Like lost socks in the washing machine,
lost baggage happens too.

-Delta Airlines Website

“I don’t know what you’ll think but I think you’ll love it.”

This said Byron, who I, with twinkle in eye, lovingly call my boyfriend-husband, one weekday evening upon reuniting for the evening in our Brooklyn apartment. My intestines, where everything exciting and terrible lives, eagerly perked up for the rising action.  The plot of this Tuesday evening tale came in the form of an offer that Byron, who works in the specialty coffee industry, had received to be a part of a new coffee company as the Director of Agribusiness on a coffee farm in Brazil.

This idea felt immediately nice to me and my aforementioned digestive tract. The universe had prepared me for it by sending messengers. These “preparers-of-the-way” who I encountered frequently in my interpreting work in Manhattan almost invariably put forth the following question: “Oh you’re an interpreter? So how many languages do you speak?”

If an interpreter with one silly language pair didn’t know any better, she might confuse this good-natured interest with accusations of inadequacy. I, of course, never did such a thing (insert wry smile and emphatic head-shaking with a “no, no, no, never”). It did, however, lead me to investigate the language services market and to the eventual realization that, while one could get by with one pair, adding another language to the mix would open up many more opportunities—especially in the world of conference interpreting that I was preparing to enter.

Everything seemed to line up nicely for a Brooklyn to Brazil transition: My master’s program in conference interpreting could be done online from anywhere in the world; I was tired of living somewhere where plain ole boring English was the default language; sometimes I had to wear a rather thick coat in New York and no one likes that; my boyfriend-husband would be laboring in the dirt to make green coffee better—his favorite part of the coffee chain; plus they use comparatively smaller drinking glasses in Brazil which I like better.

So Brazil, Byron and I all joined hands and spun around in a circle a bit until we became delightfully nauseated by our merriment. We visited the farm, told our dear friends and family the news, packed our things, did some language-learning software as a sad substitute to the real thing and then excitedly boarded a São Paolo-bound red eye.

So yes, we boarded that airplane, landed in Brazil and then all of a sudden I found myself slumped against the back wall of the farmhouse, tears in my eyes, because…well, I didn’t know. Was it because the sunshine was too warm? The air too clean? The birds too melodious? Why was I disintegrating into tears over my pancakes every morning?

This was a mystery to me and all of my cognitive powers. Whatever the reasons it was pretty uncomfortable to observe myself behaving in such strange ways. It was Byron who helped me to tease out some of the underlying factors contributing to this unrelenting mood mystery. The real story goes something like this:

I landed in Brazil on a Monday morning in May. We rode through the gates of Fazenda Santa Izabel.  Our suitcases soon hunched together in the bedroom of the small farmhouse attached to the farm office where José, the Brazilian manager and Byron would sit at big heavy desks and do important things. Back in Brooklyn a young woman, so sensitive yet fiercely independent; interpreter, nonprofit director, and a million other things, stood on the tarmac, her bike like a most faithful dog at her hip.

This young woman was me. She is the part of myself that I had lovingly tucked into my suitcase but, knowing that there was no place for her in this new paradigm had slipped out somewhere between pre-boarding and baggage claim. Like a child upon perceiving that no one else seems able to see her imaginary friend, I watched this version of myself flash ghostly and then fade away. Sans subway, bike, income and professional identity, with nowhere to go and nothing to contribute, I mourned the woman I had left behind in Brooklyn.

From this it seems to follow that we may be nothing more or less than products of our own imagination. That being the case, I’m considering following the imagined advice of my dear friend Lauren, who, nestled inside a series of expletives, would tell me to invite whichever fictitious friend I damn well please to this new party among strangers.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Nice post. I moved back to Brazil as an adult (professional, independent) after having lived there as a child and teenager. It was very difficult, and mostly because of what you said — that professional me was lost (changed careers, in the end) and I was confronted with my provincial hometown and friends who didn’t understand why I wore yellow sneakers. They loved me but didn’t understand me, and I couldn’t understand what there was to misunderstand. Long story short: take care of your health and hang in there! It sounds like you are already doing well.
    And of course I know you know that life w/o these challenges isn’t worth living!
    {I think we met at InterpretAmerica. Are you going to San Antonio for ATA?}


    1. Elena, thanks for sharing this–such a comfort-—and thank for wearing yellow sneakers! We did meet at InterpretAmerica and I so enjoyed what you offered to the conference (including the presence of a sweet baby) that I wanted to put you in the most recent post about the conference. But since we only met briefly, shyness got the better of me. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to San Antonio because of the distance but I plan on following closely from here. Take care!


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