O Caminhão Que Vem

by Seneca, Tufts 1+4 Participant

My host father Giulianno and I hanging out at home, he is almost always in incredible spirits. Photo taken by me on March 16, 2020.

I met a host of incredible people during my year abroad. Strangers who welcomed me – a foreigner with no voice or connection to the local community — with open arms into their homes and their lives. These people shared so much with me, more than I could ever recount in a blog post, but one lesson stuck with me more than the rest: that there’s no singular path, no one way to go about life. Now this lesson is applicable on many levels, part of the reason why it has resonated with me so much. It applies to a single decision, an opportunity, or musings about the more distant future.

The first person who helped me learn this lesson was a Russian friend names Yana who I met at my apprenticeship in Brazil. She had recently finished four years of university in China, and was traveling throughout Latin America, picking up work from place to place as she taught online English classes and saught to learn the native languages. I really admired this lifestyle, as hectic as it appeared. She had left behind everything familiar to her, and was just playing things by ear, living day to day. We love to romanticize the idea of truly living in the moment, and in my eyes she embodied that ideal more than anyone I had ever met.

The second person to help teach me this lesson was my host father, Giulianno. He had never felt particularly comfortable in a traditional academic setting, and did not finish college. In the community I had grown up in, this was unheard of. I thought that only geniuses like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates could drop out of college and live a satisfying and enriching life. But no, Giulianno is one of the most genuinely content, comfortable people I’ve ever met. He does mainly mechanical work and takes care of the house, while my host mom logs long hours at a beauty parlor.

I also found these qualities in my grandfather. I only recently took the initiative to delve more into his past. He was a member of the Merchant Marines and traveled the world on merchant vessels for the beginning of his post-undergraduate life. He attended Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, and the financial burden he avoided with this free education allowed him to be considerably more flexible afterwards.  

As I pass this piece of writing off to my mom for her thoughts, I can only imagine what is going through her mind. No mom, this doesn’t mean that I want to travel the world without a  real job, that I want to drop out of college and do mechanical work, that I want to join the military and travel on merchant ships. But it is relieving for me to know that these options are out there. It gives me a real peace of mind in our society, which puts far too much pressure on far too young people to be certain about their futures. I don’t consider everyone’s story as a real possibility for myself, but as I meet more people and learn of their unique paths, it helps to quell the anxiety I feel about my own future, knowing that there are ample routes.

My grandfather, Richard Petry, in the summer of 2015. Pictured here with a Mahi Mahi. He has always carried his passion of fishing and the sea throughout his endeavors. Photo taken by my father.

Danger of Contentment

By Jason, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Saudades. This was one of the first words that I ever learned in Portuguese. The best way that I can describe this word are the little feelings you get once you deeply begin to miss something or someone. Now more than ever, I have many of them.

It has been roughly a month since I left Brazil, and for most of that time I have been at home reflecting on my past seven months. Thinking about all the ways in which that bridge year has influenced me and the way I think at home has been something that seemingly has become part of my daily routine. Those seven months had gone so right in so many ways that it’s hard not to miss it. From my wonderful host family, to my apprenticeship, and all the things in between that made my host community what it was, it is impossible for me to have wished for anything better. Although this is the case, there is one factor that acted as a parasite which wove itself into my mindset and grew into a problem which I did not address until it was too late.

I think that it’s safe to say once you have become comfortable within your host community, you can give yourself a pat on the back because that means you’ve reached a point that many people struggle with when it comes to living somewhere drastically different from where they are originally from. Unfortunately, with this feeling of being comfortable, comes the danger of becoming too content in your community.

For me, the consequences of this contentment did not come until the final week of my bridge-year. I had been living most of these past seven months with the idea that there would always be time to do the things that I wanted to do, and although this was true during the former months, it quickly spiraled into something that lasted with me even in the final weeks.

The unfortunate consequences of this tendency to push things off to a later time did not truly hit me until my final weekend in the country when I realized that I was rushing to do everything that I ever wanted to do in that country in those final few days. Even then, there was nowhere near the amount of time that I needed to fully see all my plans through.

