My favorite corner of Earth

It’s funny because when I got there, September 24th, I didn’t think I would like it. Actually I was sure that I was going to hate it. I was resistant to any type of change in the idealistic picture that I had laid out in my mind for theyear.

It’s been 9 months since that first day and I’m so happy to say that alot has changed. This little section of the world opened their heart to me and I’m extremely lucky, proud and grateful to have been able to experience this all.

April 4th2015.

I’m sitting on the wooden bench outside the offices at the State Park of Vila Velha. My second home.

That “i’m about to cry” feeling is overwhelming and I’m taking deep breaths, trying to take in all these last seconds. Memorizing the way the air feels, how it smells, the voices of my co workers, the height of the trees… Every single thing that could maybe make this place accessible in my mind, even 1000 miles away.

Today, I biked to the park. Something I hadn’t done in a long time because of a recent puma sighting. I sang out loud. Explored the fields. Dipped my feet in the waterfalls. I was alone but for surprisingly, I didn’t feel it. I felt split. I remember someone telling me that after my year abroad my heart will never be the same. It will always be between two different places.. I couldn’t agree more. I was grateful for this divide though, it made me feel lucky.

My year surpassed, created, rolled over and above any expectations I had set. My cohort was incredible. My family was the most loving. My new friends were so funny. My adventures were jaw dropping.

When I got to the park, I walked into the reception room ready for the day. The daily parade of “goodmorning its 8 am on a saturdayand i’d rather be in bed but bom dia anyways” filled the room. I was happy to see all of them though especially after the surprise party I was given a couple days earlier. They all came. Even the ones that never really talked to me.

I took the first bus up to the sand stones..

I wish I had the words to describe this place… It’s a whole other world.

The feeling of walking between those stones is a little bit like a magic.. like walking through the set of your favorite Sci-Fi movie.Except this is all real.

My favorite part is at the end of the trail, an area that is covered with rope-y tree branches and vines. The sandstone’s go so high that you can’t see the sky unless you tilt your head all the way up. There is a tree right in the middle of the path. A cave that houses a snake. Sand that turns the floor pink. And the lighting. The lighting is always so beautiful as the sunspills through the little areas between the leaves.

It’s 5:02. Almost time to go home. Each of my coworkers stumble into the little office to plug in their hours. We say our goodbyes and I watch them leave.

I’m still sitting on this bench. Its seems appropriate. To stay here, I mean. I spent a good chunk of time on this bench. 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, 35 weeks.. 432 hours. Wow.

When I get home, I’m the most excited to see my aunt. Hardworking, independent, funny, sweet. She’s one of those that give you faith in people. That people are actually really good. Down to the core. She was also the first person to give me a hug just out of the blue during my time here. That was back in October but I still love her for it.

The rest of the day is spent with my cousins. Tag. Jump rope. Soccer. Butterfly catching. Dancing. You name it, we’ve probably done it.

After a couple mosquito bites and it getting so dark that we couldn’t really see each other anymore, we headed inside. Ate dinner. Watched movies. Painted nails. Made paper snowflakes (yes, snowflakes)

April 5th. 2015

Today was my last “non work day”but I went to the furnas with my friend so I’m not sure if it completely counts. We ran there in the morning before the park was open.

The furnas are natural vertical water caves that are about 100m deep. They are actually sand stones that have caved in. There’s a lot of them scattered across the area, some have waterfalls within them and others are only a few meters deep. Three of them are in the park and are the closest sites to my community.

I think its one of my favorite places in the world. Especially at sunrise and sunset. Hundreds of birds whirl around the top and dive into their homes.

The whole area has its own vibe to it. Maybe to some it’s a little spooky but to me its intriguing. Even the area on the elevator sides, where you’re quite literally hanging above the hole with only a thin piece of metal holding you up.

That’s exactly where we decided to sit.

Itried to think about the week ahead but itfelt a million miles away and I didn’t really care to process it through too much.

This year has given me a string of hope forthe future. I have a new motto: everythingwill end up alrightif you keep an open heart.