Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coimbra!!!! :D

Sorry for the awkwardness... Bell tower in Coimbra

Coimbra University

Me, Rita, João at the ruins of Conímbriga in Coimbra

Portugal dos Pequenitos (Portugal for the little ones)
Today we went to Coimbra! It's an ancient Portuguese city, home of Coimbra University, one of the most famous universities in Europe. We walked around the city, and visited the ancient Roman ruins of Conímbriga. The ruins were huge, and they said that only 15% of them are uncovered! We ate baby pig (my host family was horrified when I told them it was called piglet, like in Winnie the Pooh) for lunch, and headed off to Portugal dos Pequenitos, which is literally a little Portugal made for kids. All the major monuments of Portugal and it's colonies are there in miniature form. There were monuments and buildings from Mozambique, one of the Guineas, Brazil, Angola, and a few more colonies (or ex-colonies, like Brazil) there. We walked around in the little city, and got ice cream there, too.
Yesterday, we all slept in late and went on a drive to a few small cities around Minde. Just a few miles away, on the other side of the mountain, is a town that is made mostly of limestone. It looks like the typical Irish land--very green with tons of sheep and stone walls and buildings. It was also raining, to add to the effect. We also went to scouts, which my host mom is a leader of. They were putting down some sort of laminate flooring in their new headquarters, so I helped a little with that. 
I've been kind of sick since Wenesday, so I stayed home from school. Then on Thursday and Friday I didn't have school because the parents of students at my school were protesting government funding cuts to private schools. (don't ask me how that works haha, I have no idea). 
Sorry for the randomness of this post, but I've got homework to do so I had to make it quick. Hopefully I can do a more in-depth post sometime later this week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Show me what I'm looking for.

Things that are different here:
  • There are cats everywhere. They all respond to "here kitty!" so they must be multi-lingual cats. I feel like the US feline community is being shown up. 
  • The language (REALLY)
  • The handwriting. I can't take notes because I can't tell what letter it is.
  • The crazy driving.
  • People are really really friendly and extremely social here.
  • They eat warm milk with their cereal. My host family looks at me weird when I pour cold milk into my bowl. 
  • Balcalhou (dried, salted, rehydrated codfish). Enough said. 
  • 2 hour lunches.
  • People think Americans eat McDonald's every day.
  • It's not uncommon to see small children sitting at bars with their parents.
  • They iron everything. 
  • They think it's weird if you wear just socks and no slippers around the house.
  • They think it's weird if you wear short sleeves in the winter (even if you have a jacket on), and they are also concerned when your socks and/or pajamas don't match.
  • EVERYONE wears scarves and boots. Every day. 
  • Soup all day, every day.
  • Everyone loves a foreigner.
  • There are tiny motorcycles that go super slow and buzz really loud, it's quite hilarious.
  • The bus driver won't stop at your stop if you don't stand up beforehand. 
  • The school bus is a coach bus.
  • There's no native music, it's all American. I'm like "I came here to get AWAY from Katy Perry, not to hear her more!"
  • Everyone knows where most of the US states are. (?)
  • Everyone thinks there's cowboys and tumbleweeds in NM. I have to assure people that the Wild West is not really around anymore.
  • If you say you'll be there at 7:00, you won't be there until at least 7:45.

But for the most part, things are the same here as they are in the US. Everyone keeps asking me if things are really different but something exchange teaches you is that people everywhere are mostly the same. I ride a bus to school, but sometimes my parents take me. My friends at school like to do the same things I do in the US. My host family hangs out at home after school and work and watches TV. Although I do read out of a Portuguese Winnie the Pooh book to learn more Portuguese every night.
Do people in America really want anything different than people in the Congo, or people in Portugal? Everyone wants to be loved. To have something to work for and something to hope for. To have people you can count on. To be safe and warm and financially stable. Some are poor. Some have disabilities. Some like to sneak dessert before dinner.
But we are all the same. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Aprender: To Learn

