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