I love having a “Days Until” app that keeps me excited about things ahead. I love reminding myself “just one month left and you won’t have a mosquito bite! just a few weeks more and all the Flaming Hot Cheetos you want!! Just a few days and it will be Kizz-mas!”
And here I am! My flights home were so easy, compared to the nightmare I experienced going back to Rio in August, I kept looking around for something bad to happen. The only delay I experienced, I was so tired, I was asleep on the tarmac the whole time and didn’t know it had happened. And then I stepped off the plane and the puppy was waiting for me, with my mom and Gma and sister and a Peppermint Mocha and a sweatshirt about pumpkin spice lattes. And I was severely underdressed in a tank top and Birkenstocks. I’ve been cold ever since – sleeping in long pants and sweatshirts and socks and one night in my Uggs. But I’m in California! Sweet baby Jesus, Happy Birthday to you, and I’m hurr.
I’ve been at my parentals for eight days. I have gained four pounds. That is above average holiday weight gain. I’m proud of me. If you follow me on snapchat, it’s basically been a diary of “why Rachel only wears leggings.” Oh, and lots of the dog. So much puppy time. And nonstop family dinners and presents galore and love and laughter that more than make up for the last two Christmases I missed while in Rio and before that, in North Carolina, being semi-murdered by devil-cat.
Three years away was apparently long enough for me to forget just how funny and competitive our annual White Elephant exchange is – my family bounced around a used breast pump for years, but that has retired. This year had the beta fish motel, fuzzy blankets, iTunes cards hiding with cans of water chestnuts, and I feel like I was the winner going home with an AbRoller and a Thigh Master. I think people like the small symbols of Brazil I brought back. I also got a penguin costume, a hotdog costume, and not one but TWO stuffed animal sloths, which I have proclaimed my anxiety animals and when you hold them you have to talk about your feeling in “I statements” but it’s kind of hard because my dog wants to hump them.
It’s more than weird to do Christmas without my uncle, my grandma, my great-grandma. It always sucks to do it without my dad, who lives hella far away on the East Coast. It’s weird in general to be “home” and around so much English, and around my family members again and just hear their normal day to day talk. And to drive a car, and to have heating and a dishwasher and flush toilet paper and a fully stocked grocery store and wine and beer that actually tastes good. To be waited on at restaurants and not constantly sweat. It’s seductive and easy. Sometimes so much nice stuff makes me grumpy.
The last week of school before coming here was just as crazy as I had imagined. I woke up sick Sunday morning, watched almost the entire season of “Jessica Jones,” decided to immediately learn a super power when I felt better, and then headed into the week. Over the next few days, I emceed a Christmas chapel (delivering some EPIC Christmas jokes that completely died on my audience…could it have been the language gap? I thought they were so good!), went to a staff Christmas party on the beach, fell asleep on a sweltering bus in traffic on my way to a second failed attempt to reach Pão de Açucar, but settled for a fun night out at Arpoador eating tapioca and buying street art.
I chaperoned a 6th grade field trip to a military base, took two classes to the mall for Starbucks and made them sit on Santa Claus’s lap for a photo, completed a slideshow of the school year, threw together a middle and high school Christmas party (even though I only teach 6 high schoolers yearbook and know nothing about the rest of them), I think I gave 12 standardized English tests, all the time my voice oscillating between tea kettle on blast and a truck driving over gravel, while delicately wiping my nose on my sleeve. I legitimately have never learned how to blow my nose. I will just stand and let it drip or dab at it really inefficiently.
That last Friday afternoon was a blur of trying to finish narrative reports, avoiding goodbyes with people (I just don’t like them very much – just leave when I’m not watching and we can text lovingly about it later) and then a nap before forcing myself out for a Brazilian night of crazy. We went to Lapa to see a forró band I’ve seen before, but my friend and I ducked out at 3am (lame, I know) because we both felt like death warmed up. Saturday/Sunday was a house to myself and cleaning and hours at the beach both solo and with a family of friends, then showering three times on Sunday and saving my packing until the very last minute and then sharing McDonalds at the airport with a coworker before boarding. This seems a strange food to have as your last food in Brazil before going back to America. However, the last time I left Rio, I shared airport sushi with a friend. That I definitely do not recommend.
I tend to crowdsource my decisions . . . and I’ve had plenty of advice and reasons for yes and for no on both sides, but I am sure enough to say that I’ve decided to stay in Brazil one more year. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ll ring in the Olympics for USA, visit the Galapagos, make sure I see enough decent sunsets from Barra beach, eat my fill of tapioca and make enough gringa mistakes to have a lifetime of stories to take with me on whatever my next adventure is, another year or so from now. I’m not done with Brazil. Too much to love and get to know there still.
If you haven’t heard it yet, and you need to, happy Christmas, happy new year, happy everything. Come visit. I’ll be there a while. :)
Happy, happy Christmas,
that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days,
recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth,
and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!