Too Comfortable

Just when you get comfortable here, something jars you back into reality. Tonight Sam and I got home at around 6pm, left the bikes in the front, sat down at the table for crackers and water
(dinner!) then the dogs started to bark, and looking back it was a very different bark than usual.
Sam got up and looked around outside, hushed the dogs and brought them back inside the house and shut the door. We were back at the table chatting when the clinking sound I had been hearing started to register only after Sam is up out of his chair and out the front door. He turned around and yelled, "The gate", grabbed the keys and was off. I knew immediately that someone had stolen my bike. I chased after him out the door and down the street, when he turned around grabbed his bike and took off down the street after whoever it was with my bike.

By this point, my heart is racing and I am freaking out because he is chasing after someone who might have a gun. I know that he will not find them, but it wasn't a chance I wanted him to take. I ended up just standing at the end of our street waiting, and luckily a friend walked by and I had a chance to chat and distract myself from darker thoughts. Sam came back in one piece, we finally actually looked at the gate, and there was my bike, hanging off the metal spikes on the wall. A few serious scratches and a punctured tire, but it is still my bike. I was so mad to have lost my transportation with only 3 months left here; it was almost funny that we never even looked to see if the bike was there. Next to the bike was a pair of purple flip-flops tied together with a piece of fabric. That also made me sad. I bet they were his only pair.

The worst is the feeling in my chest, that someone was in my yard, that they could have come in the house, and that we are always vulnerable. The neighbors saw us out there, we told them what happened, and then they started telling their stories about being held up in their house by 3 armed boys and about the woman who climbed up to their second story and tried to get in through the window in the middle of the day. I have been left with a general feeling of weakness and a prickling in my chest.

I guess we are going back on lock down. Bikes are always in the "cage", locking the cage when we are home, adding a padlock to the gate, and keeping the front door closed and locked. We quit leaving the bikes out over night because someone tried to steal our house sitter’s bike in the middle of the night, so now they are coming in at 6 pm. We had only been home for about 20 minutes, so it makes me feel like they were watching.

The thing about these situations is that you always read more into it than there really is. They were probably some kids looking around for a good opportunity and saw the bikes. Nothing more, nothing less. It is interesting that the dogs knew what was going on, but we didn't get it. I will remember that bark in the future.



I have returned from the land of the lost...actually, it wasn't that bad. I ate and drank lovely things and spent time with some wonderful people. As always, the idea of the US has nothing to do with the reality. I have to keep reminding myself of that for the move home. I witnessed so many expressions of creativity of action and thought--things that could only happen there. I feel extremely lucky to know artistic expressive people who are willing to go against the grain, who are challenging the status quo with their everyday actions. It will make the transition better to know that still exists.

In some ways, I think that you are freer to be different in places like the US and Canada, it is much more difficult to go against the grain here, but at the same time, I am constantly questioning this "freedom of expression.” It seems like everyone in the US is trying so hard to be different they end up all being the same. High school is all about who you are and who you are not. Identity formation by subtraction. Just in the 2 years that I have been gone the term "hipster" has taken on a completely new meaning. In the quest to be different, hipsters are now the norm--just like in the quest to be punk you end up wearing a uniform (quote courtesy of Sam). So, is this apparent freedom of expression really freeing or just another way to sell cool? We define ourselves by our difference and not by what we share in common. How does that shape the way we see and interact with each other?

In Brazil, most people want to be "normal," everyone dresses the same, follows the same codes of cool, and listens to the same music; people are not trying so hard to be outwardly different. There is even a term for it; it is called "normose," the disease of normalcy. Everyone wants to be so alike that they lose the quirks and the individuals who innovate and challenge traditional ways of being and thinking. Brazil is a very homogeneous society with very diverse cultural roots. This homogeneity leads to less conflict and outward angst, and in some ways, I wonder if it allows more individual freedom. Sometimes it seems that when you are not trying so hard to be different and to define yourself as "something" that you can just be yourself. You aren't constantly trying to be, you just are. Where is the balance between normose and the freedom to be who you are?

I remember feeling like I never fit in because I fit in everywhere. I didn't have a distinct style or group. I was always a little envious of my hipster friends who had the style, the music--the elements of cool. I look at the teenagers I deal with everyday in Brazil and they seem to have much less angst than American teens. I also think this is because they are accepted members of society here; they are included. Two different times on our trip in the US people told me that they didn't carry certain items because they didn't want "the kids" in their stores. Teens are not accepted as members of society--they are alienated and left out. When I was working to establish a youth center in Albuquerque there was a general outcry because the neighborhood didn't want teens in their community center. Ponder that for a minute. If teens aren't allowed in, then who is part of their community?

Brazil seems to have space for everyone. When you go out to a restaurant or bar, you see people of all ages interacting and relating to each other--teenagers are part of society and are not included in the "other" category. Because of this, I see a lot less angst in my students than in US teenagers, but they all seem to have dropped out of a mold where they have been programmed "to do the best for my future." The normose disease strikes again!


Missing Brazil

I have been in the US for the past week and it makes me miss Brazil. There are a few reasons for this--weather, coffee, cars, and weather. It has been cold, rainy and gray since we have been here. It is utterly uninspiring to leave the house. It is great for drinking coffee and snuggling under down comforters--too bad the coffee sucks! Actually, I had a great cup this morning from our host's french press, but every other cup of coffee has been horrible. Now keep in mind I just told my Brazilian friends that they are arrogant about their coffee (for good reason) so I shouldn't be throwing any stones.

I have also realized that I do not enjoy travel by automobile very much. Getting out of NYC involved numerous gasps, clutching at the door handles, and eye covering. Luckily my husband was amused and didn't want to kill me. It just feels scary. Good thing my driver's license expired so I won't be able to partake in this "liberating" activity.

And again, it is cloudy and gray outside and I am freezing sitting here--heat is expensive, but luckily I have a hat!

Being here just nags at me. Where do I want to live? What do I want to do? How does this work with Sam's life?