I'm going back to Brazil tomorrow. My grandpa has ups and downs but is on a general downward slope. I can't stay indefinitely.
This trip has been hard, and not only because of the obvious. I wasn't in a mood of "I'm ready for a dose of the USA!" the way I was during my other trips. Alexandre and I were living in our good little bubble. I think I want to stop calling it a bubble, because that suggests that we were ignoring some kind of bigger picture, and that wasn't it. It was just that we'd worked out the kinks in our value systems and our priorities and we've made a nice life for ourselves. And it's only getting better, with the move to the beach and everything.
Even though I'm with my family here, and even though I've been able to see a couple of friends, I've felt lonely during this trip. I was grateful for the friends who were ok with coming and sitting with me, for the ones who drove from far away, for the ones who waited with me to see my grandpa at the hospital. But I think this is kind of a lonely event, especially because I'm without Alexandre. I feel like American culture has changed drastically, and that I have, too. I've mostly just kept my mouth shut, because 10 days in town isn't worth rocking the boat, but it's tiring listening to people say stuff and watching people do stuff that you just totally disagree with all the time.
I'm overwhelmed by the technological overload. I don't think it deserves the word revolution because all this new crap doesn't seem to be making life better. It just seems so unnecessary. I don't want to offend my friends that think these things are cool, but why do cell phones need to check heart rates? Why do car stereo systems need to be voice activated to read back your friends' Facebook statuses? Why does your Kindle need to upload the words that you didn't know onto your Twitter? I just feel like people are racing toward all of these new developments and chucking their 6-month old electronics and replacing them and buying so much crap without stopping to evaluate, without stopping to weigh pros and cons or to ask, "Do I even want this?"
I'm disappointed in the extent to which people are uneducated about health and nutrition. I knew I was before I moved to Brazil, but I chalked it up to being a college student that moved out of home really really early. I mean don't get me wrong-- I ate and drank a whole bunch of crap while I was here and even liked it-- but if I had my own house and my own routine here, I wouldn't go back to my SAD (Standard American Diet) life. But the situation is extreme. Some people go days eating only processed dairy and carbs. Some restaurants in California have started printing calorie counts on their menu. Also shocking. (I mean of course we didn't go to TGI Friday's for our health, but still. 2600-calorie dinners?!)
This lack of knowledge about health spreads to hospitals and people's understanding of them. Frustrating.
I'm overwhelmed by all the marketing. I'm overwhelmed with the way people identify themselves with brands. "Oh my God! I LOVE Superman! That means that I need a Superman cell phone case, wallet, boxers, ringtone, collectible figurine set, and stickers on my car." Why? Why do you need that? Are you happier?
Of course I'm not totally impervious to it all. I've enjoyed myself doing typical American things. My bestest friend Michelle bought me a Kindle, just because she's nice. (I think that's a pretty fabulous invention, especially when you don't live in an English-speaking country.) I've also eaten a bunch of delicious and unhealthy food. I haven't exercised at ALL. But even with the Kindle case, a trip to Urgent Care and antibiotics, and getting my laptop repaired, I spent less than 500 bucks over the course of the trip. (Yes, I didn't pay for room and board, but how many of you fellow ex-pats have gone home for 2 weeks and spent less than 500 bucks on the miscellaneous stuff?) I just wasn't interested in the super shopping. I wasn't interested in being a mule. I wasn't interested in lugging back a bunch of big suitcases.
My grandad has taught me a lot during this phase of his life. When he was still talking at the beginning of my trip, he was exactly the same as he was during the rest of his life: peaceful and even-keeled. He showed that he had been living his true values his whole life. He and my grandma largely raised my sister and me. During our whole life, he just tuned out all the noise and chose a few good things to love (music, work, and a good piece of cake), and he gave the rest of his love and energy to people. He never complained about working, never asked a favor without trying it himself, never fixed it if it wasn't broken, never lied to get ahead, never gave something to himself if his wife and kids couldn't also have it. He questioned what someone tried to sell him. He judged institutions but tried to understand and empathize with individuals. He gave stuff away if it wouldn't put him out. He told a joke whenever possible. He's been happy.
My grandparents at their music group club... my grandma played bass and sang and my grandpa played piano once a month with other retirees, most of whom were fellow Brits. The club puttered out only recently.
Let's hope that, upon my return to Brazil, I can try to glean the best of both worlds and get back on track. Blog entries might be kind of sad for a while.
I'll leave you with a song: