A Letter

Tenzin Gyalmo - Brazil


May 13, 2019

A letter to me just starting the GCY journey. (And to future fellows who might read this)

Dear me,

You are getting way ahead of yourself. It’s great that you have these expectations but your expectations will serve you a good laugh. Seven months in Brazil seems like such a long time but it will go by fast. At times you will find yourself doing nothing, or just feeling like staying in for the day, or just getting that rest. And you will beat yourself up for it, you will shame yourself for being a “bad” fellow, and worst of all compare your experience to that of others. But one thing I want to tell you, these moments don’t make your experience any less meaningful. Actually, you need these moments too, because your brain is trying to reprogram itself in Portuguese. You may not be physically tired but you will be, mentally.

Yes, your Portuguese will improve but no you will not speak like a Brazilian. You will try your best to learn all the tenses but will still struggle with the irregular verbs. You will be so happy when you can squeeze in a conversation with the person sitting next to you on your bus ride home. But often times disappointed that your conjugations of certain verbs give away that you are a foreigner. But always remember how you started, with simple nods and worry filled eyes hoping that the two words you recognize can help you figure out the whole paragraph. 

Yes, you will be excited to meet your host family and have a family in Brazil, but the first time won’t go the way you expected it to go, just because the difficult times they will go through will not leave space for the bonds to grow. But as you move to your next family, what you hoped for, you will find. Just three months with them and you will meet amazing people through them – artists, documentarists, Buddhists, singers and a family. You will learn so much from your host families. You will share amazing hours-long conversations with your host family and she will understand you.

Yes your independent travel will be amazing and will leave you with a sense of longing. Funny that independent travel was not the aspect you were most stoked about. But you will fall in love with Brazil. With her culture, her strong women, her days and nights, her wars and victories, her green and blue. Her beauty. You will want more time here and crave to see more. You will want to come back. 

You will learn a lesson that instead of making a list of things you WANT to learn, to make a list of things you want to TRY. That way you will first try it out and see if you enjoy it and if yes then you can carry on learning it.  If not, then you can strike it off your list and get that satisfaction.

 

No, it’s not easy to make Brazilian friends especially because you are so quiet in another language and not funny at all. 

You will fall in love with Forró. 

You will fall in love with samba. 

You will apply to colleges, didn’t that seem unachievable just last year? 

Obviously, you will not have done everything you listed in your future self which is me talking to you right now. Lol. Ok sorry. Back to the point. But you won’t be disappointed because you will have got so much more. 

You will have amazing memories of the country with your cohort. Paddle-boarding across its calm lakes, surfing and swimming on their unnerving waves, hiking and sitting on a ledge overlooking paradise and rafting on the gushing river. 

You will make amazing friends, again with no certainty if you will stay in touch after the months. You will come to love your apprenticeship. You will start off shaky but soon you will be totally independent. You will come up with ideas, and your project will be welcomed with open hands. You will meet strong beautiful people who are conquering the obstacles life put in front of them. You will eat really great food but will still miss eating noodles and Ama’s cooking. You will create your own definition of a good fellow and a global citizen. You will reconnect to your own cultural and religious values. You will question forgiveness but still forgive. You will still be confused and nothing will be narrowed down the way you expected. 

You will laugh. 

You will cry. You will cry from laughing. 

You will need a reality check once in a while from Chris (shout out to my wonderful Team Leader). 

You will forge amazing friendships

You will read. 

You will learn. 

You will be difficult. 

You will dance. 

You will struggle. 

You will doubt. 

You will be wrong. 

You will be less wrong. 

You will assume. 

You will expect. 

You will not achieve. 

You will fail. 

You will succeed. 

You will learn what happiness is. 

You will learn to let go but sometimes to hold on.

You will learn to not judge.

You will love.

You will live. 

You will grow. 

You will have a great year! Not a year you want but a year you need.

Lots of Love,

Tenzin

Tenzin Gyalmo