Souvenirs, Day-Trips, and Redefinitions


   It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book for fun – through the rush college applications, graduation, long plane rides, and the absence of my family for the past few months, reading really has becomes a chore rather than something to enjoy. But recently, I’ve had a change of heart, and I found myself inside of a small, used bookstore down the street from my house close to the edge of the island. As I stepped inside the store, I was once again re-united with that fresh, lingering smell of paper and ink that had been lacking from my life for so long. After looking around for awhile, there was one book in particular that caught my eye that day, and would eventually end up being the book that broke my book drought: O Livro dos Resignificados – “The book of redefinitions”. The book is written by an author who sought to redefine words that describe our emotions – the ones that we feel most near and dear to us – and give them a more personalized meaning. I felt a special connection to one of the redefinitions in particular that day:

Distância // Distance

It’s what exists in between Brasília and Juiz de Fora
It’s that which was contrived to separate us
Relative to time
It’s what makes the close seem far
The space that airplanes cross just to reconnect us

It’s the firewood that fuels the fire of longing

            In that moment, I felt a sudden pang of guilt. The guilt of leaving my family behind, of leaving my brother to grow up all on his own, of missing my grandma’s birthday and not being able to be there on her special day. It was a familiar feeling I’ve felt here often since coming to Brazil, yet still one so foreign and unsettling for me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to accept this physical distance between my family and I, but for the time being, I’ve learned to accept it.

            Yesterday was a holiday here in Brazil, which gave me the opportunity to travel a couple hours down to Garopaba for the day. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people along the eastern coast of Brazil, which gave my mind a nice break from the busy city life of Florianópolis that I experience every single day here. I stepped off the bus I had taken there and was instantly rewarded with the cool breeze and the fresh sounds of the ocean. I met up with some of my friends there, and we spent the day swimming in the ocean, laying out at the beach, and eating açai at a nearby cafe. With the sun high and bright in the sky, I felt a panging once again in my chest. This time it wasn’t guilt, but a happy reminder of my hometime in California. This place made me feel like home again – the clear sky, the rolling waves, the smell of sea salt. This place reminded me of the days I would spend running along the beach all day without a care in the world until my parents would finally call me up telling me to come back home. It reminded me of days when I tried to become a surfer, only to end up with mouthfuls of seawater and disappointment at the end of the day, but still glad I had tried doing it at all. And finally, it reminded me of me. Myself. My entire being, having lived in California all my life. And something I have missed more than anyone can imagine.

            I learned a new word that day. In both Portuguese and English: serendipity. It’s that feeling of sweet happiness arising from an unexpected source or event. Going to Garopaba that day, I hadn’t expected much. I knew that it was a small town, with a close-knit community, and lots of nature, but I hadn’t expected it to feel like such a relief to me to finally experience something that I was familiar with. That night, I looked up the new word I had learned in my book of redefinitions. It was listed under the section “Feelings of the Heart”:

Serendipidade // Serendipity

It’s the pleasant surprise of trying on a new outfit
The chance that life gives you
The universe giving you a big hug
It’s finding a love to call your own,
Tripping over yourself in a moment of happiness,
And the feeling of waking up happy for no apparent reason

It’s smiling by accident.