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Last Week as recalled by Stefan Sojka – Feb 2011

After a ripper of an Aussie Day celebration (literally), our esteemed President Allen was not only unable to preside over the meeting, but couldn’t write his report either, as he wasn’t there.

In his place was acting President PP Geoff Brennan – and what a convincing act it was.  We almost believed he was in control of the evening.  In fact the four-way test speakers were in total control, as you will read about later in this report.  Our acting Hub editor toasted the Queen as splendidly as she edited this report, but Rotary Grace had a little trouble settling on the right pitch, for some unknown reason… an increased proportion of altos and sopranos in the room, perhaps.  David Johnston gave us a 4-minute run down of life at the 10, uh… I mean, 1, 10 & 11 Network, including the revelation that the board is swarming with billionaires.  Who would have thought The Biggest Loser would have had such broad appeal?  Ironic.

Acting Pres. announced a huge crowd of guests who managed to fit in the room thanks to an almost equal number of apologies.  However, it was great to see the triumphant return of Hameed Fazal and Terry Kerim, after their recent scarcity.

John Mazlin announced Red Shield appeal’s 2011 return (28 & 29 May) and Bill Payne explained just how valuable Bowelscan is, as it also returns for ’11, with 144 cancer and polyp detections and 164 positive results last year, saving untold lives in the city.  Peter Cooper gave Friday’s pasta-fest at Il Bolognese one last plug, before exchange student Anna Gossweiler detailed her hectic week, including a hair-dye malfunction and sailing on a rough and windy day in the open ocean.  Then it was Sgt. Longfield’s turn to take the stand – and all our loose change – with a barrage of loose cannon accusations.

After all the regular formalities, it was time for the absolute treat of the evening, The Four-Way Test speaking competition.  Bob Kaye-Smith announced the event and introduced four amazing young competitors.

ERINA YIP, from Cheltenham Girls raised the bar rather high with a superb dream sequence, linking the subconscious mind to The Four-Way Test, the meaning of life, Nelson Mandela and the collective goal of improving the world.

NIKKI RAFTOPULOS, from Pymble Ladies College (PLC) astounded us all with a theatrical press conference from Julian Assange, complete with journalists’ questions and a very clever twist at the end, explaining why Julian is disguised as a schoolgirl.  Her presentation was very well researched and weaved powerful social justice issues in perfectly with the theme.

SKYE DONALDSON from The Pittwater House Schools took a very personal approach, talking about her memories of her Rotarian grandfather and her concern for homeless people.

ANEESH KANCHARLA from Shore School discussed racism and prejudice as a challenge to uphold The Four-Way Test and how Australia has sometimes demonstrated unacceptable levels of discrimination in years gone by.  Aneesh proposed that education and admitting that there could be a problem, was the way to a more peaceful and friendly society.

In the end, Judges DGN John Dodd and PP Doug Thompson had a very difficult time, being forced to separate the contestants in order of merit.  NIKKI took out the top prize with her highly polished performance, followed very closely by Aneesh, with Erina and Skye both awarded certificates.  All four demonstrated the highest standards and ideals, which is precisely what The Four-Way Test is all about.

James Dodd – Letter from Brasil – 4th February 2011

Welcome to the last edition of my newsletter. I am now safe back at home and have been for the last two weeks. But before I get to writing about life back at home I still have to finish the January issue.
My last two weeks in Brasil were generally a sad occasion. Other than seeing people for the last time and packing, I didn’t do much else. Saying farewells to other exchange students and especially all of the friends that I had made in Brasil was a lot harder than I ever thought it would be.

My host parents had a New Year’s resolution to lose 5kg each over the month of January, so going walking every evening after work became a ritual that I was included in. It was great to get outside even though it was really hot and humid (probably equal to the “heat-wave” that is currently in Sydney). I started giving away my clothing with Australia written all over it to my host families and close friends since that I wouldn’t need them in Australia. I only kept the ones that I either liked or were worth something to me.

I went out a few times with the other exchange students for the farewells of the guy from New Zealand as well as my own farewell for me and the other girl from Australia. The timing was a bit tight because most of the other exchange students from my district were leaving to go on the Northeast Trip (there are 4 trips, 3 in January and 1 in November).

 Luckily my Rotary Club had one more meeting before I left so that I could do my presentation on my time in Brasil. I actually had to fight back tears while I was going through all of the major memories from my time in Brasil. At the end of my presentation I received a standing ovation from all of the Rotarians and hugs from all of them. I even managed to get most of them to sign my banner that I received from the Rotary Club when I arrived in Maringa. I have now solidified many relationships with the Rotarians in my club as now I have multitudes of offers for places to stay for when I return to Brasil (including places on the beach).

Well my last day in Brasil was a fairly short one for me in my city. I woke up at 4am to go to the airport where I went through security at 5am. I was surprised at the number of people in the airport at that time considering it was a Sunday. It was a very emotional experience for me but neither the other girl from Australia or I cried so we were both proud of ourselves for that. However, I can’t speak for my host parents who both cried during our last hugs. My Rotary Club President also came out to the airport to say goodbye to me. After finally making it through security with my blazer full of pins and several bags of hand luggage, we made it onto our 6am flight. (Photo: Me and my 3rd host parents)

We flew from Maringa to Curitiba in 50 minutes and then had a 2 hour stopover before continuing to Sao Paulo. The flight to Sao Paulo was only an hour long. So we arrived in Sao Paulo at 10am and we had the joy of waiting around until 9pm for our flight. We passed the time in the international terminal by watching movies or sleeping on the banks of chairs. Finally we found more Australian exchangers waiting for the same flight and the 30 (or so) of us were all back together at about 7pm. While sitting around and sharing stories we lost track of time and only 1 hour before our flight we went through customs/security. The queue was huge but thanks to being a foreigner we get the shorter line. Even so, most of us had to run for the plane as the flight was already on “Final Call”. Luckily no one got left behind.



The next 3 hours were spent flying from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires where I was sitting in the emergency exit row in the window seat. Along the way we had to divert a little bit due to a gigantic electric storm that was going on in northern Argentina. However I could see the huge bolts of lightning cracking down from the clouds to the ground. I tried taking photos but it was too far away to pick up anything. (Photo: Leaving Brasil)

The following two hours were spent in the airport of Buenos Aires waiting for our connecting flight to Auckland, but fortunately the single café in the whole terminal was open so we could at least buy something. This was a great opportunity to use up our Brasilian Reias (currency) especially when it’s about $7 for a can of soft drink. Anyway we made it onto the flight which would be our home for the next 14 hours. Interestingly I only experienced 4 hours of the 17th of January thanks to the International Date Line. The flight only took 14 hours but we travelled 30 hours in the process.

