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.
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.
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.