Tudo Vai Da Certo.

 

It’s crazy to think that in less than a month I will be home. But what exactly is home? I was talking to my older sister and how she is dealing with her adjustments in her “home.” She and her family just moved back to the US after living in Europe for more than 10 years. It’s such an odd sensation to be back in a place that has so obviously changed while you have been away. Whether we go away for a short trip, leave our childhood homes for college or come back for whatever reasons, we come to terms that the place hasn’t changed in a sense… we have. This sensation fleetingly consumed when I came back from studying in Spain. Sure I missed the comforts: the cheap and (good) supermarket wine, the idyllic weather, the fascinating culture steeped in centuries old history… everything, but it was something that went away but I also knew I could never forget my time there. I left a piece of myself in a place that I called “home” for months and I always think back to the moments and memories I created there. Whenever I was missing Spain or wanted to be reminded of my time there, I called up my good friend Claire and we did things and reminisced about our home.

 

I’m excited to see what has changed, who has changed, what is strangely comforting and what is (still) annoying. After living in Natal for the past 8 months, this place has certainly become my home. I remember coming back from my vacation in July and I was weirdly excited to see my street despite my daily complaints about the cobblestoned road, indulge at my favorite açai restaurant, and see my roommates and just get back into my routine. It took me traveling around Brazil to fully appreciate Natal and how this city of dunes, beautiful beaches and hot ass weather has turned into my home. I frequent this one lunch spot and when I had my long braids, the manager told me that I looked like Michonne from The Walking Dead. I laughed but inwardly rolled my eyes because I thought, “we don’t all look alike and I also don’t have the vocabulary or the energy to explain this.” Needless to say, every time I walk into the restaurant he always exclaims: “Ay Ty! Tudo bem!” and gives me a hug and a kiss. (Very Brazilian.) I have created relationships here, made some cool friends and I even turned into a regular at restaurants! When I came back it was great knowing that the cashiers already had my name on my lunch slip, and I immediately felt right at home. But seriously what is home? Is it the place where you went to school during your formative years? The place where you have resided with your family or the people you may call your family? Is it the place that you know like the back of your hands—where to find the best coffee, which uneven street to avoid, you know the one that always makes your car jump or is your favorite park where you can find solace? It’s all of that and more, but it also isn’t one place. For me, it is the place that continues to expand my heart and my mind. Home is perfunctory. Home is as corny as it sounds; where the heart is.

 

I think the past 8 months have been some of the most reflective times in my life and I didn’t even realize it until I began my preparations for my return back to the U.S. I came to Brazil doing something I have never done before. I left one home for a new home without looking back. I came here and allowed myself to show my vulnerability and accept it, learn in all sense of the word, and come to appreciate and love a new culture and country. I was able to share a final reflective and awesome time with my Nordeste group earlier this month during our retreat. I doubt any of my future work retreats will look anything like this:

 

It was a special time to be around people who are experiencing many of the same things as I am and who are coming to terms with returning back “home.” It was special because this group can understand things that are distinctly Brazilian (even more so, distinctly Nordeste) and all of the quirks associated with this “home.” Here in our part of Brazil, our home is having the ability to become expert mosquito killers…accepting that once you step outside you will have a sweaty back because of the heat…running to catch buses that swear they are in the latest Grand Theft Auto game…teaching English to students who are so smart and encouraging and are the reason why you love your job…living in a country that is so confusing and rife with problems but at the same time, amazingly beautiful, welcoming and a place we can all call home. I’m grateful for my Nordeste group and happy that I will have these special moments with them forever.

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“The face you make when you realize you’re on fire.” Our first group picture in São Paulo.

 

Between the retreat, finishing up my ETA duties at the university, my research, applying to grad school, studying for the GRE, and reluctantly accepting that I am leaving, it is safe to say that I am a bit overwhelmed. I go through a mix of emotions regularly and sometimes it is really hard to cope with. No matter who I talk to or share my doubts and fears with, in one way or another they tell me that everything will work out.

“Tudo vai da certo” is one of the many phrases I have come to love in my arsenal of Brazilian phrases. This literally means everything will go right.

 

Everything will be okay.

It’ll all work out!

The universe got my back!

