As it stands, I am on vacation until the very beginning of March. In case you didn’t know, that is three months from now. Three months.
And I don’t know how to act.
It’s not that it’s my first time have a lot of free time on my hands. I mean, that’s all that my life in Buffalo, NY consists of when I’m on summer vacation. But I suppose that once you take account of the context of this particular situation (a 20 year old, on a three month vacation, and hardly any responsibilities in a foreign country where gringos come from all around in search of unparalleled indulgence), you realize just how unpredictable and potentially dangerous this all could be.
In other words, I am on my first true vacation and it’s scaring me.
What do I do with myself? On one side, I feel like I should do something productive, like volunteer or give English classes, but even the English language institution shut down for the holidays (or, in Brazil, during the time between the end of school and the end of Carnaval), and the volunteer opportunities will take some maneuvering for me to achieve what I would like to do because, sadly here in Brazil where poverty and inequality are most often viewed as mere facts of life that, at the end of the day, luck trumps hard work in the hearts of many Brazilians, there isn’t much of a culture of volunteerism. So perhaps I should focus my efforts a bit more inwards for the time being. I know! I could travel! But hmm…that can be very expensive depending on the destination and I DO want to have money for next semester. Basically, this has been the ongoing debate that I have been having with myself very the greater part of the last two months and with each day that I pass without a plan, the more opportunities that I feel are being lost.
That which I hope most to accomplish over the next few months is an unknown level of autonomy. This may sound weird for those of you that may know me because I feel that my time at Georgetown has been marked by my belonging to some organization or another, but for me it’s been something that I’ve been trying to break out of. As someone whose spent the greater part of his life as an only child, I know what it’s like to be left to my own devices and forced to find forge my own path, but I feel that during the past few years, my own personal desires to be social and more of a team player has left me rather dependent on the whole safety in numbers sort of approach that I’ve adapted over the years.
It is ironic that I would want to change this part of me while I’m doing an exchange program whose entire premise is based upon intercultural interaction and being a sociable creature, but I believe that it couldn’t come at a better time. When I first arrived in Brazil, I came with the intention of strictly meeting Brazilians; and though I have–and some phenomenal ones at that–I have met far more international students than what I had originally anticipated. Part of this was circumstantial (I mean, was I really not going to speak to anyone for the entire first month of intensive program?), but a lot of it was just by choosing the easier path. But now that my Portuguese is confident and my international friends are dropping like flies as they all return to their respective countries, I feel like now, more than ever is the time to start over again. Fresh, anew, and independent. I want to see just how acculturated I may/may not have become, how capable I am of meeting people on my own, and how far I’m willing to go to have new and exciting experiences.
And what perfect timing! The New Year will be here before we know it.