Alice in Wonderland

FullSizeRender Written by Kiersten Houseman. Read her other posts at!
 Kiersten is a senior at the University of Georgia studying International Affairs and  Communications. She can frequently be found doing handstands, talking about Harry  Potter, and/or dancing.


On my first day of pre-school, my mom drove me to school and told me that she would walk me into my classroom. Being the incredibly independent child that I was and always wanting to do whatever Colton did, I looked at my mom and said, “No, that’s okay. You can just drop me off.” My mom said that response was pretty hard to hear from your 4-year-old.

I assure you that this was not the case of me leaving for Brazil. I think I waved goodbye to my parents about 50 times as I made my way through airport security in Atlanta. I had to concentrate on my breathing to avoid awkwardly crying in public. It really wasn’t until I was sitting on the tarmac waiting for my delayed flight to take off that I thought to myself, “Whose idea was this? Why did I want to live in another country for five months? On a scale of 1 to 10, how mad will my parents be if I try to get off the airplane?” For the first time, I thought about all I was leaving behind and realized I didn’t want to leave it behind at all. Alas, here I am! (Disclaimer: I’m doing pretty well!)

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To put it simply, the last week has consisted of the most change I have ever experienced in my life. I am on a different continent, with a new family, new friends, new classes, and OH, I also don’t know where anything is or how to speak the language. It’s hard being an extrovert when no one around you can understand what you’re saying. AND I only have internet for a small portion of the day (millennials everywhere gasp). Most of the time, I feel lost. In fact, I truly feel a lot like Alice when she fell into Wonderland. I really have no idea where anything is, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here, and when people talk to me it hardly makes any sense at all. However, when I look back at the last year of my life, and all the unexpected doors that were opened and closed, it only seems fitting that I am here. God has shown me that being a little lost is the best way to live because that means I have no choice but trust Him with a child-like faith and live in a state of utter dependence.

I am not experiencing too much homesickness yet, but my heart aches being away from FCA and coaching the middle school cheer team. It is a difficult balance to find, but I am thankful for this season of learning how to pray for something that is so far away. It surely helps that my homestay family is fantastic. I have been temporarily adopted by Suzana and Clarice, who are sisters. Suzana and her daughter Juliana live in one house, Clarice and her son Noberto live in another, and I have my own little apartment. The three homes are connected by a garden area and are enclosed by a fence. The house is beautifully positioned at the top of a hill in Morro da Cruz, and looks out over the central part of Florianopolis. The house is built around a tree, and they also have a pool. So I’m spoiled ;). I eat breakfast with Noberto and Clarice, and dinner with Juliana and Suzana. Tonight, Suzana told me that I have to gain weight while I’m here so that my parents will know that I was well fed (haha)! Following her comment, I have decided to take my running schedule a little more seriously 🙂 I love the food in Brazil! Everything is fresh, and we eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and meat. There’s  a 4th meal here that happens between lunch and dinner called “Café.” Café consists of coffee/hot chocolate, cake, and bread. I love it a little too much (Make that two runs a day)!

group photo

On Sunday I began my “mission work”. I met my mission mentors Wendy and Stan on Sunday, and attended a bible study with them. Although I had very little idea what was being preached, I felt at home and met some girls my age as well (I asked if they would be my friends, and they said yes).I have no idea what my time with the church here will entail, but I’m expectant and excited!

Overall, I am adjusting pretty well. I have become good friends with the other ISA and international students, am comfortable in my home, and can take the bus to and from school. I have also started reading Harry Potter e Pedra Filosfal (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone–for those of you who don’t speak Portuguese) and have a sweet Nokia phone for domestic calls (#tbt to 2006… AM I RIGHT?!). I have already taken a surf lesson, and went Salsa dancing, so week one was a success in my books.


The only thing that I am truly not handling well is the bugs. Some nights… jk, EVERY NIGHT turns into what I like to call “Kiersten vs. Creatures” where I go around squishing all the creatures that dare coexist in my room.  The standout creatures have been a lizard, a huge centipede, and a black and red furry caterpillar. I am praying that I will not encounter any of the huge spiders that jump!!

Other random things you may or may not want to know:

  • Stray dogs are very common in Brazil, and a pack of wild dogs run my street. They don’t move for cars, and they look at me like the outsider I am when I have to walk past them to get to my bus. I want to befriend them, but for now, I just have to show respect.
  • I love the way Brazilians greet each other. In Floripa, you give one kiss on the right cheek when you greet someone or say bye. I LOVE IT! They are so welcoming and warm when they meet others. .
  • PDA is intense in Brazil. Couples are pretty much always openly affectionate, and it is quite common to see people making out.
  • It’s currently winter in Floripa which means it’s about 65-75 degrees. It’s pretty rough living on an island 🙂
  • The way people drive in Brazil is terrifying. Stop signs are completely optional.
  • I received chocolate cake with sprinkles for breakfast three mornings in a row. It was a dream come true.

Boa Noite meus amigos!


Want to have your own exciting week in Brazil and meet locals and have missionaries mentoring you along the way? Check out our programs and hear more testimonies!


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