Days to departure for São Paulo: 6
Days to departure for Vancouver: 9
Visa status: "maybe next week but no promises..."
Week 3 is officially over with no visa news. Next Thursday we leave for São Paulo. We’ve got Air Canada tickets for next Sunday night. And yet, I’m much less anxious than I was a few weeks ago – or than I have been in the last several months.
I was once in an almost-plane-crash. My sister and I, high schoolers at the time, were flying back alone from Hawai’i. It was late in the evening and the middle of winter. We’d spent Christmas break there with my mom and stepdad, who were – for some reason that I don’t remember now – flying back separately or on another day.
As we approached Denver International Airport, the pilot came over the intercom and told us that we were experiencing problems and might have to make an emergency landing. We were asked to review our safety cards and practice the brace position. The flight attendants – amazingly professional – hummed about the cabin preparing everyone. It became clear fairly quickly that there might not be a “landing” at all: we’d been in the air for more than an hour longer than we should have and there was only darkness below us – no lights, cities, or runways that we could see. When they dumped our fuel, we realized they thought we might actually crash.
My sister (who will kill me for recounting this) began listing off all of the people to whom she never said goodbye and started crying when she got to her cat, Tania. The woman behind us started throwing up. I got up, took my coat out of the overhead bin, and put it on.
When you’re thousands of feet up, I figured, there’s not much you can do; it’s the ultimate Charlie Point. But on the off-chance that we landed safe and sound, I wasn’t going to deplane in the middle of December in Colorado without a coat. That’d just be silly.
Besides, that coat and I were synonymous in high school. Without it, I was like Indiana Jones without his hat.
The pilot came over the intercom, said only “BRACE BRACE BRACE!” and we all hugged our ankles. Seconds later, we were on the ground – smoothly – and the whole plane burst into applause. As we sat up and looked out of the windows, we saw that we were in fact at DIA, and waiting for our arrival were no less than two dozen emergency vehicles with their lights all flashing. We later overheard that there was a problem with getting the flaps down. If they hadn’t figured it out, we would have been going much too fast to land.
In the moments before we landed, as I stood up to get my coat, I felt completely calm. No life flashing before my eyes, no prayers, no goodbyes, no regrets (although, in retrospect, I should have been more affectionate with my sister at that moment); I knew what I could do, did it, and I promptly discarded all other thoughts and emotions.
And that’s sort of what I feel like now. No, we’re not about to die in a fiery crash. Worse comes to worse, we’re going to live in Brazil, which is actually pretty cool, if somewhat challenging. But our lives are about to change for a very long time -- and maybe forever.
What we’re up against has (finally) sunk in for family and friends. (You can’t imagine how hard it was to try to bring visitors here, for instance; “Oh, but Canada is so much more convenient!” Sure is! But I don’t know if we’ll be there. I guess when you’ve got the reputation of always pulling a rabbit out of your hat, everyone assumes you’ve got an unlimited supply of bunny foo-foos tucked in your pockets).
A good friend here in Brazil wrote in her blog:
“Você sempre foi a amiga que sabia kick the system's ass. E eu tenho muito orgulho de quão bem você faz isso. Saber que talvez o sistema esteja prestes a kick your ass me deixa um pouco desanimada.”
You were always the friend who knew how to "kick the system's ass." And I am very proud of how well you do it. Knowing that maybe the system is ready to "kick your ass" leaves me a bit dejected.
And my best friend sent me an email today that said:
“I had a dream about you guys, and when I woke up and rolled over in the middle of the night, I somehow finally *got* how insane this situation is for you. Up to now, you've been facing everything with such good humor and keeping the tone of your writing anxious-but-upbeat and self-deprecating… I always knew this was a seriously big deal, but the whole thing is also so crazy – down to one week, not knowing if you should pack or take root... ridiculous. And I guess overnight it just sunk in how tremendously life-changing this out-of-our-hands-now decision is for you.”
It’s not like an almost-plane-crash, but I’ve sorted my needs and actions into a very clear hierarchy (and, like before, I’m going to do this in style):
I’ve sold all of our appliances here in Belo Horizonte. I’m going to have a nice weekend doing a few favorite things and seeing some sites. On Monday the packing starts. We’ll fly to São Paulo Thursday morning, and if we haven’t heard anything by the time we arrive, I’ll inquire at the Consulate Thursday afternoon. If the Consulate can’t help us, we’ll postpone our flight, see Jenni, and have a nice weekend with Mallory and The Salty Cod; she promised gluten-free desserts and wine. Yes, we’ll be more-or-less homeless. Yes, we’ll be bleeding money. Yes, a lot of things. But I’m undergoing that same emotional pruning right now; I have enough information to make some decisions and other things remain – for the moment – out of my hands. And that is just the way it is.
So, courage, my friends, and hold onto your hats (or coats)! I’m in my element, and I have to believe that if this sort of lucid insanity is good for something, or else it would have been weeded out of the gene pool eons ago.