It’s a little disconcerting being in “real life,” that is, outside the normal and well-established path of high school – college – grad school – postdoc – guaranteed job at a university or pharmaceutical company. It’s not that I feel I have no options; it’s that I feel I have too many options, like I was at a crossroads with an infinite number of possible paths. I mean, I’m a financially secure college graduate, and I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted from here.
This position causes a dichotomy between me and other foreigners – the tourists – in Salvador. While the tourists are on vacation and spend their time and money accordingly, I’m living what I would call a time of transition as I try to navigate the aforementioned infinite crossroads. Yes, I happen to be going through this transition in Salvador, but I’m living very normally even in this tourist hotspot – I’m on a strict budget, and I’m not doing as many “vacation-y” things as I thought I’d be doing.
As a result, Salvador is somewhat losing its attraction as a place to live… capoeira angola, which is the main reason I came here, I can get in the States (admittedly, in few cities, but still, it’s there). And all of Salvador’s other attractions – the shows, the cultural events, the beaches, the unique food – they’re great, but… as I mentioned, I’m not taking full advantage of them since I’m not here as a tourist and I can’t afford to. And also there are negatives: the danger and the constant perception of white people as walking wallets full of money to be scammed/extorted/robbed.
I think that the months I spend here will sort of “sate my appetite” for living long-term in Brazil and in Salvador in particular. I still love the city. But I’m pretty sure I’d be just as happy if not happier living in the U.S. and coming here for vacation as opposed to living in Salvador. It’s just an interesting transformation in my state of mind: after visiting the city for the first time with SIT, I yearned to come back and spend more time here… and now that I’m here for a while, I find I no longer feel a particular desire to fight to prolong my stay.
One thing that’s annoyed me lately is Bahians’ frequent assumption that, because I’m foreign, I’m a tourist. I can’t really blame them, since most of the foreigners who come here are tourists. But for example: the other day, I remarked that I was tired because I’d been working a lot. The response was, “oh sure, it’s a lot of work to lift a cup of beer to your mouth… you can get really tired!” – and then the person wouldn’t believe me when I told him that no, I’m actually working, not partying every night… the last time I tasted beer was several weeks ago, when I went out with some friends who PAID for my drink.
It’s funny how infrequently we utilize our memories. That is, we have years and years of life experiences filed away in our heads, and how often do we really recall them? Of course things/situations/people we encounter in the present will often spark a brief remembrance, a fleeting glance back at the past… but we rarely take the time to actively recall, to re-call our memories back into the forefront of our minds. I think it was in C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra that one of the main characters said something about the full joy of an experience being completed in remembering it, in savoring the memory.
I’ve been doing this during the last few nights, before I go to sleep. Instead of thinking/stressing about all the things I have to do the next day as I usually do, I’ve been recalling experiences from childhood, from middle and high school, from college… I reconstruct the scenario in my imagination – as complete a reconstruction as I can – and I re-live it. Amazing how just 21 years of life has given me enough experiences that, when recalling my memories, I feel like I have access to a really good, really interesting, never-ending movie, right inside my own head.