In the Shoes of a Volunteer in Brazil

By Adrian Diaz, Cultural Embrace Volunteer, Brazil

I am glad to say that Brazil has been great to me so far. I have met more people than I imagined I would in my first month and a half of being out here. My host family is great and Vinicius has been a big help to me specially in my first couple of weeks. The language barrier at first was a little hard but with a few weeks of Portuguese classes and studying at home on my own, I have picked up on the language and after the first month I was able to ask and have small conversations with people. I felt like I had to pick up on the language as soon as possible because it wasn’t fun not being able to communicate with anybody especially the kids in the basketball program that I was volunteering with 3-4 days a week. I plan on being fluent in Portuguese by the time I leave Brazil even if it means staying for additional months!

At first I was a little concerned about my safety just because of all of my friends and family telling me how dangerous Brazil was before I left for my trip. I told everybody I was aware of that when I submitted my application to Cultural Embrace. Yes, certain areas everywhere in Brazil can be dangerous but at the same time anywhere in the world including the United States can be as well, so those were my thoughts on the whole situation. Future study abroad students or interns shouldn’t be discouraged on traveling to South America especially not Brazil because your safety lies in the hands of yourself. So if you trust the program in which you are working with and of course yourself then you shouldn’t have a problem. I am not out here wearing expensive jewelry or my nice Michael Jordan basketball shoes everywhere I go but I am simply wearing the locals and majority of the people or younger aged kids wear, which are slippers. Adapting to their culture was mandatory for me regardless of who you are or what you like to do I think trying to fit in with their lifestyle is important.

The kids basketball program I work with is fun and I love it. Calabar district isn’t the greatest and safest area to live or grow up in but Paulo who is the basketball program coach and coordinator is a really great person for doing what he does for these kids. He doesn’t have a funding source for equipment and physical resources to help get these kidsbetter at the game of basketball but he works simply with a few basketballs and a whistle. From what I have been told he doesn’t even get paid for the work he does with these kids but he does it simply because he cares about the youth of this community and loves the game of basketball. The kids are great and fun to be around, I enjoy it a lot and they are constantly asking me questions about anything and everything. I can tell they look up to me whether it’s because I am older, from the United States, have cool Nike basketball shoes, I am a decent player who can dunk the basketball, because I am just goofy and love to laugh with them, or if it’s because I have told them that I found an organization in the United States that is willing to buy them all new pairs of basketball shoes since the majority of them don’t have any when we practice. Whatever the reason may be, I recognize I am a role model to them and I am there to help them get better not only as a basketball player but also as an individual.

Traveling abroad is probably the second best decision I have made in my life and my first decision was moving away from home for college. It is important to test out different environments and cultures growing up. My thoughts on it were what other better way to do so by going to college in a different state and then upon graduation traveling to a different country to experience your field of choice with people worldwide! If anybody ever asks me if I thought traveling or interning abroad was a good idea I wouldn’t have one good reason to tell them no. I recommend it for a numerous amount of reasons and I am already looking into planning my next trip for the future or potentially going to graduate school overseas. Salvador Brazil is a great place and I definitely look forward to coming back in the future and for sure in 2014 for the next World Cup!

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