I’m officially abroad now. There’s no turning back at this point. Brazil shall be home for the time being. I’ll make sure of it. But before getting into that, I would like to share some of my thoughts about the first leg of my trip.
I felt really tall in Panamá. A lot of the men were somewhere near my shoulders. One little girl, while I was walking past her in airport, pointed at me and yelled to her mother, “Mira! Mira!”. I’m sure that her excitement was because of more things than one. On the flight, the Copa Airlines stewardesses were a lot prettier and younger than what I’m used to seeing on Southwest airlines back home, but the service seemed more informal and, overall, a lot less friendly. What I noticed in general in Panamá at least is that there seems to be more shoving, few “excuse me’s”, and hardly any apologies. My experience there reminded me a lot of New York City. I remember laughing to myself when, upon landing in Panamá City, the only people that clapped were the Americans.
While in Panamá, to celebrate this proud achievement in my life, of having finally left the mainland United States, I decided to go eat in a small bar/cafeteria. What attracted me to this place were the glowing plasma televisions in each corner, and most notably the one that was showing Wimbledon. Naturally, I was overjoyed, albeit a bit disappointed after missing the back-to-back Williams sister matches.
While in the cafeteria, after politely being told to take a seat by the waitress and then receiving my bland, though fulfilling pizza margarita (I can imagine that I was looking very stiff and American as I stood there, trying to remember to say things in Spanish that one used during such occasions), I met a dashing young Englishman over the passing of the salt shaker. Though I never got his name, and nor did he take mine, we spent a good hour discussing our lives and plans for the upcoming year(s). Apparently, upon graduation, he had originally decided to teach English in Guayaquil, Ecuador for five months but, in the blink of an eye, a whole year had passed him by. Now, he was onto his next post, a small village called Carolina in northern Colómbia, near Barranquilla. I admire his ability to go where life takes him. It shows a lot of self-confidence, and that’s always something to be admired. Moreover, it’s a huge change of pace from the professionally-driven atmosphere of Georgetown, where many seem to have known what they wanted to do later on in life since kindergarten. I hope to follow a similar path, not setting my hopes too high on one particular goal, but while still reaching for the stars all the same.
During my ten-hour layover in Panamá, I spent most of my time eating, thinking about food, sleeping, thinking about sleep, and wondering how I would arrive in Brazil looking fresh after twenty hours of travel. But no worries: it wasn’t as uneventful as it sounds. The highlight of that experience: my run-in with the law! Well, kind of. It was an employee from La Riviera, a chain of duty-free shops in the Tocúmen International Airport of Panamá City. Here’s a mini-dialogue of the encounter.
After confusedly walking away from La Riviera after taking a picture of a carton of Marlboro cigarettes that was bluntly labeled with “Smoking kills.“, I was flagged down by a La Riviera employee who had just said something incomprehensible to me in Spanish.
Employee: Habla español? (Do you speak Spanish?)
Deion: (with much hesitation) No.
Employee: No habla español? (So you don’t speak Spanish?)
Deion: (feeling guilty) Sí, un poco. (Ok yeah, but only a little.)
Employee: (visibly brightens up) He then says something to the effect of “What were you doing reaching into your bag near the cigarettes?”
Deion: (not quite possessing the necessary vocabulary to properly explain what I was doing, I fished out my camera and showed him the picture)
Employee: Es su trabajo? Trabaja por Marlboro? (Do you work for Marlboro?)
Deion: Umm, no. (with much difficulty and help from the very person that was accusing me of theft and/or espionage) El mensaje…quiero mostrar a mis amigos el mensaje porque en los Estados Unidos, el mensaje no es tan..tan..(I wanted to show my friends the message on the box because in the US, the Surgeon General’s warning isn’t so…)
Employee: Fuerte? (Strong?)
Employee: (smiles, then leaves) Ah! Mi culpa! Buen viaje! (Oh! My bad! Have a nice trip!)
I walk away from the scene, grinning.
And now I would like to show you a passage from my notebook (because I will no longer write in it if I dare call it a journal), before I call it a night. I have to wake up in about five hours to visit my university, but I didn’t want to leave you without a few of my thoughts about Brazil before and after I landed, a cliffhanger, if you will.
Wow. I can’t believe that this is it. Would would have known that all along, all that I needed was to go abroad in order to start writing again? I hope that it lasts.
Tonight, I saw the moon like I’ve never seen it before. The crescent, in a sense, was no longer vertical, but horizontal. Maybe it’s an effect of the hemispheres…
I slept for way too long and now Regina is gone. I have no way of leaving this place. I see the key, but I don’t know how to open the front door. There are three locks. Apparently in Brazil, you must first be locked in before you can ever lock someone out.
I can’t stay here…