Today marks exactly halfway through our journey, and the time has flown by! Almost everything here in Brazil is even better than I expected. However, I correctly anticipated a certain struggle, and man, is it tough.
The label “Type A” practically defines who I am as a person. I have a plan for my life ten years out, my planner is carefully color coordinated, and my hand writing is as small and neat as can be. I don’t forget things and I get extremely attached to my schedule. This means that changing plans, especially at the last minute, makes me very agitated. In the midst of a culture where the attitude is “go with the flow,” being in Brazil has been an extraordinary growth process, as I learn to function in an environment that takes a schedule as a suggestion and plans as recommendations.
My morning began unusually. I woke up twenty minutes before we had to leave our house to walk a mile to school, so I had to rush through getting ready. I had just enough time to gulp down an adorable espresso-sized mug of coffee before running out the gate to catch up with my roommates. The majority of the class was leaving campus at 8:30 am to depart for a tour of the Toyota factory nearby, and we were slated to arrive at 8:28. Perfect timing. Things were looking up when, two blocks from campus, I remembered the one thing (that I was aware of at that time) that we were required to bring with us to Toyota. Our passports. Not the colored copy we always keep with us. The real thing, that was conveniently located a mile away in my room buried in the bottom of my suitcase. Excellent. It was already seventy degrees outside, I was wearing slide-on sandals and a long dress, my rock of a backpack weighed down my back, the sun was blazing away, and now, with just three minutes before the scheduled departure time, David and I had to run about a mile back to our host family’s house to retrieve our passports. Great.
My Type A brain immediately started freaking out about being late and making everyone wait, but there was nothing to be done. We alternated between power walking and jogging as we made our way back home, frantically retrieved the critical documents, and jogged our way back to campus. Ten minutes late. We made our way up the hill to the bus, just to find out that we were still waiting on two other people to arrive. Then, things took a turn for the worse, when Dr. Kovach took one look at my outfit and said, “You need close toed shoes and pants.” I was wearing the opposite of what I needed to be wearing. A bad morning got even worse. After completing nearly three miles by 8:30am, I was drenched in sweat. The last thing I wanted to hear was that I needed to don pants. My brain told me that the trip to Toyota was no longer worth it, but when Dr. Kovach told me to ask some friends living on campus to borrow clothes, I went with it. Amber was kind enough to lend me clothes that fit well enough, but unfortunately, I still had not found closed toed shoes. I again posed the option to Dr. Kovach that I just not go on the trip, but Dr. Starr, our collective Brazil dad, kindly ran back to his apartment and retrieved a pair of running sneakers to loan to me. Luckily, he has small feet. We finally left campus, and my day got progressively better.
A few weeks ago, had I encountered this problem, I would have gone straight to campus, announced I didn’t have my passport, and missed out on a unique experience. In moments like this, the amount of growth that I have undergone is amazing. Between the constant schedule changes, the travel mishaps, and the general lack of punctuality, I am learning to let things go. These things all contribute to the comfortable, welcoming feel of Brazilian culture, and though this trip can sometimes feel like an awesome educational vacation, it is truly transformative.