 

My sister gave me some great advice and said, “Why stress about the future? It’s the future. You can’t do anything about it.” I’m anxious to return back to NY and I know it’ll take some time to adjust. But then I ask myself, adjust back to what exactly? When I came here, it was only after living here for months did I finally get used to my new home and way of life. It’s strange to think that I will have to adjust back to life in NY considering I spent most of my life there, but it’ll be an adjustment nonetheless.

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Got to enjoy a World Cup Qualifier game! Brasil X Bolivia

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Successful
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I met this family from Jersey one day on the beach
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I love love love our Convo Clubs

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Halloween Convo Club!

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Worrying about the future is pointless because it is exactly that. The future. Ruminating over the past is idle as well because it already happened and what can do you about that? I’m excited to go to one home, but sad to leave another. I’m uncertain about the next part of my life but ready to see what is in store. But one thing I am sure of is that: Tudo vai da certo.

Vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a feeling that we all  have experienced at some time or another. No one likes to be vulnerable because it shows the world one of your weaknesses. Simply acknowledging the fact that we all can experience this feeling is an act that I think is courageous. We all know that each and every one of us has our faults and the old adage that nobody is perfect holds true. Especially for me.

Coming to Brazil, I had no choice but to open myself to vulnerability. Every time someone asks me what did I expect of Brazil and what did I do to prepare myself for this time here I always reply that I had (and I continue to have) no expectations. I came here with as much of an open mind as I could. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable you’re unconsciously opening yourself for the world to catch a glimpse into the person you are. Both the beautiful and ugly parts…what makes you, you.  It’s scary shit. There are things that people think they understand or know about us solely based on what we allow them to see whether it is through social media, in our professional lives and what we may even reveal to them in everyday conversation. But there are also things that we keep bottled up because we’re scared. And that’s the thing with vulnerability. It’s scary stuff. I remember when I first arrived in Natal, I was terrified of the simplest things I take for granted back home. I was terrified to ask for items at the supermarket because I did not know formulate the sentence and I had no vocabulary. I was terrified of establishing an impactful and important presence at my university because I didn’t want my excitement and ideas to come off as imposing or worthless to my coworkers. I was terrified of living alone in a new city, new country, new everything. I still am. But with every day comes progress.. Vulnerability is scary when you have to deal with it when you’re in a new environment or new work setting. I think it is especially difficult when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone else.

It all happened so quickly. When Jazz was here we spent an afternoon in Beco do Batman,  a cool place in São Paulo that is known for murals, amazing artwork from talented and respected artists throughout the city. We were there for hours admiring the work and just living. Re: my last post. That night was special for me because we met artists who produce some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen in my life. These guys that we met are Talented. With a capital T. Through their art, I was able to see their life stories, their daily struggles, their hopes, their protests, their dreams, their inspiration, their realities, and their art. Living in Brazil, you cannot escape art. It is everywhere. It is ingrained in the country’s history. It is felt, seen, smelled, experienced. Weaved into the mundane aspects of a city but also in some of the most beautiful and stunning things my eyes have laid on in my life.  When Jazz and I met the local artists I initially thought nothing of it and appreciated the time we spent with them that night. Sensing their pride when they showed us around the cool Vila Madalena neighborhood was a special experience I think both Jazz and I will cherish. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable with us. São Paulo is a city just dripping with amazing murals, tags, and striking visual scenes, both in traditional and peculiar ways. We said goodbye to the artists and went on our ways…or so I thought.

 

 

 

 One muralist in particular was interested in spending more time with us, specifically me and at first I was doubtful. Hesitant even. I remember the constant whatsapp messages he sent me the next day. “Come to my neighborhood!” “You girls need to experience the REAL São Paulo.” “Come!” I did not want to go. It was far, I was not familiar with the area and I just remember having a list of excuses. Jazz talked some sense into me and we went. Upon arrival he greeted us with beers in hand and we immediately knew we were in for a great time. And a great time we had. His neighborhood was throwing a block party and we met so many people with interesting stories. Women who lived with their great grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers while taking care of their own children! Men who were just hustling and did whatever they needed to do in order to get by. We enjoyed some tasty Brazilian drinks like warm wine…(very tasty, highly recommend it) We talked with women who laughed but appreciated our attempts at speaking Portuguese, we listened to local artists who rapped about the struggles and harsh reality of growing up in the favelas and we lived. Here we were in a community filled with artists, struggling families, young kids, who allowed themselves to be vulnerable to two strange American girls who liked to drink and loved a good funky beat. He was right, that night we were able to get a real a taste of the real São Paulo.  We said our goodbyes once again and the next day Jazz left for the United States. Being that I was staying in Sao Paulo for one more week because of my mid-year seminar I was ready to enjoy the time with my fellow ETA’s and talk about our unique experiences in our host cities.

