Wherever You Go, Go With All Your Heart

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro

Forgive me, it’s been a while. Quite the understatement.  I think carioca life (carioca = Portuguese word for things that pertain to Rio) has made me lazier–or at least just more of a beach bum.  The weather here is usually a gorgeous 80 degrees with bluebird skies and low humidity, so when I’ve got free time, I inevitably want to be outside instead of cooped up inside and not receiving my recommended daily dose of vitamin D.  I’ve been keeping busy with teaching English; gym, tan, laundry (ha except minus the gym or the laundry–more about this to come later); watching more World Cup games than I ever will again in my life–unless for some reason I’m back in Brazil in 2014; kicking it in the favelas and discovering how great these dynamic communities are; learning about the crazy workings of “dating” in Rio; and being a guide for my family when they came to visit me.  I’ve been here for almost four months, just about the same amount of time that I was in Buenos Aires, but I’ve definitely enjoyed living in Rio more than BA.  It is starting to feel like home…

But recently I’ve been complacent. (Yup, I’m about to get personal here…)  I plucked myself out of the great city of Washington, D.C. where I had amazing friends, a pretty decent job, a loving boyfriend, where I had some roots, and decided that I’d rather throw all that out the window (okay, that’s a rather dramatic way to put it—perhaps put it on the backburner is a better cliche) and uproot my life to be here, in South America.  Rather by accident (or fate? depends on how you look at it), I’m now in Rio de Janeiro, and I am in fact caught in a bit of a love affair with this city… although I can’t really explain why.  If pressed, I’m not sure I’d be able to really justify why I like it so much here.  There’s actually quite a lot about living here that annoys me.  There are the little things: Why do the buses have turnstiles that barely allow someone of my size to get through?! (And come on, I’m on the petite side of human beings in the spectrum of human beings!)  Why is Copacabana always clogged with the worst traffic ever?!  And there are of course the big things: Why don’t people ever do what they say? Or mean what they say?!  Why is it that I can’t get a job because I need to already have a permanent visa, which is a ridiculous Catch-22 to begin with, because I need the job in order to get the visa?!  And WHY for the love of god is everything so expensive?  BUT.  But… I like this place.  I just do.

I think it has something to do with its sexiness.  I live in Rio de Janeiro.  That’s in Brazil, in case you didn’t know.  Home of Carnival and the land of beautiful bronzed women who wear basically nothing to the beach.  OOoOOooh.  It just is… hot.  Hotter than D.C.  (Though not right now—sorry guys who are sweating through the D.C. summer!)  It also has something to do with Rio’s vibe, which is ineffable, but I will try to illustrate with this:  I spent just 15 minutes today sitting on one of the benches along Copacabana beach, after the sun had gone down, and the beach was lit up by lights.  Lots of people were running and riding bikes along the bike path, couples were being all cutesy, tourists were having a drink at the beachside cabanas, the wind was crisp and smelled of the ocean, and though it’s such a familiar scene–one I see basically every day–I was still awed by it.  It made me realize all over again that I really like this city.

So back to the complacency.  If I don’t really think about it, I could cruise along living here in my happy little sun-kissed bubble without a care in the world.  But as Brazilian Immigration technically doesn’t want me to stay more than six months, I’ve recently been forced to think about whether or not I really want to be here.  I love the life of a beach bum, I love living abroad, I love speaking Portuguese.  I love Brazilians (on the whole… except when I am cat-called with “konichiwa” or am getting molested by guys who believe it their right to kiss me before they’ve said a word to me).  I love the freedom of not having a 9-5 job.  I love the afternoons of walking around the favela.  I love the life experiences I’m building here that I wouldn’t otherwise have if I lived in the States.

But what I am doing here really?  I’m teaching English, but I don’t want to be a teacher.  I should probably get a move on with what I do want to be.  I’m making good friends, but is it at the expense of my relationships back home?  I’ve been here four months and have suffered one of the worst living situations in the history of living situations (as I write this my landlady has just come out of the extra room in her underwear to tell me another crazy story–and I was of course shocked by this, because when I left the house earlier today she was not here), and I still haven’t found a decent place to move to.  And as charmed as a Brazilian love story might seem, I’ve learned that some Brazilians (though certainly not all) can be crazy muthaf*ckers.  That is to say, they come from a very different society where the way our synapses fire and the way we express emotions is different than they way they do it.  I say that in the most subjective way, but hey, what can I speak from but my own experience and that of my friends?

