Tuesday, March 24, 2009

things happening

Well since I last wrote, I got over my Dengue sickness, switched host families, and skipped a lot of school (with good reason, of course).

to illustrate, because I have no patience to write:

The night before I got sick, my second host family and I went to meet my third family. They were cool. My host mom is really tall, and my 13 year old host brother looks like a 16 year old, so compared to them, I look like I'm 12.

Afterwards we went out to eat.
Sven was there too. No clue why, he just shows up to these things.

The night after that, I think was when I got sick. So they took me to the emergency room, where I had to have a medicine transfusion thing in my hand. What fun!

These days, I've been pretty busy perfecting my quidditch skills. Ella's helping me out.

It's a very tiring sport.

Ella recently had the idea to make the exchange students a little T-shirt, with our picture on it. Kyle didn't want to participate, but me, sven and ella all posed for a picture..

after a lot of screwing around, we decided on this one. :)
I was all dressed up that day because lately I've been skipping school to perform at my church. My church consists of the actual church ministry, plus a music school (where I have a free practice room available whenever I want ahem), and an elementary/middle school. And this week especially, I've been singing for the kids. It's been fun because I'm taking time away from class to do something good for the community! Plus I love doing it.

Aaaand below are some very old photos of Sao Paulo that Tati wanted from me. Sorry it took this long, Tati!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

newest article

Hey guys,

I know it's been a while. sorry about that. I PROMISE I will get back to updating you! I just saw Madisyn's blog, a girl from Oregon here in Bahia, and it made me quite ashamed of the little blog that I was once proud of. So I promise, it'll get back up there.
I thought I'd start with showing you my latest article for school back home in Indiana. Just sent it in today. Here it is...!

"Remember my last article, in which I warned the John Adams student body about the mosquito disease, Dengue? It's a virus that's been spreading around Brazil, especially Bahia, through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, recognizable by its black and white stripes. It's already affected 15% of my city this year alone.
That's a basic summary of my last contribution to the paper. You know, warning about ways to prevent being eaten alive by disease ridden insects. I thought I was doing a good deed; doing my part in the fight against Dengue; letting the world know through my Dengue awareness article.
A week later, I got Dengue.
It started out as nausea. I ignored it, as that night I had tried some of my host mother's artificial sweeteners that I had long deemed unfit for human consumption. I assumed that the fake sugars had given me a stomachache, and went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up with a fever, and a sharp pain behind my eyes, a symptom characteristic of Dengue.
That day also happened to be International Women's Day. Men in Brazil show their appreciation by bringing their wives and daughters roses and chocolate. I got a Tylenol. And at this point, the little pill was worth its weight in gold.
Sunday night, my host family dragged me to the hospital kicking and screaming. I say it like that because my host brother literally had to drag me out of the house and into the car- I was still convinced that I had the flu, and if I gave it some time, the wrenching pain would go away on its own. That turned out to be wishful thinking.
Because I'm not a citizen of Brazil, and I don't have the same health insurance as my family, I had to go the public hospital (at this, Brazilians gasp; public?!).
In the waiting room, I watched as two barefoot, shirtless motorcyclists came in with wounds that could have been shark bites. They sat on a bench and bled on the dirty tile floor while waiting for their names to be called.
A middle-aged woman with a teenage girl in her arms ran in, screaming for help. The girl was unconscious, but the woman screamed about hemorrhaging, another characteristic of Dengue. Once someone vomits blood, it's a sign that the virus has progressed too far in the victim's body. Get in line, lady.
Around me sat men, women, and children, all with their heads against the wall, clutching their stomachs and rubbing their eyes. It was a sad scene. One look at all the sick people, vomiting into plastic bins, made me start thinking: maybe I should be wearing a mask...
One by one, people were admitted inside to be treated. Finally, my turn came. As I opened up the door, I was surprised by how crowded it was. Gurneys lined the walls with more patients, from grown men to toddlers, all with the same Dengue symptoms. There didn't seem to be any order in the place- there certainly wasn't enough space. I took one more look around the room. Hm.. no magazines.
I was taken to the special Dengue station. There I received an injection and a blood test. For the next few hours, I sat alongside my Dengue ridden brethren and waited for my fever to break.
The fever disappeared after one night, but the overall feeling of "yuck" stuck around for about a week. The upside was that I missed school. The downside was that I couldn't eat, sleep, keep my eyes open, or leave the house for eight days. By the time I felt better, I had lost a lot of weight.
Along with the virus came flowers, cards, and a myriad of "get well soon" emails from friends here in Brazil. From everyone else, a simple "I told you so. Next time wear repellent." Sufficed!
But to be honest, the latter proved much more efficient. The next time I so much as step outside the house after five o'clock at night, you can be sure that I'll be wearing so much bug spray that I'll have to peel it off by the end of the night."

