Saturday, August 22, 2015

For The First Time In Forever

Yes, I was absolutely quoting Frozen.

It's no secret that I love Honduras. Within five minutes of meeting me, anyone will know that it's my favorite place on Earth. Which can be really unfortunate when living in countries that are not Honduras and interacting with people who are not Hondurans. For example, living in Rio de Janeiro.

When asked about living in Rio de Janeiro, people back home could tell that I wasn't as happy living in Rio as I was in Honduras. They would ask, I would give short answers that absolutely didn't invite further discussion. "It's nice." "I like it." 

And I felt like a horrible person. Because Rio de Janeiro is an incredible city and the people I have met here are amazing and I was totally selling them short. And I wasn't selling them short for legitimate reasons, I was doing it because I couldn't let go of the past.

I have always felt at peace about moving to Rio de Janeiro. At the beginning, I was rarely happy about it, but I always knew that it was what God wanted me to do. I knew it when I told my Grade 1 students that I wasn't coming back to be their Grade 2 teacher and they said "It's okay. God told Jonah to do something he didn't want to do and he got swallowed by a whale. You don't want to be swallowed by a whale." I knew it when my visa hadn't gone through and the school didn't give up on me. I knew it was the right thing to do, but that didn't mean it was the easy thing to do.

When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro last October, I was miserable. My first words to my new roommates were "Do you have something that I can throw up in?" My days started and ended with tears and trips to the bathroom to throw up. I didn't eat very much and was nauseous all. the. time. I cried to the nurse and I cried to my supervisor. 

I was miserable because I wouldn't let myself love another place. I was miserable because Rio de Janeiro, Brazil wasn't Siguatepeque, Honduras.

I stuck it out, mainly because I was too poor to buy a plane ticket home. I gave myself until Christmas. I would last until Christmas and if I was still miserable, I wouldn't come back in February. 

As they have a tendency to, things got easier. I (thankfully) stopped throwing up. I didn't get nauseous. I didn't cry every day. Christmas came and went, and in February I was on a plane back to Rio. Not only was I on a plane back to Rio, but I was returning with the decision to stay to teach for another school year. 

I decided to return because I had made awesome friends. I decided to return because I really like my school. I decided to return because living in Rio is incredible. I decided to return because I was letting myself love two places, I just didn't realize it yet.

But then I flew to Las Vegas for my sister's wedding and saw a billboard similar to this one in the Atlanta airport. I was a little surprised to realize that seeing it made me a little bit homesick for the city that I had just left. After 12 hours of travel with at least 6 still ahead of me, I assumed that I was homesick for a bed and real food and a bathroom that wasn't the size of a shoe box.

Photo from: DGA Photoshop
Then in Las Vegas, I heard Portuguese everywhere. I heard almost as much Portuguese as I did English and Spanish. Again, I was a little surprised to find myself excited to hear (and understand) Portuguese. Just a few weeks ago, I heard Portuguese in the airport and rolled my eyes. Now all of sudden, I was frantically trying to think of how to tell these strangers that I live in Rio de Janeiro in Portuguese.

Later still, I was walking through the Las Vegas airport and saw this mural of Rio de Janeiro painted by school-age children in Las Vegas.

And seeing that didn't make me scoff and roll my eyes either. It actually made me excited to be boarding a plane back to that very city.

At the risk of sounding like Anna, for the first time in... forever, I realized that I really, truly love Rio de Janeiro. I really, truly love living in Rio de Janeiro.

It took me TEN MONTHS to feel that way. And realizing that took a huge weight off of my shoulders. I do love where I am. I'm happy where I am. I love my school, I love my friends, I love this city. After ten months, I can adequately give Rio the praises that it deserves.

The "keep calm" part is always up for discussion.

Move to Rio de Janeiro? Check.
Live in Rio? Check.
Love Rio? Finally. Check.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stitch Fix #3: The One That I Had Mailed to Ohio and Brought to Vegas

Before we get started, if you don't know what Stitch Fix is, you're really missing out.

Stitch Fix is a monthly subscription box which sends hand-picked clothing right to your door. No awkward wandering around a store looking for someone to open the dressing room. No passing up items that you think you'll hate, but end up loving once you try it on. (You know it happens). The clothes come right to your door.

Intrigued? You should be. You go to the Stitch Fix website and create a profile. Answer some basic questions about what types of clothes you are looking for, what you feel most comfortable in, what you are trying to avoid, your price points, etc. Basically questions to get to know you and your style. Which is great, especially for someone like me, who has no sense of what their style is. I kind of like to rock the pencil skirt, but I'm BFFs with my yoga pants. Never fear. Based on your style profile, Stitch Fix assigns you a personal stylist who checks out your style and chooses 5 items to send you.

After receiving the box, you have three days to decide what you want to keep and what you want to send back. Want to send something back? No problem. Put it in the included (and pre-paid) return package and drop it in the mail. Easy. Want to keep something? Great! Each box costs a flat rate of $20 for the styling fee-- no questions asked. If you keep something, you can deduct that $20 from the total. If you keep all 5 things, you deduct the $20 styling fee AND get a 25% discount. Nice, right?