But I recently came across this quote that’s in the title of this post: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”  That Confucius was a smart man.  I’ve been here for four months.  Four months in the grand scale of things is a pretty short amount of time.  And my original goal when I decided to move to a foreign city was to really live there, make it mine, not be a passer-by, but a resident.  Someone who knows where to bring friends if they come to visit.  Someone who has a favorite eatery within walking distance of her house, and who also has a spot she’d take the goddamn bus to because it’s just that good.  Someone who has an intimate knowledge of the city.  Someone who knows without consulting Google Maps which bus lines go where.  And though I’m already starting to put together bits and pieces of my expat portfolio here, I don’t think I’ve given myself enough time to flesh it out.  I have met some long-timer expats here–people who’ve lived here for upwards of three, four, five years–and I am awed by that.  They love this city.  Why leave if it’s one of the greatest cities on Earth?  Do I have what it takes to live here for that long?  Anyone who knows me knows I can’t even decide when I’m at the front of the line whether or not I want chili or a baked potato with my Wendy’s spicy chicken, so obviously I haven’t thought that far ahead.  But you know… it’s an intriguing idea.

In any case, I need to shake myself out of my rut, out of my complacency and it’s time to get going!  Thus far I’ve been thinking of my time here as sort of just a trial.  But the trial period’s over—I’ve already discovered that I really like living here.  So now I’ve just got to start putting all my heart into living here—and that means locking down a production job so that I can be doing something productive while I’m here.  Rio is my now, my “in the moment.”  After this experience, who knows when or if I will ever live abroad again, let alone when I will be back in Rio?  So I’m not gonna let my time here float by. Tenho que aproveitar–I have to take advantage–as the Brazilians would say.

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7 thoughts on “Wherever You Go, Go With All Your Heart

  1. You like Rio, so stay and who knows where else you might like it in the future.

    The “problem” with traveling and living overseas is that it gets in your blood. You become addicted to the experience of learning a new way of life, new people, a new culture. It is very difficult to go home again and live a “normal,” familiar life again.

    Says Miss Footloose, who once spent a few days in Rio and liked it too and may have sat on the same bench at the Copacabana Beach.

    1. I agree completely with your comment! And thanks for your fellow expat point of view… it’s hard to really quantify “why” I like living in this strange land so far away from home, but it’s definitely gotten in my blood…

  2. Hey! I just wanted to let you know that for some reason this post really made me miss you. I think its because reading it is just like having a conversation with you. Good luck with the job search- I’ll talk to you soon!

  3. I just love your blog!! I came across it because I am choosing my first summer study abroad destination very soon and I have it narrowed down to Barcelona, Viterbo, and Florionapolis (in southern Brazil)!! It will be my first time leaving the country (besides a couple trips to the Bahamas!) and it’s such a hard decision! Your descriptive writing style is so fantastic it has helped me out the best in making my decision! I am a citizen in Brazil because my mother is from Bahia, though I was only there once when I was a child. But I plan to move there in the start of 2014 for an undetermined amount of time so I thought I’d make this trip to Europe. I am also in production so I will be trying to score a job with Fox Sports to cover the World Cup ideally! We have so much in common, it’s crazy! (I also started a travel blog a few months ago & considered using the teach English programs to travel more post-graduation) I hope you will be back for the World Cup and you can be my travel guide! Haha sorry for the mini-novel! Happy traveling!xx

    1. Hi Diana! What a wonderful comment! I really do appreciate so much each and every time someone takes the time to write me a note saying how much they enjoy my blog. And I always love hearing about when other people love to travel and eat and explore just as much as I do! As for your decision, I have to admit that I haven’t been to Barcelona, but I have heard that it is an amazing city, in a lot of people’s top fives in the world. And as much as I love Florianopolis (I have a weak spot for surfers, especially Brazilian ones! :)), it’s not the same kind of cultural experience you’ll have if you go to Barcelona–especially since Spain is just a quick hop on a train or EasyJet flight to France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland… all of Europe! And the food experience will be that much better in Spain. Anyway, I would absolutely love to go back to Brazil for the World Cup, and am plotting my return as well! Please keep in touch… and many happy travels for you too!

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