It has been a little maddening to operate in a city where I do not speak the language. I've been able to get along fine with English and the Spanish that I know, but I would like to attest to the fact that Portuguese is not simply "Spanish with a Brazilian accent" as the Argentines often say. It is always a bit sad to hear someone address you and not have the slightest idea of how to respond.
My friends have been great at teaching me some survival Portuguese. I can greet people and ask for general directions. I am okay at ordering simple things in restaurants, but its still interesting when the waiters start asking for difficult orders. At any rate, its a work in progress, as learning a language always is.
I've been interested to learn some new words in Brazilian Portuguese because its such a rich language with so many influences. My favorite word thus far has been saudades which has no translation into English, but roughly means the pleasant nostalgia one feels for past experiences or people. It can even refer to such things that have not yet occurred. My friends introduced the word to me when we were saying our goodbyes at the close of fall semester, but also used it to describe their excitement at the prsopect of me visiting in the next few months. Either way, its that warm, fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to jump around in excitment.
I think saudades is a perfect way of encapsulating how I feel about this past year abroad. I've had so many wonderful experiences and met so many special people, that thinking about any of them will always incite the warm, longing feeling of saudades. I will always have a sense of nostalgia for this year. One of the most important things I've learned, however, is that these experiences and lessons do not have to simply remain in the past as a memory. I can incorporate them into my daily life and allow them to live into the present and future. Just like saudades, the good feelings do not need to stop in the past, but can continue into the future.
As I visit my friends and new places around the world, I look forward to carrying these memories with me and making new memories in the future. Cheers to travel!