Mental Health and Study Abroad

At the University of Oklahoma there is a goal set by President Boren that fifty percent of students will study abroad. Although this goal has not been met, there are a large number of students who study abroad through the University. During my two study abroad journeys I was suffering both from anxiety and depression. A lot of people talk about the joy of study abroad and also the difficulties, but mental health seems pretty uncharted. Sure, we were given resources for if we were having trouble adjusting, but what about those of us suffering from long-term mental health disorders?

The problems I faced were a lot smaller during my first study abroad venture in Italy. There, I was given everything I needed to succeed: American friends, tours of the city by faculty and staff, many people looking out for my well being. I never once had an issue with my mental health. I never once called home crying.

Fast-forward a semester and I am in London for my second study abroad adventure. This one was different. Before going to London, I had been prescribed a new medication meant to supplement my anxiety meds. It really had no effect on me during the first few weeks. However, the program itself was enough to do me harm. The Summer School Program at the London School of Economics is one of the only study abroad programs where credits can be transferred back to Ivy League universities. That being said, the classes were intense with three weeks spent learning from top scholars of the school. I was prepared for another study abroad experience like the one I had in Arezzo: close friends and many Americans having fun and learning about culture.

I want to preface by saying that the LSE program was phenomenal. I learned so much and met new friends from around the world. I was able to learn how to survive on my own in a foreign country and large city. However, I was not ready for the toll the experience would take on my mental health.

The second week started with a trip to Paris where, as I described in an earlier post, my new medication caused a mental breakdown which included drinking, crying, vomiting, and being sexually assaulted. It was then that I realized I needed help. The next morning I texted a Canadian mental health hotline describing what had happened. I thought I needed to be in a mental institution. The study abroad experience did not help quell my ever increasing depression. I would walk down the street suffocating under the overwhelming feeling that I was not okay. I thought about jumping in front of cars and throwing myself off bridges. Even if pictures on social media proved otherwise, I didn’t feel normal.

With this came crushing guilt. I was at one of the best universities in the world in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My parents had paid almost all of the $10,000 it took for me to have the experience. How could I be unhappy here? How could I be so ungrateful?

So I continued to stuff down the feelings. I was isolated and afraid, but I didn’t let it show. As the weeks went on, I lost friends who completed their classes and headed back to their respective countries. In the final weeks, I laid in bed for days on end, only getting up to use the restroom. I didn’t eat and slept for 12 hours at a time, sometimes more. I was taking my medication regularly, but nothing helped. This did not ruin my experience, but it opened my eyes to this issue that people do not really talk about.

There are so many students in this world that spend time abroad. This means that there are probably many students suffering from mental health problems that take those problems with them around the world. Depression does not stop when we begin our adventures. It will always be with us. This article is written not to criticize institutions for their lack of help for students with mental health issues. That is not reality. Most universities provide many resources for students like me. Alternatively, I am writing this to draw attention to the fact that studying abroad is not always glamorous. Despite what many people may post and share, there is difficulty, especially for those who have a mental health disorder. We may feel uncomfortable talking about it. We may only share the good stuff. We may feel guilt for time wasted abroad because of our disorder. But, other people can be there to help if they know the signs. Below are links to websites for people seeking help and for those who may not know the signs of depression:

Symptoms

Hotline

Thanks y’all for reading!

 

xoxo

Ivey

What’s in a game?

I’ve never been much of a sports fan or, for that matter, a sports player. This can be proven by my extensive childhood career of dance, theater, music, and any combination of the three. However, at a young age, I was tossed in, as every child is, to every sport imaginable just to see how I would fair. Would I be the next Serena Williams? Was I more of a Misty May Treanor? A soccer game at the age of 4 would prove that I was no sports star. My parents sat in lawn chairs on the soccer field under the beating sun just to see me sit on the field picking daisies and talking about horses with my other 4-year-old pal. This type of behavior continued as I got older. Walking during basketball, singing in the dugout – I just wasn’t meant to play sports.

