In December, I stood up at a Rotary meeting and said (in Portuguese): “Hi, my name is Hannah. I’m from Florida. I arrived to Brazil in August, so I’ve been here about two months…”
It was only after I sat down and replayed everything in my head (looking for flaws in my Portuguese to beat myself up over) that I realized my Portuguese was okay – my math was a bit off. I’d just repeated what I’d been telling every uber driver, every salesperson, every random Brazilian who asked how long I’d been here. I’d already been in Brazil for four whole months.
February 8th makes six months in Brazil. It is shocking to say that.
Tonight, Julia (exchange student from Minnesota) and I went to see Call Me By Your Name. In the movie, an American goes to Italy for the summer to work on a research project. He stays with a family. Becomes apart of the family. Makes friends. Even falls in love. By the end of the movie, I was a sobbing baby. I was triggered.
I truly identified with this movie. I’ve fallen so deeply in love with Brazil and my life here that sometimes I forget I have to pick up in five months and go back to my “real world.” I have to go to college and work hard and pursue my dream: impacting US foreign policy and working in the State Department (or the UN. We’re still a little undecided). I have to leave behind this life I’ve built, my family, my friends, for who knows how long. Even if I see them again, it will never be the same as it is now.
This was a really sobering reminder for me to live my exchange to the fullest. Take advantage of every day, every invitation, every opportunity.
On January 11, most exchange students left Belo Horizonte to go on the Dream Trip: a one month long journey around the Northeast of Brazil.
“But Hannah- Why didn’t you go?????”
One word, honey: MONEY.
Instead, I’ve stayed in Belo with a bunch of Brazilians (and Julia)! At first, I was really upset. I thought I’d be bored and alone, but it’s actually been some of the best few weeks of my exchange. Every day a Brazilian invites me to get food or see a movie or watch a soccer game or go to a party. It has been so much fun hanging out with mostly Brazilians, I can’t even begin to explain.
I’ve learned how to play pool. I’ve been getting ready for Carnaval (aka searching for bizarre costumes). I went to my first soccer game in Brazil (which was amazing) and have set the goal to watch every Cruzeiro game until I go home. I’ve been singing the lyrics to Brazilian songs in the back seat of an uber with a friend of a friend I met ten minutes ago. On days I have nothing to do, I go to the “country club” that my parents are members of located two streets over from my house and read books, tan, and swim.
Honestly, it’s been so much fun.
I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it again: Brazilians know how to live life. Tonight, as I was walking home in a melancholic state after this movie ripped my heart out and stomped all over it, a party bus drove by. There were people of all ages (literally about 5-50) dancing to funk music. One of the dancers jumped off the party bus, started dancing with me, and we blew kisses to the bus as the crowd went wild. And then the dancer went away, and bus moved along, and the music faded into the distance.
The importance of work has been instilled so far into my head that I don’t think I ever knew anything different. Work hard. Work a lot, or else you’ll fall behind. Throughout high school, I spent most of my time doing homework or working ahead. It paid off. I graduated with straight A’s (well, almost. Thanks Algebra II!!!). But I think I would’ve had so many more friends and great experiences had I allowed myself to expand my horizons, enjoy life a little, and develop an actual social life.
Brazilians work hard, but they play hard too. They embody the “live every moment like it’s your last” philosophy.
Once, my father told me the story of someone he knew. He said that the man worked his entire life. He was a lawyer, a good lawyer, who worked constantly to make as much money as he could for retirement. When the man was on the brink of retirement, he got cancer and died. He worked his whole life and never got to reap the benefits of it. He never got to relish in the money he made or sit back and enjoy his family, good food, good music, pretty landscapes, everything that the world has to offer. I imagine he spent most of his time at the office, reading over case files. I wonder if he sat on his deathbed with a head full of regrets.
As I start to piece my life together, I hope to adopt this Brazilian mentality and carry it with me. I hope if you’re reading this, you do too. I hope whether we die in a week or in eighty years, we die knowing we lived our life to the fullest.
(This post was much more cliché and depressing than I intended. Sorry!!)