Good People, Better Pizza

Camille LeBlanc - Brazil

October 31, 2012

I don’t claim to know a lot about Brazil. It is rich and poor, African and European, image-conscious and free spirited. It is a place of seeming hypocrisy and contradictions. But it is this complexity–the diversity of categories and space between the extremes–that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around. And a pequena community eight hours inland spent the last month telling me that I really have no idea what’s in store for me this year. But, sigh, I’m learning. I’ve spent the past month completely butchering the language of Portuguese (although we all know this is only the beginning of the butchering…), walking every dirty, dusty hill of that wacky hippy town, climbing mountains and swimming in waterfalls, and living cheaply, simply, and among such unbelievable natural beauty. I’ve been frustrated, exhausted, pained (oi, why do you hate me, Brazilian food?), and at times a bit weary.

Life moved slowly in Capão, and in many ways, I felt restricted, stuck in thick molasses and trying to find satisfaction in what felt stagnant. But I will miss more about this past month than I can even recognize. From the fresh mango juice that I now depend on to the delicious passion fruit torte served at the vegetarian Indian/Brazilian fusion restaurant (yes, there is such a place). And oh, the granola. The small market at the center of town sells a whopping five different brands of granola, but if you’re looking for ibuprofen, well, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find it (instead, Capão would recommend “Propolis,” a universal remedy concocted from some bee substance. Fever, rash, mosquito bite–drink a few drops of Propolis and you’ll be healed in no time). I’ll miss waking up to early morning drafts that tore through my house, leaving me shivering and the house barely standing. I’ll miss tight grasps on mototaxi men as they sputtered up hills to my house, revving the engine over three inches of loose gravel and nearly toppling into the dips in the road. I’ll miss the excessive number of pizzerias and the “trail food” available in every small store and mercado. I’ll miss the wonderful privacy and tranquility of pooping outside, and the view I was able to feast on while doing my business. I’ll even miss your own version of Brazilian hypocrisy, Capão. Your free-spirited, open-minded monoculture, my increasingly tanned feet stained white with the dust of your unpaved roads.

And despite my eagerness to dive into an apprenticeship, to forge meaningful relationships with people, and to speak less-labored Portuguese (that’s all I ask), I will remember this month with only positivity. The natural beauty, the dreadlocked and barefoot residents, but maybe more relevant than anything, the fourteen other eager, passionate Fellows that were there to overwhelm Capão with me. More than the breezy silence or locally grown vegetables, I’ll miss my Fellows–our shared clothes and food and experiences. Now we’re all spread out over the state, living in different communities and cities as diverse as the cohort we are, the country we’re representing, and the country we’ll be living in for the next six months. Like Brazil, we are everywhere and everything, but our month in Capão will always be something.

And yes, I’ll admit, I bought a pair of feather earrings.

Camille LeBlanc