2017: a heart opening year

[Português]

Days before I start a new year of my life, I’m finally able to finish this post looking back at 2017 and the lessons I’ve learned from months of traveling, experiencing, settling, working, and getting to know me better – and feeling comfortable with it 🙂

2017 was the year I (re)opened my heart and allowed love to flow (in and out) again. After surviving 2016 (how tough it was!), and traveling east, 2017 surprised me with lovely encounters with places, people, and experiences.

It was January 11th when I felt it was going to be a different year.

It was raining and I had been awake since 5am to catch the first of 3 buses of that day. I was extremely lucky that my travel  partner decided, last minute, to continue her trip with me. Because when crossing the border I realized we’d swapped passports by mistake. I had hers, she had mine, and despite the same nationality we don’t look anything alike [another lesson learned from the road].

I can’t imagine how 2017 would have been if I was not able to cross to Laos on that January 11th. I wouldn’t have met the Mekong, nor the weavers of Xamtai, nor started a new habit, nor improved my motorbike skills, nor enjoyed sunsets and the best hash browns at the border with Cambodia. I’d probably have had a different experience in Northern Thailand, skipped Songkran (the water festival), and most important not met all the incredible people along the way.

If 2015 was the year I was forced to embrace uncertainty and deal with it without time to think or breath, and 2016 was when I embraced it and tried to add some structure to it (at least in my thinking), 2017 was when I allowed myself to live it beautifully, to enjoy the uncertainty of the paths I chose, and to experiment without fear of failing.

I spent 3 months in Laos, visited Northern Thailand, spent almost one month back in the US – covering both coasts and a bit of Louisiana and Mississippi -, introduced my mother and brother to one of my favorite spots in the world – where he indulged himself with all kinds of bugs and weird food – and had a blast having them visit my Thai family, and flew back to Brazil for a work project.

Being back in Sao Paulo after 7 years away was an interesting experience, to say the least. I reconnected with old friends, made new ones, and was able to keep feeding my nomadic soul hopping from one house to the other, thanks to the generosity of friends who are more than family to me, until I found a perfect short-term place where I spent the last 5 months of the year.

2017 also taught me that sometimes the right people come into our lives at the wrong time, and there’s nothing we can do about it other than enjoy their company while it lasts. It also taught me that there are wrong people out there, and sometimes we have encounters with them right when we need to learn a few lessons.

It was also a year of love in terms of acceptance.

Acceptance of who and how I am. Of the fact that I don’t have a standard answer to the question “what do you do” or “where’s your home”. I understood that not having a standard answer to questions like these does not mean I don’t do the things I do with professionalism and passion, nor it means I don’t feel home in the places where I am. Regardless of what people might think (and judge), I know that I’m an excellent professional, daughter, sister, and friend who will always be there for the people I love and for the exciting and challenging projects that come along.

Bring on 2018!

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Am I home?

TonSai, Railay Krabi – October 17, 2016

I find it fascinating how my mind works. I prepared myself to arrive in a place completely different from everything I am used to, but then… I was so wrong! Thailand is way more similar to Brazil than I initially thought.

After noticing that I expected something else – the different instead of similar – I spent time trying to find a rational explanation to why Thailand reminds me so much of places that were already familiar to me.

Is it the latitude?

Is it the Portuguese influence? (Phuket town has a strong Sino-Portuguese architectural influence)

Is it globalization?

What is it about Thailand that feels so homey?

While trying to find an answer to the sense of familiarity, I focused on exploring what is – for a fact – different. Which leads me to food.

OMG! Forget everything you know, or think you know, about Thai food. What you find here is a whole new advanced level. This is the real deal.

I spent the first 10 days tasting as many different flavors as I could. It was actually the perfect timing because I arrived right in time for the Vegetarian Festival – so for someone who can be picky about meat like me, the possibilities were infinite.

During the first days I indulged myself with all the flavors and smells.

Trying to pick favorites was a mission impossible.

Spicy, mild, not spicy. Sweet. Sour. White rice, brown rice, sticky rice, rice noodles. Fried noodle, fried rice, soup, clear soup, dark soup. Vegetable stew. Leaves. Fresh greens beyond Thai basil and lemongrass.

If someone out there ever heard me saying I could live on potatoes, forget it! I could live on Thai food. Four times a day. Seven days a week.

Have I mentioned the fruits? OMG! OMG! OMG!

Longan, Ngo, Mangosteen, Durian, even Guava and Sao Wat Lot (Passion Fruit) have a special taste here. I could easily – and actually I did it for a day or two – live on fruits.

For days all I did was eat, take pictures of food, and learn a few food-related words in Thai 🙂

 

 

Then, between meals and visits to the market, I realized why Thailand feels so familiar to me.

I come from a family where social gatherings always happen around food. And suddenly I found myself in Phuket island, being hosted by a Thai family who also gets together around a round kitchen table, three times a day. And the table is full of a wide range of choices to “chim”[i] at all times.

In addition to the food, they are warm, kind, always smiling. They made me feel so at home that if they weren’t speaking Thai I could be in South America.

The streets also remind me of Brazil. Street dogs. Unfinished road work everywhere. People on the sidewalks, talking to each other, being loud. If it weren’t for driving on the “wrong side of the road” I could swear I was in a Brazilian coastal town.

When I finally found an explanation to my sense of familiarity I relaxed and allowed myself to enjoy this beautiful and smiley country in a lighter way – without the need to understand it “tim tim por tim tim” and with less expectations. This approach is taking me to very interesting places and I’m sure this is only the beginning.

[i] Chim = taste/try in Thai