The universe is crazy y’all.

 

He messaged me and insisted on taking me out to dinner and spending more time with me. I was doubtful, I had already given up on the dating thing here and I was not really about it. But I complied, I’m always down for new conversation and I thought only good could come out of it.  We enjoyed a nice Japanese dinner in the centro of São Paulo and afterwards listened to live samba. Nothing can compare to live samba. I don’t think I have enough vocabulary to express this type of music. But I’ll try. The live samba bands that I have been to usually consist of at least 4-5 men playing and singing instruments and it is electrifying. The drum is their main instrument but it would be a shame to not appreciate the instrument of their voices and hands as well. The steady tap tap of the drums, the sweet sounds of the guitarist strumming notes that are tinged with history and nostalgia, the beautiful wails of the singer. Live Samba is amazing and beautiful. (This is a link to typical live samba sessions that I am familiar with.) I thought that we would not have much in common or that we wouldn’t have much to talk about but boy was I wrong. At this point in time, I allowed myself to be vulnerable with a person I barely knew but was willing to get to know a bit more. This was around the time of the Alston Sterling and Philando Castile murders and I was so upset because I felt helpless. I was frustrated and upset with everything and I was angry. I explained this to him in, not expecting that he would not understand or relate to any of it but he did. He did on so many levels. My presumptions of him were terrible and I thought that this man who is definitely Brazilian but looks white cannot possibly relate to the micro aggressions and experiences that I as a black woman face daily. I thought that he would not be able to contribute to any of the conversation or have anything enlightening to say. I judged. I thought we were so different. He listened intently to my gripes about the U.S, the police, racial injustice and privilege. He told me that he had 20 friends die at the hands of policemen. Not people he knew, but friends. Brazil is a country filled with racial, wealth and social disparities and one thing I’ve come to understand that people are struggling here. Not only suffering extreme levels of racism but, but between classes as well. I listened to him speak. His words were real, lived and hard to understand at some points. But he was vulnerable with me.

 

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Feijoada Saturdays!

 

Cris and I continued to talk even after I left Sao Paulo and I was surprised by how easy and simple it was to talk to him despite my lack of Portuguese. (It’s actually has improved a lot, and I need to stop being so hard on myself about it. ) We talked about personal things, our goals, our doubts, everything. We were seriously getting to know one another and I was digging it. Eventually we decided to see each other again and he came to visit me in Natal. I was nervous because at that point I knew it was turning into something serious. I told my friends from home about him and they were all so encouraging and happy for me. I expressed my doubts, my insecurities but I always got a resounding just go with the flow and enjoy it. For someone who constantly believes that everything that is meant to happen will happen and someone who constantly recommends to others “to go with the flow” I certainly could not practice what I preached. Immediately my self-doubt and insecurities got in the way and I wondered how could a talented man be interested in me? This was the first time in my life that I felt all of these new and different emotions and something that hit me hard; vulnerability. I allowed myself to become vulnerable with a man without even realizing it and when I did realize it, I immediately slammed on the brakes.

I am currently still struggling with this vulnerability and it I think it something that does not take a day, a week or a month to get over. I don’t know if it is something that has a time frame on it. Writing this post is hard. It’s hard because yes, I share my adventures, struggles, joys and frustrations about my time here in Brazil but sometimes I feel like I am only scratching the surface. I created this blog with the intention of not only sharing my time here in Brazil with my friends, family and on a social platform but also for me. I created it so I could finally allow myself to open a bit more, not keep things bottled in and confront feelings that I didn’t realize were buried so deep inside. The past 6 months here has taught me so much about myself,  people whom I don’t even know, and my purpose in this crazy ass world. But most importantly I think living here has allowed me to slowly lift the band aid that I did not even know I had. It has allowed me to acknowledge the inner battles and demons I fight off so vehemently that I did not really understand the level I was battling them until I allowed myself to be raw. I said I came to Brazil with no expectations and one thing for certain was I did not expect to fall as hard as I have. Thank you Cris for allowing me to vulnerable.

