(The title of this blog is dedicated to the fact that I’ve heard this phrase said way more times than I would like to. It means: “She does not understand”. In fact, I often do understand what people are saying to me but it is much harder to summon words to speak in Portuguese than it is to listen and understand the words other people conjure. I often have to stare blankly ahead and not respond which makes me feel dumb even though I know that’s not why I can’t converse much. Today one of my colleagues said that I’m “tímida”… It made me laugh because if you know me at all I’m really not shy or timid it’s just that I literally cannot speak to express myself. I’m sure if I have about a month and a half more I will be far more comfortable. I’ve really only studied the language for two weeks so I’m pretty proud that I can hold full conversations. Okay, I’ll proceed with the blog!)
In honor of my arrival at my new home, Itapiruba, I am here to update you on my travels, experiences, and musings.
The first day in Itapiruba, I was walking along the beach. I was shivering, covered in goosebumps, I had the occasional tear make its way down the side of my nose and splatter onto the sand, and I realized that my heart felt like it was being tugged out of my rib cage.
“But… why? What was wrong?” you ask. Well, nothing. Nothing was wrong.
My host mom invited me to walk the length of the beach today and I happily obliged. As I was walking I realized I had never been somewhere as intensely beautiful. It was an overcast day, windy. I took off my shoes to test the temperature of the ocean, after which, I declared it warm. My host mother gave me a look of surprise as she raised her eyebrows and laughed. Ah, well, New Hampshire strikes again. In our strolling I was overwhelmed with how grateful I was to have journeyed here. If you asked me back this spring what I expected to be doing in September, I never would have pictured myself pacing across a beach in southern Brazil.
So, the goosebumps and tears? It wasn’t cold out, and I wasn’t sad- quite the opposite. I just realized how amazing it is that I’m actually here, and how wondrous the world is. You could call this phenomenon “a moment of true inspiration”.
As I scanned the beach, I saw a small family splashing at the water’s edge and I noticed that being here has made me look at people as just that, people. When I saw this family I realized how easily they could have been a family at the ocean back in the U.S. From this distance, I knew nothing of their upbringings. They were just a family enjoying the ocean, a familiar sight to me at which I looked objectively.
When I first arrived in Brazil I subconsciously categorized myself differently than every Brazilian I encountered. My categorization went something like this:
Everyone: Brazilian who speaks Portuguese and has an entire different background than me and can probably dance really well.
Me- Foreigner who can’t understand any of the conversations whipping around and generally doesn’t dance in fear of flailing and injuring an innocent civilian bystander.
Now, after actually getting to know the people here as well as I can without speaking much Portuguese, I see that we are more alike than I’d originally thought (besides the dancing…) Of course the people here have different backgrounds and an entirely different culture, but if I’m honest, so do all the people that I grew up with in the U.S. Everyone in the world has a different culture, some of the differences are just more prevalent.
The revelation I had after the ocean inspired me (as it always does) is that we are all human and we share so many of the same qualities and characteristics. I guess I already knew this bit of info, or I thought I knew this, but I didn’t fully recognize it.
To put it more poetically…
If I were to run my hands along the weavings of Brazilian culture, I could trace my way along threads with hues similar to my own cultural weaving. I could do this until my fingers would brush along an abrupt intersection of material. At this crosshatching, I would realize that now, the color palette is different but just as intrinsically beautiful as the other weavings I’ve encountered thus far in my existence. Each time I’ve had the honor to peer into someone else’s culture, I’ve noticed how radiant the material is.
I was awestruck at what a marvelous idea that is. We are all just humans, trying to be happy.
I’m so grateful that the people here have been excited and willing to share their way of life with me. When I return to the States, I want to continue living with my curiosity of other’s backgrounds and I want to share my own background with those around me if they express an interest in learning about it.
I was really excited the other night when my host mom got a phone call and said “Peixe!!” as she beckoned for me to follow. Across the street from me is a.. fishery? I suppose that is what you would call it. Lots of my new family lives in Itapiruba and they are traditional fisherpeople. I haven’t yet had the chance to snap a picture of their beautiful, colorful, gigantic, fishing canoes, but when I do I’ll be sure to share a picture.
Anyway, we walked across the street to this fishery, the back is essentially a giant garage-like area that opens up onto the sand on the beach. As I entered this area there was an outburst of sound reminiscent of metal scraping metal and gears grinding. Turns out, that’s what it was as the men on the beach attached the boat to a metal cord and then turned on a crank that pulled the boat off of the beach. I suppose it’s a type of winch. While I was preoccupied with understanding the noise, I hadn’t noticed the crowd of people on the beach pushing the boat or the old lady in her night-gown that had come out to see what the fuss was about or the two policemen that came out to watch as well or all of Brazil that was suddenly standing to watch the commotion.