We arrived in Auckland at 8am and we had a two hour stopover. It was a little scary to see all the signs in the airport written only in English and also to hear all the airport staff speaking English. So considering I was so close to home I thought it would be fitting to have a beer and a pie for breakfast. I don’t know how I managed to survive the whole year with eating a pie.

Once back in Sydney I stopped off in Duty Free as you might as well use your 2.25L alcohol limit especially on drinks without taxes. It did take a while for me to get through customs. I got checked out by two separate people as they rummaged through my bags to find anything that I might have been bringing in without declaring it. Luckily nothing was taken off me, including my Amazonian blow gun, so I continued on down to the ramps to freedom.

When I saw my family standing there with a sign saying “Bemvindo a Casa” (or Welcome Home) I nearly started crying. I had to just concentrate and look straight ahead just to make sure. It was fantastic to finally give both my parents and my sister a giant hug even though I had been talking to them weekly or fortnightly. Driving back from the airport was a strange experience seeing the huge difference between Brasil and Australia. Now being home I can see the difference and how much better life is here in general.

Well I have now been home for a bit over 2 weeks. In that time period I’ve caught up with my best mates and their families and sharing my year with them. Considering that I probably only spoke to each of them maybe a couple of times throughout the year, there was much to catch up on. In the first week I got my green P plates and my PWC boat license. Getting back up to the house up at Wyee Point was a big highlight as I was finally able to go jetskiing and go donoughting.

I have now also enrolled in university. I will be doing Engineering and Business at UTS for the next 5 years so that will be fun. I’ll be majoring in ICT Engineering (Software) and Accounting.

There is nothing that compares to home and I don’t think that anything will ever be better than being at home with family and friends. After coming home from a year away I now know the true meaning of “Home Sweet Home”. Thank you for reading my blog over this last year. I have certainly enjoyed writing them and I’ve already received praise from people that I didn’t even know were on the email list.

I will be making my presentation to Ryde Rotary on 15 March and look forward to seeing many of you then.

Tchau,
James Dodd

James Dodd Letter From Brasil 3rd January 2011

Welcome to the first ever 2011 edition of my newsletter. These last two weeks have been very family orientated which made me miss home a little bit, but in two weeks today I’ll be leaving. Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun.
Christmas was a little bit different for me this year, mostly not celebrating it with my own family. Other than that Christmas was a relaxing, family orientated weekend. My host family and I spent the Christmas weekend in Santa Cruz de Monte Castello which is a small city where my host mother was born and raised. We have been there a few times before to relax for the weekend. Just before we arrived there it started to absolutely bucket down. Your line of sight was literally only 5 metres at most which was a bit frightening sitting in the back seat of the car. Nevertheless we arrived safely.

The Friday night was a more peaceful and a close family occasion. We had a barbeque of various meats and continuing in the holiday spirit much beer was consumed. It turned out that we actually missed the church service because we were all talking and enjoying ourselves ,not watching the time. However once it struck midnight presents were given to everyone and we all indulged ourselves into those gifts. My host family got me a pair of Santos soccer shorts (for those of who you don’t know, Santos is the best soccer team in Brasil) so I was greatly delighted. I gave my host parents a bottle of wine and one of my bigger cross-stitches that I had been doing over the last few months. I also thought that I needed to give my host grandma something so I made her a kookaburra cross-stitch. Some of you may remember that it was the first one that I finished here, however the one I gave her I had just finished that afternoon.



The Saturday (or Christmas Day) followed in the same manner as the day before it. Most of the day was spent sitting around talking and sharing memories of the year that had nearly finished. During the day, once again following in the holiday spirit, much beer was consumed. Between 4 of them on Friday about 16L of beer was consumed compared to the 26L that was had on the Saturday between 6 people.  After everyone recovering on the Sunday, we returned late on Sunday evening to Maringa.
During the week I was taken by my host father to his two soccer games. Towards the end of the first game one team was left without a player. My host father then decided that he would put me in goal so then he could fill the spot in the field. I have never played goalkeeper in a game before so as you would expect I was a little bit nervous and still surprised that my host father had that much confidence in me. However over the next 10 minutes, the ball never passed me. Yes there were only two attempts at goal from the other team but neither of those attempts got passed me. I also totally embarrassed one of the attackers from the other team as I passed the ball through his legs to get passed him.



The next game on the Thursday was in a slightly different light. There had been massive confusion from the other team if there was going to be a game so only about half of them turned up. After some conversing they eventually decided to just play with mixed up teams. While everyone was changing, I was mucking around with one of the kids in the goal. My host father then said to me “Go down to the other end of the field for us in the goal”. At first I thought it was just to practice so they could take shots at me, but then came “Also put this shirt on” at which point I realised that I would be actually playing. Well to be short I did play the whole game as goalkeeper. Everyone was surprised, including me, at how decent I was but soon the other team found the hole in my defence. As most of you know I have fairly good hand-eye coordination, so any ball in the air was not much of a challenge for me. The chink in my armour was ground balls as it takes me forever for me to get my hands to the ground. However, even with the gigantic hole in my defence my team won. I had saved enough attempts at goal that we had managed to stay in front for the whole game. 

On the Wednesday night my host parents took me to the centre of the city to see the decorations and lights that had been placed on the cathedral. The sight of the cathedral all lit up was amazing. I took several photos of all the decorations and lights.

For the New Year’s Eve weekend, my host parents and I travelled back to Monte Castello. This weekend was a lot more relaxed than the Christmas weekend, but still many good times were had. Late on the Friday night we all went to Porto Rico, which I went to about a month before with the men from my host mum’s family, to watch the fireworks. There were about 20,000 people there partying and according to my host family that was the most amount of people that they had ever seen in Porto Rico. The fireworks were fairly amazing. They had placed boats on the river full of fireworks so it was quite a spectacular sight. I managed to take some very cool photos of the fireworks just as they were about to explode. 



The next Saturday and Sunday were spent relaxing and enjoying the first moments of 2011. For me it still seems a bit strange to consider that we are now into 2011. I don’t know why, but seeing the date “3/1/11” just looks weird to me. 

Well as you’ve read these last two weeks have been very relaxing and very family orientated. I have less than two weeks in Brasil until I start heading home. It will take me 53 hours to get home (thanks to the International Date Line) but I’ll eventually get there on the 18th of January. I will try to get a newsletter down when I get home to finish off the year.
I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and New Years and I look forward to catching up with a lot of you when I get back.
Abraço,
James Dodd

Blast from the past - Kristel Murray, Exchange student from 2001/02

Here is a short note from Kristel Murray, a French Canadian student who came to our club as an exchange student in 2001/02.  It is always great to hear from exchange students to see how their life has progressed since their stay with us...

