As of today, I have been in Namaach for exactly one month. I am a third of the way through training, and just two weeks away from learning my permanent site placement and going there to visit for three weeks! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for only a month, because so much has happened, I have learned so much. Sometimes I am shocked with how comfortable I am living here, somewhere that is so different from everything I am used to. At other times, it feels like it has been so much longer than just a month, and I can’t believe that I’ve still got two years to go. Despite how daunting two years seems, if the weeks continue to fly by like they have been, I’m sure it’ll be time to go home before I know it.
This was a pretty big week for us, with a lot of activities in addition to our normal language and technical classes. On Tuesday, my language group visited a local Catholic orphanage and school. The facilities were incredible; they included a beautiful garden and farm, large dormitories for the hundred or so girls who lived there, and a huge kitchen and bakery in addition to all the normal school facilities. I was excited to have a morning off from our normal routine, and had a great time visiting and playing with the girls. The group of girls I spent most of the morning with were around 17, and although I was supposed to be helping them with their homework, they spent all morning asking me questions about myself and life in the US. It was great practice for my Portuguese, and since they were mostly interested in my love life, I learned tons of relationship vocabulary. I was excited to get the opportunity to explain what “yourself” means when they asked, thinking I was helping them with their English homework. I later realized that they were curious because they are obsessed with Justin Bieber’s song Love Yourself.
On Wednesday we gave our first “mini-aula” which was a short presentation within our subject. Throughout training we will give several of these in Portuguese, and they will get longer and more complicated as our language skills improve. I gave a 5 minute presentation on pure substances and mixtures, which is part of the 8th grade chemistry curriculum. Even though we were only presenting to other trainees I was still pretty nervous about my Portuguese but it went fine, and it was good to get a little bit of practice and receive feedback.
We also had our first Language Placement Interview (LPI), which is exactly what it sounds like. Although it was more of an evaluation than an exam, I was still somewhat nervous for this because I wanted to perform well and show them how much I have learned. I was the very first person to go on Thursday morning which was a little nerve-wracking because I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was glad to be able to get it over with and have the whole day free. Overall it went well, I felt like I represented my abilities pretty accurately. There was a really funny moment where the interviewer asked me, “Do you like colors?” Although I understood what he was asking, I was really confused, just because that is not really a normal question, and it was a total non-sequitur. After he repeated the question at least three times, I was finally able to answer, “Yes… I like colors.”
In addition to using the interview to evaluate how we are doing, they also speak with our families and our language professors. On Friday we had individual meetings with the training coordinator to discuss our results, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my Portuguese is considered “intermediate mid” which is the level necessary to swear in! Although I definitely still have plenty to learn and a lot to work on, it was a relief to hear that as long as I continue to do what I have been doing, I should be good to go.
Last night after classes, we decided to go out to our favorite bar Xavier’s to chillar (that’s the Portuguese word for “to chill”) After being there for maybe an hour, there was a torrential downpour that continued for most of the night. The streets were flooded, the power was out, but at least we had cold beer and hot samosas. Eventually the bartender got a generator up and running and so we also had music.
All in all, it’s been a very good and busy week. By the time I get home most nights I am exhausted, but in the best kind of way.