Eu não quero ficar aqui, Eu quero voltar pra Bahia!

San Francisco Travel Blog

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One of the first questions people ask about my volunteer experience is, "Was it scary?" My first instinct is to say no. Once I was in Salvador, I was immediately comfortable. And then I remember how I felt in the weeks leading up and on the way to Brazil. I was very apprehensive about what was ahead of me. But like any other worthwhile experience, you have to take the plunge regardless of your nerves. I'm happy I did.

Another thing people ask about is the language barrier. They want to know how you can work with kids without knowing much of the language. You learn as you go along and you quickly learn a few necessary words and phrases. I brought my phrasebook with me to school everyday and referred to it often. In my case, after a week or two, I could figure out what activities would be beneficial and could be explained visually. We would all exchange ideas and projects and discuss what worked and what didn't work. CCS had bi-weekly Portuguese lessons. I attended the class sometimes but didn't find it very useful, except for attempting to learn how to conjugate verbs. Many others felt the same way. Maybe we were all just the hands-on types. I thought it was hard to sit in a room when we could be out exploring and interacting.

Obviously I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world, so I have no reservations about giving my time to a country other than the one I live in or the one I came from. I think it's good to be proud of where you're from, and boundaries have created the interesting cultural differences we seek to discover by traveling. But beyond that, we're all just humans in an increasingly interconnected world. Volunteering abroad is such a great form of cultural exchange, I wish everyone could experience it.

If you've ever thought about volunteering or working abroad, I highly recommend it. There are so many options and so many different organizations. Check out these websites for links to a ton of different organizations: and You can teach, help build houses, dig a well, work in a hospital, etc. It's not always easy, depending on what you choose to do. Certain days were frustrating, but you accept the reality of the situation and do what you can. There is so much to be learned and gained by challenging yourself and you will find beauty in the most unlikely places.

I've read travel articles about third world countries where people didn't like a certain place because of shantytowns and poverty. But that's the reality for some people, and it will be there when you drive past it on the way to your hotel. It will still be there when you're tucked comfortably away in your first world home. Poverty doesn't disappear when you don't see it firsthand. Also, people tend to look down at poor countries with pity and sing ridiculous songs about how there won't be snow in Africa at Christmas. The most fun holiday season I've ever had was in Ghana. My point is, instead of just giving money away or avoiding and ignoring the slums, why not try to really understand the situation and put in some time?

It took me awhile to settle into life at home, and you can probably guess that I'm still not fully adjusted. I always try to have Bahian experiences at home. A little ethnic food store where we buy Ghanaian food also sells some Brazilian things like Guarana Antartica. And I drag my friends to all of the Brazilian events in the Bay Area and make them listen to my Swing do Pelo CD when they ride in my car.

I'm not sure if Bahia is for everyone, but if you like it, you really like it. You don't need a lot to be happy in Bahia- just a beach, some good music and some fun people. In Salvador, we met a past CCS volunteer from years ago. He wanted to move there after volunteering, but hasn't been able to get a visa other than the normal one that allows you to stay for three months. So he lives there and goes home every three months. Many volunteers extended their time if they could. One signed up for 12 weeks and ended up adding another 4 weeks. And then she stayed longer and had her family come so they could go to Morro de Sao Paulo for the holidays.

I think in the near future, I'd love to go back to Bahia for a month or three. In the far future, I could definitely see myself moving there indefinitely. But for now, I want to keep exploring because my inner vagabond is telling me there's too much more of the world to discover before I settle down!
bschooled says:
I love this blog, it is so inspiring!
Posted on: Aug 31, 2008
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