Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking Back

Today is my last day of being 26 years old. As I think about the past year, I remember these events, lessons, sorrows, moments of silliness and new-chapter markers:

- My experience working with Hugh Marlboro at the Banana Empire. Although it inspired some of my favorite writing ever, and many times I think the people I met in that job will be the model for the characters in my first novel, it was overall a tough time for me. I had very high hopes and put my former employer on a bit of a pedestal. The more lofty your expectations, the larger your disappointment when they are not met. I am convinced it was all for the best, though. I moved on to a better work environment, a much better salary than I ever could have hoped for at the Empire, and the valuable lesson of how to better deal with charismatic, nearly intoxicating, but unquestionably flawed bosses.

- Lots of new job opportunities following the episode with Hugh Marlboro. First I worked as a consultant at the BIC doing investment analysis for a fund that supports small and medium-sized local businesses. I can't complain too much about that job, because the timing was God-sent, the pay was good and my friend Tracy was my boss for most of my time there (she was one of the best managers I've ever had, actually, which is rare considering we were close friends prior to working together, which sometimes makes these things difficult). However, the bureaucracy got to me and I'm glad I had a new opportunity elsewhere. Now I'm working for an NGO, and the experience thus far has been positive...

- Coping while Rico was in Brazil from July to December 2007. I never expected our time apart to be so difficult. We had a very strong relationship at that point (and still do, graças a Deus), but I was a bit blindsided by how much being apart affected us and presented us with challenges. It was, I suppose, a good process to go through prior to getting married. We were forced to seriously look at our relationship, spot any brewing issues, and talk things through. The most important lesson that I got out of the time apart was that we must always work to have a good relationship. Nothing is to be taken for granted. This seems a bit trite, but it was important to remember this. Relationships, just like people, are fragile. If neglected even in a very subtle manner, cracks can easily appear. This isn't to say that we neglected each other, or our relationship in general, but we had the difficult wake-up call that even though we get along splendidly and love each other very much, it's not a given that we will stay together. We must cultivate our relationship, be present and aware as much as possible. We have to work to make it happen, every day, infinitely.

- I made some mistakes and bad choices that to this day I am ashamed to think about. I was humbled by the fact that I am capable of hurting the people I love. I made amends in the best way I knew how, but it still pains me to think about these few episodes. I try to be forgiving with myself, and with others. We are all human, and all make mistakes. Every night I pray to God to help me be a stronger, more whole person. I pray that I will learn from my previous poor choices, and that I will go forward as a wiser, kinder, less selfish being.

- Our wedding. The best day of my life thus far. Rico, all of our families together, the Casa Rosa, the church across the street, my dresses and jewelry, friends, dancing, and endless magic.

- Our honeymoon in Vietnam. Total luxury for 16 days in one of the most interesting and beautiful countries I've ever visited. We cruised through Ha Long Bay, went trekking in Sapa, learned to cook some Vietnamese dishes, had clothes made in Hoi An and wandered through the old city, roasted under the sun at the Imperial City in Hue, drank Moet & Chandon and ate wild mushrooms, braved Saigon traffic, visited a floating market in Can Tho, and enjoyed all of the gorgeous honeymoon suites we were treated with during our stay.

- Other fabulous trips and holidays: Brazil/New Mexico/Bay Area over the holidays with Rico - a lavish Christmas with my Dad and that side of the family, including snow falling in Quarai mission, covering the red stones of the ruins with fine white powder; quality family time with my Mom and Grammy and all the animals in California, including a fabulous night out with old friends from high school and a world music concert for New Years; and record-setting wedding planning while in Rio, getting nearly all the major details pulled together in 1 week. We also went to Swaziland with a great group of friends for an adventure sports weekend, the highlight of which for me was white-water rafting and me and Rico being the only boat not to flip over on the river. We did a weekend at Bilene, a beautiful coastal lagoon in Gaza Province, with a group of friends and braaied at the beach house. And, to finish off my 26 years in style, there was our most recent trip to Italy, Slovenia and Austria. I must say, we have a fabulous quality of life.

- Our first international visitors here in Maputo, both in March. Our friend Heleno from Brazil did a business trip to see what connections he might establish for his business in China, and my Mom came to see what our life here is all about and also to test the waters for business opportunities. We look forward to receiving more friends and family here, though we're aware it is a long, expensive trip.

- Little Pequena, the kitten we unexpectedly adopted after my friends Kelly and Jenny rescued her from an alley outside the CFM after one too many gin and tonics. I got a frantic text message the next day, as Jenny doesn't like cats and Kelly is allergic and already has a big dog at home. We took in Pequena, nursed her back to health, and desperately tried to find her a home. After several months, a colleague at the Banana Empire agreed to adopt her. Unfortunately, little Pequena met an untimely demise on the farm, most likely after an encounter with a snake or dog out in the wilds of Boane.

- Our beautiful, loving, naughty, pentelho, unique filhotes: Pria and Parceiro. These cats make me happy every single day.

- Warming a bit to the idea of having children. I'm not very maternal, am not experienced with babies or honestly even comfortable around them, and I've never felt the idea of having children as a real, palpable possibility for my future. Not in the sense that I don't want to have a family - I've always known that at some point I would like to have kids - but in the sense that it was always a very far off idea, years and years away, not something I could relate to at all. Now, for the first time, I feel that having kids is an increasingly real possibility. Some days I think I'd like to get pregnant, though I'm terrified by the idea of giving birth and I know that I'm not yet ready for that big step. I think we're still a few years off, but I can feel changes in my perspective, and this is definitely a first for me.

- Meeting lots of new friends in Mozambique via the blog: Anel and Morne, Brendan, Lindsey, Christina, Jose, Colin...the other day I made a list of all the people I've met here through my blog and was shocked to realize that it's close to 50, and that many of my best friends here now in "real life" I've met via the internet.

- Making fitness a part of our lifestyle, and in particular making exercise something that Rico and I do together. We're working out at least once a week now with a personal trainer, concentrating on flexibility and cardio. It's well worth the money.

- Getting a car and learning to drive one the left-hand side of the street in a car that has the steering wheel on the right. I'm over my initial trauma, though I'm still essentially incapable of parallel parking. Perhaps this is a skill I can add to my list of accomplishments for age 27.

- Changing my name. I took (one of) Rico's last name(s) and tacked it on the end of my own, thus preserving the historical and cultural significance of my maiden name, but giving me a new name that is beautiful, full of alliteration, and easy on the Portuguese-speaking tongue. It's amazing to think that for the rest of my life I will be Alexandra Amaro...


Jo Ann v., a writer on the D-List said...

Nossa, fiquei toda emocionada ! :-)
Parabéns à você e muitas muitas felicidades ! :-)
I'm only a few months apart and didn't accomplish half you did :-° Só pra dizer a minha admiração ;-)

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - Obrigada. Accomplishments são muito relativos. Você já conseguiu fazer muitas vezes, com muito sucesso algo que está ainda na minha To-Do List: escrever um livro!!!