• Spencer Shrader

A Reflection on Brazil


This one is difficult to start. I can't describe in one blog post everything that this recent adventure has meant to me. It's crazy to think that all of this was the product of a discussion between two friends in a garage one evening in February. My time in Brazil lasted exactly 2 months and 10 days. And it was both the shortest 2 months of my life, and the longest 2 months of my life. It was the shortest in the sense that it blew by, I had so much fun and it was gone in the snap of the fingers. It was the longest in the sense that I grew as a person and experienced as many things in 2 months in Brazil as I did in 2 years anywhere else. Sometimes a culture change is like a blast of cold water, it wakes you up, gets you out of your rhythm, and freshens your eyes to the new sights in front of you. Suddenly I was seeing, hearing, tasting, and experiencing things I had never experienced before. I've been blessed to have traveled a lot in my lifetime. I've been all over the United States as well as through Central America and the Caribbean, but living immersed in a new culture for 2 months is a different story.


Whatever life adventures I take on next, I will always carry what I've learned in Brazil with me. It's now a piece of me that can't ever be forgotten. It may have only been a 2 month trip, but I feel as though I've gained years of knowledge. I will highlight some of the things I thought interesting or amazing on this trip, but know that there are so many little things in between that added to the experience as well.


The Culture


Living in the same culture your whole life is almost like living in a little bubble. You get accustomed to your surroundings, and your own way of life. Obviously by reading books and by properly educating yourself, nearly everyone can grasp an understanding of other cultures in different parts of the world, yet that's much different than truly living there and witnessing it. Even parts of the US have different ways of life, you'll see a little bit of cultural difference between states. Texas' western feel will vary from Indiana's midwest way of life, and Indiana will vary from Florida's southern feel greatly. Since I had traveled the United States and Central America, I was prepared for Brazil and the different way of life. But when I got to live around Brazilians every day for 2 months it opened my eyes much wider. I began to see how habits are formed throughout your entire life, and a lot of what you see and replicate is based off of your peer group. Sometimes this can be good, sometimes it can be bad, it just depends on the type of habits you are forming.


Some examples I noticed had to do with fashion and appearance, or how teenagers acted towards one another. Though I completely understand and agree with looking as nice and respectable as possible, in Brazil you would see some people dress and act a certain way that could be considered shallow. Often times this would be a portrayal of a certain image that would help them get girls, or seem cooler than they felt on the inside. Of course this happens all over the world and is a common place thing, not restricted just to Brazil by any means, I'm just using this as an example because I found it somewhat prevalent in my area. Yet this way of acting didn't seem out of place or unnatural, it was just the culture. In Brazil it's deemed as cool to get girls and have fancy haircuts and wear sharp new clothes, it's not out of the ordinary. Most of the time the people acting this way thought it completely natural, and how things were supposed to be. I tended to create and develop relationships with my friends based on their personalities and inward values, as opposed to a certain image they tried to portray on the outside.


Another deep set cultural value is Catholicism and family, something that I found to be inspiring. Brazil is a family oriented country and normally families would all live close to one another and have large meals and celebrations together. Nearly everyone I knew was Catholic and valued Christianity. Something I found interesting, however, was sometimes the actions of Brazilians would counteract teachings of the Catholic faith, even though Catholicism is such a huge part of the culture. Of course this is also very common and happens all over the world, I just found it interesting because it was so prevalent. I was able to witness firsthand how growing up in a certain culture affected the actions of those influenced, and seeing this gives you a better worldly understanding of why people commit certain actions that sometimes you don't understand.


I loved being immersed in the Brazilian culture, and I think that there are things to gain from witnessing that way of life. Some good things, and some bad, but a learning experience either way. Throughout my 2 month voyage, Brazilian culture was something I truly tried to delve into and understand. That worked out very well for me and I feel more culturally in tune with other societies now. Whatever country I visit from this point forward, I will automatically be able to adapt and understand that culture better than before.


Blog posts "It's been 3 weeks already!" and "A Brazilian Sunrise" explain a bit about my impressions of the culture after 3 weeks and 1 months time.


