I am writing to you from outside of the conference rooms here in Campinas, Sao Paolo, Brazil. It’s just before 5pm and I’m sitting on a bench under a bunch of large trees, with the evening sunshine streaming in from above. The trees have large, broad leaves unlike anything I know from North America or Europe and there is a warm breeze that is passing through them, which barely brushes your skin. I’m supposed to be inside the conference rooms- supposed to be attentively taking notes during this, the final session of the day from 4-5:30, but for not I’d prefer to be writing outside near these trees. I’m feeling contemplative and perhaps even a bit melancholic, but in that sweet kind of way, the kind of way that prompts long sessions of writing. This session will likely be curtailed, seeing that I will need to magically appear in the crowd again when everyone exits the rooms.
Brazil, what to say about you? I arrived Sunday night and have been quite busy with activities ever since. It has become clearer and clearer to me that this trip is geared toward promoting academic tourism to Brazil more than anything else. I am glad to be on the receiving end of that cause, glad to get a free flight and to be able to experience this country that I shall soon know so intimately in February of 2013. Yet this time seems were different- I felt a bit of nonchalance on the flight, felt eager to get back before arriving, thought of my sweet little kitchen in my sweet little apartment on Wisconsin Ave. and hoped that I hadn’t left anything in the fridge that might go sour. I thought of the Swede, who is now in Sweden, thought of the coziness of life there and in the States. My thoughts, normally so incredibly fixated on the momentum and excitement of the impeding arrival, were now blurred by other wishes, other desires. Perhaps this gypsy girl has lost her spark somewhere between Chile and Stockholm. Perhaps at 30 I want more than the constant bliss of movement and new airs- or perhaps after a trying summer all I really wanted was a little quiet time in my own domestic space, one that I have cultivated to my own perfection in the last two years. I suspect what it might have been is a fear more than anything else, a fear of not liking the place to which I would dedicate nine months of my life in the middle of my Ph.D. I was (am) deeply and utterly afraid of giving up my warm, gentle little life in DC for the question marks of an underdeveloped unknown.
And the arrival was exciting, don’t get me wrong. It was interesting and new and the first time I’ve heard so much Portuguese since having begun the journey of learning it during the fall of 2010. Yet it’s also been artificial- we were immediately transported to a hotel an hour and a half from the city center, giving shared accommodations with other foreign students (I’m staying with a Turkish girl and a German fraulein), and basically carted back and forth to the university for an all day every day conference. Lunch is the only time we can actually see anything, which is limited to the campus or the tiny, tiny city center of the suburb of Campinas. The staff is friendly, but English is really deprioritized (I guess it serves us right, given that most conferences are 90% English), with French and Portuguese the lingua franca of the conference. I suppose I need to get used to this fact, seeing that my entire next year will be in Portuguese- yet I feel a sense of disinterest in listening to lectures that are primarily not in my language. This is coming from someone who speaks 5 languages fluently, including Portuguese (which I am realizing needs a bit of work before I get back here). Then I feel guilty for being so anglo-centered. The translations into English are abysmal- I will bring with me some funny examples the next time I blog.
Yet this kind of thing never bothered me before. I have traditionally be quite content being among the only English speakers- arguing for linguistic democracy in an academic universe remarkably centered around English. I think this goes back to the aforementioned fatigue I’m feeling with regard to travel (at the moment) in general. I am beginning to realize that half of the greatness of the travel I’ve done in my 30 years stems not only from the fact that I resided in these places, but the energy it took to get there, to be there and BE there. I’m having trouble being here right now and it’s bugging me to no end. I like being here, but I don’t love being here. I feel so utterly terrible admitting this and hope it’s a passing phrase. I am realizing that what I want right now is a comfy academic job (hard to get) and a cuddly house (hard to get without aforementioned job). I want permanence and not fleetingness. I want roots and not wheels. I want welcome homes and not goodbyes- I mean this all more in reference to next year’s trip rather than this one. Oy- all of these feelings in only two days! I sincerely hope that this need for stability is a natural phase in growing up and not a giving up of sorts. I swear there is still a warrior adventure woman in there somewhere. How to find her again?