Reflecting on the past and pondering the future

Two weeks left until my trip to Bahia!!!!!!!!!

My time here has paradoxically passed both quickly and slowly, as time is fond of doing. When I arrived in September, ten months seemed to stretch out endlessly in front of me, but they do seem to have flown now that I look back on them. On the one hand, I feel like I didn’t “do” much this year, since my schedule wasn’t nearly as full of activities as it usually is; on the other hand, I’ve learned and grown a lot, and in some unexpected ways.

Here’s a brief summary of five things I’ve taken away from my time in São Carlos:

I no longer want to pursue a career in chemistry, at least not in research (I’d be open to teaching, however). I’d like to pursue something less technical/specialized, and something that more directly impacts the lives of others.

– Although I respect all forms of capoeira, I want to continue in capoeira angola, which “calls” to me and fits me better than capoeira regional/contemporânea. This was a huge surprise; I never thought I’d actually quit training regional.

Dating “just to date” no longer appeals to me. At this stage of my life I’m more interested in something serious, and marriage is one of my goals. Consequently, I’ve gotten much picker about who I go out with.

Living so far from my family and friends is harder than I’d imagined; it’s not exactly the same as living at college because I can’t go home for the holidays or call my parents whenever I feel like it. So living in Brazil is nice for the short-term, but I doubt I’ll be spending the rest of my life here.

A renewed love of my home country and gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with growing up in the U.S. Even something as simple as deciding to change career areas is extremely difficult in Brazil – you go to college, major in something and take all your classes in that area, then work in that area and thank God that you have a job and can feed your family, since about a third of Brazil’s population of 180 million is barely scraping by. So even if you end up hating your job, you don’t complain and you don’t dare think about switching.

Anyway, there’s a ton of stuff I have to take care of in the next couple weeks: wrap up things in the lab, organize my stuff and perhaps ship some of it home, send in my health insurance application, say my goodbyes… saying goodbyes is the worst, not because it’s so painful, but because it’s so awkward. Ten months is time enough to start developing friendships, but not enough to really get close to people. And the likelihood that I’ll return to São Carlos is pretty much nil, so this is most likely a goodbye-for-always.

Salvador is going to be AWESOME!!! Although I’ll arrive in the coldest part of the year, the temperature still never goes below 60. By September, the rains will have passed and the weather will get warmer and sunnier. I’m going to train my heart out in capoeira angola and I’m hoping to take Afro-Brazilian percussion and dance classes. Add to that the general excitement and wonderfulness and great nightlife of Salvador… being able to see all my friends in the city… perhaps taking a trip out to Chapada Diamantina for some hiking/camping… whee! And despite the Varig problems, I’m optimistic that my family will make it down to visit, though perhaps not on exactly the flights they had planned.

But the other day, I was thinking – although my experience here in São Carlos has been good and my experience in Bahia is going to be great, I’m also really looking forward to coming home. It’ll be so incredibly sweet to see all the people I’ve been missing, to be able to celebrate holidays with my family, to return to my home church, to visit Hamtech, to be completely free from the language barrier, to eat all the food I haven’t tasted in a year, to sleep in my own bed and have access to all my books again… ah I can hardly wait!