Granted, the time that I am writing this is spring of 2020 when the world is going through a rapidly growing pandemic. Even though this did cut my time in the country short by three weeks, it’s still something that I must acknowledge when reflecting on my time in Brazil. The more I think back on it, the more times I realized that I had this tendency to give the “I have plenty of time for that” excuse, which obviously was not true in the long run. During my last weekend in Brazil I was rushing to do all the fun things that I ever wanted to do in those last two days, which made that weekend some of my best moments in the entirety of my seven months there. Finally visiting the Sand Dunes of Lagoa, hiking up various trails, trying some food that I’ve always wanted to taste such as natural açaí and pasteis. I absolutely loved my bridge year in Brazil, but to think how much better it could’ve been if I had been doing all the things I wanted to do makes me wonder.

Because of all this, there are still a ton of things on my list which I never got to do in Brazil. So if there is anything that I would say to anyone who is going or about to go on a similar journey, it would be to please live everyday in-country as if it could be your last. Even if it’s your first week and you’re 100% sure that you have plenty of time, do your future self a favor and start checking off things on your list now instead of tomorrow

The Blue-eyed Angel

by Bryan, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Oftentimes when my host mother would greet me, she would say, “Meu angel com olhos azuis.” My blue eyed angel. One of the things I had to become accustomed to was how my host mother displayed affection. On about day 3 of my living there my host mother began kissing me on the head and cheeks, and on roughly day 5 she felt comfortable enough slapping my rear, as she does to her grandchildren. At first, this made me very uncomfortable, but I soon became accustomed to it; it’s just who my host mom is and how she displays affection. I always knew my relationship with her was special, but I didn’t quite realize just how much I meant to her until she spoke these words to me. It all started with my host brother in law making a toast during Christmas dinner. He primarily toasted my host mother, Miriam, and told her how proud he was of her and how strong she’d been after losing her husband just months prior (only about three months before I arrived).

She later came to me, and thanked me. She said that she was going through a really hard and sad part in her life, and that I brought her so much pride and joy ever since I came into it, and that I was her angel with blue eyes. While I knew I was entering the house at a tough part in her life, I never knew just how much she was struggling because she was always so cheerful. It was incredibly touching. This was the moment I realized just what an impact I’d had on her life. I knew she loved me and I had an impact, but I failed to piece together our relationship and its timing, and how that made it all the more special. She’ll never forget that part of her life, and I was a part of it. The happy part. After that, she began calling me that regularly and would introduce me as such to friends and family with a smile on her face while caressing my head or gently lifting up my chin.

After entering my host family and hearing them often talk about the previous fellows they’d hosted, I was determined to be the favorite. And I’m proud to say that for our final dinner together when they were mentioning other fellows, I asked them who the best one was, and I had achieved my goal! I truly am going to miss my host family, and my host mother in particular, and it’s nice to know the feeling is mutual. Miriam took me to the airport and when we said goodbye, she had tears in her eyes, and then subsequently grabbed my hand and walked back with me to the group. It was incredibly sweet. We had said goodbye multiple times and she never left until I passed through the checkpoint and was no longer in sight. She even sat there on her phone while I spoke with my friends and staff, not wanting to leave until I was absolutely out of sight! She even said she would come to my graduation from Tufts.

Now my mother always tells me everything happens for a reason, and I tend to shake my head because I don’t really believe in that kind of thing. Now maybe Miriam and I did meet each other for a reason, or maybe the timing and everything was just a mere lucky coincidence. Either way, our relationship is incredibly special, and certainly had a large impact on the both of us. I know I’ve made a lifelong connection with my Brazillian family and they consider me part of their family as I do for them. It’s special to have this unique relationship and understand the impact I’ve made on their lives, in particularly Miriam’s. Even when you may think your life doesn’t matter that much, you never know just how many lives you’ve touched. And even touching one alone, that is worth living for.

Curling Up and Flying Away

by Roger, Tufts 1+4 Participant

My friend from Costa Rica took me to her host dad’s caretaker property: an abandoned library.

As each Fellow moves through their journey, they’re confronted by a slew of day-to-day encounters and oddities, each tucked away as a memory-a portion of the physical voyage we’re on our ways through. A gorgeous bunch of natural flowers with unfamiliar scents, particularly haggle-y street vendor in an open-air bazaar, or a spontaneous and joyful dance on the streets at Carnaval have all added to each of our unique experiences and given us new recollections on which to draw to re-access our emotions during this year. (I have found that writing these experiences down has been particularly helpful in doing this, as merely reading the words can teleport me backwards into the middle of any of the rich days I’ve lived.)