Well, my life hasn't change so much, I'm still very busy. In September, I started University to specialize myself in nursing. So, I don't have lot of time for myself and my family. I work a full time job, I take care of my family, I have university and I have 2 nights/week for workout and cardio to keep myself in good shape... lol

My son is now 2 years and a half. He changes so much. He speaks very well and understands more what we saying. He is so quiet, he is not a disturbing child.
It's not in our plan to have an other baby yet. We want to but with university... We will wait until next year.

All my family are in good health, I hope yours too. So give me some news to keep in touch. Even if I didn't write to you for ages.... You still have a room in my heart and I hope one day we'll see each other again!

Take Care!!!!
Kristel
xxxxxxxxxxxxx

James Dodd's Letter From Brazil - December 21st 2010

Welcome to a special edition of my newsletter, my Northeast Trip. The trip itself was absolutely amazing and will always remain fantastic memory of Brasil for me. On the trip there were 49 exchange students on the trip including 20 Australians. This newsletter won’t be like previous trip notes as I won’t go day by day, otherwise this would end up being a good 20 pages.

Start of the trip
The trip officially started in Sao Paulo so I needed to catch a bus there from my city. Luckily there were about 10 people coming from my Rotary District so we all got the overnight bus on the Saturday night in time to get to Sao Paulo for the early Sunday morning start. Since I bought my ticket slightly later than everyone else I wasn’t sitting with them, but that left me an opportunity to get to know the people that I was sitting next to. I went through a 9 hour bus ride sleeping only for 1 hour and talking for most of the rest of it. I was able to get to know the woman who was sitting next to me in great detail.
After the 9 hours we finally arrived in Sao Paulo where we were met by one of the chaperones that would look after us for the month. We all got into a taxi and headed to the hotel where the bus was waiting with the rest of the exchange students. It was great to see a lot of the Australians again, especially considering I hadn’t seen a lot of them since the plane flight over.
The day that followed became a common occurrence over this trip, a whole day spent on the bus (to be exact it happened 12 times). At the start of the trip I found it really difficult to sleep but by the end I was sleeping at nearly every opportunity. Anyway, after this whole day on the bus we finally arrived in Brasilia, our first stop on our month long trip. As you all may know, this day was my 19th birthday. It wasn’t exactly the best birthday but it was a good time to celebrate it with 48 other exchange students.

Brasilia


The next day we went on a tour around Brasilia. Like Canberra, the city is planned. The city is divided into 4 sectors: north, east, south and west quadrants. Each quadrant has a specific purpose like commercial, residential and of course the government sector. We visited many of the main landmarks around the city including government buildings, special churches, the President’s house and the Temple of Peace. The buildings themselves were fairly amazing. The government buildings were all exquisitely designed and unique, which was quite a surprise.



We visited two churches: the main cathedral in Brasilia and the “Temple of Peace”. The cathedral is not a normal old church, it is a modern one. The design is really interesting and looks really amazing. The other church that we visited was the “Temple of Peace”, the 7-sided pyramid.



It is a very spiritual location where people go to walk around the “Spiral of Enlightenment”.
The President’s house is quite a large estate and is guarded very heavily. There are teams of Special Forces that patrol the grounds with pump-action shotguns. It was quite an intimidating site seeing them patrol with no emotions shown on their faces whatsoever.
That night we had dinner at an “all you can eat” pizza place and after eating way too much everyone started singing happy birthday     and a cake appeared. I was not hungry at all and was feeling completely full already, but it was still a great birthday party.

Lençois



For the two days that we were in Lençois we explored the surrounding environment including sandcaves constructed of multi-coloured sand, climbing through caves and lots of swimming in little rivers and waterfalls. On the first day in Lençois we went to a natural waterslide which was effectively just a very mossy rock slope. It was a lot of fun but nearly everyone had nasty bruises and marks left on bums and hips from bouncing down the hard rock surface. This was the first day that I got ridiculously burnt across my shoulders and my face.
Luckily some of the girls had after sun lotion and Aloe Vera so I was well looked after.



On the second day we went exploring into a cave system where it was completely dark and we needed headlamps. Some of the most amazing stalactites and stalagmites had formed and they were simply stunning. Sitting down in a completely dark cave was a bit freaky for some but it was quite entertaining for me. After, we scaled 1300m up a very big hill.  The views were unbelievable but the weather was horrible (over 35pC). The guides told us stories about how all of the surrounding hills were named and some of the stories were quite interesting. We then went swimming in a little waterfall/river system which was so relaxing after a day of walking in the hot sun.

That night we were given a presentation of “capoeira” which is a special type of Brasilian martial arts. It is practically breakdancing but performed very slowly and the amount of control needed is amazing. Most of the girls in the group couldn’t control themselves watching the ridiculously “ripped” boys doing flips and one-handed handstands.





Maceió



Today was first beach day of the trip and it was all as promised. The only bad thing was that I got burnt once again. Some people took banana boat rides and it was quite entertaining watching people falling off. At night we went to the markets which again became a common occurrence. This day became a normal day on this trip and was very relaxing.

Natal



The hotel in Natal was absolutely amazing. The hotel itself was gigantic and was elaborately laid out with the hotel then pool then straight onto a private beach. To sit by the pool and look out over the ocean was an amazing feeling to say the least.
On the first day in Natal we went on a tour of the city. We visited the fort which was built in the 1500’s to protect from invasion and was recently used in World War II as an anti-air base. Other than that it was effectively a free day where we hung around the hotel relaxing.



The second day was another beach day. We travelled for about an hour to a secluded little town where we stayed for the day. It was really relaxing and fun to play around on the beach.  However to spend a whole day at the beach wasn’t as amazing as the hotel, so we returned earlier than normal to chill at the hotel. At night we had the option to go and see the recently released Harry Potter and even though I’d already seen it I wanted to see it again. I found it a little weird considering the movie doesn’t really have an ending, it kind of just stops and credits roll.

Fortaleza
Luckily it didn’t take us a whole day to get to Fortaleza so we had time to chill in the hotel before going out at night. At the markets that night I found some cool key rings to go on my blazer and these awesome beer cups. They are made out of beer cans but are then filled with gel so when you put it in a freezer it will keep your beer cold. It was quite a snazzy thing and I thought that my host Dad would enjoy it.



