April 23, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
It is starting to feel like home
I have no idea what I was really expecting from Brazil. I am spending four and a half months teaching English at an NGO in Belo Horizonte but I’d spent so much time stressing about the flight and having to clear border control and collect and re-check my bags in under 2 hours at Sao Paulo, that I hadn´t really given myself a chance to think about what would come next.
The reality was a baptism of fire in to `Brazilian time´. My new boss was over an hour late picking me up from the airport and I was beginning to worry that I’d managed to sign up for a fake charity. I still can’t quite get used to the fact that everyone is (in my book) unacceptably late for everything, especially as my mum is always early and I seem to have inherited her need to be punctual.
He did eventually arrive and I was treated to my first experience of Brazilian driving, I have now just about got over the terror of being in a car here and learnt to trust that the cars that seem to be careering towards you probably won’t hit you and the motorbikes will swerve at the last minute but to begin with it’s a lot like being in a racing game and I wasn’t sure I was going to arrive in one piece!
Aside from these two initial shocks, my first few weeks were a complete rollercoaster. I’ve been thrown straight in at the deep end, teaching a mixed ability group aged between 9 and 17 in the afternoons and several school groups who are definitely slightly out of control in the mornings. I haven’t been given a lot of guidance or resources and I learnt very quickly that being able to speak English doesn’t qualify me to teach it. Their interest in English isn’t really what I hoped it would be either so at times it feels like an uphill battle and I’m the only volunteer so there isn’t anyone to share my frustration with when I’ve had a bad class. Despite this, they are lovely kids with plenty of energy and they’re always happy to see me and always welcoming when I see them walking around the neighhourhood.
I quickly realised that my level of Portuguese isn’t good, I can just about get by, but luckily my boss speaks English well and everyone has been so welcoming and patient with me and tried to understand my terrible accent. I am living in a favela and although it is not as rich or as pretty as the centre, it is a community in a way that other areas aren’t. I already feel like I’m becoming a part of things and it is starting to feel like home. Although its been a difficult start, it gets better everyday and I`m excited for what is to come in the next four months.
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