Reflections on the Unknown: Afundar ou Nadar

Rebecca Rose - Brazil


September 7, 2018

I'm on my way to my host family right now. I wish I could say I wasn't sweating it. I wish I could say I was cool as a cucumber, secure in my knowledge of the Portuguese I devoutly studied. Confident in my ability to navigate this new city, eager to connect with my host family, and ready to fill my days with linguistic, social, and cultural immersion. But the truth is, I'm not. My Portuguese pretty much consists of um peixe está nadando e uma menina está bebendo. ('A fish is swimming and a girl is drinking'…Rosetta stone has questionable linguistic priorities) This city is unfamiliar, and the busses here don't have a PA system to politely announce each stop while reminding me to please use rear exits when exiting the bus, or mind the gap, or anything else. My host family is not the age demographic I was expecting, and more importantly doesn't speak English, which in concert with my lack of Portuguese, has me separated by a chasm of communication that feels unbridgeable. And the truth is, I'm tired. I've been gone three weeks. Don't get me wrong, it's been euphoria: brilliant, beautiful, fascinating people in powerful conversation on important questions, laughing until it hurt, and meaningfully connecting with likeminded peers. But it's been long days, draining sessions, and late nights. And I'm tired. I want sleep. I want time on my own. I want to chill. I have fears of rapid Portuguese being spoken at (not to) me only to be answered by a deafening silence and blank stares. Of missed bus stops. Of faux pas. Of screw ups and embarrassments. And I'll likely experience all of these. But quieting all the stress, there's an incomparable excitement of the unknown. My heart is racing with the sheer power of potential. And I cannot wait. 

Rebecca Rose