OK, now that I'm south of the equator, I know many of you are super curious about what's been going on. But first, I'll cut to the part I know you're ALL most interested in: DOES THE TOILET WATER SWIRL BACKWARDS?????
Answer: Nope. Though Montevideo's toilet was much more suction-y.
This is a big disappointment to me, as I'm sure it is to you. As it turns out, the whole thing about water swirling the other way has been exaggerated. In order for it to work, you would have to do a lengthy experiment; and it's not likely to ever work in a toilet due to the water jets on the sides of the bowl. Bummer all around.
So now on to other news.
Saying goodbye is-- by far-- the most difficult part of traveling. I've grown really fond of my roommates and my friends and I've even grown closer to my family, so it was really hard to say goodbye to them and realize I wouldn't see them again for about half a year. I admit, I cried.
Packing for this trip proved to be more difficult than I remembered. I usually travel with a checked bag, a back pack, and a small purse. Somehow, hours before my flight, I ended up with four bags. No good. SO I had to do a final filter on everything. Even then I ended up with one checked bag, a backpack, and a carry on. I still don't have a clue what's taking up more room than usual, and I somehow forgot the set of photos I had printed especially for this trip. More bags and less stuff? I'm baffled.
I flew out of Chicago Wednesday evening to Miami. From there I flew to Montevideo in Uruguay, and spent 5 hours in their airport, which is the nicest airport I've ever been in. I would really enjoy returning there this semester to look around and go to their beaches. From Montevideo I flew to Porto Alegre, which is where I am now! My new host family was there waiting for me at the airport.
Airport in Montevideo, Uruguay (It's much better in person.)
I really like where I'm living in Brazil. My host family built student apartments into their home, so I'm getting the best of both worlds: intimate experiences with natives while living relatively on my own. There are six exchange students here: me, three guys from Mexico, and two gals from Japan. I have my own room (which came furnished, YAY!), and my own bathroom (again, YAY!). All the students share a common room and kitchen, which is separate from our host family's common room and kitchen. We have our own door to enter the house so we don't disturb the family if we're out late. Really, it's quite nice. Our host mother provides snacks for us, cleans our rooms and bathrooms, and does our laundry (wow, I sound spoiled when I write it out!). We also have the option of eating lunch (which is the "big" meal of the day) with the family for a small fee more. I haven't decided if I want to pay the fee or not. It will depend on how my schedule turns out when classes start.
I've met the three Mexicans already, but the Japanese gals won't be here until next week. They all speak English, but I've asked them to stick to Spanish or Portuguese so I can practice. One thing I've learned already is that I need to learn a lot more Portuguese before I'll be able to understand someone speaking at a conversation pace that's not artificially slow for my benefit. :) I'm told that once I learn to hear the differences between Spanish and Portuguese it will be a lot easier. I'll keep you posted.
Classes begin on Tuesday, and I think I'm ready. It will be nice to have things to do again.