People often ask me what has changed since I’ve moved to Brazil. There are things that I notice, things maybe others notice more than me. I’m not sure. But here are some basics:
My most intense conversations are with bugs. For example:
Me: “You @#$#^. You absolute butthead. I just put on bug spray. Does this mean nothing to you.”
(two minutes go by)
Me: “SERIOUSLY. SERIOUSLY. I JUST KILLED YOUR KIN THAT WAS A WARNING GO AWAY.”
(the next morning)
Me: “Why. Why all the bites and the biting. Why.”
There is a huge element of nature in all of my life, actually. I see monkeys at my school and try to get close to take a picture and they squabble at me. I see capybaras and blue crabs on my nightly walk, and flying fish on the lagoa when we boat over to the shore.
Ants crawl into my food and coffee and I eat and drink anyway. I see spiders and get excited because I know God designed them to eat bugs. ‘Hey, hey little buddy! OKay, you can live here on my faucet/next to my bed/in my shoes, but I really need you to do your part and eat like all the THERE ARE ANTS RIGHT THERE UGH GO GET THEM.’
I have the most profound respect for anyone who leaves their home country to go live somewhere else. I know (at the moment, at least) that my move here to Brazil is temporary in the range of a few years, and that if I had a mental/emotional breakdown, I could probably talk someone into buying me a ticket out of here. I’m trying to learn as much of the language and culture as I can, as long as it’s convenient for me. But I sound like a moron 100% of the time when I speak Portuguese. For example, this was my conversation at the grocery store the other day. The checkers just roll their eyes at me and check their phones for text messages, so their non-responses are not included until the end:
Me: Many peoples.
Me: I like the milk.
Me: You guys have wine in a box now!
Me: I have food card.
Me: Thanks! Good night! God bless you! (I say this last part in Spanish in a brain fart).
Whenever I am in the public, I mostly just try to look helpless and be charming and hope someone takes pity on me. No one, at any time, has made fun of me for not knowing Portuguese. No one has asked why I came here to take a job away from a Brazilian. No one has treated me with anything but grace and interest in my story and absolute friendliness. Absolutely everyone has been helpful, offering suggestions, giving me discounts on taxi fare when my butchered language leads us to a completely different destination far from where I intended to go.
Without trying, I’ve lost 15 pounds since moving here. I don’t have a car, I’m happy and living with a purpose for the first time in a long time, and I sweat buckets every day. I’m eating and drinking more than I was before, just yolo-ing the heck out of life, but I guess it all balances itself out. We don’t eat a ton of processed food (unless we’re preparing for a cyclone/end times), we get freshly prepared meals for lunch every day at school, a simple snack in the morning and afternoon, and I sometimes eat the bread and butter for breakfast. There isn’t a lot of “junk” to buy here – there may be 50 kinds of chips, but a limited selection of cookies, crackers, candies, etc. Also, I’m on the smallest budget ever, so I allocate all extra funds to beach beers, as you do.
I’ve remembered how happy I am when I am busy. My school day is much longer and more challenging here. I am at work from 7:30am to 4:30pm. That’s an extra hour on each end than what I was doing at home. And I have Portuguese lessons twice a week. And I try to blog and travel and need at least 20 hours a week at the beach and am working on reading more and I bought a cheap guitar.
I have to walk 30 minutes round trip to get food of any kind. I’m busy and it’s lovely. Idle hands are the devil’s something I can’t remember. But he seems farther away when I’m with people and with a purpose.
I nap. So much. It’s so dang hot. It’s been up to 45+C (which is Fahrenheit for a thousand) and I fall asleep without meaning to because there is no other way to survive. I don’t have AC, I’ve been too cheap to buy another fan, and just martyr myself into living with the somewhat helpful spinning thing in my room, that mostly blows my hair all around my face, which makes me think bugs are landing on me, and so I can’t sleep unless exhausted or drugged. But I get home from work or the beach or anything, and lay down for juuuuuust a second, and then wake up 40 minutes later. I’ve kind of perfected the cat nap. I take about five a day. I’m actually sleeping right now.
I’ve slowed down. Maybe it’s just too hot to be impatient, or to expect too much, or to be bitchy. Maybe I was just born to be this mellow. Things happen and I can almost look at myself from a third person perspective and wait for me to freak out, and I’m more like… “okay. well. so. what are some ideas that make sense enough to think about?” I walk slower. There’s stuff to look at, bugs to dodge, live wires dangling, open manholes. It pays to pay attention to where you’re going. I wait in line for an hour to buy two items at the grocery store and am not bothered. I have outgrown walking past people, just figuring God wants me to walk slower. We applied for checking accounts in August. It’s February. I still don’t have a proper debit card, but hey. What are you gonna do. And then today at staff meeting, they announced we were switching banks! But who cares. Complaining is exhausting, so I can’t be bothered to complain.
My chill factor has gone up. I’m still excitable in what is probably an annoying way about things like….french fries at lunch, or a fresh batch of ice cubes at home, but I feel like I’ve grown a new patience bone. It sits above my eyebrow, and it’s connected to a half-smile muscle. And sometime it causes a reflex that makes my shoulders shrug.
What I’m trying to say, and probably doing a terrible job of it, is this – I realize not everyone has the opportunity to travel or move abroad. My profession, my God-given rebellion towards responsibility and structure and expectations, and also God-given (I have to believe it is) disregard for most matters of hygiene, safety, or reliability, have led me to various places, with various degrees of success. And it’s kickass here.
It’s not easy to teach – nothing about the job is easy, except hanging out with kids and watching youtube videos of guilty cats, as I did today with a new Norwegian girl who was crying this morning about coming to school. Sometimes I get to be the “fun aunt” who comes in to class, always has gum, and plays a lot of sight word bingo. Loving kids is easy. The planning, the emails, the meetings, the paperwork stuff that is a necessary evil of teaching is not easy to get motivated to do, but it’s not necessarily hard. There’s a difference.
I just want to record, to remind myself, that it’s good to be me. It’s good to do what you know God wants you to do. In this moment, sitting in my apartment, collecting water for the impending cyclone, wondering how long until the power goes out, locating my candles and headlamp for that moment, rationing canned goods, refusing to face a natural disaster without a mason jar of wine, Pinteresting ESL games, trying to find pop songs without adult references that I could use to teach vocab or grammar (and boy, what a hard game this is!). It’s good to be me. I’m having a helluva time. Come visit. :)