Bleach is for clothes. Not for hair.
At least this is what I thought until today. As I rest my body against this hard bus seat, I reek of bleach. My hands are stained in the best way they have ever been before. I am not even sure if I am on the right bus, but I don’t care. 10:08 reads across my red Lacoste watch. It’s peaceful, and as I look outside the window the dense shadows blend in with the darkness. Usually, I’m super stressed out on the bus, always checking my surroundings and GPS to ensure I am not on track for getting lost. Tonight, though, is a different night. The night that I have forgotten all of the negative possibilities and opened my memory to paddleboarding a week ago.
I can’t even do a backflip. But I figure it is a phenomenal time to learn—in the rain while paddleboarding. I am already soaked like a soggy sponge from the rain. And even if I don’t land it, the lake water would brace my landing. Hopefully…
Eventually, I conjure up the courage to push off. Splosh. After enjoying the warm water, I swim back to my board for another five flips.
Spontaneity like this has been underrated for the short time I’ve been in a foreign country. Honestly, I have been too self-conscious during my first month here. I care too much about how much I mess up words in Portuguese, how I don’t say the right phrase even after preparing a solid minute to express it. I worry too much about how “perfect” my next VSCO picture has to be. The exposure. The filter. The content. My audience. I am too meticulous about it all. I worry so much that I notice myself slipping back into old habits. I’m relying on instant results whenever the results are not instant. It’s a long hike, a long bus ride(figuratively and literally) that I have in front of me. Stressing is not necessary. There’s no use for worrying about how I don’t have the best connection with my host family. Or how I did not talk to that one coworker at work. Or how I missed out on that one opportunity with friends. Or even how I lost over four pairs of contacts in over a month. There’s no perfect family. No perfect friendship. No perfect player. No perfect experience. And there’s no perfect photo that can accurately capture the captivation and adventure of the best moments I have.
The seats and windows rattle with every small bump on the pavement, jostling all the passengers around me back and forth. As my reflection comes to a close, so has the day of most working Brazilians. Now, I think of the many times spontaneity has found me in Brazil. It was not just when I flipped off my paddleboard, but also hours ago when I attempted to dye my friend’s hair after she had done the same to me. When I tried my first banana ever, or when I decided I might just like orange juice. When I went night swimming in the ocean, and bursting out in an off-tune Billionaire by Travie McCoy with Sophie and Elise while cleaning dishes at work.
My mind is my new camera, a lens where I am open to experience all kinds of sporadic decisions. And through these decisions, I have discovered there is so much to learn about Brazil. My bleached hands and backflips stand for a bigger lesson: to learn about new things and try new things before basing my opinions off of other’s conclusions. In these small experiences, I’ve also learned that I no longer need to fret about the small things. Because those things are not going to break my experience. Wherever this road leads is unknown, but it’s invigorating not knowing what’s going to happen next and enjoying the ride.