After what felt like an infinity of full, dawn-to-dusk days, this day is my last. This morning was the last time I woke up with the knowledge I’ll fall back asleep in this country. This afternoon will be the last stretch of hot sun I’ll experience in Bahian fashion, full of chattering pedestrians and funk music and the sound of buses cruising past with their cobradores peeking their heads out the windows. This evening will be the last time I’ll dance shamelessly in public, with the effervescent music of Brazil — the forró, the MPB, the regular hits — playing into the long, long night that sits ahead.
Today will be the last day I’ll have Jordan, Asia, David, Alejandro, Leo and Conor unconditionally and constantly by my side, to share in the moments joyous or frustrating, full of banter or full of tears. It’ll be our last chance to slip Portuguese words like vontade and saudades into conversations without their being out of place, and the last time we’ll talk in English and never quite be understood. It’ll also be the last time we’ll head into separate rooms with a boa noite, and, even more strikingly, an ate amanhã, which we won’t hear again until we meet in three months.
The gravity of nine months hasn’t hit me like I thought it would; surprisingly, I’m not the sentimental wreck I normally am. Over the past few weeks, parts of my mind have already begun the 11,000KM migration back home, where the life I once lived awaits. It has already made lists of people to meet, places to go, foods to eat, and things to do… with an exception: the ways in which it’ll never be the same.
How could it?
Nine months is a long time. It would be impossible to capture the gravity of our time through words alone: the people we’ve grown to love, the places where we’ve laughed and cried, the cultural quirks we’ve griped and giggled over. I was lucky enough to meet two mothers who showed me a mother’s love is not necessarily biological. I was lucky enough to find places where in turn I found myself; a cheesy statement, but true in the context of the reflections I’ve made and the changes I want to make in my life back home. I was lucky enough to meet characters eccentric and benign, loud and quiet, with life experiences from across the world or from a certain neighbourhood alone… their universal quality being the willingness to allow another to enter into their lives.
And now, my life back home sits waiting for me with a certain kind of comfort — yet not without a certain anxiety.
I can’t wait to be in an environment where I am no longer conspicuous: where I can cross roads and enter stores without being looked at, and constantly be asked to explain why I am where I am. Yet it bewilders me to think that when I talk to strangers, I’ll no longer be interacting with them in their mother tongue. It saddens me somewhat that I’ll rarely have the random, drawn-out conversations with strangers that happen so frequently in Brazil, and experience the feeling of having heard a most interesting story in the most unexpected way.
I can’t wait to be in my own space again, and live without having to re-pack things or recycle an outfit too many times. Yet I don’t know who I’ll reach out to whenever I want to share an interesting thought or an emotional heart-to-heart, when those who’ve shared them with me no longer live next door. It is easy to be loved when one is the best version of themselves, but I don’t know who’ll have the patience when I am at my worst — as my fellow companions have learnt to do.
And of course, there are the little things. I can’t wait to reach the point on my favourite hiking trail where the uphill becomes the descent. But I’ll remember the times I talked about re-climbing Mount Parker, and realise with a certain heaviness that I can’t use the same prefix — so easily, that is — when it comes to Brazil. I can’t wait to see kimchi in the fridge, have yum cha with my parents and potentially indulge myself the salad of goodness (and much expensiveness) at my favourite vegetarian spot. Yet I don’t know what I’ll do when I start craving the savoury crunch of acarajé, or want to find a simple slice of cake that won’t cost me a fortune.
The other day, my instructor Hanna told me that you have to leave in order to come back. All these questions and don’t knows will only be resolved once I enter the plane to go home, the place in which I’ll be able to gauge how Brazil has made me who I am — and the place that’ll kindle the important urge (or, as I say here, vontade) to return.
Arguably, the act of returning home is the most important thing I have on my list of things to do, and, like I was for the past nine months, I’m eager to do it with hope and courage and a lot of laughter.
And keep the faith that I’ll return to Brazil yet again. I don’t think I’ll stay too far for too long.