Soccer


Though I was able to be immersed in the Brazilian soccer world, I wish I had been able to compete a little more. Towards the end of my trip I played in a high level competitive environment, but by that time I knew I wasn't planning on staying on a team and I started making plans to head to Canada. All the same, the training was great for my mentality and understanding of what it takes to play at a high level. I also had the opportunity to watch professional games, and feel the atmosphere and see the intensity. It was necessary for me and for my growth as a player to see this, and I'll carry that knowledge with me to my next soccer adventure.


Being involved in the neighborhood soccer games and witnessing the passion for soccer was a humbling experience for me. Seeing the love for the game the kids had with only a couple dirty soccer balls and a mud field to play on was incredible. It made me realize how much we have in the United States that is never taken advantage of. A small mud and dirt field was used by hundreds of people a month, yet I rarely see people taking advantage of the massive sports complex in our Florida neighborhood. Seeing that was up there with the most eye opening experiences of my time in Brazil, and really helped me to appreciate my blessings.


Playing soccer at Ferroviarias during my remaining time in Brazil showed me what the life of a professional is like. I was able to get an in depth look at the facilities, equipment, and other amenities a professional club has at it's disposal. I made great connections at the club, and will stay in contact in the future with some of the coaches and staff. I was also able to learn about the different leagues and the structure of Brazilian soccer, furthering my all around knowledge. 


All around my soccer experience was definitely good for my growth, albeit I played less than I had initially hoped because of uncontrollable factors. I was able to learn about the culture, see facilities, watch professionals play, and soak up some soccer knowledge I hadn't been exposed to previously. I am very grateful to Fabio for going out of his way to talk with clubs for me and do his best to set up a good situation for me.


I go into further detail in "All about soccer" about the very different soccer culture in Brazil, and talk more about my professional club experience "here".


Food


Brazilian food is amazing. I never expected going into my trip how big a part that Brazilian cuisine plays into the everyday life. South America is known for having good food, and a lot of that comes from the climate enabling farmers to grow certain crops. There is also a good amount of livestock that allows for a constant supply of fresh beef and other meats. The way that the food is raised combined with the style of preparation results in terrific every day meals, most especially lunch. I really appreciated the historical and cultural significance that food plays into Brazil's image.


Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and is usually when families join and eat together. Every day at noon my Brazilian family and I would sit and eat lunch together, and it was a great time for us to communicate and enjoy each other's company. Normally I am used to dinners being the time to sit and enjoy a meal with your family, but in Brazil the custom is opposite. Sharing meals together every day at lunch time definitely helped create a closer bond between all of us and allowed us to share our daily stories with each other.


The food itself is absolutely delicious and I already miss it. Almost all the dishes were new to me, and I really enjoyed sampling everything. There was nothing that I came across that I really didn't like. I wish I could eat the same type of food now but you only get the actual authentic taste if you live in Brazil. I'm grateful that I even got to experience the food culture however and I know that I will return in the future.


If you want to see some really cool pictures and check out a post entirely dedicated to food and what my daily routine and meals were like, you can check it out here in "Food for Thought".


Friends

My Brazilian friends were awesome and I'm so grateful I was able to make new connections and network with so many interesting people. Networking is such a powerful tool for whatever you do in life, and I made friends for a lifetime only after 2 months and 10 days. They went out of their way to make my journey an enjoyable one and be the best friends they could be, and I'll forever have awesome stories to tell. I appreciate all the rides they gave me and all our pizza parlor stops.


My friends even offered to house me when I visit Brazil again, and I know they would make the room for me in a split second. I did tell them they are welcome to visit me at any time as well when I'm in the USA, so if I ever find 15 Brazilian kids knocking on my door one day I accept full responsibility. It was my own doing.


In my post "Exciting upcoming plans" I talk about what I am doing at the time of writing this post. I also go more into detail about the friends and memories I made while in Brazil.


