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Where in the world is Monkey?

By Alex Wesenberg
posted April 20, 2011

There are many things I will miss when I get back to the US-of-A.

Everyone goes through homesickness when they are part of an exchange program. It doesn’t matter if you are leaving the country for one month or one year, there will always come a point when you find yourself in a state of heartache for everything that used to be normal. However, I feel it is equally important to be noted that right after the spells of homesickness always comes the thought, “I am going to experience my ‘old normal’ in a couple of months, but what I am going to do without this ‘new normal’ that I am living in at the moment?” That very question is what inspired me for my column this month.

If I created a list of the parts of my life here in Brazil that I am going to miss when my year abroad comes to an end, I would be writing until I get back to Wisconsin. For this reason, I have decided to list a few of the many home sicknesses that will surely haunt me three months from now: rice, meat, and beans every day, my weekly soccer games, and speaking Portuguese.

Before my departure for Brazil, I would never have imagined the ease with which I would pick up an entirely new language. With a few days left before my departure, I clearly remember ranting nervously with more than one colleague; the conversation almost always including a phrase something like, “How am I going to make friends if I can’t use my witty humor to force people to fall in love with me!?” During my first month, I still had my doubts. I sat silently in my classroom – too embarrassed to try and speak Portuguese and tired of struggling with my classmates’ English – and on the rare occasion that I was invited out, I usually stood awkwardly at the edge of the group, caught in a messy confusion of not being able to understand the Portuguese or English of anyone. But my Portuguese somehow managed to take a turn for the best. After two months, I could have a simple conversation with my friends at school and I started dreaming in Portuguese. After four months I was almost speaking fluently and reading newspaper articles and novels in my spare time. After six months I was already losing my American accent and stopped translating from Portuguese to English, instead thinking completely in Portuguese. Portuguese phrases have invaded my humor; Portuguese pronunciation has confused that of my English; and with my new bilingual vocabulary, being limited to using English has become boring and frustrating. As my last few months in Brazil quickly come to a hault, I know I’ll be returning home with a new twist on every joke.

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