Monday, May 30, 2011

O Principezinho

Today was a very strange day, so I've compiled a list of all the weird things that happened today.

  • It was raining, which is weird for a New Mexican, but it was weird rain. It would be really hot and sunny, then the wind would pick up and it would start pouring, and then the sun would be out again in ten minutes or so. This went on all day. 
  • I slept all through the night last night. Waking up all the time in the middle of the night is a normal occurrence in my bed. 
  • I woke up about 10 seconds before my alarm went off. 
  • On Mondays I take the late bus that leaves from Covão do Coelho (a town near Minde) at about 9:05. I got there at 8:40 today (host mom had to go to work). I waited a while under some makeshift garage thing to get out of the rain, and then a girl that I ride the bus with came walking up the hill and was like "We're supposed to catch the bus down there now" so I went down with here and we ended up talking (I don't know why we'd never talked before). It was nice because she didn't ask me tons of questions about the US or myself, but we talked about things we had in common. Turns out she was taking the big standardized test that the rest of my class was taking that day, too. She was really worried because she hadn't studied, though. 
  • It got to be about 9:20 and we were starting to wonder where the bus was. At about this time I watched a lady in a car back up into a van that was parked on the street. It was a really strange accident. 
  • At about 9:40 some little kid called his mom and she called the school to have them send someone to come pick us up because the bus never came. We waited for 15 more minutes before the van showed up and all went to school. 
  • I went up to my classroom because I wasn't sure what was going on with all the weird testing stuff, so I wanted to ask my classmates. They were just going in to take the test, so I decided to go to the bar (snack bar, not alcoholic drink bar) instead of sit in the room and read while they took the test. The Philosophy teacher was the one supervising the testing in my classroom, and she pulled me aside and gave me something wrapped in paper and inside a plastic bag. She was like "It's just a little thing, a children's book so you should be able to read it, and I think you'll really like it." It was so sweet! It's illustrated too :D
  • The book was "O Principezinho", or "The Little Prince" in English (but the book was in Portuguese). So I went down to the bar and read for a little while, and had a café (mom and dad, we need an espresso machine or I will have severe withdrawals when I come back). There were two other girls that I didn't know in there, and after a while one of them came up and started talking to me. I went to sit with them (they were making cheat-sheets for a Portuguese test) and we talked for a while (in English). They were really, really nice, and in my grade. I don't really know too many people from the other classes because when I got here, my class was in a room separate from the other 11th graders because our room was leaking or something, so I haven't been introduced to many 11th graders besides my classmates until now. 
  • When the period was over, the three of us went back up to our hall for DTA (I still don't know what this stands for, but it's when our class directors help us study and talk to us about class stuff. It's kind of like advocacy.). 
  • Me and my friends ate lunch in the bar because it's Monday and the cantina line is nearly impossible to get through on Mondays. I go up to order and the people already know what to give me because I get the same thing every day. What can I say, the chocolate croissants are delicious (:
  • The rest of the day was normal, until I go to get on the bus. I saw something was up when people I didn't recognize were getting on my usual bus, bus number 6. I went up to ask and my bus driver comes up and explains that now we'll all be riding on bus 2. I thought it was really nice of him to explain it to me, because I guess I looked kind of lost and he knew I probably had no idea what was going on (not that I usually know what's going on but whatever). 
  • Then on the way home, Alexandra's host parents called me up to their apartment and gave me food that Alexandra had left behind that they weren't going to eat, like sopapilla and pancake mix and grits. :D

And that was my wonderfully strange day. Of course, I have a quote to go along with it.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” - Albert Camus

Okay, I have two. The second is from the book my teacher gave me. 

Portuguese version:
"As coisas mais importantes são muitas vezes invisíveis para os olhos - só com o coração é que podemos vê-las."

English translation:
"The most important things are often invisible to the eyes - only with our heart can we see them."

I also had an AFS activity in Tomar this weekend, but I don't feel like writing about that right now. But a picture's worth a thousand words.

*Author's note: All conversations and everything happen in Portuguese, except where it says otherwise.
Até o próximo! 


Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's what's written in the margins that matters.

Thinking about doing the Peace Corps. What is my life worth if I don't devote it to helping others? I'm a restless person, I need to make something with this energy. Any thoughts?

I feel so free today. (:

I am really looking forward to earning my Gold Award and going to Camp Mary White when I get back. I'm excited to see my family and my friends.

But leaving here is going to suck. Goodbyes almost always do, especially when they're possibly forever. Thank you to António, who promised I'll be remembered by my class.

I've been reading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and it has some pretty awesome quotes. My favorite?
"So you think that you're a failure, do you? Well you probably are. What's wrong with that? In the first place, if you've any sense at all, you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. This may be the only way any of us will ever be free. 

