After being in Brazil for less than a week, I am starting to understand why Dr. Kovach didn’t want us to write “newsy” blogs. For one, it would take hundreds of pages to talk about every new experience and moment of joy and excitement. Secondly, focusing on the details might cause us to lose sight of the big picture. After our long journey and first night in Brazil, I thought my lesson for the trip was going to be to take things one step at a time. That was after we had to wait almost the entire 2 hour layover before finding out which gate our plane would depart from, and after I had burned my tongue twice trying to eat the delicious soup Joana, my host mom, made for our first dinner home. But as I’ve experienced the first week of living and learning in Brazil, I have decided on a more important lesson-balance.
Being in a completely new location and culture, with different societal norms and a new language, has been intense. There are so many things that I want to stop and comprehend, but then the next new thing is already waiting to take its place. From stopping on my walk home with Allie for pão de queijo, to going to the local market with our host mom, to shopping in a foreign pharmacy for tissues, there are so many things to do. And all that in the span of two hours!
I have found that in each of these moments, whether it’s riding the public bus with Julia, a student at Metodista, or volunteering to go on a job shadow, what I need is balance. Finding that balance in a foreign country is far from easy! Yet it is in Brazil itself that I have seen so many examples of balance.
First was in the classroom at the public Methodist school across the street from our university. While the teacher lectured, it was common to see students moving around to different desks (probably trying to get a closer look at the foreigners!), or asking their peers for help. They didn’t hesitate to ask the teacher a question immediately as it came to them, or to answer a question, even if they weren’t sure of the answer. Yet they were constantly listening, interacting, and writing down notes.
At first, I was surprised by the seeming chaos of traffic and pedestrians walking on the sidewalks. Yet there is a give and take that I don’t see as often in the United States, where we rely on rules for our behavior. In Brazil, it is common for cars to give a polite beep beep of the horn, as if to say, “hello, it is my turn to merge.” Despite the chaos I see compared to the US, I know that everyone will get where they are going, and there are rules that I just can’t see.
It is often too easy to rely on my own experiences, worldview and culture, but I constantly have to remember that everything is different in Brazil. I can’t view their culture through the lens of my own. It is definitely a balancing act, one that requires practice and consideration. But I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be here, learning and seeing everything that I can. I am so grateful and blessed to have this opportunity!