Third time is a charm. (San Francisco, Art School, Fog)

Hello!

It’s been a while–I KNOW. And I truly sorry, but this year has been a little bit crazy for me. I am not trying to just give you guys excuses, so I’ll just write about all that has happened in the past months.

Last time I posted (before the Jeff Goins post) was about Greece. I do intent to finish that post but I feel like this is more urgent.

Around July last year, I moved from my city in Brazil (Curitiba-PR) to come study Advertising at a school called Academy of Art University, in the city of San Francisco, in California. I live in a small town about 15-20 min from SF, in Pacifica.
I have previously written about how I was an exchange student here and all. I love California. I love this place, everything about it.
San Francisco is such an amazing city, it never ceases to amaze me. Every time I am there (which is every day, haha) I feel so lucky, so ”blessed.” And Pacifica is great, as well. Absolutely different, but it has its advantages. While San Francisco is upbeat, full of colors and craziness (if you’ve been there, you know what I am talking about) and there’s always something going on. And it’s awesome. But it is always great to come home in the end of the day, to a peaceful town like Pacifica (which, for the non-latin languages speakers, means ”Peaceful” anyways!).

I do, though, want to eventually move to the city to be closer to school and all, but for now, what I’ve got going on, is absolutely what I need.
Since I’ve moved here, so much has happened.

I had a slightly easier time with the change because since I had already lived here before, I knew a lot of people. The funny thing is, I ended up becoming good friends with people I just knew because of an ex boyfriend. These people turned out to be the greatest things that have happened to me since I got here.
Traveling is fun and all, but it is also hard. Being away from HOME, from family, friends…from your comfort zone….it’s rough. Having people to keep you busy is really good. I felt less homesick on the first months here, than I thought I would have.

Ok, I’ll go by parts.

I got here on July 28th. It was cold, even though it was technically summer. That’s the thing about Pacifica: it’s foggy and it’s crazy and it’s cold and it’s windy. And believe me, I haven’t gotten used to it yet. I am always the girl wearing pantyhose under my pants and wearing hella layers. I am always cold. I am quite aware that people sometimes might think that I am over reacting or being dramatic. But then they touch my hand and see me shaking and go ”damn, you really ARE that cold”. YEAH. I am not lying. Me and cold, we don’t get along. Zero tolerance.
And then of course, I get that comment ” Well, it’s understandable, you’re from Brazil.” Nu-uh. I am from the south of Brazil. From a city known for its ridiculous cold weather. But somehow this still feels colder.

ANYWAYS.

I got here, went straight to Sprint to buy a new iPhone, since my had been stolen a week before in this house party back home. Then I got some In-n-Out burgers with my ”host dad” Jack. In-n-out are the best thing since Betty White. No joke. I came home, looked around and got that really strange feeling ”This is home, for now on” and just sort of stood there. Staring at my suitcases… Then I went over to my friend Natalie’s house. She gave me a bag of mini reeses cups and it was all good.

The strangest part though, was that I felt like I had never left in first place. The situation was completely different, I was here on 100% different terms, was about to have a totally different life, but it felt…it felt right.

My classes would only start in September, so I had plenty of time to enjoy my break. Later that same day, I ended up going to my friend’s house for a little house party. It was nice to see everyone and it was good because I didn’t have time to feel homesick.

all one needs anyways.

all one needs anyways.

A few days later, I went down the coast of California with my host parents. OK, I feel like I need to explain the whole host parent deal. I am living at the same house where I lived at when I was an exchange student. They were my host family and I still call them that. For now on, to make things easier to understand, I’ll call them Jack and Elena. Those are their names, after all.

Anyways. Me and Elena drove down to Yosemite National Park and Jack flew to Pasadena, where he had this Mars Society Convention and we would meet up with him 4 days later. The drive from San Francisco to Yosemite is about 3 hours. We took our time, stopped in a couple places to eat etc. It’s a beautiful drive.

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 11.43.39 PMWe stayed at a camp ground but we didn’t camp, with like, tents etc. We were in these little house thingys (YES, please, Luah, be more vague.)

Here’s a photo because I suck at describing it.

this!

this!