The next day we went to yet another beach. However at this beach we had planned activities like horse riding and dune buggying. The horse riding was fun especially as it was walking down the beach enjoying the sights. The main event of the day was going dune buggying. We were put into buggies of 4 people and it was so much fun. Going upwards of 80km/h down and around sand dunes with only your courage to hang on to, it was a blast. I recall that someone said “This would never be allowed to happen in Australia” and I totally agree with them. I did have a lot of fun especially going down ridiculously steep dunes and drifting on the sand. The best part was that there was no set trail so the drivers improvised and took shortcuts all the time. In the middle of the dune buggy ride we stopped off at a sand boarding slope. It was really fun to go down a step dune sitting on only a piece of waxed wood. However when you fell off it really did hurt and sand got everywhere!



Once I got back after the buggy ride I was knackered so I thought that a massage would do my nicely. I was so relaxed after the massage that I could hardly walk but it was really worth it.
The next day we spent at the beach next to a water park. The water park was supposedly one of the best of the world but it was $70AUD to get in and for Brasilian standards that is ridiculously expensive. Even in Australia I wouldn’t spend that much to get into a theme park. Since the price of admission was so high everyone decided to stay at the beach and just chill.



In the afternoon we went on a cultural tour of Fortaleza visiting some of the iconic places like the pier (which more seemed like a place for couples) and the various amphitheatres. After dinner we went to the markets again and I found some cool little things that will be presents for people back home.

Recife
After another whole day on the bus we arrived in Recife. We spent the first day at “Porto de Galinhas” which is a beach about 1 hour from Recife in a secluded town. It seems that they chose secluded beaches so they could always keep an eye on us, but it was great because the beaches were always really good.



The second day in Recife we spent on a city tour. We saw many of the sites around Recife including the preserved old part of the city. Even though it was really hot we continued to explore the city and the many hidden passageways that seemed to seamlessly link all the streets together. In the afternoon we went to the cultural markets which is a whole jail converted into little shops. The size of it was astonishing yet I didn’t buy anything.



Later that afternoon we walked up to the oldest part of the city which is on top of the largest hill around. We visited one of the oldest churches (only 400 years old) which overlooked the whole city and the surrounding beaches. Also on the way back down I spotted a brand new Porsche Cayman S which in Brasil is a good 1 million Reias (or $700K AUD) and it was in excellent condition. The interior was red leather and ohhh…. It was amazing.




Salavador



On the way down to Salvador we stopped at a Turtle Preservation community. Here they are trying to preserve the different species of turtle that live on the coast of Brasil. They open up the preservation centre once a week for tourists to come in and have a look at some of the rarest species of turtle that are still around.
In Salvador we were given a city tour. We started at the fort (which now is just a tourist attraction) that has views over the entire city and looks out around the various bays. Afterwards we continued our walk through one of the biggest markets in the world up to the old city. Salvador is split into two: the commercial part of the city which is down the bottom and the residential/old part of the city which is up the top. Here in Salvador we started to see a larger number of tourists and a lot of Americans.
One of the places that we visited was the church of St Francis of Assisi. The interior of the church is simply stunning with over 800kg old gold inlaid into the wood. It was built in the 16 century. Supposedly his descendants built it in his honour but no one is really sure. It’s one of those things that is shrouded in mystery. However the church interior itself is still insane.



While walking through the rest of the old city we saw Joe Jackson (Michael Jackson’s Dad). No one was quite sure what he was doing in Salvador but he had camera crews and a lot of security walking around with him. I also met two guys (one from the Ukraine; the other Romania) who were working on a cruise ship. It became a thing of the trip to try and pick where other foreigners were from by their language or accent. Unfortunately I got those two horribly wrong, but do you really expect to meet people from the Ukraine or Romania in Brasil? We also met a young couple from Sydney who were travelling in their holidays.
That night we went to a traditional Brasilian performance of Salvador. To be honest I started to fall asleep through some parts but by the end I was wide awake. The last act was about 10 guys doing “capoeira” and generally showing off. One performer did cartwheels on the same spot of stage. Usually gymnasts need a run up and maybe a maximum of 3 or 4 flips can be achieved before running out of space. But this guy was scary: he was doing cartwheels and flips for about 2 minutes on the same spot. It was unbelievable.



The next day we travelled by boat out to an island where we spent the day and we were the only people there. We hit up a game of soccer and some of the Europeans showed some serious skill. However a lot of people cut their feet on the various shells that were on the beach and in the water.

Porto Seguro
After another whole day of travel we arrived in a small city just outside of Porto Seguro. That night we went clubbing in Porto Seguro for the first time as a group. We ended up going clubbing twice and on the last night we went to a beach party. For those of you who don’t know, Porto Seguro is the location for Brasilian schoolies. It’s like the Gold Coast, but better.
Out of the four days that we spent here two of them were free days. Seeing that Rio de Janeiro was effectively in civil war, we spent more time relaxing and enjoying ourselves than going into Rio. The second and fourth days here were free days to explore the little city where we were staying and to catch up on sleep that everyone had missed out on.



The next day we went on a tour around the old city of Porto Seguro. We visited one of the first churches on the South American continent as it was built in the year 1500. The old city itself was really beautiful and it had amazing views over the ocean and beaches. That afternoon we went to one of the oldest beaches in Brasil which was where the ships landed to colonise the old city of Porto Seguro.

Rio de Janeiro



After 2 days of bus travel we arrived at our final destination: Rio de Janeiro. On the first night we went to the markets where I found very cool presents for people back at home. I was told by friends that I needed to find something that I would only be able to get in Brasil and I think I found something that was fairly exclusive.



On the first day we went on a tour of the city of Rio. We visited all the main attractions like the original cathedral and the first bank in Brasil. After walking through some of the old streets we arrived at the original parliament and one of the oldest libraries in the world. Outside of Europe it is the largest and oldest library in the world.
After finding sanctuary back in the air conditioned bus we drove for a little bit to the Carnaval street/stadium. They were just starting to rebuild it for February but it was an amazing site. The main street just keep going and going until you lost sight of it in the distance.

Later that afternoon we went to Pão de Açucar which is one of the largest mountains in the city of Rio and one of the largest tourist attractions. To reach the top you have to take two cable cars and it was really fun freaking out those people who were scared of heights by saying things like “Mmm I wonder how long it would take us to hit the ground if the cable snapped” and other taunting things like that.



The next day we woke up early to go to the Christ Redeemer. After taking a little red train up to the top of the mountain we arrived at the Christ statue. It wasn’t quite what I thought it would be: it was so much better. It was a little disappointing with the cloud cover as we couldn’t see the view over the city, but the Christ itself was astonishing. Somehow I became a photographer taking photos of everyone, even people not in our group. If I had counted each of the photos that I had taken, there would easily be over 50 photos of other people.



