I’m Telling You This for the Last Time

I don't know what to say, except that it's close to the end here in Brazil, and it has been a whirlwind of emotions, and things to do, and anxiety, and parties with friends, and alcohol, and emotions, and wait…I already said that.

Update: until last week, I was excercising every day, just like I said I would try. But this last week I didn't make it…unless you include frantic sprints or angry gesticulations towards bus drivers. But I'm sure anxiety burns it's share of calories, so maybe I'm ok. Except no, I'm not.

Uma cesta de Natal: cheio de coisas que você não quer :)

Another update of sorts: after I blogged about that special graffiti in my old neighborhood (notice I said “old neighborhood”–that is because I did succeed in moving out of my apartment. Juuuuuuuust barely. Money and tears can do wonders. And money. Did I mention money?) there were some folks that reminded me that it's not true that “no one cares.” You are right. Sometimes my language tends towards the realm of extremes. Well, maybe all the time. But here is what I meant: there are some who care, yes, but there is such an overwhelming majority that are indifferent or ignorant or apathetic or lazy that it brings all the rest who care down. In fact, it wears us out so much that sometimes we even forget that we care, and we start making excuses for the majority that don't care, saying that the situation is complicated, and we try to offer excuses for them. But here is the reality: it is not complicated. Life is ugly. Cultures are not perfect. We all have improvements to make, and those improvements require LOTS of work. I am worried about Brazil, but I have not yet given up hope.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve…doesn't matter your tradition, your religion, your culture: now is a season of hope. And it's also a season of mistakes. Of reality. Of shitty decisions. Of grace. I wish you all the best, but you must understand, MY best includes things that you may not want: truth, tears, chocolate, suffering, good music, hoppy beer, loud voices, perfect cookies, children laughing and complaining, difficult questions, beach vacations, forever covenants. If you don't want my best, ok, don't take it. But this is all I have to offer. Beijos! Até a próxima!

 

I Think I Can.

Life takes over sometimes. Blogging falls to the wayside for more pressing things: children screaming, extra practicing, visits with friends, and other inescapable indulgences such as, oh, I don’t know, for example, maybe, hypothetically… the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Yeah, I have that fever right now, and I will shamelessly proclaim it to the mountaintops. Or at least write it down here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the Olympics. And I’m not sure, but I feel that it is a growing love. I mean, I enjoyed Beijing, and the last winter games wherever they were (haha, just kidding. Vancouver was awesome too), but my love seems to have grown exponentially in the last four years. I am feverishly consuming hours of the stuff–rooting for underdogs, criticizing over-pronations, tearing up for home-team wins, and always finding myself amazed at the capacity of the human body and mind. I was amazed by this from the start; even in the opening ceremony, I couldn’t really take my eyes off the screen for the procession of athletes from all over the world. Right, I mean, while the British retelling of history was cool and all, it was the parade of nations that was somehow the most captivating for me. So many beautiful young women and men, all at their physical peak, ready to show the world everything they have been training years to accomplish. I thought of what it might be like to be among them, processing into the stadium with peers from all over the world…I was, and still am, in awe.

Brazilian Gold Medalist: Rings

And it’s not just the competition, which of course is exciting. For me, the Olympics also represent the inherent human desire to be better, to not give up, to become something that is the best. I strive for this too, sometimes too often, and sometimes in the silliest of places, but I do this everyday. Heck, I hope we all do, and I think some of my life’s more frustrating moments are when I perceive that those around me have given up. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that giving up or letting go have their place, but not when it comes to treating people with respect and dignity, or civil rights, or obeying traffic laws, and yes, definitely not when it comes to the Olympic Games.

It’s tiring work, but it can also become addicting. I love pizza, so why not try to make the best? or find the best restaurant? or have the best friends? or play on the best instruments? or think the best thoughts? or read the most important articles? enjoy the best art? Does anyone else have this problem? I sure hope so. Go USA! Go Canada! Go Brasil! Go…Humanity!!!

A Fragrant Offering

I smell.

Morning coffee. Soapy shower. Fresh air. Old food. Smokey neighbor.

We live in a world of shared spaces, and many of the smells that find their way to my nose come uninvited. Some of them make me quite happy: I love the way each of my kids smells different when they wake up in the morning, the smell of my bread baking in the oven, the diesel-y freshness of the bus as it clamors by, the brilliant dusty-ness of the air just before it rains. I love them not for the smell in itself, but for what it produces inside of me, for memories, for good intentions. The smell of the dust in the air just before it rains is not really my favorite, but each time I smell it, I remember a conversation with a friend in which she confessed that one of the main reasons she moved to Oregon was the seemingly infinite possibilities of this smell. The sheer innocence and abandon and truth of this memory is still lingering in my nose.

I also have a smokey neighbor who lives just below my apartment. Let me be clear: I don’t really mind cigarette smoke in public places, so long as it has somewhere else to go. But it’s not my favorite smell in my own house. While I’m taking a shower. Or cooking. Or practicing. Or playing with my kids. So when Shelley and I first began smelling this, we thought we’d be smart, and we started to drop hints in semi-loud voices of how we thought that cigarette smoke was bad for your health, not good for the kids, etc. Mineiros tend to communicate indirectly, so we thought we were being clever and culturally appropriate. It didn’t work. She kept right on smoking.

So our voices started getting louder, and our opinions stronger.

“Wow! I hate cigarette smoke!”

“I can’t believe someone is smoking again!”

“IS SOMEONE SMOKING DOWN THERE????”

Good intentions have a brief shelf-life.

How I might think of my neighbor

And I wish I could say that worked too. Or that we (mostly me) only yelled at her once. But, no. Except recently I can feel my spirit changing (or tiring more easily?) and as the smoke rises, I’m wondering if I can change my reaction, my desire to scream, choke, stop, madly educate, judge. I’m reminded of the many stories of Old Testament sacrifice, where the smell of burnt animal flesh and blood is rising–a fragrant offering, a call to prayer and thanksgiving. I’m positive that in comparison, that smell is more invasive and pungent than one small Dona smoking in the common area that feeds into my bathroom and laundry room.

But I digress. I think it’s possible for that the smoke rising into my life could be a call to prayer as well:

A prayer to love neighbors

of thankfulness

of patience

A fragrant reminder that what I deem to be ugly, disgusting, and unworthy on the surface often contains that which is sacred, holy, and loved.