This behavior would catch up with me in the form of ultimate frisbee nickname: “D-Picker” or daisy picker in long-form. It was not until high school that I really found a sport I loved (not to play myself of course). My father’s love of the University of Oklahoma football program had increased my interest in football throughout my life. As a young child I would poke fun at fans of our rival team, Oklahoma State, by calling them “OSU: Old Stinky Underwear.” At the time, I didn’t really understand how the game worked. I would hide when my dad’s friends came over to watch football games, listening to their commentary from afar. It was always a momentous occasion that required lots of Bud Light, Tostitos, and bean dip – typical American sustenance. One of my fondest memories is crying to my mother about falling in the toilet because, during one of the football gatherings, one of the guys forgot to put the toilet seat down. Still, as I matured, I understood more of how the game worked. Obviously I did not have the most thorough knowledge. I still sometimes would cheer with the rest of the onlookers at a game only to ask ten seconds later,”So what happened?” I also lacked knowledge of players and teams and ranks and sports news. My knowledge was limited to what I saw on the OU football field. I knew a touchdown when I saw one. I knew a first-down. I knew a field goal. I knew a win. Something that I did not realize until studying abroad, was the global interest in soccer – or, as I like to call it, the “real” football.

My first experience with football was at an Irish pub in Rome.

It was my first time in the city and a few students and I had decided to have a drink and see if we could catch the Oklahoma football game. The pub had a promise posted on their front door that they would stream any game available as long as you asked. I, for one, was not about to miss out on an OU football game if I could prevent it. So, we marched into the pub around 7pm that evening to find ourselves almost unable to enter. The pub was packed wall to wall with men and women large and small holding a pint in one hand and gesturing at the television screens with the other. The shouts we heard came in English, so, I assumed the game was English. Intrigued, my friends and I ended our night, after a failed OU football streaming attempt, watching both rugby and the end of the football game, screaming with the fans and laughing at how out of place we felt. After that day, I gained a new interest in football. I looked up information on some of the best players in the world (and yes I took a lot of time studying the perfect features of Cristiano Ronaldo). I began playing small indoor football games with the Italian children I tutored and asking them about the local team on which they played. Their eyes lit up when I talked about football. Even in broken English, I could understand how much they loved it. This fervor for the sport was not limited just to them. I saw the craze in every European city I visited: high-priced jerseys in shop windows, pub nights dedicated to games, children playing in the streets. This obsession followed me back to the United States where I began watching late night football and rugby through Sky Sports. There, I slowly began to understand the hype surrounding the sport. Football connects all nations in one universal game. The minor leagues bring small communities together which I learned at the Barnet football game in the Hive stadium during my time in London. Bigger leagues bring together whole cities. FIFA allows people from all over the world to feel a sense of national pride through sport. Even better is the ability that everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, has to play football. All that’s needed is a ball and teams.

The sport circles the globe.

Yet, coming back to the states permanently (as far as I know) has lead to the disappearance of football in my life. Recently at dinner, I was excited about the USA vs Costa Rica game where we lost miserably. The people I was with were confused. “This is America,” they said. And they were right. The sport just is not as revered in the states. American football takes precedent. That does not mean that there are not pockets of fans. Go on Reddit and you’ll find a thread about soccer within the first five minutes. But the hype does not reach European levels as I experienced. Does it make me sad that football isn’t big in America? Yeah. It brings people together in a way that American football can’t. But that does not mean that I cannot enjoy it by myself. I plan on sharing with anyone who will listen about the joy that is “real” football. Maybe they will be able to enjoy it just as much as I do.

Let’s Talk About Homesickness

There’s a disease that follows adventures. It isn’t one we like to talk about directly either. Somehow, by admitting it, perhaps we are making ourselves look like bad global citizens or travelers. Because it is swept under the rug and forces each person to deal with it in silence instead of solidarity, we do not realize how often it occurs no matter if it is your first or your fiftieth trip.

I’m talking about homesickness. It’s a complicated issue that takes many, many forms and can look different for each person each time. Sometimes it shows up as feeling alone-even in a city of four million or more people and with good friends always down for a chat or an adventure. It can be anger at just about everything from the fact your roommate left you to take the trash out..again or at the city in general because why must everyone drive so absurdly? It can be tears, yelling, stomach aches, locking yourself in your room to watch Netflix, or spending more time facetiming home than experiencing the things around you.

As complex as it is- the things that solve it can be even more varied. For some it is a call home- a quick chat with your baby sister who wants to walk you around the house. Other solutions may be ice cream, a familiar homemade meal, getting out and about to remember why you chose to come to the city, a hardy laugh with your friends, or a journaling session. Some may need a day to reset by themselves; others may want to talk it out with friends.