All of these memories are being created within this space abroad, outside of the home and the comfort zone. Thus, it seems almost strange (and even selfish) to desire a further level of self-transportation. I mean this in the form of stories, of books. Having read more than the other Fellows this year by a significant margin, I’ve been asked time an time again why I would choose to spend my valuable time in a foreign environment seeking to enter another one though printed pages, by both peers here and back home. It certainly is a valid point: You can always read, but you can’t always be on the beach in Brazil. Though I had come in to this year with the goal of reading as much as possible (to recoup for time lost during high school), I began to internalize this, and my practices changed. As the number of inquiries of my habit rose, I began to read less and less. And though I knew this was ‘the best use of my time,’ I was keenly aware that I was doing this more to please others than myself, and my days, though fuller of uniquely-foreign experiences, were notably dryer and less memorable.

It was not until I heard the words of wisdom from (who else?) a Brazilian librarian that I was able to find closure in this internal conflict. As I laid out the “why read at home when you could be on a Brazilian beach” conundrum, she simply laughed and said, “Why not read on a Brazilian beach? It’s for certain you can’t do that in the States…” and it clicked.

This is no new realization-thinkers before me have come up with it, and many after will, as well-but I am glad I’ve come to it in my own, on my own time. That’s what this year is for, hmm? Having heard her words and reflected on the duality of my outdoorsy Brazilian year and my private one passed between the pages of what has now added up to twenty-four books, I’ve realized that that the environment in which a book is read can and does so, so deeply affect my as a reader’s experience, and that some of the most profound memories I hold were built directly upon this confluence. I recall with soulful fondness my enjoyment of Californian Cannery Row while swinging in a hammock on a cloudless, dusty Brazilian day, of my laughter at Waiting for Godot as I sat in a bus terminal, knowing that my bus would never come, of my tearful joy at the love found in the last pages of The Teahouse Fire as I realized a love of my own. Yes, of course I will reflect with gratitude on the experiences and relationships formed independent of the themes of whatever I happened to be reading at the time. They far outnumber those for which I found true, meaningful overlap. But those that did-these are the ones by which are made not only memories, but blossoms of growth of the soul.

(That last bit was going to be the end of this. But after a tumultuous flight from our host countries followed by an utterly positive moment that made all of my reading in Brazil worth it, I felt it could be prudent to share this last thought.)

Back at home, a month before expected, and my heart and eyes are still in Brazil. I feel a deep sense of longing to simply be there, for my body and my ego to be in the same place. I will walk outside in a tee shirt, forgetting the new necessity to survive rather than thrive in the outdoors, and stubbornly stand, freezing, for a few minutes, wishing the tropics to return. I say “Please” and “Thank You” and “Excuse Me” in Portuguese when talking on the phone, and have to give an, “oops! My bad…” And of course Brazilian hugs (or any hugs, for that matter) are deeply and presently missing.

But I can still get back. Open Captains of the Sands, and the beach is there, washing over me. There is a portal inside some of my books now; they cannot be read without a journey backwards, towards the hurt-so-good past. And for that, I would do it again in an instant.

The Modern Architecture Pandemic

By Cher, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Standing upon a simple yet elegant mansion, I was awed when I first saw how architects were able to transform white walls and wide pane glasses into such an aesthetic building. Walking through the rows of mansions by the lake, I always admired the modern houses the most. I admired how architects are able to turn such a simple shape like boxes and triangular prisms using the colors of whites, grays, and black to establish grand and beautiful houses. To me, these homes represent wealth, elegance, and power. As an immigrant, these qualities are part of the dream that my family and many other families had dreamt of when sacrificing our blood and sweat. To live in such a house meant that you worked hard to get there.

As my host brother walked me through the traditional houses and the shops, we came to a halt at a big intersection. At first glance, I noticed all the sleek and beautiful modern houses across the road. This road is where the vacation homes for the rich intersect with the homes of the people whose ancestors have lived here long before it became a destination for tourists. I admired how beautiful they were, but questions popped up in my head. Why do these beautiful houses feel so out of place? What was here before them? As I explored my new home, I noticed that these houses were by the beaches, on top of mountains, and in perfect places for houses to be located with amazing views. Everywhere I go, there is always a white boxed house with beautiful details. They all begin to look the same to me. A house that I used to admire so much now became so common, basic, and identity-less.

Modernist architect designs became popular after world war two. It was a form of design to embrace the beauty of simplicity, function, and rationality that utilized the new materials and advanced technology. These modern designs reject old, traditional, historical ideas and styles, and ornamentation. These designs were meant to improve the standard of living for all by using industrial ideals.