We were there because Elena (who is 53!) went hiking, she climbed Half Dome. It’s pretty awesome, if you ask me. I just walked around the camp ground, went to a little beach area, tanned, explored, read. It was really warm, exactly how I LOVE it. And it was very pleasant, calm, relaxing.

After 3-4 days, we drove down to the LA area, to Pasadena, to meet up with Jack. He is a big Mars lover and the Curiosity rover  was about to land in Mars and there was a big convention going on. I ended up being very interested about it, it was a big thing! And it was freaking summer, and WARM. Did I mention I LOVE warm weather?!?! Well. I do.

I also went to Los Angeles with a friend and walked around, got to go to the US Open of Surfing and even got an autograph from Kelly Slater. Yes, the 11 time world champion surfer, that guy.

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We had some good days in South California.

I actually had a little thing to solve down there. You see, I came to the US 40 days before my school started. I could only get in the US with my STUDENT visa within 30 days before school. So I got in with my tourist visa and thought I’d be alright until this guy at the airport pointed out I’d have to get OUT of the US to come BACK IN! CRAZY!!!!

SO I DID. I was in LA, we were going to Catalina Island anyways, so Jack said it would work out perfectly. We drove down to San Diego and crossed the border. Yup, I went to Tijuana and walked around, to come back in.
Reasonable huh. ¬¬

It wasn’t bad. I got to meet a new place, get some dulce de leche lollipops, and some other cool random things. Then we walked back in, waited in a huge line, felt like an illegal immigrant but it all worked out. That border is insane, many people with families and lots of bags trying to go to the US. Many of them got rejected at the immigration part and went back crying. It was heartbreaking. Quite the reality check.

The next day, we went to Catalina Island, a beautiful island off the coast of San Diego. Also known as ”fucking Catalina wine mixer” place. (oh please please tell me one of you got the reference!)

We took this cruise ship kind of thing to get there and it was amazing. I was mesmerized by everything. Getting there was the breath taking part. It sort of looks like a greek island but still very California.

We took a gold cart around the island, got to pet some deers (which I would have never done a couple years ago because I was terrified of those things!), ate great food, enjoyed the awesome weather, and took photos of gorgeous sceneries. It was such a great day and I am so grateful to Jack and Elena for the opportunity.

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Then we spent one more day in Pasadena and came back home. The drive back was also great, the coast of California is espectacular.

Ok, I PROMISE you guys I will finish this post soon. School is over, it’s not like I’m all busy and whatnot ;)

This was just the first week, you see. But I had to update it here. I do like this blog.

I hope you all do, too!

Camping in Cali

In 2010 me and my ex went camping at Big Sur. I don’t usually camp here in Brazil although I enjoy camping very much. We had a week off and decided to go do something different. Well, different for me, anyways. Big Sur is a region on the California’s central coast and much like the rest of the state, it is a beautiful place to visit. There are a lot of campsites, beaches, lodges, restaurants, scenic views, hiking trails…

Camping was a lot of fun, especially because it was new to me… I had fun asking my ex for help to wash my hair while was lied down on a picnic table; a raccoon went through part of our food while we were sleeping; there was this beach with a bunch of rocks instead of sand, and that was weird–in Brazil we have nice white, fluffy sand…but that was one of my favorite beaches, not sure why.

There are a lot of places to camp there, so here is a couple good websites  I found, with info about all the campgrounds etc. CAMPGROUND & INFO 1
CAMPGROUND & INFO  2

 

 

Later I will post about our other camping trip, as for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures and a video I think it’s pretty good to show how amazing Big Sur really is.

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Big Sur

 

Our campsite

 

rocks!!!!

 

Family number 2.

In my last post I talked about how I found a place to stay, with my art teacher, Esther.
After talking to Orton and the coordinators from the program, I decided to move to my new home.
Living at Esther’s house  was such a different environment for me. I am an only child. Besides living with Merve and Martina for those 2 months, my house was just me, my mom and my dog. My parents got divorced when I was 2 years old and although I see my dad all the time, I was used to just having my mom at my house to talk to.

