Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Realizations--The Life Lesson Kind

Moving to a different country provides a lot of different opportunities for a person to learn and grow. For me, one of the biggest things I learning is about myself. And it's not all roses and sunshine. But let's start with that part anyway.

I have realized my capacity to learn is endless. And I love that. Every day, I learn more words and learn to say different things in portuguese. I am understanding more and more every day as well. I am proud of myself for learning so quickly. Though I am eager to be able to communicate effectively (it's probably one of the biggest things I miss) I am surprised how patient I am. When I don't understand (usually in a big group of people, where conversation moves back and forth rapidly), I don't get upset. I sit, I listen, try to find words and a way to understand what is going on. That is until my brain gets tired, shuts off, and wanders else where. But I try.

Another big thing I am proud of myself for. I am trying all sorts of different things. I have this thing about looking stupid in front of others...yes, yes, I know we all do, but a lot of times it has prevented me from reaching out and trying new things. Here that is not the case. I speak, even though I know I sound like a toddler trying to put sentences together with my limited vocabulary, hoping someome will understand what I am saying. I am trying new foods. I am eating vegetables (Mom...you still with me? Take a deep breath, shocking I know) and liking them (MOM..yes..it's still me. I promise to call and verify this over skype...aliens have not...nevermind).

While all of these things are great, like I said, not all roses and sunshine. What has really been on my mind lately, and the way I am trying to really grow, is I realized how selfish I am. In fact, it has been on my mind constantly the last week or so. Here, in this family, we share. Everything. Big things, little things, no matter. We share. And the stupid thing is, I am the kind of person that will help you in anyway possible. Truly. I love my friends, I love my family, and I would do anything for them. But please don't ask me to share my THINGS. No, I don't want you to use my computer. No, I don't want to share my candy with you. Our boxes arrived a couple of weeks ago. My MIL fell in LOVE with one of my blankets. I can't seem to part with it. Don't worry, I packed like four.

And here I am. Living with this family, that has opened their hearts, their homes. They would give me absolutely anything. In fact they have. My SIL especially. She has endlessly helped Sidnei over the years. She is the one that really tries to have a relationship with me. We go to the store on Saturday nights, to prepare for Sunday dinners, we always seem to detour and get ice cream. She always pays. The other day, she brought me home a pair of shoes, just because. She brings chocolate home, she gives some to everyone. She does all the laundry, every Saturday. In fact she spends her entire Saturday washing clothes and then Sunday ironing. Monday through Friday she works 8-7. She always puts her family first, and herself last. Always. She ordered two pizzas the other night for seven people. BIL and wife showed up, right when the pizza arrived. Perfect timing. She literally served everyone else and picked at what was leftover on the box. She gave everyone two pieces, I tried to tell her I only needed one (which was true, eating two whole pieces would be a miracle), but she wouldn't hear it. Not to say she is a saint, she's not. She's bossy and sometimes scary. She is the kind of person where you want to stay on her good side. But she is truly one of the most unselfish people I have ever met. And I truly admire that.

Just so you know, I am not terrible. Promise. I do share. The thing I hate, is the unwillingness I feel to do so. If someone asks to use my computer or camera, I want to say sure, and not think twice about it. Instead I am on the inside saying NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...! And you want to know where it comes from? It comes from having too much. Never having had to share a lot because I've always had my own room, my own toys, pretty much my own everything. (Thanks Mom and Dad, not sarcastically, literally. I'm sorry I was never more grateful)

So I am learning. I learning from people who have enough, but they have enough because they share. I am learning to be the kind of person that recognizes just how blessed I truly was and am. I am in no way suffering by being here. I am just learning the difference between necessity and luxury. I am learning with Sidnei, to start from the bottom and work our way up. I am learning to share the blessings I've been given with others. I want to learn that things, are just that. Things. In the scheme of life, they don't matter. Things do not bring me the happiness I crave. Today I was going to write a post and give you pictures of all the things I was excited about from my boxes. But I realized it didn't matter. It was fleeting happiness.

Because I am realizing that really I am happy when my family is happy and we do this:

(This is everyone minus my SIL and her husband, Sidnei and I..we are behind the camera)
Celebrating my BIL's birthday the other night. We were all sitting around, talking, laughing, having a good time. We didn't have much. We had some meat for churrasco, a couple of sodas, the fire...and eachother. (and rice, there's always rice)

"Happiness is like the old man told me
Look for it, but you’ll never find it all
Let it go, live your life and leave it
Then one day, wake up and she’ll be home"
-Happiness- The Fray


Vanessa Rogers said...

I know what you mean about the selfish inclination. It is good of you though, to recognize it and fight it.

Danielle said...