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The proud Artist and his work

 

Living.

Since the end of June I have been traveling throughout Brazil. (Hence the crickets on this blog.) Traveling is great however when you are traveling, it is hard maintaining a routine, keeping in touch with your family and committing to your daily grind. Despite all of the things I was not doing, one thing I certainly was doing was LIVING. Having 2 of my friends visit me was nothing short of amazing. Prior to their visit, I was dealing with a family tragedy and it was tough. What made it even tougher was the fact that I was grieving here in Brazil while all of my family was together in NY or Haiti. Senseless acts of violence are tough, but dealing with it alone was really hard. A few days later after this terrible death occurred in my family, my friends came to Brazil and it’s like the universe knew exactly what I needed. My friend Denise came to Brazil for about a week and my friend Jazz stayed for 20 days. We started in Rio and lived. We lived the first night when we felt the pulsating samba weaving throughout our veins and danced all night. I had yet to have a full night of dancing here in Brazil, and boy was it needed. Having my friends here definitely reminded me of what I am capable of and the Turn up Queen emerged from a long slumber. Our first night in Rio was epic. The sounds of a bar down the street from where we staying lured us in and we danced till we dropped. What was great about Rio, specifically the neighborhood we were staying in (Lapa) was that everything that we needed and enjoyed was close. The music was down the street from our place. The sounds were there and real. We joked that once all 3 of us came into the bar, that’s when the party started. I can’t count on my hands how many times I heard throughout our trip this phrase “those American girls know how to party!” or “those American girls can drink!” LOL. I don’t want to toot our own horn but we were a good time. Rio was awesome. Between the partying, the culture, the sights and food, it was an enlightening experience for me, specifically since it was my second time going and I was with my friends. These are just a few pictures from our trip in Rio.

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Because they don’t know how to act.

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We were always meeting people on the streets!

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This guy was smoking a cigarette while drinking a beer. His shirt is self explanatory.

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Sunset in Niteroí.
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Rio’s views continue to amaze me.

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Some of the best Samba I’ve heard thus far in Brazil. Every Monday and Friday there is an event called Pedra do Sal where in one of the oldest black neighborhoods in Rio where they have amazing samba.

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After saying goodbye to Denise, Jazz and I flew to the capital of Bahia, Salvador. I felt like Salvador was waiting for me. I felt like I was right at home. Everything just felt right. Before coming to Brazil, I honestly did not know much about the country. I knew that there was a huge Afro-Brazilian population and that was about it. I eventually did more research and read about the country through books, podcasts, listening to music and watching YouTube videos. One book in particularly that I enjoyed reading and I recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about this amazing country and its complex history is A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb. This book is a fascinating account of Brazil’s history written in narrative form and the author explores all of what makes Brazil, Brazil. It’s delectable cuisine, intriguing and morbid history, mysterious religions and political chaos. I read this book before I arrived in Brazil and then once again when I visited Recife, Pernambuco. Reading this book a second time just only emphasized the concept of Living. Reading about a place and LIVING in a place are two completely different matters. Experiencing the city was something special. This was the first time since I have been in Brazil where I was among so many black and brown bodies. Everywhere you looked, I saw Bahianos with kinky curly hair, wide set noses, skin the color of chocolate, contrasting with a sister or mother who had skin the color of your favorite toffee candy. It was amazing. Jazz and I were again consistently mistaken for Brazilians but once we started talking the jig was up. We were able to blend in seamlessly and it was welcoming.. Our first day there we met this man who graciously brought us to the bus station after we explained to him that we were trying to buy a ticket to go to the country side. He not only directed us and showed us to the correct window to buy a ticket he served as our impromptu tour guide throughout Salvador and he showed us all over the historic center and brought us to the best Churrasco (Brazilian Meat Restaurant) I’ve had thus far in Brazil. He was funny, weird, friendly, and kind of sketchy at times but the best random tour guide I’ve ever had. Jazz and I had so many chance encounters throughout our trip I could not even possibly begin to write them all down. Salvador was awesome. I attended my first live concert in Brazil, (Check them out! Your soul with vibrate with this musical goodness) we were able to check out more of the diverse landscapes of this country when we visited a small town called Andaraí in Chapada Diamantina which is a beautiful national park and an eco-tourist’s dream.

