Piece by Piece

Daming Cui - Brazil


December 1, 2019

3 months in!

It’s difficult not to synchronize your heart with the local vibrations as you arrive at a new place and open yourself to embrace your surroundings. The Portuguese language has complicated, beautiful subtleties in itself: sometimes concise, sometimes expressive, sometimes witty and sometimes melancholic (or, more accurately, filled with ~saudade). I first fell in love with Bossa Nova back in 2016, but listening to one of my favorite songs, Samba em Preludio, as I begin to gradually understand the lyrics, I became more and more astonished at the romance embedded in the words. As Vinicius de Moraes sings about a soul-tightening experience of missing people in his life, he laments:

“Sou chama sem luz
Jardim sem luar
Luar sem amor
Amor sem se dar…”

Four scenes in fourteen words convey the unmistakable feeling of saudade: one of the first words our country leader had taught us – it’s a sense of missing uninhibited by time and space, bound only by the desire of the soul. Saudade is the price we pay for living unforgettable memories.

However, I feel that I don’t have to understand the words to understand how people feel, or rather, understanding the words is only a small part of the integration. Our language classes decided to do a project where we would ask strangers from Brazil: what makes you Brazilian? I interviewed an artist, who gave me an artistic response: Brazil's bigger than the 48 contiguous states of the U.S., and the answer's gonna vary from state to state, from person to person, yet green, blue and yellow runs in Brazilian veins because of their mutual love for nature, and a wish that tomorrow will be better than today.

Brazil is a country of contradictions. The prevalent love for nature coexists with the rapid destruction of rainforests. The heart of industry in Latin America, São Paulo, laced with skyscrapers and clamoring with 12 million people, situates itself right next to Rio, a city famed for its breathtaking nature, passion, and Dionysian glamour. Meanwhile, a contradiction seems to have found its way into my daily routine as well: It’s strange but soothing that despite the fact I’m in a tropical paradise, I feel more passion and drive about my work than I have in a long time. The positive energy around me, instead of pulling me into a vacation-like daze, has strengthened the sense of power and control over my life.

With new waves of words, fruits, and experiences flowing towards me from left and right, I'm still trying to make sense of this world, attempting to see where the different puzzle pieces fit. The jumbled colors are slowly finding their place on my canvas. 

Daming Cui