The Brazilian exchange students arrived last Thursday and it’s been fun having them. They are Ricardo, Diogo, Luis, and Fabio. Fabio and Diogo are half-Japanese (Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan–well over a million) but don’t speak a word of Japanese themselves. They’re all good kids and are very respectful, polite, and helpful, although they require some guidance. One issue is toilet paper, and if reading about pre-owned toilet paper (hey, if the car dealers call a used car “pre-owned” why can’t I use the same term for everything else where I would usually use the word “used”?) makes you queasy then you may want to skip a few paragraphs ahead.

You see, in Brazil they are unable to flush pre-owned toilet paper down the toilet so they throw it in the wastebasket. It’s not that they’re crazy or anything, their toilets just can’t handle toilet paper without plugging up and requiring extensive plumbing. Of course people here wouldn’t stand for such a thing (no pun intended), but down there that’s the way they were raised and they don’t know any different. So the toilet paper goes into a wastebasket next to the toilet, and gets thrown out on a regular basis (hopefully). As an American, this was exceedingly strange to me upon my arrival in Brazil, but I got used to it just like I got used to excessive littering (people just throw trash in the street), people answering the phone when it rang by gruffly saying “Who’s talking?!”, tall and skinny 2-liter soda bottles, weird-shaped bricks with holes in them, and women with hairy legs. When I got home after two years in Brazil, it took a lot of mental effort to not throw the toilet paper in the wastebasket, and I’m afraid there were a few times when I did, just out of habit.

With native Brazilians, the habit is even harder to break. Luckily we were forewarned by our friend Te Koi who got us into this that the best course of action is to simply remove the wastebasket from the bathroom because if you leave it in there they will find it. Upon arriving, I gave the Brazilians a thorough demonstration of the amazing toilets that can be produced in a free-market economy. “See? Even though I throw toilet paper in there it flushes just fine!” I emphasized that under no conditions whatsoever should they ever throw toilet paper anywhere but in the toilet. I felt this was very important since they’ll be using many other toilets other than those at our house, and those people may not be aware of the danger facing their bathroom wastebaskets. I also showed them how to use a plunger, should the need arise. Then I went through most of it again just to make sure they were getting it.

So far, everything seems to have gone well, although I haven’t actually seen their bathroom since they got here so who knows. But I’m assuming I would know if there were a problem. Maybe I should go check while they’re gone…

Upon picking them up on Thursday the first thing they asked about was Best Buy. They’re fascinated by consumer electronics and apparently everything is quite affordable here as opposed to Brazil, although it would appear that part of this is an illusion, since their currency (the Real) is valued at a ratio of roughly 2 to 1 against the dollar. They even have a rhyme that goes “Quem converte nao se diverte” which means “He who converts doesn’t have fun.” The apparent message is that if you do the conversion math for the real vs. the dollar, then you won’t think you’re saving quite as much as you thought and you won’t have as much fun spending your money.

We went to Best Buy that evening and one of the kids promptly bought a camera, without me knowing it. I guess he knew enough English to get through the checkout line. We then went to Wal-Mart where another tried to buy an iPod, but upon seeing the taxes got “buyer’s doubt” which is a Brazilian version of buyer’s remorse, except that it’s more practical in that it happens before a purchase rather than after. The same student has also had buyer’s doubt regarding cameras and other items and thus far hasn’t bought much of anything other than a $10 hat and a tube of glue to try and fix the sole of his shoe, which had fallen off.

Friday they went to their first day of school. This involved catching a bus from our neighborhood, taking it to Trax (light rail), changing lines downtown at the right stop, then catching the right train to get to their stop. I rode all the way with them just to make sure they got there ok. They did, but they were late on the way back and were too late to catch the only bus that comes through our neighborhood, so I got to pick them up from the Trax station. That evening they showed us photos of their families and we looked at where they live in Brazil on Google Maps.

Saturday we took them to the Momentum indoor climbing gym at REI in Sandy. Te Koi climbs there a lot, as well as another guy who was hosting exchange students, so altogether we had 11 Brazilian students there, and they loved it.

We weren’t sure exactly how to handle church while they’re here, but when we asked them if they’d like to attend they were interested. We told them there were some cute girls at church, which I think helped. We borrowed some white shirts, ties, and dress pants from boys in our ward and they came with us and seemed to enjoy it, although they admitted that three hours is a bit long. Especially after they didn’t wake up on time to have a real breakfast.

After church we played mancala and quadruple solitaire with them, both games which they enjoy quite a bit. They like mancala so much we’ll probably buy each of them a set as a gift to take home. I then took them up to Suncrest to take some photos with the mountains, snow, and sunset, and then on the way back we got some photos outside the Draper Temple which will be dedicated soon.

Then this morning they all slept in and missed their bus, so I got to drive them to Trax again. They said it won’t happen again, which I would think it wouldn’t, seeing as how their home time is five hours ahead of Utah time, but apparently teenagers don’t have a problem sleeping in, no matter what their home time is. When I opened the door this morning and turned on the light, one of them yelled out “Apague a luz!” which means “Turn out the light!” Then he realized I was the one who had turned it on and that he was an hour and a half late in waking up and got a bit sheepish. I told them next time I might not be available to drive them and they might have to call a taxi, which could be expensive.

Magdalena has adjusted well to all of them and enjoys it when they’re around. They all like making faces and noises to her and she turns everything they do into a game.

Today they’re going to the Jazz game and will be home later than usual. Will they sleep in tomorrow or will they successfully set the alarm clock? Who can say. But all in all it’s turning out to be pretty fun.