This is going to be much harder than I thought. It’s not about reverse culture shock – objectively musing about how tough it is to eat dinner at 6 PM and how clueless I am about my own culture – it’s much more personal.
I’ve returned to a world that is both intensely familiar and surprisingly foreign at the same time. The places and people and things I’ve known since childhood (and it doesn’t help that I lived 20 years in the same house) are so exceedingly “normal” that Bahia seems like a dream, a surreal dream that I’ve just woken up from. And yet enough has changed (both here, and within me) that I feel like a stranger.
I once wrote about wanting to “settle” and put down roots in one place, to actually move there without a predetermined leaving date. Sem querer, I was putting down roots in Bahia, even though my days there were numbered by visa limitations. I originally went there to focus on capoeira, train as much as possible, and basically have a months-long vacation as a reward for the time I put in in São Carlos.
But I realized within the first two weeks that that wasn’t what I wanted at all. First of all, there was a limit to how many hours a day my body could train. And second, occupying the other hours of the day became difficult. For one thing, doing “vacation-y” things (sightseeing, eating out, day trips, activities) was financially unfeasible and would quickly eat up my savings. And also, I don’t like living hedonistically or without, I dunno, something to invest my time, energy, and creativity in. That something could be studies, could be paid work, could be volunteer work, whatever; just something to pursue.
Then I started at Tienda Bahia. And by the end of my five months, I had constructed a life that I enjoyed: a job that I liked, that paid enough to sustain my simple lifestyle at the Bahian cost of living, with a great partner and promising possibilities for growth and that (unlike the chemistry research) offered me more satisfaction and fulfillment than frustration and stress. I had a capoeira group I LOVED, with a mestre I truly admired and respected, as well as a close-knit family of fellow angoleiros, which also received visitors from all over the world. And I lived in a natural paradise, a cidade de alegria, with one of the loveliest climates and richest cultures on earth.
So the reason I feel so upset is that I had to tear myself away from those roots I’d planted in order to come back to the place that has my strongest and deepest root (my family) but little else. I’ve been away for so long that all my other ties have been cut. I have no job that I’d been on vacation from, no course of study that I must now resume, no commitments and activities that I’d briefly stopped in order to travel. My circle of American friends has dispersed, each one following his or her own path and our friendship become more IM conversations than daily convivência. This is natural and normal. But it’s painful, really painful, to leave the wonderful life I’d begun to build for myself in Bahia (without knowing when I can return there) in order to come back to… what?
E agora eu fico na dúvida – should I try to “plant myself” here, starting from scratch, beginning a professional career, getting involved in local activities; or should I just grab a temporary job and work here for a few months with the sole objective of returning to Bahia? I feel like I need to make a decision for one path or the other and then just GO for it; I’ll won’t get anywhere if I hesitate at the crossroads. The crazy thing is, I know I’ll be happy either way… and that knowledge makes it that much harder to choose.