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Rylee Gallagher English 381 Writing Assignment 1A October 7, 2013 Ripples

No person is an island, or so my dad would say. I never really thought too much into it. Actually, I never really liked the saying at all. It was not till the end of his life that I finally started to pay attention to the little messages he embedded in my subconsciouswithout my knowledge or permission; he left secret messages to guide me after he was gone. To this day, they remain ingrained in my mind, and are only called upon when I have no direction and no one to point the way. When I stepped off the plane, I was unsure of what to expect. Would I see palm trees or deserts? Would we travel by car or walk everywhere like savages? Would I be able to find American food or be forced to ingest the rations of a 3rd world country? These questions were my main concern as I skipped off the plane in my footie pajamas. My footie pajamas were furry and covered every inch of skin until the base of my neck and start of my wrists. The temperature was 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and overcast. I started to sweat but otherwise was unaffected by the suffocation of my furry suit, thinking the heat might soon be lifted with the shifting clouds. The wispy sky stretched before me like an endless sea, an ocean, and the blue and white waves seemed to come closer than any in the states. I lifted my hand in hope to wet it in the sea sky and reach the sun; it looked to be almost close enough to touch. The climate, tropical as it is, produces green valleys and jungles fed by the rainstorms that so often fall upon central Brazil.

My family and I found our suitcases at the terminal- reaching the taxi just before the waves of the sky started to splash out violently, swirling like a toilet bowl. Like children so often did, I asked my mom how much longer before we arrived. Our destination: Abadiania, a small town outside Brasilia. The population was 13,000 and it sat 3,000 feet above sea level. Of course, I knew nothing of this at the time nor did I care to ask. I was hungry; therefore, I was cranky. I did not understand why we were here. What could Brazil do for my father that a world-class hospital in a world-class country could not do? It seemed silly: a waste of energy and time. However, I was glad to see something new; not that I could possibly see anything all that extraordinary here. No, I just wanted to swim in the ocean. I soon found there was no ocean. At least, not close. When I awoke from my jetlagged slumber (after falling asleep twenty minutes into our taxi ride and then being carried inside), it was morning. The Casa where my family and I stayed was musky from the heat, the walls tropical yellow plaster with an arch for a door. Apparently the people here cooked me soup, one that looked similar to minestrone and made from homegrown vegetables and handmade noodles, in order to cure my so-called troubles. I devoured it without a second thought or thankful word. Stepping out upon the orange dirt, my feet bare and unaccustomed to the pains of loose gravel, I viewed this little town for the first time in my life. I saw a world that I never knew existed before arriving in Brazil The people, dressed in white from head to toe, walked around exuberantly and without burden. Their faces would turn to the sky in appreciation of the sun, in appreciation of the world. What did they see that was so amazing? Wild horses roamed the streets in mid-day, grazing underneath a decaying, ancient tree in the center of town.

Homeless strays begged for food, their ribs protruding like the roots of the ancient tree. Homeless were the animals, not the people. People, at least the people of this town, always seemed to have somewhere in which to return. Rain buckets sat atop houses in mid decay, collecting the monsoon rain from the sea sky. "Why," I asked, "why do they want the rain?" "They drink it, of course." My Dad laughed, pointing at a bucket high above. "The buckets collect the rain and the people use it to drink." "Thats gross. Doesnt it make them sick?" I shuddered. The thought of drinking dirty water disgusted me; it was unthinkable. This would not be acceptable in the states, I thought. "But it is water. Don't you understand? These people need water to survive just like us. They do not have sinks that lift up and pour and, if they do, then they do not always work. It is smart to collect rain. It always rains here." My father looked on at the people in the village, his face scanning the crowd to find someone he recognized. His eyes lit up like he had discovered that rare, familiar face; however, I knew that there was no one he should recognize in the crowd of faces. I wondered out loud about this. "Of course I recognize them, they are all so familiar," my father explained. Leaving me to my thoughts, he walked back into the casa. On our third day in Brazil, my father had begun his treatment in the clinic, participating in meditations and eating the prescribed foods. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and eating spice were strictly prohibited, all of which were hard for my father. My brother and I decided to go on a walk down to the waterfall, which was considered holy to the clinic, and enjoy the tropical afternoon heat. On the way down the long path, I

