I’ve been in Sao Paulo for the last week, more or less living like a tourist at the Fulbright orientation. We have air-conditioned hotel rooms, attend city bus tours, our meals are comped at the hotel buffet. It’s not necessarily my style of travel, but after such a long hiatus from traveling, it has been probably the best transition into new surroundings.
And the scholars. Jesus, the scholars. These are seriously some of the most brilliant minds I have ever met. It’s fucking ridiculous. From analyzing the effects of Chinese investment in Brazil to exploring the cultural currency of hair texture, these people have managed to develop a theory on damn near anything and have it make sense. People are doing projects on the open-source movement and I don’t even know what that is. I’ve connected with some wonderful minds, wishing that I had more time with them, but I’ll be honest. I didn’t always feel that way.
If I had written this post a few days ago, I would have said I felt slighted, that there was too much ego and self-absorption floating around a room filled with the highest levels of self-accomplishment. I would have something about how intellect cannot surpass self-awareness, and at most times, it acts as a hindrance.
The idea started when someone made a comment about Ibiza being nothing but a party destination, having nothing else to offer but drinks, drugs and massive trance parties. I mean, that kinda is true, but it’s not all that there is. Ibiza is a magical place; the party atmosphere consumes maybe 5% of the actual island. There is a significant indigenous population thriving on the other side and it was there I had my first sweat lodge experience, an experience that changed my life for the better.
I was ready to write off everyone who agreed with that comment about my beloved island, ready to jump to premature conclusions of people’s misunderstanding on the human experience. But I remembered what my friend Carolina had said to me before she brought me to the sweat lodge. I made a remark about there being a lack of connectedness in Ibiza, that I thought everyone seemed angry. She told me in response that if I saw that everyone around me was being antisocial, I was the antisocial one, that if everyone else appeared angry, that meant that I was an angry person. She said Ibiza was a powerful place; it had the ability to reflect our true nature.
I thought about that comment as I was busy conjuring assumptions in my mind that night in Sao Paulo. I thought about how if I felt others were slighting me, I was probably doing the same to them. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a person if you’re willing to admit your faults and donate a smile every once in a while, and well truthfully, in 4 days, there’s really no way you begin to understand the complexity of another human being.
This past week has more or less been an incubator coddling me before I set out on the actual journey. I already know the first few weeks living in Rio is going to be a giant pain in the ass. The heat, the obstacles of securing housing, and the impending sadness of the absence of those I love sinking deeper into my chest is not going to make for the best coming weeks. But I had some great people at the orientation prepare me for the next step, and truthfully, I’m lucky to have them on my side. I’ve worked through a lot of emotions, and found capacity to be a decent person. I think I'm ready to move on to the second stage.