arrival journal: first fim de semana

I sit on our porch, giant blue wine glass filled with a Brazilian red, laptop comfortable on a new bistro set, watching the sun set over the mountains outside of Sampa, and I cannot believe this is our life.

With that being said, I must share with you today’s adventures that pop that romantic bubble quickly.  But first, yesterday. Some wonderful people from the school were generous enough to chauffeur us all around town to various stores and malls. They spent nearly seven hours taking care of us: from bellies to shopping carts to transportation to carrying bags. I went home humbled and grateful for the abundant gift of time we received. Not so good at home were the receipts. It is amazing how expensive stuff is here, for no rhyme or reason either. We spent so much at three different stores, and after unpacking it all, we were a bit shocked at how little we actually got for that amount of money. (Say what you will about Walmart, I was sure missing it last night.)

Sadly, unfortunately, we still needed some more stuff. (It’s ironic that we just had a giant garage sale to get rid of so much stuff.) So today, after meeting the new English head of department for brunch, Dave and I ubered off to a local store that I would liken to Ikea. We scored some pretty good deals, but man, stuff is expensive. (So to our friends and family visiting us, prepare to shop and bring us stuff!) Then we ubered home, bags in tow.

Now, the fun part. We have not done laundry yet because there are no dryers here. Well, I shouldn’t say none at all, but they are not common. (We would buy one, but there is no where to put it!) Most people hang clothes to dry on racks. When you walk through any store here, there is a giant aisle of these things. So since we did not have one until today, we could not do a load yet. But this afternoon, after making sure the washer was hooked up properly, we did our first load below the equator. It took us a while to translate all the features correctly. (The two of us gringos standing there, reading our washer with Google translate, ha!) The cycle was slow, and we kept checking on it like it was a sleeping baby newly home from the hospital. But, it worked. And then, the circus freak show of us trying to hang all this stuff up. We don’t know where (air circulation, sunlight), so it’s just hanging out in our living room. We realized quickly we probably can max out on any given day at one load a day, seeing as drying space is the challenge. Needless to say, I’m still short on clothes.

While that was happening, we did a massive load of dishes. We had finally bought a wash basin since our sink is freakishly small. All the new dishes, along with the dirty dishes from the last few days, needed washing. So I set up this crazy assembly line situation. The hilarious part here is hot water. We get it through gas. This means, 1, it has to run for a while to get hot; 2, it gets CRAZY hot; 3, it’s inconsistent–sometimes hot for a long time, sometimes for a brief second; 4, the pressure is incredibly disproportionate to the space, so turning on water in any of the sinks is like… trying to drink from Niagara Falls with a shot glass. By the end of the whole fiasco, I had taken a shower and mopped the floor with the sprayback! It was all in good humor tonight, but I wonder when (or if?) I’ll miss the convenience of our old life.

Who am I kidding, I already miss the dishwasher!

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arrival journal: days five through seven

It’s hard to believe today marks one week we’ve been living in Brazil! The past few days have been a whirlwind of continued professional introductions to the school’s systems as well as more delicious wining and dining.

Wednesday’s orientation provided time for a Portuguese 101 class with one of the school’s most charismatic Brazilian teachers. Her wide smile lights up a room and her warmth makes anyone feel at ease. She taught us through lively action made even sweeter by a table of delicious local candies. I also had my “appointment” with the school’s doctor to make sure I was fit to enter the country; good thing there was no mental exam because I might have failed (“gringa louca”). The PD session focused on feedback which is definitely something that has been on my teacher mind a lot: what will the students’ writing be like here? will I adequately know how to move them? how do I train them to give each other meaningful feedback? That night we ate at a delicious Brazilian restaurant which catered to my vegetarian preferences. For appetizers, more fried cheese on a toothpick (who are they kidding, can I just get a shovel please?!). Then, I had some kind of delicious rice dish with the palm hearts in it, yum! Oh yeah, and tons of wine and conversation with new colleagues.

The most hilarious part about Wednesday is that I came home to a, wait for it, made bed. For all of our friends and family, you also will be laughing at that. While I was at work, Dave actually made our bed (and nobody was coming to see the house and no guests were arriving)! What IS this world we live in?

