My journey of a lifetime started five days ago. Not knowing Portuguese or much about Brazil, I boarded a plane to Brasilia. After checking into the hotel, I realized there wasn’t much around our hotel besides a mall across the street. Unlike the U.S., Brasilia was built in sectors. I was in Sector Hoteleiro Sul (South Hotel Sector), and that meant we had to eat in a food court. Later, I came to find out the city was created less than 60 years ago, when it was decided that the capital should move. To represent development (or so I have been told), the city was built in the shape of a plane. This plane shape with sectors was making my cultural experience very limited!
The next day began our orientation. At this point I still wasn’t sure what in the world I was going to be doing. However, by Wednesday we finally had some idea. We were working with Ingles sem Fronteras (English Without Borders) to increase the English ability of students that would be taking the TOEFL test and hopefully studying abroad in the U.S., Australia, and England. But 90 people going to orientation together made things long and difficult.
Throughout our 10 hour days, we were given two “coffee breaks”. Coffee breaks meant a table of food, juice, coffee, and tea. The food was typical Brazilian food, and there was always something that tasted amazing. And lunch the first two days were magnificent. But imagine fitting 90 English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and several government officials in a restaurant or an open reception area for lunch and coffee breaks. It was hard to navigate around all of the people. By the last day, I was still seeing new faces.
Still, meeting the Ambassador of the U.S. in Brazil and officials from IIE, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. consulate in Brazil and officials from the Brazilian government was slightly intimidating. Yet, every person that spoke with us was full of energy and excited that we were there.
As I reflect on the last few days I remember all of the new friends I made and the memories we share. One of the U.S. officials explained that sometimes being abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. His advice, no matter what, “embrace the suck!” This has since become the motto of the 2014 ETAs working with Ingles sem Fronteras. (We haven’t met the other 30 ETAs working with the English departments.)
Additionally, Monday night I was invited to dinner by another ETA, Rueben. (Who looks so much like another friend of mine that I have had problems remembering his name and calling him by the right name). He had couch surfed his first night in Brasilia and was meeting up with his Brazilian host, Caesar. A small group of us ETAs met Caesar and three of his friends. By the end of the night we had formed relationships that were amazing. Caesar ended up inviting the four of us over for dinner the following night because he had had fun on our “roof party”. The roof party happened every night when the ETAs got together on the roof of the hotel by the pool and got to spend time together before being dispersed all over Brasil.
The last night in Brasilia took the cake, though. Caesar set up an incredible dinner and experience for Kelsey, Rueben, Craig and me. After not crashing on the way there, we entered a beautiful backyard with a pool, Jacuzzi, bar, outside sitting area with TV and a table that was beautifully set. I don’t know if I have ever been to a dinner that looked fancier with the champagne flutes, red wine glasses, another glass that I am not quite sure what it was for, and the napkins in napkin holders decorated by a flower. Rueben’s alter ego Rueben Pedroso, was one of the best things that we walked away with. I can’t thank Caesar enough for all that he did for us, including driving me to the airport and helping me check in.
However, as I write this on the plane to Porto Alegre, I am aware of the issues I am going to face in the next few weeks with my limited Portuguese. I know I will begin learning it, but travelling to the hostel alone tonight shall be interesting…