A Time Capsule of Journal Entries

Sophie von Muench - Brazil


June 7, 2018

This was the first journal entry I wrote upon arriving in Brazil; my first time sitting on a Brazilian beach, my first attempts to ground myself in the place and actually understand that after endless orientation we’d actually made it to country!

September:

I am sitting on the beach, underneath an almost full moon (it’s waxing downwards!). The bottom of the moon is fading into the striped pastel colors of the horizon. The afternoon sun hits my back, the wind whips my shirt and frees my hair from the restrictive ties it’s been in for the long 36 hours on the plane. Huge waves build up, frothing happily as they rush to meet me. My feet ground me to the sand of Brazil (Brazil!), and the ocean brings me deeper towards the center of the earth with every pull back into the sea. The blues and browns and whites steam into a haze, giving the island to the left a mystical feel, while the farm bubbles up on the shore, inviting me to come play with it. The cold gives me a jolt, much needed after the long travel, and the power of the sea exhilarates me. I can feel the corse sand I’m sitting on and the wind in my face, hear the screams of friends beside me running from the water, and feeling that I’ve finally arrived. Four horses gallop by almost silently, startling me as they dash past me, and surprising me again a split second later as I register that there are actually people riding horses on beach…

A wave sneaks up on me, and I pull off a majestic bridge to save the journal. The waves break powerfully, reaching high high for the sky before hitting the sand, as if they’re aiming to create the biggest adrenaline rush they can possibly get. The roar of the waves, soothing and empowering, masks the Portuguese behind me that I wouldn’t be able to understand anyway. At least not yet. Flying over Sao Paulo, I couldn’t believe the solid white marks in the water were waves — now, seeing the waves in front of me, I understand. 

Writing this, I have sunk into the sand so that there is a perfect mold of my body, a spot on the shore of Brazil that is perfect for my legs, a fleeting place in this insane new home specifically for me. 

Fast forward a couple months, and we have a fleeting attempt to actually record the small things of a week in Sophie’s Brazilian life.

February:

A collection of One Sentence Stories from a Chill Week

I rode a bike around the backyard with my host sister, who was very skeptical that I could actually ride a bike and very excited to show off her crazy stunt of riding one-handed in a circle. 

On a crowded bus, I had a discussion with a chef about how hard it is to be a vegetarian in Brazil.

My friend Elise and I had a rough day at work, choked on cucumbers, had mini mental breakdowns, and ate an entire liter of açaí with condensed milk, bananas, granola, and chocolate cookies while watching a movie. 

I chilled to the beach, caught the beginning of the sunset, and watched Argentine brothers happily kicking each other. 

A monkey helped to clean up his enclosure — he put a watermelon rind in the box, put a banana peel in the box, and hopped into the box himself as if to say “come on, let’s get this done!”. 

I left the house at 8 to go on a little hike to a waterfall with a friend, waited in the rain for a bus that never came, gave up, returned home, and called my parents. 

I was the messenger between Karley, my friend in Chile, and my Chilean host-grandmother, who was very excited to hear that Karley has indeed been eating many empanadas. 

Zoe and I compared off brand Paçoca (Brazilian peanut snack) to the real thing, just to know. 

I sambaed around the kitchen with my host mom and aunts. 

I got an irritated glare and some ominous hissing from an ocelot who really did not want the fish I was trying to give it instead of its normal mice (which we were out of). 

I travelled about an hour from Florianopolis to climb a hill, jump in a river with some cute kids, get some travel tips from cool rock climbers, and have deep conversations about rape and religion within five minutes of meeting an amazing woman. 

I was analyzed by my name and my star sign by Theo, the gemini, who was selling stickers.

I saw an amazing rainbow. 

I fought with a door, a toucan, and mosquitoes, and lost to all three. 

I was scared out of my mind by my hairtie falling out of my hair because I thought it was a fat flying cockroach. 

It was explained to me that the sun rises in the east. 

I discovered that one of the officers of the environmental police I work with is my neighbor, was introduced to his wife, and told to come down the street if I ever need anything. 

I watched my first Scooby Doo movie ever! Hooray for new cultural experiences!

And finally, my attempts to actually process we’d be leaving.

April:

This is our last full week with our host families over here in Brazil. I am so confused about my feelings at this point. I can’t remember ever being sad about leaving a place like this. I suppose the main reason is because this might be the first home I’ve ever left without knowing whether I’ll see it again. The time has gone so quickly. I realized the other day that I probably will never go to Lagoa again. Odds are I won’t make it back to the used book store in the center where I bought all my Portuguese children’s books. Unless this autumn whether clears up and Thursday is magically beautiful and I am not running errands, I will never go back to our beach after work. I’d be surprised if I ever sat at the edge of the lake with a tub of ice cream or acaí or chocolate with friends talking and laughing watching the light change over the water. Thinking about all these little spots and moments that I didn’t say goodbye to, just because I never realized they would be lasts, has me feeling saudade even before I leave. And how in the world am I supposed to say goodbye to my host family? To my grandma who forgets she’s speaking to me in Spanish and my host brother who can’t be in the same room as me without tickling me and my host mom who may be the sweetest, most patient person I know, and my host dad with his crazy stories and my host sister who climbs on me and cries at me and falls asleep on me and is struggling to understand why I have to leave? Leaving my real family in the U.S. was easy. I was ready to embark on this adventure and get out of my small hometown, and although I knew I’d miss them, I also knew I’d talk to them often and see them again. With my host family, I literally have no idea whether I will ever see them again in my life. How can I possibly thank them for everything they’ve given me? I am struggling to imagine leaving them for what could be forever — saying goodbye to these people who have made such a huge impact in my life. 

I am not ready to leave the magic of the island. And there is still so much to do, so much to explore and learn and see and hear. I cannot wrap my head around the simple fact that I’ve lived in Brazil for seven months. And as the days run out, I find myself wishing I had just another week, just another month here.

That being said, I am simultaneously ready to move on. I am excited for this summer, and then to go to college. I can’t wait to see my friends at home, and I’m already looking forward to seeing all the other Tufts fellows in the fall. I’m excited to go to all my little spots I found myself homesick for throughout the year, and I am excited to continue the journey in the summer and then with the start of college. One thing that I feel this year has given me is a renewed interest in learning — I think because the approach to learning that this year takes is so different from what I experienced in high school. But although I have learned so much this year from everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve experienced, I have to admit I’m kind of excited to crack open a textbook. So I am ready to move on, even if I can’t fully accept that the time to do so is already upon us.

Sophie von Muench