Absolute dread was the only emotion that I felt as we boarded our third consecutive flight for an isolated, middle-of-nowhere city in the north of Brazil. Being an often moody, but rarely excited child, this lack of joy on my part was dismissed quickly by my parents, who had, after the past two weeks in Brazil, abandoned all hope of lifting me up into any semblance of happiness. Despite all parental enthusiasm for our long-planned return to my mother’s homeland, a homesick and lonely child such as I could only continue a futile countdown for the eventual return to familiar territory. From the instant I arrived in the city of Natal in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, whose very name is literally translated as “Christmas,” however, I was unable to fathom any sort of journey home.
Having long been a proud citizen of the state of Florida, one comes to realize quickly that, although natural beauty is to be discovered in many of the state’s parks and beaches, the majority of the landmass we call home is rather dull and unmoving. Anybody experiencing the wonders of the natural world from such a limited perspective can never be a capable judge of such things; nevertheless, I found myself awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the geographical treasures of the city of Natal. From the majestic dunes of Jenipabu beach rising out over the mighty Atlantic, some of which towered hundreds of feet above the sea, to the razor sharp edge of the blade-like rocks jutting out from beneath rolling hills, seemingly protecting the harbor from some unseen threat, this simple Floridian could not help but become captivated by the awesome sights before him. The simplest joy in life rapidly morphed from living a sedentary existence of consuming sugar-laden sweets and absorbing digital media to exploring my newfound heavenly surroundings.
As it is with virtually all aspects of everyday life, both the ordinary and extraordinary, the aphorism “There are two sides to every coin” held true for my fantastic journey to Natal as well. Despite being a city of immense and immeasurable beauty, the denizens of the sea-side city were at the very best, living a middle class existence, and the majority of them were seemingly clinging desperately to the thread of life. Brazilians, however, are an extremely resilient people, and, to my great joy, were, from the lowliest ferryman to the condo-dwelling middle-class, eager to kick back, relax, and enjoy a Coke and watch the sunset. Coming from the neurotic “get it done tomorrow” culture of the United States, such a sentiment was truly revolutionary. Within weeks of departing the country, I found myself enslaved to the usage of the local colloquialism of the long and slow phrase “relax.”
While the 3 week vacation to Brazil may have initially been equivalent to torture, it rapidly matured into the most pleasant torture imaginable. Being an adolescent of 13 years at the time, this voyage could not have been more crucial to my development as a well-adjusted member of society. Much good cannot be said of my attitude towards life before the journey; I was rude, angry, and often placed demands on myself that were unreachable for anyone. Learning to relax is possibly the most fortunate occurrence in my incomplete and still-developing existence.
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