10. The FOOD! - I am from Louisiana, and food is the center of our culture. It is the center of Brazilian culture as well. Although I ate a LOT of rice and beans, I also had acaraje, cacqui, couvi, carne, brigadera, pudin de leche, mamao, morango, melon, maracuja and cafezhino. We think we've tasted papaya and mango. Go to Brazil, I promise you'll never think of fruit in the same way!
9. The Lifestyle - Brazilians work hard and they play even hard. A premium is placed on enjoying life and family is the most important thing in Brazil. And when there is an opportunity to celebrate, well, let's just say I went to parties that were held just because it was Tuesday.
8. The Environmental Responsibility - although Brazil has many pollution-causing factories, day-to-day living is very eco-conscious. This is a lesson we could learn in the states.
7. The diversity. - You can't look at someone and classify them as "Brazilian". Brazil is like America, and Brazilians come in every hue. It's great, which leads me to...
6. The No-Race Thing - Brazil is a melting pot and it is easy to understand when you look at the history of the country. Outside of Japan, Brazil has the largest number of Japanese in the world. There are many people of African descent, European descent and every country and continent you can imagine. However, if you ask someone "what" they are, they will proudly say that they are Brazilian. For a month, I never heard, saw or experienced anything that made me feel "other". I can't go a week here without feeling that I'm being judged, fairly or unfairly, because of the color of my skin. I wish we could learn this from the Brazilians.
5. Patriotism - Brazilians are amazingly patriotic. They have the coolest national anthem ever and will sing it any and everywhere. You see that green, blue and yellow flag everywhere! I can't wait to go to Recife and Olinde to experience that side of Brazil.
4. The Community Service - I guess I saw a lot of this because I was on a Rotary trip, but Brazilians who are wealthy feel a real sense of responsibility for those less fortunate. I saw this on a daily basis.
3. Style. - Brazilians are the most stylish people I've ever seen. And it's not about designer labels, since those aren't really available to most. It's not about makeup or bling, because most Brazilian women do not wear makeup, and even the most wealthy Brazilian women only wear simple gold wedding bands and not much else. They just carry themselves well and know how to put a look together out of nothing. I strive for that!
2. The relationships - I developed relationships with people who I will have in my life forever. I feel as though I have brothers and sisters and surrogate parents and children in Brazil. Tais and Renato, my first hosts, are my brother and sister. My second host, Sandra, and her wonderful children Estela and Victor stole my heart and I will be going back to stay with them. Luciana and Therrazina were unbelievable hosts in Santos. Thais Helena Pavanelli is a goddess to me. I got to hang out with some amazing kids from the Eduardo Gomes School one Saturday in Minas Gerais, a neighboring state to Sao Paulo. I am now Facebook friends with many of them! These are people who inspired me, who I will never forget.
1. The People - In a month, I never expereienced anyone being rude or nasty. Especially when they found out that I was an American, they tried really hard to understand and help with my butchered Portuguese. They are so kind and so excited to have people visiting their country and are appreciative of our interest. Many of them thought I was Brazilian... I think it's the hair;-0 I am so grateful and humbled to have met so many great Brazilians!
This was an amazing experience. I will never forget it. It has made me want to do more, see more and be better than I was before. Thank you Rotary, International. If I get the opportunity to be a part of the organization, I will make it my mission to get people excited about the GSE program.