It was the beginning of January and I still wore fear like a scarf around
my neck. I was grappling with it – truly! The week before I had even eaten
a new type of pastel my friends had been begging me to try. I came to
Brazil very afraid of the world around me – and what she had in store for
me. I was leaving behind the town I had grown up in – one that had been
affected by tragedy in the year before, and I still had no idea where to
put all those bent-up, hurt feelings that came with loss.
I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, like life had some sort of leash
around me, I wanted to see all the colors. So one particular Friday I made
my tentative steps to branch out, a few friends and I visited some natural
pools in the north of the Island – a proud distance from my host
neighborhood. I watched as the tide came in and out, reflecting the
beautifully painted shades of pink and orange that came along with this
evenings sunset. We sat by the water and chatted a bit as the sun went down.
As we packed up to go, I checked my phone and saw I had a text from a
coworker encouraging me to come out to meet them. Of course, me, being the
nervous person I somehow became, immediately was put off. I had already
spent the day in language class and now had explored the natural pools –
that was enough for one day, wasn’t it?
Let the truth be heard: this isn’t me. Exploring is what I do best and I
love it, but after the year I had before coming to Brazil I had stopped
seeing the world as a place that wanted me to see it. I was hiding from it,
and everything I wanted to see.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this on my bus ride home. I was in this
beautiful new country that was beckoning me to see it every day, and I was
trying in the way I knew how to stretch my limbs and open my eyes and truly
look, but it was so so so hard. I was stuck in very heavy 8 o’clock traffic
at that point when a co-worker messaged me that they were at a nearby
restaurant – and they had way too much food to eat on their own. I was
feeling very in-my-head and felt a sudden surge of the part of me that
likes to be alive, so I abruptly stood up, stopped the bus, and got off.
I met her in a nearby fish restaurant and helped her eat her heaps and
heaps of rice, vegetables, potatoes, and of course fish. We chatted as we
walked down the street, and started to hear the sound of music. My heart
raced with excitement as I shyly asked if we could see what was going on.
What we stumbled upon was the weekly presentation of a samba school –
practicing their instruments and their dances for Carnaval. My co-workers
who had messaged me earlier were nearby, and came to join us. They asked if
I could stay and for the first time in months – I said yes. We danced and
we laughed and yes had never felt more freeing. Joy had never felt so full.
We stayed for a while and until making our way to a nearby beach for a
bonfire. Guitars were brought out and music was played in English and
Portuguese and I remember thinking I hadn’t felt so much like myself in
I felt the dreams and memories tumbling out of my head that night as I lay
in bed, letting the cool breeze from my open window touch my skin. I could
smell the woodsmoke from the fire still in my hair, and my heart was still
beating to the samba music from before. It was the first day I decided to
be alive again – the day I decided I wanted to see the colors life had been
trying to remind were everywhere. I was starting to let the fear fall from
my body and mind, I was starting to fall in love with the world again.