Esther and her husband, David, had 4 kids: Chris, Becca, Kerrie and Rachael. When I moved there only 3 of them were living at the house, but it was still a big family! I loved it. I’d stay up playing games and talking to Chris; Kerrie likes painting and sometimes she’d ask me to pose for her paintings or pictures; I talked to Esther a lot, about everything. She is a very fun person. We used to laugh a lot, do fun things, listen to loud music. She was really becoming a ”mom” to me. And Rachael, the oldest daughter, she is just the best. We’d watch movies together, make food, gossip. When I needed, she was always there to give me advices. Dave, the dad, was the funniest person, he loved chilli and he was always making jokes. It didn’t take long till I felt like I was a part of the family. Then Becca moved back to the house and it was even more crowded and I had one more sister to talk to and ask makeup and clothes and advices from. I loved it.

Around the time I moved, I also started hanging out with a boy named Dylan, who was introduced to me by my area coordinator, Isabel. Her son and Dylan had been best friends since they were little. So Isabel took me to some soccer games (because I’m Brazilian I think hahaha) and I met him. I think we got along mostly because he has this latin blood that it’s hard not to notice once you talk to him (if you’re latin, I mean.) But just by looking at him you wouldn’t be able to tell, since he has blue eyes and long blond hair. I do too, and I’m soooo very latin.
Esther’s house, or, my new home, was a few blocks from Dylan’s house, so we ended up hanging out almost everyday.
We liked each other but when people called us boyfriend and girlfriend, we would just deny and say we were just ”talking”. It was a good plan, we thought we were being smart, at least at first, since I was leaving and getting involved would just complicate things.
Silly us.

We ended up going out for over a year and a half. He was my first boyfriend. Who would’ve thought I would find a bf all the way in California?
But it was great while it lasted, we had some amazing and fun times. Till I came back home….but c’est la vie!

By October , I was more out of the house than in and Esther and I talked and decided it was better if I moved out.
I spent a few months at Isabel’s house. And believe it or not, she has even more kids than Esther, so by then I can say I had 11 siblings. Four from Esther’s house, then Isabel’s 6 children plus her exchange student from Germany.
I slept at Natalie’s room (the exchange student), on an inflatable bed. I was friends with Natalie already, and with all of the other ”siblings” so living there was not hard at all. Not all of them were living there when I did, only Trevor, Gabe, Kyle, Claire and Natalie. I still consider them to be my family.
It was nice to stay at Natalie’s room because as an exchange student, she understood how I felt, she also felt homesick sometimes, she got frustrated with host family related issues, etc. It was, and it still is, good to talk to her because we went through the same things. She even dated an American guy, too. So we still talk about how hard it is to be back home etc.

In December I came back to Brazil for 14 days, to spend Christmas with my family. My grandma was very sick and I didn’t want to be far from her around Christmas time.
I was still dating Dylan, so when I was here, I called him on Skype a lot. Skype was one of the most important parts of my years abroad. It makes being far, a little easier.
I went back to Cali to spend New Year’s Eve with my friends there, and it was really fun. After that, I went to a new family (which was actually the one that was supposed to be my family when I FIRST got in California…).

The family was a couple: Jack and Elena. No kids. Two dogs. They took me in, made me feel at home right away. Elena is from Argentina, so we already had the South American thing in common. Jack is a smart guy with a lot of stories to tell. He, unlike the rest of the families I lived with, gave me a lot of freedom and not a lot of rules (except for calling him to let him know I was alright, sometimes :). Once I was at Dylan’s (which was literally one block away) and it started raining. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was 5 am. I was so desperate, I ran back home thinking Jack would be furious.
When I opened the door, Jack was already awake, on the computer, and he turned to me and said ”Good morning dear!”
He wasn’t mad, in fact, he told me ”You’re not a kid anymore. You’re 18. If an 18 year-old can go to war and shoot guns, you’re free to do what you want.” That was the end of it.
I think Jack was like that, and understood me the most because he had lived in Brazil for years, earlier in his life, and he loved the country. He loves it, actually. So he understands how Brazilians are. And it was very good to live there. I loved listening to all his stories, talking to Elena, I even loved the dogs: Copernicus and Eloisa (who died last year :( ) .

The year I lived at Jack and Elena’s house was very different from my past year in Pacifica. I was more independent and treated like I was an adult not just an exchange student.

Jack was always extremely dedicated to my likes. He knew that I liked movies and old movies, mostly, and he was always talking to me about those things.
Who knows me, knows I have this big addiction in…Frank Sinatra.
So Jack took me to CalNeva, a casino that Frank used to own. One of the best days of my life.