Thursday’s schedule was built with more autonomous time. The sessions we were together for introduced us to the school’s Google ecosystem and supports for students with special needs [less than 10% of the school’s population (!)]; finally, two things in my wheelhouse. The best part of that latter session was hearing this:

We have to stop loving kids to death.

YES! I have a post unpublished because I can’t figure out how to say it all in the right way, but in essence that is my biggest complaint as of the last year or two. In the US urban school system, we seem to be so afraid of what kids can’t do that we just run right over them with well-intentioned-overcompensation. It infuriates me how little we believe in them.

Anyhoot (sorry to my non-teacher readers about that rant), back to the schedule. Thursday afternoon, we had a personal guide, Jo, show us the ins and outs of apartment living in Brazil, specifically ours. It was crazy helpful. We learned where the garbage goes (we had been piling it in the corner) and that we don’t take the guest elevator with groceries (we take the service elevator) and we saw our parking spot and personal storage space (I guess we don’t have to stock our bins in the fourth bathroom (!) we don’t use anyway) and that you never flush toilet paper in Brazil (!) (well we learned that earlier but I just had to throw it in–no pun intended). Thursday night Dave and I cooked for the first time in our own apartment. We’ve been loving sitting on our porches: the air is crisp and the birds are singing and the sun in shining and the city lights are twinkling.

Friday we spent the morning at the Federal Police Department taking more mug shots (seriously though, I look like a criminal in every one of these legal pictures–every single one. In fact, the one I actually was OK with that the school took, the Brazilian government was not OK with and I had to go take another mug shot, ugh).  We have heard some horror stories about how long this process could take, but we were back in time for the customary Friday lunch of feijoada–a Brazilian dish of stewed beans and meats, though of course they have a vegetarian option at the school. Soon, I’ll do a post about the #outofbounds food down here. We closed the orientation for newbies week in a staff circle of reflections and praise and laughter. Friday night was a more fancy party at the superintendent’s stunning home, complete with catered food, and open bar (by the end of the night, the bartender knew me by my winking smile and empty wine glass; he’d pick up the bottle as soon as he saw me coming) and a live Samba band (is there such thing as a dead Samba band?!). You can bet I was on that dance floor soon enough.

I’ll finish this (long, sorry) post (filled with parenthetical commentary [!]) with some reflections.

  1. One of the hardest parts of a transition to a new school (anywhere) is not knowing the curriculum and thus not being able to plan adequately. This current transition’s woes have been compounded because our entire English department is new, except for the head of the department, who unfortunately has not been able to be here to get us up and running. I like to be planned, a lot. It helps me be a better teacher. So as you can imagine, this component is stressing me out.
  2. The teacher culture here is different. There is a lot of assertive expression of “this is how I’ve done it” or “this is what has worked before.” Everyone seems so confident, so at ease. It is the same experience as going to an AP institute or an IB training. I, of course, feel out of my league. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to working with this abundant level of experienced teachers (years and countries of experience, oh my). But the more and more I’ve been reflecting, the more and more I wonder if it’s actually about my experience in urban education. I am a good teacher. I know that. However, no matter how good I have been in the last decade, it cannot and does not overcome students’ gaps of six or seven or ten years; it cannot and does not overcome the crippling effects of abuse and poverty and racism and systemic oppression; it cannot and does not overcome a pervasive sense of underachievement and hopelessness. When so many needs are in one school, it is nearly impossible to meet them all–no matter how good you are. And so, success is always relative (but no less beautiful). And so, my self-efficacy has never risen to the level of my current colleagues. (I welcome any comments on this, as I am still chewing on it…)
  3. Dave and I feel absolutely ruined by Graded. How can we go to another international school when we’ve been so completely cared for by our first one?! We prayed so much for the best, and we feel it’s been answered, thank you God. The transition has been so delicately planned out with so many of our needs thought through with the help of companies who have just the right expertise with all kinds of staff who have been working tirelessly on our behalf, it is overwhelming in a glorious way. We are grateful.



what our staircase teaches me about mindfulness

When we were searching for apartments in Brazil, we were drawn to those with two floors. When I stumbled upon (pun intended, you’ll see why) the one we are currently living in, we fell in love and just had to make it ours. When people saw the pictures, they all exclaimed the same thing:

That staircase!

