Thank God For the Summertime

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Performing at True Talk No Lie, hosted at The Big Black Box, Port of Spain

It’s summer! And I’m saying thank GOD because I can finally turn to my other passions and strengthen them.  My first year of law school was ridiculously stressful, consuming my life far more than I had anticipated. Thus, I had to focus my energies almost entirely on that. Now that it’s over, I look forward to turning to my personal projects. Law is an important part of my path, but so is music.

I’ve been checking out the local music scene here in Port of Spain, and I’ve vowed to perform on every stage I can find. So far, I’ve performed at two open mics to a great crowd, and I’ve been learning about the small niche community that is Port of Spain’s music scene.

In all, I’m taking that next step, which is to share my music not just with friends and anyone friendly enough to listen, but I’m putting myself out there in a bigger way—I’ve created a Youtube channel as well as a separate blog that will focus entirely on my music.

Despite having posted a few videos and music clips of myself here on Daily SojournerFeroza Music is really the first time I’m going head first into sharing the songs I’ve written, near and dear to my heart, with the world. It’s terrifying. My boots quake in fear and the voices tell me that I’m stupid for even trying. But I’ve come too far from where I started two years ago and I’ve gotta try.

So I thank God for the summertime. I have an opportunity to delve into my craft, and nourish my spirit with the other things that give me deep joy.

I’ve noticed friends from different circles also doing the same, which is pretty cool because none of this is coordinated. It must be a feeling in the air. There’s something about student life (or post-student life) and the summertime. It’s an opportunity to grow. An opportunity to breathe. An opportunity to take on new challenges and see where it leads you. I’m not often excited, but I’m excited about this!

Blessings~

Feroza

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ALSO: Shout out to Steward Poindexter from Thank God For The Summertime for introducing me to Ben Rector’s Walking in Between.

Working-away In the South of France

I write this post at the risk of sounding like a spoiled, rich girl who has never had a dose of real life. Nevertheless, I write. You see, in my lifetime, I have never done even a day of manual labor. I grew up doing chores, yes, helping in the kitchen, yeah, but handling a hammer for hours? Working a shovel? Plastering a newly built wall? Yeah…no. I’ve been a self-professed hippie for the past few years of my life, but the weight of my privileged city-girl upbringing has never rested on me so much as when I found myself in the south of France with aching arms as I hammered off tiles from what was once a kitchen wall.

I was Working-away, though my father found humor in the fact that I had to travel all the way across the world to find work that I easily could have done in Belize. But I had to work away. Not run away, but to satisfy this thirst I had to find something completely different and foreign and strange. I wanted to work with my hands and work a different part of my brain after an intense final semester of academia. I needed to filter out my own voice against the noise.

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Workaway is a website that relies on the principle of exchanging work for accommodation. It was a novel concept I discovered during my travels in Brazil and I’d wanted desperately to buy into it ever since. Potential hosts advertise the projects they need help with, ranging from Eco-building projects, to babysitting, to teaching English. In exchange, these hosts ‘pay’ you in housing and meals. Browsing the website fuels this romantic idea of doing meaningful work for 4-5 hours a day in an exotic foreign country, living with a family or a group of locals, and having weekends off to explore the surrounding area. Getting a different perspective. An earthy perspective. Authenticity. And also saving the huge amount of money one would spend on accommodation and meals. For me it was an all round win.

Lavender.

Lavender.

Workaway is a great idea if you’re the type who really wants an authentic, earthy experience Continue reading

You Can Only Keep Going Up: The Lessons of Rock Climbing

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I don’t remember how, but somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to rock climb Pão de Açúcar. I think I stumbled on the idea while researching things to do in Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of the top ‘things to do’ largely because its peak provides a fabulous view, and from it one can see a wondrous silhouette of Christ the Redeemer on the other end of the city.

Most people use the cable car (bonde) to get to the top of the mountain. After all, it’s infinitely more tourist friendly, with cafés, gift shops and designated photo areas at each stop.

The cable car (bonde)

The cable car (bonde)

I did the conventional way first, which was cool, albeit incredibly crowded because we got there just after sundown, the prime hour. Nevertheless, it was nice because the view of the city just after twilight is magnificent, and the colors of the fading sunset behind the Christ are absolutely beautiful.

Despite this, I was quick to book my reservation for the rock climb for the very next day. With my inner counter-cultural side coming out, I was itching to do something different.

One word to describe? Challenging.

I’ve never rock climbed before in my life. And those fake rock climbing thingies at fairs and carnivals don’t count.

