I don’t know about you but when the first things that I hear are orders, directions, (“Keep your shoes here. Your room is over there.”) and warnings (“Once you realize that getting mugged isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you…), all hopes of going into a situation with a light and unsuspecting heart are pretty much gone down the drain. This is how I was initially introduced to Rio de Janeiro and try as I might, pretty much all of my daily activities are laced with paranoia and suspicion.
Should I bring my camera? Would that be smart? Good! I’m not the only person on the streets right now. I’m safe! Oh wait…why is that person walking so close to me? Was that a leer I caught in his eye? (I quicken my pace) Ah! why do people stare so much? I could have sworn that I’ve seen at two Brazilians with mohawks before. Maybe I should get it cut so that I’ll blend in better. But I love my hair… Why do I understand Portuguese so well, yet suck at responding to it? Yay, I’m almost there…Yes! I’m home!
Why is this so awkward? Is it weird that are conversations mostly consist of “Bom día,” “boa tarde,” “boa noite,” and “Deion, por favor…”, and “Deion, por quê..?” Why does she just happen to be in the kitchen every time that I’m in kitchen? Am I being watched? Can I be left alone to cook in peace? (Cue in mental scream of anguish and the subsequent disappointment that follows upon the realization that a person should never have to be so edgy in a place that’s “supposed” to be paradise and, most importantly, his new home)
Well, I am.
I was reading the symptoms of culture shock today and apparently, I’m going through a few of the symptoms. Irritability, reclusive behavior, the making of comparisons between target culture and the home culture…yeah, I display a few of those from time to time.
But most of all, I just wish that it all could have been done differently. The whole scare-the-crop-out-of-you-so-that-you-won’t-be-naïve routine has been played out to the max since I’ve been here in Rio, and well beforehand too. If something is going to happen, it will happen. At the end of the day, reality slaps you in face every now and then and, whether you wear the mouth-guard or not, your face will still sting from the pain.
From what I’ve experienced thus far, it seems like the goal behind the creation of this program was to create a mini Georgetown in Brazil. It’s all there: the chic neighborhoods, good shopping, the close proximity to famous attractions, dependable faculty members. With all of that within fifteen minutes of you, why leave? I don’t know about the other students here, but another bubble was the last thing that I was looking for when I decided to come here. Besides, what does all this mean when you come back home at the end of the day only to find out that you’re living with the worst R.A ever?
Last Friday, I met someone in Lapa (kind of like the Adam’s Morgan of DC or the Chippewa Street of Buffalo) who really changed my perspective on life here in Rio, Brazil, and of life in general.
“How do you say, “eles me roubaram”? …Yes! They robbed me. But what am I going to do, sit here and cry or go home? No! I’m going to stay here and drink and dance. You have to live life, you know?” Murilo then took the hand of the nearest girl, one that he hadn’t even known prior to that moment, and proceeded to samba to the beat of the live music that poured from beneath the aqueducts that once brought life to the city…(clarification: I was not robbed! Murilo was the one that had been robbed and he is the one that told me the quote mentioned above! Thanks for your concern, though. If it does happen, I’ll be sure to let you know!)
I made a promise to myself while on the beach today that I wouldn’t get trapped inside the Leblon bubble. The Rio that I want won’t come to me so now, I shall go to it. First step?