photo from: http://bordersartstrust.wordpress.com/
Today I ran into a fresh-faced foreigner, fresh off the plane into this crazy land we call Rio de Janeiro. His eyes skirted from newness to newness until they met mine. I could sense that it had been merely weeks since his last trip to Target. I was faced with a fresh gringo in Rio de Janeiro.
The funniest part was that I didn’t see anything around us that was noteworthy. I could rationally understand how he may have found some of the things funny, new, or even shocking. Yet for me there was nothing blog worthy on that street, besides him that is.
He reminded me of myself when I got here, back when eating cold açaí on a hot Rio de Janeiro day felt as good as an orgasm. Who am I kidding, it still does.
It made me think about how I got to where I am now. I decided to break the process down into three phases.
Here are my 3 phases of foreignness:
Phase 1: Completely and utterly lost
I was so lost when I got here that I quite literally got lost in my own neighborhood. I got annoyed with Mr Rant and decided to go on a walk. I am an independent woman after all. Of course I didn’t really know the lay of the land, nor the neighborhood… obviously. I did so many loops that I found myself lost about 3 city blocks from home, though I might as well have left the area completely. To make matters worse, my Portuguese vocabulary consisted of hello, how are you, and thank you. Not necessarily helpful when it comes to asking for directions. I finally found my way back home after finding some business men who spoke enough English to figure out what the hell I was talking about.
As frustrating as it is being totally lost when you so desperately want to figure a place out, this phase also has an awesome side. If you figure ANYTHING out, it is a win. When I ordered my first pizza by phone, I was so ecstatic that you would have thought that I had won a Nobel Peace Prize. The same goes for managing to open a bank account by myself, no small feat in Brazil, and figuring out how to make coffee without a coffeemaker.
Phase 2: Look at me, I’m adapted! Any and all new foreigners, come talk to me so I can teach you how.
This is that moment where you finally get your bearings. You have the lay of the land figured out, more or less, and have mastered the language enough to have at least basic conversations and ask for directions… plus you actually understand the answer.
This phase is well welcomed after the first one because, lets be honest, Phase 1 has a steep learning curve. If you are anything like me, during that phase you made a serious ass of yourself a few times, at the very least.
Stage 2 was funny for me though. It made me want to reach out to any and all other foreigners I saw when out and about.
I felt an undeniable urge to reach out to them. I wanted to know where they were from, what they were doing in Rio de Janeiro, and how long they were staying. I honestly felt like I should help them because I contained a deep well of knowledge that should be shared with anyone and everyone who came to my new city. Obviously I was the first one here. I practically built this place.
Looking back, I was like a toddler who finally pooped in the potty. Everyone has to do it once, and then it isn’t a big deal anymore. Same goes for moving abroad. That said, every single toddler wants anyone within earshot to come take a look at that monumental first turd. I was no different.
It should be mentioned that this blog was born during Phase 2 and all of you reading have basically come to take a look at it.
Phase 3: I live here
This is the phase where you move from expat to immigrant. You live there now. Tedious crap like banking and cleaning is no longer an “experience”. When you are out on the street it is to run errands or go to work, not to stop and have a beer with any semi-lost foreigner you meet on the way. You have shit to do. Helping a foreigner figure out the different kinds of juices available at a juice stand is no longer a novelty.
You are no longer in the same family with all other foreigners. You have grown and are a member of the community in whichever city you live. As much as I will help anyone in need of help, I let foreigners struggle before translating or explaining something to them. I feel no need to share my knowledge but instead feel that they need to figure it out. They are in a different country with different ways. MY CITY, isn’t just a tourist attraction, at least now that I am done treating it that way.
To sum it up, people everywhere, regardless of living abroad or not, grow and change over time. It is just how life works. The thing about doing it abroad is that you can see much more obvious changes or growths, especially when it comes to your attitude towards your new home and how much or how little you have adapted.
Nonetheless, I still have this blog. I suppose we keep something from each phase. For me, Phase 1 would be my difficulty with the conjugation of Portuguese verbs, Phase 2 the turd blog, and Phase 3 the Holier than thou attitude (though that is quite fake as I am really not that bad).
How about you? What would be your 3 phases?