That is only one thing that happened to me in the past few weeks.
I made the decision to switch families a few weeks ago. I know, I know. They were the perfect host family. But my host sister was just.. well, she was a piece of work. One of her little nicknames is "Psycho". In short, she made my experience with my 2nd host family very trying. She came close to making it really bad for me. But that boost of confidence that comes with being on your own in a foreign country really helped me pull through; I got out of that bad situation and into a third host family.
My new family seems great. Today's Wednesday and I moved here Monday night. And while I miss my 2nd host mom, dad, and brother terribly, I feel like I have a good shot here. We live in an apartment. I have a 12 year old brother and an 18 year sister with whom I share a room. She's really cool, her name's Flora. Both my parents are psychologists.
The great thing is that they don't at all smother me with attention, as too many host families do with a new exchange student. They treat me like a student that's lived here for months already. They don't give me too much attention. And that, I think, is the key to avoiding a jealous host sibling, like I had with "Psycho".
Don't worry, Brazilians don't read this blog.
I have so much more to write, more pictures to post, more stories to tell. But I'm off to meet a friend! I'm going to UESC today, with a friend from my church. UESC is the public university in Ilheus that's freaky hard to get into, and has the only library for.. many a mile.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yuck Yuck Yuck.

I went to a funeral on Monday. It was held for a little boy, son of one of my host dad's employees. João was four years old, and liked songs about the rain. He died that Monday morning, all because of a tiny mosquito bite.
Dengue fever, the disease that killed the little boy whose funeral I attended, was first coined in 1789 by Philadelphian Benjamin Rush, but it had first been recorded in a Chinese medical encyclopedia from the Chin Dynasty (265- 420 AD). The book referred to it as a "water poison", associated with flying insects.
Dengue, also known as "breakbone fever" for its symptoms of severe joint pain, is found mostly in tropical regions. It is transmitted to humans by the mosquito Aedes Aegypti, easily identifiable by its black and white stripes. A Dengue victim suffers from a high fever, sharp pain behind the eyes, headache, joint pains, weakness, nausea and vomiting, a slowed heart rate, and, if not treated properly, death.
The first epidemics occurred at around the same time in Asia, Africa, and North America in the 1780s. A pandemic started in Southeast Asia in the 1950s, and by 1975, Dengue had become a leading cause of death among children in the area.
In Brazil specifically, Dengue has been the leading news story for weeks. Summer is ending, and Brazil is receiving a lot of rain, so the mosquitos are making themselves at home right here in our houses; on the roofs where we store water, in the gardens, in the puddles on the street.
Itabuna's situation is grave. It ranks as city with the most infected mosquitos in Bahia. This year alone has seen one thousand reported cases. Last Tuesday the 17th, mayor Azevedo declared Itabuna in a state of emergency.
Last Thursday, Azevedo began taking action in the war against Dengue by sending five trucks around the city. The trucks are armed with insecticide designed to kill the Aedes Aegypt in its adult phase.
He asks that residents open their windows and doors as the trucks pass, so as to better circulate the smoke.
The population is also asked to help the situation by keeping their houses and roofs clean, and remove flower pots, trash cans, swimming pools, anything that might prove a hospitable environment for such a deadly little bug.

Friday, January 30, 2009


lots of it
on January 10th, I flew from Ilheus to Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, where I spent 10 days with Tatiana, a Brazilian girl that spent a year with my family in Colorado for her exchange.
I was thrilled to leave Itabuna and see Tati for the first time in two years- but it also meant saying goodbye to Gean, Marcell, and Song. Song returned to Thailand a few days after I left, Marcell went back to college the day after, and Gean's vacation ended and he went back home to São Paolo.
Luan went with Marcell to take a test for school, and he still hasn't come back yet. So I haven't seen these guys for three weeks..!

Marcell, Gean, me, and Luan on our last day

São Paulo was.. amazing. It was so great to see Tati, and her mom Cintia, and to meet her dog, Sushi. Also her boyfriend Pedro, and her stepfather and stepbrother, her brother and his girlfriend, and her father and stepmother.
And all of her friends, too.
Plus, São Paulo was so huge. It's the capital of the Brazilian state of São Paulo, and the biggest city in South America with a population of 11,105,249.
Tati lived in a part of town called Moema. It was very nice- it looked to me like Washington DC. Very clean, sunny, tall white sky scrapers, lots of restaurants and cafes speckled in between all those apartment buildings.

me on Tati's balcony

The first full day, we went to a giant bookstore- Itabuna doesn't have any bookstores (or even a library), so I was especially excited to see it. They had writers from every country, in every language. Freakin' awesome.

That night we went to the movies to see "Se Eu Fosse Voce 2", the sequel to a Brazilian comedy that Tati brought when she was an exchange student in the USA. It was weird being able to understand it, after needing subtitles when I saw the first one. Awesome, though.

