“I won’t be here for the World Cup,” said a fellow classmate at our Portuguese class a few months back. “I’m leaving Brazil.”
I was immediately struck with a sense of dismay, exacerbated when another student announced their plans to leave soon. Then again last month, I discovered a fellow expat blogger was planning to leave, and I had the same reaction. I’m not particularly close to any of these people, but I always feel a bit of insecurity when an expat — of any country, not just the U.S. — decides to leave. In my head I plead, Wait, I thought we were in this together. Again, I’m not close to these people. Some I’ve barely even spoken to.
I’ve been asked many times how long I intend to stay in Brazil, and the truth is, I have no idea. “I’ll stay until I leave,” is my lame answer. But others’ departures trigger the tiniest doubts in the back of my mind about whether living here is doable. And I remember the moment when I told my friend I was planning to move and she responded with, “You know, usually people leave those countries to come here to the U.S.”
It’s not easy. It requires patience and an open mind. It requires talking to people to find out how the hell to get the government to work for you, learning which are the best routes by trial and error, researching the difference between alvejante and água sanitária before I go to the store, and being prepared for the occasional misunderstanding as people try to decipher your accent.
But it’s also a lesson in recognizing what can or cannot be changed, as well as appreciating things for what they are. I value the way people will invite you over after just meeting you or how in the face of chaos people will creatively find a way to get around. They’re skills I strive to have.
While others may have their reasons for staying or leaving, I can’t compare my journey to others. And if eventually I do leave, the time I’ve spent here isn’t any less worthwhile.