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Our main man, Santana!
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Salvador.
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Historic Pelurinho
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Many slaves arrived in this port in Salvador.

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Some of the best churrasco I have had here
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Our lovely tour guide Santana!

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My lovely travel buddy 🙂
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Some orishas in the Afro Brazilian Museum in Salvador.
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Going deep into the caves in Andaraí
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“those American girls love to drink!”
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Yummy Aracaje.

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We got to meet up with some other Fulbrighters and we had such a fun time in Andaraí

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Celebrating 4th of July with other Americans and of course beer.

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The sun hits the water for only a few hours every day and we were lucky enough to see it right before the clouds came.
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Other Fulbrighters!

Last but not least on the trip was São Paulo. What a difference 4 months makes. I remember when I flew into São Paulo in February I was nervous, excited, worried and ready for my time here in Brazil. We had a mandatory orientation with the Fulbright Program in São Paulo with all 80 ETA’s and program directors. I remember not wanting to leave the neighborhood because I was terrified of my lack of Portuguese skills. Because our days were so packed anyway with orientation activities if you wanted to explore the city you could’ve but so many of us were tired that we didn’t. I left São Paulo for Natal thinking that I would be back and next time I was back in this city I made a promise to enjoy this city and see what it had to offer. When talking about Rio and São Paulo Brazilians often compare the energies and pulses of each city to Los Angeles and New York City respectively. After visiting Rio and Salvador I kept saying, “I love this city! I could totally live here!” but after traveling to all 3 cities and spending time in each distinct place I will say that if I had to live permanently in Brazil, living in São Paulo would be the best option for me. I immediately felt at home with the bustling city. The tall overbearing skyscrapers comforted me. The deliberate shuffle of footsteps in the metro, the tight sidewalks filled with commuters, families, tourists and the like and the options! The assortment of restaurants, cultural activities, parks, neighborhoods, energies, museums, ethnic groups was all just so calming to me. It felt like home. São Paulo has been my favorite city thus far in Brazil and I would be remiss if I did not enjoy the city before I go back home. In São Paulo I was able to live.

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So much amazing street art.

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This Peruvian food was amaaaaaazing.
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Can’t take ME nowhere.

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Sunset in Ibirapuera Park. São Paulo’s version of Central Park

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Get In My Belly.

Growing up, my family rarely ate together. From the oldest to the youngest, we all had different schedules, we were all rarely home for an extended period of time together but also it just was something that was not common in our household. The few times I remember eating together was during special occasions or if we were celebrating a holiday at a cousin’s house. Unlike the way I was raised and different values we held, through the various places I have traveled to, eating together and cherishing family time is not only important but something that was a part of your daily routine. You had to eat with your family at least once a day. In Spain, taking a siesta was real and common. Shops and businesses would close down in the middle of the day so employees and owners could enjoy lunch with their families and rest. Living in Spain, I was constantly frustrated when I had to do some type of administrative work on my to-do list and I could not get it done because the post office, bank or restaurant was closed. The American, specifically the New Yorker in me was annoyed and bitterly complained that the reason the economy sucked right now (this was 2013 when 1 in 4 Spaniards were unemployed) was because businesses suffered when they closed in the middle of the day to go eat lunch. Exasperated with so few options I remember thinking, “This would not be OK in the United States” or, “ Shit, it’s 2pm in the afternoon and I can’t do ANYTHING because the city is shut down.” Living abroad, has taught me that it most certainly is never only about you, and it is imperative to adapt. Living in Brazil, I cannot help but compare some of my experiences in Spain to my current time here in Brazil. It’s the only other time in my life I lived away from home for an extensive period of time.

Brazilians love to eat. And they love to eat together. I have many friends who go home between their classes to eat with their families. I have other friends that spend the entire day cooking and eating with their families. I’ve been lucky to have several home-cooked meals, which is something I have muito saudades for. (check out my last blog post if you have no idea what this means.) My host professor in her beautiful home with several other university professors prepared the first home cooked meal that I was able to enjoy. It was a night of fascinating discourse, delicious food, yummy wine and relaxation.