For lunch we went to the beach where the waves were amazing. They were really strong and quite large. The waves were that bad that the life guards were recommending that people not go swimming at all in case that they got sucked out by the rip or were take sideways by the current. Being indestructible exchange students we decided to give it a go anyway. It was a little bit scary but was really fun. A few exchange students did have to get saved by life guards, but that was because they went out too far without knowing how to come back against the rip. Three other guys and I were taken about 500m sideways by the current in about half an hour. It took us a while to make it back to where all of our stuff was and we got lost a few times on the way back.
In the afternoon we were given samba and funk classes. Trying to fit 50 people into a small room and especially with relatively uncoordinated people was quite funny and it got hot really fast. I always thought that funk and samba were really hard but it’s just small things fast and with lots of repetition.

For dinner we went to the Hard Rock Café which was AMAZING! I’ve never been to a Hard Rock Café before so I was a little bit surprised that it was more of a club than a rock café. On a Saturday night they had a DJ instead of a band. It didn’t really make sense to me but considering it was the last night it was a good way to end the trip.



Later that night (while everyone was passing out from tiredness) we were taken to a samba school performance where you can join in. We arrived at 11:30pm and were given 2 hours. Only about 10 people actually stayed inside while the rest of us stayed outside talking and others sleeping on the ground.

That night not many people slept as it was the last night and then we had to say some goodbyes to those people who live in Rio de Janeiro or in the state of Rio. After that we hopped onto the bus to travel to Sao Paulo. Everyone slept on the bus to Sao Paulo and we arrived ahead of schedule which was a nice change of pace. After saying more goodbyes to everyone the group was split up depending on where you were travelling to. I spent 6 hours waiting around in the bus terminal with other exchange students of my district. We finally got the bus back to Maringa where we slept the whole way.

Overall the trip was unbelievably amazing and it was certainly a good way to end my exchange. I now have less than a month until I leave and then I get to spend 53 hours in transit to get home. I’m really looking forward to coming home to see all of you and share stories.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Abraço,

James Dodd

James Dodd in Brasil - 20 November 2010

Welcome to another edition of my fortnightly newsletter. These last two weeks have been a little difficult as I’m starting to finish up in some of my activities.

This last Thursday I had my last day of university and it was a little hard that I will never see some people in my class again. Now that I have now finished university, I’ve looked back across all of my marks. Considering that I didn’t do the exams for some subjects, I still would have passed onto 2nd year with the average across all my subjects (mostly thanks to Maths and Informatics).

Two weeks ago   all Automation Engineering courses (including Mechatronic) presented their group projects at the “Mecaexpo” that was held at Cesumar. Over the Thursday and Friday night my group presented our project, the chicken farm, and it was a great time to explain everything that we had been working on for the past 10 months. As well as learning more about my group’s project, I got to see a lot of other innovative products. One project that I thought was hilarious and really inappropriate for the real world: a residential security system that fires iron bolts at objects. It charges through 6 huge capacitors with a capacity of 1500J of energy, they slide the bolt inside a huge coil of wire and then they discharge the current into the coil of wire which then generates a huge electromagnetic force firing the bolt at enormous speeds. They were testing it mostly with panes of glass but occasionally they tried it with a can of soft drink. I volunteered my can for the destruction and that is certainly something that I will hold onto. Looking at some of the other projects I could see that most of them could be taken to a whole new level and did give me some ideas that I might be able to use for my university project.

On that Friday night I went out with some friends from my class for the first time in a while. I ended up getting back home at a bit after 5am. My host mum then woke me up at 9:30 to get me out of bed to pack my bag for the weekend. We went travelling to her parents’ house about two hours drive from Maringa. I was practically cactus so sitting in a car for two hours wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward too, but I ended up sleeping most of the way. On the Saturday night, I was taken to my first “Baile de Avaí” which is a huge community social party. It is generally for couples and for those people who are looking for partners, but I was taken along for the experience anyway. Considering that I was still cactus from the night before I wasn’t exactly feeling my best, but it was definitely a memorable experience.


On the following Sunday, I went with my host dad and my host mum’s brothers to Porto Rico, which was about 20 minutes drive from where we were. Porto Rico is a tourist destination because it has a beach and amazing fish. The river that it is based on is about the same size as Lake Macquarie. The 6 of us mostly just sat in the bar at the beach because none of us were intending to swim and the beach was full of tourists thanks to the long weekend. The following Monday was a very relaxing day where everyone caught up on missed sleep from the weekend.
Last Wednesday I volunteered to do my presentation on Australia at my Rotary Club’s meeting. I wasn’t quite sure about any of the things that I should put in it, but from the reactions from the Rotarians, it was fantastically received. Everyone loved it and they all got a pin out of it as well. My President gave me 10-15 minutes to do my presentation. As some of you know, my presentation skills aren’t the best so I wasn’t even sure that I was going to make 10 minutes. Once I had finished I realised that I had been speaking for 25 minutes and everyone was still paying attention. At the end of my presentation I found out that this meeting might have been my last Rotary meeting at this club because when I return from travelling to the Northeast they will be on holidays and they might not return before I get back. Hopefully they will because I want to share my experiences from this amazing year with them.

On Friday night, my host parents took me to an 80’s themed party for people who work with my host mum. It was good to see some of the people from the wedding a month ago and it certainly was fun seeing all of the costumes that people had brought. I ended up going with jeans, a leather jacket and gelled back hair which really did suit the mood of the party.

This newsletter was literally a last minute effort before I go away on my Northeast trip. I will be back in a month, so I hope that everyone has a wonderful time while I’m away and won’t miss me too much. By the time I come back from my trip I will have a little less than a month here so time really is starting to get away from me!

Tchau,
James Dodd

PS. Tomorrow is my birthday (and I get to spend the whole day on a bus)!

Lorraine & Malcolm Cox honoured with 2 Paul Harris Fellow Awards

At the recent Ryde Chamber of Commerce event, hosted by John Booth at The Weekly Times, Ryde Rotary President surprised Lorraine and Malcolm Cox with a Paul Harris Fellow award each.  Paul Harris Fellows are awarded to Rotarians and Non-Rotarians alike, who show outstanding commitment to community service.  Lorraine and Malcolm are ideal recipients, with all the charity and community work they do.

Lorraine and Malcolm's business, Ryde Furniture Freighters, has become very well known for helping those in need.  They cart furniture for charities and they donate large amounts of furniture left over from their clients' downsizing moves – all at their own expense.

Ryde Rotary has been at the receiving end of Lorraine and Malcolm's generosity, when they offered to cart a shipment of furniture bound for one of our international aid program destinations.