We always wrote it off and said it would be fine, and it is, as long as we’re fully present in the moment when going up or down. It has already taught me quite a bit about being mindful:

  • Slow down. The first couple of times I went up and down the steps, I zoomed. Just as I do all things in my life. Big mistake. Because the stairs are not linear nor the same size, a quick climb could result in a VERY quick descent. So it goes in life. I so often get into business mode (in fact, I’m struggling with that very thing today) and want to go, go, go which can result (as it is today) with disruption to my state of peace. But as with the stairs, if I take my time instead of rushing, I’ll be able to do things once instead of twice, with more intention and quality, without scrapes and bruises.
  • Be here now. There have been times on the stairs where my mind was somewhere very different than focused on my feet. And sure enough, I have slipped. The only thing I have to do or can control when climbing the stairs is climbing the stairs. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. There is here and now. So it goes in life. The only thing I have to do or can control in this very moment is this very moment.
  • Be careful where you plant your steps. I have learned, through some staircase-induced-pain, to watch my feet closely as I put them on the step. This is of utmost importance toward the top and bottom where the steps are not even the length of my foot. If I do not pay attention to the placement of my feet, I will slip right on off. And I have. So it goes in life. There are many grounds in which to plant roots and many forests with trees of which to call my neighbors and many skies under which to warm my face. A lot rides on which of those I choose and which of those I actively and/or passively avoid.

Currently I’m scheming about where to put my meditation place in our new home. Since there is a cubby/den/area of unused space right under the stairs, I’m pretty sure that would be apropos.

And the cushions sure would make for some comfy landing gear.

For a (very amateur) video of the stairs, click here.


arrival journal: day four

For the last ten years in Colorado, my commute has been extensive. In Telluride, we had to drive roughly an hour over the Dallas Divide,  which literally took my breath away: both from the astonishing beauty and the sheer frightening anxiety of a snowstorm. In Evergreen’s foothills, my commute averaged about 45 minutes but could take two hours during snowstorms. When I think about how much time I’ve spent in the car over the last decade, it’s a bit depressing.

Today, however, I walked to school. Up hill. For less than 10 minutes. The birds were singing and the sun was playing hide-n-go seek with leaves and people were walking their dogs and my ass was burning from the climb. It was delightful. When Dave and I first considered potential neighborhoods, he was nervous about living near school but having nothing to do around him during his days off (#housebitchproblems). But…Morumbi has surprised us in the best way possible: greenery, parks, shops, malls, restaurants, markets, bars, and specialty shops abound within walking distance.

Today’s meetings were inspiration and instruction sewn together by the typical overwhelming thread of information overload. More and more as I settle into the school side of being down here, I find myself relaxing not just into comfort, but also excitement. The school’s clear focus on relationships resonates deeply with me, and I am starting to feel a growing sense of confidence that I will flourish here. As will my kiddos this year.

After PD time, our school’s PTA took us on field trips to the local mall where we shopped at a fancy grocery store that I would compare to Whole Foods. The moms were incredibly warm and helpful as we asked all kinds of questions like lost puppies let loose among the aisles. Dave and I bought some much needed pillows to boost the ones we have. And then we shopped for a platter dinner (wine, cheese, meats, olives, pickles, honey, crackers, and nuts; clearly we will not go hungry down here) that we enjoyed on our awesome balcony.

I am eager to nest: buy some homegoods, set up and organize, and share pictures/videos. But as soon as I think about doing all that, I freak out about all the school planning looming on the horizon.

Alas, welcome to the end of summer.





arrival journal: day three

As I write this, I sit on my balcony enjoying the interplay of stars above and apartment lights around and headlights below. Dave and I just shared some conversation about our separate days’ experiences (the first we’ve been apart in awhile) on the balcony while sipping out of cherry blossom mugs the whiskey we packed into our overseas luggage.

As you might be able to tell, I am in a much better place than yesterday.

