I’m not a very sentimental person, but saying goodbye to Lençóis and all of the people I had the pleasure of spending this time with was one of the hardest parts about my experience.
Coming to Brazil was the first experience I had being abroad for such a long period of time. This lack of international exposure made me expect challenges, even without knowing exactly what those challenges would be. But in hindsight, my time here was actually pretty easy. I had the opportunity to live in a beautiful town with a loving family and most of the comforts of home. I was also able to work with and learn from an amazing NGO coordinator by day and get completely destroyed in Jiu Jitsu class by night. But in the end it was precisely all of these wonderful things that made the experience hard, because at some point I had to let go of everything I had built up over these past 7.5 months and go back to the U.S.
It definitely wasn’t easy saying goodbye. Not just because of the amount of emotions saying goodbye brought to the surface, but also because it was physically difficult to put into words what I wanted to say. Thanks for everything and It was nice getting to know you were the phrases that normally came out, but I wanted to say so much more. Though now it seems like the time came and went, 7.5 months was a long time to be a regular part of other people’s day-to-day lives. I wanted to tell people how much of an effect they have had on me and how much I have changed/will change because of them, but I just couldn’t find the right words. I think it’s because I haven’t truly grasped how different living in Brazil has made me that I could not convey my true sentiments to my family and friends in Lençóis; it’s hard to put into words something that you do not entirely understand yet.
Although I was not able to say goodbye exactly how I wanted to, I ended up saying farewell as best as I could. For most people I just ended up hugging them and saying “Tchau,” but for my family I ended up cooking dinner with another Fellow since our host families are related. Even though they didn’t eat that much (since Brazilians are accustomed to eating big lunches and pretty small dinners), they seemed to appreciate it. It was a good way to get all of the family together one last time. After dinner my host family walked me to the bus station to say our final goodbyes. I hugged each of them one last time and eventually got on the bus. As I was about to pass the neighborhood we lived in, I saw them standing and waiting for my bus to pass by. My host mom was waving frantically, hoping that I would see her as the bus drove by. Luckily I did.
These final moments have shown me just how powerful this experience has been. And though I’m definitely excited to come back to the U.S. and tell people about my experience in more detail, it will be hard to convey the gravity of what this experience has meant to both me and the people of Lençóis that made my gap year what it is.