I kind of just threw myself in without really thinking of what the climb would mean. The dauntingness of the task didn’t hit me till I was at the foot of the mountain and my guide was telling me to go up. So, it turned out to be a physical, emotional and spiritual challenge with lessons that are totally transferable to other parts of my life.

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The view from the base of the mountain. This photo cannot capture the peace of the moment or the smell of the trees, but it does capture some of the beauty

Continue reading

I’m Not Emotionally Mature Enough To Work In A Hostel

Skinny people, fat people, beautiful people, 'eh' people...PEOPLE. So BEAUTIFUL!

Skinny people, fat people, beautiful people, ‘eh’ people, from all over the world…PEOPLE.

Have you ever met someone really awesome, had a great conversation with them for hours, discovered several things in common, maybe even to the point where you’re thinking “Where has this person been all my life????”…and then parted ways without exchanging any phone, email or social media info? CRAZY. It’s a romantic concept, and not one I like very much.

As one who prefers either extreme of being attached or not, it’s interesting to be in a space where people–really interesting, awesome and inspiring people–come in and out. Great conversation–okay bye.

This was what my first experience staying at a hostel was like when I went on my weekend excursion to Rio de Janeiro. I met some wonderful people with different motivations and reasons for being there, and with different goals to meet. I found myself mentally collecting these stories and storing them in my heart. My hunger for more conversation, much to the irritation of my travel partners, grew with each conversation.

My defense: this is how I connect with where I am. For me, it’s not the picture-taking or the formal city tours, and it’s especially not being engrossed in social media, that makes a place or makes traveling. I’ve said this before. For me, it’s the conversation with any and every one. It’s the people who make a place come alive. People give meaning to the building, to the beach, to the street and to the party.

It was for this reason that I decided to extend my trip an extra day. I knew what I wanted. Needed. And I got it. Continue reading

Soldiering On

The view from Centro Cultural São Paulo. I love this space.

The view from Centro Cultural São Paulo. I love this space.

“Self pity is a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound.
Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My Presence shining down upon you.”

This is a quote from my devotional during the height of my spazz-tastic bout of culture shock. It really wasn’t just culture shock, it was also the shock (and sorrow) of the realization that there’s lots of nitty gritty stuff that God’s gotta iron out. Identity issues, relational issues, personality issues, issues. What’s helped is absolutely cheesy and cliché but unquestionably true: friendship.

What they say about friendship, both old and new, is spot-on: that friends are really angels in disguise. I love the fact that we can encounter other people on the street (or wherever) and oftentimes find the same light in them that shines in us. That thing that they call a connection. It’s out of this world. What’s great is that when our light dims, friends have the ability to fuel our fire with some of their own. Beautiful. Continue reading

Is This What They Call Culture Shock?….Yeah, NOT What I Signed Up For

I had a whole post written about how I was ABOVE culture shock, about how I was perfectly fine despite waking up a few days ago with an ominous, slow-moving churning in my stomach after a week of eating strange street food. I was pretty confident that I was ‘doing’ this study abroad thing with grace and zeal and yadda yadda yadda.

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No.

It’s been difficult getting my thoughts together about the first week and a half of living in São Paulo. I’ve been busy trying to figure out the bus system, busy trying to understand social norms, busy trying to understand this beautiful yet treacherous city. Already, I’m being challenged and uprooted in several areas of my life that I was convinced that I was fine in.

Lies.

I’m not fine. Not really. I’m trudging along. The pictures I’ve posted on social media would fool anyone.

But no, I’m floundering along. It’s not cute. Or graceful.

I’m wrestling with being grouped with the large-group of American students. I’m thoroughly discouraged that I haven’t yet fully grasped Portuguese. I’m beginning to despise the feeling of not understanding everything that’s going on around me. And I absolutely hate the change in someone’s eyes when they realize I’m a foreigner. Extrangeira. I feel blind and deaf, yet at the same time I’m seeing and hearing everything, totally bombarded by image and sound. I’m an alien.

ALIEN.

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Typical stand at an outdoor market

I’m not from this world, yet I can easily pass as a Brazilian. The situation makes me want to puke, which I’ve done quite enough of this week.

My advice: take it easy on the street food when first arriving to a foreign country. I’ve had a penchant of ordering one of everything during the day and gobbling sweets at nights. The result? A very bad tummy.  Apparently, it’s part of “new-country sickness”, which my fellow exchange student insists is actually a thing. I just think it’s just too much oil and sugar all in one go. More than half the time I don’t know what I’m eating, but it’s good. So why not buy two…or three? Continue reading

Studying abroad is, well, literally studying…abroad

The view of Perdizes, São Paulo from my new home

The view of Perdizes, São Paulo from my new home

My summer is over on the first day of Brazilian winter. It’s been a week and I’ve finally gotten my thoughts together about the program. I write this post largely for people thinking about studying abroad through CIEE São Paulo and are wondering what to expect in the first few days. This’ll probably be the most travel-blog-y that the Sojourner will ever get.