My temporary meditation space.

Today started with the first of many back to school alarm clock appointments followed by a meditation about going with the flow of life’s direction. And for the first time in a while, I actually put effort into getting ready. As my mother-in-law would say, I put on a face. It’s amazing how a little bit of eyeshadow and eyeliner can brighten the outlook.

On the agenda for today was some good old-fashioned team building (name game, line game, etc) for the newbies. If you know anything about me, you know I am a sucker for these things. Partly because they remind me of camp. Partly because they do the trick. Partly because they align with my corny nature. The line game here at Graded was very different than my normal experience though. In the past in urban education when people had to line up according to years of teaching experience, the weight of the line was on the inexperienced side. Today, with my ten years of teaching, I walked to that inexperienced side, realizing that where I would have been a dinosaur (a decade!), now I am an infant. It felt equally intimidating and refreshing.

After that, the obligatory opening remarks by the superintendent that somehow felt different, here, now: students first; we value you; influence is not abused here; the teacher-student relationship is the priority. Yes, please, and obrigada. Then we met with just our high school group where we did the opening rounds of getting to know one another and the school. Here, inspired by the initial authenticity of our principal: “I am such an introvert this week makes me want to run away from you as fast as possible,” followed by more authenticity about humor as defense mechanisms and fear over a lack of meaningful connection and impact with students had me at the cusp of an emotional breakdown. Which I promptly had when it was my turn to share.

I shared, in embarrassing sentences broken by tears, about my experience this year where one of my toughest students broke down and was so beautifully and publicly supported by a peer. This is why I teach. Stories. Connection. This. I then shared that I was overwhelmed by all the extroverted appointments we were doing, and I was completely new to working in this healthy school environment where everything is not life or death, and how authenticity matters to me, and how I was a mess. Literally. Thankfully the group responded with the space of grace, the place to just let it out. It was cathartic, and probably exactly what I’ve been needing.

After this, we took a tour of a campus that is more than I could have ever dreamed. I honestly felt some guilt. I have taught for ten years in places where resources were limited and where students came to school hungry, but here I am walking in a glorious campus full of remodeled fields and black box theaters and recording studios and giant libraries and homecooked meals on the lunch buffet and outside barbecue pits and…

My heart aches for what is broken in American public education. My heart aches for what I left behind. But… that probably will be more posts, later.

All this “work stuff” actually helped me more than I can say. My comfort zone is being good at my job, living a life of love in the classroom, so it was stabilizing to be in the environment where we’re talking school.

The day ended with a beautiful and delicious churrasco of meats and cheeses and garlic bread and yep, you guessed it, an open bar staffed by the school bartender.

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As I reflected with Dave tonight, I could not help but think about how this might just be the place that heals my teacher soul. I was worried that if I did not make a drastic change, I would leave teaching altogether.

But in my heart of hearts, I feel there are students here at Graded that have been needing me as much as I have been needing them.

I cannot wait to meet them.




arrival journal: day two

I could write about so many wonderful experiences today.

For example, I could write about how we slept so soundly almost to 11. Or about how we were so worried about hearing the sounds of birds, yet we hear them throughout the day. Or about how sometimes we are awakened from our naps by the sounds of children playing and laughing in the streets below. Or about the conversations I had at dinner that lifted my spirits. Or about how we had this really cool tour of a local soccer stadium. Or about how awesome our shower pressure is. Or about how great our view is. Or about how lucky I am to be sharing this experience with my bestest friend, my rock and support and cheerleader.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’m going to write about how I am having a hard time.

Not many people are saying that in our group. In fact, I don’t know that anyone is. I don’t know if this is because so many of them are experienced at this overseas thing. Or just because nobody talks about it. Or because nobody thinks about it. I don’t know. All I know is that I had to fight back tears most of the commute to dinner tonight.

As an overshare, I am currently hosting the monthly visitor we ladies love so much. So that could be the source of my emotional state.

Or it could be that we moved all away down to the other side of the earth, to a place where I don’t even know how to order water at a restaurant. So perhaps, I’m just dehydrated.

