Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let Me Take You To Rio

Has it really only been three weeks since I boarded a plane in Cleveland headed to Rio de Janeiro? Yes. Yes, it has. 

A lot has happened in the three short weeks that I have been here. Mentally, emotionally, physically, professionally-- it has been quite a roller coaster.

When first studying abroad, I was shown this cultural adjustment curve model and have since seen it many times. Every time I have encountered this model, two points have been heavily stressed. The first being that this model isn't linear. A person can go from the surface adaptation, back to the honeymoon stage, to confronting deeper cultural and personal issues over and over and over again. The second point is that there is no set amount of time to be in a given stage. Adjusting to a new culture, as with life, doesn't come with a nice recipe. There's no guarantee that an individual will ever leave the honeymoon stage, just as there's no guarantee that the frustration and annoyance with every day differences will disappear if you can just last the allotted thirty days. Each country, each individual, each experience is different.

I spent the entirety of my twelve weeks in Rio living in the honeymoon stage. Everything was great; Rio was great, I was great, life was great. This time around, I started this trip smack dab in the middle of confronting deeper cultural and personal issues. Which isn't a great place to start, honestly, but hey, that's life sometimes. Since arriving, I've definitely spent the majority of my time confronting deeper cultural and personal issues, but I've been spending more time in surface adjustment and a little bit of time in the honeymoon stage. Like I said, each country, each individual, each experience is different.

Phew. Now that all that heavy stuff is out of the way-- what have I been doing for the past three weeks? Think about what a teacher does in the States. I do all that except I do it in Rio. Honestly. My day to day life isn't all the exciting. I grade papers, administer tests, attend meetings, decorate bulletin boards, learn way more than I ever wanted about how the mind of 4th graders works, and enforce rules that are completely preposterous (Really. I don't let kids just get up and leave the classroom whenever they want. I'm the worst). 

As far as non-teaching life in Rio? Well, let me quote Ester Dean-- "Let me take you to Rio. Show you all around de Janeiro."

NBA Global Games
My dad and I were talking to one of the ushers at the Cleveland Indians games before I left and we got to talking about how I was moving to Rio. He mentioned that the Cavs would be playing in Rio sometime in October and I should look into it. All right, I don't LOVE basketball, but I do love Cleveland. So I looked into tickets and they were so far out of my price range that I just wrote the whole thing off. Turns out that Dad knows someone who knows someone and next thing I knew, I had two tickets to watch the Cavs play the Heat in Rio de Janeiro. Who ever would have guessed? 

Kadu and I went to the game together and it was so funny to listen to him tell everyone around us that he was cheering for Cleveland. He told me that if the Cavs scored at least 100 points, he would be up all night from excitement. Well, they did, and from what I've been told, he was up all night. Oops. Our seats were excellent and it was so, so wonderful to be surrounded by people from Ohio. 

Praia da Joatinga
It's spring in Rio which means it's cloudy and overcast kind of a lot. Unfortunately, this makes for less than ideal beach conditions. Does that stop us from going? No. Does it keep me from swimming? Absolutely. David, one of the other American teachers at OLM, took Caitlin and I to this lesser known beach one weekend. It was beautiful, despite the fact that it was cold. Which I do love the touristy aspects of Rio and will never turn down a trip to Copacabana or Ipanema, it's kind of cool to go "off the beaten path" every once in awhile. 

You kind of have to hike down a cliff to get down to the beach. Easy. No problem. On our way back up, we stopped to take pictures and I told Caitlin to sit on the side of the cliff and I would take her picture. Cool, all smiles. Then we switched and I was all of a sudden NOT smiling. All I could imagine was the rock breaking off from the cliff and me tumbling into the ocean below. Positive vibes, right? The good news is that we all survived. 

Cachoerias do Mendanha
The art teacher, Thais, took us to the Cachoerias do Mendanha in Campos Grande to celebrate Teacher's Day. She lured us in with the promise of a waterfall that had a pool at the bottom where we could swim, but we conveniently ignored the part about how we had to hike to get there. We took two buses to get to Campos Grande, walked up the road for about 30-45 minutes before actually starting the hike which took us SO. LONG. Hiking is so hard. Not to mention the fact that I wore shoes that were too small and ended up hiking the whole thing in sandals. Once we made it to the waterfall, it was so worth. There were two pools we could swim in and a natural waterslide that we spent some time sliding down. Bonus points for being the only ones there.

