YEAR ABROAD BLOG

~ SPAIN vs BRAZIL ~


{Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially.}

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I don’t think I can put into words how much I have fallen in love with this beautiful country I have been able to call home for the past 4 months. When I arrived here, one of the topics of conversation was how fortunate I have been to have had the opportunity to travel to so many countries in my short life. Yesterday, I counted all the countries I have been to and I think the total was around about 18…and so people asked me of all the countries I have visited, which has been my favourite. Now I can honestly say that Brazil wins hands down. Here are a few reasons why Brazil has stolen my heart;

  • Brazilians Part 1: Welcoming

Okay so, Brazilians are simply amazing. Never in my life have I felt as welcomed somewhere as I have here in Brazil. I arrived here in São Paulo knowing one person (shout out to Verna), but within a couple of weeks, I had dozens of Brazilian friends, many of them who will without a doubt, be friends for life. I was invited into people’s homes, people’s celebrations, and into people’s hearts.

  • Brazilians Part 2: Love and Generosity

I have honestly never felt so loved and valued in my life as I have here in Brazil. In the UK, I feel like we do tell people that they are valued and appreciated, however this is normally in the form of a nice card, letter or a heartfelt Facebook/Instagram post. On the other hand, in Brazil, upon meeting someone face-to-face, you literally get SHOWERED with compliments, hugs and kisses. Side note: what other nation would give a Gringa (foreigner) 8 birthday cakes for her 21st birthday!? So, to sum up…Brazilians are great, and to any Brazilians that are reading – I appreciate you so much and know that you are so very loved.

  • Brazilian Food

Wow.

Feijoada. Coxinha. Tapioca. Requeijão. Açaí. Farofa. Pão de queijo. Pastel. Batata palha. Fricassê. Baião de dois. Beijinho de coco. Panquecas.

Enough said.

  • Brazilian Weather

You know that we British complain all the time about weather, right? That’s because our weather is always terrible, but it gives us occasional glimmers of hope. Maybe just for a few hours of a day in summer, we’ll have a nice weather. Then it’s raining and freezing again. Brazilian weather is honestly something else. When it’s hot, it’s hot (and yes, I do get burnt) but there is nothing better than the feeling of the Brazilian sun on your skin. At the minute, in Brazil, it is currently winter, and whilst the Brazilians are all wrapped up and shivering, I’m walking around in a short-sleeved t-shirt with no trouble, so it is never too cold. The only problem is that it’s 15o outside, and inside the houses there is no central heating. As a result, many times, it ends up feeling colder inside than outside.

  • Churrasco

So, for those of you that don’t know, churrasco = BBQ. However, if a Brazilian were to see our UK BBQs, they would be absolutely horrified. I once told some friends that our BBQs consisted of hotdogs, burgers and chicken and they were left speechless. There is nothing better than a Brazilian churrasco. Since trying it for the first time, I am convinced that Brazil’s meat is the best in the world…and Brazilians are the best at cooking meat in the world (sorry Daddy).

*****

My time here has been so precious, but things haven’t been plain sailing. I managed to survive my first three months in Brazil without crying at all, which is a massive achievement for someone who generally cries a few times a week when at university. However, as soon as May hit, the floodgates opened. One minute I was crying because it was my dad’s birthday and I missed him a lot, the next I was crying because I wanted to go home, then I started crying because I was so completely exhausted, the next minute I was crying because it was my mum’s birthday and I was missing her, then I was crying because I had to renew my visa and was scared that I wouldn’t be able to and that I would be deported and have to go home to Northern Ireland. It’s funny how within three days, I went from crying because I wanted to go home, to crying because I was scared that I would be forced to go home 3 months early.

A lady from my work was praying for me the day before my mum’s birthday, and she asked if she could pray for my mum and I told her that that would be wonderful. She began to pray a prayer of strength and comfort for my mum which was amazing, but what she prayed afterwards opened the floodgates once again. She prayed that in those moments where my mum was feeling in need of a hug from me (or vice versa), that she would remember that God has just borrowed me from her for 6 months to give hugs to children that don’t have mums, or that don’t know what it feels like to be loved. That mentality changed EVERYTHING. It was in that moment when I was reminded that I have been called here for a reason. I was reminded that God has a perfect plan for my life, and this experience in Brazil is part of that plan. In those moments where I feel so overwhelmed with the work I am doing, I praise God because he knows I am capable of it, and I know he wouldn’t have called me to do this work if he couldn’t get me through it.

I have been much more emotionally stable this month thank goodness. Well…apart from the fact that I broke down on the metro on Monday with Verna when I was telling her about all the things I would miss when I got back to the UK. The thought of leaving Brazil gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. I know that saying my goodbyes will be impossible, and I think it would be wise for me to stop talking about leaving because I can feel the tears pricking my eyes just thinking about it.

What else has happened since my last update? Well, I have now been in my host family’s home for about a month and a half and it has been such a blessing. I am living with the Pastor of my church and his wife Regina, however their two grandchildren Aline (4) and Gabriel (2) are always in the house in the afternoons so peace and quiet doesn’t really exist here. When I’m not working, I spend my day watching Peppa Pig in Portuguese, singing “Touch the Sky” from Brave in Portuguese, playing, dancing and acting as a human climbing frame.

Aline comes out with the funniest things and so there is never a dull moment when she is around. One day, I was on FaceTime with my parents, and Aline walked into the room. I explained to her that the people on the screen were my parents and she wouldn’t believe me. Nonetheless, she was completely fascinated by my dad (who knows why!!!), and kept asking him to make stupid faces. One of my friends here in Brazil bought me a little birdcage for my birthday with a note attached explaining that the cage had to stay open as a reminder that God made me to FLY. One day, I was doing some uni work in my room, and Aline sauntered on into my bedroom as she always does and climbed up onto my bed. She spotted the birdcage hanging above my bed and instantly tried to close it. I tried to tell her that the door had to stay open, but she wouldn’t listen and confidently replied “No Keite, I have to close it because if it stays open the flies will get in”. I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I allowed her to close the birdcage...but I obviously opened it as soon as she left my room.

My favourite Aline moment of all occurred yesterday. I have unfortunately lost my voice
A G A I N (for the 3rd time on my Year Abroad). When Aline saw me yesterday, she asked “Keite where has your voice gone?” and so I told her that I had lost it. She replied saying, “But Keite, you had your voice yesterday at my birthday party…MAYBE YOU LEFT IT AT THE PARTY! You have to go back there and look for your voice Keite because you need your voice so that you can talk to me and play with me.” Children are precious gems and I will never tire of hearing the little things they come out with.

This last month I have been stretched further than I thought I could be stretched. I arrived here in Brazil with an ok level of Portuguese which allowed me to communicate when I had to, but now, whilst I am still making mistakes (which is completely normal and acceptable), I am speaking without thinking and with so much more confidence. Last week, I actually gave two 15 minute talks in Portuguese. Now that is something I have never done before in English, so in Portuguese, it was a real challenge but I succeeded. On the street team, I have had some incredible conversations with children. I am going to post a link to a video I created for my church about a little girl I spoke to called Ester at the bottom of this post, so feel free to read if you are interested.

