Birthday Thoughts

Brittany Caceres - Brazil


January 26, 2015

10.22.14 I generally like to think of myself as an unselfish person but there is always one day in the year where I allow myself a little selfishness: my birthday. This year, as the big day approached I found myself constantly thinking about all the things I missed about by old life in New York. These thoughts mixed with a lousy day and a whole lot of boredom resulted in a list:

  1. Things to do! (this may or may not have been followed by more than one exclamation mark)
  2. Friends
  3. Mom
  4. Normal temperature water
  5. No roosters waking you at dawn
  6. Or animals in general chickens and dogs can be loud too
  7. Heating
  8. Internet
  9. People
  10. A city

Since I made that list, I could not let it out of my mind. It was something that came out of bad feelings and I became increasingly ashamed of it. Daily, I found small blessings and things that contradicted my list until it began to feel irrelevant. I actually became paranoid that someone would find it in my journal and read it (despite it being in English) and was about to trash it when I realized that these feelings were important enough to me to write down at some point and may return during my time in Brazil. So to overwrite the bad feelings, I sat down once again with my notebook and pen and made a new list of the blessings I noticed daily:

  1. There’s always something to do if you look for it, every second here is a learning opportunity and one of the first lessons Brazil offers is learning to make peace with time and your thoughts.
  2. I am surrounded by a close knit community and friends come in every shape and size.
  3. Although I still strongly miss my friends from New York, I have found a support system abroad as well: my cohort, my family, my community. Even the animals offer companionship when I’m alone.
  4. Brazil has made me appreciate my mom more than I ever have. I realize I never truly valued her the way she deserved or how much I learned from her. I came to Brazil for lessons outside the classroom but I am starting to understand that she was giving me these lessons my whole life. I am glad Brazil has helped me have these revelations and plan on showing my mom more appreciation next time I see her; putting her lessons to use here have helped me mature and survive daily.
  5. Cold water is so nice after running around on a hot day and a boiling water works wonders to combat the freezing mornings.
  6. The chickens’ eggs hatched and now every time I walk out I see something I never thought I would actually witness: a mother hen walking down the road ahead of me with a train of chicks walking along after her.
  7. Dogs provide the best companions whether it’s when you are paranoid about being home alone or just to make you feel more like family the first time you look back and see one of the dogs walking with you on your way to work, something they only do with family members.
  8. No heat provides an excuse to curl up with your host sister under five blankets and talk the night away.
  9. Not having internet gave me a chance to look up from my phone and notice things I would not have normally even glanced at. It allowed me to have more family time and when I was finally able to find wifi to speak to people back home, I appreciated my conversations with them more than ever.
  10. I may not be surrounded with the swarms of people and meaningless interaction of New York but everyone in this community plays a crucial part in it. Every conversation I have and person I meet is a lesson in which I learn about their role in the community and begin to form my own.
  11. Having lived in a city my whole life, I never understood the hardships of a rural lifestyle. My knowledge of it was only made up of the romanticized version I was exposed to via books and movies. My closest experience with a cow was at a petting zoo and the thought of riding a horse was so strange to me. My time here has erased the stereotypes I had of farm life and increased my appreciation for a sector that I never experienced and rarely interacted with.

At an In-Country Orientation activity, I said that I wanted to work on being optimistic and seeing the good in all things. This week I gained a special tool for that: the ability to pause and appreciate the small things in life.

Brittany Caceres