 

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One of my other friends João invited Andrea and I to enjoy a traditional Brazilian lunch with his family. I had plans after the lunch to meet with a research group but I was too engrossed in the food, the engaging conversation, and company and missed the meeting! I lost track of time and felt terrible and when I told the other members of the group,  they were all completely understanding and made jokes and laughed at me because this is all something they have experienced before. You can’t just leave a Brazilian lunch when you are consistently offered food…it’s a huge faux pas. Leaving early is essentially an insult to the host (and growing up in a Caribbean family and having Caribbean friends, I knew that you can’t just leave. Needless to say, they were all super understanding. João’s family is from the countryside and it was awesome enjoying a meal from the interior. One of the highlights from that lunch was when João’s father dropped some wisdom on me. Enjoying a cafezinho after lunch is an important custom that is all over Brazil. Restaurants will offer complementary coffee in little plastic cups that remind me of shot glasses after meals and you can’t help but indulge. Anyway, his father brought out coffee and asked me how I take my coffee. “Black, one sugar.” He looked at me and exclaimed, “sugar!” I have something way better for you. He brought out fresh honey from a farm he visits weekly. He told me a teaspoon of honey would do the trick. I was hesitant but as soon as I had the first sip, I immediately knew I was never going back. Why haven’t I ever thought of this??! It makes sense! I have honey in my tea, I use honey in my smoothies, I use honey in my granola, I use honey as an all around sweetener, I don’t know why it has never occurred to me to use it in coffee! He looked at me with a knowing smile and said no words.

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Trust me, you’ll never go back to sugar.
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João and his gracious parents, Andrea and me.

 

I have another friend, Dannia, who invites me almost every week to eat with her, her sister’s family or her neighbors. It’s always an assortment of deliciousness. A lunch date at her house turned into an afternoon of conversation, Sex and the City and then dinner! I was planning on staying for dinner but I couldn’t just leave. (See above.) Dannia’s has not only opened her home but her family to me and it’s great. Her fiancée brought me back a super cool coffee maker from Italy after I made a fleeting comment about her practical and modern coffee maker. What makes our relationship even better is that our conversations go back and forth between English and Portuguese because we are both trying to learn each other’s language.

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Bellinis, yum!
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Dannia, her sister, brother in law and niece.
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*drools*
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*drools some more*
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*seriously, can you blame me?*

 

Food makes the world go around. It brings people together, ideas and cultures are shared and people are just all around happy. Lovin my friends here in Brazil who definitely know the way to my heart (is food.)

Rio de Janeiro.

This past weekend was the first time since I’ve been in Brazil that I really felt like I was in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro. What images come to mind you when you think of this city? White sandy beaches, sweet exotic drinks, intricate dances, and variations in skin colors? Rio is all of that and more. Just like in Natal, in Rio I am able to seamlessly blend in without a glance. Only difference is that in Rio, I actually feel like I belong and not out of place. The smells, the people, everything is exactly what I imagined. The culture is amazing and indescribable. ( A picture is worth a thousand words right? See Below.) It’s a pulsing city that is rich in culture. I really do like Natal, but there is nothing more than being in a large bustling city. I’m definitely a city girl in my heart. I was able to ride the subway (!!!) after 3 months of crazy bus rides, I could choose between Thai, Mexican and Italian food and it was great seeing a mix of people from all walks of life. Again, I only saw Rio from the tourist perspective and I am definitely curious to see it as a carioca…That’s why I’m going back in 3 weeks : ))))))IMG_2191 2

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Construction is always happening. I got a dope view with a cool wall as well.
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Jesus in the clouds.
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Going Down!
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The Botanical Garden is like an oasis in Rio. We walked through it for hours and it didn’t even feel like we were in a major city

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When the lighting hits you…
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Live Samba Music!
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And there He is.

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Me and some ETA’s
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Look Familiar?

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So many cool tiles!

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We made the taxi driver stop so Priscilla could take a picture with this. He couldn’t help but laugh at our excitement.

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We were able to watch some amazing dancers. This is a type of dance called Jongo which is popular in black communities in Southeast Brazil. When I watched I couldn’t help but notice the links to Ethiopian dances, caribbean soca, and bollywood. I encourage you to look up some dances!
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Greetings from the airport.
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Pão De Acucar. (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
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We met these Swedish girls in Natal, and we were able to go out and explore Rio with them before they returned back to Sweden.
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Rio was great, because I got to meet up with other ETA’s from all over Brazil.

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Always drinking.

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Breathtaking views.

