I write this sitting on the veranda looking out at the still lake here at the Parque Ecologico Rio Formoso. I have it all to myself as we are still in the depths of low season. The lake was a lovely shade of blue but has taken on a green hue as the trees around it shake off ‘winter’ and burst into leaf at an incredible speed. So yes, spring has sprung, which means for you poor northern-hemisphere dwellers, autumn has descended. Sorry about that.
Spring here isn’t the marvel it is in the UK (some years). I only smelt spring in the air once and many of the trees are evergreen anyway, but said trees have started blossoming in all the colours of the rainbow and lilac and sunshine yellow flowers have appeared out of the grass by the lake side. There is something magical about the seasons at home, but I think I can live without them in exchange for a winter with an average temperature of 25+. Oh Brazil.
Anyway, the arrival of spring has made me register the fact that I’ve now spent one whole season of the year here in Bonito, and am in fact approaching the 4 month mark! Granted I am normally one of those annoying people that doesn’t stop talking about how fast life goes by, but here they have been slipping through my fingers. 4 months down, 5 to go. That’s nearly halfway, and we all know that holidays (I should really stop treating it like one and actually do my university project) go faster after the halfway mark!
Last weekend, AIESEC showed up to check on how we (me and Ruben at the park and assorted Colombians in other companies- we have been promised more varied nationalities in future) are all doing. They sat us down and asked us to reflect on what we’ve achieved so far and what our goals are.
Naturally I just had a total mind blank, so I thought I’d mull it over and use this blog to figure it out. I wish I could make this neat and succinct but that is just not me, so prepare yourself for some rambling!
1. Living the language.
So, first off, the Portuguese. My job has been incredible language-wise. The tourists at the park are at least 80% Brazilian, and so I’ve been greeting and chatting to huge numbers of natives with various accents on a daily basis.
When I’m doing a boia cross trip, I spend an hour and a half with a group making conversation and attempting to be both funny and charming. It sometimes gets lost in translation, and sometimes by accent is just too much for them (my battles with the evil letter r will be discussed in a later post), but we are getting there! Working in this environment has made language acquisition so much easier than it could have been.
For those of you about to make your year abroad decisions, this is definitely something to think about. Just how lazy are you? I am so glad I took this job over English teaching as speaking English at work might have meant I had to make a conscious effort to speak Portuguese outside of it.
If you’re that motivated, brilliant, but I personally prefer arriving home and watching Great British Bake Off without a shred of guilt because I’ve already spoken 10 hours of Portuguese that day!
So have a think about your motivation levels and choose wisely! For some of us, sadly, only complete immersion will get us anywhere.
2. Living with me.
I’ve gone through periods in the past when I’ve ditched the make-up, like 2 months in deepest Australia on an apple farm or 5 weeks on Balinese beaches, but I have now gone a good three months wearing absolutely zero make up (bar nights out).
I wish I was one of those that never felt the need for make up, but being quite so pasty means I feel I look a bit dead without it. I have now, however, stopped caring!
For nothing and no one will I get up more than 10 minutes for my lift to work in the morning. Liberation! I know I’ll cave when faced with an English winter, as no one looks good bare-faced under a slate grey sky, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. This just helps to prove my theory that humans were not designed for any temperature under 25 degrees and definitely not to live anywhere smothered in clouds.
The top tips are pretty standard but they sure do work! Stick with it, your skin will go through a period of shock when exposed to the fresh air but then readjust, and drink your body weight in water, the elixir of life.
3. Living with other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a long way to go, but these four months have been advanced lessons in people-handling, the beginner and intermediate classes having been taken on my gap year and at university.
A year abroad is always going to be a crash course in life. You will meet people that frustrate you, annoy you and make you want to punch something. A guy who I was working with in the first few months got on my nerves so badly by persistently calling me menina (girl- infuriating) and then tried to calm me down by grabbing my wrists (smart), so I full on slapped him in the face. Much as they make you feel like crying, value them. They’ll teach you plenty, in my case that I’m not 15 years old anymore and can’t go around slapping people without having to be all grown up and apologise afterwards.
I have made so many wonderful friends here, who have already taught me an awful lot too! don’t know if there is something in the water in Bonito, but a much higher than average proportion of the population seem to be homosexual. They’ve made me realise just how innocent/clueless I was! And made me laugh more than I have in a very long time!
So the big tip I’m trying to communicate here is open mind, open mind, open mind. The people you meet will enrich your cultural and social education, which, let’s be honest, is far more important than anything you’ll ever learn in a classroom. Get out there and meet people and enjoy every second!
So that’s what I’ve learnt from my first few months here in Bonito. I’m yet to learn to drink four caipirinhas without embarrassing myself. Does that count as a goal for the next 5, AIESEC?