São Paulo movie seats were rainbow colors!!

The next day we saw the giant football (and by that I mean soccer) stadium, where legendary football games have taken place.

Carvalho is a really common name in Brazil

where it all goes down

outside the stadium

We visited Tati's old school (she just graduated, and got accepted into a really good college. Her classes start on Feb. 1). It's a really old traditional Italian school. Apparently it kicks your ass.
The next day I got my hair chopped off (and thank god, it's so hot in Itabuna that it used to stick to my neck like a dead animal). And Tati, Pedro, and I took the subway to Liberdade, a district in São Paulo that is the equivalent of the USA's Japantown.
Liberdade, named because the Japanese immigrated there for freedom from feudal Japan, is home to the largest population of Japanese in the world outside of Japan. It also has a large population of Chinese and Koreans.

the streets of Liberdade are decorated with Japanese red lamps. Liberdade underwent restoration to prepare for a visit from Japanese Prince Naruhito to São Paulo in June 2008.

on the bridge in Liberdade

Rotary influence!

The next day we went to the Parque do Ibirapuera, a Central Park of sorts right in the heart of São Paulo. It was inaugurated in 1954 for the 400th anniversary of the city, and covers 2 square kilometers.

Tati, me, and Sushi in front of an obelisk symbolizing the constitutionalist revolution of 1932

the awesome theater

Cintia and Sushi resting

Tati and her baby

We spent friday and saturday night hanging with Tati's and Pedro's friends. They're all really great people.

Me, Tati, and Bruna, Tati's best friend

me and tati

I came back to Ilheus on the 19th, but didn't even get to come home to Itabuna- my parents picked me up at the airport packed and ready for yet another road trip- this time to Salvador, a six hour drive! I'll write more when I can. And just you wait, I have a lot more to write.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Years

And I thought Christmas was a big deal.
I've never seen people make such a big fuss on New Year's Eve! We took the bus to the beach house on the 31st- Marcel, Luan, Gean (cousin from Sao Paolo), me, and Ella, who was invited along for the weekend.
The first thing we did was hop in the swimming pool. And we stayed there for around five hours, until we ate lunch.
Lunch is the big meal in Brazil, I think I already wrote all about that.

Macell, Ella, me, and Gean (jay-on) by the pool

The rest of the time, we spent on the BEACH!
Have I mentioned how cool it is that my host family has a beach house?

Luan, me, and Ella at the beach

our second band photo

The room where we all stored our stuff had a ton of chalk on the walls.. and thus, we prepared for war..

David (visiting from Illinois) and his Brazilian girlfriend, Andresa

That night, all the women got all dolled up- and all the men put on white t-shirts. All the women put on white dresses, makeup, hair, frilly shoes- and the men put on white t-shirts.
Carol, the blonde cousin from Sao Paolo, did my hair. Ella did my makeup. Fun times.

Gean, Rafael, Carol, Ella, and me on New Year's Eve

Brazilians wear white on New Year's Eve to symbolize peace for the coming year. But some people just have to be different- Carol wore blue for zen, and Sandra wore green for.. luck, was it?
As the night commenced, the girls walked out to the road and found a big truck blasting happy Brazilian music. They taught me and Ella to dance Arrocha, a dance special to Brazil. You shake your butt around in circles. It was hard to start off, but once I got the hang of it, it was really fun!
At midnight, the whole family (I mean to say all 70 of us) took a stroll and joined hundreds of other white clad families on the beach. We stood in a huge circle, and holding hands, sang and chanted in prayer.
Suddenly someone started counting down from ten- dez, nove, oite, sete, seis, cinco, quatro, tres, dois, UM!
The whole family leapt into the air, hugged everybody they saw. The kids started
Rafael, luan, and me on the beach

Ella, Sandra, Paolo, and me

Ella and me, and Rafael snuck in last second

Ella, Luan, me, and Ty- Ty's a little cousin. The day I met him he was sitting in the kitchen munching on something, and I was doing the dishes (Brazilians don't have dishwashers). Luan came in and said something obnoxious, I said something obnoxious right back, and it resulted in a dish soap war. Ty loves bringing this up.
Once the clock struck midnight, he chased me around on the sand, screaming his little Brazilian head off. He's a cute kid.

Ty, me, Gean, and Ella

The family getting ready to celebrate

When we made it back to the beach house, food was late for us. Tasty Brazilian new year's eve food.

Afterwards we had a secret santa kind of thing- white elephant. Everyone in the end received a joke present. But one uncle had a ceramic piggy bank, and with every turn someone took, he would pop twenty more reais into the pig. By the time someone won it, it was stuffed with two thousand, two hundred reais- that's over a thousand dollars!

We drove back home to Itabuna the next day, seven people sitting in the backseat of the truck that was built for three. It was crazy.
But the weekend was so much fun, I really do love it here.