1st World Problems; 3rd World Blessings in Disguise

Alondra Quiles - Brazil


October 18, 2016

It’s not often that you’ll find yourself at home without electricity, and yet when it does, it seems as though our world is falling apart. Why is that? See, I decided to take a bridge year in the country of Brazil. Not knowing anything and not knowing what to expect. The idea of a year without school seemed almost perfect, it was described as an opportunity of a lifetime that many fellows imagined to be virgin margaritas by the beach, hot shirtless men walking the streets and girls in bikinis with perfect tan lines. It was pictured as the perfect getaway opportunity full of immersion and perfect apprenticeships that would leave us influencing some change and having it change us for the better. But that’s not what it was and what it has proven to be. In fact, many of us have been challenged greatly whether that's family situations, location, living without wifi, hating our apprenticeships or simply just missing home. And although, I was one of those who suffered greatly with saudades (longing for home) I eventually began to love my home and family. I learned to appreciate and to see this experience for what it was giving me, but all along I still felt like something was missing and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was until it happened.

I was visiting my friend Amanda for the day. My family’s electric shower had just burnt and we were in need of another reparation. So Instead of taking my daily morning shower, I decided that I would wait until I would get home that evening. So I left and after spending the day visiting centro, which by the way, most stores are fechadas (closed) because it’s not summer yet, we decided to just spend the rest of the day at her house laying in her hammock and gossiping about our apprenticeships. It was then when I noticed that it was already time for cafe de tarde (afternoon coffee) that I was deciding to head back home when suddenly Amanda’s mom says, “Acho que vai chover”. That’s when I decided to grab my bag and head out because I was not about to get rained on with flip-flops on and no sweater.

As I headed out and reached about midway, I noticed that the sky was an unusual color, but of course I didn’t think much so I kept walking. But as I continued to walk and admire the gray, cloudy sky above me the wind started to pick up and once again I didn't think much, so I just kept walking. As I approached my house I could see my host dad peeking out the window and then I noticed that he wasn’t the only one. All of our neighbors were suddenly looking outside as well as if something unusual was suddenly occurring.

Once I made it inside our house my host mom informed me that the power had gone out, which I had assumed was just temporary because right before leaving Amanda’s house, they too had lost power. But then it went from a couple of droplets of water falling from the sky right outside to it completely hailing and the sky wasn’t pretty anymore and that’s when it hit me that something was really up. So let me just put it this way, once you have lived through almost three full days without taking a shower, you begin to feel a little dirty. OK not a little but a lot, and when you have no electricity for two days you begin to get a little anxious because everything is closed and there is nothing to do but sit and walk around your house and most likely just sleep. While just right outside my window there is a terrible thunderstorm occurring that causes the sky to cry without an end from morning until night.

Yet, as this is all just happening right outside my window and people are getting killed because trees are falling onto their cars with them inside and houses are being destroyed because of the wind currents and rain and thunder, I somehow managed to be completely okay. I felt no fear, I felt no hesitation and if anything, I was still living in my comfort because my family still had food in the refrigerator, although it was getting a little bit nasty and things were going bad. I still had a bed to sleep on, although I was already tired of sleeping all day. And I had candles and matches which allowed us to light up the house and allowed me to boil hot water so that I could take a bucket bath. So what do I have to complain about? Nothing.

See, if I was back home I most likely would have been complaining if something like this had happened because it would be isolation from music, isolation from internet connection, isolation from the world I have given myself and created for myself. Dependency. Yet, here in Brazil I have seen the world for a little more than I knew before. Spending time away from social media and having to speak and learn a foreign language have made me more conscious of the world around me. And although I miss my family back home, I have now gained a greater sense of appreciation and admiration for them because I see the changes and challenges they had to go through when they left Mexico to go to the United States to give me this opportunity and many more opportunities in life.

I have learned that life isn’t pretty and bad things happen. I have learned that unknown experiences are bound to happen and will continue to happen but they are not meant to destroy but rather build me up. I have learned that everything I have, I don’t need but rather I have focused all of my time and energy on. Most importantly, I have been blessed with so much in life even just living in a country that is so developed and advanced. I have learned to admire the beauty and to find beauty in places that lack resources and are in far worse conditions. I have learned to love infinitely and to hold every person I meet close to me because all we have in this world is love and one another and when we are left without materialistic items and pushed a little, we are our best selves. So now all I have is this to take back home with me when I return in April and a clearer sense of the world around me for what it has and for what it gives because this life of mine is too perfect to let rot away. So yes, a couple of days without a hot shower, light, fresh food, music, technology and places to go was totally worth the life lesson earned.

Alondra Quiles