3 Moons

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Full moon at Morro Das Pedras

When we arrived to Brazil on September 3rd, the bright full moon lit up the night sky as we sat outside under a tree at Morro Das Pedras hotel in Florianópolis, for our first in country get-to-know-you.

Today, December 3rd, a supermoon – the biggest, brightest, and last full moon of the year – marks 3 months since our arrival.

There’s something crazy powerful about the number 3. I’ve always been drawn to its delicate and soft shape, even though my favorite shape is a triangle because of its 3 sharp angles.

To mark this day of 3s – 3 months, 3 moons, 3rd day of the month – here’s my 3rd official blog post about the power of 3 that has impacted my life during my time in Brazil so far.

3 Host family members. I live in Lagoa da Conceição, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil with my Avó (grandmother) Maria, Mãe (mother) Claudia, and Irmão (brother) Matheus. I love and appreciate them and everything they do for me so much, from taking care of me when I got rabies (vaccine side effects) to feeding me too much to simply just loving me as part of the family. I enjoy our weekend’s Descansar (rest), relaxing at home, watching Cartoon Network in Portuguese, and occasionally going overboard in preparing Matheus’s school projects.

R3 Animal apprenticeship. I work at R3 Animal, an NGO that works to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate wild animals into their natural habitats. I love my 3 fellow GCY coworkers, Trevor, Sophie, and Nico. Washing hundreds of cages while contemplating life’s wildest questions with them is the kind of fun that I would have never expected, but now can’t imagine not having. I love our Brazilian coworkers that nos cutucam (poke us) when we speak too much English. Their dedication to saving animal lives inspires me everyday, even when I feel close to losing it completely after being pecked at and pooped on by papagaios (parrots) and startled and stolen from by macacos pregos (Capuchin monkeys).

3 Language Club teachers. I am so thankful for Rosane, Fernando, and Gi. While at some points I felt like taking Portuguese classes wasn’t helping my language learning, I would not be at the proficiency level I am at right now without their help. Most of our vocabulary is learned from interacting with Brazilians or Portuguese media, but Language Club lessons teach me the grammar I need to put it all together. Our Friday afternoon classes are also a great time to catch up with all the Florianópolis fellows in one place.

3 hobbies. I use photography, music, and reading to fill up my free time. I almost always carry my camera in my backpack because I never know when a perfect photo op will show up. I have so much to learn about taking the best pictures (Exposure? ISO? Aperture? Shutterspeed? Framing?), but even just taking mediocre shots can hold memories of the best moments. While I did bring my flute to Brazil in hopes of practicing jazz, I haven’t pulled it out of it’s case much. In our first week of program launch, I played flute for a song that a couple of fellows and I created to represent our cohort. It was about Chega Mais (come closer) and Abacaxi (pineapple), the first Portuguese words we all knew that brought us together. Since then, I’ve bought a ukulele to practice all kinds of songs to jam to, either with my host brother making up his own melodies or with some of the most beautiful singers I’ve ever met in our cohort. Also, at every reconnect with the fellows, you can be sure that at least 3 people have brought their speakers and that there will be jam sessions to the most classic throwback songs or new funky Brazilian beats. Finally, I am in love with Percy Jackson. I bought the entire series of 5 books in Portuguese for 10 reais each (that’s about $3 USD). And I devoured them. It took me 3 weeks to finish the first book, but by the 3 book, I was able to finish the 367 of Portuguese in 3 days. The unfortunate part of my obsession with reading the books in Portuguese is that my Portuguese reading skills are leagues ahead of my speaking skills, so while I understand the story, I would not be able to comprehensibly tell anyone what it was about.

3 team leaders. So much love goes out to the in country GCY staff, and our 3 incredible team leaders, Chris, Belkis, and Marcella. While Chris is my official team leader, I have learned so much from all 3 of them through sessions during our seminars to chill conversations over coffee or dinner. My experience wouldn’t be the same without their support. Living on the same street as the GCY office, I often bump into them on the street or go visit (intrude) for a quick chat. Though I’m focusing on the 3 team leaders, I can’t forget Yuri, Belisa, Isaac, and Analise, staff who have also impacted me in such a positive way.
3 favorite Portuguese words. Então, Demais, and Saudade. Então means “then” or “so”. For most of us, it’s one of our most used conjunctions. It’s also funny to say; I love how we all crinkle our noses to try to get the nasal ão sound right. To me, it also represents the continuation of a story, of my story, here in Brazil. With então, it’s never ending, there’s always something exciting waiting to happen. There’s a now, but there’s always a “then”. We keep moving forward and growing. Demais means “too”, as in “too much”. In a sense, this word represents me. I’ve been teased (at work especially) for being very dramatic and over exaggerating. But I can’t help it. I just seem to live at such a high level of excitement. From the good, seeing incredible colors and beauty and being overwhelmed by Brazil, to the bad, sempre (always) fearing for my life because of the animals and being overwhelmed to the point of tears. I also just love the way the word fits into sentences in my head. Finally, Saudade is the classic, beautifully and tragically untranslatable Portuguese word. It means a state of longing, missing, or nostalgia for something or someone that you love without knowing if or exactly when you’ll be reunited. It’s not simply a sad “I miss you”; it carries an emotional weight full of lovely memories in a way that makes the feeling a pleasurable suffering. My experience with the word starts with performing the English version of the Brazilian tune Chega De Saudade with Leo at the talent show at Pre Departure training in Stanford to now really feeling the word. I feel saudades for friends and family back home, but I’m not homesick. I miss you all, but I’m more than happy here, despite being 5000 miles away.

3 moons. Technically, this is the 4th full moon I’ve seen in Brazil, but the 3rd lunar cycle. I like to think that the first full moon on my first day in Brazil marked the end of everything that was and the beginning of everything that is and will be. Looking up at the night sky, with the bright lua cheia illuminating my walk home at 3am this morning (club night), I felt something new. It was a rejuvenating energy of Paz e Amor (peace and love). My heart was calm and full, and I thanked the universe for bringing me here.

Love and Peace,

Elise

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