Tony Abboud from Ryde Rotary introduced President Allen Horrell to the Ryde Chamber crowd (a crowd which, for some reason, seemed to be padded out somewhat with a few Rotarians!).  President Allen commenced his presentation with an explanation of the Paul Harris Fellow award and its significance, not only as a recognition of great respect and honour, but that one aspect of the award is that Rotary donates $1000 to the Rotary Foundation on behalf of the recipient.  This evening, $2000 was donated and two very surprised recipients were asked to come up and receive their awards.  Malcolm and Lorraine are two of the nicest, humblest people you could meet and they certainly weren't ready for all the accolades and the attention.  There were more than one or two tears from the recipients and from the crowd as the emotion of such a public recognition of great community service unfolded.

Congratulations Lorraine and Malcolm, on all your amazing support and good work. 

Photo (L-R):  Malcolm Cox, The Weekly Times Editor John Booth (OAM), Lorraine Cox, Ryde Chamber President Tony Abboud, Ryde Rotary President Allen Horrell

James Dodd in Brasil 7 Nov 2010

Welcome to my next edition of my newsletter. My last two weeks have been jam-packed with enjoyable things including my trip to Bonito & Pantanal. This blog will have a day-by-day recount of what happened plus the normal things after.

Sunday 24th October

The trip got off to an amazing start with huge amounts of confusion. We were all sent two documents that had two different pickup times from Maringa (one being 1pm and the other time being 2pm). We were also told to get to the Bus Terminal up to 30 minutes before the departure time, so some people we are the Terminal at 12:30. I was one of the last ones to arrive at 2pm so I spent the least amount of time sitting around and waiting. In all there were 12 of us sitting and waiting for the bus to arrive, but after a few phone calls the bus eventually arrived at 4pm.

(Photo: Amazing lake in Pantanal)
We then got to meet most of the rest of the group who had already been travelling by bus for 8 hours by then! As some of you may know there were originally 3 trips which the tour company combined into 1 because they did not reach the minimum number of people for each trip. So my trip had two buses: One that started from the south and went to Bonito (my bus) and one that started in Sao Paulo and went to Pantanal (then swapping half way through).
After another 8 hours of travelling we arrived at our overnight stopover in Dourados. We were all given our rooms and most people went to sleep straight away considering we had to leave early the next day.

Monday 25th October

Today was effectively a travelling day as we left the hotel at 8am and arrived at the hotel in Bonito at 5pm. There was a lot of sleeping and relaxing on the bus. Also on the way we picked up AFS exchange students who would be the last people to join our group.

(Photo: Me on Toucanaphone in Bonito)
Once we arrived at the hotel in Bonito, we were split up into groups and told that we were going to the city after dinner but until then we were free. Most people took this as an opportunity to explore the hotel campus and go swimming in the pool. I went down to the pool with a couple of friends that I had already made, talking in English. When we arrived at the pool there was a man looking very hippy with dreadlocks in his beard and hair. We were making stupid comments about him and then came the realisation: “How funny would it be if he spoke English…?”. Before we got into the pool someone asked if it was cold and the “pirate guy” (as he became to be known by) replied “Nah, it’s not that bad” in a thick British accent. Turns out that he was in town for his brother-in-law’s wedding (which now thinking about it doesn’t make any sense considering that his brother-in-law would have married his sister…).
Anyway, later that night we went into the city to have a look around. Due to Bonito being a tourist town, most stores were still open at 10pm and pretty much had the same overpriced tourist things. We returned to the hotel and sat around the pool talking, which turned out to be what we did every night after our activities.

Tuesday 26th October

Today we went to a nature reserve which also has a waterfall park as a part of it. We were split up into 3 groups and proceeded to put on our little water shoes. Finding shoes in my size at these tourist places became a common problem as the biggest size that they had was 45 European. For those who don’t know I wear size 50 European, so I had to squeeze into some of the smallest shoes that I have ever worn.
After suiting up we commenced our walk through the forest to each waterfall. There were 6 points where we were allowed to swim and everyone took each opportunity. The water was quite cold, but refreshing. There were some amazing locations and photo opportunities, but after a while it became the same scenery: waterfalls and trees. We ended up walking and swimming for about 4 hours before returning to the main reception for lunch and some well earned relaxation.


(Photo: Waterfalls)
In the late afternoon we once again had free time to relax and most of that time ended up being spent at the pool. After dinner we were taken to a snake conservation lecture which was actually fairly interesting. The guy that gave the lecture went on exchange to Australia about 30 years ago. When he mentioned that he lived in Parkes, I laughed a little too loud and then I had to explain why Parkes is probably not the best place to do an exchange. After our little discussion he continued on with the lecture and at the end nearly everyone got to take a photo with a snake around their neck. I got to see some of the funniest facial expressions in my entire life (mostly from girls holding the snake).


(Photo: Me and my snake friend)

Wednesday 27th October

Today we went snorkelling, but not any normal type of snorkelling. We got to float down the clearest river in the world where you can see down to a depth of 35m. The water is that clear and the light just cuts through it. We were split up into 4 groups this time and I got to go first. We were given neoprene suits and some funky sandals that were once again too small. The scenery was amazing and the water really is that clear. However, once again, it became the same things over and over again and was a little too long. After we got back to where everyone else was eagerly waiting, we got to relax and tried not to get burnt. We stayed at the place for a while playing in the pools and spent the majority of the day there.

 

(Photo: Clarity of the water)
As part of our tour we have to do a “community project” and we got to go to a day care centre where we took little gifts (most of them bought at the Bonito supermarket) and we played with them for a good hour. The kids ranged from a few months old to 5 and there was someone for everyone to play with. When the time to go arrived, not that many people wanted to leave. Running around with the little kids appealed to us, but most people were exhausted by the end, so we returned to the hotel. 

(Photo: Playing with the kids)
After dinner we had the opportunity to go back to the city to have a look around. This time was pretty ordinary as the city itself is effectively only one street and we covered all of it on Monday night. However I did buy some little touristy things to take back.   

Thursday 28th October

This morning we were told we had to wake up early to go to the “Blue Lagoon Cave”. Once we arrived were we split into 2 groups and group 1 was sent out straight away. We were all given helmets which confused a lot of people of what we were going to do, but it turned out that it was just a safety precaution for those “special” people who would fall over. We walked for about 500m to arrive at the entrance to the cave and we were greeted by an apparently endless set of stairs, so the use of the helmet became justified. The cave itself was fairly amazing but when we saw why the cave was named “Blue Lagoon” most people’s jaws dropped.
The lagoon at the bottom of the cave is a royal blue due to how the light refracts off the stalactites. The guide told us that in the month of January from about 8-9am when the sun shines directly into the cave, the water turns to a richer, darker blue colour. The hardest part of the expedition was getting out of this cave. It was a lot of stairs and considering that it was about 35OC, most people were dying by the time we made it out. 

