Relating and Dancing (with myself)

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
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Flag of Brazil  , State of Ceara,
Monday, December 20, 2010

I am in a small random village called Jericoacoara. It's on the northern coast of Brazil (wait, I've gone all the way up already?) about 300km west of Fortaleza - not that any of this would mean anything to any of you unless you are some sort of Geography Bee weirdo and I didn't know about it.

I am happy to say that I am now fully over The Funk. I feel great.  It only took 2 weeks and change but I managed to pull myself out of the mire.  If you've been following this blog, then you know that melancholy is usually followed by contemplative before it turns to happy.  This week, I hit an interestingly short contemplative phase before going to happy. 

I'll get to the fruits of the compressed contemplative phase in a minute, but first let's go over the journey into Jericoacoara.

Jericoacoara is, surprise, another one of those towns with no paved roads, no ATMs and is accessible only by 4x4.  I figured I enjoyed this sort of town the last time I was in one (i.e., Cabo Polonio in Uruguay) that I had to come here when I heard that it was accessible only by 4x4 trucks.  But I didn't want to seem like I'm just doing the same things over and over, so I had to take this one up a notch.

In order to get to Jericoacoara, I started December 12 in Salvador, which was several states away. I took a flight up to Fortaleza (because a 2-day bus ride from Salvador was out of the question - I was just fresh (ha) from that stinky 25-hour bus ride to Salvador).  After arriving in Fortaleza, I made my way to the rodoviaria where I caught a bus. I was on this bus for another 7 hours until... the bus driver dropped us off at a random gas station and told us to wait for a truck.  Ummm, yeah, it was already midnight when we got dropped off at this gas station - which was already closed and and the lights were turned off - in the middle of nowhere (the town was called Jijoca de Jericoacoara and this was different from the actual village of Jericoacoara).  There were several of us waiting and after 10 minutes, we became skeptical about whether a truck would actually come and get us. That gas station was a dark and scary place (no not really but you get the picture). Another 10 minutes later, lo and behold, a guy drives up in what looked like a stretch version of a monster truck (the only thing missing was G'n'R/Paradise City blasting from the stereo) -- I literally had to hoist my bag above my head in order to get it in the truck.  And so began my midnite ride in a 4x4 through the sand dunes of Brazil's Ceara state.  I was thinking it would maybe take 15 minutes to get to the town... ummm no - about an hour later (bouncing around in the back of this monster truck, we finally stop. I start to open the door and the driver yells to the back in what I think was Portuguese "no, this is not your stop".  The person sitting next to the driver up front got off at this random village in the middle of the sand dunes.  Another 20 or so minutes later, we finally arrive at Jericoacoara. It was close to 2am when we finally get there.

It was a beautiful ride, though.  The air was equatorially warm but the breeze from the sea cooled it off straight away.  Everything around was lit up frighteningly bright by moon.  There were a lot of low, fluffy clouds in the sky so the light reflecting from the moon off the clouds made everything even more bright.  Like the whole sky was illuminated by a non-lame blacklight.

All that lame wax poeticism aside, Jericoacoara seemed to be the kind of place I needed to go to in order to spend some quality me-time (wait, this whole trip is about me-time, isn't it?).  On a sidenote, given my description above, Jericoacoara seems to be an unlikely place to find internet (seeing that the nearest paved road is like over an hour away) but yet, here it is - I am finally updating this journal after kind of a long time (thanks SD for checking up on me and sending me an 'are you ok' email).  The internet is fast and reliable, too. I wonder where the city's hidden the power lines and phone cables? I can't seem to find them.

There's more description about this place in the pictures section, so I won't make this entry any longer than it's already going to be.  Let's just say that while I really enjoyed it, it wasn't exactly like Cabo Polonio - Jericoacoara is right in the middle of the beaten path - it's on the verge of being beaten to death by the path itself.  But there was a weird charm about it - it kind of felt like an adult summer camp - with beer(!).  It was super fun nonetheless and hey, it helped me get over The Funk.

As I said above, I managed to go through a compressed (2-day) period of introspection.  This is what came of it.

I was writing an email to someone early last week and I happened to mention something about one of the things (about myself) that I am working on right now: relating to others.  I ruminated over this idea while sitting on the beach as cows and donkeys grazed around me (the beach is shared by tourists and local free-range livestock grazing on the wild grasses that grow magically in the sand).

So in past entries, I mentioned that I am reluctant to make friends with people. Yes, this is still true.  But while this never really bothered me before, it's kind of starting to bug me now.  Since I'm traveling by myself, in those odd times when I get tired of talking to myself, the ability (or more appropriately in my case, the desire) to make friends, or at least talk to people, is kind of important. 

The problem isn't that I'm socially inept (I'm not, am I?), it's that I have this sad, distorted idea that I'm special.  I attribute this to the many years of coddled parenting that I received, where I was constantly told that I am more special, and just all around better, than everybody else and that people have to be worthy to be around me.  This kind of skewed my sense of reality and when I am sizing up new people, I tend to be very judgmental and overly picky.  Are they interesting enough, smart enough, funny enough, etc. to be my friend?  Are they good enough to spend time with an awesome person such as myself?