In the church plant, all the classes are going really well. The highlight of my week is always Friday night at the church plant. I am teaching a Kids Church class of kids ranging from the ages of 1 to 7…so it is challenging to say the least, however it is so rewarding. This term, we have been learning about Jesus and some of his miracles, so last week I asked the children if they could remember any of the miracles we had looked at. Much to my surprise, they remembered every single one of them. Even despite my somewhat ropey Portuguese, they are hearing, learning and understanding about Jesus’ love, which makes my heart so happy.

A new little boy called Vinícius came to the Church on Friday night, and at one point, we were discussing about how it’s really good to say thank you to God for all the things we have in our lives. Vinícius then said, but I don’t have anything, I spend all day living on the streets. I completely froze, but then I said, “Do you have family?” and he said that he did, then I said, “Do you have friends?”, “yes” and at this point a smile started to appear on his face. Then I said, “and look at this beautiful smile you have, you have to remember to say thank you to God for giving you that lovely smile on your face and for making you BEAUTIFUL.” By which point, little Vinícius and the other children in my class were all sitting with the biggest smiles on their faces.

I am so thankful that God has INVITED ME to be part of what is going on here in Brazil. This experience is changing me from the inside out and I’m loving this better version of Katelin that He is turning me into.

Thank you so much for reading!
Sending you lots of love from Brazil, Katelin xo


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So somehow, I have been in Brazil for two months and I’m not really sure where the time has gone. I have honestly enjoyed every single second of my time here and I can’t wait to see what adventures and challenges the next four months will bring. The work I am doing here is hard. Really hard. Not physically or mentally, but it is emotionally draining. Hearing the stories of the street kids and seeing the circumstances in which they live, mixed with working with the children from the community and seeing them beating each other up inside the church because that is the way that they have been raised and it is all they know.


I am here in Brazil to show them what love is and to shower them with it.


It has been such a long time since I’ve done an update so I think this is going to be a long post but stick with it!


PAPO DE RESPONSA
So Papo de Responsa is the name of the street team that I work with every Tuesday in the centre of São Paulo. Half of the team goes to an area of the city called Cracolândia (Crackland) and the other half goes to work with children and adolescents that live on the streets in the centre of São Paulo. Every Tuesday, we meet up in a Church before going out to the streets in order to have a time of worship, prayer and devotionals so we can be properly equipped for going out to work with the people living on the streets.

I am always on the team that works with kids and young people, which suits me perfectly. We sit alongside the kids/adolescents right there in the middle of a busy street in the centre of São Paulo. We play games, sing songs, chat and simply try to help them see that they are valuable and loved and that there is a better life for them off the streets. Before coming to Brazil, I assumed that the work I did in Guatemala would have fully prepared me for working with street kids here. Boy was I wrong. In Guatemala, I worked mostly with children from the ages of 6-12, whereas here, the “kids” are generally over the age of 13. In Guatemala, the kids were affected massively by drugs, because they were surrounded by them, but they weren’t users themselves. Here on the other hand, the majority of the teens that we work with are users, and will sniff solvents/chemicals the entire time we are with them on the streets. One thing both sets of children have in common is that they live on the streets, they have been discarded by society and are viewed as nothing more than rubbish.


~THIS NEXT LITLE BIT MAY SEEM ODD/UNEXPECTED AT FIRST, BUT GO WITH ME AND MY BIZARRE TRAIN OF THOUGHT~

There is a very famous work of art in Italy known as “Il David” by Michelangelo (pictured above). It is by far one of the most impressive sculptures that exists in this world, but I think the story behind its creation is far more impressive. Michelangelo made this sculpture out of a piece of marble that had been worked on, and subsequently rejected by several artists, including Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino. Agostino abandoned the project after doing only a little work, mostly roughing out around the legs and then Antonio Rossellino was hired to take over the project in 1476, however, he backed out almost immediately, claiming that the marble was of poor quality.

The work that had previously been carried out by di Duccio and Rossellino meant that every other artist that looked at the marble saw it as completely useless. A piece of marble which stood at four metres tall, with a big hole cut out of the centre was viewed by so many as impossible to work with. Then, 26-year-old Michelangelo came along and he accepted the challenge and was given two years to complete the sculpture. He spent the next few years locked away in hiding, moulding this image. He didn’t let a single person see his masterpiece until he had finished. He ultimately created one of his most famous pieces of work from a block of marble that had been REJECTED by the world.

These kids that I work with here in Brazil have been completely rejected by society. People walk past them and pretend they aren’t there, they don’t even smile at them. They walk on the opposite side of the street looking in the opposite direction because they are scared that they are going to get robbed, but the truth is, is that there is BEAUTY inside (and outside) these wonderful people. These are children who in many cases have escaped from their own families because they have been so badly abused that they see a life living on the streets as a better option. Children that take drugs in order to escape and forget about the numerous beatings and endless pain that they have experienced in their short lives.

Another member of my team told me that one time they were sitting talking to a child and they said to them, did you know that you are loved. The child responded, ninguém me ama porque eu sou lixo (No one loves me because I’m trash). The truth is that none of these children are trash in the eyes of God. They are not loved any less than me, or you, or anyone. Jesus died for them, just like he died for me. Michelangelo saw potential in that block of marble that had been rejected by the world, just like God values each and every single child that I have worked with.


AP.COM

AP.COM (pronounced ah pay punto com) is the name of the church plant where I work every Thursday and Friday. All of the children that attend the project live in the comunidade (community/favela) across the road and are very underprivileged. The children are precious and I love every single one of them. My heart sings with joy every time I get to go there because their little smiles are the most wonderful thing. Every Thursday, I help with school reinforcement classes which are there to help give the kids a helping hand with their education so that they don’t fall behind in school. I also assist my mentor Verna with an art class that she is teaching (which is hilarious because I am the least artistic person in the world) but Verna says that if she can teach me how to do the craft, she will have no problem teaching the children!!

On Friday’s, I teach a music class and also teach the youngest class of 3-7 year olds in Kids Church (which has its challenges). The project didn’t have any musical instruments so I had to improvise slightly for the first few weeks of the music course, however at the end of last week, a family on the other side of the city contacted Verna to see if she could make use of an electric piano in any of the work that she is doing and she obviously jumped at the opportunity. So, I think from this week on the music class will be much easier to plan and carry out. Last week the class was…well…interesting. Two of the girls decided to bring along their 3-year-old brother (who was crying because he had a sore stomach). He subsequently vomited all over the bathroom, meanwhile another child from the project (who wasn’t registered for the class) stood outside the gate pushing the buzzer for 2 HOURS wanting to get in. Then at the end he was standing with a rock ready to throw it at the girls who were leaving, so honestly things can only go up from last week.

All aspects of the work that I am doing in Brazil are significantly harder than what I did in Spain. Mostly because in Spain, I didn’t really do anything other than play with kids while speaking in English. Here, I don’t speak any English in work, so any classes I have to give, are given in Portuguese…which obviously makes things significantly harder.