 

 

Being an exchange student is NOT easy. But it is, without a doubt, the best time of your life.

 

My German sister, Natalie and my American sister, Claire.

 

 

Bla bla bla…why?

No matter where I am, Brazil is and will always be HOME.

I just wanted to explain why I am posting about my life in California. I think it’s extremely important that I do that because I changed after I lived there. I became someone completely different, in a good way. So telling everyone what the process was, how I handled homesickness, heartbreak, death, a bunch of families….that’s essential in order to understand why and how I changed. That’s where all the traveling began. Hosting people who are traveling. My need to WANDER.
So, be patient, the cool posts about awesome countries and people will come…but let’s look at this first posts as a baby starting to crawl. :)

And, about this wanderlust…I’ll post my favorite ”message” about traveling. The writer is called Amyr Klink, and he is a Brazilian sailor (and writer, duuh!).

A man needs to travel. By his means, not by stories, images, books or TV. By his own, with his eyes and feet, to understand what is his. For some day planting his own trees and giving them some value. To know the cold for enjoying the heat. To feel the distance and lack of shelter for being well under his own roof. A man needs to travel to places he doesn’t know for breaking this arrogance that causes us to see the world as we imagine it, and not simply as it is or may be. That makes us teachers and doctors of what we have never seen, when we should just be learners, and simply go see it.”
—- Amyr Klink 

So all I have to say is: reading travel blogs and hearing other people’s stories about their travels is great. But save some money and go SEE it, go meet the World. It’s great out there! :)

 

About Amyr Klink : http://www.amyrklink.com.br/ 

 

Love at first sight (or almost) (PART II)

”Those girls, later, became sisters to me. We didn’t go to the same school since I had a different visa than they did. They went to the ”cool” public school while I went to the boring Christian one (which wasn’t that boring. At least not all the time).
But we still talked a lot, laughed a lot, went places together, hung out with the other exchange students etc. It made my first months in a new country a lot easier and I am very grateful for them.”

I lived at Orton’s house for about two months. Again, I was not supposed to stay there, so meanwhile, I was looking for a new family to host me. I did enjoy living there even though I did have a few problems with Orton and his wife. A few big ones, too. But I will always appreciate everything they did for me. Orton was the one who told me I should apply for college there, helped through most of the process etc.

In February, was Alma Heights’ winter retreat, to Dodge Ridge. It was the fist time I saw snow in my life–where I live in Brazil, is pretty cold, but the last time it snowed I wasn’t even born yet. So when we were all in the bus and I saw the first snow flake fall, I had to try really hard not to act all stupid and overexcited, especially since everyone there had seen snow,  they had snowboarded, had snow fights etc.
I was excited, though. I thought it was simply beautiful. Everything was white, shiny… It sounds silly but it made me really happy.
Well, I obviously did not have a lot of snow gear, really warm clothes, snow boots…I was absolutely unprepared for that trip. My friend Lucy was the one who acted all mom-like and gave a beanie, let me use her boots, a jacket, layers…everything I needed. That was my favorite thing about the people from Alma: they did not know how to be anything but nice. And believe me, when you are all by yourself, sometimes all you need is someone to make you feel safe, comfortable…like you’ve been friends forever. Lucy, Tati, Claire, Sara, Joy, Pei, Esther…they were those kind of people, they treated me like I was their best friend, not as if I was just some exchange student. I still talk to them, and miss them a lot.
At this retreat, we had some activities (religious activities) like reading the bible, singing songs about Jesus and God and sharing how they have made a difference in our lives. The thing is… I am not religious. My entire family is Catholic, like most of Brazil, but I just don’t believe in anything. I do respect  who does, though, I really do. I did all the activities, shared experiences, talked, asked questions about the things I didn’t understand and it ended up being an amazing experience. I heard people’s stories, their reasons to believe in God and it was very emotional for everyone. They shared things that hurt them in the past, they were trusting everyone there, and that touched me, too. The girls, my friends, they told me stories about their lives and all I could think of was ”How are they always smiling? This girls are amazing!”.