For me, as I begin my third week in Puebla, it has taken most of the forms I have mentioned. It comes in waves. Sometimes it happens so strongly I feel it will consume me, other times it is a quick bite of pain. The most random things seem to bring it on: little girls in princess costumes that remind me of my sister, teenagers in a hoodie my brother owns, seeing the company my father works for pasted on the side of something in the supermarket, the hardest times are when nothing at all happens and it begins to sink in that I miss home.

I love it here. I do. But just as much as I love it, I miss home. That is okay. That is natural. I take it on, I allow myself to feel it and deal with it in whatever way I need to, and then I get back soaking in every minute of this experience that I will get to take back to my home. I will go home different that I came. Some day, not too long after I leave I assume, I will begin to feel a homesickness for this place too. It will be a temporary home, but I know it will be a home that deeply impacts my life.

There is no specific time you must be traveling to experience it. There is no way that it must manifest to be true homesickness. There is no one thing you must do to make yourself feel better. You are not weak for feeling it. It does not make you any less of an adventurer, because no matter how strong the wanderlust is, eventually you will feel the ache for familiarity. Embrace it, work through it, and venture on.

千里之行,始於足下 (A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step)

CHINA

I arrived in Beijing the afternoon of February 13, and was met by stinging smog and smothering crowds, two of Beijing’s most distinctive characteristics. I had three things on my mental to-do list that scrolled through my head on repeat: Find a bathroom. Buy a SIM card. Get a taxi. The first was easy; the second proved impossible, after over an hour of searching; and the third was deceptively easy (I later figured out I had been charged about 8 times what I should have for the cab). But I arrived at my hotel complex by late afternoon, and, after wandering around for quite some time trying to find the correct building, I collapsed into my first bed in China.

My first meal in China.

Find food. Since I hadn’t eaten in over twelve hours, I stepped back out into the gray China dusk, intending to walk towards the main road until I found something to eat. Thankfully, I ran into a little cafe right across the parking lot from my hotel. I sat there a long time, reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child while I ate. It was such a relief to submerge myself in English, my to-do list momentarily empty.

When I started making tomorrow’s to-do list back in my hotel room, though, I lost it. Complete breakdown. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, was completely overcome by loneliness. I was in the largest, most-populated country on earth, and I knew not a soul. I hadn’t seen anyone that looked like me or spoke my language in 24 hours, and everyone I loved was asleep half a world away. By the time my parents called soon after, when they woke up and saw my texts, I was just lying on my bed shuddering and gasping. Their comfort and reminder of God’s protection was just what I needed, and when we hung up I went to sleep for a long time.

Armed with mask, I go.

The next morning, I put off leaving my room for as long as possible. The breakdown of the previous night had pushed me a little further away from denial, but inside the room I could still pretend I was wherever I wanted. Outside the room, denial would no longer be an option. Stepping into the hotel hallway and closing the door behind me took a measure of bravery I have rarely used.

Register, find food, buy a SIM card.

The greatest victory of that first day was discovering that I would, in fact, have a place to live for the next four months. After being unable to register for housing on the Peking University housing portal in mid-January, I had tried unsuccessfully for a month to contact PKU about my housing situation. On the PKU campus, after roundaboutedly arriving at the international student office,  the director viewed my online profile with a surprised “What? You haven’t checked into your dorm yet?” Indeed, I had a room!

After registering, I received a list of tasks in addition to my student card. As I was wandering about trying to complete these to-dos, I ran into a group of five or six international students, mostly from Australia, who were on the same mission. Together we checked off a lot of the things on the list, and then we ventured into one of the on-campus canteens (dining halls) for the first time.

After dinner, we had nothing to do, and so we decided the best time to try out the Beijing public transportation system was at 7 p.m. in our group of foreigners with limited English. Continuing in the study-abroad spirit of throwing oneself headfirst into uncertain situations, we descended into the bowels of the Beijing underground and, upon seeing a picture of the Forbidden City at the center of the subway map, decided where to go.

I have to say, after a day and half of feeling quite thwarted by the country I had once anticipated loving, it was very encouraging to visit Tiananmen (the entrance to the Imperial City), a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. It was a reminder that, despite the challenges of getting used to this new life, everything I looked forward to in China was still waiting for me.