So many other things that have happened these last couple of months so it would be impossible to list all of them but I’m going to bullet point a few of my highlights.

  • I got the opportunity to stay with two separate families from my church for a couple of days each which was amazing as it allowed me to be fully immersed in Portuguese, as well as getting to know them better.
  • I have tried SO MANY new kinds of food. Brazil has everything. I’ve eaten traditional Chinese food, Japanese food, Arabian food, Peruvian food (AMAZING) and of course Brazilian food. Every single thing I have eaten here has been incredible.
  •  I got the opportunity to go to an English-Speaking Church for Easter Sunday which was such a blessing. Also, three out of eight of the songs were written by Northern Irish people so that was cool.
  • On Saturday past, I went to help my friends Joyce and Emerson at their project because they were having an Easter party and it was one of the highlights of my time so far. We went to collect the children to bring them to the party, which meant walking through a favela (my first experience) and it was such a heart-warming experience seeing how excited the kids were for the event and how well they responded to everything. God is SO GOOD.
  • I’ve been playing/singing in the worship band in my church 2/3 times a month which is so exciting. I love that this church has put their trust in me and has faith in my abilities, as it is something I really missed doing when I was in Madrid.
  • I’ve had a lovely two months living with Verna, but I THINK (!!!!) that this weekend I will be moving out of this little flat and into my host family’s house so that will be interesting. I think I’ve got a little bit too comfortable here so I’m ready for an exciting new change.


The last few posts, I have included a song that has been on my heart so I thought I'd continue with the tradition. This time around, it is the turn of God of Justice by Tim Hughes. It is a truly beautiful song with incredible lyrics detailing how we are being called to GO. Give it a listen if you so wish.

Congrats to you if you have gotten this far - you are the real MVP xo

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Okay so…I love Brazil.

Every single second of my time here so far has been unbelievably precious. Brazilian people are the biggest sweethearts and so full of love, Brazilian food is delicious and Brazil is so beautiful, but really, really hot. My timetable has been finalised and I never work in the mornings which is A M A Z I N G! My schedule is pretty full and intense but I am so excited to properly get started in all the various projects.

Since I arrived here, I’ve been asked several times by Brazilians why on earth I have come the whole way to Brazil and initially my answer was “I’m here as part of university degree because I study languages which means I have to spend a year living abroad to improve my language abilities”. However, on day one, I was challenged by Verna when I gave that answer to a man at the fruit market, because she asked if that was really the only reason I had decided to come the whole way to Brazil as a missionary. I think the reason that that was my answer is because I am actually quite baffled myself as to how I ended up here and haven’t properly taken the time to process and look back on this crazy journey that God has taken me on these last few years. So, with that in mind, these last few weeks especially I have been doing lots of thinking and bible reading and praying to figure out my story and so I thought I’d share…

*******************************************

I grew up surrounded by the most wonderful Christian family and so going to church was always part of our weekly routine. I always heard people talking about God and never felt any pressure whatsoever by my family to believe in anything. Obviously, we went to church, but I was never told I HAD to believe in God. My beliefs were exactly that, mine. When I was eight years old, a visiting minister was giving the children’s story and was talking about Jesus and how he was ‘knocking the door of our hearts’ and that all we had to do was answer the door and let him in. In that moment, as a little 8-year-old girl, I felt like I understood everything and I knew in that moment that I wanted to let Jesus into my heart and accept him as my Lord and Saviour.

However, in reality, nothing really changed. I still went to church, was still surrounded by my Christian family and lived life in pretty much the same way. It was only when I was fourteen years old and went to Autumn Soul, which is a weekend that is run by the Irish Methodist Youth and Children’s Department, that I fell in love with Jesus and truly understood what it meant to be a Christian. It’s not just a label, or a ticket into heaven, it is a real relationship with a heavenly father. This mentality changed everything.

Ever since I was a child, all I ever wanted to do was study music and become a music teacher so that I could inspire children in exactly the same way as I was inspired by the many music teachers I have had in my life. I am so aware that music is a gift that I have been given, mostly because I am the only person in my entire family that plays any musical instruments (apart from Josh who gave up on drums and trombone years back). I picked my A-level subjects based on the fact that I didn’t need any specific subjects to study music, other than music of course, and so I studied Music, French, Spanish and ICT. When I was seventeen years old, after completing another round of work experience in music teaching, I all of a sudden had a complete change of heart and started to think that music at university perhaps wasn’t for me. One night, when I was lying in bed I was made so aware by God that my music was a way for me to bring people closer to Him, but that it wasn’t what I was meant to study at university.

So, at that point I went into a major panic because I was in Lower Sixth with absolutely NO IDEA what I wanted to do in the future. I went through a phase when I wanted to do Computing and ICT at university (goodness knows why) but after being told by a lecturer at Queen’s that he didn’t think I would be clever enough to do the course (because I studied languages) that plan swiftly went out the window. Straight after this incident, I went to the modern languages talk and was completely sold and seriously started to consider doing languages at university for the first time.

A couple of months previous to all of this, I was playing flute as part of a Methodist youth band at a mission event called Global Vision, and the one and only Jonny Best was speaking about how he had spent a period of time volunteering in Argentina and I honestly think that was the first time I had ever consciously thought about Latin America. From that moment on, I couldn’t stop thinking about the continent. I was constantly trying to find out more information and spent time reading news stories about the various countries, stories of corruption, trafficking, abuse, but also tales of communities coming together and God working in the midst of despair. The 26th February 2014, four years ago, was the day that I knew and totally understood that I was being called to Latin America. I knew that I was meant to go, but didn’t know which country, for how long, or what for.

I think from that moment on, my love of languages really started to soar and it was where I was putting all my focus at school, particularly with regards to Spanish. When I finally decided to apply for languages, I applied for Spanish, Spanish and French, Spanish and Portuguese and Spanish and Business. I applied for Spanish and Portuguese on a complete whim. I have absolutely no reason for picking Portuguese, other than to fill a space on my UCAS application and the fact that I knew it was spoken in Brazil which is obviously a Latin American country.

Last week, three years back, I went to the QUB modern languages offer holder day and there I spoke to some current students about studying languages at Queen’s. I ended up chatting to one of my now good friends on that day as she studied Spanish and Portuguese and was in second year. She told me how much she loved her degree and basically convinced me to do Portuguese. Now, in actual fact, Leanne hated Portuguese. However, for some unknown reason, on that day, she decided to tell me it was great. She still apologises to me to this day for convincing me to do Portuguese and putting me through the trauma, but in actual fact, if she hadn’t said how much she loved her degree that day, I probably wouldn’t be here in Brazil right now.

Then as you all know, the summer before I started university, I ended up getting my first experience of Latin America when I went to Guatemala with Latin Link with their “Step” program. From the moment I stepped foot in the country, I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food and their passion for Jesus. My eyes were opened to the struggles of the Latin American people, with corruption, homelessness, child abuse, human trafficking and drug problems being very prominent issues that I began to feel really passionate about. I knew after my time in Guatemala that that wasn’t going to be my only experience in Latin America, and whilst I was devastated when leaving, I was also saying “be back soon” to the beautiful continent I had fallen in love with.