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It´s My *Birthday* And I´ll Cry If I Want To

9 times out of 10 when I talk to my parents, they ask me if I miss New York or if want to come home. When I called my mom for Mother’s Day a few weeks ago, she waved some banan peze and griot in front of the screen (typical Haitian dishes) and asked if I wanted some. My Dad always plays dumb and asks when I am coming back home. (For the record, I am coming back the week of Thanksgiving…Couldn’t miss out on the FOOD!) Every time they pose me that question, I always offer the same response. “No, I’m not homesick. I definitely miss things about my life back home, but I’m enjoying my time here in Brazil.”  That answer does not satisfy them so they pry even further. “I bet you don’t even miss us.” Ahh, here is the question they were dying to ask. My sisters and I always joke that growing up in the Haitian School of Hard Knocks, we never fully expressed ourselves among other things. We never said, “I love you” on our way out the door. “I love you” after a phone call. “I miss you” after not seeing one another for a long period of time. It’s just something we never did growing up.  I don’t know if it’s the culture, my family particularly, or just something we got used to, we just never expressed ourselves. I used to complain to my Mom that my other friend’s parents would always say “I love you” or whatever and my mom would always reply: “I don’t need to tell you. Don’t you know all of the sacrifices I already made for you?!! That in itself tells you how much I love you.” I have friend who always says, “What’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.”  Without a doubt, that mantra was made for my mom.

There is a Brazilian phrase that people use when they miss something or someone profoundly or they are simply reminiscing. Eu tenho  muitos saudades. Here is the definition according to Wikipedia (don’t act like you don’t use wikipedia to find the answers to your burning questions.) This past weekend, I celebrated my 23rd birthday and I am so blessed and happy to see another year. Needless to say, tive muitos saudades. I was missing my family but especially my friends. It was the first time I was celebrating my birthday away from people who I loved and meant the most to me. My dearest childhood friends (church, family and high school friends) and college friends…y’all know who you are, always make me feel special on my birthday. I must stray away from the Haitian School of Hard Knocks and express that this year was really hard. I didn’t think it would affect me so much, but it certainly did. One of my best friends, Sara normally calls or shoots me a text at midnight; my mom will ALWAYS start the call by singing Happy Birthday, and my Dad will always joke around and will he forgot how I old I am (Although sometimes, I think he actually isn’t joking.) My friends from Massachusetts did in fact call me around midnight… but the call dropped and subsequently failed. I was trying to send some pictures to my mom, but the messages were not getting anywhere; I wasn’t able to talk to my parents until the late evening, and I was not able to receive messages and emails until hours later when I was connected back to Wi-Fi.  Despite the fact that I was sad…(so sad that I actually cried ***rolling eye emoji***) it was nice to know that even though I couldn’t respond back to calls, emails, and texts when I wanted to, I know that I am loved and I am lucky enough to have people who care about me. Wise words from my friend Olivia: “What’s understood, doesn’t need to be explained.”  This year was a stark contrast from my 22nd birthday. Even though I was not physically with the people who year after year make my day special, it is amazing to know that they are always there for me.

I am grateful for the people who did make my birthday special here in Brazil. Many of my new Brazilian friends wanted to say Happy Birthday to me in person and give me hugs, presents and well wishes because they told me it didn’t feel right over Facebook. (Brazilians are an amazing group of people) and I am really happy that I was able to enjoy it in a beautiful beach town with my co-ETA and one of my co-workers. This time last year I would’ve never thought I’d be in Brazil, and living here has definitely put things in perspective. This time last year, I graduated from college, celebrated the christening of my favorite nephew, celebrated my birthday with college friends from both UMASS and St. Johns, (lost my phone because I partied too hard…STILL trying to figure out what happened though…) It doesn’t matter if you’re partying into the wee hours of the morning with your usual crew or if you’re with new people in a new place, I am blessed to see the ripe ol’ age of 23 and looking forward to many more years to come.

 

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One thing I love about Brazil, specifically the northeast is the ABUNDANCE of shrimp. I eat shrimp as much as I can.

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Here are some pictures from my weekend.

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Trying to snag a pic before the owner came back…
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Love Beach 🙂
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My co-worker, Dany!

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Every year, I like to take a screenshot of my birthday on my iPhone. Don’t know why I do it, but it’s customary.

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Delayed thoughts and ramblings.

