Admiring the View

Back home, I used to wonder every now and then, “What am I doing with myself?” In a sense, I was (and am) just checking in, making sure things are “on track”. All in all, quite normal behavior for anyone keen on self-reflexion and open to readjustments.

In Brazil, I find myself asking this question every few days. It’s not so much a reflexion on Brazil as it is on living outside one’s country and, well, I think it’s a generational thing, too. It’s very evident that I’m elsewhere because everything is just different thus I’m reminded, whenever I do anything, that this isn’t home. Of course, this calls to mind phrases like, “home is where the heart is” or “home is where you make it,” but it’s hard not to believe something seemingly…simpler, that “home is what you grew up with.”

Although existentialism interests me, my current mental sauntering deals more with summits (I’ll explain this later on, though I can see how one might ask “the big questions” with a view from high up).

Well, as I’ve said many times before, I dedicated virtually all of my 20’s to studying a handful of cultures. I forced myself to have lots of free time for this purpose and it served me well in learning that one doesn’t need to wait until they’re retired to be able to have time for the things that interest them. I’ve done what I want, the way I want, with the only obvious casualty being convention. With the exception of a few other similar souls spread out across the globe who I’ve had the pleasure to cross paths with, I have yet to meet others like me.

I’m reminded of one instance in a California cafe I used to frequent, where I was on first-name basis with the staff, on account of working from my computer. One barista once inquired as to my travels and I told her about four or five places I had been or lived in the last year or so, and her reply revealed how she wished she could live the same way. Not fully understanding, I shot back with a “but you can…anyone can. It’s not like I have a lot of money, I just choose to travel.” In fact, it paralleled my learning experiences with foreign languages where others would say, “you must be good with languages.” The reality is that I’m not, I just choose to make them one of my priorities.

The point I’m trying to make is that you do what you do and you live with it. Traveling doesn’t automatically make me better off than those who stay in one place. In fact, I later told that barista that I wished I could be more like her and not move around so much. Living life on the move or not, we’re often able to choose the types of mountains we wish to climb. We summit at different times and in different ways. How long we stay admiring the view, the distance we have to descend and the length of time it takes to find another mountain to summit, those are questions we all have to answer for ourselves.

Understanding Brazil is and has been my mountain. I’m just here admiring the view.


8 thoughts on “Admiring the View

    • Pode ser! To expand on that, what I mean is the kind of people who defy convention, yet not only as a reaction to the system (ex. a person who wears black, etc, because being a rocker is a ‘reaction’ to the system) but because making one’s own path (regardless of the popular thesis or antithesis) is a top priority. It’s difficult, in my view, for me to find people like this (unconventional) who still live where they grew up. A disassociation from the system usually results in a more adventurous spirit, I find (ie, leaving the ‘comfort zone’). Since I was able to discern such a person, let’s say from my 20’s onward, I have yet to meet more than maybe 10 of them.


      • Ohhhh…a person with wanderlust living where they grew up? An odd qualifier, but I doubt they would exist. Unless they returned in retirement or are from someplace unconventional like SF, Portland or Austin. Although I have known some seekers to stay put, they usually do it out of other commitments- children, or a paid-for house.

        It sound slike you yearn for deeper connection, so I would encourage to avoid places where shallowness is the norm. You’ll find more and more people with depth. There is exactly 1 American here- 1!- and I started talking about a serious indigenous rights/women’s rights issue and she said something like ‘you’re the only person here in Brazil I’ve ever heard mention that.’ And that was it. Not a big thinker, that one. Distance!

      • Oh, I meant a person more so that being ‘different’ in the way I’ve been explaining (rejecting norms) is usually not coupled with staying in the same place. But yeah, my brain is wired for deeper connection. I can give it a rest when I go to sleep, otherwise I’m chasing it.

  1. I feel the same at times. The more distinct the experiences you have, the more difficult it can be to connect to people who lack those experiences. I suspect that this happens a lot with world travelers, and the more languages and cultures I immerse myself in, the more difficult it is for normal people to understand.