In the November after my trip to Guatemala, I went to the Latin Link debrief conference. When I was there I went to a talk about their “Stride” placements, and it was at that talk that I started to seriously consider going to Brazil. When I was in Guatemala, there was a Brazilian man called Wilson who worked a lot with our team and he kept telling me I had to go to Brazil because it is such an amazing place and I just laughed it off, but I think it planted a seed. After the conference, I began to read about some current and ex-Latin Link members’ projects in Brazil working with street children and also young people that had been victims of trafficking and I just sat and cried. I knew I was being called to Brazil, so I applied, was accepted, and now I am here.

So, I think that is basically my journey up until this point. What I have been learning these last few years is how FAITHFUL God really is in guiding my steps. I can make plans for my life, but what he has in store is immeasurably better. People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my degree when I graduate and I always give the same answer, ‘I honestly have absolutely no idea, but God does, and I’m content with that knowledge’.

Since I was in Guatemala, I have constantly been praying “break my heart for what breaks yours” and it’s fair to say that here in Brazil my heart is breaking on a daily basis. I am completely aware that me being here isn’t going to eliminate the issues that exist in Brazil, however if I can make a difference in the life of one person, then it will be completely worth my while.

God is slowly changing my own heart and he is teaching me who I am in Him – a daughter of the King. 

{God has been faithful, He will be again. His loving compassion, it knows no end. All I have need of, His hand will provide. He's always been faithful to me}

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As soon as I sat down to write this blog post, the song I am Not Alone by Kari Jobe came to mind. I then opened Spotify and put my worship playlist on shuffle and that was the first song to play. It has always been a favourite song of mine, but I think being in the situation I am currently in made the lyrics so much more relevant. Give the song a listen if you so wish,


I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.

You amaze me, redeem me, you call me as your own.

You’re my strength and my defender, you’re my refuge in the storm. Through these trials you’ve ALWAYS been faithful. You bring healing to my soul.

Being here in Brazil, nearly 6000 miles from my family, I assumed that I was going to feel a very profound sense of loneliness. However, I can HONESTLY say, that in no moment of my short time here have I felt even the tiniest bit lonely. So much so, that I have already proved how terrible I am at keeping in touch with people back home because I simply forget that people are worrying about me (because I am actually worry-free for the first time in a long time.) But yes, sorry family, I promise I’ll try harder to stay in touch – you know I love you all more than I can put into words.

I couldn’t have come to Brazil at a better time, because I arrived at the start of ‘Carnaval’, meaning that São Paulo was apparently very quiet (?????) because everyone had headed to the beach to make the most of the 30oC heat. If these last few days have been ‘quiet’, I’m slightly terrified for what public transport is going to be like for the rest of my time here. Carnaval has also meant that I haven’t officially started work, which has allowed me the guts of a week to get orientated to life in Brazil. Verna (my mentor) has been quite possibly the biggest blessing of my time so far. Her home cooked meals, chats, laughs, constant prayers and Brazilian culture lessons (including how to wash the dishes because it’s really different and specific method here) have been exactly what I’ve needed to help me settle into this wonderful country. I have been living with her since I arrived in Brazil, but will be moving out on Sunday/Monday to move in with my host family which is scary but super exciting.

Despite the fact that I haven’t started work at the projects, I have got the chance to meet several of the other Brazilian volunteers I will be working alongside and they have welcomed me in as one of their own. On Tuesday, we had our own pancake day, 'Brazil-style', with some of the volunteers from one of the street teams and I haven’t laughed as much in a long time. We planned to go for a civilised walk in the nearby park and ended up jumping on trampolines made out of old tyres like a bunch of children and then when we returned to the flat, we had a little sing-song (which of course also meant the flute came out) while we waited for the pancakes to be ready.

It turns out, Brazilians are even worse than Spanish speakers when it comes to pronouncing my name. So, I think my name here is going to be Kate (pronounced Kay-che) but I have just been telling everyone to call me whatever they want because I’ll answer to anything. My favourite moment of my time here in Brazil had to be on Wednesday. Two precious little children and their mummy came over to the flat and I spent the morning occupying the kids, playing the guitar, watching frozen and ratatouille and dancing to ‘Meu Deus é um Deus Grandão’ (Our God is a Great Big God). The six-year-old boy is now my new best friend and he said that he is going to come home to live with me because he really wants to live in Ireland! However, on the metro, Verna and I were discussing with the mum and kids about how I needed to come up with a new name because mine is just too difficult, and so my new best friend out of nowhere announced that my new name should be Priscilla. I’m not entirely sure where Priscilla came from but we did laugh for a good while about it.

As for the Portuguese, communication is definitely happening. It’s quite hard to come from Spain, where I was more than confident about chatting away in Spanish, to Brazil, where I am stumbling my way through conversations but I know this is going to get easier as time goes on. Verna has set me some (unachievable) goals for my time here to challenge me, including finishing 6 Portuguese books in 6 months as well as the entire New Testament in Portuguese so if you can’t get hold of me, I am probably trapped in my room reading.

Sending my love to everyone back home, and please don’t worry about me. I am being very well looked after here and hope to be in touch soon.

*****

'Com Jesus, você sempre está no lugar mais importante do mundo'
{With Jesus, you are always in the most important place in the world}

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I thought this all would have been easier second time around but it turns out that the prospect of moving nearly 6000 miles away from my family makes the whole process even tougher. 

People keep asking me if I’m excited to go to Brazil, and of course I am...but it’s a strange type of excited. In the midst of the sadness of saying goodbye, it is hard to feel “outwardly excited”. If a word existed which was a hybrid of nervous and excited then that would describe what I’m feeling exactly. 

When I went to Spain, it was easy. I had been to Spain countless times, I had already been to Madrid and I was fairly confident about the level of Spanish that I had. With Brazil, everything is different. I’ve never been to South America, I’m not 100% confident with my Portuguese and it’s even hard to imagine what will it be like living in country that I have only really read or heard about through university and the news. 

Despite all these fears, there is one thing that gets me through. Knowing that this is all part of a bigger plan is the most comforting thing. 

The verse John 20:21 keeps coming up time and time again. It was one of the main verses used at our Latin Link training weekend back in June last year, and was also prayed over me during my time in Madrid. It’s a verse that I had never really given much thought before, but I know that it has given me strength these last few weeks in particular.


{“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”}


Here are a couple of things that I have learned while processing this passage during this last while..

  1. Jesus was SENT, not to do His own will, but to do the will of His sender (God)
  2. Jesus hungered to do not what he wanted, but rather what the Father wanted.
  3. Jesus was SENT, not to please himself, but to please His father.
  4. He was SENT into the world to represent God, and so that when people saw Him, they would see the Father.
  5. Jesus could do nothing apart from God, he was totally dependent on his Father.
  6. He wasn’t SENT with his own words and doctrine, he was SENT with the teachings of God.
  7. Jesus was not alone, because his sender always went with him.
  8. Jesus was BUSY doing the work he was SENT to do, and when his work was finally done, he went home to be with God.

