The worldwide Augustana College experience

Reflecting on Brazil Term…

This blog post is a little different.. similar to my first one – we have been given a prompt.

Reflecting back on my time so far in Brazil, I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge. Even with the travel experiences I have already had with my family, this was unlike any of those – and not because I was on my own this time.
In Europe it is very easy to get by without knowing their language – sometimes you feel like an idiot when you try to pronounce something on a menu, but that’s usually about it and even then you can get by with pointing. Here, you have that feeling constantly. (for example, for some reason in the hotel in Brasilia we were only given one pillow for three beds, after spending several nights sleeping on a bundle of clothes my neck hurt so bad that I decided it was time to go ask for a pillow. It seems silly but I was really dreading it because I knew there was no hope for pronouncing the Brazilian word for pillow.. after I tried a few times I gave into miming and trying to describe a pillow through charades. It makes you feel like a 2 year old and an idiot all at the same time, but I did get a pillow!) The language barrier was not exactly a main concern of mine before we left. For some reason, whether it be from the teachers or previous travel experience, I was under the impression that knowing Portuguese wasn’t an essential part of going to Brazil.
While here, for the most part I have felt very accepted by Brazilians. Perhaps my view is tainted because Rachel, Ellen and I were lucky and met very nice people in Rio that have grown to be great friends, but even in Salvador and Rio I have had many positive experiences. Our teachers had told us that people here are very kind and curious, and I have definitely noticed that. Whether it be on a 20 min bus ride, or simply sitting on the same bench as someone else in the mall – I have had memorable conversations with random people. From this I have learned how welcoming Brazil is, and in return how unwelcoming and judgmental our own country can be. I have had strangers on the bus overhear me when I get on and ask if the bus is going where I need to go, and then as I obliviously approach the stop – tap my shoulder and make sure I get off at the right place. I feel like in Chicago that would rarely happen, especially with a tourist. I may have a cynical mindset on this, but I think in general we view tourists as somewhat annoying at home and we get frustrated and impatient when they can’t speak our language.
There have of course been some situations where Brazilians weren’t this wonderful towards us. One afternoon at lunch, Rachel Ellen and I (I swear I spend time with other people as well.. hahaha) ordered Carne de Sol (it was this massive bowl of Brazil’s version of mashed potatoes, steak, fresh veggies, and awesome spicy peppers) – the whole meal was supposed to be 15 reis, according to the menu. When the bill came it was mysteriously tallied up to be 48 reis.. after 15 minutes of an argument with the waiter where we were trying to understand what cost so much, he flipped the bill over where it was already written 15 reis. In my first blog post, I had written about everything turning out well as long as you’re smart – and this is the perfect example.
On another note, I was surprised with the beauty of the country. Seems like this would be one of the things I would’ve actually been prepared for after constantly scrolling through google image searches of the cities I would be going to, but looking back it’s easy to see there is no way that one can be prepared for Brazil. The cities we have been to have all been so unique and both scenically and culturally inspiring.
I was also surprised by Brasilia in general. It is such a bizarre place that I knew nothing about before coming, except that it is the Capitol of Brazil. The city is a planned city and has such an extreme organization that it’s almost eerie. The architecture here reminds me of why I used to want to study architecture. Every building is fascinating, modern, and so well designed. The city seemed to use mostly one architect, Oscar Niemeyer, to design every structure. I look forward to researching him so I can learn more about his ideology and designs once I get home. He reminds me a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright since both architects had very geometric and simple yet astounding designs. I can’t wait to tell my grandpa, an architect, about what I’ve seen here and show him the pictures of these buildings.
I think this trip has impacted me in so many ways that it’s difficult to pinpoint it. Throughout the time when Rachel Ellen and I were trying to figure out how to get back to Rio at the end of our trip on our own, I learned the true meaning of my Dad’s famous saying “Nvrgvup” (Never Give Up). While the trip ended up not panning out, the battle of planning it and making it work was an experience to learn from in itself. This trip has also taught me that sometimes you are the only one restricting your dreams by not believing you can achieve them. Pretty cliché, yes, but in all seriousness – many of my experiences here have helped me realize this. I never expected to cascade down waterfalls, samba with professionals, go surfing, or any of the other unbelievable experiences, when I was leaving for this trip. So lesson learned: dream big.
The last change I have seen in myself from this trip is my desire to come back. I had written in an earlier assignment for class that I chose Brazil term because I didn’t expect to every make it here on my own, or to come back. Now I am trying to devise a plan to get my parents to bring my brother and I here next summer… As predicted, I fell in love with this country.

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