But the more I’ve been reflecting, the more I’m wondering if my current emotional state is not so much because I am an expat living in a foreign land as much as I’m an introvert operating according to an extrovert schedule. Everyday this week, from the get go, we have been with people, doing things. The booze is flowing, the laughter is contagious, the conversation is the awkward but memorable dance of two strangers, and all I can think about is when can I get to my home to be alone and to take a nap. So much stimulation, especially with so much riding on it, is short-circuiting my wires.

As my friend wrote to me just yesterday, I am trying to show myself grace in this transition and accept all the things: the good, the bad, the ugly. And I think this journal entry is an attempt to do that.

On the flip side, part of me is desperately seeking someone else who will just come out and say, “wow, this is hard.” In fact, some of these sentiments came up tonight during our dinner, and immediately my spirits were fueled just to have somebody talk about the challenges rather than easy advice or chipper one liners that seem to flow so naturally. I recognize this is my innate mode of operation: I would much rather talk about weighty matters of the heart than have chit chat.

Maybe I just need to start an expat support group. Or maybe I just need to get past this week.

For now, I am just trusting that this is part of the process.

And that is OK.

Thank you for reading and sharing this journey with me. For those of you who asked, pictures of the staircase are on the way.



arrival journal: day one

A hard goodbye to family yesterday was swallowed up by the effort to unpack and situate all of our luggage into the airport, where a friendly–albeit nervous–Delta counter agent got us ready to go. It was clear he didn’t have much experience with people traveling to Brazil as he was reading the prompts coming up on his computer: yes we have a visa, yes we know the maximum amount of days, yes we get more baggage than normal. Regardless, we were on our way through security to Chili’s to celebrate with some Patron. All in all–way easier than we thought it would be.

Our flight to Atlanta brought us just in time to the gate for our international flight. Our upgrade to Delta Plus was WAY worth the deal as we zoomed right by a long line to tuck into our roomy seats with private overhead bin space. Two meals, one blanket, and less than nine hours later, we prepared for landing at Sao Paulo airport. We were grateful for a smooth flight and man, someday, we’ll get those fancy-pants-first-class-lay-down-bed-thingies (champagne in real glasses, a cheese platter with port, fresh meals, oh my).

In the immigration line, we met up with several other parties arriving to Graded. All kind, all adventuresome, all more experienced at this international teaching thing than me, we knew these people to be our kind of people. It felt good to find a tribe so quickly. There’s something to be said about an expat community.

Working together, we managed to get our tribe’s parade of boxes and bins and suitcases and bikes and pets and musical instruments through customs. Once we came through the sliding glass doors to the other side, we were bombarded by a sea of warm welcomes and big hugs. Probably upwards of two dozen Graded employees, decked out in their red school shirts, swarmed us with hugs, whisked our bags away to be delivered to our apartments, flooded us with welcomes and greetings, translated for us when dealing with TSA. Then we were guided to the local coffee shop in the airport for pão de queijo (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm fried cheese bread) and fresh cafe.

I felt safe and secure even in a foreign land where I didn’t speak the language.

A fifty minute bus ride from the airport through the city to the school was a stomping grounds for conversation about politics and sports and safety and recommendations. Upon arrival to the school, every detail was prepared with our comfort and ease in mind. There was an assembly line of stations: cash allowance, health insurance, banking, phones, computers, wifi, shirts, phone numbers. A buffet lunch of yummy whole foods was hot and ready for the scooping. A mini grocery store was set up so we could take the groceries we needed to get started.

I felt completely supported. So much so, I was shutting down from the intensive and attentive care. But alas, this comes along with the territory.


A short bus ride later, we find ourselves walking into our new home: a two-story apartment on the eighth floor overlooking trees and skyscrapers with a spiral staircase that’ll take your breath away (and maybe your ankles after too many capinharias). For all of our friends and family who said “that staircase is crazy”…

You were right.

Relentless unpacking with sore bodies, tired minds, and overwhelmed emotions led to a short nap on our new bed (not a day sleep, Tammy, just a nap). Our night ended by being wined and dined by our school at a local Brazilian barbecue place. They even made sure to take care of my special (read picky) dietary needs. The energy of our tribe in the room was electric. And tired. I sit in bed now typing this, overlooking the lights of lives in other apartments, and I am done.


