A few days ago I got on an airplane, with sand still on my feet and salt still in my hair, and left the sunkissed wide open coast of Bahia.
I landed in Florianopolis, where I had 2 hectic days to reunite with my host family, have lunches and dinners and samba dances with my beloved friends there who I hadn’t seen in over 4 months, and organize all my belongings for my flight back to the United States. After that, I sprinted to the airport, got on a plane, and left behind the green mountains and crystal beaches of a Brazilian summer in full bloom, and landed in cold, wet, snowy New York City. The transition has been jolting to say the least.
My mom and dad have been hosting me the past few days, and I’ve had lots of quality time to share my adventures with them and snuggle down in a warm cozy couch and reflect on my 6 month journey in Brazil. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have been allowed to experience, and the incredibly kindness of the people who I met and who took me in. To write it all down here might overwhelm my readers, the list in my journal stretches across 9 pages.
Instead I will share something else. While I have been struggling with the fact that I miss Brazil like crazy, I have also made a list of things I can do to keep Brazil with me. Here are a few:
Ways to Keep Brazil Close, even when you are far away.
Live in your body like they do so well in Rio, where grown ups and kids ride skateboards to the beach, because skateboards are really fun! Where kids are always practicing carthwheels. Where half the city surfs. Where my friend Bocão always thought to throw a slackline in the backpack, just because its fun to challenge your body and do tricks with it. Where I saw one of the runway traffic controllers at the airport in Rio, who looked a bit bored sitting on the edge of the runway, do a backflip just to pass the time as my airplane took off.
Be helpful and friendly to strangers, like all the people on the buses of Salvador who helped me get my surfboard over the turnstile or helped me carry my luggage down the stairwell. It diminishes the distance between you and others, and makes the world a much gentler and kinder place.
Keep an open hearth and home – like Susana and Hugo and Daniel who took me in sight unseen in Floripa, like Maily who housed and fed me for a week when I showed up on her doorstep and said I was a friend of her friends, like Andrew who let me sleep on his floor in Rio for 4 nights, like Colin who wove me into the life of my Bahian host family as soon as I showed up at the airport, like Bocão who made me feel a part of the Rocinha surf school community, like the staff at the gym in Floripa who shared many Ninja tricks with me, like just about everyone in Brazil.
Love, listen to, research, sing along to, and dance to Brazilian music. It is the best in the world and will always conjure memories of the places from which it came.
Surf like a girl! Thanks to all the girl shredders of Brazil, and especially Floripa, who brought me along with them and inspired me.
Act a little bit more like my friends in Pe de Serra, where life was less cluttered and more humane, where there was no internet, and where everyone knew everyone else, and focused their energy on caring for each other. Where my 13 and 14 year old surf buddies Icaro and Nininho always gave their motherly next door neighbor a kiss on the cheek when they came home from school, helped her clean her yard, did their homework, kindly waited for their new friend the gringa (that’s me!) to go surf, and wooped for every wave that any of us caught.
Try thinking of money a little more like Ronaldo, who rented me the most beautiful house I had ever seen on the coast of Itacare and had the most non-capitalist outlook of any person I’d ever met. He could have rented that house for five times the price, but he wasn’t interested in raking in dough. He stopped by to check on me and bring me fruit, lived pretty much day to day on the rent I paid him, had no cell phone, went swimming every morning in the ocean, and was one of the happiest people I’d ever met.
Don’t put music on a special stage, keep it part of daily life. Don’t be worried if you are good at your instrument or not, just keep playing it and take it with you whenever you go to the beach. Have regular jam sessions at the kitchen table. If you don’t have an instrument, be like the kids in Candeal, Salvador, and start a band with water jugs and oil drums, then practice every day for 4 hours in the middle of the playground.
Be laid back enough to welcome the unexpected, even when you are in the middle of something you prepared very carefully. In Salvador, I went to a concert of Carlinhos Brown, who is pretty much like the Stevie Wonder of Brazil – a musical genius whose songs are beloved by just about everyone. During his concert, he welcomed all sorts of unexpected events – a woman in the audience who wanted to sing her own song onstage with his band, a 5 year old child whose parents lifted him onto the stage, the impromptu confessionals of love from his fans in the front row. For each of these, he quieted the band and rolled with the flow. It was amazing.
Free your skin (when the weather’s warm!). In Brazil I got the best tan of my adult life. I feel like my tan is a metaphor – a way of living in my body, of being outdoors everyday, of being close to nature in my daily experience of the sun, the waves, the sand– of the freedom and lightness of wearing little clothing and of living in communities with little formalities and where all bodies were welcome. It’s hard to keep up in the land of 4 seasons, but relish it when you can.
When you meet people for the first time, remember their names, and say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you __(fill in name here)_____.” Now that I am not in Brazil anymore, I miss this way of greeting.
The list could go on, but I’ll cut it off here. While I continue to miss Brazil, I will edit my videos from Rio and Bahia. So keep an eye on the blog to catch their release!