About the blog
I have never been good at sharing my thoughts but I was now determined to set up a blog. Three weeks into my second gap year I was already starting to forget details. What airline did I take to São Paulo? What was that person’s name at the Rodoviária? What was it I found so strange when I first arrived?
Looking for inspiration, I logged onto Facebook for a quick peek at who was awake at 3am. My screen flashed with a chat from WB.
“Hi, wow, just the person I needed. I’m trying to open a blog and can’t think of how to start it. Have any advice?”
“Try to keep it short and sweet because I DESPISE boring blogs”
“Some people will be after your (head) about skyping…don’t do it. (Dang) it. Go out and live”
The conversation has been paraphrased and the words in parentheses PG-13’ed.
WB and I have a special relationship. We met at Fulbright camp. In August 2011, the Office of Scholarships ran a workshop for students eligible and eager to apply for national fellowships. The room was filled with Model UN fanatic student government functionary community service activists. We were asked to find partners to critique our essays and luckily spotted each other across the room.
“I haven’t finished mine”
“I haven’t either”
“You have to work on this essay. It is (dirt)”
“Yours doesn’t even reach a page”
Since his advice was so spot-on the first time around, I have chosen to follow it once again. This blog will be short and sweet. I will not promise regular posts, timely posts or accurate information. The only thing I do promise is to annotate the details I wish not to forget. You may read if you wish. Welcome to Brazil.
About the title
It was exactly two weeks before my flight to Brazil and I could hardly sit still in my rigid desk chair. I was communicating back and forth with the head of the International Relations office at UNESP and through broken Spanglish I was told I had a place to live when I arrived. I looked up the address on Google Earth:
I was reassured that I would have a wonderful roommate and that this house was close to the city center. That made me laugh. I accepted. For $200 a month, how bad could it really be?
I arrived February 22nd in Araraquara, São Paulo; home to one of the best universities in the country; home to the largest sock factory in Brazil; home to 200,000 people. After brief introductions with my host professor, I was escorted to my new house – the one I had intently studied on Google Earth. And as soon as I entered I knew I would be shopping around for a new apartment hours later.
My roommate was not a roommate; she was the 75-year-old 6-ft-2-in German owner of the house. There was no Internet. The house was decorated with ancient German furniture that one was not allowed to touch, and barely observe. There were too yappy dogs that I was asked to feed daily. The German insisted on keeping all windows open, allowing lizards to wander my walls and dozens of mosquitos to chew at my skin at night. She spoke to me in German because she insisted it was incredibly similar to English. She forced me to drink coffee. I never before thought that would be a bad thing, but in 100-degree weather and no air conditioning, it was torturous.
I moved into a kitchenette three days later and never once regretted the decision: not even while sleeping on the floor the first two weeks, not even when I realized I don’t have a washing machine, and not when I was forced, day after day, to watch Big Brother Brasil.
I was so Portuguese illiterate that first week that I translated all Facebook comments on Google Translate. My friend Karen, a true Brazilian social media addict, added a photo of our Tower of Babel household (one Korean, one Italian, one American/Argentine and three Brazilians). The first comment read “é uma ruiva, to louca”. I quickly dragged the words into the translator to keep up:
“Is a redhead, I’m crazy”
That was it. That was the phrase I had been hearing all week when strangers on the street stopped and pointed at me. That was also how I felt: Crazy. I kept thinking how completely mad I must have been in December when I decided to leave my comfortable life for this desert-like town. I was crazy to think I could learn fluent Portuguese in 9 months. Those five words explained my adventure in a nutshell.
I acknowledge that this is not an official Department of State website, and that the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Deptartment of State.