Sunday, September 23, 2012

Departure Workshop

Come to find out there is as much to do when you leave a country as there is when you arrive in one.  Last Monday, Elise and I attended a departure workshop, where the management section at work told us everything we needed to do to get out of dodge, from scheduling our pack-out, to selling our cars and making sure we return our house to the condition it was in when we arrived.  Each office with equities methodically and systematically detailed every step. It was surgery, cold and precise.

But our house could never be returned to the condition it was in before we arrived, because it is not the same house, and the condition it is in is better than it was when we arrived, even if it may have a few extra scuff and skids marks. This house bore witness to love, laughter. It cried over broken train tracks and crashed Legos. It screamed at each other. It stayed up all night. It leaked. It slammed doors. It grew in inches. It took teeth and spilled blood. It had dance parties and turned 40. IT HAD A BABY.

As a recently-married Brazilian test drove the Audi we bought here shortly after our arrival from the Cidade de Automoveis and a German diplomat working at the World Bank test drove the Subaru through the harrowing back alleys of Setor Comercial Norte, it is finally becoming real; we will soon be leaving Brazil.  We find comfort in the fact that we may be back. We want to come back. But who knows for sure if we will?

It will be hard to leave because Brazil has been so kind to us. Life is easy here. It is truly ironic, because when we left the States to live in Brazil, we thought life abroad would be harder, a lot harder, and maybe it was at first. Milk came in bags instead of cartons and jugs; I still spill it on the counters when I snip open the bag and try to pour it in the pitcher. I still don’t know how to order coffee right. In the States, at Starbucks, one becomes used to adding anyone of fifteen qualifiers to specify exactly how one likes their coffee, but here, in Brazil, I have learned to order coffee and just be happy with whatever I get. The same holds true for ordering out, especially through a drive-thru window where discourse is usually unintelligible anyway. We have gotten better, but sometimes we are still left wondering if we will get what we ask for or, at least, what we had thought we had asked for.

Now, I am slightly nervous to return to the States for a year, because life seems so much harder there than it is here.  One of the things I love most about Brazil is the health of the informal marketplace.  Here, one can believe that capitalism, in its purest, most unadultered, most unregulated form, is king. Anything that one could buy or sell can be done so easily. There is, obviously, an ugly side to this, as well, but I prefer to focus on the fact that the best breakfast and cup of coffee is often purchased out of the back of someone’s trunk pulled over at the bus stop and lunch comes in a Styrofoam box called marmotex, made in a kitchen in one of the satellite cities on the outskirts of Brasilia and sold on the side of the road, under a blooming mango tree, and comes with a plastic cup of Guarana.

We leave Brazil with an enormous sense of achievement. But our time to bask in this achievement will be short. New challenges and new adventures await us.

I am nervous because what will be known as the “Brazil Years” have been some of the absolute best years of my life. How will our time in Washington, and then in India, compare? It won’t. It won’t have to. We are a different (and bigger) family than we were the last time we were in Washington and we will be a different (and older) family than the one that was in either Brazil or Washington, and what will be known as the “India Years” will be filled with equal amounts of happiness and laughter, pain and disappointment as the Brazil Years and will be equally magical in their own way…only with fewer caipirinhas.

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