And challenges there were. I won’t bore you with my to-do list every day, but here’s a snapshot: it was the same. Every day. For the first few days, at least. Each day, I would get up and try to complete each task one-by-one, and each day I would hit a new obstacle. Before bed each evening, I would think, “What should I do tomorrow?” And then I would look at my list, and be like, “Oh, same as today, just trying everything I’ve failed at so far, cool.” I learned quickly that everything in China takes four times longer than you think it should, at least for someone unfamiliar with the processes, geography, and language.

Dinner with my new friends

There were many good moments, though! I continued hanging out with the group of people I met that second day, and we added more to our cohort. Little by little, I started crossing things off of my to-do list. By the time Nate arrived a few days later, it felt like I’d been in Beijing for several weeks.

Classic couple-in-Beijing mask selfie

The first weekend, PKU gave the international students a tour of the Forbidden City. Here’s my funnest fact: the bricks laid out on the ground covering the entire palace grounds are the original bricks from when the palace was built. Knowing that I was stepping not just on the same ground, but the same exact bricks, as dynasties of historic Chinese emperors was pretty exciting. The architecture of the Forbidden City was, of course, beautiful.

Tuscany refused to take a photo with this friendly fellow.

 

 

My first week in Beijing was definitely up-and-down, but by the end I had already learned so much about how to live in China.

One of my new friends had her own Tuscany-style travel companion. The two of them became phast phriends: the ‘phant and the phrog at the Phorbidden City. ?

Gearing Up for My Next Adventure

This summer I will be traveling to….

LONDON!!!!

I know. I know. I did Europe. So, why am I going back?

This summer I have been accepted to the London School of Economics summer program to study Genocide, Democracy Building, and Politics of International Development. This program is honestly a dream-come-true as I have never been to the United Kingdom before. In a blog post I wrote last year, I mentioned 21 things I wanted to do before I turned 21. Most of the things on the list I was able to complete. However, there were obviously things I was not able to finish in the short 365 day span and (as my birthday is next week) I don’t see them getting done any time soon. A lot of those yet-to-be-checked- off things can be completed in the good ole UK. So, without further ado, here is my:

London Bucket List

Sky Dive

maxresdefaultThis is something I was never able to complete due to insufficient funds (please give me money) and I have been wanting to do it for YEARS. Who’s to say that this year, 2017, won’t be my time?

Send a Message in a Bottle

message-in-a-bottle-1200Okay. This isn’t much of a London thing as it is just a thing in general. But the UK is surrounded by water, why shouldn’t I take advantage of that? Here’s to hoping my message in a bottle is picked up by someone who will actually read it.

Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Express BW

Harry Potter World obviously isn’t in London. But you know what is? The studios where Harry Potter was filmed, the pub where J.K. wrote the books, and platform 9 and 3/4. I am expecting this summer to be an amalgamation of me realizing that the places I’m seeing have all been featured in a Harry Potter film.

Visit Scotland

crossraguel-abbey-bw2e

Something definitely on my weekend travel list is visit Scotland. Castles, greenery, ocean, hills – what more could a girl need? Hopefully, a few of the friends I make will want to take a train up to the land of pubs and beauty.

Now that I have my list, I’m ready to be on my way. Luckily, I won’t be leaving until halfway through June so I have plenty of time to add more things to do. Let me know in the comments if you have any must-dos for the British Isles.

 

XO

Is It a Muslim Ban?

One of the most contentious debates that is currently dominating American politics is whether President Trump’s Executive Order outlining a travel ban is really a Muslim ban in disguise. While the original ban has been halted by the court system, the question still remains. About a month ago, I listened to a lecture that debated this very subject. The lecture included distinguished professors from OU’s Religious Studies Department, and they gave their analysis of the ban, albeit from a religious perspective. One professor sought to determine if religion, specifically Christianity, could be used to validate the order. Another broke down the role religion plays in our government, as, even though there is a separation of church and state, religion remains a crucial part of our political system. Lastly, Dr. Kimball gave his interpretation on the question on everyone’s minds: is it really a Muslim ban? In his estimation, it was not necessarily a Muslim ban, but it had the potential to become one. Once “religion tests” entered the equation, this order could not be considered impartial to religion.

While this order originated in the United States, it had global consequences. Immigrants, tourists, and refugees were confused, delayed, and sometimes detained. The order even forbid migration from some specific countries indefinitely. The travel ban is an international issue, and it should not have been treated the way it was, without careful planning and care.