It's been a beautiful few days. I am stoked for life. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Becoming myself.
That's what I'm doing in Portugal. I wanted to find myself here--in every cobblestoned street and every whispered word. In the sunshine and the leaves and the beach.
Did you know that if you lay on the beach with your feet in the waves and your eyes closed tight, that you can feel the world turning? Did you know that to be alive is to swim in the ocean, to walk along the shore, to chase a soccer ball down the boardwalk? Do you know what it is to find yourself? Us restless, weary travelers, we spend money and time and effort trying to find ourselves. But we're looking in the wrong place. Perhaps it's easier at one latitude or another, but we realize at some point or another that we are us already. There is no finding to do, no desperate, frantic search to be finished before time runs out or we get too old or too tired to keep looking. We are in the ocean and the sky and the clouds. In the mud and the trees and the people. There are pieces of us everywhere, but we need not collect them all. Some are content to stay where they are, making us find them in ourselves before we can find them on the outside.
And everyone we meet is a reflection of ourselves. Especially those that we don't like. It's human. And we have to be okay with not being understood by everyone, including ourselves. How else will we fail without needing to justify it? How else will we be free?
Smile at a stranger today. And be a little eccentric. If that's you, of course.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just words.

The past two weeks haven't really been too exciting, but I feel like last night and a few other small things justify a blog post. (:
PE (for those of you who don't know, Physical Education or Educação Física), has changed from playing random sports in the school gym to, get ready, swimming! Okay. It's not that exciting. I kind of hate it, actually. I got put in the middle class, so I'm actually not as bad as I thought I was, and it's also made me closer with the half of my class that I don't know that well, because nobody in the middle level speaks English. Now don't get me wrong, I speak Portuguese all the time here, but (I don't know if this holds true for all exchange students) it seems like most American exchangers get in closer with the kids that know a little English in the first few days. So my best friends at school speak pretty good English, which is why I ended up becoming friends with them so fast in the first place--communication is key. (; We have to wear goggles, swim caps, one-piece swimsuits (girls) and really tight speedo-like things (boys).
Mother's Day was last Sunday, so my host siblings got up early to cook breakfast for my host mom. I got her a necklace, and we all went out to a Mother's Day lunch with my mom's extended family, at which they all told me that if I ever get married, they're all coming to the States for my wedding. And today is Mother's Day in the United States!! Happy Mother's Day, mom, I love you and miss you tons. (:
Alexandra left Portugal on Wednesday, so I'm all alone now. Kind of freeing in a way, but weird that I don't have anyone to call up to hang out when I can't get Portuguese to come out of my mouth any longer.
Friday night I went to JazzMinde with my host parents. Minde is a small community, and my host parents are pretty active members in it; they know everyone and are involved in lots of community activities. So, we got there early, my host mom helped set up and we all kind of wandered around backstage before the jazz started. I only stayed for the first band, because I was really tired (I was sick on Wednesday) but the whole jazz weekend was a success.
Yesterday, I hung out with my friends from school for the first time since being here. This isn't really surprising, since they all live in Leiria or Fatima, which is where I go to school, so it's hard to arrange stuff since there's not much public transportation around here. At 9 pm we met at my friend Juliana's house, and her parents drove us (4 crammed in the backseat of a little hatchback car) to Leiria, where we went through the hugest McDonald's drive-thru I've ever seen. Juliana's parents dropped us off at Feira De Maio, which is a huge fair that only happens in May. We rode one ride, before Diana and Helena called us and we had to run all over the fairgrounds to find them. We put our overnight bags in Helena's parents' car, and went back into the fair. It was pretty much like the State Fair, with tons of fun rides of questionable safety, expensive food, cotton candy, and lots and lots of people waiting in line for the bathroom.
We rode a few more rides before the fairgrounds started getting really packed, at which point we left to go to the bus stop where we were going to catch a bus to take us to a discoteca (like a club). But there were tons of people waiting at the bus stop, so we decided to walk to the disco. We walked uphill for about 35 minutes (we almost beat the bus we were going to take though, it passed us when we were getting near the disco!) and FINALLY got to Sushi, the disco. We successfully walked across Leiria at one in the morning. You're supposed to be 17 to get into this disco, but all my friends are 16 (ages and grades work differently here, I technically should be in the 12th grade here). We just walked in and they didn't give us any problem, which was kind of expected. But there were some really mad Portuguese teens out there that apparently weren't allowed in, and they were complaining as we walked in that "THEY'RE LETTING 15 YEAR-OLDS IN AND NOT US?!" We danced until about 4:30 (creepy guys kept trying to dance with Diana), when Helena called her mom to come pick us up. Then we all went to Helena's house, and crashed in various places throughout her house.
All in all, it was a pretty good night. (: Except for the four hours of sleep thing.
From left: Diana, Inês, Juliana, Diana, Helena, me
Don't have any pictures of anything recently, because my camera broke before I went to Porto. I've been using Rita's camera, but I can't take it everywhere with me. The one above was taken at the disco by some random photographer and then posted on the internet. Weird. I can't believe I only have a little over a month left here, time's flown. I love my Portuguese friends, and I'm so thankful for everything they do for me every single day. My host family is amazing. I feel like exchange is breaking my heart and sending pieces of it all over the world with all the people I've met, to have even more adventures and, hopefully, secure me a place on other exchanger's couches all over the world if I ever need one. (:
Also, Barcelona keeps advancing in the UEFA league. If it's a final between a Portuguese team and Barcelona, I don't think I'm going to live much longer. Haha. But really.
Hope you all are doing fantastic, take some time today to spend time with your mom, grandmother, aunt, mother-figure, whoever.