That night I was really excited that I was placed in Itapiruba as I get to see a culture so very unique to this town. I’ve been told that the family I’m staying with has started a sort of movement for traditional fishing instead of sending out huge rigs that deplete fish populations. I also couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I looked around and felt like I was in a movie and just thought “Where am I???” It was awesome.
I would also like say that I am ecstatic to announce that I’m a volunteer with the Projeto Baleia Franca, or, The Right Whale Project. The Right Whales are a protected species that have specific migration routes and have graced Itapiruba and the surrounding area with their company. The whales are expected to leave in late November meaning that I will not be able to directly work with them after this point but will instead (probably) be helping out the project with their environmental education duties because school groups and families come to visit the base to learn about whales during the Brazilian summer. As of now, we’ve been sitting at vantage points with binoculars to monitor the whales. We count how many groups there are, record the environmental conditions of the day and also record how the whales are utilizing the coastal areas. The fact that I’ve only studied Portuguese for about two weeks makes this whole learning process a bit difficult but I feel like I actually understand almost all of what people are saying to me and I’ve actually been able to learn a lot about whales without much english.
At first I was somewhat disappointed with where Global Citizen Year placed me for my apprenticeship because I’d had my hopes to be working with R3 Animals, or Projeto Lontra where I’d have more hands on work and more interaction with animals, I think there is only so much “hands on” work you can do with whales… Looking back, it was silly of me to dismiss the whale apprenticeship as something less unique or interesting than the other two projects because when else am I going to get this opportunity? This project is very unique and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.
There is one more major piece of my musings that I would like to share with you readers, which is that I don’t understand why it wasn’t drilled into us as children that curiosity has the potential to get you places. I suppose the answer of why it wasn’t thrown at us is because you can’t teach curiosity. I don’t know how much nature and nurture play into curiosity levels and/or work ethic (if you have info on that, such as studies or something, let me know!!) but if I hadn’t cultivated my curiosity for the world around me from a young age and if I hadn’t watched my parents work their butts off every day of their lives, then I wouldn’t be sitting in my bedroom in Brazil typing this right now because there is no way I would have been able to get into Tufts (who has supported me and sent me here) if I hadn’t worked hard through high school and shown genuine curiosity in the world around me.
In the U.S, I don’t come from a family that has a large income, (I mean come on people, we own a farmstand what do you want?) but I realized that learning was really important to me and I love knowing things and discovering more about what I don’t know, it’s exciting. I’ve been called a nerd a lot and I specifically remember back in fifth grade when I said that I liked school and everyone around me said “EWWWW WHY???”. I was genuinely surprised and confused at this response and at that point I didn’t know how to explain that I just liked knowing new things.
(As I got older, I realized that a love for learning and a love for school can be very different things but as a 5th grader they were more closely tied. QUOTE OF THE DAY THAT ISN’T MINE AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S FROM: “Don’t let schooling get in the way of your learning”. Man, I love that quote- as sad as it is.)
Now, as I’m sitting here I realize that it was all worth it. You don’t need buckets of money to get places. I mean, it certainly helps.. in some ways. Of course I don’t think that going to college and joining programs are the only way to experience the world around you, but for me it’s worked very well. Everyone has different circumstances and in mine, the fact that I am curious and like to work hard have helped me and I think there are many people with circumstances similar to mine so my suggestion is to cultivate these two characteristics as best as you can(I know there are many people with different upbringings… I’m trying not to generalize, I just want to speak about my own experience).
There are lots of people out there that are philanthropists and realize the importance of education and global competency. Take advantage of it, please look for opportunities- they’re really there!- you just have to look, and thank whoever you can.
People notice when you say thank you. Think about it. When you hold a door for someone and they walk through without even acknowledging you, it doesn’t feel that great. Now think about teachers, friends, parents, donors, siblings, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, significant others, random person that asked how you were doing- people like being acknowledged even if it’s just a quick “Thank you”.
With that I want to thank whoever is reading this for taking the time to do so and I know that some of my readers have helped me immensely.
Thank you Mom and Dad- I love you very much and I miss you as well. Please take care of yourselves this year: more care than you have been. I’ll put it this way: take more care of yourselves than the pumpkins at the farm.
THANK YOU TO LOT’S OF PEOPLE I REALLY DO NOTICE THE HELP I GET AND THE KIND WORDS AND YOU’RE ALL SUPER HELPFUL THANK YOU THANK YOU.
Alright, I need to get up tomorrow and go monitor my new whale friends. Boa Noite!!
PS: (not very much related to Brazil) You should read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” because I just read it today and it’s super good and my boyfriend recommended it to me and it may be my favorite book now and I like suggesting books.
PPS: Here are some pictures for your hungering eyes:
And here are pictures from traveling: