Eagle Co. student finds belly dancing in Brazil | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. student finds belly dancing in Brazil

Shannon O'Rourke
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyValley resident Shannon O'Rourke fed monkeys in a forest near the Brazilian town in which she is an exchange student.

It’s been another two months for me here in Brazil, and I am continuing to enjoy learning about this foreign land. Lately, I have fallen in love with being on exchange and my host country. I have had the opportunity to experience many new places and events and have discovered more about this unique culture.

Traveling has been a big part of the past two months. I have returned to Sao Paulo city, where I visited Iberapuera Park (similar to Central Park), Villa Lobos Shopping (some of the best fashions in the city), and sampled traditional Brazilian food at a unique restaurant.

I have visited a small town called Ibitinga, which is famous for hand-made goods. I traveled with my host family to the city of Maringa, in the state of Parana (right below Sao Paulo state).

My first beach trip was to Camboriu, Santa Catarina. The beach and the land in the southern region of Brazil are very beautiful, even if I did have to take a 16-hour bus ride to see it.

While in the south, I also visited a town called Blumenau, which is famous because it seems just as if you were in a quaint German town. All the buildings look German and most restaurants serve traditional German cuisine.

After traveling and experiencing different parts of Brazil, I have realized a very interesting fact about Brazilian culture: the influence of foreign lands. Sao Paulo city has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, and when visiting Sao Paulo, one can find evidence in this through the people, the delicious Japanese food, and even Japanese graffiti on buildings.

My city, Sao Jose do Rio Preto, was originally a city founded by Arabians. Many families have Arabian heritage and Arabian cuisine is very popular here. The major athletic club is run by an Arabian family, and instead of teaching Brazilian samba or capoeira, people can learn belly dancing.

And of course, Blumenau is full of German immigrants and looks more European than South American.

Because Brazilians are in love with Carnaval (a huge festival in February), they must have numerous festivals every year to satisfy their need for samba music, staying up all night, and of going to parties.

I was able to experience a mini carnaval called Carna Rio Preto in my town. It was three days of little sleep, loud music from some of the most popular singers in Brazil, and a lot of fun. Brazilians definitely know how to throw a party.

Lately, the Rotary has played a bigger role in my exchange. In September, all the exchange students from my district gathered together for a week of orientation.

It was really cool to get to know kids from all over the globe, and to see that although we are all from different countries and cultures, there are also many similarities between us.

I have also gone with my Rotary Club to a place called Casa Raquel, which is a day-care center for children who live in poverty. It was great to play with the kids and see their smiling faces, and to know that we had made a difference in their day.

Some differences that I have noticed between Brazil and the United States are the restaurants and the relationship with the extended family. When you go out to a pizzeria or a churrascaria (a place primarily for different types of meat) here in Brazil, you do not order a meal. Instead, waiters come around and offer smaller portions of different things. I actually like this way better because then you can taste many different things for the same price as just ordering one dish.

I have gotten the feeling that people here are closer with their extend family than they are in the U.S. Most families in Brazil live in the same city or nearby their extended family, and usually gather once or twice a week to share a meal. Both of my host families have most of their extended family right here in Rio Preto.

Although I have been doing a lot of traveling lately and learning about different regions of my host country, I have also had the time to take advantage of opportunities right here in my city. A few weeks ago, my host family took me and a friend to a more rural area of the city.

When we arrived in the forest, what seemed like more than 100 monkeys came out of the trees and came up to us to eat the food we had. They were so hungry that they were climbing all over us in order to get the bananas, eggs and peanuts we had brought to feed them. It was an experience that I will never forget.

I have also started learning capoeira, a famous dance in Brazil that also has fighting moves. It is tough to learn, but thankfully the teacher is really nice and patient.

These past couple months have been filled with rewards such as improving my Portuguese, making close friends, and discovering new things about a new culture and about myself.

There have also been many challenges ” being away from family and friends is a fact of living a life abroad that one must adapt to, and it takes a while to realize that you are on your own and responsible for all the decisions you make.

Even though some factors of exchange are bittersweet, I am so glad I made the decision to spend a year learning about the world.

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