The truth is that I am not special.  This is not meant in a self-loathing kind of way.  But as I thought about it and talked it out with the Atlantic waves crashing in front of me, I asked myself - what made me so special? My sheltered, suburban, protestant upbringing? My 4-year college experience with the study-abroad-and-summer-of-backpacking-thru-Europe add-on? My cubicle-turned-office corporate job?  How did any of these things make me more special than, or different from, anyone else from the throngs of middle-class from all over the world? Or more interesting, even?

The answer was that none of those things made me any more special than anyone else.  I am just one of the countless number of people out there in the world living my life and having my own experience.  I think that the sooner I get over my self-imposed specialness, the better I can relate to others.

It's going to be difficult peeling off these pesky "special" and star-shaped stickers that have been affixed onto me by my parents and that I've glued onto myself through the course of my life.  I'm sure that for a while, I will have to keep telling myself "I am not more special than you" or "My story is not more interesting than yours" whenever I want to make friends with people.  I can't think that every conversation I have is an opportunity to vomit my Elevator Pitch about the greatness that is me.  I know this is going to be hard, but the thing that will make this easier is that there are so many interesting people out there in the world and when things work out right, I get a chance to meet them (and I have) - I would hope that this will make me realize that everyone has something interesting about them and I am not more interesting than they are.

But who knows how long it will be until the gummy residue from those stickers disappears.  Progress, though.  Admitting the problem is the first step, no?  Eventually, I'd hope that I won't have to give myself those constant reminders about how not-special I am.

To my parents: I am not trying to criticize your parenting.  You guys did a great job.  And really, I have always been very happy with the neurotic, cynical, overly-sensitive-but-emotionally-stunted, painfully-self-aware person that I turned out to be - except maybe for a few of those angsty teen years.  I'm just trying to reorganize myself to make everything fit and work the way I like it.

On a different note...

My dad's birthday was this week and I'm bummed to have missed it.  But at the same time, my dad has been very supportive of my travels - so I'm sure he was ok with it.  There have been very few people about whom I've thought "I wish [person] were here to see this".  But my dad has come up a lot.  It's because my dad has this unexpected ability to lose himself not just in books, as everyone knows, but in places, in nature.  I think this might be one of the things I share with my dad (in addition to my being his only son who looks like him).  This week, I spent a lot of time by myself among the rocks and sand dunes overlooking the ocean.  I lost many hours doing this.  I wasn't trying to do anything productive, I was just hanging out, looking around and thinking, maybe snapping a few pictures.  I suspected that if my dad were here, he would have done the same (maybe he would have had a book).  So dad, happy birthday - I wish you were here to see this.

I was supposed to leave Jericoacoara a couple of days ago.  Then I kept thinking "maybe tomorrow" - two days later I am still here.  Maybe tomorrow I'll go.

***

Reading List: Didn't read. For a week(!) Insanity.

Playlist: This one song (CLICK HERE). On repeat.  Thank you HF for telling me about this guy, who has the most awesome name: Ferraby Lionheart.  The name makes me picture a mutant creature that's a cross between a stuffed animal and a Thundercat

This song seriously made my week in Jericoacoara.  Today, the day I am updating this journal, I had this song playing all day: sitting at breakfast, chillin' at my favorite shady spot on the beach, walking back to town for lunch, napping on the hammock hanging above the balcony of the pousada I was staying in, sitting at the big dune watching the sunset, and then writing a bunch of catch-up journal entries in my room in the early evening.  ALL DAY - over a hundred times.  It's been a few months since I found a song that I liked after hearing just the first few seconds and then feeling like I want to listen to it non-stop all day.  This song is so happy and it was the little extra thing I needed to get me fully over The Funk.  At one point in the afternoon I was dancing around in my room - with/by myself, still with headphones on - for about 15 minutes while mouthing out the words… it kind of made me miss driving in my car and singing out to the open road. 

As Stereogum pointed out in the link above, this song is supposed to be about Harry Houdini's wife helping him out on a magic trick.  I initially thought that it was about someone who's realized that he's ready to free himself from the bondage of non-committalism (har har, get it? bondage / non-commitment?) - as evidence of the good mood I am in now, I saw this as a happy interpretation of the song - on any other day, this would be the most frightening thought ever. Although a more sensical read on this would be that it is a song about a would-be adulterous relationship involving someone from the past.  Can you tell that I've listened to this way too many times in just a few days?

Here's a question to you: how do you read this song? Just curious. I want to see how many of you are happy/optimistic and how many of you are just like me.

Also, Furby Lion-o looks like someone I know and it's bothering me that I don't know who it is.  If you know who it is, or if you are that person, please send me an email. It's really bothering me. There's a prize involved.

Oh, and his other stuff is good too. You should check it out.

***

Until next time. Probably won't be for a while, so Happy Holidays everyone. 

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