It’s hard to believe, but on the third of September 2015 we completed one year of living in Brazil! It’s been a year full of change and challenges, but it’s been good. I think we’ve all adapted well and are feeling settled.
As a celebration and reflection on our first year here, I’m going to give you my list of roses(the good things) and thorns(the not so good things) of living in Brazil.
- Fresh produce: we go to a wonderful market in our neighbourhood twice a week. Most of the fruits and veg are one price. We fill up a crate and weigh it – it’s usually no more than $20! The people that work there are very friendly and know the kids by name. One vendor always gives Shasta a free cookie. It’s so nice knowing that this food came from our state, rather than another country. It gets to stay on the tree longer, so everything tastes better… especially bananas. There is just no comparison.
- Winter: While summer was pretty unbearable at times, I absolutely LOVED the winter. I don’t know if this year’s temperatures were normal, but it was in the high twenties for most of June, July, and August. Just glorious. Today was a cold day. It was 18 degrees Celsius. When I told my family, they said they could hear tiny violins playing. So far, I don’t miss snow, and I don’t miss the cold of Canada. That may change in a couple months though!
- The humidity: So this is both a rose and a thorn… while I do NOT enjoy being sweaty in the summer, what I do like is that electric shocks do not exist, resulting in fabulous hair that NEVER gets staticky(if that is a word), and I like having smooth skin that does require five hundred daily applications of hand cream.
- The beauty of the island: I really do enjoy living in a breathtakingly beautiful place! (shocker, I know.) The beaches, mountains, flowers, sand dunes, forests… there are endless photo opportunities, and you know how much that means to me!
- Awesome places to eat: there are SOOOOOO many great restaurants and cafes here. We have our favourites, but there are many yet to be discovered.
- Musical talent: there are so many musical people here! A couple of months ago we decided to go to a cute little part of the island called Lagoa, where they have a craft market on the weekends. Nuni brought the guitar, and as we looked for a place to sit, we noticed a guy playing the flute. He was playing something by Bob Marley, and Nuni just sat down next to him without saying anything and started accompanying him. After ten or fifteen minutes of jamming we stopped and introduced ourselves. The vendor sitting next to us said, “You guys don’t know each other?!” We started playing again and another guy asked if he could join us. He played the shaker, and the four of us(five if you count Sebastian, who was sitting on the ground with a shaker of his own) jammed for an hour or so. It was just one of those awesome times when music brings people together. Our church also has many amazing musicians and I love walking in and listening to the worship sessions going on.
This is my friend and neighbour, Laura, who I met at church. She is incredibly talented and so nice!
- Learning a new language: I have truly enjoyed learning Portuguese this past year. I still have a long, long way to go before I will consider myself fluent, but I can get by if I need to. As long as people are patient with me and speak slowly and simply, we can have a decent conversation. This is pretty exciting to me as it’s the first time I’ve been able to communicate with someone in another language. I’m looking forward to learning more and communicating even better in this next year.
- Being close to family: What a blessing this has been! It has been so great spending time with my mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew-in-law 🙂 As well as all of Nuni’s extended family! Most of his family members live on the island, making it easy to see each other at holidays and for gatherings.
- New friends: I’ve met so many amazing people this year. The Brazilians and foreigners I’ve met are extremely warm and friendly. I am really excited about getting to know these friends better as time goes on.
- BUGS. Ugh. There are so many more insects here than there are in Canada. Here we have ants. Tiny, annoying ants that get in your food and crawl up and down the walls. We have cockroaches. Mostly in the summer, they like to visit us at home and scare the bejeebies out of me. We have bugs IN the food – on more than one occasion I’ve gone to make rice and some of the “rice” is wiggling. This doesn’t happen TOO often, mind you, but once or twice is enough for me. 🙂
- Not understanding what people are saying. Yes, learning a new language is fun, and interesting, but for most of the time, it is difficult. It is lonely being in a room full of people and not knowing what is being said, or why people are laughing. I’ve come a long way in a year… I can usually make out the subject of what people are talking about – sometimes more, sometimes less.
- Cultural differences: On the spectrum of cultural differences, Brazil is not that much different than Canada. But there are a few things that irk me from time to time… like the lack of planning things. Most people just like to “go with the flow” and while that can be a good thing, it can be hard for people like me who like to have a plan and stick with it! Plans change at the last minute CONSTANTLY. Being on time isn’t a priority for most people either. These are things I am learning to adapt to. Sometimes I handle it well… other times not so much. 🙂
- Lack of space: Oh goodness. We take it for granted in Canada how much space we have, what with the huge roads, sidewalks and parking lots! Here, it is often a challenge to try and find a parking spot when we go anywhere. And we live in a particularly crammed part of Brazil since it’s an island… (I suppose it’s a small price to pay for all the beaches we get to enjoy)
- Expensive Items: because most things are imported from the States/elsewhere, and the taxes are super high, items like clothing, toys, electronics, furniture, etc, are pretty costly, and the culture of second hand stores doesn’t really exist here. There are a few small “Brecho’s” – used clothing shops – but nothing like Value Village or the Salvation Army, where they have OODLES of clothing and household items.
- By far though, the biggest thorn is missing people. For the majority of the year I didn’t feel too homesick. But these last couple months I’ve had quite a few days where I just miss a certain person, place or period of my life. Sometimes I’ll dream about someone, and then miss them intensely the rest of the day. It is especially difficult not to be present at family gatherings or special events(although I was very fortunate to be at my friend Emily’s wedding this June). But I have been learning to accept my feelings of saudade and doing whatever I can to stay in touch and let people know I love them, like chatting through Skype, playing Words With Friends, updating this blog and posting on social media. It’s not as good as being with people in the flesh… but it’s something.
Are you or have you ever been an expat? What are your roses and thorns? Comment below!
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