Thursday, December 18, 2014

First week in Brazil...

Today is December 10th 2014. Tomorrow it will be 1 year Angelina and I have been together since we started dating in Varanassi, India...and I have not planned anything to celebrate.  :o(

Yesterday, I completed my first week in Brazil since I landed on December 2nd.

This first week has been so incredibly intense in so many ways. Emotions, activities, encounters, languages, transportations, walks...

The last time I was in Sao Paulo was in 2006 for a summer internship I did before starting my MBA. My experience in the city back then was not all that great. Aside from the great people I befriended, I left not being a big fan of this all.,,unlike Rio or Salvador. So returning to Sao Paulo to actually live here and settle down produced quite a lot of confusion and anxiety in me. If it were not for Angelina, I would definitely never have even thought of ever going back to that city. But as they say, the heart has its reasons that the reason does not have. So voila...8 years later, I landed in this ginormous city again.

When landing, I had a delightful surprise not only to see my Lollipop waiting for me with the biggest smile, but, without telling me, she took advantage of my relative naivety and blurry memory of the city to take me 200 km away to this little Swiss like mountain village for two days, to give us time to reunite again, and for me to slowly and smoothly transition from heavenly country side Morocco to crazy concrete urban Sao Paulo.

So we spent two relaxing days in a little wooden chalet, in the middle of nature, napping, walking, and eating. It was very nice. My two months in Morocco were so incredible that I must admit I was dreading quite a bit leaving Morocco after finally managing to have built a group of fantastic friends and discovered to a good extent the field of permaculture. So I did indeed need a smooth transition...

It is strange how for weeks, whenever someone would ask me if I were stressed about the idea to drop everything and move to Brazil to start literally anew, I would always answer "no", and sincerely felt no stress nor anxiety whatsoever about such a life change. But when we left the chalet that morning after breakfast, it finally suddenly hit me. BAM!!! I started having a big headache. As we were getting closer to the city, the traffic started to intensify and the sky to get darker and darker, pouring rain all over the city. Ouf! what a way to arrive in a city. Black rainy sky. Well, knowing the serious water scarcity crisis Sao Paulo is going through, the rain was actually a great thing. The more it rains, the better. And that's actually the way I felt. So, no, the weather did not have much impact on my morale. Yes, I was now in Brazil, my life was about to take a drastic turn, and at last it was becoming concrete...and yes...I was stressed and anxious. But I was trying to convince myself that perhaps the fact that it was raining as I was entering the city was rather a good omen. 

Once we made it through the traffic, we went to Angelina's brother's (Anderson) apartment, where Angelina has been staying since she returned from her trip, to drop off all my bags, and quickly change before going to meet up her best friend (Natalia) and then go have dinner at her father's. It is then that I understood why Angelina had always refused to show me the apartment when we were chatting on skype. lol Talk about a drastic dramatic change from what I had gotten used to while staying at my parents in Morocco. hahaha! ouf! Everyone is different, so I will not judge. Lets just say that finding our own place to live became right away on top of the priority list.

Since her brother was studying for a big exam he was to take a few days later, we decided to sleep at her father's for a couple of nights. A very cute little apartment in a different neighborhood. So yes, that same evening, I got to meet her dad. Haha! he is so funny and cute, and seems to be obsessed by cooking Japanese food for us. Bring it on! I love it! Angelina's step mom being away for the week, it was just the three of us having dinner. Her dad moved from Japan to Brazil when he was in his early 20's, and so has maintained a very strong core of the Japanese culture...including the language. So I did enjoy quite a bit trying to identify when he was speaking Japanese from when he was speaking Portuguese. The food was delicious, and the dinner a lot of fun. A big thank you to my parents for having taught me early on in my childhood how to eat with chop sticks. I think it helped me shine a bit during the dinner. hehe! 

I strongly believe that parents personality says a lot about their children's core personality, and Angelina's father seems to have a genuine kind heart. Not surprising given how incredibly kind-hearted Angelina is.

If it had been up to her dad, we would have stayed several days at his apartment and he would have cooked for us for every single meal...not necessarily such a bad idea. hahaha!

The rest of the week went by quickly. Angelina took me to various places in the city to show me the surrounding neighborhoods. I quickly became familiar with the curious and challenging topography of the city and its public transportation options.

On Saturday I ran again for the very first time since my ankle "accident" more than 3 years ago in Miami. Wow! I only ran 5 K, but it felt so amazing to run again. Endorphin pumping out of my brain like crazy! I only hope that my ankle will hold solid and allow me to really start running again. I have my surgery was done in Miami, not in France.

