I write this week’s blog post with the heaviest of hearts. This past week the last of my grandparents, Papa, died at the age of 91. For 23 years I had the extreme privilege and fortune of getting to know my loving, inspirational, and supportive grandfather. He has been a constant presence in my life since my very earliest memories and it is hard to imagine returning home with him not there. Given the harsh reality that I won’t get to say a proper goodbye to such an integral figure in my life, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the man that Papa was and the immense impact he had on the person I have become today.
The extraordinary life that my grandfather led is a testimony to the human spirit. Despite a childhood and early adult life of absolute tragedy and unimaginable hardship, anybody who knew my grandfather would tell you that he was an unapologetic optimist with a predisposition for risk-taking and corny, but thought-provoking one-liners. As a child I spent hours sitting on my grandparent’s living room couch soaking in Papa’s tales of Hungary, foreign lands, and mind-boggling adventures. It is impossible to overstate the effect that my grandfather had on the optimistic, adventure-seeking person I am today. As hard as it is to be so far away from home at such a moment, I take solace in the fact that I’m following in Papa’s footsteps and living out the adventure that he would have always wanted for me.
I think more than anything else Papa taught me one crucial lesson about life: Family is the most important thing in the world. He didn’t just state this age-old adage; he lived it each and everyday of his life. Between the phone calls and appearances at nearly every childhood event, he always made sure our family felt his constant love and support.
To Papa: Thank you for all the life advice, stories, and unconditional love you have given me over the past 23 years. You may be gone, but your memory lives on with anybody who was ever blessed to have known you. I’ll carry your strength, warmth, and optimistic outlook close to my heart forever.
Just a bunch of good people:
What a collection of good, genuine, caring individuals! No number of superlatives could do justice to the 2012 group of Fulbright ETAs. I’m not sure what the commission was looking for last year…but whatever it was…they hit the nail on the bleeping head. I have to admit, I’ve never been in a group of 30ish people where I could HONESTLY say that I liked every single person. You kind of always assume that there will be at least a couple people you just don’t hit it off with. Not so with our group.
Everyday of midyear meet-up I found myself continuously taken aback by the quality of people I was meeting. Between the thought-provoking conversations and helpful advice, my fellow ETAs made midyear meet-up a true joy. I think I headed out from Brasília a bit sad that our group had to break up. You get to know all these great people over five days and then suddenly everybody goes off to their little corners of Brazil.
At the end of the day, I guess that’s basically life in a nutshell. Whether it’s five days, a month, or a year, we all eventually have to go our separate ways and follow our own paths (thank goodness for Facebook and cell phones). Nonetheless, it’s nice to know that I was part of a pretty special group and that I will see a good number of my fellow Fulbrigthers for Círio in Belém!
A day hike to the Brazilian countryside and other fun excursions:
While the Fulbright midyear meet-up may have lacked information about things that were on just about every ETA’s mind (cough…job opportunities and the strike…cough), the organizers really did a wonderful job of putting together a nice program for us to enjoy one another’s company. On Tuesday, all 30 of us hopped on a bus and headed two hours out into the beautiful, mountainous countryside surrounding Brasília. We spent the day hiking, swimming under GEORGEOUS waterfalls, and…rock jumping. Just a really pleasant day. Plus, jumping off a 45-foot rock next to a stunning waterfall…decently fun.
Another highlight, that even the program heads didn’t know about in advance, was our unexpected trip to the world-renown Sunrise Valley Spiritualist Community about an hour outside of the capital. Bright colors, public healing, capes, tunics, Christian crosses, the Star of David, the Crescent Moon of Islam, pyramids…my ohhh my. Although most of our group arrived at Sunrise with a “????” look on their faces, over the course of the next couple hours people really seemed to enjoy and embrace the whole experience. Definitely cool to see.
While I have been pretty darn enthusiastic about every city I’ve visited thus far (the diversity of Brazilian cities still amazes me), I have to admit that Brasília left me a bit disappointed. Why? Well for starters, despite being a completely planned city (there literally was nothing there before it was built in the 1950’s), Brasília is quite possibly the most pedestrian unfriendly city in the history of mankind. The central downtown area has a dearth of sidewalks, stoplights, and crosswalks…and a multitude of crisscrossing six lane highways. So logical…I know. Whoever planned the city was either A. smoking something funky, B. just not thinking…or C. doing the aforementioned two options simultaneously.
Moreover, I was rather disappointed to find no distinctive cultural feel to the Brazilian capital. Unlike every other place I’ve been to in Brazil, there was no sense that citizens really take ownership of the city and are proud of where they come from. Although this cultural blahness may be a product of the fact that most everyone either immigrated into Brasília recently or is just passing through because of political job prospects, the city came off as being cold, stale, and uninspiring.
Also, coming from the United States and being a big fan of the design of Washington D.C, I have to say…even though it’s based on our National Mall design, Brasília’s central “mall” is the poorest of a poor man’s National Mall. On one end of the mall you have the Brazilian congressional building (which is beautiful by the way) and on the other you have…a giant TV antenna. In between all of that, you have 38 (yes you read that number correctly) identical, rectangular-shaped Brazilian bureaucratic ministry buildings. Congress, T.V, and bureaucracy…um…what? Even though the planners tried to get some symbolism in there with the Congressional building, High Court, and Presidential Palace all being located triangularly from one another, the overall design just didn’t come together for me.
I will say though…there were three cool things about Brasília: 1. It has magnificent modern architecture (despite being a bit of a hodgepodge) 2. The surrounding countryside is breathtaking and 3. It really is perfectly located smackdab in the center of the country. Other than that…I can’t profess to have loved the most cleverly named capital city…ever (I mean seriously…Brasília…that’s the best you could think of?).
- Headed back to the ‘Rém tomorrow night. Sad the trip has to end…but happy that I’ve seen so much of this amazing country over the past 39 days. Between the sights, sounds, and people…I won’t soon forget trip/adventure/extravaganza. I’m definitely ready to try to find some purpose over the next three months…Here. We. Go.
- The big judgment came down from the Brazilian Supreme Court in the Mensalão (“Big Allowance” aka “Case of the Century) corruption scandal last week. Despite multi-MILLION dollar cash-for-vote bribes…basically all the legislators got off scot-free. Total impunity…but is it really that surprising? WELCOME TO BRAZILIAN POLITICS PEOPLE. More on this in the next few weeks…
- I know I’ve drank the Lance Armstrong cool-aid for some time (and I still think the work he does with cancer is wonderful)…but come on man…plausible deniability…puuuhhleassseee.
- Red Sox completely blew up the team last Saturday…it was about time. Most unlikely and incomprehensible trade in MLB history…fact.
That’s all I have for now. I would once again like to pat myself on the back for another blog post. Next time you hear from me I’ll be surrounded by jungle. Until then…have a good week!
P.S Facebook album is up. Probably the greatest collection of pictures…EVER (seriously…there are some good pics there) Check it out people!
P.S.S Andyinhat.tumblr.com will be updated later this week with some EXCLUSIVE content from the hat’s adventures in the Pantanal! Snakes! Monkeys! Giant Guinea Pigs! Puppies! Geeeeeeetttt pumped!