(Oh, and if you sign up, you'll get a referral code. If you share your referral code and someone uses it, you get a discount on your next box-- so share the love! If you click on the link above, you'll be using MY referral link!)

When I realized that I was flying to Vegas for my sister's wedding, I went ahead and scheduled my third fix to be mailed to my mom's house and then brought out to Vegas. I might actually have a problem. It's just so fun to receive a box full of clothes that was chosen for you, even if nothing ends up working out.

My note to my stylist, Tamara, was basically the same as it has been from the beginning-- I need summer clothes for hot days in Rio, prints, lightweight material, etc, etc.

I've been telling all my friends in Brazil about my "clothes from a box", so without further ado, my third installment of clothes in a box.

Market and Spruce Jai Dress ($64)
Verdict: Kept, but for the discount

I loved the color of this dress and that was about it. That's not true, it was lined, which is also nice. But my "likes" stop there. Cowl neck anything makes me feel uncomfortable and I'll never wear anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. There was also some rouching at the sides of the dress, right by my hips, which really drew attention to my butt. And no matter how much Kim Kardashian flashes her butt around, I try to keep mine as inconspicuous as possible. Anddd the lining that I actually did enjoy kept getting all wonky underneath the dress and you could see every line. It had to be laying perfectly for the dress to look nice-- ain't nobody got time for that.

Skies are Blue Blythe Tie Neck Knit Tank ($48)
Verdict: Kept

Lightweight. Brightly colored. Interesting detail on the front. Sounds like a recipe for a fun, yet casual shirt in Rio. Come to Mama. I don't know if I'm in love with the lace up front, I feel a bit like a cowgirl or a hooker, but we're going to give it a try.

Loveappella Amanda Twist Back Knit Top ($48) and Gilli Chandler Wide Leg Pant ($38)
Verdict: Kept both!

Sold. Done. No questions asked. Love them separately. Love them together.

The shirt is a basic black, knit shirt with a cute little back detail. I can throw a cardigan over top to make it school appropriate. And who doesn't need a rockin' plain black shirt? I see many fun nights in Rio in this shirt's future.

And the pants? Sigh. I need to get them hemmed a tiiiiiiiny bit so that I don't totally destroy the bottoms. Or trip over them. But they're awesome. Fit great around the waist and I feel great in them.

Le Lis Maude Floral Dress ($78)
Verdict: Kept

I'm obsessed with fit and flare dresses. Would live in them if I could. I almost do, as it is. This material isn't tooooo heavy, but still structured enough to look professional. It's black and white, but my stylist suggested pairing it with a bright colored statement necklace and some bright shoes. Done! And that print? Adore.

So if you've been keeping track-- I kept it all! I'll probably/ definitely sell the Jai dress because it just isn't working for me, but financially it makes more sense to keep it than to send it back. Tamara sent me some basics and some really funky pieces. I love how she incorporates patterns, like I asked, but still sends me somethings outside of my requests. I really didn't want pants, but they're one of my favorite things in this fix!

And speaking of Tamara, she's awesome. I want to be her real life friend. Isn't she precious writing in Portuguese? Seriously-- I'd keep doing Stitch Fix even if I didn't love everything solely because she's so great.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shut Up and Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I spend 48 weeks a year moaning and groaning about how much I despise missing major life events of those people who are close to me in the United States. In the past four years, I have missed my brother's high school graduation, birthdays, family reunions, baby and wedding showers, and countless weddings. While I embrace the life that I have created abroad, I don't like being the friend or family member who is consistently absent in people's lives.

On more than one occasion, I have said "If I only had the money, I would fly home for blah, blah, blah."

Well, in the words of Katy Perry, it's finally time to shut up and put my money where my mouth is.

So, as to not let the pop star down, I'm boarding a plane to Las Vegas to stand beside my sister as she marries her best friend.

I may live abroad, but I don't need to be known as the person who always misses major life events.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It's Been Three Years Since I Fell In Love

"It was a big day in our lives. And it's not only hurting for my past self, it's mourning the loss of that self. It's knowing that I can never be that person again, for good or bad. And I'm not jealous of the anxiety that I was feeling on this day years ago, but I am jealous of the adventure that person was about to go on."
-- my Honduran roommate on our Friend-aversary and moving to Honduras

It's been three years, to the day, since I have fallen in love.

Three years ago today I fell in love with a country so vastly different from the one in which I grew up. I fell in love with the dirt roads and the cows that frequently walked them. I fell in love with the fruit stands on the side of the road that allowed me to buy an entire pineapple and eat it in the back of the pick-up truck while driving down the highway. I fell in love with the mountains, and at the same time, with the beaches. I fell in love with the cars driving around town with speakers on top of them blaring music, or sermons, or the latest special at the supermarket. I fell in love with $1 taxi rides and baleadas for every meal.

I fell in love with Honduras in the same way people fall in love with each other-- savoring the good, while tolerating the bad, and knowing that all of it together creates something that you know will impact your life forever.

Three years ago today, I was a recent college graduate who was terrified to be embarking on such a huge adventure, but ecstatic to be embarking on such a huge adventure. Today I've taken the courage that I gained and moved abroad AGAIN, on another huge adventure.

