This week I found out that I will be placed in Rio de Janeiro next year to do some more teaching, along with some supervisory stuff. I’m already picturing myself on the beach, acai in one hand and a pineapple caipirinha in the other.
In waiting the three weeks that turned into seven to find that out, I’ve been thinking back on my year in Rio Preto. I only have 20 days left, and yes, I am counting down, but I’m not dreading making it through the rest of my time here. It’s only a tactic to measure the time. I was asked recently why I’ve chosen to stay another year after what has seemed like a less than stellar year in Brazil already. And it’s true. First semester was a bust. I traveled at every opportunity and subsequently ran myself ragged to escape a life I didn’t like. I felt lonely and disconnected. I felt let down by a lot of people and things. I still feel that way sometimes.
But second semester has been a reprieve in a lot of ways. I’ve filled into the shape of the life carved out for me here. I’m used to the silence and long stretches of free time. I’ve filled it with Portuguese study and paper writing. I’ve had time to read books; so many books. I’ve had the time to put good effort into what I do, and not do things half-assed. I’ve come to cherish the interminable sunshine and my office hours spent with a cafe com leite and a brigadeiro. I look forward to chatting with my students during our conversation hours about American Horror Story and boyfriends and parties and the hum of daily life. I’ve grasped onto the few Brazilians I’ve found to be genuinely interesting, insightful, and intelligent. They, along with a few good American friends here, are my lifeline.
On more negative days I look back on how I’ve chosen to live these past nine months, and I regret certain things. On other days I see it could have been no other way.
I spent this past weekend in Sao Paulo and was reminded that brief moments of happiness are in the transient, if only one looks. I watched a red convertible ride down Avenida Paulista with Santa in the front seat, waving at pedestrians. A woman drinking coffee next to me cleaned up her area, then politely smiled and excused herself before leaving. A tiny, glasses-wearing girl friend moshed with all the sweating men in black at a club decorated like a carnival. I ate a Mexican dinner with a mishmash of acquaintances and it was all a beautiful thing.
So yes, I’ve gained all of the normal, important skills. Greater self-reliance and awareness of my surroundings, how to communicate in Portuguese, how to get my way in another country, how to ignore the bullshit. But the small things are the ones I will hold closest.