The following is a post by Marshaé Compton, an OU student who spent the Fall 2016 semester with the OU in Rio program. She offers some observations of what a difference being in Brazil has made to her self-esteem and general outlook. Marshaé’s photo with Rafa riding the bus shows her joy.
Life in Rio de Janeiro is difficult to explain. I have now been here for a little over a month and I feel like I have been here my whole life. I have become completely accustomed to the way the citizens live here. I eat the same food the Brazilians do, now, because when I first arrived I tried to cook food that I was more comfortable with. I walk the beautiful streets filled with people, and I somehow find myself fitting in with the same attire and a nonchalant facial expression just like everyone else. After I arrived, I felt like I was a baby that needed aid wherever I went or wanted to go. Now, I have become more independent than ever! I buy my own groceries, I go to the beach alone, I shop alone, and I sometimes ride the bus alone. All of this has made me realize how fun it can be living in a new country and that it is not as scary as I imagined. Being given the opportunity to explore has opened my eyes to so many things.
Although I have been here for a short period of time, I find that I have grown so much. I feel as if I am more down to earth than ever before and I am much more appreciative of where I came from. Walking around with my friend here and riding the city bus has had a huge impact on me. Back home in Oklahoma City, I can recall my peers laughing at students who had no way of transportation, so they either had to walk or ride the city bus. The fact that walking and riding the bus is so normal here gives me a sense of excitement especially knowing that I will not be judged. In reality, it is incredibly fun.
Closing my eyes while breathing the fresh, crisp air daily is amazing. It gives me a sense of life. It makes me think of how blessed I am to be surrounded by such amazing people. It makes me think of how easy it is to forget about your worries. Being able to walk around with my best friend Rafaella, who is a native of Brazil, and being taught new things about the beautiful city makes me enjoy my time even more. Learning about the Black Power Movement from Rafa has been my favorite thing by far. The movement is about empowering the black community to not be ashamed of who they are, which includes their hair and skin tone. It inspires them to rise above the stereotypes and what is expected of them, such as being a criminal. The Black empowerment movement wants people of color to embrace their culture no matter how others may feel. Learning this from Rafa and seeing it for myself has allowed me to embrace who I am as a young black female. I loved myself before I arrived here, but I love myself even more having experiencing this wonderful movement. In Rio I have seen so many Afro-Brazilians embracing their natural features with their cultural attire and natural hair. In my country we have a similar movement but I do not see many people participating. When viewing hundreds and thousands of people getting involved here, it makes me more motivated to do the same.
I learn so much Portuguese and history when Rafa and I speak to one another. We explored a beautiful music and food fair. I did not eat anything but they had delicious looking cake, fried pies, ribs with a dark barbecue sauce dripping down the sides, beer, and so much more. There was an area in the corner that was filled with people dressed and draped in cloths that had different colors and patterns. They were all enjoying one another’s company and dancing to the fast paced samba music. Watching them made me realize how easy it was to enjoy life despite any circumstance. They each had a beautiful smile on their faces while engaged with one another, and it made me warm inside to see complete strangers enjoying life. Rio is a place of joy and I am overly joyful.