John 20:21 says, ‘as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. So that got me thinking, if all these things are true for Jesus, does that mean they are true for me? 


So I ask, if you pray, can you please pray over these things for me? 

  • Pray that I will know that I am not going to Brazil to do my own work, but rather the work God has planned and sent me to do. 
  • That in everything I do, I would seek not to please myself, but to please God. 
  • That when people see me, they will see God shining through me
  • That I would know that ultimately, nothing I do in Brazil will be possible without God and that I will seek Him in everything I do.
  • That I will be able to cover myself with biblical truths that will clothe me with strength.
  • That even though I am going to the other side of the world, I will know that  I am never alone.
  • And finally, that even in the midst of all the work I am doing in Brazil, that I will never feel overwhelmed.


Brazil, I am on my way. 

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Well 2017…

You have been the best year yet.

It has been a year that has allowed me to explore the world even more, and I am so thankful for the opportunities my family have given me to do so. 2017 saw me visit New York in the snow, Madrid on a university trip (which has provided me with some of my closest friends – thank you to the JQ), Spain and Portugal on my orchestra tour, I cruised the high seas, visiting Italy, Montenegro, Greece and Spain, and I also moved to Madrid back in September.

It was also the year that I turned 20. I think everyone fears the year that they will transition from being a teenager to a ‘proper’ adult. In fact, I distinctly remember sitting on my bedroom floor at midnight on my birthday wrapped in a blanket and crying over the fact that I was now twenty years old. However, I think in years to come, I’m going to look back on my 21st year of life as one of the greatest.

2017 was definitely a year of growth for me as a person. I have learned so much about myself, and how I interact with others. I have learned who my real friends are, and who genuinely cares. I have learned that I have the most supportive family that I could ever hope for. I have learned (and now completely understand and believe), that God is guiding every single one of my footsteps, and that I am truly in the place I’m meant to be.

Although, don’t get me wrong. 2017 was clearly an unforgettable year which had some incredible moments, but if I am being honest, there were some really hard lessons I had to learn and challenges I was forced to overcome. Sometimes I handled them well, sometimes I didn’t. 2018, I’m not naive enough to think you won’t come with challenges too. But I also won’t be so presumptuous to think that you will be exactly like 2017. No, for you are your very own year, a chance to start afresh.  

2018 you are going to bring so many more opportunities and I can’t wait to see what is to come. You are going to be a very strange year. Living outside Northern Ireland for 7 out of the 12 months is going to be very different, but living in Spain and Brazil will bring its own set of challenges.

Let 2018 be the year we learn to accept and love unconditionally. Let 2018 be the year we accept one another and raise each other up. Let 2018 be the year we power past prejudice, intolerance, hatred, and so much more. Let 2018 be the year we decide to better ourselves and the world around us. Let 2018 be the year we open our hearts to love and to change. Be the year we look back on fifteen years from now with a smile and full heart. I hope you are all of these things and so much more, 2018.

So, there you have it 2018! We’ve only just met, and I know there are going to be some serious periods of adjustment, but if you’re anything like 2017, I’m sure you’ll be a dedicated teacher, giving me plenty of chances to try again. I’m eagerly anticipating all that you have to offer and expect to grow in leaps and bounds as we embark on this journey together.

Here's to a year where we all open our hearts a little more, remember to enjoy the little things, help our friends when they fall, and love life no matter what is thrown at us. Here is to 2018 and all the crazy, hopeful dreams it still holds.

***

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
2 Corinthians 5:17

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So, it has been approximately 31739247 years since I wrote my last blog post…apologies. Since my last update, I have been a very, very busy bee. In this last month, I lost my voice for a second time (this time it was ONLY for 5 days thankfully), I had full blown flu which wiped me out for several days and I also was infected by the little darlings that I teach and ended up with a delightful stomach bug. I am now convinced that I am allergic to Spain or else it just has a vendetta against me for some unknown reason.

I can’t possibly talk about everything that has happened in the last month because I would be here until next Christmas! So, I’m just going to mention a couple of my highlights from the last load of weeks.

  1. Family visiting has definitely been one of the nicest things from the last wee while. Although I’m not really feeling overly homesick, it has been great to spend time with people from back home. At the end of October, my mum, dad and not-so-little brother Josh were over, and we had the best long weekend catching up and exploring my new home. I moved into their flat for the week because at that point we still didn’t have WiFi – so that was a definite plus. We laughed a lot and I feel so joyful inside because mum and dad have been beyond supportive during my time away, and it just makes the whole experience that bit easier. Last weekend Granny and John also came out to visit me which was great. We didn’t do as much exploring of the city as I did with my parents, however, we did do a coffee shop crawl of Madrid over the weekend and ate a lot of very good food!

  2. Second on the list would have to be the evening that I went to see Addams Family the musical in Madrid. Oh, and SHOCK HORROR…I went to see it on my own. My friends here were absolutely horrified that I went to see a musical on my own, but I really wanted to go and see it, so I went. I actually went on Halloween night and a lot of the audience had dressed up so that was amusing. The musical was incredible, and I actually understood pretty much everything (except the Spanish cultural and political references they had added in to get some laughs).

  3. On the 1st November in the evening I was due to be tutoring, however since it was a national holiday it was cancelled! Therefore, I ended up getting the opportunity to go to see a series of films in a planetarium here in Madrid with my friend Andres. I had only been to one planetarium before that in my life but they are very cool places and space is an incredible thing. It was a real test of my Spanish, as the film was talking about dark matter and black holes…to be honest I probably wouldn’t have understood if it was in English never mind Spanish, but I had a fabulous night nonetheless.

  4. Number four on the list is the night I had an international dinner with some of my church friends. We all brought a typical dish from our country to share (I brought fifteens of course) but other foods there on the night included Venezuelan tequeños, tortilla española, Mexican chilaquiles, Australian sausage rolls (which did result in a debate about whether sausage rolls are British or Australian), Venezuelan torta tres leches and gofio from the Canary Islands. A great night was had all round and resulted in us teaching the Spanish speakers how to play the game fishbowl, which turned out to be a great laugh.

  5. Next on the list was my day out in casa de campo with my flatmates. It is very rare that we all go out exploring together and so the time spent with them was precious. None of us had ever been to casa de campo before but it was just beautiful, and is the backdrop of my new profile picture on facebook. We planned to go on the cable car but after climbing to the top of the hill, we were told it was “too windy” and that it wasn’t running which was a disappointment. We ended the day of exploring with a viewing of the little mermaid in Spanish which was even more magical than the English version.