UPDATE: Recently, President Trump has come out with a new version of the travel ban. This one is slightly less extreme in nature, and Iraq is removed from the list of countries it affects. However, the Muslim Ban question is still up for debate.

Capoeira & Me

January 12th, 2017

That Rochina Capoeira lesson was really, really cool to me. In the beginning I was really embarrassed and nervous. The first warm-up was running for Pete’s sake—that’s one of the only things I have never been able to do, especially without my lift! But as we went on through the lesson and even afterwards after the five of us relished in our secret fun that everyone missed out on, I was wildly impressed with not just Capoeira and its history, but how it was being used in neglected communities like Rochina. The thing that stood out the most to me was how quickly one of the Capoeira leaders stepped in to help me after I managed to communicate that my leg was janky. I cannot remember his name, but a guy came over and individually stretched me. We stretched our arms, wiggled our hips, and worked on balance—all in compensation for me not being able to do the first usual warm-up routine.

That means something. Those Capoeira instructors are accustomed to helping people at all different skill-sets and levels of ability be able to learn Capoeira in a way they are able to by adapting to their own body’s individual abilities. Take me, for example. I couldn’t run, I have never been able to. I was so bad at kicking and whatnot because I have poor balance. I couldn’t even do a cartwheel #1 Because I was really scared and #2 Because I haven’t done one in probably over a decade. And that’s saying something because I’m only eighteen! They didn’t care at all. In fact, regardless of how horribly I executed a move or completely missed one of the parts of the routine, they would still high-five me and cheer me on. And so would Emily! I’m going to go ahead and include Emily in this bit because she taught gymnastics since she was twelve. She knows what it is like to handle kids, let alone people in general, who are trying to learn and develop new skills. It is incredible how encouraging they are. They were dealing with a touristy white girl who looks as able-bodied as possible. Instead of trying to get me to perform at their expectations, which many sports do, they instead met me where I am. Even when we would break into the big circle where everyone got to highlight what they were good at, they made sure the skills I was going to show off were what I could do. I moved my little energy ball around like a champ, squatting like a master and keeping hyper-focus on the tiny orb sandwiched between my palms. Instead of asking me to do cartwheels like Emily and mega-kicks like John, they took me for what I am.

It was obvious that they didn’t just do that with me, though. There was a little boy, he couldn’t have been older than two, whose name was Phillip. Phillip looked like he had, in a blunt way to put it, something wrong with him. His eyes were too far apart to be normal and his face was a little distorted in other aspects. They treated him like they treated me, with a little extra attention and care. The instructors would take any opportunity to let me and Phillip highlight the fact that although we are different, we are still capable of doing anything, maybe just in a little bit of a different way. Four fierce five all discussed after the fact how we immediately felt as if we were welcomed into the Capoeira community with open arms. It is incredible what that Capoeira class is doing, even if on a small level. They are not only providing an alternative for kids to direct energy into a healthy, wholesome medium (instead of joining the trafficking community), but they are doing it in a way that is all-inclusive and non-competitive. Capoeira is also uber-cool because there is no age or even skill division. That is something I talked about in detail with my father. In our relatively large Capoeira class there was the Maestro, probably in his fifties or older who has mastered the dance/fighting activity, to people like me, a total novice in the field who I just having the time of her life slinging her body around and sweating her eyeballs out.Capoeira was way-cool for so many reasons. That is definitely one of the most memorable experiences from the trip.

Home & Reflection

January 11th, 2017

It’s officially the end. I’m at home coughing by brains out, praying I would herniate another disk because of it, heating the bejeebies out of my wildly congested ear, typing away with a TV on and a MacBook Pro on my lap, a sweater on my body, heat on in my big-ass house, with a peeling chest making me reminisce to the morning I dove under the waves all day long. Looking back on my time in Rio, it felt like one of the most real times in my life, but now feels like such a haze. I am so thankful that I took the crap ton of pictures that I did. With them, I am able to stitch together my experience to remind myself that what I now feel was an incredible dream was actually a piece of my reality. Of course the conversations have already dulled, but that’s the beauty of photography. It sparks feelings, and even more surprisingly revitalizes memories. Take my photos of Sugar Loaf for example. There is a huge difference between going to Sugar Loaf versus remembering the interactions you had there. My pictures help me remember the hour long conversation our group had about Greek life on OU’s campus and the jokes Daryl and I were already having about being soooo sunburned. I have pictures of the up-and-coming photographer, Alex, letting me photograph him for a change. I have one shot of him taking a suuuuper up-close shot of some tree in the Botanical Gardens on one of the first days of our trip. That jogs my memory into recalling all the times he came up to me with a mediocre shot of a boat or a plant he was thrilled to show everyone about—I definitely remember those days. I told him about the Rule of Thirds and looking beyond the thing or idea that caught your eye to add a little bit more context, using your environment to frame your own idea to guide the view through your thoughts. But I don’t think he was catching on. Haha!

