Monday, September 27, 2010

Be Where You Are

We are leaving Brazil this year. I had hoped to stay until June or July of 2011, but my plan had been to visit home in December, return in January, then return again in the summer, and all of that adds up to a tidy sum. We are already half-broke as it is. Dealing with the rigmarole of securing my papers gave me enough frustration not to regret the decision to leave early. I have only just now secured my permanent residency visa. (Actually, I have a slip of paper that endows me with the same rights as the visa, but the visa itself won't be available until December or January--I may or may not be able to retrieve it before leaving.) The entire ordeal has been enough to make the U.S. DMV seem like the ideal of competence and expediency. But I don't want to complain any further. There is a lot about living here, especially on a tight budget, that can make you grind your teeth to the very roots, but there is a hell of a lot of good here, too. Today I made a point to take it in. I haven't done anything special. Mostly I have stood on the balcony of our apartment, drinking coffee, watching the clouds pass over the hills, and watching the people as they walk along the street going about their business.

Whenever I get set to move I have a hard time being where I am. I'm like Kramer on Seinfeld, about to move to L.A., pointing to his head, telling George, "Up here, I'm already gone."

I have designs on graduate school, and have started the application process by taking the GRE, which I took at an English school in nearby Recife. In the coming weeks I will compose my statements of intent, writing samples, etc. If I get a good offer, and that's only if I get accepted at all, we will end up either in Texas, or back in Boston.

Boston conjures a great deal of saudade and homesickness. When I moved there, I met a lot of people around my age who had lived there for some time, all of them sick of Boston (they came from all over the country). When I left, I was tired of administrative work but I was not at all beginning to tire of the city. Indeed, I wasn't taking advantage of all it had to offer. I went to the Symphony only once, and then it was a weekend event mainly geared toward children. I attended one opera, and one play, my three years there. That is a disgrace.

So, if we land in Boston next year, I already have an itinerary of things to do if time and money permit. If we end up in another city, then I will have a lot of exploring to do. Either option promises so much excitement that I forget to take advantage of the good times on offer here.

My Portuguese is now pretty passable. I continue to note improvements with comprehension, and sometimes if I'm leaving a message on the phone I hear myself speaking muito rapido and wonder, for a moment, who the hell I am to be speaking so fast. My facility with the language leaves much to be desired, and I continue to work on it, but I remind myself that learning the language wasn't truly my primary reason for moving here. I moved here to get experience teaching, to learn if this is something I would like to do. Happily, it is something I enjoy very much. Bad days, it's more than bearable. On good days, I leave the classroom utterly elated and satisfied. I haven't liked a job like this since I worked as a DJ at a small AM station, where I spent my Saturday and Sunday afternoons in my last years of high school listening to oldies, making announcements every half hour or so, and reading poetry and fiction. Indeed, I thought of a career in broadcasting when I first entered college, but in my first poetry workshop I realized that my calling was something altogether different.

The other reason for moving here was to have more time to write. I've accumulated quite a collection of drafts that I am proud of. How they measure up to everything else out there is hard to say, but I have done some of my best work here, and I have my free time to thank for it.

I hope to post on this blog more often. Until then, vĂ¡ com Deus, caros amigos.


  1. I find change anxiety-provoking, even when it's change I've worked hard toward making.

    I would like to live abroad for a spell, especially in a place I had to learn a new language. An old dream of mine. If it never happens, that's okay too. I enjoy Berkeley, like my job, and have a great husband. Plus we just added a new kitten to the cat family.

  2. I have a T-shirt with a Heraclitus quote emblazoned across the chest: "The Only Constant is Change." Oddly enough, it was handed out at a corporate meeting in which upper management was trying to prepare us for the next firestorm of "restructuring."

    This was a dream of mine, too, and I'm immensely happy to have gone through with it.

    How is your husband? I gathered that he had some health issues. I hope you two are doing well. And congratulations on the new kitty! My wife and I can't wait until we can build our family (canine or feline--no humans, thanks).

  3. K's doing well, considering he's in the midst of chemotherapy. It's like having a chemical bomb dropped on you. You heal from it, but your cancer doesn't. That's the idea, anyway. It's not easy, that's sure.

    The new kitten (Jolson) is sixteen weeks old, according to the vet. Which means he was 12 weeks when he showed up, crying, in our driveway. He's cute, small, and lively.

  4. I'll keep a good thought for you both. He's lucky to have you to help him, as well as your feline family. We almost adopted a cat from one of our aunts, but our niece beat us to him. His name is Pingo, and he's very lazy, but surprisingly gregarious. I'm used to cats who only want to be touched when they touch you. This cat doesn't mind being held, even enjoys it.