This was very nice to read. Keep up the good work! :)

I think the thing I fight with most here is trying not to be too snotty about not having "first world things." I find myself wanting to compare and complain all the time, especially about the way people don't respect laws and how logistical things take so long. Sometimes I just get impatient and frustrated and it's hard for me to keep in mind all of the good things Brazil has to offer. Do you find yourself doing that, too?

Being out of our comfort zone(s) IS a learning experience, but it can sure be exhausting sometimes! :)

Betty said...

I completely understand what you are going through! And it´s so great of you to work on yourself.
I´m sure that this "sharing everything" is also a cultural thing. This is how Latinos have lived all their lives, and for you coming into this kind of life can only be hard. But I´m so proud of you for trying and I´m sure you will get rewarded for it.

Ballerina Girl said...

What beautiful post Stephanie.
I can not agree with you more when I say that we really learn to live with less here.. or anywhere overseas (I think).
Well, even if you don't live with less, you live with more appreciation for the mass of "things" there are in the US. I mean I rally don't always want 50 different types of yogurt. A few will do! hahaha
I found myself really re-examining myself when I first lived in Venezuela too.
I think you are doing great, and keep up the hard work with the Portuguese. It does come, and quicker than you realize!


ko said...

what an AWESOME Post!!! Sergio always says when he comes home from Brazil...how spoiled we are in America.....we dont even REALIZE how awesome we have it and we still GRIPE!!!! Proud of you and your willingness to admit your faults......it is hard to do!! Take care!!! :)

Corinne said...

great post. I have some of the same issues with my in-laws. When I was doing fieldwork and living next door to them (before they were my in-laws), one of the frustrating things for me to deal with was how you NEED other people for everything. The sharing and everyone doing their part is how people survive. That was hard for this independent American to learn. Your pizza story reminded me of a time myself and another American ordered a pizza and I automatically offered some to the neighbors (my now in-laws). This friend was upset because then he only got one piece!

Not to make assumptions, but from the picture, your in-laws seem a lot like mine (except mine are evangelicals and would not be drinking beer). It was hard for me to deal with class as well as cultural issues, although in a lot of ways I relate better to my favela in-laws than my middle-class university students.

Krystyn said...

I'm so glad things are going well...and you are learning so much:)

Dari said...

This is soo true. Every now and then, I have this same feeling and then somehow I forget about it. It is way too easy to get wrapped up in the worldy things. They don't matter, family and friends and health are what matter. Thanks for the reminder.

P.S. I don't remember you ever not being a good share-er. You shared so much with me when we lived together and I appreciated it so much. Inside you may have been thinking, aahhh leave my stuff alone ha ha But it NEVER showed. LOVE YOU!

Teresa said...

wow. this is truly inspiring. Some peole never get a chance to grow as you are. i am glad you are embracing this.

Lisa said...

You will do fine girl. We have been brought up with so much in America and our sin nature is so strong. You are aware and learning!
Sharing willingly is such a blessing and you will get there with the 'things'. You obviously are a loving person.
Keep up the good work!!

Lisa Q

Shannon said...

Thanks for stopping by today and empathizing with me (:
In the meantime, I found this grat video that made me laugh (go to Happy Meals and Happy Hour blog and look at the video posted about gay best friends...)

Tranquility said...

You're lucky to have the opportunity to learn this lesson so young!
It sounds like a great family you are getting to be a part of and an evening spent together, laughing and eating is my favorite kind of event! ;)

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I totally could have written it, if I had had the same insight as you! I'm very good at sharing other people's stuff, but the voices in my head definitely start up when I share my own stuff. For example, I regularly take bites of anything my husband eats, but when he ever asks for a bite of something I have I kind of clam up. What's up with that?

LadyFi said...

What a wonderful wonderful post!

wife.mom.nurse said...

I am so glad you shared your story with me. Sept 11 is such a hard day!

Wow, what an adventure you are on. I loved the way you can see how limitless your capacity for learning is. Cool!

Enjoyed reading your post :)

Gabriela said...

Hi Stephanie,

I love this post-it reminded me of many of the things I love about living overseas.

That's great you are patient while learning the languare-I remember my head just splitting after spending time in a social group setting in Venezuela. Keep it up.

And as for learning about yourself and learning how capable you are-I think that is the best thing about moving abroad-you realize "hey, I can do things-hard things" and it feels really good. It will always stay with you-you will faces all future challenges with a new persepective and greater confidence. :)

Love the picture-so Brazilian. I love how Brazilians can just hang out and enjoy one another's company with no feelings of, "ok, but I've got to go do this now," or thinking about work tomorrow. So much more laid back than Americans.

I'm not the best sharer either. Oh well.

Lori said...

Great post, which I am visiting very late it seems. :) You should be very proud of your accomplishments. An experience living abroad teaches you so much about yourself. I've found that I've changed in both good and bad ways so that has been interesting to me, but it is all part of the journey.

zenTraveler said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I'm so glad to hear you're doing well.