I’m also starting to notice, soooo late in the game, that my journal entries are not particularly reflective on what actually happened during my time in Rio, but what those experiences made me think about and feel. Like the Selaron steps? Those tiles made me feel so freaking tired. I loved realizing how much I appreciated the art of Rio. All of that graffiti ALL OVER THE CITY was absolutely incredible. It was also pretty shocking. In a city so full of disrespect, I still cannot believe how none of the graffiti was graffitied over each other. There weren’t even gang tags over the graffiti. It was art that was so surprisingly respected! And it was GORGEOUS! I never even took photos of any of it, there was absolutely no way to capture not only the art but all of the ironic respect that the graffiti represented. How is it that in a society where a huge fraction of the people are so horrifically ignored that an art form, which degrades other art structures (architecture), is so abundant and accepted by not only the public, but other artists?! That baffles me!!

One of my other favorite things about Rio was definitely the Capoeira that we not only watched in Rochina, but took part in with a lesson in one of Rochina’s big community complexes. It was the day of the African history walking tour with Syd (where the information was great but Syd was scary). That was our second to last day in Rio, and when you combine a week of non-stop go-go-going, a woman who scared the bejeebies out of you, and constant 100 degree temperatures with a scorching sun, only four of us went with Caren back into Rochina. It was me, John, Emily, and Alex. Emily used to be a gymnast so she kicked serious butt, John is John and dominated with all of his martial arts study, and then Alex was….well Alex with his hyper-fast metabolism and skinny body that could do whatever it wanted. Then there was me. Ha! The struggle started with my shoes having to come off because of the matts we were practicing on—then the first warm up was running, without my lift in. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do anything! But immediately a guy came over and worked with me individually, substituting moves for me when I couldn’t run or jump like the rest of them.

Looking’ Back

January 10th, 2017

I’m back at home in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I’m huddling inside not because of the blistering sun and sweltering heat I had become so accustomed to, but because I have come down with a gnarly cold. My left ear still hasn’t popped after a three plane flights, a Muscinex, and half a day of heating it—I can’t hear out of it at all any more. Haha! This cold all started the last day I was in Rio. It was one of my favorite, too.

It all started with me sprinting down out of my three-tiered bunk bed (after Kelsy got sick and we switched) because of the wicked diarrhea I was having for the first time on the trip. What irony! I stumbled into class seven minutes late for the first time in my life, accompanied with Emily and Kelsy who were either waiting for me before walking to class or just taking a long time eating, and noticed that not everybody was ready. People were just casually chatting, going to the bathroom, and filling up their water bottles and the like. I finally understood Brazilian time on the last day of class. Nobody really cared if something happened right on time. I was only seven minutes late that morning butI felt so disrespectful and like a total failure—and I was even having the worst stomach cramps since my childhood belly problems. I shamefully scuffled up to Erika and quietly apologized for my tardiness and explained my bowel problems. She was so understanding that she didn’t even focus on my lateness but just felt bad for my mischievous belly! Thank you for your kindness!!

We had a ying-yang class of emotion and seriousness that swirled around because the pressure of our last day all together. We may never, and probably will never, be together again. Even though Caren is coming to Norman in a few weeks, not everyone will be able to come, I am sure! We will all have to get back to real life. Our time in Rio was great—I’m already showing everyone I recapping my adventure to my new Capoeira moves and recounting my obliviousness about the open-air drug market I walked through without noticing a single baggie of weed or handgun strapped to the hip of a red eyed adolescent. I can only imagine what everyone else finding out to be the most memorable of their trip! In addition to the mounting sadness and the impending marathon traveling to another hemisphere, we had to finish off our last marathon class, too. That is something I really appreciated the entire trip, our class was almost never in class. I loved that. It made me realize how much learning there is outside of the normalized, traditional “classroom experience.” While I’m recapping to my friends and family the highlights of my adventure, I’m finding myself telling the stories of my time in Rio, not just what we learned in class. Even more interestingly, even when I’m talking about what exactly we discussed in class, I am explaining it through the fieldtrips we took.