My Brazilian Family


Words can not describe how unbelievably kind and loving my family was to me. To accept a random teenager that is your son's friend into your house and actively decide to provide for him for over 2 months is not an easy thing to do. They could have supplied me with housing and then left me to deal with my other food and transportation needs on my own, but they voluntarily paid for my meals and fed me 3 meals a day and drove me to wherever I needed to be. They never complained and always tried to be the best people they could be. I am so appreciative of my situation and I know how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to have been a part of a family like that over the summer.


I will forever be indebted to the Picolos, and will always have a special connection with them. Even their grandparents and extended family were always so kind, and that made a big impact on me. They provided meals, transportation, helped me with the language, and even got me some goodbye gifts. It's nice to know that amazing people exist everywhere in the world, you just have to go out and find them. The entire Picolo family was so welcoming and genuine, and I feel lucky to have a home to return to in Brazil whenever I decide to visit again.


They took incredible care of me and were always looking out for my safety and well being. I remember praying before Brazil that I would have a good experience and have a strong relationship with the the Picolos, and I saw my prayers answered before my very eyes throughout those couple months. I couldn't have imagined what a wonderful situation the Lord decided to place me in. The Picolos are such Godly people and I saw that reflected in their every day actions towards me and everyone surrounding them. They are truly an incredible family that will always have a special place in my heart.


The Picolos still don't know what an impact that their kindness had on an American teen. They made a lifelong friend in me, one that will always be loyal and will do anything to help them or be there for them if they need me. Once again, thank you.


How I've grown


After my Brazil experience, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a new person because I still have the same characteristics and thought process as I did before, rather I would say that I am now more equipped and prepared for taking on future adventures. I gained additional knowledge I didn't have before and am more in tune with the world around me. Every experience you go through in life should make you a little bit wiser. You should try to learn from every situation and use those lessons to better yourself. This is what I focused on while in Brazil, and I am very grateful it worked out for me and I was able to learn so much.


Life wasn't perfect, but it never is. But if you focus on the positive things of every experience you'll begin to realize how blessed you are. Nothing can ever take away from me the wisdom I gained during my trip and I will forever carry those memories. Being in Brazil taught me how to battle against self doubt and disappointment, and how to be confident in yourself and what you stand for. Negative thoughts will never go away completely, but the more you begin to master your thoughts and control your actions the better you get at fighting them.


I learned that forming habits are incredibly important, but can also be very dangerous. If you force yourself into a routine where you are eating healthy, studying, working on soccer, etc, your mind and body adapts to that and it becomes habit. However, it's also easy to fall into unhealthy eating habits or sleep schedules, or other things that can have a negative impact on what you're trying to accomplish. This relates to peer pressure too, the more you are comfortable in your own skin and practice good habits, the less peer pressure affects you. I hardly ever feel the effects of peer pressure now as I've spent so long resisting it. Eventually your peers will respect you for who you are, or if they don't, find a different crowd to hang with.


The more you are exposed to another culture the more you understand it. From being in Brazil I can now see why some people do bad things, and are a product of their environment. When you can see that a person has always been exposed to negative influences and never had a good light in their life, it's easier to understand their actions. And once you understand how a person's mind works, you can start to form ideas of how to stop the negativity they are exposed to and how you can make a difference in their life. Doing wrong and terrible things is never acceptable, and if you can realize the motive behind someone's actions, than you can figure out a way to positively influence them and lead them to the light.


Like I mentioned before, I had a good understanding of values, morals, and cultures before Brazil but I was able to build upon that base and expand my knowledge. In the end, I had a super awesome time and I can't wait to go back. It's cool to see how much you can learn if you go into a situation with an open mindset. Make sure to take advantage of all the interesting things going on in your life! Not only is it good for your character, it's just plain fun.


A huge thanks to my readers for following my adventure. I like writing stories for you guys and it makes me feel like I have a group of family and friends right at my finger tips no matter where I am in the world. And of course a special thank you to my Brazilian family, the Picolos. You guys will always have a special place in my heart.



Tchau Brazil! Ate manha.



"But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength" - 2 Timothy 4:17

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