Well... These past couple of days in Brazil have been crazy. There's so much to talk about, and I haven't had time to write any of it down until now. So here is my first blog post from Brazil, I'll do my best to break it down by category.
Plane flight and initial thoughts about Brazil:
Packing for Brazil was fairly normal, I really just had more clothes and items to pack than if I went on a regular vacation. On Friday our plane departed from Orlando International Airport at 8:20 pm, and arrived at 6:30 in the morning the following day. Thankfully I was on the same plane as Breno and his family, so we stayed together throughout the whole process. The plane ride was comfortable and they offered complimentary meals which was nice. I read books, listened to some music, and created a plan for Brazil during the ride. I was super excited when we got off the plane, as I got small glimpses of Brazil through the plane windows.
The airport was fairly normal and looked exactly like airports in the United States, the only difference being that the advertisements were all in Portuguese. After we collected our luggage we went to this huge shop in the mall, that sold all different types of food and clothes. Breno's family bought some things and then we headed outside to the street, where we got picked up by a taxi. It was kind of like an Uber, and even though we had rented a big van we could barely fit our luggage in. We had luggage scattered throughout the vehicle, which made for quite a tight fit with the 5 of us plus the driver! We drove on a highway right on the outside of Sao Paulo, so we got a really good look at the city and the housing. I was a little surprised because right away I saw favela type housing all around the city. It was way different than the United States. I'd only seen pictures of favela's, so seeing them in person was crazy. From a distance, the favela's were kinda pretty and unique, but I most definitely wouldn't want to live in one. The city of Sao Paulo has both nice and poor areas but the parts I saw seemed to be similar to a city in the US, only the buildings weren't as fancy and were much dirtier. After we got out of the city it was mostly Brazilian countryside. Lots of beautiful rolling hills with cattle grazing. I must have seen a million cows on the way to Sao Carlos, they're everywhere. Occasionally we would drive past more favela type housing.
We stopped on the way to Sao Carlos to get something to eat at a gas station, and that's the first I got to taste Brazilian food. The sandwich I had at that gas station was amazing, it was just a grilled cheese & ham sandwich but the bread and meat used were different. I guess that made the difference, because I'd never had a grilled cheese sandwich that good in the US before. The total drive from the Sao Paulo airport to Breno's city of Sao Carlos was about 3 hours. When we finally arrived at Breno's hometown I was impressed, I'd say the city is right in the middle when it comes to quality, but I like the smaller city feel and some of the architecture and buildings. We traveled around and got to see different parts of the city, but there were no favelas and most of the houses were normal sized. There is poverty in every city, but for the most part Sao Carlos is pretty nice. It was really weird seeing my new city that I'll be a part of for 2 or 3 months, a little bit surreal. I'm very excited to spend time here though and can't wait for the adventures that lay ahead.
I absolutely love Breno's family. I've already become close with them and I am so blessed to have such a loving and caring home to stay in. They tell me that their house is my house, and they treat me like one of their own sons. I have two great brothers in Lucas and Breno, and two incredible parents in Fabio and Adriana. I couldn't have asked for a better home to stay in for the following months. Immediately after we arrived in Sao Carlos from the airport, I got to meet Breno's extended family. We went to Breno's grandparents' house first, so I got to meet his grandpa, aunt, and uncle, some in-laws, and cousins. To be honest it's really hard for me to keep track of them all and their different names, it's something I'm still working on! Even though I could barely communicate with any of them, they were so happy to see me and I didn't feel awkward around them at all. They were all smiles and brought me into the family just like Breno's parents did. That afternoon we all went out to eat together, and I started to get to know them. The very same night they all came over for pizza and dessert, so there were about 17 Brazilians in the house and 1 American.
The only one I could effectively communicate with was Breno. It was really fun though and I also got to meet some of Breno's friends. Fabio and Breno's uncle and grandpa run a soccer academy together, a thriving family business. That just points again to how close they are and how they get along. All of this was on the 9th, but we also spent the following day with his family, as it was the first time in 10 months they had gotten to see Breno. On June 10th, the Picolo family banded together and threw Breno and I a welcome party. They all worked really hard to talk with me, and with Breno's help, we could have small conversations. Breno truly has an amazing family, and I am very lucky to be a part of it.
Peep Breno's grandpa sneaking up on me to give me a Brazilian party hat above
Really the only struggle in Brazil I've had so far is with the language. Even though I know the basic phrases and greetings, I don't know enough to have a conversation with anyone. This is tough for me because I'm very social and outgoing, and I want to tell stories and talk with Breno's friends and family. I have Breno translate for me, but of course, he is also busy talking with his family that he hasn't seen in a while and isn't going to be there to translate for me at all times. It's good for me to get immersed in the language and important to find new challenges and overcome them, but I can tell learning Portuguese is going to take a long time. One cool thing is that kids in Brazil learn English in school, so I can talk in a mixture of English and Portuguese and sometimes we can actually have full conversations. All of Breno's friends and family try very hard to converse with me, and I'm picking up on new words now. I think in a week I'll be much better off. Progress is slow but I strive to improve every day. Even though the language barrier has been difficult for me, I've enjoyed trying to learn the language and will continue to do so.
Breno's friends are crazy. But in a really good way, they are super outgoing and talkative. On June 10th, the day after I arrived in Brazil, me, Breno, and a friend were supposedly going to someone's house to hang out. It turns out that about 18 of Breno's close friends threw a surprise party for him, and I got to meet a bunch of new people. Immediately everyone was super outgoing and wanted to talk with me. They started talking to me really quickly in Portuguese and of course I had no idea what they were saying. A couple of them spoke good English and acted as translators, while about 12 others would rapid-fire questions towards me asking about my life in the United States. We spent about 3 hours at the party, and I loved every second of it. I feel really close with Breno's friends even though we've only met once and I don't even speak their language. Since the 10th, we've hung out with different friends every night, and they are getting used to my accent and can sometimes understand when I speak Portuguese. We already have soccer games and hangouts set up, and this weekend we are going to a concert. It's been good for me to start planning a balance between soccer and hanging out with friends, and as long as I stay disciplined it should be no problem at all. I miss my friends in the United States, but I'm happy that I've started to develop close connections with some Brazilian kids here. Breno does a great job of introducing me and then kind of leaving me to try and communicate with them, and that has helped my language skills. I can't wait for the new adventures that lay ahead with these awesome people.
To summarize, I've had an incredible time in Brazil so far. Every day I'm doing something new and exciting, and meeting more people. I can't wait for future excursions, and I am going to start posting more often. Viva Brazil!
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” - Jeremiah's 29:11