Home.

I’ve been back home almost a week now, and I have to say that the process of re-entry into my life in Portland, Oregon, US of A has been full of unexpected surprises and unlooked-for realizations.  Allow me to go off on numerous tangents for a few moments, if you will…

When I set out to embark on this trip, all of my thoughts were focused 100% on the preparation; saving the money, the vacation time, the airline miles, the coordination of keeping my bills paid and my dog happy and arriving at the same time as my brother’s family, not to mention managing the cobweb levels in my house to a sub-haunted level.  Also, there was the matter of finding the right place, the right school, the right situation, to make the experience a non-sucky one.  All in all, I have to say that I’m quite happy with all my choices and preparations; I did one bang-up job, if I do say so myself.  I am good at organizing and managing chaos, after all. 

Then, during my three months, I was focused 100% on making the most of my time there; learning as much Portuguese as my brain could handle (which was less than I hoped), and immersing myself in as much culture, activity, and life as I could handle (and afford).  I’d give myself an 84% on that one.  I think I could have done more, learned more, if I’d spent less time hanging out in my room hiding from the sun in the last few weeks, but am still rocking an amazing tan, and never turned down an opportunity to go do stuff, and have some truly amazing and treasured memories (some of which were documented in video!) as well as some great new friends.

But with the prospect of going home in front of me, I was only focused on getting in the last few times out on the beach, having that last tapioca, that last tall glass of caldo, my last classes in Capoeira and with my MMA gym, the last times with my friends, the last bit of shopping for gifts and cachaca.  I thought about how happy I was to be going home, and how I missed my house and my friends and my dog and my routines.  But I never thought about how being gone for three months in a foreign country with a foreign language would impact me when I did return.  And to my surprise, amazement and (slight) consternation, I find that the culture shock of coming home quite outstripped the culture shock of living in Brazil for three months.

The first thing I experienced was having to intentionally remove the mental blocks I had apparently placed on my ‘You are permitted to speak English all the time’ neural pathways.  Odd, since I did speak English at times, quite a bit occasionally; but I always felt guilty about it looking back, as if I was robbing myself of an opportunity to get just a little bit more fluent.  Now, that excuse was gone, but the mental block was still there.  It felt weird, allowing myself to speak English.  I miss speaking Portuguese.  I find myself wanting to go to all the Brazilian stuff I can, just for an opportunity to continue speaking it.

The next thing I noticed is how all of my prior habits, routines, and proclivities were, if not gone, then certainly greatly weakened.  It’s as if I hit a reset button on my life, and I could pick and choose which ideas, habits and propensities I wished to take up again, and which I decided to toss in the trash, with not a single emotional thread (or very few) to bias my decisions.  And while that has been a truly awesome unlooked for blessing, it also caught me off guard, because I did not see it coming AT ALL.  It’s like getting hit upside the head with a lucky stick.  It still smarts!  Kinda like this:

It’s also acted like oxygen on the fires of my love of travel.  You’d think that after three months I’d be all like “Dayum that was a long ass trip and I am stayin’ HOME for a while!!”, but I’m already looking forward to my next trip.  Most likely I’ll be returning to Amsterdam and London in May again.

I feel like there’s a ‘lastly’ here as well, but I’m not sure what it is.  Like I should be able to sum up my trip in a pithy sentence, like many of my coworkers and friends seem to hope I will when they ask me ‘how was your trip?’, but I’m not sure I can; nor do I think I’d want to.  There was a lot happening there.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about teaching, about myself, about my values and how they affect me.  I thought about language and culture and the impacts they have on each other, and how they can affect the interaction between other cultures.  I thought about how important art is to a community, and realized how proud I am of mine.

If I were to come up with a ‘lastly’, it would be this:  I now have offers of a place to hang my hat for a few days in five different countries.  That’s something special, and is always in the back of my mind.  And it means I need to find a better way to generate a metric fuck ton of airline miles.

Paint.

My last few weeks in Brazil have been gradually increasing in epicness.  There was the beginning of my teaching at a place called Lar São Domingo, a sort of school type place for kids from the local favelas.  There was the discovery of my favorite beach, which is off the beaten path and fairly sparsely populated even on beautiful weekend, complete with 4 beach bars in a row.  There was watching one of my new friends, a fantastic musician originally from Virginia named Atiba play at a fancy little beach bar named Lopana, and having him call me up to play bass with him on a little blues number.  The list goes on, and culminates in this, which happened just last weekend:

That’s my friend Suel, his wife Carol and me live painting a new mural at a beach bar called Milk Beach Bar, where I learned to pay attention to which cup holds the beer and which cup holds the paint, to my cost.  And also found out that water based paint, initially, tastes kinda watery.  Suel is an artist, and Carol teaches art history at the local university.  And all of it was fabulously documented by my other new friend Matias, all of whom will hopefully visit me in Portland someday.

