Watched my ballet school's end of year concert (which was actually an elaborate 'graduation' from 9 years of ballet and a powerfullll performance) and said goodbye to them :(
Monday had my school's formatura (graduation/formal) and the Queen of last minute that I am, got my dress that day, wrote my speech a few hours before and got home from the beach 40 minutes before starting time. Their grad was a bit different to ours in that all the parents go to a massive hall and all the girls are in the same colour dress (ours was red) and we enter and go up to the stage. My class were like yeah sure come in a red dress and I ended up being on the stage with them, even though I was in no way graduating! So they receive their diplomas, teachers make speeches, students make speeches (meanwhile I am just casually sitting up there sem dimploma) and then my friend from my class is like weeellp this is the first time we have had an intercambista (exchange student) in our class and she'd like to say a few words..
So then I get up with my notes and everything, stumble up there and then the MC lady is like WHAT nao pode! (she can't!) And I was so taken aback and she goes on saying that mer mer it wasn't in the program and there is no way I can just come up and speak, if this was in her country no Brazilian would be allowed to speak! (I held myself back there because they actually SO would) and so all the parents and students are like que que isso?! And start chanting sarah sarah sarah and I'm just standing up there awkwardly still and she goes no it's not going to be possible, so I EVEN MORE AWKWARDLY return to my seat :(
Then at the very end the principal is like wait we have one more thing, this is the first exchange student that has been with us all the way through 3rd year to formatura and she has been with us all year and I think we all want to hear what she wants to say, I just hope we'll be proud of it (pretty sure everyone was assuming I would just rant on about our wild parties and the bad stuff we did at school). So I got up, said the speech I had written a couple of hours before (not practised of course D: ) and yeah everyone laughed and loved it and by the end my friends and their parents were crying haha so I think I touched a nerve!
Basically just thanked them for including me so much, teaching me portugues and all the funny times. It was a really special moment for me because I really wanted to let them know that, and how the school and parents should be congratulated. At the end random people/parents/students came up to me and were like parabens (congrats) that was the best speech of the night! (of course the others were great too...just that I was the loudest and you could actually hear me haha). Then we all went off to an event room and had open bar/amazing DJ and all just dannnnnced the night away. One of my happiest nights and a good way to farewell my school, Carmo <3
Then leading up til Christmas went to the Sao Paolo symphonic orchestra ON THE BEACH free, was stunnnnning! Only in Brazil would the symphonic orchestra play the anthem of the local football team that unfortunately came 2nd to barcelona in the World championship thing :( But still! Second! Vai pra cima deles santossss! Um basically skated to the beach every day (it takes two songs max to get there) chilled in the sun with someone different every day.
Christmas here was pretttty different. First Christmas without my family but my parents sent me flowers which was lovely! Ok so I had 3 families I needed to see, so 10pm Christmas eve go with my first one to eat snackish food, midnight I come back to my current family and have an amazing dinner everyone together (the celebration point here for Christmas is bang on midnight followed by meal) then at 2am my host brother (freshly back from oz!), cousin and I GO TO A BALADA (club). Yes, on christmas morning when Santa should be going around we went to a club. Danced the night away and no it was not abnormal there were actually a few clubs open (it's a saturday night, why change routine?) and yeah got back at 7am.
Wake up at 1pm and go have lunch with my 2nd host family, really nice, and me and my host brother end up downstairs making an extreme bubble explosion in the jacuzzi! So much fun. Then I went to my cousins house and we played games like charades etc. until 4am! Very different Christmas indeed :)
So then the week following HEAPS of exchange students from Sao Paolo came down and we had so much fun. Casual list of activities
- Running through pouring rain to get a drink from the local 24h supermarket to have while we play our made up version of 'guess the word'. Definitely gets funny when your partner doesn't speak fluent english and describes the hulk as 'I am sad...and I am angry...and I am green"
- Midnight beach sing a longs with randoms
- Attempted to swim across to Guaruja (the next city) but the ferry people/police weren't keen so we got out and caught the ferry shivering in our swimmers haha
- Went to a club that had a line of 300+ people outside and cut through everyone after 20 minutes because the intercambistas started speaking danish to the (Dane) owner, get in and take advantage of the open bar, set off the whole club with our wild ways, then I just randomly got up on the stage with the DJ (initially to take a photo) and then all the girl exchange students came up and we basically danced there in front of everyone in this 2 level club for so long, crazy times. Everyone thought we were crazy but actually we're just gringos (foreigners) and of course, exchange students. Crazy is in our blood.
