In reading the book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, I’ve been considering the course of my life, and all the possibilities contained within it. This is a particularly present thought because I recently passed the Foreign Service Officer test (your level of surprise couldn’t come close to mine) and completed the next stage of the application, the narrative essays. I thought a lot about the choices and subsequent decisions I’ve made so far as an adult in order to answer the essay questions. Nine years an official adult and I feel I’ve accomplished so little. I’m often told my life appears full of intrigue and adventure, when really I spend a lot of time living a mundane life, just in a country not my own.
This essay-writing deadline couldn’t have come at a worse time. When it rains, it pours, and all that. In the same week that my essays were due (and still unstarted), I had an altercation with my heavily-medicated landlord/housemate about her mentally unhinged live-in Norwegian boyfriend to whom she was simultaneously playing hospice nurse and lover. I moved out both because she suddenly became hostile and because of her boyfriend’s three-hour morning and night OCD shower ritual. In the ten days I lived there, I never saw his face. He hid from me and became agitated if I was anywhere within a 15-foot radius of him, which is hard to avoid in an apartment in the city.
Luckily, I found a new apartment, but when it came time to pay rent, my debit card wasn’t working at the ATM. I called my bank, only to be told that they had canceled my card without telling me because I had used it at a suspicious bank’s ATM. I told them that if I had to avoid all suspicious ATMs in Brazil, I would never be able to take out any money. They canceled it anyway.
My final stress was the requisite four trips to the federal police to register my foreignness in their system. I have now wasted days of my life there. After taking an expensive cab to reach this far-flung branch, I was informed that I had forgotten a vital document, and that I would have to return home to get it. I told my friend who was with me that I would kill myself. The federal police pushes normally mentally healthy adults to suicidal thoughts. I went home and returned with the document, only to be told that how they spelled my dad’s first name on my registration card last year was incorrect, so I would have to go to some bureaucratic building downtown to get my dad’s first name spelled incorrectly in the same way on my visa application for this year. I returned the next day to wait aimlessly for hours while they ‘worked on’ my application. I only got helped after continually going up to one of the worker’s desks to remind him that I was there, still waiting. I now have a shitty piece of paper as proof of all that effort.
Onto more positive things. I’m back in Brazil, registered, housed, and working. Orientation this year was even crazier and more tiring than orientation last year, but less of an overall shock to the system. I made three lovely insta-friends, which was a pleasant surprise at the least and a lifesaver at most.
My hunt for apartments coincided with Carnaval, so I was regularly crunched between grown men dressed like women and chickens and slutty Native Americans while riding the metro to the viewings. One portly apartment owner answered the door in her boyshort cotton underwear holding a miniature chihuahua while her nine-year-old followed us through their dirty apartment, mountains of garbage piled against the walls. To view another apartment, I climbed to the border of a favela, then rode a rickety elevator up an apartment that looked more like a prison than a normal place of residency. The landlady opened the door to a man stirring a pot of rice. At first glance I thought he was mildly cute, then I realized I had hooked up with him last year during a birthday visit to Rio. I decided that wasn’t the right apartment for me.
Relationships between men and women here have been annoying me a lot again. I went to buy birth control at the pharmacy the other day, and the greasy, 20-something pharmacist smirked when I asked if they had a buy three get one free discount, like they do at some other pharmacies. “No, we don’t have anything like that. But for you, I’ll give a discount.” Wink.
I like going to the beach and watching the people. There’s inevitably a girl playing the weakly resisting victim of an ocean dunking by her flavor of the week. There’s screaming involved, some laughing, a little bit of cute kicking, nothing enough to hurt anyone. I guess I’ve never been a very good girl. It seems like so much effort. I was at a pool party once when I was about 15; a different time and place, but boys never change. They grabbed me to throw me in the pool and I let them. No screaming, no resisting-without-resisting, so it just became this awkward silent carrying until we reached the poolside. I would have jumped in anyway, so why fight it? That was the last time they did that. I’ve been realizing lately just how much my personality is defined by inaction, and I wonder if it’s a bad thing, but I don’t care enough to try to change it.