One year in Brazil

As of today, I’ve been in Brazil for one full year – unbelievable.

It’s funny… yesterday mom asked me to make a list of things I want to do when I get back: places I’ve been longing to go, foods I’ve been longing to eat, etc. I turned to a blank page in my journal, eager to put down on paper everything I’ve been missing about home… and, strangely, all that came to mind were things I know I’m going to miss about Brazil when I do go home.

Speaking Portuguese every day… I realized (when mom asked me) that I really am fluent. I can speak without thinking – in fact, I think in Portuguese – I no longer have trouble talking on the phone, and I no longer have to ask people to repeat themselves. I’m much better with small talk and I’m finally feeling more like myself, if that makes any sense.

Fresh tropical fruits. Although I’ll probably be able to cook many Bahian dishes at home, I certainly won’t be able to find mango, guava, and acerola at rock-bottom prices. I’ll miss fresh coconut water and real orange juice; also the smell of cajú and acarajéfrom the street vendors…

I’ll miss the street culture. City living has its disadvantages, but this is one of the good things. Since I walk around the same areas every day, I inevitably run into friends and acquaintances all the time. The street vendors know me; I always buy my acarajé from the same baiana in the Terreiro de Jesus, my popcorn from the same guy on the steps of the Jorge Amado house… the staff at Tropicália (a luncheonette I eat at almost every day) knows all my “usual” orders… the street capoeiristas and store owners always say hi and ask how I’m doing… in the States, I have to drive from my house to my job to the store etc, so there’s no chance of running into anyone. But here, it’s a certainty. I even like to leave home earlier than necessary so that I have time to stop and chat with people along the way and still arrive punctually.

FICA. The rodas are uma maravilha… the music alone is to die for. Three berimbaus bem afinados – the gunga’s deep and throaty voice singing angola, the médio complementing it with inversion of the rhythm, and someone like Aloan making the viola ring out like a bell, improvisando e brincando – and Mestre Valmir’s voice booming out above the rich rhythmic-melodic tapestry woven by the eight instruments of the orchestra… I swear that man swallowed a bullhorn at some point in his life; I’ve never heard anyone with such a strong and clear voice hit the volume that he manages without sounding like he’s yelling. And the games… indescribable… you have to be there to see it and to feel it: aquela energia, aquela alegria toda, de vadiar entre amigos. Capoeira angola, ritual antiga, arma perigosíssima com o potencial pra toda malvadeza e traição, ali manifestada como brincadeira, brincadeira de criança. It’s amazing.

And most of all I’ll miss the people who have been important and influential in my life here: Alvaro and Jacqueline, who are so generous in sharing their home with me and who make sure I eat a good lunch at least two days a week, haha; Valmir, truly a great angoleiro and someone I’m proud to call mestre; the other instructors whose games inspire me to no end; my capoeira meninas(who are already leaving me one by one! That’s the only unfortunate thing about FICA; it receives so many people who only spend a short time there); Mestre Torito, who calls me his “bonequinha” (little doll); Mestres Ciro and Lua Rasta and their respective crews, who always welcome me in their rodas; Soraya, Gilca, Marcos, Mateus, Tiago, Jessica, and everyone else in my crazy household – despite their typical Bahian propensity for yelling all the time!

I think I’m just being overly nostalgic because I’m headed to Uruguay this afternoon and there’s a tiny chance that I might have difficulties re-entering Brazil. But if all goes well, I’ll have three more months to enjoy all the maravilhas of Salvador before making my triumphant return to the U.S.