After this specific activity where everyone cried and hugged, I got a little more emotional than I usually get, when I watched everyone call their parents to say hi, tell them how the retreat was… I had no one to call. Orton, his wife and Marilyn were in Hawaii, Martina was at a friend’s house… and my family was all the way in Brazil. That’s more than 6 thousand miles from Dodge Ridge. I felt so lost, so lonely….Everyone was super nice, hugged me, asked if I needed anything, but I just didn’t know how to explain what it was that I was feeling. That’s when the art teacher, Esther, came to talk to me. It was all so quick, we talked for two minutes and she told me she had already spoken to her husband and at that exact moment, he was cleaning the guest room at their house, for me to live there!!! I was shocked, it was a big mix of emotions. I was extremely happy, of course, but then I remembered I had to talk to Orton when I got back to Pacifica, and I wasn’t sure I knew what to say. But I decided that I was not going to think about that, at least not till the retreat was over. So I enjoyed every second, made amazing friends, had the best time….I had finally found a host family!

 

Eva (exchange student from Albania) and Esther (my host mom) and the blonde...me!

 

Tati, me, Lucy! Most amazing girls ever!

Me and Sara and the beautiful SNOW!!!!

 

More about Cali in the next posts :)

Love at first sight (or almost) (PART I)

In 2009 I moved to a city called Pacifica in California. It is 20 minutes away from San Francisco.
I first went as an exchange student, to study at a Christian high school (which made no sense since I had graduated HS already here in Brazil).
I was supposed to be there for 6-8 months and ended up staying a little longer (almost 2 years).

Going to California was a big deal for me because of a series of reasons.

First and most important of them was that when I was 15, I went to my first exchange program. It was the biggest dream of my life, living in the USA, doing American things, going to an American high school… I started learning English when I was only 7-8 years old and going to class was my favorite activity. I am dead serious.

So when the opportunity came up for me to go live one year abroad, I took it. I was young and silly, and even though I am only 20 now, it feels like I’ve grown so much…learned so much…

I was way too excited about this travel and I wasn’t prepared for it, even though i thought I was, at the time.

All my friends went to the airport to say goodbye, they brought letters, signs, we all cried…
And instead of staying in Grand Junction (Colorado) for the 10 months I meant to, I ended up staying only 2 months and a half.
What happened? Well, that’s a whole new story and it needs its own post, so let’s just leave it for another day.

Grand Junction - Colorado.

Anyways, back to California.

One year after the whole Colorado let down, I decided to try again, to go back to the US.
This time, a lot more prepared, more mature, with a lot less expectations. A bit more cynical.

So it was January 2009, and no one went to the airport this time (besides my beautiful family, of course)  and I was 100% okay with that. I didn’t cry. I was calm. Happy.

And there I went,  took my boarding pass, my carry-on, my Mickey shaped pillow, hugged my parents and family, took a deep breath (after my mom reminded me to ”keep breathing” because, believe it or not, I do forget to sometimes…)  and said to myself before going through the airport security: ” Don’t look back”.

And I didn’t.

When I first got to the San Francisco International Airport, at 1:30AM, I saw a sign that said, in Portuguese, ‘welcome Luah!’ (Bem-vinda, Luah!). Who was holding it was an extremely tall girl called Martina. She was an exchange student from Italy.

She explained to me that the family who was supposed to pick me up so I could stay at their house, wouldn’t be able to do so–neither picking me up nor hosting me.
It surprised me, of course. So I stayed at the house Martina was staying at. It was the coordinator’s house (from the exchange program agency). His name was Orton and his wife’s, Marylin.

I went to my new room, after chatting a little with Orton and Martina, and went to sleep. Jet-lagged, homesick, scared.

On the next day, I met Orton’s wife and the other exchange student, Merve, from Turkey.

Those girls, later, became sisters to me. We didn’t go to the same school since I had a different visa than they did. They went to the ”cool” public school while I went to the boring Christian one (which wasn’t that boring. At least not all the time).
But we still talked a lot, laughed a lot, went places together, hung out with the other exchange students etc. It made my first months in a new country a lot easier and I am very grateful for them.

THIS IS TOO LONG ALREADY, so I’ll post photos and finish the story later tonight or tomorrow :)

View from my first home in Pacifica

Spirit week - Alma Heights Christian Academy

BBQ at the beach

First snow of my life :)