Patos de Minas:
I have never, not once, ever left a Brazilian’s house hungry. I’ve always managed to leave their homes waddling; filled to the brim with traditional cuisine, which usually (always) consists of that magical combination of rice and beans. I even remember as a child in the homes of Brazilian family friends that even if I had arrived without hunger, I still left more full, after much insistence on their part that I eat, eat, eat!- wondering how I could have ever not have entered that home ravenous in the first place. This is just but one mere example of the hospitality and kindness that I was greeted with in Brazil, not only by my friend Karla’s family, but also by the many people of her town I met who I now regard as friends.
Getting to my final Brazilian destination, Uberlandia, had me leaving early in the morning to fly out of Buenos Aires to Sao Paolo, the biggest airport in Brazil, where I would catch a connecting flight to Uberlandia where Karla and her family would greet me. Going to Brazil feeling confident in my Spanish and being familiar with hearing Portuguese before, I thought I would do just fine.
Getting through the airport though, on my own, was slightly more difficult than I anticipated. After having reached a state of comfortable communication in Argentina in Spanish, I was suddenly cut off from my communications skills, deaf and mute to this new world, and confused as to why I couldn’t understand ANYTHING. In fact, more people spoke English than Spanish! After this somewhat stressful episode, I made it onto my flight. After I’d settled into my seat, I pulled out my Borges book “Fictions” to read after takeoff, like any good Argentine would. After a few moments, the Brazilian gentleman who had sat down in the seat next to mine peered at this English version of Borges, and asked me in English “Where are you from?” Instinctively I replied in Spanish that I was from the United States but that I had been studying in Argentina for the past month. He said, “That’s great, but I don’t speak Spanish!” I never ended up opening up dear Borges because I spent the entire flight talking with this gentleman who told me lots about Brazil, about his travels, and laughed at the few Portuguese phrases I knew which included requests for A Very Cold Beer, Please and Where Can I Find A Bathroom? After landing, he offered to carry my ridiculously heavy hand luggage off the plane until I found Karla and her family eagerly awaiting me. It was a short moment of time, and I know I’ll probably never see this gentleman again, but my encounter with him made me think about the kindness of strangers and acquaintances that I’d been experiencing and would experience in the week. Like that family who eagerly helped me get to the Retiro bus station and walked me all the way there before I went to Bariloche; or the older woman who sold me her art at the Recoleta fair and who sent me away from her stand with a sincere kiss on the cheek after our nice conversation; or Santiago who we met in Bariloche, who, after I casually asked if he knew of any good hostels in Bs As, actually took the time to ask around and sent me a reply; or Edmar in Brazil who after our brief conversation about music promised he would make a CD for me with Pink Floyd and good Brazilian music, and actually did. Like the wonderful friends I have made, they too have all, in their small ways, contributed greatly to my overall experience.
And the good feelings only continued. In my week in Brazil, I was met with such kindness and hospitality. Karla’s family made every effort to make me feel welcome and comfortable in their home, and those efforts did not go unnoticed.
In my week, I got to sample a lot of new foods and drinks including frozen Acai, chicken heart, pork belly, Servette de Pequi, coconut water, sugarcane juice, and pamonha.
I was ravenous, literally and figuratively. I ate LOADS and my mental appetite was eager to learn about the Brazilian culture through their food and drinks, and I am always a fan of this type of schooling.
My time in Brazil seemed destined for a little bit more relaxing and internal adventuring, as opposed to the likes of my 26 hour bus long escapades. I didn’t realize how much I loved Buenos Aires until I had left it. Being in Brazil gave me a different perspective on this crazy city and the memories I’ve created in it.
I began reflecting on my time here in Latin America, my travels, life back in Florida, what I want out of life, etc. You know, the College Kid Questions. Then a question popped up in my head out of nowhere, in my head, asking “What have you learned?” After all the meals, the money, and the miles traveled, what am I taking away from this whole trip? I’m doing a radio story on studying abroad in Argentina, and so I interviewed a few of my friends from the program, asking the same question. But I avoided answering it for myself because it’s one of those Big questions that take a lot of thinking and energy to answer-like a chore you put off for as long as you can. But I need to start answering this question earnestly. So, what have I learned?
