January 3rd, 2017
At this point I was feeling a little shaken in my confidence about deserving to be in Rio. I’m on this class trip that is meant to be a 3000 level course in a hemisphere and country I’ve never been in and with a language I couldn’t speak a lick of. So what did I do after calling my boyfriend and crying a little more on a shaky WhatsApp video chat? Go to dinner by myself!
Admittedly, this isn’t too great of a feat. The hostel I am staying at is one block away from the beach and one block away from the busiest, most well-lit street. It’s also in Leblon—one of the safest, if not the safest, places in Rio. After getting a suggestion from Matt, I headed down two blocks to a place known for its…barbeque? I found out it was Cornish game hen. Neat! After ordering my food by pointing and being stared at by an old Brazilian lady throughout my meal, I power walked back to the hostel to go straight to bed and wallow in my #AmericanGirl status.
I knew I had a neighbor in the bed across from me, but it wasn’t until I was cozied up in bed reading and sweating my buns off in a Pi Phi sweatshirt that an older, Brazilian woman walked in. She started in Portuguese, but once I peeked my head out and mumbled a bit she transitioned to choppy but surprisingly good English. At that time I was not in the mood for her chatting and small talk, an oddity for me, but she persisted. For whatever reason I cannot recall, she sat down across from me in not-her-bed after exchanging niceties to really chat me up. Margarida, as I came to know her by after talking until almost one in the morning, surprised the beejeebies out of me. Long, long story short, she is a practicing, unmarried, and childless pediatrician from the northwest of Brazil who has devoted her passions, money, and life to travel. I love Mo, my grandmother, dearly, but when it comes to travel I think I discovered someone even more smitten with the world and bitten by the travel bug. I would mention any place I’d been, hope to go to, someone I knew had gone, or even heard of and she would rattle off her experience in that place and five more just like it that she loved. The line I remember most from her went something like, “I haven’t seen all of the world, but I am pretty sure I would no longer see anything new.”
There was another bit about this woman that caught me off guard. Margarida wasn’t a particularly lively person, and leaned much more on the side of impersonal and reserved throughout our conversation, even while she offered me several of her strawberry wafers. I was telling her the story of my leg, why I wanted to be a doctor, and how I specifically wanted to be an international surgeon when she stopped me to say in her hard-to-understand English, “I think you will be a very good doctor.” This tiny gesture felt like an enormous gift. She proceeded to speak of the sacrifice she had felt, not about not having a family, but about the missing time and lifestyle physician-hood took in return of its affluence and agency it offered. She then paused, telling me she didn’t know the translation of a word she wanted to use to describe what she was trying to accomplish with this portion of our conversation. She picked up her phone to translate it and mumbled a suppose-to-be English word over and over again in an accent I could not decipher for the life of me. She eventually got up and walked her phone with the translation over to me. Encourage. She wanted to encourage me to become what I dream to be. She said she thought I could do it—now that’s a gift.
Beyond that I don’t have much more to say about Margarida. We woke up in the morning and I found her reading her bible. A devout Catholic; she reads her bible twenty-five minutes every day and even had a teeny, gold Virgin Mary necklace ripped off of her chest on the beach the other day. She told me we were going to get breakfast; I was flattered. I now feel so bad—I neglected her a bit once the rest of the crew arrived in the morning. But later in the day, whenever the girls were unpacking in a room I unknowingly ushered them into with a Margarida getting ready for the beach in her bikini, she asked me to rub sunscreen on her back for her; I was honored. She left after giving me her number and telling me all about Carnival, her favorite, in Recife, Brazil.
I took it as an invitation to visit her someday.