The Braces Smile of my Brazilian Angel

So as many of you probably already know, this semester I am leaving the wonderful world of USC to embark on the greatest adventure of my life to date, studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since I like writing and some people want to make sure I don’t, you know, die or something, I thought I’d try to keep up with a little travel blog. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those every day, “look at what I ate for lunch today, here’s where I went to the bathroom, this is #fun” kind of people. I probably won’t even post every week. But if I feel like something is worth sharing and writing about, you will find it here. Sound like a deal?

Anyways, so here I am *hey what’s up hello* sitting in my new bedroom for the next 6 months after what may have been my worst travel experience of all time. After 12 hours in the lovely Miami airport, a canceled flight, a hotel voucher in an Indian Casino Resort that may or may not have given me lung cancer just by walking in the place, a 10 hour plane ride, 4 hour time change jetlag, and 3 hours of sleep, I began my time in Rio. Not exactly the most ideal first couple days. But nonetheless, I was determined to give it my all.

The day began with a cup of coffee and a quick walk to our first day of orientation. Although most of the day was spent in a room learning the nitty gritty stuff about the city and our program, we did get to tour an area, eat some damn fine food, and get acquainted with the members of our very American looking gang.

Even though most of our knowledge of Portuguese combined is about equivalent to Donald Trump’s knowledge of how to run a country, there was great comfort found. Ignorance is stronger in numbers, right? I think that’s how that works.

The most nerve racking part of the day was walking in the door of my new Brazilian family. I was immediately welcomed with open arms, hugs, and lots of words that I had no idea of their meaning. I managed to keep smiling and squeak out the few sentences I had learned. “Oi, meu nome é Molleigh. Eu não falo Português, mas eu estou aprendendo!” (Hi, my name is Molleigh. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I am learning!)

Feeling very proud of my accomplishment was very short lived when my host mother immediately smiled and continued to speak confusion at lightening speed. So I just continued to smile and nod as she took me around the apartment pointing to random things and trying to see if I understood. This was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. This lovely, sweet woman was doing everything in her power to make me feel welcome and all I wanted was to be able to talk to her and tell her how much I appreciated what she was doing. But I was stuck with nodding and smiling and obrigada (thank you). Realizing we weren’t going to get much farther, she left me in my room to get settled.

I sank on the bed in exhaustion, frustration, and confusion. I began unpacking, called some friends and family for comfort, and was nervous about how to even interact with the family again. Then with one knock on my door, my entire day and experience changed.

In walked the daughter of the family, 15-year-old Julia. I could tell she was trying to think of what she was saying in English when she muttered out, “you…eh…can help?” Confused I said, “um.. yes, sure! With what or um que?” Realizing her mistake she corrected herself. “No no sorry. I help you? need help?” I couldn’t help but smile at how sweet she was. “No, I’m okay! Estou bem! But obrigada!”

We then proceeded to have a very lengthy, very broken and slow, conversation involving some English, some Spanish, some Portuguese, many pauses, many uses of Google Translate, and lots of laughs at how ridiculous this whole thing was. I assured her, or well I guess Siri said it for me, that communication was going to be slow for awhile but I would do my best to learn and I couldn’t thank her enough for her help. She smiled, went away, and returned with a Portuguese grammar textbook and said, “You study! I help!”

I could have cried right there. Sure, maybe my exhaustion may have had something to do with this sudden onset of emotion since that’s not exactly my normal response to things, but nonetheless I finally felt some comfort and the feeling that I could maybe do this. She pointed to a quote that she had put up on my wall in English that read “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”

“We do that to learn! You and me!”, she said. I gave her a big hug. “Obrigada, thank you so much” I replied.

So that’s exactly what I am going to do. It’s not going to be easy. I am going to have many awkward moments in the next coming weeks where I still have to stare blankly at someone waiting for me to respond to them. And I will hate it. I will get mad at myself and my lack of knowledge. But knowing that I will at least be able to come home at the end of the day to my supportive new 15 year old little sister and the rest of her kind family, gives me a sense of hope and excitement for what is to come.

So for now, you’ll find me dancin’ in the rain, friends.

Boa noite!




2 thoughts on “The Braces Smile of my Brazilian Angel

  1. My cousin is am attaché at the US Embassay in Rio. Hollar if you need anything. Your mom can get in tough with me
    Penny Sheehxn


  2. I hope you will have a wonderful experience. I too have travelled abroad and know the feeling of “What the heck am I doing here.” God bless and good luck.


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