Wow, the last few weeks, let alone days, have been busy. There has been much to learn, not only about the community that surrounds me during my time here in Brasil, but about myself too, and how exactly I fit into the scheme of things here.
For those of you who didn’t know, for the 3 weeks I have been in Florianopolis so far, I have been living in Rio Vermelho, working in a group that organises classes and activities for youth in the local community, some of whom are at risk. Impacto Vivo (the organisation), as well as my host family, have all been warm and welcoming, embracing me in their community, despite my broken Portuguese and my frequent “não entendi…” (I did not understand). Their patience has been admirable, and yet tomorrow I say my goodbye to them, at least in the daily scheme of things.
In being a fellow with Global Citizen Year, and arguably as any person living abroad, you learn a great deal about the stretch zone. The stretch zone has, for me, encompassed a variety of things, including the language barrier, the food, needing to re-define “time” and putting it in a more fluid context, as well as many other aspects of life that cannot be put into words, things such as feelings.
Though living in the stretch zone and feeling uncomfortable may teach us much, there comes a time where we need to reflect on whether the positives outweigh the negatives. There are aspects of our personality that, yes, certainly should be put to the test and there are aspects of who we are that can be subject to change. It is important, nonetheless, to consider our core values and our mental health. When does change infringe on who we are and who we want to be, at heart?
To meet my goals that I had set before I got on the plane to come here, and to be able to meet the expectations of myself that would allow me to reach my goals, I had to be honest: I couldn’t do that in the community I was placed in. To become more engaged in a community, to become more in touch with the culture and lives of people here, my surroundings were just not right and left me in a place that would prevent me from doing all of this fully. All in all, I started to feel it more difficult to engage, I felt I was not doing as much as I could and, thus, mentally started to lack the capability to act on those feelings.
If there is one thing I could let my fellow travelers and fellows know from my first 3 weeks, with all it’s ups and downs, it would be this: you are supposed to have fun and make the most of your time in your community, so if you remain honest to yourself, and find yourself needing to reach out or change your surroundings, do it. You can reap much more from your experience than you would think, if you open up.
Thus, I take off today for a new community, in Lagoa da Conceição, living with a family of three! I will also be working with an organisation called ADEH, which works on human rights and LGBTQ+ issues and a trans health group at a local “Poste de saúde” (health post), potentially in a social enterprise that helps empower local businesses and individuals in their endeavours for a positive social impact through fundraising and guidance, and possibly even in a local school teaching English! I am ecstatic to get started and let you know how it works out.
P.S – I have taken over Global Citizen Year’s Snapchat this week! Follow us at the username @globalcitizenyr and follow me on my exciting first week in the new community!