There are still a few more days in Brazil, but the end is soon and I will shortly be reunited with my friends, my dog, my house and my city on Thanksgiving day.  A perfect end to an amazing experience.  And while I still have much I’d like to show you all about brazilian life (and yes, food) those posts may come after I’ve returned and have time to organize all the photos and video I’ve taken – which is a hell of a lot, have no fear!  I’d like to put together a couple of videos and will be posting those up as well.  As for my feelings, they are mixed; I look forward to going home.  I miss my home, and my life and everyone and everything in it tremendously. But I will also miss the people and things that have touched me here, and feel certain that I will have to return soon.

The cost of parenthood

My fertility doctor has prescribed a new drug to deal with my seeming lack of ovulation. It’s called Femara, and it was originally developed to help women with breast cancer. How they figured out this side effect, I dunno. I’m supposed to take it on days 3-7 of my cycle. So, I run to the pharmacy near my house to pick up the prescription…and find out it costs 60 bucks plus. I open the bag and take out the pill container, and see five tiiiiiiny little green pills. We’re talking smaller than those mini altoids. Tic tac size, except round. BB gun pellet size, if it’s a bigger one. Some quick calculations in my head, and I figure out that each one of these little guys is over 12 dollars.

Wow.

Imagine if my life depended on this stuff.

Early Mornings of a Northwest Night Owl continued…

Category: Thoughts_
So, to continue. In all honesty, yesterday I was going to say that it just might…MIGHT… be possible that getting up early like that could be ok. But that was yesterday. These early mornings are starting to wear me down. I’m plain exhausted today, despite getting nearly 8 hours of sleep. And it’s more than just the early mornings…it’s the commuting. Having to commute back and forth through rush hour traffic almost every day seems to create a subtle shift in my quality of life. Before this move, I could go home for lunch if I wanted and relax on my back deck. If I wasn’t feeling well I could go home without affecting the work schedule of 2-3 other people as well.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s not so much the traffic and commute time, but the fact that I am no longer free to come and go as I please; I have to consider at least two other people as well. And that’s on the weeks when I’m driving. The other weeks, I’m essentially trapped at work.

But what’s the alternative? Spending probably a third more time in traffic, and a lot more money in gas. Considering my reduced income thanks to the taxes I now have to pay, the gas savings helps. So I don’t know…there’s pros and cons to this whole situation, and things need to settle for a bit before I can tell how much this will affect things. But until then, I’m freakin’ tired!

Early Mornings of a Northwest Night Owl

So, now my job has moved. I used to work in a nice mellow small office, a state away (well, 12 miles) from Headquarters, 2 miles from my house, where I could waltz in anytime between 8 and 9ish. From the moment I left work in the afternoons to the moment I walked in my house, never topped 5 minutes, unless I had errands to run.

But now that is ALL different. The powers that be decided that I should increase my commute time by an hour on average, take a 10% pay cut due to the fact that I now have to pay state taxes to a state I don’t live in and increase my stress level exponentially – and all for the good of the agency. Phooey I say!

Well, in defense of this, me and my fellow movees decided to form a carpool to battle the insane cost of gas and other increased transportation costs. All well and good, you say. Riiiiight. The problem is these fine people decided that they want to leave – LEAVE – for work at 6:45. AM. In the morning.

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Now remember, I’m used to waking up around 7-7:30 at the earliest. And they want to leave BEFORE that. What planet are they from? I’m a night owl! I’m used to staying up until midnight, fiddling with this and poking at that, until I can no longer keep my eyes open. This is normal. Waking up at 5am is NOT.

So now it’s been two days of waking up early.

And crap now they’re all looking over my shoulder. So I’ll comment on my opinions of waking up early tomorrow….

Camping!

Had a great time camping this weekend with the usual hardcore campers. We were at a now-secret location which I will not divulge here, so as few people as possible can know about it, just friends and family. So if you want a free site which is beautiful and has a stream with double waterfalls you could fall right into from the door of your tent, then let the suckin up begin!

It was absolutely beautiful.

I didn’t take any pictures. This time. But I’ll be back for sure!

Did I mention that there where about 5 campsites, all free, in this one area? And it’s in the middle of NOWHERE with a managed outhouse? (Hey it’s better than squattin in the woods sometimes!) It’s the perfect party camping spot!

I shoulda took pictures. ><