Getting Over the Fear of Answering the Door

By Jonas Gerken

There are many sounds in Brazil that I am terrified of. Gunshots, fireworks (which sound very close to gunshots), and the screaming cigarho bugs that begin their screech at three in the morning, are a few of these such noises. But the worst of them all is that dreaded intercom doorbell. 

   When family is home the ring is only a minor threat. Normally there is somebody else who is closer to the interphone or is not otherwise occupied who can answer. Sometimes I can coax my five year old host brother to answer it so that, upon not knowing what to do with the guest on the phone, he hollers for his parents who deal with the situation, and I’m off the hook. And then there are times when I can just put in my headphones and act like I didn’t hear it. But there are always those moments, those solitary moments, when the buzzer rings unadvised and I am frozen in my tracks.

   The house is empty, and I know it is, yet I wait hoping to hear footsteps coming down the hall upstairs, or a door swinging open signifying relief. But I am met with no response from the house, and the poor patron at the gate, whoever it may be, is left with the same ungratifying silence. It is at this point that I must make a crucial decision, one which can have future ramifications that I cannot foresee. I can let the buzzer ring, acting as if there is nobody home, and let my ignorance comfort me. But what if my host parents told the visitors that I was home, in which case I would be dishonest and both I and my host parents would be disappointed. It is a risk too often not worth it. So then my other option is to pick up the interphone, and briefly converse with the visitor in Portuguese. 

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Nicaragua – A Gap Year in Photos

By Brenna Trollinger

Roof of the main Cathedral in León

During my time as a Tufts 1+4 Nicaragua Fellow, my worldview has significantly expanded through this rich cultural experience. I appreciate the chance to encounter people and places in different walks of life from rural mountain areas, to coastal towns to vibrant city life in Leon. Through my internship and through independent travel, I have documented my time here in a series of photos. From rural schools to active volcanoes, I continue to fall more in love with this amazing country and the diversity of life here.

Fireworks during La Gritería, a Holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary

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My 1+4 Story: Elizabeth Kenneally

By Elizabeth Kenneally

Something I loved about playing violin was erratic and surprising improvement. I would seem to plateau for weeks, even months, working hard but without apparent payoff. My violin teacher would say “have you even touched the violin this week?” in a lesson for which I had practiced two or more hours a day. Then suddenly I would be playing one day and everything would seem easier. The shifts all landed, my tempo was even, my vibrato controlled. Those days made it all worth it. When my teacher would say “I can tell you’ve been practicing.” Because with hard work comes reward. It eventually pays off.

All of a sudden, Spanish stuck. Subjunctive rolled off my tongue without me conjugating or practicing beforehand. I would have real conversations without people slowing down or simplifying their words. I could understand jokes, make jokes of my own, and pick up on the passive aggressive tension in my office. People I talked to for the first time in a while all commented on how much I’d improved. I’m not fluent, I might never actually have a passable accent, and some conversations still leave me wondering if I have functioning ears or even a functioning brain, but I have improved so much. I can understand kids when they talk, understand nearly every word in office meetings, actually talk in those office meetings, understand my host mom on the phone, and talk to my brother’s friends about TV shows without once having to say “mande?” or “no entiendo.” Taxi drivers understand the address I tell them the first time, and sometimes people don’t immediately ask where I’m from in conversation. And it’s really cool. It’s really cool to see marked improvement in something I have struggled with for so long, something I sort of gave up hope on improving.

Too Good at Goodbyes

By Trevor Hall

Sometimes, I feel as if I have an extra subconscious in Brazil.

Tchau Tchau

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.

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Dear Ecuador Fellows

By Audrey Carver

Dear Ecuador fellows,

During last week’s trip to Manta, in the 15 hours crammed into a busetta, I had lots of time to think about you all. We slept, sang, and ate ridiculous amounts of animal crackers. We talked about the moral obligations of warfare and social hierarchy, and somehow devolved into deliriously playing the triangle game in a guayacil mall.
The day ended hugging at the top of a mountain, watching the most beautiful sunset that I have ever seen. Sad music gave soundtrack to the clouds lapping at the foothills, the orange-streaked sky, and the endless horizon. We stood there looking into a bigger moment, of feeling alone and connected and sad and happy, experiencing a simple moment of beauty and youth, far from home, together.
When I decided to come to Ecuador, I was most scared of being alone. I had known my friends at home longer than my own sister, lived at their houses, and called their parents ‘mom and dad’. The idea of meeting new people, being given a new set of people to spend time with, terrified me. Coming from such a small and isolated town, I had never had to be myself in front of someone new. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done.
Three months in, though, I have been met with only love and kindness, and I am writing this to repay with some love of my own.

I love that Kelsey will walk to my house with pan or manicho or matching tears when she hears that I am having a bad day
I love that Henry always has the right music, and will play it loudly.
I love that on Wednesdays, Maxwell and I meet in Amauta and discuss our non-existent love lives
I love that Chastity doesn’t complain that I ask her to translate literally everything, and that we bonded over the 27 bus the first week here
I love that Jen always has it together when nobody else does
I love that Stephanie always makes plans so that I do not have to, always picks up her ecuaphone when nobody else does, and always has a terrible chick-flick recommendation
I love that Elizabeth embodies “laugh so that you do not cry”, and will meet me at the river at lunch to do just that
I love that Maxine pretends to hate us, but that we catch him laughing along
I love that Maxito uses the sus kind of California slang, and is hella good at dancing.

I love our Sunday movies, our half-hearted Halloween celebrations, and how it takes an hour of wandering to figure out what we are going to do. I love that we always listen to early 2000s emo music together, and sing every word. I love that you will help keep men from shamelessly harassing me on the street, and that we can laugh instead of cry. I love that I can wear my glasses without feeling self-conscious.

I love having a community to count on, because my biggest fear in coming here turned out to be one of the best parts.

Thank you for taking such good care of me,