Two months in the land of Açaí.

And maybe yes, I should have written my blog on a daily basis. That was my plan, initially. A perfect start of my gap year resuming every day what it was like living in a new country, immersing myself into a new context, new language, new people. However, the start of my gap year took a different path than the expected. One of the biggest losses in my life happened while abroad.. and I was too scared. Scared of translating everything into words, in making real what real didn’t seem to be. And I kept postponing the day in which I would start writing, for myself and for others. I kept postponing until tonight when I realized I was missing something. Something that has usually helped me get through things, go over bad experiences and reflect upon decisions: writing.

This is the year I need, not the year I want.

The past months have been nothing more than a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions, first times, new faces, old memories. It has been a spiny flower: beautiful and nice in the appearance, scary and painful in touch. Not being in the best moment of my life, every single experience and decision I made, especially in the commence, was filtered by a bitter sense of negativity, which often resulted in not grasping the gist of the things I was being exposed to. Yet, I actively made the effort to present myself confident and positive in different circumstances. Despite the distance from home in such a critical stage of my experience, I made my way through and took every second of this experience as a challenge to overcome.

And what it meant and was a loss in the first place, became life and strength in the second.

Positivity became my life motto during the last months, from early in the morning to late in the night I would remind myself how important to me this year was going to be. I respected my choices, I pondered and evaluated my experiences, what brought me here, and why. I’ve been listening to myself, whats inside and outside. And I have been scared. Scared of taking time for myself, scared of not having limited restrictions of time. Time is the thing I have maybe been the most afraid of while growing up. The fear of not having it too much, of not being “on time, on track”, the feeling of not being in the right time, in the right place. But in the last month, I enjoyed it. I kissed and embraced every little bit of it. I left my watch behind, and I lived the present with all myself. I looked into me and I found ways that helped my emotional and physical stability. I reflected upon what it means for me to be here, to be happy, to be curious, or simply to be me. I decided to let things move in accordance to natural sounds, let the steam off, feelings and people go. I decided to run towards myself for the first time, instead of running towards other people. I introduced new ones into my life. I opened up and talked when necessarily. I UN-learned things, put my biases apart, and got involved in things out of my safe space. I have let myself be vulnerable and moody when it felt right to do so. And if I had never taken a gap year, I think I would have always let my feelings hidden inside, leaning under the layer of the things which keep me constantly busy and prevent me to delve deeper into myself. I would have maybe been on top of things, but not necessarily listening to myself.

I had to face it, and it arose.

Silence has spoken to me a thousand words. And words have taught me how powerful they are, if spoken at the right moment, with the intended purpose.

Brazil, so far, has not stopped surprising me. My definition of Brazil changed, and so did the connotations attached to it. The beauty of its coasts, sea, mountains, Morros, sunsets, and beaches. The unpredictability of the weather, waves, bikers and car drivers. The simplicity of people, streets, roads, and houses. The taste of acaí, manga, amenduín Brasileira, paçoquita, tapioca, feijao, mandioca, farofa, and abacate. The splendor of diversity, cultures, religions, beliefs, and ideas. The love for dance, music, percussion, and drums. The colors of the houses, the music in the night, the whispering of birds in the morning and the Portuguese language are just a few of the things that are constantly intriguing me. Brazil is a teacher for me, the one you admire, the one you like listening to, the one whose lessons could be interminable but yet feel good. A fascinating aspect of this nation for me is the agglomeration of different cultures— the outcome of a historical world diaspora— which has had over the history a direct influence on food, dance, and socio-economic and political dynamics. This cultural mixture is evident and present in my everyday life here in Brazil.

I genuinely appreciated the value and importance of small things: gestures, acts, surprises, words.

If there is something I genuinely appreciate I’ve learned so far is that to make a change within a community, I first need to see a change within myself. Only when you’re capable and willing to actively challenge your prejudice, embrace a different culture, and see the world through the lenses of your community members (rather than the ones which brought you where you are), at that moment, in that exact one, you can think of bigger ideas and projects.
This is an invitation for all the ones going through a similar experience: Let’s let ourselves be vulnerable, pushing ourselves, dismantling our prejudices and stereotypes. It is not easy for anybody, but I do believe that when this little change of perspective happens, maybe we can strive for a better world and have the potential to make a sustainable impact. We could start being the promoters and leaders of what we believe in if we first have the courage to believe in ourselves. As a wise man once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. It starts from me, you, us. It starts from collecting the trash in the backyard or helping your host mother to cook. Or smiling at your coworkers and showing a positive attitude on the way towards your goals.

Be positive, stay positive.