    • True, that is the other side of the coin. Every time I talk to new people I try to get at specific points so they tell me about where they stand, what their interests are, etc…and I pretty much get nothing outside of the norm. “I go to work, I come back. I watch TV, listen to music and go out with friends.” And so I say, “yes, go on…” but there’s not any more. Perhaps I’m making snap judgements. Perhaps since it’s my question, I already have an answer and so I think it should be equally as easy for others. If someone asks me what my interests are, I say, “where do I even start?” and I don’t see it as a reflection of me so much as it’s a reflection of how interesting the world is.

      Even when the subjects other people bring up are interesting, it’s an ‘accepted’ interesting. Take travel, for instance. “Oh, you love to travel?” – “Yeah, I spent 4 days in Cancun last year.” And I’ve taken those trips, the kind that are tourist trips, meaning I get what they’re saying. In Brazil, I hear many people say they have eclectic musical tastes, only to be then told that it spans “sertanejo, axé and mpb”…and I think, “what about Australian rock, German hip-hop, classical, flamenco-fusion, African reggae”, and the list goes on. No one introduced me to these styles.

      I dunno, I’m just sayin’ it can be frustrating sometimes. To add another ‘perhaps’ to the list, perhaps I look too much for the ‘you’ in people (for people to be able to define themselves) via what their interests are. In my little world, it’s an interest-based society and an interest economy. I’m uncommonly focused on this and unfortunately it has created a divide between myself and others.

  2. Twenty-five or so years ago I discovered that my Sensibility and that of Brazil were very close.I’d even call it Love.
    Then after the initial infatuation phase passed ,to my delight, I found that the Love has continued.
    I learned that I can never Be Brazilian-nor speak Portuguese as well as a Native–but I can come close. I can get the best of both Cultures–and add in some others as well.
    How many Languages can one learn to speak fluently-or how many musical instruments can one master?English and Portuguese and a smattering of some others is to me,at least ,enough.

  3. Allow me to reply in French to your post because it’s the language that came first when I was thinking about your words and the picture… Admiring the view… Je repense aux lieux dans lesquels j’ai vécu, parfois pour quelques mois seulement. Je repense aux fenêtres devant lesquelles je me suis arrêté pour contempler la vue. Admiring the view… Le temps est tout d’un coup suspendu, la course sociale avec toutes ces mises en scène s’arrête. J’ai alors l’impression qu’il n’y a plus ni cultures, ni langues, ni livres. C’est alors un sentiment très ancien qui remonte à la surface. Une tristesse qui n’en est pas vraiment une. Une solitude qui n’en est pas vraiment une. Quelque chose comme une fatigue ou comme un silence: Back Home. Mais de quelle maison s’agit-il ? Je ne suis pas sûr, après ces années, ces cultures, ces langues – qu’il s’agisse avec certitude du lieu où l’on a grandi. Une mélancolie de quoi, alors? Les premiers navigateurs portugais ont aussi amené au Brésil, dans leurs malles sans le savoir encore, la Saudade. Je ne sais pas si je comprends totalement ce sentiment contradictoire, ce mélange de tristesse et de joie, ce fond de joie dans la tristesse, cette présence du passé dans le présent, cette absence dans la présence. Je ne sais pas dans quelle mesure nos existences nomadiques d’aujourd’hui, nous ramènent à ces sentiments qui agitaient aussi les navigateurs d’autrefois. Devant ma fenêtre, je contemple la vue. Je sais que certaines personnes ne peuvent plus ni revenir ni partir, bloquées dans un entre-deux, étrangère dans leur pays d’origine, étrangère dans le pays où elles sont pourtant nées. Déchirées entre deux mondes qui ne les acceptent pas telles qu’elles sont. Il y a ceux qui restent et il y a ceux qui partent. Il y a ceux que l’on laisse et ceux que l’on rencontre. Je regarde cela depuis ma fenêtre, je m’enfonce un peu plus dans la vue, le paysage. Je ne sais pas si j’ai été fidèle à la barque qui m’a amené jusqu’en haut de cette montagne… Mais au fond, c’est peut-être cela le plus important, cette sorte de fidélité à soi-même, ce Brésil symbolique que nous emportons en nous et qui nous pousse vers un Brésil, cette fois, bien réel, ou en tout autre pays, du plus proche jusqu’au plus lointain. I’m just here admiring the view too.

    Navegar é preciso.
    Viver não é preciso.

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