I think it was sort of “fate” I guess or luck or whatever you want to call it that I did end up coming to Argentina. It represents a sort of “Holy Trinity,” if you will, of parts of my identity: English, Italian, and Spanish. English because my mother is from England, constituting a large and important part of my identity, and because of Argentina’s interesting and rocky history with England. (But let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a rocky history with England?) Italian because my paternal great, great-grandfather was an Italian immigrant to the US (refer to my last name “Scachetti”) and there is a HUGE Italian population in Argentina which has greatly influenced it’s culture. And lastly, Spanish, because it’s the language spoken in Argentina, and the language I fell in love with in the 8th grade, and the learning of which has been part of my schooling for the past 7 years. The dedication and desire I have had for learning this language realized itself on that last little excursion I told you about when we visited the Plaza de Mayo the second time in our IFSA program, when I realized we had sort of come full circle in our comprehension and learning of Argentina. I was relating this realization to one of our program directors, Daniel. And I had a “moment” in this realization while talking to him because I only realized afterwards that it was because that after 7 years of classes, countless homework assignments, flash cards, vocab tests, oral exams, and even all the preparation to get to Argentina; I felt like I finally GOT Spanish. Which is not at ALL to say that I’ve in any way mastered it or that I don’t have loads more to learn. But for this month and a half, I wasn’t only speaking Spanish-I’ve been living it. The work that I put into learning this language felt realized and became a more integral part of who I am and the way that identify myself. And being in Bs As has pushed that integration even further. So as I explained to Daniel my understanding of the Full Circle of my comprehension of the importance of the Plaza de Mayo, so too did I reach a sort of Full Circle in my appreciation for language and culture and, dare I say it… pride in myself! Yes, my friends… ALL the feels.
But, as you all know, I have to come home at some point. My flight worked out best for me to return to Bs As first and spend the night before flying out back to Miami. I was talking with my mom when I got back last night from Brazil and said “yes dear mother I am eager to once again be home with you but oh I can’t believe I am actually leaving Buenos Aires already.” I told her I could finally feel like laying some sort of small claim to this city, to it’s familiarity and comfort after my 5 weeks there. After my week in the other foreign world that is wonderful, beautiful Brazil, coming home to Bs As and my host mom’s house, really felt like home. But I also was not opposed to the idea of coming home home, to Florida, to my house in the suburbs, back to my room and my dog and eventually back to good ole Gainesville, where I have much work and play awaiting me this fall.
As I had told you, early on in the week in Brazil, I asked myself “What have you learned?” and spent the week trying to figure out what one sliver of knowledge I gained was the most important. Was it that It doesn’t take years to build strong, true relationships? That they can be be built in 6 weeks, one week, or even one night and a glass of wine? Or that travel is one of the best ways to learn to appreciate what you have? Or maybe even that café con leche is probably the King of Kings as far as caffeine goes?
I have this planner that I always carry around with me, and if you know me well enough, you’ve seen me take it out and scribble notes in it frequently. It’s a beautiful planner and has words from the famous writer “Paolo Coelho” and it’s completely in Spanish. Each month has a word, an intention, and the Coelho quotes for each week have to do with that intention. As I was scribbling To-Do lists in it yesterday, I noticed that July’s focus was “Cambio” –change, and August’s is “Entusiasmo”-enthusiasm.
And so it is that July has been a month of change, internal as well as external, for me, where I have learned a little about the world and a little more about myself. And I am indeed enthusiastic for August, returning back to “real life” where I want to go forward with new intentions. The intention is to take not only all that I have learned from this trip and use it to enrich my life and understanding of the world, but to remember to always ask what I am learning and to remember to be a quizzical student of the world; like that 3rd grader in the front row with pigtails, hand always in the air with a question on her mind.
(Yeah I’m allowed to do that)
I would like to take the time to THANK all those who have contributed to my adventure in the multitudes of ways, be it financially, academically, emotionally, physically, or simply by reading my blog posts and pictures: I appreciate you all! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and I hope you too get to have a grand adventure sometime soon.
Besos a todos!