Here are a few tidbits that stood out to us today:

  • The school has its own…wait for it…bartender. Yes. Please.
  • They call eating at 7 around here, “Gringo Hour.” What do they call eating at 5?! (Not that we do. Ok we do.)
  • The sun set at 6 tonight. A glorious 70 degree day made me forget it’s winter. But an early dark sky reminded me.
  • I am experiencing vertigo. Whether it’s from the travel or being in a high rise or all of the transition or just all the things, who knows.
  • Our new “persons'” son is already imitating me: “That’s out of bounds,” he says, in a Midwest drawl.
  • I lay on the bed in tears today. I was grateful for our own place, because it is safe and comfortable and easy. Out there is so foreign, so strange. This whole not speaking the language thing is, well, out of bounds.
  • I am one of the only, if not THE only, foreign hire at Graded to be doing this overseas thing for the first time.
  • We hit the jackpot with Graded. Their ownboarding is leaps and bounds beyond other schools’. I am humbled and grateful.
  • We hear birds from our balconies. Yay.

Selfie on our balcony.


Anything in particular you’re curious about…let me know!


you, too, are welcome here: the anxieties of change

When I was in high school, I lacked the finesse required to to discern my own levels of stress. Instead, in alignment with what I was taught and that which I believed, I held tightly to the safety net of God:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In my world: anxiety = atheism.

But as much as I ached in my deepest soul to believe this, my body said otherwise. I was plagued with random stomach pains that I could not identify. Sometimes they were so bad, I would lie down in classrooms just to find some iota of relief. Eventually after many doctors’ visits, it was diagnosed that my gallbladder needed to come out.

And it did.

Yet, still, there were ailments I could not pinpoint.


The only way I knew to find boundaries or rest or–dare I say–weakness  (without guilt) was through sickness.

Now, with over a year of solid meditation practice in my corner, I realize I gave so much power to my anxiety by mentally avoiding it. My body has always known this. Driven by pure freedom, it always felt the experience without the stilted narrative.

And now, by changing my own narrative about stress and anxiety, I am beginning to taste that delicious freedom.

This summer, I have been amazed–perhaps even a bit frightened–with how calm I have been about the impending move. However, with less than four days left in country, I sense my internal landscape changing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Just this morning, Dave’s mom asked me if I was worried. Honestly, I am not. But, in my body, I feel a heaviness. I am not sleeping well. I feel energy pulsing through my body. My skin is breaking out in rashes and pimples. I can’t stop eating. Sitting still takes an uncomfortable amount of control. I got ants in my pants.

But, instead of the striving and thrashing and condemning script I normally would have rehearsed, I find myself leaning into all the things.

All the things.

In my head and heart, I chew over and over on this poem by Rumi:

Welcome and entertain them all…

Meet them at the door laughing…

Be grateful…

And so, I will.

prepare for liftoff: culture shock

In 2010, I spent three weeks in Puebla, Mexico to finish up my master’s program in ESL. Amid ancient cathedrals and extensive teaching units and luxurious welcomes and late-night plaza dancing and studious students and chocolaty mole dishes and open air markets, I found myself–in the air conditioned safety of my hotel room–having a meltdown. My skin crawled. I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. My brain was tangled between two languages. My body felt like it was walking in the twilight zone. My heart ached for home… for comfort, for ease, for freedom from having to work so damn hard to understand the mere basics of life.


Culture shock.

I can’t help but reflect on that experience as we prepare to move 5,769 miles south to Brazil.

Like the naive American expat I am, I have been predicting the layers of culture shock and in what order they will fall.