  6. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again a thousand times over. Sundays are always my favourite day of the week, because spontaneous plans are the best things ever. One Sunday after Church, we went to Tierra (which does a great burrito – however boojum is still better!!) and after that we went to Palacio Cibeles to explore and ended up in the most bizarre exhibition inside. Another great Sunday was actually a Sunday when I had no voice and the beginnings of the flu. We headed to dominoes after church, but dominoes is incredible here in Spain. €7 for bottomless pizza and drinks! You just keep ordering large pizzas until you burst – which we all did!! After the pizza, we went to the temple of debod for sunset and finished the day with a walk along the Manzanares river in search of the swings. I left my house that morning before 10am and didn’t return until 10:30pm…which probably wasn’t the wisest when I was ill, but fun comes before health haha!

  7. Seventh on the list has to be the fact that I have had several visitors this month from university! Leanne was here at the start of the month (whilst I had no voice) and had the patience of a saint and didn’t laugh too hard at my misfortune which was great. Then two weekends ago, Elena, Lucy-Jane and Genevieve from my Portuguese class came to Madrid and it was a fantastic weekend. I think they were slightly overwhelmed by the amount of people here in Madrid in comparison to where they are located for their year abroad placements. My granny said the same thing when she was here. I think I must just be immune to the busy streets now…which is a good thing I guess because São Paulo is going to be even busier!!

  8. Yesterday evening was just a lovely night and definitely one of my highlights from the last while. Kerry, Oriana wandered the streets for a long time trying to figure out what to do. Eventually Oriana suggested we go bowling, and so we went to the whole way to the bowling alleys, only to discover the waiting list was 50 minutes long. So, we admitted defeat and headed back to the centre of Madrid to get something to eat. We ended up in a restaurant called La Tita and ate burritos, which were nice, but sadly had bits of uncooked rice inside that nearly broke my teeth (definitely wouldn’t happen in boojum!) We spent the whole evening laughing and Oriana was teaching Kerry and I some classic Venezuelan phrases, and we offered our delightful Norn Irish phrases in return.

This last while has resulted in my friendships deepening and I am already dreading having to say goodbye to everyone when I leave Spain in January. I have been so blessed by the people that have been placed around me here in Madrid, and the lovely people back home who keep me going!! I distinctly remember one night at a youth event in Newtownards last year, when I had an absolute meltdown about how I wasn't going to make any friends when I was abroad. I can now safely say that all the tears were wasted and that I am TRULY happy.

***
"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!"
Luke 1:45

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Anyone that knows me well will know that I literally never shut up...ever. The only negative school report I ever received was in P2 and my dear old teacher said that I needed to learn to be quiet because I was distracting other pupils. I guess I never really took her advice on board. Well, for the last 10 days I have been without a voice. 10 DAYS!!! And it has been absolute torture.

I'm going to fly back in time and talk about a time when I still had a voice.🙃 The long weekend before I lost my voice was a simply incredible one. The Thursday of that week was Día de la Hispanidad and therefore there were big celebrations happening across Spain. I went to a military parade with some of my friends from church and the atmosphere was simply incredible.

On the Friday and Saturday, Molly and I decided to scratch two new places off our lists so we headed to Alcalá de Henares (birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes) and Aranjuez. Both towns were great to see, but we very quickly ran out of things to do! Unfortunately Anna couldn't come with us as she was getting over an illness.

This last week has been pretty difficult for me. I finally started to feel like I was settling in, everything was going well. I have a great job, a great group of friends and a great church - so many things to be thankful for. Then, I lost my voice. I know it is "just a voice" but it's only when you lose it that you realise how much you need it. This last week I have felt quite lonely and isolated at times. Obviously, communication here at the best of times can be somewhat problematic because I'm constantly speaking in a second language. However, trying to get my point across in Spanish and without a voice is next to impossible. I have spoken to a speech therapist and I went to see a doctor (which was a complete car crash) and both advised voice rest, and the doctor prescribed an antibiotic and thankfully I'm  starting to feel slightly better.

I don't want to dwell on the negatives because it makes me sound like I'm not having a good time, when in actual fact I'm having the time of my life! 


Last Friday was my lovely flatmate Anna's birthday. We had two extra bodies staying in our flat which made everything a little bit more of a squeeze, but it was great to see some new faces. On Saturday evening, Anna had some of her friends from university over at the flat for some drinks. What started off as a fairly civilised gathering of friends turned bizarre very quickly, as our neighbours were also having a party and decided to join. The massive group then went out in search of a club at about 12:15am, and given that it was voiceless and wrecked, I stayed at home drinking tea and eating digestive biscuits - I know how to party👌🏼


My favourite day of the week is without a doubt Sunday! I live for my Sundays. I wake up in the morning and the only thing on my agenda is "go to church". However, most Sundays I don't make it home until about 10pm (after leaving the house before 10am!!) because I spend the entire day with people from church just doing fun things and spending time together - which is obviously FAB for my Spanish, but also makes me feel great because I actually have friends (yay!)

Sunday past was my FAVOURITE Sunday yet (even without a voice). After church, we went to this cute Mexican restaurant called Takos where they sell Tacos for €1 and they are beautiful. After filling up on tacos and quesadillas, someone suggested that we go hire bicycles and cycle along the Madrid Rio which was the best idea! The last time I was on a bicycle, I was cycling down the towpath at Shaw's Bridge with my dad so it really made me think of home. Although I have to say the Madrid Rio is definitely a lot nicer than Shaw's Bridge! After our long cycle, we went and sat at a cafe and had drinks to cool down and plan our next move. We then decided that we clearly hadn't eaten enough that day, so went to get waffles at a class place called MadWaffle - an absolute must for anyone visiting/living in Madrid! After eating the waffles, the 5 of us who managed to last all day headed to the Royal Palace to watch the sunset and it was a spectacular finish to a simply brilliant day.

To follow on from a wonderful Sunday, Monday evening was equally as delightful. I went to my first classical concert in Madrid with my friend Oriana and her older brother Lorenzo. It was actually my first ever classical guitar concert and it was sublime. The guitarist was the world renowned "David Russell" who is from Scotland and has also won a Grammy so he's a pretty big deal! Oriana accidentally misread the starting time of the concert, meaning we arrived over an hour early. It actually worked out for the best because we had the opportunity to sit in a cafe and just chat (even with no voice!)

Today I am particularly excited!! Why??? Because the Fiddis fam are currently en route to Madrid✈️ it has been almost two months since I last saw my mum, dad and Josh, but I can honestly say that the time has FLOWN. I'm beyond excited to spend the long weekend with them and to show them the place I now call home. Also, tomorrow I get to go on a school trip with my 4 year olds to the farm and I don't know which I am more excited for...seeing my fam or seeing the baby animals!!!

I am slowly but surely getting better and I'm confident that by the weekend my voice will be back to its normal self. Madrid is still great, I am still doing well and I can't wait for my family to see this amazing city!

Thanks for reading, next time it hopefully won't take as long to give an update!!

***
"Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭

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Apologies for the crazy delay in posting another blog post! I've been insanely busy this last while and so I haven't even thought about writing another post. My time here in Spain has literally FLOWN. I have now officially been here for a month, and I can safely say that even despite the crazy number of unfortunate events that I have faced here since my arrival, I am loving life.


