“Our many failures give meaning to our few successes; only when we peer into the abyss can we appreciate the magnificence of heights that are more than mere highs.” –The Spirituality of Imperfection
I came across this quote during my time at Belmont, and ever since I’ve had it hanging on my fridge. It has always been a piece of encouragement and inspiration for me, so naturally, when I was preparing for my six month stay in Rio, I neatly tucked that same piece of kitchen-stained paper away in my suitcase. Now, you’ll find it hanging up next to my bunk bed, surrounded by a flurry of eleven other travelers from around the world, but nevertheless serving the same purpose it did at home, if not an even greater one.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, though they may be few and far between for now, you’ll remember that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from my time in Rio. However, I resolved that not knowing what was ahead, “peering into the abyss” if you will, would not only be the adventure of lifetime, but also the best way to approach the learning experience ahead. By taking advantage of the unknown, I’ve allowed myself to let go, but also become more connected. Where I normally struggle to open up, to expose myself and be vulnerable, to avoid pre-meditation on everything I do, becoming comfortable with the unknown has afforded me the opportunity to take initiative, and of trial and error.
The best part of all of this is exactly what the quote says: “appreciating the magnificence of heights that are more than mere highs.” Rather than participating from the sidelines, I am present in the activities I lead for the children at the Emarca community center. While they don’t always go as planned, and the language barrier is always a task to overcome, there are days when I feel as if I have truly connected with the children who have become part of my day to day life. While there are days I only see them for twenty minutes, there are other days children come running up to me in groups screaming “teacher, teacher!” wanting to hug me tightly and show me dance moves or sing songs they learned the day before in class.
This concept bleeds into other areas of my life here in Rio, too. What I’ve come to learn about Rio is that if you are open to it, if you allow the city and its people to take you in, you will learn that happiness and the constant celebration of that happiness is the way of life here. These aren’t people seeking out temporary moments of ecstasy; these are people that cultivate a life and a culture filled with joyfulness- no matter how many times they fail. And the more I explore Santa Teresa, the community I live in, and the neighborhoods surrounding it, the more I push myself to talk to local people, to practice Portuguese, to try local foods-such as a traditional dish known as acaraje (something I probably would never try at home), the more I come to realize that I am not simply visiting Rio. I am living in Rio and I am a part of this life, at least for now. I’m not sure what’s coming tomorrow or what I’ll be doing this weekend, but I’m okay with that and I’ve never felt more at home.