I’m sure someone somewhere has already, but I feel compelled to write a “guide to feeling like you’re living in a foreign country, according to someone who is doing an okay job at it, with input from others, who are doing better at some things, since said someone still doesn’t know how to buy her own movie tickets.”
There are big, obvious things you accomplish when you move somewhere completely different: You get your tourist visa and work visa and tax ID and federal police ID and workbook and seventeen other forms of identification you need to exist in Brazil, you learn the language, get used to strangers kissing you hello and goodbye on both cheeks, try acclimate to the never-ending heat, set up a bank account (only took 14 months, 5 cards, and two banks to happen). Memorize your address (eek) and date a local (goals).
And then there are the personal moments of triumph. The “eat the whole bag of M&Ms, Rachie, you did good today” kind of moments that mean something to me because I’m pretty self-aware, and here’s what I know about me – if I don’t absolutely need to do it, I won’t. I’m big on “well, it might just sort itself out, and it sounds kind of difficult or uncomfortable, so I’m going to think about other things for a while.” Turns out that’s not how adulting works, so I’m trying to be better about it all.
Here is a List of Things I have conquered in the past two weeks that make me feel like I am owning living in another country:
- I went to the bank and reset my pin and asked questions about my account. In Portuguese. hollaaaaaa now I can make it rain 3.58 reias to every US dollar. (normally would just live off my grocery card and tutoring money)
- I got a haircut! My first since July. I think most of us will understand the significance of trusting a stranger to cut your hair, multiply that by you can only communicate with hand motions. (normally would just wait until I went home in july to get it cut)
- I bought a spice from Northern Brazil! By accident. I thought it was table pepper. But I’m still using it in things and liking it. Before this day my only spice was sriracha. (normally would not even know how to locate spices in store)
I bought new foods and made something with a recipe. And mostly followed the directions. And these were not just any new foods. A FRUIT. And a VEGETABLE. So often I find something I want to make and think “oh, I’ll just try that in the States where it’s easier.”
This mostly comes from a fear of not being about to figure out the Portuguese name for the thing I need, or because we don’t have an oven, or I’m single and buying food and making a recipe for just one person is depressing and expensive. Also, I’m prone to purchasing the wrong things, ie six heads of cabbage instead of lettuce, because I didn’t know the difference. (normally would continue to eat cream cheese on crackers with hot sauce, like that is a real dinner)
- I had a canal rooted. I went into a situation that brings me to tears just talking about it, got THREE SHOTS, and sat in a chair for 1.5 hours, gagging on my own tongue, bargaining with God to get me through. The whole thing is something I wouldn’t want to do in the States with the dentist I’ve had for 15 years, under the influence of some sedagives* and the promise of a nice glass of wine and a nap with the puppy in the sun in the backyard afterwards. But I did it and didn’t cry! (normally would just up my dental hygiene game and think a root canal might solve itself on its own)
I SIGNED UP FOR THE GYM. That’s right. Nothing says “commitment” like gym membership. Have you ever tried to break contract with a gym? Why are these the most intense, legally binding documents in the world? Anyway, I’m trying to get into a shape more defined than just “round,” and so I joined the gym. It’s not big, or great. And I have to walk 2.5 miles round trip just to get there, but then there is such simple joy to combine four of my loves – my ipod, people-watching, reading, and low-impact cardio, all with air-conditioning. (normally would just continue to half-heartedly complain about being chubby, with a mouthful of ice cream)
Next on my list of things-to-figure-out is set up a cell phone. Part of me isn’t sure I want to do this…it’s kind of nice to leave the house and just be offline. Don’t know where something is? Ask. Don’t know where someone is? Wait. By yourself and feeling bored or uncomfortable? Too bad. Learn to ride it out. Look around and
make someone else feel uncomfortable by staring at them like you would a screen find something to think about. The main reason I want it is to be able to use the maps feature and Uber. And obviously to continue my super successful line of terrible jokes on my Snapchat story. I have lovingly compiled and saved several of them for you here.
And then I want to send pieces of mail. So if you have a mailbox, send me your address! I want to send a mail to there.
Because if you need to hear it, and you haven’t yet today, you are worthy of real pieces of mail. And stamps. And lines. And me figuring out how to make it all work.
*Who caught the “Young Frankenstein” reference? Because I love you.