Twenty years from now


On December 28th, 2012 I left Brazil for the last time. At least, the last time during what will be a long time away. Out of all the things that could have seeped into my consciousness during my lifetime, an insatiable curiosity and a love of Brazil were the two that anchored themselves deeply. So why, then, did I leave?

The two things that have always stayed with me, though, are rather intertwined, as it was the curiousness which permitted the love of Brazil (as well as my love of many other cultures). Unfortunately, staying too focused on one culture, when I love many, is doing a disservice to the way I think and feel. Not only that but I tend to favor places where I’m in contact with all different types of people, people from different countries who, for one reason or another, have decided to go abroad to live (not just to be a tourist). One can either go live in a place like this or hope the foreigners come to them. Brazil, as it is, is mainly a place for its citizens (who have a love/hate relationship with the country) and for tourists (who overwhelmingly love it). While I met foreigners living in Brazil in each city I lived in, they were scattered here and there. In the US, as much as I dislike the inwardness and monoculture expressed within ‘Murica, I get the feeling that any time I run an errand here, one-third of the people I see are foreigners (then again, I live near a major city). Do I go talk to these people, inquire about them, befriend them? No, not really, at least not always…but the point is I can, whenever I want. On any given day, I can go out and find a way to have contact with another culture or language, and not just with people who will be here one day or one week, but people who are living here. Brazilians, of all people, should understand this. After all, there’s hardly a country you can go to without finding a Brazilian expat community there. ; )

Going back to how I think and feel, according to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an INTP (and intuitive, thinker-perceiver) and that basically means I like to deal in concepts, ideas, and systems. It means my mind craves the conceptualizing but often loses interest in the doing. What got me started on Brazil was the dreaming about it and the studying of it, which is surely how everyone starts out. Well, one thing led to another and I began to wonder if the doing (ie, living in the country) would be as satisfying to me as my studies. It very well can be. Even looking back, I have no doubt about that. The real issue is that the kind of person I naturally am (an idea person) started to be put on the back burner, all in favor of living the Brazil that I had learned about. Living in Brazil was a totally viable plan for me, but it wasn’t sustainable for me personally.

I regret nothing and I learned a ton through challenging my personal nature but, being who I am, I found myself floating back to my status quo ante. My lesson reminds me of something I once read about human nature. It was something to the effect of, “People don’t change. They simply become better or worse.” Well, it’s hard to sum up human nature in a single sentence but I can say that Brazil made me better, although the way I utilized my time there made me worse (a story for another day).

To make a strange comparison, I wonder if life experience is like publicity (“any publicity is good publicity”) because, as I said, I believe I have become better. And it all started by “throwing off the bow lines” and venturing off into Brazil’s small countryside towns, fishing villages, jungles, bustling cities and favelas. I hope anyone reading this may find the time to do the same.


5 thoughts on “Twenty years from now

  1. I’d love to hear the story about “although the way I utilized my time there made me worse”

    That sounds fascinating!

    I agree with your assessment about Brazilians, they do have a love/hate relationship with their own country.

    • I basically worked very little (and therefore earned little) in order to have the free time to explore the country/culture. Since I always lived frugally and took advantage of all the low-cost or free things to do, I was free to spent that extra time on cultural studies, if you will. The reason, although possibly faulty, that I think it might have made me worse is that I didn’t focus on my career path. After 18 months, I just couldn’t justify it anymore, thus I came back. Brazil was very “hang out, have fun, explore” but while that’s good in doses, it’s more important for me as a ‘young’ adult to be on track. In Brazil I felt like I was drifting.

  2. Hi Adam, I think I understand what kind of people you like to be with, for they are the same kind of people I like. You can find them in any big city, which is the case of your LA, as you said. But, you’ve got a problem in this respect in LA. People there are scattered over a huge area and the distances separating you from them are too big to give you sense of closeness to them. But let’s conclude that being in contact with multiculturally enlightened people is not about living in the right country, but it’s about living in the right city. Abraço. Takumi

    • Hi Takumi

      I live near San Francisco but even when I go out locally (ie, not crossing the bridge to go into SF), I see a large amount of diversity. Enlightened people are always nice but for the purpose of the post, I was referring more to multicultural people. In Rio, as in all other Brazilian cities I lived in, I met lots of foreigners through friends and friends of friends, and while many of them “lived” in Brazil, they lived there like I lived there (which is to say, they didn’t see themselves in the country on a permanent, prolonged basis).


  3. A great synopsis/resumo of your viagem! I used to live in the Mission district — now i live in z sul. Seeing, feeling many of the same things that you did! The love/hate thing is the hardest to deal with. The problems seem so obvious here yet change is painfully slow in coming. Somehow, the weather seems to make it all ok ;-)

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