As I write this, one of my best friends is flying across the nation to try her hand at living life as a California girl.
I’m really, really proud of her, and all the other new Brazilian friends I’ve made throughout my graduate career. It really feels like the end of an era, and after saying goodbye to her, I ended up crying a bit on the way home. It’s weird to think that you meet people and they’re in your life at the right time and right place. When they leave you realize just how special things were.
Well, to honor the start of a new era and celebrate the times we spent together, I figured I’d write some thank you notes (in no particular order).
1. Thanks to Morgan for giving me the opportunity to return the favor.
When I joined Morgan State’s iPal program, I was in a bit of a rut. I had declined going abroad to begin graduate school, a decision I was regretting. I felt trapped and sad, feeling like the most free and youthful years of my life were passing me by. I was trying to calm my wanderlust by studying international studies, but I felt even more lower being held in the tight schedule of graduate school.
My study abroad advisor, always eager to help me out, told me that there had been a recent agreement between HBCUs and schools in Brazil for an international partnership, and Brazilian students would be coming to our school. Later I would find out that the school would be implementing a program to help acclimate students to the campus and city called iPal. I ended up joining iPal for a few reasons.
One, it was suggested I join by my former Spanish professor because there were to be a lot of Brazilian students on campus, and I could keep up with my Portuguese. Two, it would be a great opportunity for academic enrichment by practicing cross-cultural communication skills, planning and coordinating events, and understanding the perspectives of another person as they experienced my world. For me, though, there was another reason- returning the favor.
If you recall, when I arrived in Brazil, unlike the other students I traveled with, I had the advantage of meeting another American in Brazil who had already been through a year of study abroad before I arrived, “Carina.” While she only had one week left, she took me on a whirlwind tour of Salvador and all the places she frequented. She explained to me the places that were safe, the areas that were not so safe, the best food stalls, the quickest places to refill on my phone minutes, and even where to go if I was feeling homesick (Subway, “If you’re having saudades, go to Subway, it’s exactly the same!”). This information was incredibly crucial to me, and her translating was also of the utmost necessity for those first weeks. It made the transition so much easier, and when she left I was sad, but also better prepared.
I wanted to be that for other people. I know it can be overwhelming, confusing, and tiring to be in a place that’s not your own, and anything I can do to make that chaos better for people, I’m eager to help. So thanks again, iPal program, for giving me the chance to return the favor.
2. Thanks to my car for making it all the way.
When I started the iPal program, I was driving my mother’s Nissan Altima, and boy did I drive that car to its last breath. I’ve broken down, gotten tickets, made grocery trips, restaurant stops, and had parties in that car. I learned about the different types of Brazilian funk, danced to kuduro, and sang the high notes with my Brazilian buddies. That car wasn’t supposed to make it to all these places, but it did. Thanks for making those adventures possible. Enjoy your retirement.
3. Thank you to Maryland; Baltimore to be specific.
Being an iPal in Baltimore is weird for me because I’m still learning the city. How can I show someone the ins and outs if I don’t even know them? This was part challenge and part fun for me, because I got to see things I wouldn’t have got around to otherwise. In a way, we’ve been learning together, exploring the city at the same time.
For Lidia’s last hurrah in Maryland, I decided to make our last excursion as Maryland-y as possible. So we ate at Riptide by the Bay, where we saw folks eating Maryland Blue Crab, drank some unusual drinks, and talked about future plans and excursions. There’s no doubt in my mind – we’ll see each other soon.
4. Meus Amigos Brasileiros (My Brazilian Friends)
The first person I met through this program was Rebecca. Rebecca was quiet, smart, and she was practically fluent in English. Rebecca barely needed me, but we still became friends. She knew me well enough to know that I adore paçoca (pah-so-cah), peanut patties, and when her family came to visit, she got her sister to bring me paçoca.
Next was Bruno. Oh, Bruno.
Bruno was shy at first, because that was his mild, English-learning self. Once he got the language down (it seemed like it happened overnight, really) I saw a different Bruno. The fun, party-all-night, hilarious, exciting, humble, and genuine Bruno. Bruno came to be known as one of the “coolest guys” I know, and even my American buddies think he’s the best.
Lastly was Lidia, my “xuxu.”
We’ve gone on a lot of adventures, tasted a lot of food, and shared a host of memories. I know you’re on the way to do great things, and I’m rooting for you! You’ve always got a home in the USA, I meant, você sempre terá uma casa nos EUA!
In addition to these awesome people, I must give great thanks to…
David for being interesting, quirky, and funny. I never thought your accent was distracting!
Marcelo, for being cool, calm, and collected. It never seemed like anything surprised you, and we partied with Bruno!
Vitor, for letting me know exactly how out of touch I was during my time in Salvador! I expect to see you soon in Campo Grande.
And the lovely Andressa, for her kind words (I almost cried reading your card!) gentle disposition, and sharp tongue. Thanks to you, I feel like I have a better grasp of Portuguese to finally unleash my sarcastic and flirty side!
There’s so many more of you all that have had a huge impact on me, like Yasmin, Jorge, Ariane, Diego, & Lucas (who, might I add, was the first Brazilian I met on campus). I’m going to miss you all immensely, and I wish nothing but the best for you and your adventures. See you soon!
Here’s my souvenir haul for these crazy years.
Lídia got really sick last year, and had to get surgery. I decided to get her a plant to clear the air and help speed up the recovery process. I made the plant pot from a soda bottle, and painted it white like her two cats. It grew well in her dorm, but now that she’s leaving, John’s back in my custody.
The aforementioned peanut patties… they didn’t last long, actually!
Three photos of me and Lídia having a great time with notes on the back.
Two cards, one from Bruno and the other from Andressa.
A Brazilian flag keychain.
2 reais (dollars)
And a can of fancy feast for the cat I don’t have yet (but just you wait!)
Once again, thank you thank you thank you to all the fabulous folks I’ve met and the things that made it possible. I’ll really miss you all, and I have nothing but high expectations for y’all. You’re all going to do great things.
Muito obrigada! Até logo! See you later!