(Photo: Lagoon in the cave)

In the afternoon we went rafting. We were told beforehand that it was introductory-level rafting and it was very mild to what I have done before. There we only 5 little waterfalls that we went down. Other than that there was just paddling for 2 hours hoping to get to the next waterfall. The most exciting part of rafting was trying to tip the photographer’s kayak into the water (which we finally succeeded in doing). 

(Photo: First waterfall)

Tonight was a free relaxing night which most people took to catch up on sleep that they may have missed over the trip.

Friday 29th October   

Today we had to wake up early to go do a high ropes course. We left the hotel at 6:30am, which for us exchangers is really early (especially on trips). We were given the full safety gear of harnesses, helmets and gloves. Stupidly I volunteered to go first and I found out pretty quickly that, as I was the first person to do the course for the day, I was designated as the spider web cleaner. The course itself was 7 metres above the ground and most of the time you are stepping on moving bits of wood with only one wire on either side to hold on to. At the end of the course there were two flying foxes with the second one leading into the water. I regret doing the second flying fox without a shirt because the harness ripped into me.

(Photo: Toucan on a chair)
In the afternoon there was nothing planned on the program so we went to a community water park where we relaxed and went swimming in the river. We played a little volleyball tournament within our group and my team won.
At night we had our “fantasy” party next to the pool. Originally we were going to have it at a restaurant in the city, but plans changed. The DJ was terrible and ended up getting replaced by one of our iPods. However it was the girl from Germany’s birthday so we had birthday cake as the highlight of the party. The party finished at about 2am so we were given two options: either sleep now and wake up at 5:30am or stay awake and sleep on the bus. I was one of the select few who chose to stay awake next to the pool so I could actually sleep well on the bus the next day.

(Photo: Partying)

Saturday 30th October

I started off the day not sleeping so I wasn’t really looking forward to an 8 hour bus trip to Pantanal. We left at 6:30 to try and arrive at the farm hotel in Pantanal before 3pm and we managed to do it. However, I didn’t sleep that much on the bus trip. Somehow I can’t seem to sleep properly while sitting up unless I’m totally dead tired. We were once again split up into 4 groups for the 4 different activities that we would end up doing over the next day. My activity for the afternoon was to go horseback riding around the hotel property. The entire farm is 5000 hectares so it covers a huge amount of ground. The horse riding was a great opportunity to get a first glance of Pantanal. It is effectively a huge river system which once was one gigantic lake. The animal diversity is said to be the biggest in the world.

(Photo: Horseback riding)
Once we got back to the hotel we had a presentation about Pantanal, including its history and the animals that we might see. Nearly everyone fell asleep at one point or another. Everyone went to bed fairly early because we were all exhausted.


Sunday 31st October

Today was another 6:30am start, which really is TOO early. This morning my group went piranha fishing in which I caught 5 in 30 minutes. I then had the bright idea of trying to catch a crocodile with a fish as bait. So after catching a fish we proceeded to put it near one of the crocodiles and finally it started to come after it. I have a hilarious video of watching the crocodile catching the fish. In the end the crocodile caught it twice: the first time the crocodile didn’t get the whole fish so we ripped it back out, but the second time he ate the fish and the hook as well. It took some serious effort to get the fishing line out of the crocodiles mouth, so we let the fishing guru battle with it.

(Photo: Me with my first Piranha)
Afterwards we went on a mosquito-infested walk through the property where we were looking for animals and strange things. According to the guide we saw one bird that people come especially to the region to see but it’s very rare especially in the lower branches and we also managed to see an owl sitting out during the daytime, which the guide had never seen in her life.
In the afternoon we relaxed and generally lazed around because everyone was still really tired. In the late afternoon my group went on a safari which was actually amazing luck because it began to rain down very hard. However the safari we saw nothing due to the rain and the driver had apparently never driven a manual car.
Much later that night we left to go camping. After a very long ride in the jeep we arrived at the camping ground which was already set up for us. We proceeded to sit around the fire playing silly games and cooking banana and sweet potato in the camp fire. I made friends with the guys who were preparing everything and somehow I got the name “playboy”. I have no idea where it came from but it stuck. We were told that we had to pack up the tents at 4:30am to get back to the hotel in time to leave so we had the option not to sleep again. Once again I took that option and decided to try and sleep on the bus.

Monday 1st November

We started to wake people up at 4am to start taking down the tents. We ended up leaving the camping grounds at 4:30 on time to head back to the hotel for breakfast. We left the hotel at 7am to commence our day long bus trip back to Maringa. When we arrived on the outskirts of Maringa I started to realise where we were. The bus drivers had no idea where the hotel was, so I ended up being the tour guide of Maringa directing the bus to the hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 2am and I felt relieved that I was finally back at “home”. Luckily for me, Tuesday was a public holiday.
Overall the trip was amazing and certainly jam-packed.     I have so many new friends from the trip and it was great to see most of the Australians again.
Ok, back to normal life. This week was fairly relaxed and more about catching up on sleep and reorganising all my stuff. When I arrived back in Maringa I had received about 10 text messages from friends and Rotarians wondering if I was ok and what was happening because I had been off the grid for a week after having chickenpox.
On the weekend of the 30-31 October, Rotary held Mostra das Profissões (display of professional courses) at Cesumar University so when I got back to uni there were banners everywhere for each course. During interval on Wednesday I was walking around with my friends when we saw the banner for Mecatronic Engineering including a photo with some of my friends in it. One of my friends suggested, “It would be funny if someone took it”, so I proceeded to take it off the wall. Luckily, I got away with it! In the next class I passed the banner around so that people could sign it. Considering that I only have 2 weeks left of university it was a great opportunity to get a memory from my classmates.
At Rotary on Wednesday the Rotarians were wondering where I had been and what was happening. After a little bit of explaining they understood that I wasn’t dying from chickenpox for 3 weeks but that I had been travelling as well.
This past weekend was the XV Rotaryada of Maringa (or the Rotary Club Olympics). I was put on the list for 5 sports: Volleyball, Tennis, Table Tennis, Swiss Football and Peteca. Now for some explaining: Swiss Football is 8-a-side soccer and is the general form of football played in Brasil. Peteca is a traditional Brasilian sport that I had never heard of or seen anything about until his weekend. The easiest way to explain it is that it’s badminton but you hit it with your hand not a racquet. So the ‘peteca’ is like a shuttlecock but has a big rubber puck on the end of the feathers.
My club ended up being champion overall winning 4 events. We won the volleyball, tennis, table tennis and football and we would have won peteca but I didn’t get to play in the final because I was playing tennis. I now have more trophies to take back home of my sporting prowess.

