Oi Gente! Tudo bom? This week marks the beginning of a new reflection process with the commencement of colder weather for us on the North East in the USA, the holiday festivities starting and of the course the New Year. This week also marks the completion of the Fulbright Grant for the 2017-2018 ETAs in Brasil. All of 120 of us are now dispersed into the world, back home in the US, some still in Brasil and others as far as South Korea on a new adventure. The ying and the yang present again. The Duality of today for me is that one experience has “officially” ended and another journey has “unofficially” started. In true Jesuit fashion – the discernment process has begun for this transition. Processing and reflecting on what I learned in Brazil coupled with the positive moments and the challenges I faced.
Dear fellow ETAs I want us to be kind to ourselves as we transition and move through these new spaces — we need to remind ourselves constantly that we took a huge risk uprooting ourselves, our lives as we knew them, and moved to another country. For me Brasil brought a new language, new cultural norms and customs, different foods to and music to listen to. Through these shifts we have allowed ourselves to truly be transformed by this exposure of living in Brasil. Though my family is from Paraguay – which neighbors Brasil, the language, history, and culture are inherently different. We share many similarities that I clung onto in order to help me navigate the new spaces in Brasil, however Brazil is Brazil and Paraguay is Paraguay. Their differences is what makes them unique and beautiful countries.
When I arrived in February, Brazil was not bustling with samba music and beaches. On the contrary living in Minas Gerais – it was mainly Sertanejo and lots of mountainous views. The first 4 weeks of Brasil were an intense unraveling and deconstructing of all the stereotypes I had in my mind about what my experience would look like. From there I moved through the months open to the nuances and changes that would come up from living in a new country that is not my own. Over the months, Brasil became my new home with new friends, colleagues, students, and a different way of life. The changes were mental, emotional, and even in the body. Consuming new foods and drinks alters a persons understanding of where they are physically present. Add a new language which shifts you mentally. Then finally, emotional changes with the absence of the comforts of home, however seeking a new home with the new friends and colleagues, that later became my very own mini Brazilian Family. All these layers made up my Brazil Experience. Similarly, true immersion and understanding occurred when I took a step back and listened to the movements in the city and Portuguese all around me. Living and working abroad for an extended period of time one goes through different phases and a metamorphosis of sorts like a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Coming home means listening to English more regularly and making a conscious effort to keep Portuguese language acquisition in my life as well as reading and writing it on my own. I’m not 100% certain what is next besides taking the GRE’s, applying and looking for job opportunities and lots of journaling and reflecting. What I do know for sure is that my experience in Brazil has taught me a lot about people and how we co-exist in the world. Through this I am eternally grateful for the chance to learn a new language through the in-country immersion.
Over the next couple of months or even years – my posts will most likely include elements of Brazil and what that experience was like because those moments form part of the fabric of my life. I’m not sure when or if I will return to Brazil, however I am certain I left a piece of my heart in the ocean while visiting Morro de São Paulo in Bahia.
Thus, gratitude is part of my reflective journey. Grateful for the opportunity to engage in this bilateral exchange through the Fulbright Program, my parents and brother for their support throughout the entire journey. My friends and family back home and of course my new friends and colleagues I met through this experience. Finally, a HUGE Obrigada to the students I had the honor of working with daily, without you these spaces would not be filled with so much empowerment and inspiration. You inspire me.