by Alexander Toby (K11 KPB)
(to see more pictures please feel free to visit the post on my blog) https://alexandertoby.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/unpredictable-2020/
I think we could all agree that the year 2020 has been a really interesting year for all of us so far. For me personally, I’d say that I had passed a chunk of memorable moments. I mean, living through a pandemic is without a doubt memorable, but let’s say that I mixed it up with my exchange year abroad, now that made me go through all kinds of emotions I wasn’t familiar with. I could see that these are hard times we are passing, “unexpected” is one of the words I would give to describe this year, but then again nobody knew that this much chaos would surface onto our lives in such an unexpected time. In the beginning of the year I was having the time of my life, going on a 27 day trip with 50 exchange students from all over the world, getting to know so many new people from different cultures on one of the world’s beautiful countries, visiting places that I never thought I would ever lay my eyes on. Okay, that may sound a little exaggerated but I assure you that it’s not, just trying my best to put my memory of those times into words.
So to start things off this year, I was scheduled to take a month long trip to the north east region of Brazil, one of the most famous touristic places in the world including cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. I signed up for this trip with an agency called Terra Brasil, an agency that arranges trips for exchange students like myself to travel around Brazil and other parts of South America. So on the 9th of January 2020, I hopped on a two story bus in a city called Cascavel, in that bus were about 30 exchange students from Argentina and Paraguay (they had their exchange year in those countries, not that their nationality was Argentinian or Paraguayan). As I made myself comfortable in the bus I started to get to know some of the people in the trip, introduced myself, explain where Indonesia is, and that Bali is in fact part of Indonesia, small talk you get used to when you’re an exchange student. I also love asking them about their country and where they’re from, it’s always interesting. The bus made some other stops to pick up more exchange students on the way to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, in total there were 50 students on the trip. In the beginning I didn’t talk that much with the new people from the other districts, only people I already knew, I wouldn’t say that I’m the kind of person who easily makes friends the first time around. But when you spend a month with the same people you will get to know them, might even make some really close friends.
In the end of everyday two people from the trip would make a blog post about the activities of that day, so if anyone is interested in the itinerary, what place I visited, when, and maybe some funny stories of some days of the trip here is the blog site. (Just a heads up not all of the posts are in English, some are in Spanish and Portuguese, but pictures are included so, enjoy) https://northeastjan3-2020.blogspot.com/ and these are the cities I visited sorted by date:
- Wednesday, 8th of January 2020 Puerto Iguazu e Ciudad del Este
- Thursday, 9th of January 2020 Foz do Iguaçu / Cascavel (where I join)/ Maringá / Araçatuba
- Friday, 10th of January 2020 Araçatuba / Brasília
- Saturday, 11th of January 2020 Brasília
- Sunday, 12th of January 2020 Brasília / Luis Eduardo Magalhães
- 13th of January 2020 Luis Eduardo Magalhães / Morro do Pai Inácio / Lençóis
- 14th of January 2020 Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina)
- 15th of January 2020 Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina)
- 16th of January 2020 Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina) / Maceió
- 17th of January 2020 Maceió
- 18th of January 2020 Maceió
- 19th of January 2020 Maceió / Natal
- 20th of January 2020 Natal
- 21st of January 2020 Natal
- 22nd of January 2020 Natal / Olinda / Recife
- 23rd of January 2020 Recife / Canindé de São Francisco
- 24th of January 2020 Canindé de São Francisco / Praia do Forte / Salvador
- 25th of January 2020 Salvador
- 26th of January 2020 Salvador / Porto Seguro
- 27th of January 2020 Porto Seguro
- 28th of January 2020 Porto Seguro / Serra – Vitória
- 29th of January 2020 Vitória
- 30th of January 2020 Vitória / Rio de Janeiro
- 31st of January 2020 Rio de Janeiro
- 1st of February 2020 Rio de Janeiro
- 2nd of February 2020 Rio de Janeiro / Angra dos Reis
- 3rd of February 2020 Angra dos Reis / São Paulo
- Tuesday, 4th of February 2020 São Paulo / Maringá / Cascavel (where I leave) / Foz do Iguaçu
- Wednesday, 5th of February 2020 Foz do Iguaçu – Desembarques
I visited more than 20 cities that month, some nights we sleep comfortably in hotel rooms, but to be honest we spent more time sleeping on the road inside the bus. 27 days seems like a very long time, well it is, and every day we always have somewhere to be, activities to do, the schedule is always catching up to us. Not that that’s bad, I mean were in fact in a trip, it’s better to pass the time by actually doing something, but I would have to say that the majority of the students did get sick. How did most of us get sick? I don’t really know, maybe because of the weather, the food, lack of sleep and rest, I’m just lucky I didn’t get sick.
If you ask me which city was my favorite, the answer would without a doubt be Rio de Janeiro. We arrived at Rio on the 30th of January, it was the 23rd day of the trip, I would have to say that I enjoyed Rio this much because I spent the time there with the people I’ve practically lived with the past 23 days, by then I’d already known the people and made good friends. Meaning it wouldn’t be the same if Rio was scheduled at the beginning of the trip. But anyway Rio is such a beautiful city, I would really want to stay there longer, I hope to revisit someday. Other than Rio, I would say that Salvador had also been an exciting experience, beside the fact that one of the most memorable things that happened there, was running to stop my friend that was running after the person who stole her phone (shout out to Fiona..). I mean for a crowded touristic city that parties every single day, safety isn’t really its included feature. But I would admit that it is a really fun and beautiful city. Anyways here are some of my favorite pictures and highlights of the trip:
I would like to thank Terra Brasil for making the trip happen, even though I didn’t get the chance to go on the Amazonia trip this May because of the Covid-19 situation. Regarding this current situation I did chose to go back to Indonesia earlier than expected, like many other exchange students around the world that chose/was forced to go back to their home countries earlier. And of course I would like to thank everyone that was on the northeast trip, I was really lucky to be able to have met you guys, thank you for all the memories, you played an important role in my life, even though it was just for a short period of time, I won’t forget it. I would definitely love to see you guys again someday, really looking forward to visiting your countries, hope all goes well and I wish you all good luck too, until we meet again.
When I got back to my city after the northeast trip, it was back to the usual exchange life. I started going back to school and there were some rotary events to attend such as rotary international’s birthday, a project with the rotaract club (that unfortunately got cancelled due to the situation), play with kids in a kindergarten and more. I do of course miss being in the trip, I miss the people, the cities, even the bus, though even when I had to go back to school and live the normal repetitive life like before the trip, I just felt grateful and happy that I went. It passed, I can’t live just thinking about things that had passed, so I pass every day doing what I can for each day and look forward for the next possible trips. Turns out that the next trip wasn’t a long wait at all, it’s a district trip to a city called Joaçaba for carnaval scheduled at 22nd until 25th of February 2020.
Carnaval was an interesting trip, our district chairman took us on the trip to a city outside the state of Parana to Santa Catarina to be joined by our neighbor district to watch the carnaval, and we also got the chance to dress up and participate in the carnaval, so that was funny. We had already known the neighbor district from the last trip to Foz do Iguacu last year, so it was quite nice to be able to see them again. It was my first time seeing the carnaval, I’d have to say that I’m amazed by how dedicated the people in Brazil are for the carnaval. The entertainment, vehicles, costumes, they’re all really well done, and you can see that the Brazilian people are truly passionate when it comes to samba and carnaval (sort of their cliché but it’s true).
After carnaval there were a few new things happening, like rotary suddenly made the exchange students go on a cultural dance class every Friday and Sunday, I started trying to cook Indonesian food for my friends and family, and there was a wedding, quite interesting.. and there was Expobel, it is a music festival in my city, Francisco Beltrao. This festival happens once every two years, so in a way I was lucky to have it, it shows various types of artists/musicians/bands every day and this festival lasts 10 days. I went to most of the days, I didn’t go to the first and fourth day, but besides those days I went with my friends and enjoyed the festival until the very end when the park closes. Expobel started on the 6th until 15th of March, actually the beginning of the pandemic, most of the world started to consider locking down cities and initiate quarantine, while I was busy enjoying a 10 day crowded music festival. But then on the next day after Expobel I went on a school trip to a museum in Santa Catarina. The situation seem all okay until I went home that day and when my host parents said that I can no longer exit the house. And then next week school stopped and the quarantine officially started in Brazil.
How was the quarantine for me? Well I think it’s mostly the same for all of us, what could I do at home alone while my parents were busy working? Sometimes their bakery was open and sometimes it was closed, the point is they were always busy with something, sometimes I help them cook dinner or lunch, sometimes Jorge needed help with cleaning the new house they’re making just next door. But mostly I just spend the days in my room watching Netflix or stream movies, read outside and get some sun, cook and eat, sleep, call with my friends, yeah that’s pretty much it.
With the situation turning unexpectedly, there were all kinds of news on my phone, you leave it for five minutes and there it was a new message from your friend saying goodbye and had to go home early, the amazon trip getting cancelled, bad news from Brazil, bad news from Indonesia, the point is I think there was too much going on, tough times. It is such a shame that my exchange year had to end like this, there weren’t really any proper goodbyes, everything went so fast and now I’m here in my room back in Indonesia, trying to recall. It is a shame, but again what can I do, it passed, I don’t want to live all caught up in a vision of how I wanted things to be, I’m just grateful that I made it home safely, I’m here with my family, thing could be better, but it could also be worse..
So I’d like to thank rotary of course for giving me the chance to become an exchange student, I’ll never forget it, it has been a year full of excitement. I’d love to thank my family and friends for being supportive and making my home, home. I am also grateful for everyone I met on my exchange, I met a lot of amazing people, things won’t be the same without you guys, hope we meet again.