughout their Bridge-Year, as well as over their four years at Tufts. I skype and email frequently with all of our Fellows who are in the field to hear stories and see photos of their lives overseas. Last month, it was a real treat to get to see some of this in person when I visited our Tufts 1+4 Fellows in León, Nicaragua.

At the risk of embarrassing our wonderful students, I have to say that from the moment we met up on my first evening in town, I noticed that our Fellows seemed different from when I last saw them in August. Throughout my visit I was honestly in awe of their confidence, maturity, and adaptability as they showed me around León, introduced me to their placements and host families in Spanish, and gave me a glimpse into their lives. They all seemed so well-integrated into their community, and each of them has approached this year with such patience, thoughtfulness, and care.


After hearing for months about their service, it was great to see our Fellows’ placements first-hand! They are all contributing to some incredible community agencies.

2Elaine is working at the beautiful Casa de Cultura. Among other projects, she is teaching voice and music theory, assisting with translation and publications for the Spanish school, and helping organize an educational program that celebrates the most celebrated Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío.

3Abigail works at Las Tías with older children and teens. She spends her days helping with homework and teaching English, and led a huge project to both paint and create a mural from recycled materials at the community center where she works.4

Isabel is also at Las Tías but working with younger children, so her service is more focused on playing games and assisting children with activities, including creating a juegoteca at her placement to give children a quiet, clean, and colorful place to play games.

David is doing energy controls at La Salle University, carefully tracking the campus’ energy consumption and working towards making the University self-sustainable. He is preparing to implement similar energy consumption reporting and management at a school in León, and is also assisting with other renewable energy research projects at CIDTEA.

Emerson supports English classes for high school students at La Salle, as where he also teaches English to a group of university faculty. He is also working with La Salle staff and students to create a community garden on the university grounds.

Life in León


5I loved getting to know the city of León during my brief stay. It’s a beautiful city with a fascinating history. Though navigating the city can be challenging for first-time visitors (your host family’s actual address might be “200 meters from where the gas station used to be”), the city is small enough that it didn’t take me long to get my bearings. It was wonderful walking around the busy streets with brightly colored houses, seeing the Plaza Mayor and far off volcanos from the brilliant white rooftop of the León Cathedral, and sampling delicious rice and beans and other Nicaraguan and international food in meals with Fellows and my colleagues.

6Coming from a big city, León feels more like a large town – the central area is quite compact, and Fellows said it is not uncommon to run into people they know when walking around the main area of town. At the same time, León is large enough that there is a wealth of things for Fellows to do in their free time. I got to check out some of their favorite open air cafes, the gorgeous art museum where they sometimes head for a respite from the busy city, and the markets where they get their wonderful fresh fruit smoothies. In their free time, Fellows are taking guitar lessons, teaching English classes, enrolling in online MOOCs, taking exercise classes or going to the gym, riding bikes around the city, volunteering with a local Boy Scout troop, relaxing in rocking chairs with their host families, and, occasionally, hiking up, or boarding down, a volcano. There are so many wonderful opportunities to take advantage of in this city, and I am immensely impressed with the many ways that our Fellows are learning about, and engaging with, their host community.

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting each of our Fellows’ host families, who were incredibly welcoming. Fellows live across the city, and families range in size (both in number of people and pets!), but all were so kind, and talked about what a positive experience it has been to host our Fellows.

Brazil Animal Release Video

1+4 Brazil fellow Gabriel is spending his Bridge-Year at R3 Animal caring for rescued and rehabilitated animals in Brazil. He recently helped release 20 toucans, over 100 small birds, a jungle cat, a cuchia, an anteater and more back into the wild! Check out this great video of the release (and the cameo of Gabriel carrying the cages)!

What is Love?

painting the canon w 1+4 fingers

by Daniela, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love a lot, so each year it is nice to have a sweet holiday to celebrate who or what you love.

We are over halfway through our bridge year adventure, and I have many new things to love. First, I love the girls at Montoya. Ana, Yaiza, Carmen, Lucia, Leyre and Eva each hold a special place in my heart. I love the way Ana says goodnight to Madeline and I every night. I love the way Yaiza creates customs out of whatever is in the house. I love the faces Carmen makes at me after she makes a basket at her basketball class. I love the way Lucia blows grand kisses to us almost everyday. I love how Leyre wants to play make believe every time we are walking together. I love the way Eva gently corrects my Spanish. The educators at Montoya are also lovable. I love the fact that Juan Carlos asks for help with his English homework. I love the way Inma makes merienda. I love, love, LOVE Maria Jose, I love her food, her jokes, and I love that fact that during the first few weeks she was shouting Spanish absurdities to a boy who was making me cry.

