Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Life in a Brazil/Nut/Shell

I recently listened to a podcast on haiku, and learned that the three-line, 5-7-5 format that we learn about in school is actually just one way to do haiku, and technically doesn’t transfer very well from Japanese to English. The important part is really summarizing the essence of a moment in a few words.

This is similar to the six-word memoir, originally started by Ernest Hemmingway (For sale: baby shoes, never worn.), which is the six-word line that can capture the essence of an experience. We did this once in the Peace Corps (thanks to Herre´s brilliant idea), and mine was something like “Destroy Ego, Build Self-Esteem; Nothing better.”

I LOVE this idea. Being succinct, saying so much with so little, etc., is the highest form of writing. I´ve had several people lately mention that they miss my blogs and that they´d really like an update about what is going on, and I agree. So I figured, well, if you´re going to write something and make up for months and sometimes getting on years of not publishing anything, it better be good for the big comeback. So, why not the highest form of writing?

So below is a list of six-word haiku essays that sum up my experiences over the last few months.

I stayed in Paraguay for 2 months after swearing out of the Peace Corps and was contracted to create marketing plans for 2 self-sustaining agricultural schools. It went amazingly well!

Chaco? Pshh, I can handle that.

Working hard, I can finally breathe.

I´ll just change lives real quick.

I can´t believe that actually worked!

And then it was time to leave the life I’ve deeply loved and been building for 3.5 years.

Say goodbye? Wait, I’m not ready!

Cry with families, party with friends.

No, you can’t post that picture!

What to do? Brazil sounds nice.

I stayed with my Brazilian family, my Uncle Roberto who was an exchange student with my family when he was in high school and my Aunt Tania and cousins Thiago and Carolina, for 3 weeks in Sorocaba when I first came to Brazil.

26 hour bus ride, cramps everywhere.

Feathers from pillows, not killing chickens.

So many amenities: ok, spoil me.

Tan-lines, strapless red dress: Brazilian Christmas.

Big, screaming families just like home.

Just after Christmas, I moved to Rio de Janeiro to start a job teaching English.

No, I’m not being human trafficked.

Holy shit, this is the view!

Wait, I live on an island?!

New Year’s on mountain overlooking ocean.

Toasting champagne with eye-level fireworks.

Teaching English to smart, motivated professionals.

Beach today? . . . Again? I´d love to!

I regularly drink directly from coconuts.

Rio beaches: beautiful people, bare butts.

Settling in: tiny bikini and housewares.

Of course you can Couchsurf here.

So that’s what I’ve been doing…

I know a picture is worth 1000 words, which destroys this whole theme, but...


  1. Beautiful poems, Beautiful photos, Beautiful Daughter.



  2. Stumbled across this blog and its great! Im leaving for PCPY in a few weeks and looking forward to it. Great post

  3. You look HOTT!!! I miss you mucho. Besitos.



Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.