We had to rush through our classes in order to leave the country on the 16th for a trip to visit family in Louisiana. By the middle of December we were both equally fed up with the frustrations of living where we do in Brazil (noise pollution and air pollution, insane traffic, cluttered sidewalks that necessitate walking into the street where aforementioned traffic is a threat to life, and bureaucratic nightmares Kafka couldn't have dreamed up.) Not that living in the States doesn't have its own frustrations. But every locale requires its own special brand of daily fortitude.
I wish that my trip to the States was more eventful. We became couch potatoes when we weren't driving up and down the interstate visiting friends. The vacation lasted from the middle of December until the end of January, and during one of those weeks we visited Boston.
Boston has become our very real, much remembered Shangri-la. Whenever we need to vent, we'll recall tales of museum outings, long afternoons spent in used bookstores, or the countless good meals to which we treated ourselves at our favorite restaurants. Garanhuns is the privation of all these things, but I am happier here, on a whole, than I was in Boston. This is because I am not working a 40 hour week in Brazil. I haven't tallied up the hours yet, but my schedule this semester is probably less than 20, and I'm working more hours now than before. We're still challenged to make ends meet, to make enough to save, and we're both aware this current situation is not viable in the long or even short term--we need to find more work, and quick--but having all of this time to pursue literary endeavors has been a major blessing, and has contributed more to my happiness than could all the museums, restaurants, libraries, concerts, and used bookstores in the world.
And, of course, Brazil is not without culture. Every time I leave the house I'm confronted with a culture that proves more unique and elusive no matter how familiar I become with it. At present, this is something I cannot quite put my finger on, but I hope in the near future to start dealing with the fine particulars of my new home, to explore the customs and people more thoroughly.
A note on language: my Portuguese is functional, barely. My listening comprehension is not so good--I still have the common beginner's complaint that everyone "talks too fast." I think it's a sign that I haven't done enough daily immersion. Since I spend much of my free time in the apartment, surrounded by books in English, internet sites in English, DVDs in English, and a wife who forgets to speak Portuguese to me even mid-sentence. I have not been a good student and forced myself to dive right in every day. But this week I've made a point to change that. I'm starting to mark the calendar every day I study, so that I can monitor not only my progress but my discipline.
Of course, another reason I have a hard time understanding the language is that I often encounter people who speak very bad Portuguese with very bad accents. My wife confirms this.
That's all for now. More later.