I love Madrid and its mix of beautiful balconies and Franco style apartments. I love the buses here. I love Retiro and the Palacio Cristal. I love Celicioso, my gluten free bakery. I love not being able to understand Hector, my Cuban crush who works there. I love Toma Jamon and the fact that every time I go in, they know my order. Un cola cao, caliente. I love the Reina Sofia and the scary Buñuel movie that plays there. I love the fruit shops on every corner, and I love the neighborhood mercados. I love that it still smells like Roscone in front of some of the bakeries. I love our house and Miguel the portero. I love the gangs of elderly women talking and rolling around their little carts. I love when the Metro announces the wrong stop and everyone in the car laughs. I love it when I recognize the local street performers and their acts.

I love being able to travel. I love seeing different parts of Spain, and Europe. I love wandering around each city I visit and stopping at the local stores and coffee shops. I love making new friends, like Juan and Nathalia, who I ended up visiting last weekend in England. I love seeing old friends in unexpected places. I love seeing things in real life that I have only seen in books and pictures, like the Cliffs of Moher and the Nobel Peace Prize Center. I love that students enter museums free or at a discounted rate. I love mastering public transportation in a foreign language. And I love coming back home to Los Mesejo again.

Like I said, I love a lot. And while all of the things listed above (along with a couple of others) were contenders to be my Valentine, none of them stole my heart like my fellow Fellows! Daniel, Zoe, Eve, Gabriel, Aberdeen, Steven, Emerson, Abigail, Isabel, David, Elaine, Gongga, Justin and Madeline are the true MVPs this Valentine’s Day. Ellos son super guay! I am constantly inspired by them, via blog posts, Instagram, snapchat, homework assignments, and correspondence. Being able to relate to one another across projects and continents has been one of the highlights of the year. Whether talking about work, or just joking around, the 1+4 fellows are the absolute best. I love them. Hands down, they are my Valentine this year.

*Honorary MVP titles are also awarded to Isaac, Lydia and Nellie our peer leaders.

Bramerica: Consumer Culture Consumes Culture

daniel blog 2by Daniel, Tufts 1+4 Participant


Bramerica is the fifth biggest country in the world with a population of about 200 million people and the seventh largest economy.  Now you may have never heard  of Bramerica, but it’s real all right. How do I know? Oh, because I live there.

Bramerica is Brazil today. It’s what happens when  globalization sends American capitalism around the globe riding on the back of Beyoncé’s new world tour. Bramerica is this weird cultural mash-up that leads to non-English speakers singing Joan Osborne’s One of us or Brazilians wearing the shirt pictured on the right ➜

Daniel blog_Blurred
Why? Just, why??

to a local cultural celebration, or restaurants 4,226 miles (6,801 km) south of Key West serving XBurgers (I wish the XBurger was a super secret CIA program to enlist hamburgers as patriotic informants; but in reality the letter X is pronounced ‘chees’ in Portuguese. So, X-Burger…yea, you get the idea.) But above all else, it’s when I run into this⬇︎:

daniel blog 2
Oh, Mrs. Liberty, glad they gave you a vacation after 230 years of hard work. Brazil was a great choice!

on day one of  my 7 months in Brazil. So yea, for the past five months I have been living on the other side of the equator, thousands of miles away. But something is off, something is just too familiar, too American.


daniel blog 3

For an English speaker arriving in Brazil none of this may seem out of the ordinary. We are so used to seeing English everywhere that when a Brazilian billboard advertises “Brunch” you don’t even bat an eye. In order for us to truly notice the lingual weirdness present we have to break our own glass, take a step back and think “Wait, what?”

Fewer than 5% of Brazilians speak English but the beach store I passed on my walk to a picturesque shoreline still says that their bikinis are “70% OFF” and the billboard for the nearby music park (FYI: billboards are called “Outdoors” in Brazil) still says “Yes, We Dance.” The Brazilian population does not regularly speak in English but one of the most effective marketing techniques used in Brazil is writing in a language that Brazilians can’t understand: English. That is because for many, English=cool.

To give you a better idea, let’s run through some of my favorite examples of Portguesed English words (English words that are casually thrown into Brazilian conversation like they were Portuguese in the first place): Food Truck, Stand Up, delivery, livestream, meeting, video games, delete, fashion, touchscreen, network and my all-time favorite, the aforementioned super spy X-burger. These words are everywhere, a Brazilian library of the English language, and I am not even including the proper nouns (mostly tech and social media companies) that are even more prevalent. These words, and the social media used to transmit them are the messengers of this lingual and cultural assimilation; globalization is providing them with a new means of travel.

There has never before been a time when a language, any language, could spread so quickly and so efficiently. At one point, Latin ruled the Mediterranean and later, Mongolian, much of the Eurasian continent. But these lingual supremacies were accomplished through bloody conquest; English has secured its position at the top through means of money: economic conquest. While history may repeat itself, this the world has never seen. Because Bramerica isn’t just language; it’s everything.