Before our arrival, we were bombarded with information of all kinds—that it was going to be hella cold since we were coming during their winter, that prices are high, that the neighborhood has steep hills, that race relations in Brazil are different from those in the US, and that Paulistanos (people from São Paulo) are incredibly friendly. We were given an extensive manual about the housing, academics and living in São Paulo in general. It’s written in an advisory tone that really just sums up the idea of being exceedingly courteous in someone else’s home, having common sense while on the street, and doing a little more than the bare minimum in class in order to pass. I think I practically memorized that manual and read every blog I could find about studying in Brazil but really, no amount of reading has quite prepared me for what I’ve found.

I think I’ll get to some of those things in later posts (I’m still marinating). Until then, here are some thoughts about the surface level stuff of the first few days in the program. Continue reading

Borboletas, Mariposas and Butterflies

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“You’re in a new country, so you can be whoever you want to be. A different person every night, if you want to. No one would know.”

It’s true. After a few hours in São Paulo, it hadn’t yet sunk in that I had arrived until a study-abroad alum said these words at our orientation that day. I really can be a new person, and the idea excited me.

As some of you might have read in my very first post, I’m already in the midst of change. At some point during the past semester, I realized that God gave me gifts and talents to shine with them, to use them in various places. It was a revelation that came with the understanding that I can’t be fearful of being 100% me. I can’t be so afraid of failure that I’m stagnant. I can’t continue to be so terrified of being honest about the things I love, nor can I run from the vulnerability that comes with going toward those desires. Because, let’s be honest, when we put our whole selves into a goal, and we fail, there’s no way to lie and say that we didn’t really want it because the whole world watched you try with all your might.

When you put your all into something, failing is that much worse.

But success is that much greater.

As my favorite author, Paulo Coelho (who happens to be Brazilian) has said, “Whenever you go after what you truly want in life, the entire universe conspires to help you.”

I’m in a completely new environment, studying with other students who don’t know me, and it’s true; whatever personality I decide to adopt, whatever skills I can claim that I have, people will take that at face value. Not that I’m going to do that. But using this extreme, I’m recognizing that this is the perfect opportunity to cultivate the person that was already emerging before I left Los Angeles.

This, for me, is an important point to elaborate. I did not come to São Paulo to find myself, but that is what has ended up happening. Continue reading

Living In Between

Credit to http://www.denizenmag.com/2012/03/the-enigma-of-arrival/

Credit to a great article: The Enigma of Arrival in Denizen Magazine

I’m in between countries, in a strange kind of limbo. The parental units insisted that I come ‘home’ before jetting off further down the Hemisphere. And, of course, the opportunity to see my family despite the otherwise unfavorite location led me to say ‘yes’. So, with Los Angeles on my left hand and São Paulo on my right, I’m nestled in Port of Spain, Trinidad as my travel midpoint and ‘rest stop’, of sorts.

Jouvert in Port of Spain

I’ve long written off Port of Spain as a dead city. Aside from the astonishing revelry and debauchery of carnival (only in February), and the occasional fun at a local gay bar, not much goes on here for the quiet, introverted dreamer wanting to explore.

Carnival, a party on the streets...and the fences.

Carnival, a party on the streets…and the fences.

 

 

 

Port of Spain is the city of commerce for the twin island republic of Trinidad & Tobago where ‘liming on the corner‘ (think ‘lime’ but as a verb) i.e. hanging out on the street corner, is the thing to do. I’ve done it once or twice but it quickly lost its appeal. My strange, West Caribbean-American-esque accent is thick against the distinct Eastern Caribbean-Trinidadian dialect, inspiring more questions than my topic changes can refute. What’s more, I find nothing appealing about sitting on the street side, watching scantily clad pub crawlers and club goers pass by. I can do that at home, ixnay on the scantily dressed.

Just a snippet of one of Trinidad's many boat fetes

Just a snippet of one of Trinidad’s many boat fetes

I really do complain a lot about the deadness of this city (to anyone willing to listen), but by some standards it isn’t really dead. There are plenty of things to do such as the aforementioned restaurants, bars and clubs to hang out at, given that you’re into that kind of scene, and given that you have a solid crew to roll with. I have neither of those requisites.

Nevertheless, because my current definition of ‘home’ consists of a foreign country where all I have is my immediate family, even this dead city is transformed. The lack of distractions that a ‘live’ city like LA would have affords me opportunity to write, sleep and dream.

