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.

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.

So What Exactly Are You Doing Here?

Working at the university, (Universidade Federal Rio Grande do Norte or UFRN) Andrea and I come across many students who are excited that there are actual native English speakers amongst them. We get just as excited too. For those unfamiliar with our jobs I always find it difficult to explain what exactly are jobs are and what our duties entail. I find when I am explaining most people have a glazed expression over their faces and smile and nod. (More about that later.)  So, what exactly are you doing here?

Well my official title is as follows: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant or ETA. According to the Fulbright website : “ETAs will be assigned as language-learning assistants working up to 20-25 hours per week, but they will not be responsible for teaching entire courses. They will develop and lead language learning activities and classes under the supervision of faculty, and promote U.S. culture through cultural and social programs. The Fulbright Commission will match the grantee with the appropriate host institution.” That is the longer explanation. We basically tell the students that we are here as English Teaching Assistants and we come to NuCli and Ágora classes to help with the professors with lesson plans and workshops. In addition to working in the classrooms, we hold a weekly Conversation Club with varying topics which is definitely one of the highlights of my week at the university. The NuCLi classes are a federal program that promote language instruction. Brazilian universities receive foreign language teachers and students from all over the world. According to the IsF website  : “Developed by the Ministry of Education (MEC) through the Department of Higher Education (SESu) in conjunction with the Higher Education Personnel Improvement Coordination (CAPES), the program without Borders Languages (ISF) aims to encourage learning languages, in addition to providing a comprehensive and structural change in the teaching of foreign languages in universities of the country.” In short, I am here serving as an ambassador to the United States but I always emphasize to the students that my perspective and my experience in the United States is not reflective of the entire country and my own experience in the states is certainly unique.

There are about 72 ETA’s all over Brazilian federal universities and each region has a mentor. I am in the Northeast Region and I have one mentor who is in Fortaleza, Ceará with 3 other ETA’s. There are 2 ETA’s in Teresina, Piauí; João Pessoa, Paraíba; and here in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte respectively. In addition, there are ETA’s in cities such as Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belem, Belo Horizonte, Florianópolis, Vitoria, Curitiba, Porte Alegre and countless others.  It’s an awesome program because not only do we have ETA’s in just about every part of the country, we all also offer specific perspectives and can bring so much to the table. Everyday when I go to work not only am I teaching the students, but also I am learning so much about Brazilian culture, history and the way of life. I love my job.