I really can’t ignore it anymore. Whether it is through emails, texts, calls or videos, I need to start documenting my experience.  Videos. Capturing a picture (but also ALWAYS maintaining a level of caution so I don’t get jumped for my iPhone.) This an awesome time in my life and I think it’s because I am scared of my own thoughts as one friend once shared on my instagram, I don’t want to seem vulnerable which seems to be plaguing me all the time, and I’m just flat out making excuses. But excuses no more!

***This is a post that I wrote about 3 weeks ago on Word but I just had to share because I feel like it just encapsulates the randomness of my life here.***

It’s been about 2 months since I’ve been here and writing about my transition and my past experiences is kind of pointless to me so I’ll just start from today. (I know I know this is from several weeks ago, but I just had to share this one specific entry. Welcome to the confusing mind of Tynisha…I’m consolidating my thoughts y’all! ) I went to my Zumba class (which I am loving by the way) and every time I go there, I know the women know of me, but they barely talk to me. It’s a lot of fake smiling and half smiles when we mess up the dances together but today I actually got conversation from them! It’s been over a month since I started attending this class regularly and this is the first time since I’ve been attending that the women (except for my girl Kleidy who is the receptionist) talk to me. They were in awe of my crochet braids. (It’s a form of protective styling specifically for Black women) They were all talking in Portuguese and exclaimed when I walked in “Wow! All this time she had her short Afro, look how long her hair is!” I was thrilled that they were finally acknowledging me, but I also had to set them straight. My limited language skills inhibit me from expanding on society and asking them questions on why do they think I look ‘prettier’ with longer hair. I wanted to delve into the sociological aspect but I guess that’ll have to wait for another day. Ladies, this is not my real hair! I have always found it difficult to explain the process of protective styling to non-women-of-color. The smartass in me always wanted to respond: “Well you see, yesterday I had short hair and since I have this little thing called versatility, I can wake up the next day with hair down to my butt AND in braids!” But I always checked myself. Not offering a legitimate response would just continue the cycle of ignorance and it doesn’t do any good. We can all learn from each other and our different ways of life. I had to tell them that I added synthetic hair to my actual hair and I did this on Segunda-feira. (Monday) they thought I looked great, and I was excited that they were finally talking to me.This was the first time I was having a conversation with them in Portuguese AND both parties could understand one another!

I really do love these Zumba classes. I started attending Zumba classes back home and I was so into it. Not only because I don’t care how I look for one, but also because learning new dances is fun! And what better way to shake, salsa, twerk, and roll while listening to good music and exercising? Zumba is the answer to my life. Sometimes I go to the class (both in the states and in Natal) and I’m lost and confused. It seems like there is a dance for every Brazilian song, and everyone in the class already knows the dance, and I’m just smiling and moving my arms around hoping no one notices that I don’t know what I am doing half of the time. Today, Carlos with his raspy smoker’s voice told us that we’re going to learn a new dance. (Yassss!!) He plays “Work” by Rihanna and I almost roll over from excitement. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it just makes me want to shake ass and tap into my inner islandness. There is nothing I want more than to think I can be in the next Carnival or J’ouvert Caribana in Toronto and these Caribbean songs hype me up. Anyhow, he starts with this new choreography and it’s very island influenced and a lot of rolling of the body, leg shaking and hip winding. The women are lost and laughing just like I am. And for some reason, (LOL, some strange reason) everyone turns to me and asks if they are doing it right. I know I am the only black woman there but it’s interesting to think that everyone thought I was from Angola, despite the fact that I never formally introduced myself to everyone. See how far assumptions can take you? There was one woman who remembered that I was from the states and she pointed and said: “ela é de Nova York!” I nodded at her and in my head I was like “yes girl, set them straight.” I am from NY! Where you can find Caribbean girls everywhere and where we whine, shake ass and roll our bodies. I told them that yes, this is definitely Caribbean influenced and yes, I do have Caribbean blood coursing through me, and yes, Haiti was the first Black Republic in the world. (I didn’t say all of that. History and sociology lessons all in one day…too much, too much!) However I am not the spokesperson on all things Caribbean; let’s ask Carlos how to actually do it. It was great, because although they were asking me questions and I barely had any answers I was just relishing in the fact that I was finally acknowledged and they were talking to me! Small victories my friends, small victories.