Thursday, June 14, 2018

A farewell.

I came to back to Brazil without telling anyone. Part of it was rational: I didn't want to lug presents back and forth for people in both countries. Part of me was ashamed: I had just gotten back from Brazil and I was going again? Why am I so privileged to do such a thing? But I realize now that most of it was because this was my farewell to the country and I wanted to keep it personal. Well, perhaps not a "farewell", but at least a farewell to the life that I once had here, the life I had been holding onto in all of my deepest dreams. 

Not many people know this, but when I first left Brazil, I had left thinking I was coming back in two months, so I just left a bunch of stuff here. Two months turned into more than 3 years. But part of me also knew at that time that I was going to be gone for much longer than what I had thought, and me leaving my things here was going to force me to come back, no matter how scared or comfortable I had become in my life. When I came back, I didn't know what to expect. The logical part of me knew that the life I had no longer existed. The emotional part of me hoped that it would be. The truth is that both were there in some ways, and not in others.

When I first set into my apartment, the experience was surreal. It was like a time capsul. Nothing had really changed, except for the copious amounts of dust. Much of the city too had remained the same; in fact the same people worked at the places I used to frequent. When the same doorman greeted me at the front door, it was like seeing an old family member, happily wondering where I had been; it was the best welcome home one could hope for. But deeper down inside, many things changed.

Brazil is in a state of crisis; Rio de Janeiro in a crisis of its own. The World Cup and Olympic Games absolutely ruined the city, not for the events itself, but for the fact that the millions of dollars that was put into the city fell into the pockets of corrupt politicians. To put that into perspective, the past four governors of the city are currently in prison. What resulted was an alarming finincial crisis. I saw many more people sleeping on the streets, many more street vendors selling used nick-nacks on the corner. I would say that 95% of the people I know are doing worse than when I first met them. The only person that things said hadn't changed was my friend from Maré who said, "Well things have always been fucked up here so I don't really feel a difference." The experience absolutely tore my heart to pieces.

But their attitude about it. Their goddamn attitude. We could all learn from their attitude. If there's anything that I find so inspiring about the people, it is their faith. The faith in their country. The faith in themselves. The faith that things will be okay. This belief makes it so that there is no excuse to stop trying. That too nearly brought me to tears.

It is hard for me to let go of this piece of my life. Giving up my apartment was one of the hardest. One might think that it's just a place, but to me it's much more than that. It was here that I discovered everything about myself. All the answers I was seeking. All the questions that I did not know even existed. This city taught me everything about being a decent person. It taught me how to love. It taught me how to forgive. For this reason, it is hard to say goodbye. 

But lettting go of it was also beautiful. I gave away most of my belongings, left bags full of clothing, books and other random items on the street corner for people to sell. In this way, the closing of this chapter of my life gave new beginnings to another. It was a complete cycle of death and rebirth.

Inside of my heart, I know that this is not the last time I set foot on this land. I know that God willing, I will move to this city one day, but will likely be different from when I was here before. Because despite all the changes I saw in the city, perhaps the most profound change I realized was in myself: I was no longer the person I was when I first lived here. 

But it is still hard to let go. I once wrote that saying goodbye to some of these people might be the last time I'd ever see them. I wasn't trying to be dramatic, though it might have come off as such, but there were plenty of friends I didn't get to visit during this trip. Some had moved cities, moved countries, or passed over to the other side. With all the uncertanities in life, one never really knows what will happen. There are about four millions ways to fall off your path and only one way to stay on it. Let's just say I have a lot of work to do when I go back to Seattle. 

But at least for now, all I have is an incredible sense of gratitude. So thank you Brazil. Thank you Rio de Janeiro. Thank you for saving my life. I will be back one day to return the favor. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

A present.

One time I went to my Jiu-Jitsu dojo wearing wooden Japanese sandals and this guy asked me about them, said he wanted a pair. The next time I went to São Paulo, I bought them for him and brought them back. He looked at me suspiciously and said "How much?", running his thumb against two fingers. I thought about it for a minute and ended up saying, " can just have them. Present from me." 

"Really?!?!" he said, eyes lit up like holiday bulbs. 

"Yeah," I said shrugging, but inside feeling ecstatic to have made the right choice to gift them. 

"Woooooo!!!" he squealed. He then pursed his lips and began rubbing the sandals against the two sides of his face. 

The next week he came to the dojo with his wife, introducing me as "the guy that gave him the sandals." His wife bowed slightly and thanked me, saying that he gets so happy when he sees them and periodically rubs them against his face.  

That experience was definitely worth eight dollars.