The best part of our Teacher's Day hike was that it totally reminded me of Honduras. I started the day with a video of some of my Grade 2s jumping around like crazy monkeys and screaming "MEEEEEES!!!" The hike took us into the country side of Brazil which could have been easily mistaken for driving on the highway in Honduras. The mountains, the trees, everything. Honduras. On the way home, we had a bus driver who, I am certain, learned how to drive in Honduras. He was passing on the curves, speeding up and braking unnecessarily, and generally driving without too much concern for safety. While it was slightly nauseating, it also made me feel like I had been transported right back to Honduras. 

Honduras? Or Brazil? You tell me.
Jardim Botanico
Ever been to a botanical garden in the States? Okay. Same idea, Except this one has sidewalks lined with giant palm trees that I'm positively obsessed with and monkeys and toucans just doing their thing. Seriously, it's really beautiful.

Pao de Acucar
Like I said, we've had a lot of overcast days here in Rio. So when we had a sunny afternoon, we jumped at the chance to go to the Sugarloaf. We got there in the early evening and stayed until after sunset. Also managed to snag ourselves a super spot to take sunset pictures, so there's no being mad about that. Last time I was here we didn't ride the cable cars, nor did we go up to the Sugarloaf (we only hiked up the Morro da Urca). Both were beautiful experiences, but both were very different experiences. The views were breath taking and it was such a powerful reminder of how beautiful this city is.

Girls Weekend
A couple of the other teachers at the school and I had a bit of a girls weekend this weekend which is totally what I needed. We ate pizza, drank (and made) caipirinhas, and shoved our faces full of gelato. Pair that with great friendships and you've got yourselves a solid girls weekend.

Phew. Rio. I'm here. I made it. Let's do this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Make A Plan. Live The Plan.

"Here's what I really believe. You can create a plan for your life, and then maybe crazy things get thrown at you. And that, by the way, is the closest thing that I have to a plan. So maybe it's crazy to talk about being an intergalactic truck driver, but what I think is crazier is trying to plan every single detail of our future."
-- the accidental wisdom of Nick Miller
New Girl, Season 3 Episode 20

I've learned a lot about others, and myself, since living abroad. I've learned new languages and met new people. I've tried new foods and experienced new places.  I've learned how to make the most out of airline weight limits and I've stupidly fumbled around countless airports trying to find a water fountain that worked.

Regardless of what country I've found myself in, people are constantly asking me what is coming next. Where I'll be living, where I'll be moving, how long I'm staying. I find MYSELF asking these questions.

And honestly, I don't even know.

I used to feel ashamed in not knowing. I used to feel ashamed in not having a plan for my life. I used to feel ashamed in not living like a "real adult." I used to feel ashamed in living my life year to year as opposed to committing to a city.

Each morning I try to make the conscious decision to not be ashamed any more. Each morning I try to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with living the way that I am living.

I never planned to live in Honduras, I never planned to move to Rio. But I did and I am. And I might not have anything planned further in the future than my lesson tomorrow morning, but things have always had a way of working out. 

What I am doing, how I am living, might not be the most conventional way. But I'm tired of fretting about it. I'm tired of worrying about what other people might think. I'm tired of making plans just to have them be ruined. And I'm tired of worrying that my time is running out.

Like Nick Miller says, the closet thing I have to a plan is to have no plan at all. And I'm finally okay with that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

You Don't Understand What I'm Doing Now...

...but someday you will.

In around November of 2013, I began thinking of where life would take me for the 2014-2015 school year. Would I be staying in Honduras? Would I be returning to the States? If I was to go back to the States, where would I go? For the briefest of seconds, I considered staying abroad, but going somewhere other than Honduras. And when I say that I considered it, I considered it about as seriously as I consider how good of a movie star I would make. Which isn't that seriously.

Throughout my search, I was presented with the opportunity to return to OLM in Brazil. In the midst of a particularly awful bout of homesickness, I brushed it off. My mind was made up, I was going back to the States.

Ha. Guess where I'm not going to be teaching during the 2014-2015 school year.

You're right. The States.

Guess where I will be teaching during the 2014-2015 school year.

Right again. Brazil.

I officially accepted the job in March and have been steadily working on obtaining my visa ever since. I've chatted with the Honduran embassy, I've been in constant contact with the US embassy (which included receiving an email addressed 'madam'!), and I'm positively chummy with the Brazilian embassy.

It was such a LONG, exhausting process and I actually thought that I would never make it to Brazil. I cannot tell you how many tears were cried throughout the entire process. But throughout the entire thing, despite all of the stress, I felt at peace knowing that it was what God wanted for my life. I knew that despite all of the road blocks, He was sending me to Rio de Janeiro.

So here I am. Living and working in Rio de Janeiro. Finally. And, truth be told, I still don't understand what God is doing with my life. I don't know why He wants me here when I so desperately want to be in Honduras.

But one day I will understand.