The first hint was the oat bran. OK, let me explain…
After living in Rio de Janeiro for eight years or so, I decided to try going back to the land of my birth, the United States of America. Leaving Rio in November probably wasn’t such a great idea, since I was blasted with blood-congealing, knee-rattling snowy weather when I arrived in New York, but I was still determined to give it a try.
I went to Connecticut for awhile and stayed with my sister and brother-in-law out in the country. That’s when the oat bran thing happened. In Rio we have yummy Quaker oat bran, nice and finely ground and slightly toasty. I ate it every morning for breakfast. When I went to buy some oat bran at the supermarket where my sister shopped, they didn’t have Quaker’s. I thought, oh well, how different could it be? It’s just oat bran.
When I opened the box I was suspicious right away. The grains were too coarse. It was too white. I had a bad feeling. I cooked it and it tasted nothing like my beloved Rio Quaker oat bran. I tried putting it in the blender. It was useless.
OK, big deal, you say…it’s just cereal for God’s sake.
But then I moved into my own apartment in Boston. Right away I felt something “off” in the streets. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was, but then I realized that nobody was speaking Portuguese…they were all speaking English! It was really jarring. I found myself missing that soothing, slightly nasal sound of cariocas (Rio natives) chatting at the corner juice bar in Copacabana.
Not only that, I missed speaking Portuguese, too. One day I had a grocery delivery and I knew right away that the delivery guy was Brazilian and I was really excited. I struck up a conversation with him in Portuguese and I just couldn’t make myself shut up. He kept edging toward the door as I rattled on and on…I think the poor guy was afraid he was going to get fired for being late on his route!
Then I caught myself reading the Brazilian newspapers every time I went online, and listening to João Gilberto and Caetano Veloso on iTunes every chance I got.
Most of all, though, I missed people sticking their heads out of their windows and yelling “GOALLLLLLLL!!!!” at the top of their lungs during the soccer games. Sigh. I knew this was never going to work. I wanted to go home. And that’s exactly what I did after being back in the USA for only one year.
When I stepped out of the plane at the Tom Jobim international airport in Rio, I sure was one happy camper. Home at last!