The inspirations drawn by modernist architecture is to make the home more functional, rational, and improve the quality of living. When you look closely to those who live in these houses and how big they are, you begin to question these intentions. The people who live in these types of houses already have access to wealth and a great quality of life. The homes that are made in this style takes up so much space for usually a family of four. Due to the fact that this style rejects the old, traditional, and historical ideas, it looks out of place, especially when it is planted in a city that has a lot of historical context such as Florianópolis. In my perspective, these houses fail to appreciate the culture and historical context of where they are built. The style is so different from those before it that it seems as if they don’t want to acknowledge the history of the land. The intention of the modernist design is to improve the home for people throughout the world, but the impact doesn’t correlate with the intention. This is because only those with access to wealth have access to this design, because it takes up more room than it needs, and it is a clear display of wealth and power. The modernist home design is a beautiful design that has great intentions to improve society, but fails to deliver the impact.

I appreciate these homes for their intention and beauty, but after seeing what the impacts are, I am beginning to question that appreciation. Architectures are a great part of history and culture of a location. When you implant something so different and it doesn’t relate to the culture, like modernist architecture, it seems as though the culture and history of that location was not acknowledged, creating ignorance and division between the new and the old.


Larkin, Maggie. “A Brief History of Modern Architecture and Design.” Daily News, The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., 22 July 2013, http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/07/22/features/brief-history-modern-architecture-and-design.

Food Remains Ever So Important

By Seneca, Tufts 1+4 Participant

For as long as I can recall I have tried my best to embody the contrarian, the Devils’ Advocate, the counterculture. I regularly adopt wildly argumentative stances with little basis just to be able to oppose my friends. I hated more than anything when my younger brother would imitate me–how I dressed, acted, my preference in beverages—because I felt that he was stealing the persona that I had uniquely crafted.

I was a pescatarian for the vast majority of my life, from birth until just recently. This came about naturally, as initially I was merely a compliant member of a pescatarian household. As I grew older, I was able to further educate myself on the benefits to vegetarianism. My friend Malcolm drilled me on the obscene amount of water required to raise a cow, my parents instilled with me their moral aversions, and “Food, Inc.” opened my eyes to the horrors of the meat industry. All the same, I tend to identify two alternative factors for why I adhered to this dietary constriction for so long: convenience again, and how it set me apart from my peers, upholding my contrarian orientation. I loved that nearly everybody I told about my pescetarianism had an anecdote to the brief span that they experimented with doing the same, and subsequently succumbed. Yet I had willingly deprived myself of the foods I had heard so much about, never once yielding to temptation. That is, until this year abroad.

Expanding what I was comfortable eating literally admitted me into my incredible host family (they refused to house vegans or vegetarians) and the Sunday churrascos (barbecues) are easily my favorite facet of life here. I value the collective responsibility of creating a group meal, and although we sometimes use alternatives such as zucchini or eggplant to accommodate friends, the traditional foods are all carne.

I absolutely adore baking. I have been baking since I was very young and in a split second would deem it my greatest and most distinguishing passion. Baking is something I was certain I could share with my host household, as it serves as a great means of socialization and ideally yields delicious results. Baking with my friend Annika here in Brazil has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and while I acknowledge the weight of that statement I will try my best to justify it accordingly.

Prior to this year, the thought of baking anything swarmed my head with visions of butter, milk, and eggs.My mom and I oftentimes equate how delicious a baked good is to the amount of butter in the crust, or cream and eggs in the custard. But, my friend Annika is vegan. Everything I’ve had the pleasure of making with her has been such, or dairy-free at the absolute least. This was initially an incredibly daunting task, I’ve been forced to rewire my brain about an ability I was supremely confident in. It has been otherwise enlightening for the same reason, I have been able to regain some of my humility and take the backseat as a student once again.

As I branched out in a new direction and expanded my diet, I lost a defining part of my identity. Until this year I never recognized just how much confidence I derived from filling my role as the contrarian. Whilst baking vegan was a strange and foreign experience at first, I now recognize that it has unveiled a newfound curtain tome. Both instances undermined deeply embedded fragments of my identity and forced me to experiment with branching outside of my comfort zone. While these shifts have rendered me more insecure to the question of how well I may know myself, I treasure the opportunity for humility, introspection, and discovery.