What had I been thinking? The black sneakers I had bought were way too big. It was like one of the seven dwarves trying to fit into Cinderella's slipper. I looked like a giant human L with them on. Opening the door to the Nike Employee store, there seemed to be a rush of excitement inside. I walked up to the young man at the front desk and handed him my pass that a friend of a friend had given me.
"Hey if you like soccer, Ronaldinho is in the house today,” he casually mentioned.
Ronaldinho?? That guy is a legend! And he was here in Oregon? No less in the same store as me?
Stop. Keep your cool, Nick. Keep your cool. Last time you saw an idol of yours it was Caleb Porter at the Portland airport. Remember how you accidentally said his name just loud enough for him to hear, then walked away awkwardly as he looked around, trying to figure out who said it? Yeah, let's not have a repeat of Caleb Porter.
Shoes. That's what you came here for. Don't mind the famous soccer player in the store. Don't mind the incredibly talented Brazilian superstar ten steps away in the golfing section. Who cares if I grew up watching him play and fell in love with his contagious passion for the game? Alright, maybe I’ll take a look around the sto- Woah. There he is. Ronaldinho is right next to me. Maybe he'll want to talk to me? He’s from Brazil. I’m going to Brazil. Is that enough to make him want to talk to me? Man, I wish my Portuguese on Duolingo was past the second checkpoint. It wouldn't be very slick to slide up next to him and say "Eu sou um menino." Alright Nick, think. I need a good conversation starter.
That's when I realized I don't know anything about Brazil, past the Samba and the cheesy bread. What do I imagine for my upcoming year in Brazil? Honestly, I don't. There are some certainties. I know I will have a host family. I know I will be learning Portuguese. I know that I will be working in an apprenticeship. However, realistically I don't have any idea of what the next year has in store for me, and that's part of what I like about the adventure that I am about to embark on. What will the food taste like? What does my host family do for fun? What does the sunset on the beach in Santa Catarina look like? But then, of course, there is the last certainty. That I will take full advantage of every moment of it.
But I can't say any of that to him. Maybe a year from now I'll be standing in this same store, face to face with Ronaldinho again, and be able to carry on a conversation with him about Brazilian culture, Brazilian cuisine, or maybe even politics, if he's into that.
For now, the best I can give him is a smile.