- Get to the beach with 2 bottles of the cheapest stuff ever, play all these challenge games with the end result being everyone skinny dipping at 3am in our beach screaming INTERNATIONAL KISSSS and chanting so many Brazilian funk songs
- Next night having a party on the roof of a half built house (yes, it was as dangerous as it sounds..) and going for late night skates
- Went paraglidng over my city and filmed the whole thing :)
Then on the last weekend my host parents surprised me and said they were taking me to RIO! I had been wanting to go again but didn't have the money and it was never going to be possible but they drove up and we chilled on beaches, ate A LOT and at the botanical gardens I met up with my best friend from the Brazil trip! It was so awesome and I couldn't have been more grateful.
Meanwhile, my friends had been organising a massive going away party for me! The day I left they said give us a list of people and we'll do the rest. So I got back from Rio drove straight to the party (which was at someone's insanely massive 2 storey+pool+backyard beach house) and met up with a them on the road, hopped into their van and we arrived and 50 people were already there! And then about 40 more came! The organisers had gotten money from everyone and stacked the fridge so there was basically half a bottle of vodka per person haha. It was a really great night, and so touching to see how many people had paid and organised for vans to make the trek all the way out there. And although it was really fun, I spent half the night crying, just being so overwhelmed at the fact that I didn't know these people a year ago and now we are so close but have to say goodbye. Super intense.
And the NEXT DAY we had a second party that my host dad had organised in which he closed off a restaurant for me to invite 80 of my friends and family to a 3 course meal, ALL EXPENSES COVERED. Once again, so beautiful to see everyone there, some close friends I had invited to both parties but yeah I made a little speech and barely got to sit down or eat because I was running around chatting!
The next few days are a blur because I didn't sleep..but basically I got a tattoo (that my host parents helped me to choose!), went to my rotary farewell, an exchange farewell and then maybe the worst of them all my group's farewell. The day before I left I met up with them all at the pier, gave them all personalised Yamba postcards that basically described what each one had meant to me this year and basically, there were a lot of tears and hugs on repeat. They then all piled in a van (off on a trip) and invited me in to watch something. If I hadn't already been crying, this was the moment to start. They had all chipped in money and got someone to put together a montage of messages from everybody at the first party, every video we had taken throughout the year (including the para gliding one!) and photos to my favourite brazilian song! It was so so special and definitely one of those things I will keep forever.
That night I went for one last sunset run on Santos beach and as I kicked back a stray soccer ball to the players with a wave (like I always do) it occurred to me that I am no longer a visitor here. Thinking about the closest 150 people that came to my parties and wondering how we had only met now. My families, my school, Rotary, friends, everything seems so natural and comfortable, and I know that if I was a quiet person it wouldn't be the same but
in the end it was THEY who made me feel so at home. So I had my final beer at the Australianos bar (and they bought my $10 from me to use as decoration haha they had been searching for years for one to come up!!) and my final churrasco (brazilian barbecue) and I could barely eat. That's when my family and I knew that something was up, and only an exchange student will know the feeling. Like this weird twisted nightmare is dawning upon you where all the people you are so grateful for and have grown to love so much, suddenly you won't see them again for YEARS. And then there is this crazy wild butterfly excitement of seeing your parents, your town, the beaches and all of your oldest greatest friends that you have missed dearly. It is a weird feeling let me tell you.
Meanwhile I had slept about 3 hours in a total of 4 days and barely slept on the plane which would surely be pure adrenaline! Flew back with the other Australians who I came over with, so interesting to see how they have changed and grown over the time. Everyone had a positive experience which says something about Brazil and Rotary exchange. Finally get to Sydney and there is mumma Salve just casually standing there, that my friends, was surely the best hug I have ever had in my life. It was so great to see her! Then I spent the whole time being amazed at how clean and fresh the airport was, how people stop when you want to cross the road, how crazily multicultural Sydney is and of course my extreme and utter longing for Salt and Vinegar chips!! After a weirdly timed jet-lagged nap I woke up at 3am and sat in the hotel foyer and read the weekend Sydney Morning herald (my favourite of all pastimes) for HOURS oh how I had missed it! Flew home, saw my dad, my parents new house and my mum had cooked my favourite dish. I was so so glad to be home, and the thing that made it easier to come back is that
1) I know I lived my exchange to the absolute fullest each and every day
2) I made stronger friendships and connections with my host families than I ever thought possible
3) I know I will be back to visit it all again, most likely for the world cup in 2014. So it was more of a 'see you soon' than a goodbye forever
4) And finally, most importantly, whatever happens in the rest of my life, even if for some reason I could never go back or speak to them ever again, no-one can take away what 2011 was for me. On it's own, it was a mini-lifetime. Every emotion and experience was heightened to exaggeration, and like they say, exchange isn't for the weak. Exchange is something you start alone and you finish alone and you come out of it with such a strong grasp of who you are, what you believe in, where you fit in the world and a whole lot of crazy stories. I reckon there are a lot of teenagers out there who need something like this, which is why I will encourage and involve myself with exchange until the day I die. And true to form, I have written way too much. But this is the last instalment of the adventure.
And all I can say is wow.
I can't believe how lucky I am.