Mango Pancakes

A few things have changed. Now I eat mango on top of my cornmeal pancakes instead of berries. In Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, homemade almond-cashew butter always went on underneath. I arrived in Brazil with two jars of Brooklyn Larder almond butter to get the job done. They were gone within two weeks. So the immediate challenge in Brazil was not the language, not housing, not getting around, but what to do without almond butter. Simply not an option.

There happened to be a blender in the farmhouse, so I decided that I was gonna just have to make do with almond sprinkles—I wish now that I had called it almond pixie dust. So pixie dust it was. I roasted the almonds and we made dust inside as the dust flew around outside.

When it was time for the next batch I put a small amount of almonds in the bottom of the blender. Part of me said, “There is a little swirly knife in the bottom—why can’t I have almond butter god dammit?” But nothing. From dust you began and to dust you shall return. So I added the rest of the almonds and resigned myself to almond pixie dust.

And then a wonky noise like someone talking underwater happened and I thought, “I’m gonna burn this damn blender’s motor out! I thought about switching it off but then Mr. Blender regained his footing and I peered in the top and saw that a small miracle had happened: Almond Butter.

I suppose at breaking point, if I move through it, transformations take place and something delicious can happen.

Almond Butter

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.

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