  • First: school culture. One of the reasons I am changing student demographics is because over the last ten years teaching, I have felt my pedagogical craft dwindle more and more into the realm of motivational therapy. In each of the three schools I have taught, I have spent the first year there working my way into the hearts and trust of students; if not, there would be no learning. And though that is exactly where I want to dwell, and also where students remain forever with me, it is utterly exhausting to pour the entire contents of your identity out over and over and over and over, just hoping it will stick. (And of course, I do not in anyway blame the students. I blame their trauma and the system, but that is another post.) When interviewing for my new job, one of the questions the superintendent asked me was: “What are you most nervous about?” To which, I responded: “Having to win over another group of students.” He looked at me, quizzically, and then followed with a statement: “Oh, you won’t have to worry about that; Brazilians are so warm and welcoming. They will love you from day one.” Talk about a foreign language. Huh? Additionally, I have spent the last ten years convincing students what they can do: overcome society’s low expectations, overcome their neighborhood’s low expectations, overcome the school’s low expectations, overcome their own low expectations. Now, I wonder how much of my job is going to be convincing students of what they do not have to do: be perfect, pile it on, extend their resumes from two to three pages, add one more club, avoid mistakes, look a certain way, do it all. I have felt my calling the last ten years as one of inspiration; and now, I think it will be more aligned with the archaic definition: giving students the space to breath.
  • Second, city culture. This feels even more poignant as I have spent the last couple of weeks before departing the country in the country. In the mornings, we sit on the porch and watch the circus-squirrels fly from tree to tree and comically climb up (or fall down) a slinky to get to the bird feeder. We sit on the porch and listen to the echo of morning doves and the call of cardinals and the squelch of black birds. We sit on the porch and watch the sunlight dance in and out of shade. We sit on the porch and feel the caress of the wind. We sit on the porch and rest in the peace of nature. We did that in Evergreen, too. And now, we are moving to the straight. up. city. High rises and traffic and airports and favelas and exhaust and pigeon poop and sirens and constant lights… well, I don’t know what else, because we’ve never done it before.
  • Then, third, Brazilian culture. In Mexico, I could manage the language. But Portuguese? And what am I going to wear on a very-liberal-almost-naked beach? How do I pay in a currency I can barely pronounce? Am I going to be just another fat American? How do I get my prescriptions refilled? How do I follow along in a foreign workout class? Am I going to stick out like a sore thumb? What if I cling my forks on the plate in a restaurant? What other faux pas am I going to commit before I even realize what a faux pas is? (And how do you say that? And is there a word for that in Portuguese?) How do I find someone reliable to wax my privates? What if we can’t even find our way out of the airport? What if they think my anxiety-reducing-poop-provoking-magnesium-powder is crack? The more question marks I type, the more I think this actually might be the first after all.

If I’ve learned anything from my meditation practice, it is that 1, what we avoid, expands and 2, by naming it, something loses its grip. And so, this post.

I will welcome culture shock by its name, a guest to the party of adventure.

homelessness: the space between

One month ago yesterday, with weight in our eyes and wings in our hearts, Dave and I handed over the keys to our beloved home’s new owner. Since then, we have slept in five different hotels, two different AirBnB’s, and one cottage across a total of eight states. This does not count the many other nights throughout June we spent sleeping on our best friends’ floor on an air mattress, floating, unanchored in a homeless sky.

The transition has been sloppily packaged, wrapped in soft cloth of denial. Our friends shared private glances, eyes asking the question Dave and I did a subtle and private dance of avoiding: “When are they going to pack?” Scattered all over their house were our belongings: laundry baskets and suitcases and toiletries and bins and boxes of tissues and dirty clothes and books and phone chargers and remaining kitchen goods, knuckled roots of a thirsty tree expanding wide, a deep ache for soil and earth.

I write this as we make the cross-country drive: Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois. There are goodbyes to be had there, too. However, there is no home to which I return. Even in the place I was born, I am homeless. In the GPS of my heart, there is a void where my parents used to be, where my sister used to be.

We look forward to the peace and quiet and stillness of Dave’s parents’ home. There, we will find air and sun and moisture to nurture our transplanted roots. But, still, we will be homeless, hovering between here and there, then and now.

On the 22nd of this month, we will walk into our new place, a beautiful and modern two-story apartment that overlooks the juxtaposition of verdant trees and steely high rises, a cityscape version of a middle school dance.

Then, we will be home.

Until then, even then, I will breath in and out, grounded in that which never changes: Presence.


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