It’s been about two weeks now, so I thought another post was in order. Overall, things are much, MUCH better now. We are settled into an apartment. We have Wifi, we are registered with the Federal Police (a requisite for all foreigners within 30 days of arriving in Brazil). We have seen a few nearby cities, which we have enjoyed tremendously. The landscapes here are just magical… palm trees, rolling green hills, and these enormous and amazing clouds that seem to just hang on the horizon like chunks of cotton candy that could be unraveled by your pointer finger…
I was reflecting recently on why this move has been so tough. Beyond all of the logistical demands, of which there were MANY, I actually think it might be much simpler than that. I think it comes down to being valued. Strange huh? It looks like my ego might have gotten in the way of me initially enjoying this trip. I’ll explain why….
One of its challenges for me this time was going from a place in which felt a great deal of love, respect, and general validation as a human… into the depths of anonymity, estrangement and isolation… It seems that one of the most important things in life is feeling valuable/valued by those around you. Be it your friends, children, colleagues, heck, even complete strangers. To be recognized and to be understood. So simple, so lovely. When you go abroad, you lose your ability to read your surroundings, you lose your social networks, often lose your professional sense of self, and are frequently removed from the system of cues and codes, which you may have formerly navigated at ease. You are recognized by no one, you are often understood by no one (or given strange smiles or even laughs when you speak- true story for another post). Your accolades have little currency in unknown lands and you are reduced down to the common denominator of foreigner. Sounds awful, right? Think of how many times our society reduces its foreigners down to just that.
Yet, there is an upside– not to the reduction but to the anonymity. To be honest wiping the slate clean (culturally and in every other way) it is both incredibly frightening and strangely liberating. No one knows you, so you simply are YOU. The raw you. The one that you might try to hide or fancy up. The one that you can normally conceal- behind degrees or good deeds- the one that you might strive to be in your own reality but may end up avoiding. I truly believe that living abroad is something that everyone should do once in their lives- preferably for 6 months of longer. Not a two-week trip to Paris, folks, but a find-an-apartment, make-friends, open-up-a-bank-account kind of abroad. It is incredibly difficult and thus incredibly empowering.
I have said in previous posts that this may just be it for me. This may be my last run at gypsy life, and a month into this stint, I still think that it is. At 31 I just don’t have the tolerance for ambiguity and chaos that I did at 21. I don’t like sleeping in beds where there is a gigantic hole in one corner of the sheet. Frankly, I’ve gotten too comfy and too home-centered to voluntarily opt for another extended stay in a foreign land. I’ll take that two-week trip to Paris, merci beaucoup. Hit me with a tour around Asia. Or a week on Iceland. But even on the bad days here, I am cognizant of the importance of this period in my professional and personal life. I know I am being pushed for a better good. I recall that leaving everything and coming to nothing, only to leave everything yet again, has a value, a purpose, a deeper meaning. I am still piecing together what that might be exactly, but it just feels hard, and right. As many things hard tend to feel.
Thank you for sharing the journey.
PS- News on a Brazil blog to come…