Oi Gente! Tudo bom? 🙂 Last we found each other I wrote about my name and the many interactions I experience daily in Brazil. These encounters still happen since we have started our conversation clubs and workshops open to the community. Thus, I meet new people every week and ask them to give me their own personal definition of Delicia. Individuals still blush when they say my name, some turn bright red, others pull up a picture of the brand of butter to show me, and some refuse to give me their own explanation. For me it has been a unique window into cultural exchanges and I truly love hearing people’s different perspectives.
The past few weeks have been hectic with the semester and programming picking up, registering with the Federal Police logistics and some travel for Semana Santa in Ouro Preto and an Education USA Event in Belo Horizonte.
In spite of being surrounded by students, new colleagues, and potential new friends daily, there is a wave of loneliness that fills some days in this experience. I ask myself do I miss my mother’s warm hugs, my father’s jokes, and spending time with my brother, cousins, and close friends? The simple answer is yes. However, through images, video chats, and voice audio messages we are in communication. They are on this journey with me in spirit and virtually. As all of you who spend time to read my blog and look at the pictures I post online (thank you for taking the time to read through the blog posts).
One of the perks of being placed in a small interior city of Brazil is that the community wants us to feel welcomed and that we belong. Individuals invite us to high school events, local gatherings, and their own family get togethers. It’s truly touching when people invite my Co-ETA and I to these events. Yet there are times when these encounters seem base level and only about my role as an ETA at UFLA. How do I reconcile with being Delicia the “American” ETA and also Delicia the Individual as I try to build connections, relationships, and lasting friendships. Or are they one in the same? I am reminded that relationship building and finding new friendships takes time and connecting with people on a deeper level does too.
When I begin to feel frustrated with the speed of which I am genuinely connecting with people, I find solace in Rupi Kaur’s quotes:
In these spaces of loneliness and constant interaction with people I ask myself is there a deep yearning to reconnect with my personal self and what I need and want out of this adventurous life? What a privilege to be able to take a step back and reexamine, refocus, and reevaluate the trajectory of my life. This Fulbright ETA-ship being the catalyst for this shift. There is a deep yearning to reconnect with oneself and see where you meet yourself.
When you are in a new country living and working:
Your body is inhabiting a new space and taking in new foods, new drinks, new aromas.
Your mouth and vocal cords working through a new language.
Your mind new spaces of comfort and discomfort.
Your emotions and sensations take on new meanings.
Trying to make sense of it all. While also trying to navigate professional relationships and boundaries. Reaching new limits and new spaces of understanding.
New roads, new hills, new people, new places, new seats, new modes of transportation.
It’s truly magical what we put our bodies through when we travel and when we yearn for those changes. Those who actively seek these life altering experiences deep down know that we are on the cusp of a new transformation in spite of the growing pains.
To then realize that those changes not only happen mentally, yet also through our bodies. Our physical bodies. I am learning to listen to my body for food intake, how much space I need when navigating public spaces, and ultimately how much energy I allow within my sacred personal and spiritual spaces.
One of my favorite authors states, “The body knows. When your heart sinks. When you feel sick to your gut. When something blossoms in your chest. When your brain gloriously pops. That’s your body telling you the One True Thing. Listen to it” – Cheryl Strayed (Brave Enough, 111)
With these feelings of loneliness do I make decisions to fill it with more work, more meetings, more chaos? Or do I make conscious choices to discern, reflect, and use the spaces to just be and exist. Tears are involved. Many tears. It’s a process in learning to be ok with the space and solitude. These spaces could be gifts to reflect and nurture our souls. To read new books, listen to new podcasts, try a new hobby, or here in Brasil learn a new dance. Or simply enjoy a nice cup of coffee and journal about our day.
Through the lonely spaces of working and living in a new country with not knowing many close people there is room for transformation. There is room to learn to listen to my mind, body, and spirit. To take a step back and truly take in all aspects of this journey. The tough days, the lonely moments, and the joyous ones. Joyous moments like visiting my Team Minas Gerais Cohort and fellow ETA’s in their host cities. We are spread across several cities such as Ouro Preto, Belo Horizonte, São João, and Viçosa. It has been comforting to know I have a Fulbright Familia in Minas Gerais and we can get together when we are feeling lonely or out of place in these new spaces and reflect together.
As I move into month two of this journey I find comfort in Cheryl Strayed’s words:
“Transformation doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength that’s already inside of you. You only have to bloom” – Cheryl Strayed (Brave Enough, 21).
So I challenge any Fulbrighter or anyone reading this blog post who is feeling lonely to dig deep within themselves to reflect and fall in love with their solitude. I too will try to follow my own challenge. What is on the other side is transformation and healing. Some days will be harder than others, yet I think we can do it!
Until next blog post, gente! Have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine!