by Laura Lynch

UIUC anthro major Laura Lynch spent a semester abroad in Brazil this past fall (2010), enrolled in a program at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. She has just returned to UIUC for the spring and finds herself in a bit of shock.  Written the night before beginning spring semester classes back at UIUC, the blog post below is a sort of love poem to Rio . . .

The truth is, I’m scared.  Or perhaps, and more precisely, intimidated by the accumulation of things, the rush of time–

It is 2:22 am, the night’s rest before the first day of school back at UIUC, and although I’ve been near a computer all day, I couldn’t find the words or the will to tell a story of Brazil.  Instead, I invited my Brazilian travel buddy, Obedzinski (along our backpacking trip, he counted how many times people thought he was anything but Brazilian: 15) to a social gathering at my Urbana home via Skype, spoke to him in Portuguese, flipped through the photos and videos on Facebook of friends I met through the program at PUC-Rio.  It’s as if it’s what I know, a learned version of myself, a carioca[1] version, that must hibernate as I re-learn the practice of being a girl from Illinois and what that means.

It means windy winters at frosty temperatures.  It means fourth-year friend clique drama.  It means my own room and an established relationship at reach.

Living here means the ocean is no longer my guide to and from school, no longer my next-door neighbor.  It means no leaves on the fingers of trees, no orchids in bloom.  No small-glass standard serving size at bars such as Itahy in Leblon,[2] meant to be refilled frequently with ice-cold liters of summer beer that taste all the same to me; it means individual bottles of winter beer sophistication.

It means I’ll never find sand on my carpet floors, no Christopher, no Felipe nor Obedzinski or James.  No Luana, no Renata, no crazy suburb girls like Irene, who don’t care for spots like Post 3 at Barra Beach.

No baratas,[3] no flies– especially ones due to filth left behind by frat-like Portuguese roommates whose diet is a strict meat-and-starch composition garnished with swirling rings of cigarette smoke.

No regular supply of cachaça[4] for weekend caipirinhas.[5] No field trips to places I haven’t yet seen unless I run across an adventurer like Charlie, who once led me to Meadowbrook Park in high firefly season, perhaps late June, to ride bikes in a small mob and see the stars sparkle like Vidigal[6] up the morro[7] at night.

I guess I feel unpracticed as myself or perhaps unsure of who I am so that I may find a voice to speak.

Intimidation is the impetus of the strange behavior due to the unsettling essence and timid curiosity present in the face of beauty.  I am at the foothills of change, and to me, change is beautiful.

Tenho saudades do Brasil,[8] but I know I’ve been living in Urbana in my daydreams.  I’m where Monday feels like Sunday and everything follows forward in a reverse order in just the right way–


[1] A person from Rio de Janeiro.

[2] One of the most chic neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro.

[3] Cockroaches.

[4] Distilled sugar cane alcohol.

[5] The national Brazilian drink, comprised of cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice.

[6] A shanty-town community at the southern end of the Zona Sul region of Rio de Janeiro.

[7] Hill.

[8] I miss Brazil.