I am still grappling with the fact that the semester I prepared months for and spent (what felt like) endless amount of minutes talking and thinking about is actually over, just like that. It has definitely been difficult to come to terms with. No more trying harder to speak Portuguese, no more practicing Samba in the streets of Lapa, no more endless beaches and friendly Carioca faces.
I’ve been home for exactly 25 days now, but it feels like ages ago that I was living and going to school in Rio de Janeiro. On our last moment together in the airport the 9 of us scuttled to each gate in order of departure times. The goodbyes were back to back to back and emotions ran high. The 12 of us were the first students to experience this program, and we went through a lot of new things together. I have hope that these goodbyes are just “see you laters”. On the airplane home I dried my tears and watched as the glimmering city I had grown to love and call home slowly became just another spot on the map again.
Before I end this last post, I want to share a quote that a friend from my program showed to the rest of us. As I think back on my semester I am flooded with images of myself laughing and screaming while being bombarded by waves at Ipanema, rope swinging in the Amazon, watching Bollywood films with my host mom, and bargaining at my favorite vintage street market downtown. For me this quote rings true.
“When you live abroad, you realize that, no matter where you are, you will always be an ex-pat. There will always be a part of you that is far away from its home and is lying dormant until it can breathe and live in full color back in the country where it belongs. To live in a new place is a beautiful, thrilling thing, and it can show you that you can be whoever you want — on your own terms. It can give you the gift of freedom, of new beginnings, of curiosity and excitement. But to start over, to get on that plane, doesn’t come without a price. You cannot be in two places at once, and from now on, you will always lay awake on certain nights and think of all the things you’re missing out on back home.” -Chelsea Fagan
I deeply miss my time in Rio. For a long time I was unsure how to say farewell to something that pushed me to my limits, brought me to my knees, made me question everything I thought to be true about myself- but also reminded me that I was alive and living, strong, spirited and more adaptable than I had thought. It was an exhausting and break-taking semester and I’m proud to say I cried and I struggled and I laughed and I danced in the streets and I held baby Howler monkeys and I saw golden churches built by slaves and I realized that just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.
At the beginning of the semester I would have never said this, but now it is more than true. I will go back to Rio. Again, and again, and probably again. I no longer struggle with saying farewell to her because when something is good and challenging and honest and new it becomes a part of who you are. I have been shaped, however slightly, by this marvelous city. Until I return a little part of me lies waiting to come alive again.
To make it short and sweet Rio is in my heart and is a part of who I am, whether I am above the equator or below.
You were never gentle with me and I could never sleep because you were always awake and always so loud, but you opened up the world for me, and for that Rio, I thank you immensely.
Até a próxima vez minha querida.
More Blogs From This Author
<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Kiah Zellner-Smith and I am a Junior studying American Studies, Urban Studies and Educational Studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. I spend a lot of my time doodling, journaling, lip syncing in the bathroom, being inspired, laughing loudly, daydreaming, dancing wildly, and having tiny adventures. This semester in Rio de Janeiro will be the first time I leave the country and the safety of my family all by myself and I am simultaneously elated and terrified for my new adventure. I look forward to the many chuckles, challenges, and changes that inevitably await me.</span></p>