complained, It is too hot for this, we should go back. I dont want to see a waterfall if it means I have to do this much work. My brother, as brotherly love goes, preferred tough love to coddling and told me to shut it or he would leave me in the jungle. He was twelve years my senior. At this time in my life, I had rarely been alone for more than thirty seconds in the wilderness. The thought of him leaving terrified me to no end, leading me to think of all the horrifying ways to reach my demise in a Brazilian jungle: death by venomous reptile; death by oversized feline; or even death by flying Pterodactyl. All seemed to be likely scenarios. Before reaching the waterfall, we came upon clothing in the bushes, scattered on the ground. Around the bend, we reached the occupied waterfall and slowed. My brother said we should wait until the women were done, respecting the holiness of the rinsing and cleansing cycle the villagers practiced. The jungle was full of moss and trees that were new to me. The ground was orange with spots of green grass. And when the women picked up their clothing from the earth, they bid us well in Norwegian. Or at least, thats what I thought at the time but I had no way of knowing. Coming around the bend again, my brother and I stepped into the waterfall fully clothed, the warm water seeming to relieve the heat impossibly. My brother told me to close my eyes and think peacefully. I did. Well, I tried. Meditation, to me at the time, was nonsense. It was inconvenient and impossible. However, I wanted to be like all the people there my dad thought so familiar; the people he would smile at when they walked by, smile like they were the most genuine people he had ever met. Trying to understand what it was to see the amazing all around me, in every look, I closed my eyes in what appeared to me at the time a counterproductive way.

My eyes, although unopened, saw something they failed to see before. Sight, such a peculiar thing, was not what I had come to interpret it. It seemed to me that everything here was contrary to my expectations, inverted. With my eyes closed, I listened to the simplicity of the world moving at such a slow speed. The trees swayed back and forth to a rhythmic beat unheard by people who never took the time to stop and listen. This was how the trees would communicate. Or so my father would sometimes say. I had never stopped to appreciate the little things that belonged to no one. I was concerned with myself and how much fun I could have. These people had so little, yet they lived like they held the world in their palms, and so they did. My father recognized this appreciation as something that connected him to them. They shared the love of the world and despite them speaking two different languages, they were in perfect understanding. And here I was, thinking them so primitive, so unintelligent that they had nothing of value to teach, learning from the very things they found natural. Was I a hypocrite? Sometimes, I felt like we all were and there was really no way to get around it. As we returned to the casa from the dancing jungle, I realized that I was sheltered. Well, not exactly sheltered so much as spoiled. I was given everything and appreciated nothing. I finally understood the look of openness and wonder in my fathers eyes when he saw the people looking out excitedly at the world. It was a sense of oneness, of understanding. We were the same. We were all people looking for things in life worth living for and, even more, worth dying for. Brazilians just learned early in life that all the hoopla means nothing. You dont need running water. You dont need McDonalds. And you certainly dont need material possessions to make you happy. They focused on appreciating the little things, the overlooked smile of a stranger to the warmth of sun on

the arm. These were the only constants found all over the world; they would never leave so long as we continued to catch sight of them. Now, when I look back on the memory of Brazil, it feels as dreams so often do after awakening- fuzzy. But somewhere in that dream, I learned something about the world; the rare dream that you can recall years later because of the impossibility of places, of things you have never seen nor heard in real life. The one that shocks you into remembrance, that I was nine years-old and my father was dying of cancer, those were just details. The essence of remembering, to me, was in the looks of the Brazilians, the healing of water, and the love of fathers. No person is an island, or so my dad used to say. We cannot go through life unaffected by the world around us. It just isnt possible. We are meant to be traced in the subliminal messages of people and places and times, etched secretly and without our knowing. Its what makes us human.

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