Three years ago today, I was optimistic (maybe overly so) about how awesome of a teacher I was going to be. Today I'm realistic with the fact that I'm not going to be a perfect teacher and that's okay.

Three years ago today, I had never had to humble myself when communicating because I wasn't able to understand what was being said around me. Today I stumble over words and say "I'm sorry, I don't understand" every. single. day.

Three years ago today, I was unable to fathom a group of students who wouldn't listen to me. Today, I realized that last week was my first week of teaching that was completely tear-free.

In the last three years, I have laughed, I have cried. I have threatened to quit my job, I have threatened to leave the country. I HAVE left the country, I have moved to another country. I have learned, I have taught. I have made new friends, I have missed my old friends from home. I have been homesick, I have contemplated never returning to the States.

Three years ago today, I could have never imagined myself as I am now.

A Love Letter To The Country That Changed Me

Mi Querido Pais,

Is it weird to write a letter to a country? Is it weird to fall in love with a country? 

I knew that I loved you the moment that I saw you-- four years before we were actually together. Your beautiful mountains and breath-taking beaches, as well as your vibrant people, took hold of my heart and made you impossible to forget.

When I finally returned, three years ago today, I didn't know that how much I would laugh or cry or love. I didn't know the person I could become.

Thank you. Thank you for changing me. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for making me into the person I am today.

Siempre te amo,
su catracha de corazon

August 10, 2012: Adios Ohio, Hello Honduras
August 10, 2013: It's Amazing What A Year Can Do
August 10, 2014: Two Years

Saturday, August 8, 2015

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

More than I care to admit, I think that teaching was pretty accurately summed up in Spiderman.

One of my students has had an emotionally difficult year and it all seemed to catch up with her today. At the end of the day, she came to me sobbing, so we sat together on the bleachers in the front court while she talked it out. But mostly so she could just cry.

In the midst of trying to comfort her with my best teacher advice, I was (selfishly) thinking about how special it was that this particular student chose to come to me in her time of distress. Out of all of her friends and all of the teachers in the school, she searched me out. She wanted to be with me.

And then I realized, oh gosh, she chose to come to ME.

The students who sit in my classroom each day didn't chose to be on my class list. But every day we work through all sorts of things together. Every day they come to me to help them solve problems, whether they be academic, personal, social, or something else entirely. Every day they are trusting ME to be there for them.

Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way, but wow. Talk about pressure.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Caitlin's Quarter Quell

If you know anything about The Hunger Games (which you should), you know that every twenty five year, Panam participates in the Quarter Quell. Games which are more intense, and with more surprises, than the games of years past.

I recently celebrated my very own Quarter Quell (AKA, I turned 25 years old). And, in true Quarter Quell fashion, it was more intense than in years past. I mean, hello, I was in Rio de Janeiro, for crying out loud.

Not only was it celebrated in Rio de Janeiro (and effectively allowing me to say I have celebrated my birthday in North, Central, and South America), it was spent with this beauty.

One of my dearest and closest friends from high school. We've been friends for TEN YEARS now-- I had just finished my freshman year when we celebrated our first birthday together. Who would have guessed that 7th grade her and 9th grade me would both grow up to be teachers at bilingual schools and then celebrate our birthday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil? Seriously. Life is crazy and awesome and I'm so blessed to have friends like her along for the ride.

My Quarter Quell was also celebrated with some of the very best people in Rio. When living far from family and friends, it's important to find people you can count on. If you ask me, I've found some of the best.

And in true cafe com leite (literally "coffee with milk", but code for "lame person") fashion, I was in bed by 9pm. 

Here's to another year. To the laughter and to the tears, to the days at the beach and the nights/ early evenings at the bars. Here's to all of the moments that make up a beautiful year, which in turn, make a beautiful life.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

You Can Take The Girl Out Of Cleveland...

... but you can't take the Cleveland out of the girl.

As demonstrated by my two different purchases of red, white, and blue screen printed Cleveland shirts. As if I needed more of those.

Setting my sights on Cleveland was one of the happiest things I've done in my entire life. And I've done a lot of really happy things in my life. 

I crammed a lot into 20 short days. I hugged my parents, I hugged my siblings, I hugged my cat, I hugged my new baby niece, I hugged my aunts and uncles and cousins, I hugged all of the people who I called family, I hugged my friends from Honduras, I hugged my friends from Ashland, I hugged some friends from Brazil, I hugged Slider. In retrospect, I did a lot of hugging.

So many Indians games. So many trips to Taco Bell and Dairy Queen and Panera. So many trips to Headlands and nights spent awake talking to friends and family. 

It wasn't a long trip, but it was a great trip. It wasn't a relaxing trip, but it filled my heart more than I imagined to be possible. Living in Brazil is awesome. Its a wonderful opportunity in a wonderful city filled with wonderful people. But there's something to be said for returning to the place where you grew up to the people who have been with you through everything.

And then only 20 short days after setting foot in Ohio, I was boarding a plane back to Rio. Back to caipirinhas and mate on the beach. Back to seeing monkeys on the street instead of squirrels. Back to another one of my beautiful homes.