Sunday was a Sunday unlike any other I have had with Angelina. I was only in the country for a couple of days and already she gave me the privilege to introduce me to her mom. Angelina's mom passed away of cancer about 11 years ago. (Her passing away was a bit of the ignition that got Angelina to start travelling.) And so that Sunday, Angelina and her dad took me to the cemetery to bring flower to her, and without actually telling me so, introduced me to her mother. I am not sure what went on in Angelina's head as she knelt down and put her hand on her mother's plaque for several minutes, but in my head, I directly spoke to her mother, as if I were meeting her alive. I told her how lucky I was to be with her daughter, and how honored I was to finally meet her. How proud she should be to have given birth to and raised such an incredible being. It was strange, but in some way I could almost feel her energy talking back to me and taking part to the conversation. Though we didn't stay there for long, I sort of wished we had. I would have wanted to sit there, and silently continue to converse with her.

Sunday evening, we went to meet up with my cousin, Philippe, who just moved to Brazil with his family, to work for the Group Accor. His job responsibilities just seem so incredibly interesting, filled with exciting challenges. Ouf! it made me reconsider the corporate world again. Ah! Good thing is that for the first time in about 15 years I will have another family member living in the same country and continent as me. What a change!!!

Angelina has been incredible since I landed in Brazil. She just wont let me move a finger. She is doing everything she can to make my days as positive and happy as possible. It almost makes me feel useless, but she is so happy in doing so that I do not want to tell her to stop just yet. The more I hear her talk about her social bar project, the more I realize how passionate she is and how many projects she has done while she was traveling and impacting the lives of thousands of people. I truly admire her. Something crucial in a relationship, isn't it? I'm curious to know if she has any admiration for me and based on what. 

This first week, despite it all, has not been easy at all for me. My father often talks about the contrast between the comfort and safety of a closed door vs the adventurous and mysterious opportunities of an open door. In other words, comfort vs risks. Well, being in Brazil now feels like I have removed any kind of closed door that was in front of me. Leaving the known and remotely safe for the totally unknown. My head has been spinning non stop, like a tornado of confusion, doubts, fears, and questioning. Am going nuts not knowing what to do with my life. And I thought that 2 years of traveling would help me see clearer. It did open my eyes to a lot of things, but sadly, I am realizing that it has not helped figure out what it is specifically that I want to do. Or perhaps it has? I know I love to work with people. Help them come up with creative solutions and ideas to improve their lives or their businesses. I love business, strategy, marketing, operations, customer experience, sales strategy...To some degree it feels like I should be a consultant, but I refuse to work at helping the rich get richer while money is being wasted on the wrong things.  I think that instead of panicking I will just sit down and work on a life plan. Try to define the kind of life I want to have with the context I am in now, and the potential ways to get there. I think I already have a vague idea, now the question is how deep am I willing to dive and how much am I willing to risk to get there. hmmm...

A lot is going through my mind. I only wish all my best friends could be around me for a week or so, right now, to not only cheer me up but help me think through it all. 

I miss being surrounded by permaculture.

Anicca, Anicca...

Transiting through the Big Apple...and the snow!

Ah, Between Morocco and Brazil I had planned to swing by Connecticut to see Sonja and her beautiful family for Thanksgiving. Since I spent Thanksgiving there the year before I started my trip, I thought it would be a great idea to close my trip to spend another Thanksgiving at Sonja's again. Plus it would give me the opportunity to see her little monkeys, Surya and Milan. Last time we all hung out together was in Dehli, in December last year, for Naina's wedding. We spent about 10 days together. So I really missed them. And big bonus, Mushu and her beau would also be able to join!!!!!

First I landed in NYC and got to spend two fays in the big apple catching up with Lilly. We last hung out in Dakar at Astou's. NYC in the Xmas season is just delightful.

The week at Sonja's went by so fast, way to fast. I would have loved to stay there twice as long. Woodbury where she lives is in the middle of nowhere...and the middle of nowhere is also beautiful during the Xmas season. We even got to build a snow man with the kids and have a snow ball fight while we were at it.

The Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely delicious. I had rarely attended a meal where just about every single dish was made to perfection. Did that have to do with the fact that I helped out with the cooking? hahahaha! just kidding!  :op

For the whole week I was there I dont think we managed to go to sleep before 2 or 3 in the morning. We had so many interesting conversations. That week made me realize how much work two kids can require. And how challenging it can be for two parents to have two full time jibs and two kids to care for at the same time. Wow! Kudos to Sonja and Dalip as well as all the other working parents out there!!!

I miss those monkeys already!

I spent my last night at Mushu's in NYC. Thank God she came with me to the airport the next evening, as I had so many bags, and maneuvering around the NYC metro loaded like a mule would have been quite interesting.

Each one of the steps that got me closer to Brazil produced a bit of anxiety and a nod in my stomach. The end of the PDC course, leaving Morocco, leaving Woodbury, leaving NYC...I guess I was on my way to settling down, sort of, and starting a long term relationship for the first time in years, but making a full 180 degree turn from what I had been used to for the past two years on the road.

And so I left the NYC Xmas snow for the Brazilian tropical giant urban monster...