Brazil / Reflection

Back from South America…only to go right back

I last blogged in here a year ago before I left for what I thought would be a six month backpacking trip all across South America. It didn’t work out like I had planned. I ended up spending a month and a half in Buenos Aires and five and a half months in Brazil, the vast majority of that spent in Rio. I got a private tutor and spent my days learning Portuguese in-between beach sessions in Ipanema. I volunteered for three different organizations in the favelas. I experienced Carnaval and the World Cup. I got my heart broken, experienced culture shock, and spent time feeling incredibly lonely. I also met people who became like family to me and was awed at the generosity of others again and again: the strangers who welcomed me into their homes and the people who helped me when I was hopelessly lost. This trip had the widest range of highs and lows of any trip that I have taken.

Sunset at Arpoador = definitely a high point of the trip

Sunset at Arpoador in Rio.

My decision to stay in Brazil was a slow one: it took weeks and a lot of soul-searching to realize that I wanted to base myself in Rio, learn the language, and teach English there. I gave up my dream of Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, and I was okay with that. It felt right to stay.

My decision to go back to Brazil was sudden, haphazard, and confusing.

I had been home for about a month. I had been looking for a lease and a real job; I had been looking for roots. I felt a bit of reverse-culture shock and I felt a little under-stimulated but mostly I was enjoying iced coffees, bagels, and being able to easily communicate again. But still, every once in a while I’d think about Rio and I’d feel a searing sense of homesickness. It was strange to be away and miss home, then come back and miss a foreign city in the same way. I never quite had that feeling with Barcelona or anywhere else.

Then one night I drank nearly a bottle of wine to myself and absentmindedly clicked through old pictures of Brazil. That feeling of homesickness came over me again and I began to cry. Despite being an alcohol-induced breakdown, that was the first time I had really mourned the end of the trip. I had left in such a rush (bought my ticket home the day before), and I never really reflected on what I was leaving behind.

Lopes Mendes beach in Ilha Grande.

Lopes Mendes beach in Ilha Grande.

All of a sudden, I needed to go back. I sent out some tearful e-mails and went to sleep.

I woke up with a job in Rio.

At first I thought I wouldn’t take it. Then I had an amazing Skype session with my boss and spent a week or two thinking about it. I went from no way I’m not going back that’s crazy, to guiltily thinking well maybe I could but I really shouldn’t, to realizing wait…I actually really want to do this. I could afford it (kind of). The job (as a volunteer coordinator for an NGO) was something I was passionate about. I was just so scared of disappointing people back home and leaving again. There’s also been increasing pressure to stay home and build my career.

I thought I was ready to stay, but I wasn’t.

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