Following the end of my Junior year in high school, I was quite anxious about my anticipated six-month stay in Brazil. Although I was psyched for the one-of-a-kind journey ahead of me, I worried that I had forgotten entirely too much Portuguese since the last time I was there to visit family, what with admittedly great lack of practice at home. My overall aim of the trip, therefore, was to achieve fluency in the language, as well as to work as an ESL coach at my aunt’s language school and attempt passing the federal college entrance exam in late October, nationally known as ENEM.
Once July came around, I had already successfully packed my entire closet in a proud three bags, finally ready to dive into my adventure. My parents and siblings were to come with me to Brazil for a couple of weeks and then return after three weeks, leaving me in the company of my delightful grandmother. After a long and drawn-out plane ride from Dallas to Sao Paulo (lasting approximately 11 hours), it took another tedious 10 hours by car to reach the city of Patrocinio. Once we arrived at my grandmother’s house, home of thousands of sweet childhood memories, we were greeted with an abundance of love and food and family.
As I am not foreign to Brazilian culture, I did not have to adapt much to the environment around me. However, being as I had never stayed longer than a swift three weeks in the country, I recognized this trip was no doubt going to be unlike the rest.
The first month of July was quite eventful, spending time with family that I had not seen for quite a while, beginning work with my aunt at ICBEU and, of course, focusing on the development of my Portuguese. One significant event that I will never forget was being involved in JMJ (Jornada Mundial da Juventude), a religious event created by the pope to unite Catholics all around the world, specifically adolescents. Approximately 400 teenagers were to be brought to my city to spend a few days with host families in preparation for the focal juncture that was to take place a week later in Rio. I was one of the few selected to be a Spanish translator for police officers who were to inform their assigned group of participants about routine safety measures and what they were to expect of the city. My specific group was from Paraguay, and after my job was done I was able to sit down and get to know the people and their culture. Paraguayan Spanish, I discovered, is very difficult to comprehend at first, due to the fact that Paraguay’s national languages are Spanish AND Paraguayan Guaraní. It took me a while to understand all that they were saying! If you were to visit the capital, Asuncion, for example, you might find that their Spanish is a bit off, but that’s simply because they are accustomed to their own version of Spanish, a mixture of Spanish and Guaraní. It was extremely interesting getting to know my group, and it is an experience I will always remember!
By the end of July, the time came for my parents and siblings to return home to the U.S. I knew I would miss them terribly, but I also recognized that my experience in Brazil would be well worth the time and distance apart from home. There was nothing to fret about, of course, as I was to reside with my grandmother and the rest of my family. I highly doubted I would ever find myself alone or without something to do. The following day I went on a 2-hour road trip with my cousins to Uberlândia, which was quite enjoyable. We spent the morning checking out the city’s incredible university UFU and spent the rest of the afternoon at a very pleasant mall, eating delectable Italian food and watching Now You See Me and Superman in the cinema. Once I returned to the city, I began to mentally prepare myself for school the following week, attempting to rid of all the remaining nerves that had emerged in fear of being incapable of forming new friendships and comprehending the material given by the teachers.