Exchange student Julia Garcia got a traditional El Dorado Hills welcome at The Rock when she arrived last summer. Photo by Laurie Edwards

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Julia Garcia embraces American culture

By From page A1 | January 15, 2014

Pumpkin pie?

Rotary Youth Exchange student Julia Garcia said she couldn’t understand why anyone would make pumpkin pie. In her hometown of Brasilia everyone eats a salty pumpkin dish, not a sweet pie. But during her first-ever Thanksgiving, there amongst all the delicious food and some 147 guests, sat the pie. Everyone encouraged her to take a slice.

“Pumpkin pie is the best,” Julia, 16, told the Rotary Club of El Dorado Hills during a recent presentation. Of course, she added, you have to eat it right: “whipped cream with a little pumpkin pie.”

Julia’s Thanksgiving also included some not-so-traditional fun — a push-up contest, bounce houses and a rousing game of “slaughter ball.” Julia described the game as “dodge ball ‘Hunger Games’ style.” She confessed her strategy involved using human shields — a successful approach until she “caught the ball right in the face.”

Dodging balls and tasting great American holiday food are a small part of Julia’s all-American adventures (and many “firsts”) since she arrived in El Dorado Hills from Brazil in late July 2013.

She’s sponsored by the Rotary Club of El Dorado Hills and staying with outbound student Brock Bastian’s family while Brock’s in Bolivia having his own adventures. She thanked club members for giving her the opportunity and has embraced American traditions like playing in the rain, putting marshmallows in her hot chocolate, heading to the lake with her host “brothers” and eating pizza in the dark.

She marveled at cheerleaders at Oak Ridge, where she watched her first football game. They don’t have cheerleaders in Brazil.

“Baseball was the next stop,” she said. The Bastians complied with a trip to the Oakland Coliseum to watch the A’s and eat an American hot dog. Julia complimented the hot dog but said the game was “a little long.”

Julia also recently endured her first round of finals at Oak Ridge; her physics and calculus classes had her studying late. She said she’s grateful for all the help her teachers have given her. When she’s not hitting the books she embarks on road trips — San Francisco with other exchange students, Southern California and Utah, where, she said, “It was the first time I saw snow.”

Though sweet and open with her host Rotary Club, Julia does have a dark side (at least on stage). To compliment her American experience, she’s joined the Oak Ridge’s Children’s Theatre production of “The King’s New Threads,” opening Jan. 17. She said she loves playing the villain  “with an accent.”

When asked to close her presentation with some words in her native Portuguese, Julia had to stop and think. Laughing, she confessed, “I almost forgot how to speak Portuguese.”

Noel Stack


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