(Photo: Tennis trophy and Champion medals)
I hope that this edition has made up for the last short one, but having more to write about certainly helps. I have another 2 weeks in Maringa and then I am off on my Northeast trip for 29 days. Unfortunately, I will miss my last university exams, but I have done pretty well so far. I will get back to Maringa just before Christmas and then I will have less than one month left in Brasil!
Tchau,
James Dodd

Letter From Germany – Emma Overlack

Hello Everybody!

I'm really extremely sorry you haven't heard from me in so long.  Well I have been very, very busy over the last months sort of since my school started again after my summer break.  Now that I'm senior and year 11 all the teachers and students go crazy.  Here in Germany the last two years so 11 and 12 from now on count as one thing to our HSC (Abitur in german) and everything we do or say counts.  So teacher tell us all the time to learn and learn and learn and I couldn't do this all day especially not after being in school all day already.  I got a very bad timetable, because I don't have many periods but a lot of frees in between and almost everyday I got school in the afternoon (not that I'm not used to it now, but I wish I had more free time ;)  Why I would like more free time is the only reason so I can go rowing more often and longer:)

Firstly when I came back it was a bit hard for me to get back into it and I was still a bit lazy but then my coach told me one day in the summer holidays to come and go rowing so I came and he gave the newest and one of the best boats the club has and said that if I train well this will be my boat for this season.  So I didn't want to say no at all and started training heaps again.  My best friend firstly told me I wouldn't make it because of school now, but the thing is I have so much fun to be back in the Club and to do so much Sport again I would do everything to keep it like it is.  So this is why I have been so busy, the weekends I've been on a couple of small competitions already (not very successful but it is getting better every day) and during the week I was training every day and of course I had school as well.

In the time which i didn't spent at school, riding there by bike or in the rowing club I did homework and spent time arguing with my sister so just that we can say we love each other again afterwards.  We also have a new exchange student in our family who will stay with us for the whole year.  His name is Antonio and he is from Portugal.  I got another bother again but therefore i also had to lose some of my others.  My real elder brother Michel went to South Africa to work there for one year.  He lives in one of townships of Cape Town and is a teacher at a Pre-school.

The kids he works with live in Slums and their parents work all day so he and other German students take care of them.  The kids are from the age of 0 to 6 and he is most of the time looking after the older one teaching them in Maths and English.  He also got the task to built a new building for the school.  When they told him that he will be responsible for building the house now he only told us "I think they didn't really look, whether I can actually built a house, or whether i did it before.  They saw me and said he is guy and is strong he looks like he is capable of doing it.  So they chose me.  So one of my elder brothers is in South Africa looking after young children and building houses, whereas my other elder brother Jakub (our old Exchange student) had to go back to the Czech Republic to study at Uni after he worked here in Germany during the summer holidays and lived with us.  I was more than extremely sad when both of them had to leave at the same time (only a couple of days in between) so shortly after I came back, but then I realised that this is the way it goes and we gotta move on.  It feels like a small family now where we are only 6 people at home and not 7 or 8 like we used to be before.  But I still got my younger brother and sister who keep me busy if I should be bored.

Apart from that I am really back into my old life just even more happy!

At the moment I'm on holidays again but only for one short week which is almost over again already.  I spent the whole time rowing (training camp, means training at least twice a day) and with my friends from the rowing club afterwards.  In the free time in between I was playing with my little sister, doing a little bit of work for school (I should have done more, but there is just not enough time:) and working on my presentation for my Rotary Club here in Germany.  I'm gonna have to hold my presentation on the coming Tuesday and my mum told me to show the family and the family friends on the Saturday before.  So there is still a lot of work to do until then.  I'm really sorry that I didn't write you in so long life just keeps me so busy (but the more busy I am the more happy I am :)

I still really do love you and miss you.  Especially after I was looking at all my pictures again I just want to come back.  But there will be time for that as well :)

Love and a huge hug from Germany

Emma

James Dodd in Brasil 24 Oct 2010

Welcome to the latest edition of my fortnightly report. These last two weeks have been a bumpy ride and I’ll explain why.
Last Tuesday it was another public holiday, dia das crianҫas (Day of the children). Naturally the Monday was declared a “recess” from university, so I ended up having another 6 day long weekend. On the Tuesday, my host family had a barbeque for close family friends. It was a good chance to meet relatives of my host family. We sat outside for most of the afternoon relaxing in the sun.
The next day, Wednesday, I woke up with some spots on my face. I thought that I might have been allergic to something, but I was going to wait until my host parents got home from work to see if it got any worse. When I woke up after having an afternoon nap I had more spots on my face. Once my host parents got home I asked them what they thought it was. My host dad thought it was “catapora” which originally I thought translated to acne. After a quick translation I found that it was chickenpox. Immediately I got onto my computer and sent dad a message to find out if I’ve ever had the chickenpox. My parents were fairly sure that I’d never had it (although I had been vaccinated), so I wasn’t feeling too good considering that chickenpox is very dangerous is someone my age.
My host parents took me to the hospital and found out that I did indeed have chickenpox. The doctor prescribed me some medication to take that would help the chickenpox heal faster, some antiviral tablets so that I didn’t catch any infection over the next week and some potassium permanganate tablets to shower with. Supposedly the potassium permanganate helps dry out my skin but I still found it fun to shower with it after years of high school science with the teachers saying to never let the “dangerous chemical” touch your skin. The doctor told me that I had to stay at home and I should be all better to get out after about a week. Well after one day my top half was covered in spots. After 4 days nearly all of the spots had dried out and I looked really quite scary as all of the spots had turned black. Now, 10 days after I went to the hospital, nearly all of the spots have disappeared leaving only some of the bigger ones which are starting to scab.
I have now become a regular at my host dad’s soccer games on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s. It’s really good fun to watch the games and hang out with a good group of people of all ages. This past Saturday we got some terrible luck with the referees, but that’s all part of the game.
Seeing that I was effectively under “house arrest” for the week I wasn’t able to go to university or play tennis. Also now that I will be travelling for the next week I’m going to be missing out on more of this bimestre – I would like to keep up my marks.
I’m leaving tomorrow to go to Pantanal and I will be returning the following Monday. It’s going to be a great trip and to see all of my exchange friends will be awesome. Sorry about the shortness of this edition, but I haven’t had much happening in the last two weeks other than having the chickenpox.
Tchau,
James Dodd

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