Being an exchange student means that you learn. You learn how to eat with a fork in one hand and a knife in another. You become fluent in Portuguese swear language. You become a master at charades. You learn to imitate. You learn how to get home from the bus stop, or at least you'd better learn because you don't know how to ask for directions. You learn how to drink coffee like a shot, because you'd rather inhale some on accident than actually taste it. But the most important thing you learn is it is okay to fail. As an exchange student, you fail at everything. But after you fail for a while, things get easier and easier. If you accidentally say "Pass me the *insert dinner-table-inappropriate body part here*" when you really mean "Pass me the bread", you laugh at yourself and move on. And until you can pronounce it correctly, you say "Pass me that thing". (:
They iron everything here. I'm pretty sure Lina (the maid) irons my underwear... Anyways, she's very sweet, and is going to night school to learn English, so she practices on me. She teaches me Portuguese, I teach her English. Or a few words, anyway.
My classmates are so sweet, a few of the girls invited me to go to a movie with them sometime next week. We don't have school on Thursday or Friday because the parents of kids at my school are protesting a cut in government funding for private schools like mine. I think this weekend me and Alexandra, another AFS exchanger in my town, are going to hang out and walk around Minde. Last night I went to see my host mom's sister and her kids. There is a 3 month old, Manuel, and a 4 year old, Francisco (I think). Francisco sat in the bidet while his mom gave the baby a bath! I got a kick out of that. I hope it was clean...
Anyways, here are a few pictures of my room and the view out my window.

Also, a great video that describes how I feel:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"We eat our words"

That's what the guy at orientation told me about Portuguese. It's true. It's such a beautiful language, but they speak so fast that it's hard to understand. But I'm getting there. A lot of the time I understand what the conversation is about, but not really exactly what they're saying.
My host family is great! My host siblings are so nice and are always trying out their English on me. Last night at dinner, Pedro randomly said "good morning Katie!" to the amusement of everyone at the table. (:
I keep waking up in the middle of the night! It's annoying but I think it might be because we eat dinner so late and I always have to go to the bathroom. Also, I'm pretty sure I had sheep for dinner last night.
I start school tomorrow. I'll post my schedule later, but they put me in the Science track. I have things like math, PE, physics, etc. But I have an English class! Woohoo (; My host mom is so sweet, she took part of the day off work to take me to my school and get my classes all figured out. We ended up waiting around at the school for like 2 hours though.
I wrote that yesterday. Today was... interesting. I woke up at 8 or so and my host mom took me to my school. We talked to the principal (well, she talked, I just tried to look like I wasn't completely clueless). I met Bruno, who is in my host mom's scout group (like girl scouts or boy scouts) and he introduced me to my class (11°B). The girls in the class were very nice, and Inês, Marta and Juliana helped show me around. They ate lunch with me and helped me find my bus, and explain to the bus driver where I needed to go. Bruno also helped with all this too, and he rode the bus with me to my stop so he could show me where it is. But I'm almost certain that tomorrow I will not get off at the right place, but my host parents got me a cell phone today so my mom said she would come get me if I got lost.
My schedule is like this:
10:30-12:00 Philosophy
12:05-13:45 Lunch
13:50-15:20 English (haha)
15:30-17:00 Class meeting thing with parents
8:45-10:15 Religion (I think)
10:30-12:00 Portuguese
12:05-13:45 Lunch
13:50-15:20 PE
15:30-17:00 Math
8:45-10:15 Math
10:30-12:00 English
12:05-13:45 Lunch
13:50-15:20 nothing
15:30-17:00 nothing
8:45-10:15 Biology
10:30-12:00 Portuguese
12:05-13:45 Lunch
13:50-15:20 Philosophy
15:30-17:00 PE
8:45-10:15 Math
10:30-12:00 Biology
12:05-13:45 Lunch
13:50-15:20 nothing
15:30-17:00 nothing

I was put in the Sciences track, and all the people in my class are in all my classes. The teachers change classrooms, not the students. 
I had 3 informal Portuguese lessons today, from my class, Bruno, and my host parents. I learned the most from the last one, but I have trouble saying all the nasal-y words. I also think I'm getting an accent in English! I don't have time to reply to everyone's emails, but I hope everyone's doing well. Even if I don't reply, I read the email, so keep sending news.
Bruno: "What can you say in Portuguese?"
Me: "Eu não falo Português." (I can't speak Portuguese). :D

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Goodbye, New Mexico!

Today was my last day in NM... I am so excited but also a bit nervous. I'm all packed, and my suitcase weighs 45 pounds, one over the AFS limit of 44. I was supposed to leave today, but there was a storm in New York, so AFS postponed the  Gateway Orientation until tomorrow.
I went to my Outbound Orientation on Sunday, and it turns out that there's another girl from NM going to Minde! What a coincidence. (:
It's late and I don't really feel like writing, but I'll try to update my blog once I'm in Portugal.
Also, a huge shout-out to Amaris, Kelli, Caroline, and Ben, who are meeting us at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am to see me off. (:
So, goodbye to all that's familiar, and hello to a semester of adventure and self-discovery.