“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” wrote American author A. A. Milne. At this moment in our trip, Milne’s quote particularly resonates with me because it is time to say goodbye. We are not yet leaving Brazil, but we are leaving our host families and the Universidade Metodista de São Paulo which have been our home for the past two weeks. As I reflect on our last day in São Bernardo do Campo I cannot help but recall all of the “firsts” that seem to have occurred only yesterday: my first time flying on a plane, my first time visiting a foreign country that speaks a language I do not know, the first time meeting my host mom, and the list goes on.
However, I am now also forced to reflect on the “lasts” that I have experienced. Yesterday, we attended our last day at the Universidade Metodista and gave our final presentation here in Brazil. When we went home, we had dinner with our host families for the last time before packing our bags and preparing for one final sleep in beds that now feel like our own. We said goodbye to the Brazilian friends that we made at the university and made sure not to miss out on what could be our last chance to have açai. This place that once felt so foreign now feels like home, and just as it was hard to say goodbye to my home in the States, it is now hard to say goodbye to my home in Brazil.
Across the street from the Universidade Metodista is a restaurant called Rei do Hambúrger (Hamburger King) where I—and many of the other Honors students–have become regulars. Rei do Hambúrger has the best—and cheapest—açai within walking distance from our school, and it also has the kindest staff who have come to recognize us as students. Yesterday, my roommates and I went to get açai one last time and had the same waiter that we have had every time we’ve gone to Rei do Hambúrger for the past week. We don’t know his name, and he doesn’t know ours, yet we have still come to form a connection over a simple exchange and some smiles while ordering food.
Using a combination of basic Portuguese and Google Translate we told him that we were leaving São Bernardo do Campo but that we appreciated how kind and patient he was while serving us food. In response, he told us (with the help of Google Translate) that he would miss us coming in to order açai and that he hoped we would come see him when we came back to Brazil in the future. Not if, but when. It is instances like these that have come to have the most impact on my experience here in Brazil by reminding me that while relationships are sustained through communication, they are built on the recognition that every other person is just as human as I am and deserves the same amount of compassion and respect that I desire.
In Milne’s words, saying goodbye to all the beautiful people and places in São Bernardo do Campo that I have grown to love is hard. Yet, I recognize that having a hard time saying goodbye also means that I have been lucky enough to have been touched and transformed by a people, a culture, and a country in a way that I could never have imagined.