April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
If I could smoke fear away,
I’d roll that mother fuck up,
And take two puffs
The older I become the less certainty I have. About everything.
When I was 20 I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And the only thing I’ve been able to take away from this experience is that certainty is something I’m not guaranteed in life. Only the certainty of death remains.
But life should be approached as an experience. At least, that’s the only way I’ve figured it out how to live without becoming overwhelmed by everything. I find topics that interest me and dive in as much as I can. I know that I’ll never learn everything but I find the endeavor itself invigorating. That’s how I intend to live my life. You’ll never know everything but the search for knowledge and experience is what makes life interesting.
Sometimes this propensity to better understand things puts me in awkward situations. I find myself in conversations or places that are uncomfortable for me. For example, I use couchsurfing to meet new people (and stay somewhere for free of course). I had a couchsurfing host in New York invite us to dinner with some of her (and her husband’s) friends. Things were going reasonably well until I found myself in a strange political discussion with the host’s husband. I won’t lie to you, things got weird. But unfortunately I found myself in a position where I was defending the fucking concept of free speech. I was told this was a “strangely American phenomenon” by a German guy and a Turkish woman. I’ll do my best to refrain from mentioning the irony of a German and a Turk supporting the suppression of free speech. Not to mention the fact that free speech is one of the foundations of the modern Western culture and is far from being solely an “American” phenomenon. Annoyingly, I think these two were trying to paint my support of free speech as some sort of red meat eating, gun-toting, American trait. You could imagine the horror if I (equally idiotically) connected his opposition to free speech to the German culture and the unfortunate events of the 20th century which occurred there. But after that conversation I’ve come across a dangerously increasing number of similarly minded people online and in articles. The conversation, although awkward, was important because it helped me understand the anti-free speech movement. I learned something.
A better example is my life right now. I’m in a foreign country surrounded by people who speak a different language than my own. And although I know some Portuguese it’s surely a struggle to hold conversations. Very often I find myself the weak link in social situations, which is something I’m not used to. There’s only so many times I can ask people to stop a conversation to explain what I missed. After a while I learned to just sit out of a lot of conversations. But at the end of the day I’m living in a foreign country and learning a new language every day. Sometimes it’s mentally tiring. Sometimes I get tired of constantly being forced to focus on each word coming out of everyone’s mouth. But most of the time it’s just interesting. Sitting in a room on the other side of the planet full of people speaking a language that was completely foreign to me only a year before. This is personal growth. It’s tough, but it’s important.
But at the root of all of these strange experiences is fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being judged. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Every time that I do something new it feels sort of weird. Learning new things is strange. Admitting that you suck at something is hard. But the reward from learning a new skill makes it worth it. Improving yourself is how life should be lived.
April 23, 2017 § Leave a comment
Well, an update is finally here. For those of you who thought that I had perhaps died I appreciate your concern. But far from death, the past week or so of my life has been pretty incredible. In fact, I’ve never felt more alive. I’ve been to downtown Recife (or “Recife Antigo”) and I’ve seen some of the most beautiful beaches in my life. In fact, I was so impressed by how fucking warm the water is here. Perhaps too impressed, because I left Porto de Galinhas (unlike anything, google it) with a good deal of sunburn.
But more than anything else it’s the subtle cultural, environmental, and other changes. Of course I find the language change is difficult at times. Even when I can see improvement (which I can) it gets very tiring being around people who speak another language for hours at a time. I need to constantly focus just to understand what others are saying. Especially if they are unaccustomed to speaking with non-native Portuguese speakers (most Brazilians). Outings with family and friends can get tiring. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m frustrated or bored (because I’m not) or worse that I simply don’t care. But after spending three hours really focusing on every last syllable from six people you just met that day, I get a little exhausted.
Brazilian culture is really cool. But like anywhere else, Brazil is not without its problems. The traffic here is absolutely bananas. For the most part street signs are treated as suggestions, not laws. At most traffic stops you will find men walking from car to car selling water. Every major intersection has poor men yelling “Olha, agua!”. In fact, pretty much everywhere you go there’s people selling or begging for something. And of course, senhor gringo over here is target number one. Blue eyes, red beard, etc. I’m basically have a face that says “has money”. Which is unfortunate for both of us because I certainly don’t have any.
I’ll be honest, it makes me a bit uncomfortable that merely my face and skin tone makes everyone around me say “oh shit, he has money”. It’s especially unfortunate because Brazil can be incredibly dangerous. And something you never want to do in dangerous areas is stand out. But I find myself doing exactly that everywhere that I go.
The longer that I’m off night shift the more I feel myself reverting to my old self. I’m reading more and more. I care more about recent events than I have in three years. I’m less loud. I feel…calmer. Less angry. Less impulsive. Less dwelling on dumb shit that I can’t change. Night shift changed my behavior in very toxic ways. And I’m glad to be past that stage of my life.
April 4, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’ve been in Florida for a few days. I’m staying at my dad’s house until the 10th of April. Then I’ll be taking a train from Orlando to Miami. After a night in Miami my flight will leave for Brazil on the 11th.
The past month or so has been insane. Until this week I haven’t had enough time to stop and think, let alone write. I spend a couple weeks in March roadtripping and hiking throughout the Northeast of the US. That was incredible, and I met some really great people along the way. But now I’ve basically been everywhere in the contiguous United States.
Been there, done that. After spending a few weeks in Europe last summer I’m more than ready to do more international traveling. Soon enough I will be in Brazil. And after spending a few months in the Northeast of Brazil we will start the long journey south. We want to spend time in Uruguay before heading to Patagonia (Argentina, Chile) and eventually Peru, Ecuador, and perhaps Colombia. Who knows what order we will do it in. It depends on a lot of things. But we agreed not to plan too much. We’re going to buy bus tickets as we go. We will be totally free. The only time restraints will be to be back in Brazil in February for Carnaval and to make sure we’re in the coldest regions of Patagonia around November-January, their summer season.
Moving to Brazil is intimidating. There’s no question. How good is my Portuguese? How long until I can understand native speakers clearly, without concentrating? And what about my safety? I’m clearly gringo. And I was told that I’ll be robbed in Recife because of how I look.
And then when we travel in South America. Buses across remote regions of the Argentinian countryside. And my inability to speak Spanish. Do I have everything I need for cold weather hiking in the Andes?
I’ll be honest, I know I’m not fully prepared. And that’s what makes it exciting for me. I like not knowing. And I’ve learned to enjoy putting myself in uncomfortable positions. I know my Portuguese still needs work. But I’m ready to practice. I know I’m a target to be robbed, and I’m ready for the moment. Or maybe I’m not. Who cares. Because in the end I’m going to be in some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Incredible beaches, beautiful women, and unforgettable moments are in my near future. If I get robbed a couple times or experience awkward moments because of my Portuguese, so be it!
My hope is that the next year will teach me about myself. And about what I want. At the very least, it’s going to be different. And that’s all that I want.