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.

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.

Next Bus, Please.

I had a friend who once posed this question: “How many hours of your life do you think you spend either waiting for the train/bus and is on the train/bus?” Living and working in NYC for the past 3 years, riding the subway was just something that was a part of my routine. Not using public transportation was something only reserved for the super wealthy or super wealthy. EVERYONE I knew took the train. Even if you had a car, you at least had one horror story that started with “One time I was on the (insert train line here)  and it was delayed/ skipped my stop/the car smelled like shit/I was stuck in between stations for 30 minutes.” Or if you were late to work the blame could easily fall on the subway and your boss understood, because that was the one thing that even higher management could empathize with you. Being irrationally angry at the subways and buses was totally okay, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say “I had such a pleasant ride on the train today.” The MTA was something that everyone could agree to hate. “The prices have gone up again??!” “WHY is there construction this weekend?” “So you mean to tell me this train is just NOT gonna run?” “And then the conductor kept repeating ‘ladies and gentleman we are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us’” Train traffic my ass. I could go on for days about the MTA.

Ahh and then I arrived to Brazil. Natal to be exact. I always think back to that question about hours wasted waiting for the bus/train. While typing this, I’m really trying to calculate how many hours a week I think I spend waiting for the bus. Living here has made me long to hear the dreaded words “We are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us” At least with that I could pretend  to believe the half- truth about the shitty public transportation system. Before coming to Natal, we were told by past ETA’s that the buses would be our main mode of transportation. Not a problem. I used public transportation daily back in New York and when I was home in White Plains, if my Mom was feeling generous that day she would lend me her car. I could definitely deal. We were also told to expect to wait anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for your bus.  Come again?  I’m convinced waiting for the buses here is like a game of Russian Roulette. You just don’t know what will come your way.  The actual ride on the bus may only be 10-15 minutes and Natal isn’t a huge city so it really shouldn’t take you long. Factoring in the wait time is essential, because if you don’t dedicate at least an hour door to door, than you will be late to your destination. Or you will be 30 minutes early. You just never know.  Now, you may just say well why can’t you just follow the bus schedule? LOL. The buses here don’t follow a schedule. There have been times where I have seen 3 of the same buses from the same line come one right after the other. There have been times where I have seen the bus that I needed, pass by me while I’m walking towards the bus stop and then I proceeded to turn around and go back home because I already knew the next one wouldn’t come for at least 30 minutes and I rather just sit in my apartment than the blazing sun.

Just like every other place in the world, Brazil has its faults. The buses are unreliable, crowded and hot. People will squeeze onto the bus with limbs hanging out of the open windows because you just don’t know when the next one will come. I have deleted this phrase: “I’ll just wait for the next one.” The next one may come in an hour and you’ll already be even later than you intended to be. (Because like a true Brasileiro/a you are never on time. Even if you’re 15 minutes late you’re on time.) The one redeeming quality about the buses here in Natal is that if someone is lucky enough to have a seat, they will hold your bag for you along with theirs. You can only imagine my hesitancy when someone tapped my arm on the bus and asked to hold my bag. “Excuse me?” But it is customary and part of the culture, and I love it! So when you’re swinging and swaying on the bus because the Motorista is barreling down the street and making left sharp turns, at least you know you’re bag is safe in someone else’s hands.