New World in the Tropics

Image by Robson Cesco 

New World in the Tropics is the title of a book written in the 50s on modern Brazilian culture by famed Bahian anthropologist and scholar, Gilberto Freyre. It’s also the theme under which I embark on another journey, begin another chapter in my life. I started writing this blog as my four years in another tropical country, Colombia, were coming to an end. I’ve not written much about my time there because those years proved infinitely challenging, both positively and negatively, and it may be a while before I’m prepared to pen detailed memoir of my life on the crown of South America. Also, I wanted Fly Brother to focus on international traveling from a—my—black perspective that extended beyond the boundaries of one particular place. And that boundless outlook remains the focus of the blog, even as I (and you, dear reader) settle into this new world in the tropics—Brazil.

The Re-Invention TourTomorrow morning at 7:15, I will depart Miami, arriving five hours later at Manaus, capital of Amazônia, before continuing another three hours to Brasília, capital of the continent-sized nation of Brazil. I think it’s important to note the distinction of the two capitals, as the Brazilian state of Amazonas is as large as many nations and has a distinct history and culture centered around the indomitable Amazon River and its besieged rainforest, dark green on the map and spanning nine countries. Brasília, by comparison and not unlike the great American city of Washington, was built from scratch almost as a coming-out party for this burgeoning republic of the future and as a paean to man’s mastery of nature. Despite having been to the country five times, my travels have been relegated to the coastal cities that most reflect the face Brazil shows to the world; this move to the Brazilian interior, a place as foreign to me as the Australian Outback, will be a move to another Brazil, to another world far from sand and samba, yet informed and shaded by it. Of that, I’m excited.

I’m also excited about the opportunity for reinvention. I’ve got a clean slate in Brazil. Not that I did anything untoward in Colombia, or even the States, that necessitates a complete change of identity (well, besides some bad financial decisions, maybe). I’m talking about having a blank canvas on which to draw anything I want, on which I can be anything, do anything. I can learn the guitar and be a hit gringo bossa nova singer. I can write two or three novels set in Brazil. I can stay put in Brasília after my two-year teaching contract is up, I can move to Rio or São Paulo or Recife, I can go back to Colombia or off to Germany or to Vanuatu (2006’s happiest place on Earth, if you didn’t know). I can create new experiences, interactions, friendships, relationships, loves and hates (hopefully much, much more of the former than the latter). Point is, even moving to Brazil after many years of voicing that desire is proof that I can do what I set my mind to. It may not be easy or happen on the timetable I set or exactly the way I envisioned it (yet), but there it is: accomplished.

Gooooooooooooooooooooool!
So now, it’s time for more goal-setting. Having been gainfully unemployed but steadily traveling since June has resulted in a financial deficit that needs reversion into surplus. I’m serious about the guitar lessons, but also about perfecting my Portuguese to a level that allows me to translate literature to and from English. I’m going to learn how to play soccer…er, futebol, dammit (capoeira, meh, not really big on handstands and such). I’ll have the first draft of a novel set in Brazil by the end of my first year there. I’ll volunteer with a youth organization at least twice a month. Besides a week in New York (TBEX ’10) and another in Colombia (tying up loose ends), I won’t be on any international flights for my first year in-country, opting for Amazon river-running, five-hunnid-mile dune buggy treks, and the humbling grandeur of Iguassu Falls to sate my wanderlust. And, of course, Fly Brother will be continually updated, with mostly international content infused with weekly ruminations on my Brazilianization.

So now it begins, this renaissance of sorts. Colombia honed me in many ways, sometimes painfully, but always necessarily. It’s time to apply those lessons as I continue on my quest for self-actualization. And I’m suited up and ready for my new world in the tropics. You coming?

Image by the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism


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