Happy anniversary to me! 500 days ago today, I looked at my phone calendar, and it said “move to Rio and rule the world.” So after very little sleep, my mom and sisters drove me to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. In a total daze at the surreality of it all, I got on several planes to try and do that.
I remember the weeks before coming here…moving back across the country, dealing with paperwork and storage, my mom having massive open heart surgery, big family gatherings, packing and unpacking, selling my car, emotional farewells with the dog, and having NO idea what I was in store for.
A million things have happened since, and I’m the same but so different. I look at pictures of me just before I first arrived, and I was so chubby and sad; desperate for new things and to feel good about myself and what I was doing again.
There have definitely been challenges. Don’t ever let anyone tell you its easy to just pick up your life and move somewhere. It’s easy to romanticize living abroad and traveling all the time, but it can be very frustrating to live in a country so different. But oh man, if you need to outrun the memories of a failed relationship, I highly recommend a foreign beach with appreciation for all shapes and sizes and a penchant for physical affection.
I commemorate this occasion by listing some of my fav things about living here. This list is supposed to help me make a decision in my should-I-stay-or-should-I-go-now dance. I just can’t do things like this on my own. I crowd source the big moment choices in my life. Sometimes I text my sisters “should I eat this?” with a picture. Really. It’s more fun that way. The thing is, I tend to interpret everything as a sign when I have a big decision to make. Today I was SO FIRED UP about random work things, and I knew it was bad, so I thought I would go for a run on the beach and let myself cool off and think things through clearly. But then everything became a sign.
Example – saw a capybara on my boat ride today! So it’s a lucky capybara! I should stay in Brazil! Then I saw a big ass blue crab! Lucky crab! I should stay in Brazil! Then my ipod starts to act funny, and in a rare display of actual anger, I throw it on the grass. Except I miss the grass by two inches and hit the cement. And it happens to hit on the corner where the earbud jack goes in, denting it irreparably. But I try to fix it with a pen, which then explodes inside my ipod and all over my hands. Then I’m making dinner, and a HUGE bug flies and hits me in the face. I almost go blind. So I think – I should go back to the States. I just want a Diet Pepsi. This job is bogus. This country will kill me.
ALL THAT was in less than two hours. While making the non-decision, I’m also able to hypothetically work out the rest of my life in each scenario: I think of ways I will meet my future husband, and where I could live, and what clothes I would give away, and the friends that could help me, and the pros and cons of the next five years in any given situation, and the story-telling potential of it all. That’s how my brain works. So no, I can’t make this decision alone. Because I am not a rational creature. I am someone near tears eating circus animal cookies because they remind me of my dad and growing up on 49 Mazie Drive, and I haven’t lived there in almost 20 years.
Anyway, here’s my fav Brazil things:
- The beach. Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s everyone, but the peace and the smallness and the God I can find on a beach means a lot to me. To be able to feel too much feelings come up and know I can walk just a few minutes away to sit on the sand and let all the self-imposed heaviness float away is awesome. Plus I’m tan as heck and my fav smell is sunscreen so, win-win.
- It’s funny. It’s funny to me that it took ten months for me to get a working ATM card and bank account. It’s funny that people don’t touch their food. It’s funny how long Brazilian emails are. It’s funny how we cut cakes here. I enjoy everything different.
I love languages. I hope I always appreciate it, because I know it’s not easy for everyone. But I really love learning Portuguese and teaching English and giggling at all the missteps along the way, like when my students learn how something is spelled and give me the best “WHAT THE WHAT” looks.
My peeps. I can’t type about it because I’m sentimental enough to cry, but to know the people I work with, from all over the world, to know the students we work with, and to learn how to love each other hard enough to make it work is a beautiful thing.
- The food. I’ve managed to lose 20 pounds since moving here, which I only think is because I’m not eating processed foods or bread nearly as much. Our oven hasn’t worked for over a year, so I haven’t been able to bake anything. But that aside, there is awesome meat, random vegetables and fruits, açai, like it’s just yummy. And I keep discovering more.
- The life. People in Rio are called “cariocas” and are known for loving the beach, staying up late, being passionate, eating and drinking and having relationship. Which is SO me. Live music, weekend barbecues, beach beach beach, never meeting a stranger. I love it.
So much to see. It’s so rad to live in a different place. Even growing up in the Bay Area, I’ve still never been to the Jelly Belly factory or Alcatraz (a travesty on both parts, I know). But living in a different country means there is even MORE new things to discover, and it feels so cool because its so different from stuff in California. We’re not swimming in palaces out West.
- Its not the States. Don’t get me wrong – patriotic as heck, but I feel safer in Brazil than I do in the States because guns are illegal here. And if Donald Trump gets one more minute of attention I will move to the moon.
- I’m simple here. I’m not willing to pay for a phone or tv, I focus on my job, on walking on the beach, on reading and writing and making to-do lists I will never finish. I haven’t had a crush since I got here and am happier for it. I don’t have a car, I don’t go shopping, I don’t go to the movies. I think I’m just enjoying the slow down, the extra time, the afternoon naps.
There’s more. There’s so much more. There’s the wet heat of the air on my skin, and the distant rumble of traffic at all times, and fumbling portuguese/spanish in a Carioca accent, and eight million hugs and kisses I get a day in this overly-affectionate culture.
There’s the satisfaction of working my face off and seeing results, and the wonder that is seeing monkeys every day in the evenings on my walk, and the smell of a churrasco on a Saturday, and fighting with co-workers over a futebol game.
There’s the tapioca stand outside the mall, and smashing an offending mosquito between my palms, and sweating while watching a thunderstorm from the hammock with a mason jar of adult in my hands.
So it’s good. It’s very good.
And if you haven’t heard it yet, and you need to hear it today, i’d ration my bug spray with you.