Another misfortune to add the list was that I received an email from Ryanair last week to tell me that my flight had been cancelled to bring me home for Christmas - so I guess I'm spending Christmas here in Madrid🙃 joking, THANKFULLY I managed to get transferred onto another Ryanair flight...but knowing my luck, that will probably get cancelled as well!

These last couple of weeks have been a struggle in many ways for us. Working in the school is extremely tiring and we are trying to actually figure out our role and purpose. A lot of the time, I find myself more as an extra pair of hands in the classroom and I feel like I spend more time telling kids to be quiet, to sit properly and stop fighting, than actually "teaching". I am still loving the school, the teachers and the kids (even when they use me as human punching bags!)

Two weeks ago, Suzanne Potter (my short-term coordinator from Guatemala) stayed over at our flat for the evening before she headed back to the country we both know and love. It was great to reminisce about Guatemala and find out about her plans for the next few months. I also discovered there is a Latin Link family based in Madrid only about 20 minutes from me on the metro so I'll hopefully get to meet up with them at some point before I go!

Last weekend, Molly, Anna and I went to Segovia and I had the BEST time. Segovia is such a special place. And no, it isn't the made up country from the Princess Diaries!! The weekend before, I went to Toledo, and whilst I admire its architectural and vast artistic riches, its spectacular setting and its fascinating history of three cultures/religions living together for centuries in relative harmony, I absolutely adored Segovia.

It is also situated in the autonomous region of Castile y León - a new region to tick off my list!✅ The absolute highlights were without a doubt the incredible Roman Aqueduct, the Segovia Cathedral and the Alcázar of Segovia (which is the Royal Palace) oh also not forgetting the incredible Paella I had for lunch...yummmm!

Last Sunday I managed to gatecrash ANOTHER birthday party...this is clearly what I do best here in Spain! We went to a little food place called 100 Montaditos where everything on the menu is only €1! After that we went to plaza mayor, which is a big square in the centre of Madrid. That particular weekend was the 400th anniversary of the square and so they had grass rolled out for the occasion. The atmosphere was simply incredible and it was a really lovely day.

After plaza mayor, I went to Retiro with my two of my friends from church called Oriana and Matthew who are from Venezuela and Peru, and we spent all evening trying to find a swing... Retiro is 1.4km2 and I'm pretty sure that we walked the entire park and I'm convinced that said swing does not exist. It was a great night nonetheless and I got to see the most beautiful sunset!

Last week, I started tutoring three siblings that go to SEK. I have to tutor the youngest child in English and Maths (!!!) explaining maths in English is hard enough, but I have to teach her in Spanish so that complicates things massively. With the older two children, all I have to do is chat to them in English so that is good fun because they know a lot of English so we can just talk about anything and everything.

This is such a long post oh my goodness, congratulations if you have made it this far. I'm just going to skip to this weekend because I've been writing this for a long time and I'm tired of typing😂

At the weekend, I went to a place called El Escorial on a church weekend and it was an incredible experience. It was quite possibly the biggest challenge I have had so far in terms of my Spanish, because I'd say about 90% of the nearly 300 people on the weekend didn't speak any English whatsoever. However, I did meet a lady from Belfast who goes to my church - what are the chances! I also met a man from São Paulo so that was a good opportunity for me to practice my Portuguese (which is quickly fading so I should really do something about that!!)

The talks were all very long...like one hour plus...which is longer than my entire church service at home! The speaker spoke incredibly quickly and therefore I genuinely struggled to follow the talks from start to finish. I was able to take things from each of the talks, but I wasn't able to see the "full picture". On the Sunday morning I understood every single word (except for the jokes...I don't think I will ever understand Spanish humour) and the talk blessed me massively. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

These last few weeks I have been thanking God for friendship, fellowship and an abundance of opportunities. I am being challenged more than ever before and pushed harder than I thought I would be able to cope with. Despite all the craziness and the horrendous stoke of luck we have had here in Madrid, I wouldn't change a single thing. My life is incredible right now.

I keep thinking to myself "am I homesick?" And if I am being totally honest, I don't think I am. OF COURSE I miss my family and friends but those feelings aren't as prominent because of the incredible network of support that I have been provided with during my time here. I've been receiving random texts and messages from people back home just checking in on me and it is these little messages that remind me how much I am loved and cared for.

I want to finish this blog with the lyrics of one of the last songs we sang at the church weekend. The entire church sang the incredible lyrics of an old Spanish hymn and the words seemed so relevant, especially for the second half of my year abroad.

"Heme aqui yo iré señor
Heme aqui yo iré señor
Envíame a mí, que dispuesto estoy
Llevaré tu gloria a las naciones"
(I am here, I will go Lord. I am here, I will go Lord. Send me, how willing I am. I will bring your glory to the nations)

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It's been a week since I uploaded my last blog post...and there is a reason for that. Sadly this week, my flat got burgled and my MacBook was stolen as well as an iPad and another laptop both belonging to my flatmates. We are obviously pretty shaken up by this. On Friday, we had to spend most of the morning at the police station giving a formal statement of what had been taken, and after that the police sent their forensics team out to the flat to dust for fingerprints. Obviously, this is a pretty horrendous situation but we are feeling lucky because we know it could have been a lot worse. We were not in the flat when the burglary took place and we are all still alive and well.


Apart from that little hiccup, this last week has been mostly great.


Last Saturday evening, I went to a young adults BBQ run by the youth group in my new church and it was such a lovely evening spent with great company. On the Sunday, I went to church in the morning again and afterwards, I accidentally ended up gatecrashing a 24th birthday party...which was awkward at first, but turned out to be a great day.


What else happened this week?


I got attacked by an angry mob of 4 year olds in a P.E lesson. Don't laugh. It was quite possibly the most traumatic experience of my life. The whole thing culminated with me sitting on the ground against a pillar while one child tried to strangle me with a scarf, I had 4 children sitting on me, and all of them plus about another 4 were screaming "BABY, BABY!!" on repeat at me🙃


This week, the demonstrations for the extracurricular activities began, and the first of those was music (which was right up my street). There were two violin teachers, a piano teacher and a drummer who were demonstrating their instruments to try and encourage the children to take up music lessons. At the end they played "Despacito" and it was the highlight of my week, as all the children were singing along - it was simply precious!


Today, I went on a day trip to Toledo, which is in the region of Castilla La Mancha (another region of Spain ticked off my list!) I went with my two flatmates Molly and Anna, as well as Anna's boyfriend Naief who is over visiting for the weekend. The best part of the trip was that it was completely free thanks to the fabulous Madrid transport card!


Toledo was just beautiful, and it felt like the "real Spain". Such a massive contrast to the city life we have experienced so far in Madrid. The tiny cobbled streets, the breathtaking views and the wealth of culture around every corner. I even managed to walk part of the "Ruta de Don Quijote", which led to the most amazing viewpoint of the city!


