Before arriving in Brazil, I had some anxiety about living with a host family, which is pretty understandable. You just arrive at someone’s house whom you have never met and move into not only a room but their life. It is worse than the first day of college because you are the ONLY new person in the house. I also had not lived in a family setting in three years, used to the student lifestyle that consists of odd hours, unhealthy food choices and disorganized desks. My fear was that I wouldn’t be able to adjust back to living with people who weren’t my age. Overall, I was super nervous about the host family thing.
The program here in Rio must have known that we would be nervous when we arrived back in January, or so I thought. We were picked up from the airport and then left at the doorsteps of our new families. No introduction, no background information, no chance to freak out. I both hated and appreciated this tactic.
Riding up the elevator with my two suitcases, tired and disheveled from 12 hours of traveling, I tried to sum up all my energy and Portuguese for this first meeting with my new family. First impressions are everything, you know?
Flash forward to Mother’s Day just this past weekend. After giving my host mom a Mother’s Day card, her and her one year old grandson and I headed out to the metro to meet the extended family for a Sunday lunch. We ate a mix of delicious Brazilian and Indian food (long story). We chatted and watched some sports. We stayed until the sun went down and I decided that it was probably best for me to get home. It was simple. It was chill. It was family time.
Four months after I first walked into my fifth floor Copacabana apartment, I could not imagine living anywhere else or with anyone else. When traveling sometimes on the weekends, I miss being at my house in Rio because it has become a home for me. I feel so loved and relaxed in my building, in my room and with my host mom.
By no means do we have a mother-daughter relationship but more like a cool aunt-niece relationship. I get to play with her grandson when I am feeling homesick for my own little nephew. Sometimes, we even go out in the city to do a hike or hit up some yummy pastry shops. We chat about our days when we are both home but also respect the alone time that each of us needs. She allows me to be independent in my time here, whether it be in the house or exploring the city.
However, I know that I can always count on her to help me out when I am lost or confused. One time, I came home in near tears after searching almost every grocery store for dehydrated mushrooms (again long story). After explaining the situation to her, she stopped what she was working on and started calling family to try to get the intel on where they would sell these dehydrated mushrooms. It was times like those where I felt lucky to have someone here to rely on.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones though. There are of course the host family horror stories that the other exchange students will share. I am very grateful for my host family situation and know that I will always have a home to return to in Rio.
(part of my little home)