Though many exciting things have happened so far on this trip, it has been the Brazilian people I’ve interacted with that have made this experience whole. While preparing to depart, I was the most nervous about being homesick. I’ve never been away from my family for more than a week, so the three-week long journey seemed extremely daunting. However, being welcomed by so many warm and loving people has made this trip so much more comfortable than I ever could have imagined!
Even though I know approximately ten words in Portuguese, every time I tell a Brazilian “Eu não falo portugues (I don’t speak Portuguese),” they immediately tell me that I speak great Portuguese. Everyone is so patient as I attempt to communicate! Conversations are filled with huge smiles and plenty of laughs, but never once have I felt that I was the object of the laughter. People will repeat sentences and speak as slowly as necessary until I can understand the gist of what they’re saying. Experiences like this ease my fears of the language barrier and give me a sense of belonging in a place so far from home.
Today, a man at a shop around the corner from school captured this sentiment perfectly. He and his wife own the small shop where they sell açaí (a frozen bowl of fresh fruity deliciousness) and ice cream and welcome the students from campus as regulars. We had a long conversation with him that involved lots of hand gestures and plenty of butchered google translate attempts. He told us about his daughter who studied to become a doctor in the U.S. before moving back to Brazil. His wife also let us taste every flavor of ice cream they had so we could figure out which one to order. Kindness is overflowing here in Brazil! At the end of the conversation, he said something in Portuguese that we translated to mean, “from all over the world, people have one big heart.”
Later in the evening, our host mom, Joana, took our little Brazil family to a local farmers’ market that happens on Thursday nights in the park near her home. She told us how to say the names of all the produce in Portuguese, and the people running the stands often let us taste some of the ones we were unfamiliar with! My favorite stand was selling “suco de cana,” or “sugar cane juice.” There was a giant machine in the back of a pastel yellow Volkswagen van that juiced the sugar cane, and then it was blended with any one of a selection of fruits. The man running the stand allowed us to sample every single flavor! Muito gostoso!
The kindness and warmth that the Brazilian people have shown me are making this trip even more meaningful than I ever could have imagined. Though I know I will have many more amazing physical experiences, the connections I have with the Brazilian people, however brief, will forever remain in my memory as some of the most ótimo (amazing) interactions I have ever had.