by Alina Yaccino, CCI Greenheart Travel High School Exchange student in Brazil
On July 28th, I started my journey on my first long-term travel experience more than nine hours away from my most recent hometown of Fox River Grove,Illinois. There are no funny stories of my long plane ride, only a very sore back, neck and butt from the uncomfortable, strange positions I had to get into to be able to have a nice sleep in the minimum space I had for nine hours straight.
It hadn’t hit me on those nine hours that I was traveling to somewhere I’ve never been, to stay with people I know little about. Everything would be different, the house, the family, language, climate, country, school, habits. All I was thinking about was the pretzel like bend that my legs were in as I sat sideways on my seat facing the window, leaning my head on an inflatable pillow, trying to get comfortable. It wasn’t until we landed that I had an immediate smile on my face, and those thoughts crossed my mind briefly, but all I could think about was “I made it,” knowing I had all the support in the world to make it, all the love from my family, all the care, that now was thousands of miles away. All of it was worth it. I was now beginning an unforgettable journey that I will be able to look back on for the rest of my life.
My now new host family greeted me with hugs and kisses at the airport after being in the wrong terminal for 2 hours, and they gave me flowers and smiles, my new sister Teresa, ran to me saying my name with a smile on her face, and open arms to hug me. We drove an hour home and in the car I would listen to everyone comment on me and joke with the mom on how she would be my Portuguese teacher and she would answer “Ou vai aprender, ou vai aprender” (she’s either going to learn or going to learn).
It helps me a lot to know Spanish, the language is very similar, although I know a lot of times we have trouble communicating because not all words mean the same and sometimes they talk too fast for me to understand. All and all they are a lovely family, with a great Latino sense of humor, being from the Dominican Republic and knowing those similar characteristics is very heartwarming to me, even though its a different language and different country, I’m getting along pretty well. The first night of my arrival I met some of my sisters friends and they all joked with me and tried talking with me in English, it was nice to see their effort. The next day after Teresa came home from school she said her friends really liked me and it’s definitely good to know. I am set to start my own school experience August 1, and the idea of it is very wonderful to me, it will definitely be interesting, but I’m excited to learn and put my evolving language skills to practice.
At home I have a new friend, their pet cockatoo Chico. At first he intimidated me because at the kitchen table while we had lunch I would see how everyone’s face would go from a pleasant one to a painful one and sure enough was the bird nibbling at their toes. Last night him and I bonded; we whistled back and forth and later he sat on my shoulder and sang in my ear rather loudly and kept pecking at it too. The mom jokes around calling him a traitor because he chose me instead of her, twice now.
It’s been good to know that everyone puts an effort in making me comfortable and in incorporating me to their family, one of the first things the mom said to me was that I am a new member of the Paive family. I’m excited for the many moments we’ll have as well as the many trips we will take to see the beautiful country of Brazil as they have told me.