Modern Culture

A few summers ago I attended a summer program with Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis and, of course, Americans (Me!). At one point, a Palestinian friend of mine said to me “You Americans, you have no culture, (just capitalism).” I add this last phrase here with a little freedom of expression because it would have completed the perfect Hollywood punchline (and helps me make my point). But my friend was stuck thinking of culture in the traditional sense: the parades and costumes of Carnaval, the festive dinners of Eid and the elongated necks of the Kayan Lahwi. He forgot that for every age there is an equivalent culture. And that right now, we are in the cultural age of the luscious golden arches of McDonalds and the cutesy tongue-sticking ghost of Snapchat. We are in an age of globalized culture and in many senses, globalized American culture. Where what is served and sold to the global population tends to tilt toward what the global population desires; and what the global population desires right now tends to be written in a certain North American language (hint: it’s not Spanish, French or any form of the Eskimo-Aleut languages).

This is not some patriotic rant but rather a realization, a truth, made clear by the Brazilian woman I saw wearing the star spangled banner across her bum and the multiple Brazilian men and women with US Army and Navy branded clothing. Oh, and of course, this again:

daniel blog 4
Mrs. Liberty, why haven’t you gone home yet?! You move like a hunk of copper and steel and wrought iron! Oh…yea…


Entertainment is the real powerhouse of this story. If social media is the messenger and globalization the means, then entertainment is the message; it’s what bounces around the airwaves and shapes the world’s view on American society as well as a sizable chunk of the world’s view of itself.

If you ask Brazilians about their favorite TV shows, movies or music, much of it ends up being pretty familiar to a typical American teenager. Netflix binging is nearly as popular here as it is in the states; Brazil will have an estimated 24.4 million Netflix subscribers by 2020 (the highest other than the US) and American films and music are widely available in the land of bikinis and futbol. In an age where the media you consume, the shows you watched as a kid, and the music you listen to are quintessential pillars of communication and personality this globalization of culture and media makes connecting with foreigners easier than ever before. Because now, many of us have grown up with the same shows, listen to the same music, and are waiting for many of the same movies to come out (The Star Wars opening weekend was packed here as well). So while we may live on other sides of the planet, in many ways, this modern age allows us to all grow up in similar households, creating an easy bridge into connections and conversation across continents.


Just as what you eat affects how you feel (and, potentially your waist size); what a country consumes affects how its culture is defined. The effects of widespread American culture are much deeper than many would expect; in Brazil, the Grinch didn’t steal Christmas, we did.

In December, the average temperature in Florianopolis is around 25° Celsius (that’s 77° Fahrenheit). So Santa’s got no need for his 19th century Americanized jolly red garb around here; but he wears it all with pride: his big belly, big beard, big robe, reindeer and even his snow have all followed him to Brazil. It’s like Santa came galloping in from the US, where, in every single piece of American film or media, Santa Claus (“Papa Noel” in Brazil) is represented as a jolly fat man dressed up for the winter. But shouldn’t that Santa really only make an appearance where he was created, or, at least where it’s a little bit below freezing? Shouldn’t the fake snow be unnecessary for Christ’s birthday (presents are another story)? We have inadvertently sold the world our holidays, or, for some, our version of theirs. And Santa’s not alone, over the past decade or so, October 31st has been turned into the Halloween that I recognize back home with costumes, pumpkins, candy, English and all.

daniel blog 5
There have been a few customizations.

As the presence of American media and technology grows, the deeper American culture and language embeds itself into other countries and their cultures.

Em Fim

What does all of this mean for Americans? Most of us live our lives oblivious to the fact that what we create, consume and compose is not just for us, or even just for the North American continent or the Western Hemisphere. We forget that our creations and our culture are displayed to the world at large in a way never seen before. We forget that the films we create, the music we produce and the businesses we churn out are the lenses through which the rest of the world comes to understand us; just as beaches, bikinis, baladas and soccer are how we understand Brazil.

This epidemic is not just constrained to Brazil’s borders. South America in its entirety, Europe, Asia, Africa; every continent has caught The English. They have all been touched by not just American capitalism but American culture. (I tend to conflate English and American a lot throughout this post, that’s mainly because most of the English material and products that I have seen here have been American. Also, I am American…so there’s that bias.)

But the next time you turn on the radio or are looking for a new show to binge on Netflix, count how many are not in English and not in the Foreign Language section. Then think about all of the Brazilians, Egyptians and Argentinian people searching through a nearly identical library, choosing between dubbed and subbed as well as Action and RomCom. And then think of the last time you heard a song in Portuguese on the radio, and remember that someone, somewhere in Brazil is rocking out to Maroon 5 at this very moment. Then be amazed.