Sunday, September 6, 2009

Orientation and meeting my family!!!!

We had to wake up kind of early to have breakfast in the hotel before orientation which would start at 9AM. Breakfast at the hotel was included in the program, and I have to say it was a beautiful breakfast, and I hadn't had fruit in like two days, so I was so happy to have something good and raw. The hotel dining place was so crowded though.
I had a banana, banana de prata. I was super excited about all the different kind of bananas that they have over here, and I'll talk about all the different types later, types I haven't even had in Mexico.

I had freshly made "suco de abacaxí" pinapple juice, "goiaba" guava, I think it was papaya which would be a smaller version of what we call papaya in the states. And papaya is called mamão in Brasil. And the pineapple I had was smaller than what I was used to, and also a lot lighter in color, it was a very light yellow, almost white. I toasted some wheat bread and put some tamarind spread on it. It was soooo gostoso. But of course they had soo much food, I just really neaded my fruits. The had bacon and eggs and beans I think all sorts of things.

Right after breakfast we all met in the lobby to walk over to the conference room for orientation. We were a group of 55 people all just from UCs, although usually it is combined with Dartmouth or some other schools. We met the director of the program, and she was amazing, she apparently had memorized every single one of our housing applications and with our faces. It was amazing how well she remembered and new us. She is amazing in general really; very happy very loud, very funny and festive all the time! She told us a little about herself and how she had studied psychology and was confused when her boss said she had hired her because of her background. But now she understands why psychology really helps in this situation--and I totally understand now too. I feel that she really does try very hard to make this the best experience it can be.

This orientation was mainly going to be about the rules of the program, tips/suggestions, and also a kind of preview of brasilian culture as to her perspective, possible cultural differences etc.

The rules were pretty obvious but people do stupid things all the time that make them get expelled like smoking pot on the beach in the middle of the day. I mean you just don't do that. They got arrested and put in jail here in Brasil because they didn't have any original identification and it is a serious crime. Or standing outside and peeing into the public pool in front of people.

The cultural things that she mentioned was showering. That host mothers [and the host mothers here I realized play such an important role, the housing situation is almost all focused on the mothers] get worried when they have students who shower like every three days. I know people who do that in the states but being here, I see why it's disturbing: it is so humid and sticky and sweaty and I don't see why someone wouldn't be dying to shower by the end of the day, I'm showering twice a day.

The director made it very clear to the boys that they have to smell nice and buy perfume if they didn't want to repell brasilian women, because according to her they really like men that smell nice. I don't know how well that applies but I haven't smelled that much cologne.

eating habits: we should always only use our knife and fork, not our hands. Not to serve ourselves what we think we might eat but what we know we will eat and then if we have more room we can always get more. She emphasized that past students have used their hands to put their rice on the fork--and i was just thinking "Oh i'm going to have to work on that because i eat with my hands all the way most of the time". Or mother mention that some students would serve themselves with the same spoon/fork that they used to eat. That I wouldn't do.

Oh and because the plumbing is different we have to throw all of our garbage in the trash not in the toilet.

Another thing is that our program is paying for 3 meals a day every day, so if we will eat out it might hurt our mother's feeling because they have stuff planned sometimes, so make sure that you tell her at least so that she didn't spend so much time and energy making something super delicious and then you just don't show up and eat some place else.

We got a map and a t-shirt that says ACBEU and has a little picture of people jogando Capoeira.

But what everyone was really anxious about the whole time was finding out who their family was. Toward the end we got a paper with a list of our names in alphabetical order, and next to them our host mother's name, and then the address and contact information.

Oh there's not much you can tell by the name so we were all feeling like oh how much more anxious we are that we know nothing about them but they got to know a lot about us.

Then the director went down the list and gave us a short little background about our families, how many people were in it, a little about our mothers especially, or things that stand out. What she told me about my host mom was that she was very spiritual and believes in energies a lot and that as soon as she came to my application she said that she wanted me because I have a beautiful energy and she said she didn't have to read anything on my application or see any others because she wanted me. And it felt so nice to hear that, but at the same time I was hoping I wouldn't dissapoint her oh my gosh those are really high expectations, but she also said that she was retired, she used to be a secretary and she has a husband and two daughters. One is 21 and goes to a university, the other 18 and is still in the equivalent to highschool. And then--oh the cutest thing, as a psychologist the director gave us each half of a postcard and we were supposed to go down into the lobby and find our other half, which our host mother would be holding. And as soon as I got to the stairs i heard my name and i looked down into the crows of families, and my mother was looking straight at me holding her card, and she hadn't even seen mine but she knew it was me, it was amazing.

After we chatted for a while we went in to half lunch and there was even more crowded than breakfast but we found a spot to share with one of her friends and her family. It seems like all the mothers all know each other and are friends. Mine was kind of new to the program though she only had two before me; there are families that have been in this for like over 10 years though. So although there were mainly mothers, some brought other people in their families too, like little children etc.

Lunch was really nice, and I was trying to be very conscious of my eating habits, my mom helped with that though. Like she poured my guarana soft drink out of the can and into the wine glass, i guess it's weird drinking out of a can. Oh I was so happy because this host mother was just so happy to see me it seemed and she was saying how I look so much like one of her own daughters. And she went around looking for her friends and introducing me to them, "look at my daughter "

it was cute, and having studied a little bit of portuguese and having a spanish-speaking background really really helped. So I would suggest that even though these language and cultre programs don't have any experience requirements, it helps a lot so that you can start communicating with your family and bonding a lot sooner. And generally knowing a little bit more about what's going on helps.

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