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Eugene Weekly : Cover Story : 10.16.08

 

Winter Getaways

A Year in the “City of Happiness”

Rotary Youth Exchange for South student 

by Madisyn Schultz

Viva Bahia! The water is warm, and coconuts are everywhere (on trees, on the ground, in people’s hands, in freshly-picked bunches next to vendors’ stalls — and not the brown hairy dry kind either, the fresh green cut-it-open-and-drink kind). 

People are energetic, sympathetic and beautiful. These are people who spontaneously burst out in song in the middle of class, offer tea and a hug to a sick stranger and eagerly try to convert me to their preferred soccer team (with smiles, of course).

This is the City of Happiness, otherwise known as São Salvador da Baía de Todos os Santos (Holy Savior of All Saints’ Bay) — Brazilians know how to choose their city names, huh? — also known as Salvador. For those of you rusty on your major world cities, that’s in the state of Bahia, right smackdab on the beautiful east coast of Brazil. 

Why am I here instead of Eugene? That’s pretty easy: Rotary!

Rotary International is a worldwide program composed of regional clubs and districts open to literally anyone. The purpose is expressly to unite the world through good relations and ultimately to build goodwill and peace.

One aspect of this program is the Rotary Youth Exchange. Every year Rotary sends about 9,000 16- to 18-year-old students from countries around the world to new countries. Each student spends roughly 11 months in the host country (which means I’ll be here for another nine months, give or take). Students like me get blazers, and we collect pins from students who come from all over the world to our host districts.

As a kid, I always wanted to travel. I made it to Costa Rica in sixth grade, and two years ago my family went to New Zealand. A youth exchange was exactly what I needed.

I’m something of a novelty here with my blue eyes and ridiculously white skin. In between my futsal (indoor soccer), Rotary Exchange meetings, capoeira (a Brazilian martial game) classes and the exhausting five and a half hours of 100 percent Portuguese school, I have assemble a functional grasp of Portuguese. But still get excited when I manage a 20-minute conversation on the bus ride home. 

Rotary places students with three different host families during the year abroad. Right now, I come home from school every day to play with my 1-year-old brother, Pedro, and my host parents Paulo and Rosa come home around dinnertime. Some days we go out (we’ve gone to the beach, restaurants and the circus among other things), but usually I try to focus on my Portuguese. In February, I have the promise of going to Carnaval, the biggest street party in the world!

Of course, every time it rains I miss Oregon. Still, Viva Bahia! Viva Brasil! And tchau, gente!

For more info on the Youth Exchange, go to www.rotary.org And for more info on Madisyn Schultz’s time in Bahia, visit

diasbrasilieros.blogspot.com



Winter Getaways:

Sunrise of the  Gods

The downlow on getting to Machu Picchu 

Welcome To a Mexican Beach!

Now go straight to hell  

A Year in the “City of Happiness”

Rotary Youth Exchange for South student 

The Basics Within a Day's Drive