A Bridge Within A Gap

Avery Ashwill - Brazil


September 17, 2012

Initially there were eight of us without visas—The Brazil L8—we called ourselves with internal smirks. We spent three days in Tahoe. Floated the Truckee river, swam in the ice melt lake, and stayed in a cozy cabin a five minute walk from a private beach. Even with the outstanding scenery I couldn’t always stay focused on it. We all wanted to be granted visas, and thankfully for five of the eight, their wish was granted and they left after three days in Tahoe.

After The Brazil L8 disbanded, Benito, Alan and I, forced to rename ourselves for obvious reasons, were left to represent Global Citizen Year and Texas in Northern California. For that reason we have become Three Real. The origin of the name was a long, thoughtful process, presented by Alan, and will remain unexplained and ambiguous for time intensive purposes.

Three Real trekked to Point Montara and arrived at a small isolated hostel with plenty of time to ponder our situation. I then decided it doesn’t make sense to be upset about something I can’t control. Being mad at the consulate for not giving me my visa is like being mad at rice for not cooking fast enough. Frustrating? Yeah. Controllable? Not if you want good rice. This small decision to try and stay focused in Northern California and repress longing for Brazil has changed the course of the last few weeks dramatically.

I woke up early the next morning with the night before in mind. We drove down to Santa Cruz and played beach volleyball in the softest sand. We rode roller coasters on the boardwalk and watched waves lap onto the shore peacefully from the Atlantic Ocean.

When we got back from Santa Cruz we spent a day in San Francisco and then headed out to Muir Woods, one of the last standing redwood groves in the world. The trees were awesome, dwarfing us with a seemingly knowing presence. We spent a night in the Marin Headlands and then went sea kayaking in Point Reyes in the morning. We saw jellyfish and mussels and breathed salty air and tasted saltier water. Later that evening we headed to a ranch in Novato and had dinner with a Brazilian Family.

Sort of suddenly, we found ourselves backpacking in the Point Reyes Peninsula for 3 days. We did a nice loop spending two nights less than a three minute walk from the beach. I even peed while watching the sun set over the Pacific. How many of you can say that? (Am I even allowed to say that?) We had a glorious campfire and delicious s’mores and learned a lot about ourselves and our group dynamic. Before the trip at REI, we were renting some gear when an employee asked what kind of trip we were taking and what the circumstances were. We hesitantly called it “a time wasting trip.” Funny those words even came out of our mouths because the trip turned into exactly the opposite. It was more of a time gaining trip, if you will. Because when you walk 22 miles in 3 days you have a lot of time. Time to delve deep into exactly how you feel at each passing second and exactly how you want to feel at the next.

Upon emerging from the wilderness we shot into Berkeley (but not before I slammed the most delicious biscuits and gravy of my life (Grace, if you’re reading this, I’m serious, dude, it was great)). In Berkeley, which is like Austin in a lot of ways, we’ve taken a capoeira class and drilled Brazilian exchange students with questions and eaten delicious food from taco trucks. In order to simulate the independence we’ll have in Brazil we’ve made our own schedules consisting of things we’re interested in within the bay area. Saturday I volunteered to help clean up the coast for Coastal Clean-Up Day 2012.  Sunday I was at the California Academy of Sciences exploring a 4 story rainforest and aquariums, enjoying one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. Oh yeah, and it’s one of four free admission days in 2012. What luck!

When I write up all of the interesting things I’ve been up to in the last two weeks it doesn’t sound bad at all. Because despite all the waiting and frustration surrounding the visa process this adventure in California has been unbelievably eye opening.

The morning before we set out on our backpacking trip I read this quote:

“I believe that only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend fifty-nine minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys, or shame for things badly done both utterly useless and weakening—or in a future which we either long for or dread. Yet the past is gone beyond prayer, and every minute you spend in the vain effort to anticipate the future is a moment lost. There is only one world, the world pressing against you at this minute. There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute—here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle. Which is exactly what it is—a miracle and unrepeatable.”

-Storm Jameson

So, whether it’s GCY Point Reyes, GCY Santa Cruz, GCY Berkeley, or GCY Brazil, it doesn’t matter, because every moment is a precious, unrepeatable miracle that a sensible person wouldn’t dare to waste.

Avery Ashwill