Simply put, and cutting an emotionally dramatic story short, it’s good, and weird, to be home after a year away at college. It’s refreshing to be taken care of after months of hustling along with my roommates to get by. It’s the little things—Mom’s home cookin’ instead of my tentative concoctions and occasional mournful DSC02203frozen dinners, Dad’s music blaring as he drops those phrases of wisdom like it isn’t even hot, and my sister’s chirpy teenaged personality that takes me back to my own high school glory days.

Water so clean and cool in Tobago

Water so clean and cool in Tobago

Despite the slight feeling of being out of place (my household has definitely gotten used to my being away…eerie), it’s definitely good to be home. This city has its quirks, from political comedy and puppetry (that’s how I view Trinidad’s governance) to a wild time on a party boat (if you’re with the right people) to being not too far from a nature haven getaway (Tobago!).

And when all that runs dry, as it quickly does, I remember the mantra:  chill out and just soak up the family. After all, it’s never long till I’m off again and, as independent as I am, a good family recharge is always appreciated.

Sometimes, it’s not about what the city itself can offer you. A dead place that may feel like it’s killing you slowly can get you to reach out to the people closest to you.

And, it turns out, there is where the life is.

 

-Feroza

Jitters Creep In

I’ve officially given up on sleep. For the third night in a row, I find myself tragically exhausted while feeling wide awake…at nearly four o’clock in the morning. I’m insomniatic, which is the norm when I come home from school, but there’s something different this time.

This time, I’m headed off to a city, a country, a continent, upon which I have never set foot before.

As I write this, it is exactly seven days, eight hours and forty seven minutes until my departure to São Paulo, Brazil.

I’m freaking out.

Finally, months of emotions have caught up to me. And they’re slamming in hard.

Aside from the initial shock and disbelief I felt when I found out that I got into USC’s São Paulo study abroad program through CIEE (the odds weren’t in my favor), the emotions have been largely minimal since then. The preparation process has been lengthy—the official documents, the forms, the visa, the plane ticket, the money exchange, the online orientation, the packing, right down to the language placement…rather than being exciting, all of it was just stress and frustration at more things to check off my to-do list. Seriously, in the past couple months leading up to this trip, I’m convinced that my friends have been far more excited about it than I have. And I’m the one going.

But finally, finally, with one week to D-day, I’m feeling it.

Pure unadulterated anxiety: How will I communicate with native Brazilians with my sub-par Portuguese? Will it even be possible to feel at home in a foreign city in only five and a half months? Can I form deep and authentic relationships in that short amount of time? How will I make friends? Will I be able to keep up in my classes?

And how will they (the Brazilians) view me? Am I going to be just another ‘American’ to them? Who will I be and what will be my identity, when my identity is already such a troublesome issue for me?

And of course, I can’t forget, what will it look like to just go to school? For me, study abroad is not just about having adventures in a foreign place (extra foreign, given that I’m already ‘studying abroad’ in Los Angeles), but it also means complete financial reliance on my parents. I’m extremely uncomfortable with that. (#FirstWorldProblems ?)

You see, I’m used to a fixed regiment of going to class and then working my student job in between. I pride myself in being able to cover personal expenses like groceries. I treasure the empowerment and growth that has come with that seemingly small thing. Even so, I’m beginning to understand the depth of humility that I must have in my posture as I walk into this unique blessing of an experience. I must remember: This is not about me. It’s not about my million and one insecurities. It’s about God’s hand writing His masterwork through me as He sends me to this place.

Besides, I’m not really looking to recreate my Los Angeles life in São Paulo. But still. I already feel the shock of having my world and my routine unraveled into tiny irrelevant pieces.

And I haven’t even left yet.

I’m internally freaking out. My subconscious is wired. I’m overwhelmed. Too many late night hours spent looking at maps, researching the city, desperately trying to find my niche despite not yet meeting the people.

This is a deep-dive all right. That’s what I promised both myself and the Most High at the start of the summer. My intent is to go at this with an open heart and to say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that come my way. Rather lofty, now that I realize how high the view looks from up here. The fear of failure is creeping in, which is exaggerating every negative emotion I’m feeling. See? I’ve got this rationalized (ha!).

Well, I’m surprised that I’m feeling any of this. I had haughtily thought myself immune, having traveled through Central America and the Caribbean all my life. Well, let me tell you, no one is above travel jitters.

However, this is also the first time I’m making the adult decision to travel somewhere for an extended time to a place that is without an established family network.

So. Huh.

 

What a humbling moment.

 

 

-Feroza