Would you believe that we still don't have Wi-Fi!? I hate to rhyme on about this so much because I know I sound like such a millennial...BUT, it's been almost three weeks and it is really hard to survive without it in this day and age. I was told to stay home from school on Wednesday to wait for the internet technician to come, but he didn't show up. Apparently it will be installed this week...but as you can imagine, I don't have very high hopes for this.


I am so frustrated about the burglary because it really put a dampener on such a great week. I'm really trying not to let it ruin it though. One of the perks was that we got a three day weekend 🙌🏼 I feel like my Spanish (and my emotions) have been tested and pushed to the limits more than ever before. In a way, I am thankful that this has happened, because I know now how to report a crime, file a report and make an insurance claim...IN SPANISH. Surely that means it will be a lot easier in English if I ever get into trouble in the future!?


Honestly, do not worry about me!!!


Madrid is a lovely place and I am loving every minute of it. I am surrounded by lovely people, and I'm not going to let stupid thieves ruin my time here. Laptops can be replaced.


Hopefully this will be the end of the dramatic blog posts and thank you so much for journeying with me.


***

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


John 16:33

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So, I have officially finished my first full week working in SEK-Santa Isabel and boy am I exhausted!


It has been a week filled with ups and downs, however being screamed at by a 4-year-old was quite possibly my favourite moment so far. She insisted on being first in the line to go down for lunch and I told her that she wasn’t allowed to because she wasn’t this week’s ‘class helper’. This resulted in her getting very angry and she attempted to drag said class helper out of the line. I told her that she needed to behave herself and that what she was doing was unacceptable etc. etc. and she decided the best response was to scream “CÁLLATE” (shut up) six times in a row at me. Another teacher then realised what was happening, and dragged the little girl around the corner and told her to stop being so disrespectful and that she can’t behave like that.


Afterwards, I was informed that I needed to learn to ‘stand up for myself more’. Teaching in Spain is completely different to teaching in the UK. Here it is completely acceptable to give a child hugs and kisses when they are sad, lift them up when they want to play, tickle them, or even grab them when they need disciplined. Back in the UK however, you can’t even put a plaster on a child anymore and physical contact is a complete no-no.


Other than that little mishap, school has been great this week and I feel like I am starting to make real connections with the children. I am never addressed with my name…mostly because none of them can say it. I either get “PROFE” (teacher) guldered at me from across the room, a tug on my shirt/dress or a few of the children from one of the classes are fascinated with singing CAT-A-LINAAAA to get my attention. Anna, Molly and I are settling well into our school routines but at times, teaching gets slightly monotonous because at this stage, a lot of the teaching is done through structured play. I have played with every single toy in the three classrooms for 4-year-old and I’ve eaten so much toy food this last week. I was unsure about the benefits of learning through playing but the children are picking up so many new words already. It is very rewarding to see.


On Sunday, I went to an incredible church and as soon as I entered, I got such a warm feeling inside. It is a multi-generational church like my own back in Belfast, but also has plenty of young people. On Tuesday evening, I attended the church’s Young Adults group. There were about 30 young people there in total from all over the world, from China and Colombia to Australia and the United States, but everyone there spoke Spanish so it was the perfect way to practice. At the youth group, we were informed that there was going to be a Young Adults BBQ on Saturday evening, I am going to that this evening and I’m very excited!


What else has happened this week? Our boiler broke so we didn’t have hot water for two days. So yesterday evening I got fed up and attempted to decipher the Spanish manual and with the help of a YouTube video, I managed to fix it – success!! Our bathroom sink has been leaking since we arrived and we are still without Wi-Fi after almost two weeks. A nice man just arrived about 30 minutes ago to install our Wi-Fi but due to a number of complications, he has to come back on Monday so I am now down to my last few hundred megabytes of data left on my phone with a week to go (HELP!!)


Life in Madrid is still wonderful. I’m loving every single second of my newfound independence and I can’t wait for the adventures that are still to come.


***
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

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This last week, a picture has been floating around Facebook about how there are 135 different ways to spell my name...and I have been tagged in it 6 times! However, after nearly one week in Madrid, I have established that there are nearly the same number of ways to pronounce my name as well. 



This last week has been simply incredible and I can safely say that I have fallen in love with this beautiful city that I get to call home for the next 5 months. The city is alive and so full of culture and love, and in the words of Annie "I think I'm gonna like it here!"


I have literally struck gold with my Erasmus placement. We arrived at the airport on Monday and got picked up by a member of staff from the school and got a free lift to our new flat. She showed myself and my two flat mates, Molly and Anna around the small studio flat, handed us the keys and then took us on a mini tour of the area and told us we had to be at the school the next morning for 10am. Unfortunately, the flat didn't have plates, cups, pots, pans and all other kitchen essentials but when we told our mentor at the school, he told us to go out and buy everything that we needed and give the receipt to the principal and we would get the money back that day. I was slightly dubious about when we would actually get the money back because I've heard wonderful things about Spanish bureaucracy, but they were true to the word and I got an envelope with exactly €69.30 the next day.


The school is incredible. Amazing facilities, amazing teachers, amazing kids. 


I was very concerned before starting my placement about whether I would be speaking enough Spanish on my placement, since I am effectively an English teacher, however much to my surprise, a lot of the members of staff don't speak very much English and therefore I am getting plenty of practice. In the school, I am teaching the 4 year olds, so I have 3 classes with about 18 pupils in each. They are so precious and I am slowly getting there with the names. The children always look so offended when you get their names wrong so I need to learn them ASAP. 


The location of our flat is wonderful. I am so thankful we have been placed here because I don't think I would have come to this area of Madrid otherwise. It is situated right beside the famous Matadero, which was formerly a slaughterhouse but has now been converted into an amazing cultural centre with events on every single night. We are also right beside a river which has a newly renovated walking path which the three of us explored the other night. We are only 10 minutes from the city centre so we are far enough away to escape the noise, but close enough to have the option to go there every day if we wanted.


My Spanish has carried me through so far - no major disasters and I have been able to communicate everything I have wanted to say. A categorical success in my eyes. I am under no illusion that people look at me and know that I'm not from Spain...the ginger hair and pasty skin is quite the giveaway. Although, I have been very surprised because so far, no one has looked at me and then decided to speak in English. I have always been given the chance to communicate my ideas in Spanish which is great.


I don't really know what's left to say. Unfortunately I haven't made any Spanish friends (apart from teachers in the school), but I've only been here for 6 days so I'm not too worried. Tomorrow I plan to try out a couple of churches in Madrid so maybe I'll make some friends there!


So to close; Life is great, Madrid is very hot and Kat-leen/Kareen/Kata-line/Katalina/Kattie/Katelin is having a ball!


***

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  

Joshua 1:9

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About


About
Hola/Olá! My name is Katelin and I study Spanish and Portuguese at Queen's University Belfast. I am currently in third year, which means that I am doing my compulsory Year Abroad with the aim of perfecting my skills in both languages. I have created this blog as a way of recording my various adventures from my Year Abroad with the aim of keeping friends and family back home informed! 

Contact


  • São Paulo, Brazil
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