Headed out on my 30 hour, 6 city marathon trip back home at 4 A.M tomorrow morning…should be a doozy…
Putting it together (or not):
What did it all mean? As I sit here tonight, pondering this age-old question and trying to reconstruct the past nine months, I honestly must admit…I don’t know. I think at times we all wish to think that whatever choices we’ve made in life or situations we’ve happened upon things worked out for the best. This sort of retrospective, positive spin narrative tends to be remembered with rose colored glasses and makes us feel good about the past. Indeed, many people have told me that I won’t appreciate the full impact of my choice to come down to Brazil and my subsequent experiences here until 10 or 15 years in the future. Yet, call me distrustful of future Andy, but I don’t think that boiling the last nine months down into a coherent story would ever do justice to all I’ve been through, all I’ve seen, and all the ways I’ve grown. Thus, tonight, with my proverbial swan song, I’m not going to even feign writing the “Andy in the Amazon Story.” What I will do, however, is take a moment to reflect on a few things I do know as I set off for home:
I do know that…
…this was the most challenging nine months of my life. Between the city, UFOPA, and my unsupportive coordinator, it would be fair to say that I was dealt a tough hand and this experience was by no means peaches and cream. There were some really really really hard times. I am proud that I ground through them and tried to learn from each and every struggle.
…I am an infinitely more patient person than the Andy I once knew. Life in Santarém tests your patience on an almost daily basis and learning to deal with that in a mature “taking it in stride” way has allowed me to survive here.
…our trip was an extraordinary adventure. Getting to know every region of Brazil in 40 days was a blessing.
…the Amazon is an amazing place, but we sure are destroying it.
…despite all the positive lessons learned, taking this Fulbright was an 18 month commitment and it was a mistake putting myself on ice for nine months prior to arriving here. I was working under the naïve assumption that the next nine months were going to be pure Brazilian bliss. As I intimated earlier…my time here was anything but blissful…and I now realize that counting down to the next “big thing” is a surefire way of missing incredible opportunities in the interim.
…I’ve gotten pretty darn good at Portuguese and that’s awesome.
…I worked out a lot…I mean a lot.
…even if Donovan and I didn’t change people’s opinions of Americans (and America), I’m pretty sure that we created some cognitive dissonance (and hopefully a brief rethinking of stereotypes) for at least a few people we came across…and that’s about as much as a few Gringos could hope for.
…I slept in a hammock for nine months. Who do you know who can say that?
…I’ll take snow over Amazonian heat…any day of the week.
…I’m not going to sugarcoat it…Santarém was a pretty rough place to live.
…I’m forever grateful to Donovan and the Fishguy. In the darkest hours, they lent an ear, let me complain, and picked me up. Isolated in everyway imaginable from my family and friends, I don’t know what I would have done without those two.
…adversity is the key ingredient to personal growth. When things go horribly wrong, you discover who you truly are and where you can improve. I faced more than my fair share of adversity here…
…it’s time to get on with the next chapter of my life.
Writing every week has been an incredible emotional outlet for me and I will no doubt always reflect positively about my foray into blogging. During times of excitement, frustration, and personal tragedy, this blog enabled me to work through my experiences and more importantly feel connected to my loved ones back home. It has also been incredibly gratifying to hear such positive feedback from so many of you. Sharing my Amazonian adventures with such interested readers has been an absolute joy and a memory from the past nine months I will always cherish.
To the people who followed along: Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about my various experiences as much as I have enjoyed bringing them to you. I want to say one giant, humungous, GIMONGOUS (It’s my blog, remember?)…thank you.
Now for a poem to wrap it up:
One of the most brilliant (and misquoted poems) I’ve come across…
The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.