For example, today I went to my hairdresser, it’s the day after I got back. He’s  a pretty cool dude who is relatively updated with some of the Brazilian happenings because of the Olympics. He is especially up to date because his kids were swimmers—he knew “all about” the favela that butted up against that particular section of the Olympic park. He told me about some swim fanatics he knew that got to go to watch Phelps rock the swimming world…and how they complained about how “staying in the slums to watch the Olympics was so expensive.” What? #1 He talked about the favela like it should never have been there and #2 When did outsiders get to stay in the favelas like they were hotels?! I definitely didn’t set him straight because I’m not a favela expert or anything, but I did go through and talk about how negatively the Olympics impacted not only the favelas but all of the country. Sure I could recount what I read in books like The Spectacular Favela, Encountering Poverty, or Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, but I’m already figuring out how much more impactful my experiences were than I thought they were going to be. It’s like someone knew how incredibly amazing this trip was going to be!

 

Journeying Home

January 9th, 2017

Still sitting across from John in the airport in Rio. He’s on two phones right now and that is a little confusing. Maybe the little one without a case is the one he used while he was staying down here (in Brazil) by himself? I haven’t seen him whip out the blue phone before now, and he definitely looks a little confused by it. I love this deductive reasoning. He’s also rolling his ankles in a funny way that does not look comfortable in the slightest. We should be boarding soon, I’ll ask him about the double phoneage then.

I’ll miss this place and its people. It is so damn fun to look up and see so many different patterns and colors on so many people who rock the bejesus out of them.

UPDATE: John didn’t clarify whether or not the iPhone 4 was the one we used when he stayed here by himself, but he did say that it is a phone he would be willing to hand over to somebody who wanted to nab it from him on the streets of Rio.

Back to the colorful life of Cariocas. Throughout my short stay I ever failed to be impressed by the lives of the people of Rio. Maybe impressed isn’t the right word. I think I was always surprised. Especially after reading Barbassa’s book, Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, I guess I was expecting everyone who lived in Rio to be moping around about how horrible everything is in their city. And Barbassa’s depiction was even before the Olympics, most of its destructive construction, and that aftermath.

UPDATE: I have officially made it back to Dallas, Texas, USA! However, now I am camping out in front of the bag service counter waiting for the Aeromexico agent to arrive—my bad did not make it back to ‘Merica like I did. Additionally, I developed one nasty cold on the way back up north and have lost about half of my hearing to what is lovingly called airplane ears. Whoohoo. I was waiting for my ear drums to rupture and anticipating what that was going to feel like. On the way from Sao Paulo to Mexico City my right ear never popped at all. That wasn’t too bad, just really unsettling because, you know, all that pressure has to go somewhere. But the worst was the three hour flight from Mexico City to Dallas. My ears didn’t pop at all. That wasn’t even the scariest thing. Once I woke up from a nap I was able to feel the burning pain stretching from the bottom of my ear all the way to the joint of my mandible. Guess what? THAT STILL HASN’T GONE AWAY. I stopped freaking out once I got into the airport, though. At least there isn’t any more altitude to provide an immediate danger to my ears. And I am hearing some teeny weeny baby pops!! Whoohoo!

972-973-4122

That’s the number of the agent who has been “coming soon” since about thirty minutes ago. Two different guys who worked in the baggage claim area called her a total of about six or seven times…with no answer! They both suggested for me to go through customs without my baggage to talk to the Aeromexico desk on the other side of customs. That’s a hella smart idea to design the baggage claim area with the people on the other side—haha! I was strutting out of the baggage claim to go sassily chat with some folks about finding my bag when the two men starting pointing at a lady walking in and shouting That’s her! That’s her! The women was moseying in at a snail’s pace with a cup of coffee in her hand. A women, who had also become involved in the hunt for my bag and the Aeromexico agent, walked me over to her and told the agent that I needed her help. The agent’s response was hilarious. She made a little disgusted look and said with a Mexican accent, “For what?” She was flabbergasted that someone would need her help! That whole encounter ended with me finding out that my luggage was somewhere in Brazil or Mexico and that I would get it back eventually. Good thing it’s all summer clothes!