Before I left for Brazil, my mom gave me a necklace with an inscription on the back that reads, “The journey has just begun.” I wear it when I’m overwhelmed by whatever dilemma I’ve found myself in to remind me that this is just the beginning, of everything. In six months, a year, five years, my memory of this latest stress will be long gone, and even my memory of this time and place will begin to fade, so absorb it while it’s here, because nothing is permanent. While I was in Brasília, I felt that sentiment without having to wear the necklace.
Brasília looks like an inhabited Mars. It looks like aliens came to Earth, tried to pass for Brazilians, and built their city in this manner. They didn’t do a very good job.
Let me start over. I love Brasilia, when not many I know do. I love it because of its vibrant red dust, prickly bushes, and flat landscape reminiscent of Arizona, my favorite state. I love it because it’s nothing like the Brazil I know, so it’s like meeting an interesting stranger. I love it for its space and sterility and organization. I find comfort in all of these things. You can feel that important things happen here. The majority of people wear suits and have badges, and I imagine they have jobs they can’t fully tell me about.
I didn’t feel unsafe in the streets at night. I could let my guard down, which I didn’t even know I had up. People don’t honk their horns; the traffic just slides by on the extra-wide roads, eerily silent. Brasília is known for its architecture, which is bizarre and ultra-modern. Other buildings were shiny black and intimidating-looking, in stark contrast to the graffiti-covered white concrete variety that’s the norm here. The dry, warm air makes you want to be outside, drinking a glass of wine on one of those sparkly rooftops with stilettos on.
In the 1950s Brasília was planned, then built in under four years, a feat I now consider even more impressive after getting to know the laid-back attitude of Brazilian culture. Picturing imported workers rushing to build a utopian city in the middle of the desert gives me chills. It’s like a science fiction book.
Personally, the week I spent there flew by and sent my mind into planning mode. The trip was with my job and was the marker of more than half our time here in Brazil, the majority of our work already accomplished. The opportunity to stay another year was offered. I have dreams about doing it, or not. But I feel a tug back toward Europe, and I feel a trip through Southeast Asia.
All I know is I’m not ready to go home yet.