I learned a new phrase this week. Cheguei chegando. Literally translated it means “I arrived, arriving.” Doesn’t really mean anything by itself, right? That’s why I barely noticed it when she said it. She had to ask me if I knew what she meant when she said “Você chegou chegando, né?” So she explained it to me. When someone arrives in a setting, with fresh energy and brand new ideas, a vision, and plans to realize those visions and plans, they say “ela chegou chegando.”
When she said it, she said it with a bit of a smile/smirk. Not quite a compliment, not quite ridicule. She seemed to be acknowledging good intentions while still making fun of the ingenuity of it all. Then I realized why I have been so anxious to get started. I was making plans based on a US American structure and system of getting things done. In the states I always have several irons in the fire and I know how to get them done. I always forget how things just move to a different rhythm here. Yes, the hips sway in those samba, forró, and pagode rhythms frenetically, but life and business move at a much more relaxed pace. No one is in any hurry to get things done or to help me get things done. And why should they?
I looked back at all my plans and goals for this period of 6 months and realized: “Oops. Wow. What was I thinking?” She told me to relax, it’s summer vacation right now. She suggested I wait til after carnaval to start my research. I felt my jaw drop. Wait until mid March?!?!?! Then I went home and thought about it. Took some time to write some reflective notes. I sat there on my front veranda while two people I care about very much sat and painted with the cool evening breeze and some mellow electronica music giving us all inspiration to keep going.
Then I made a list of all the things I had hoped to accomplish while I’m here. Honestly, if I get only one thing on the list done it will be worthy of celebration. But, of course, I am ever the over achiever. I will always aim for more.
The next day I met a friend of a friend at one of the local watering holes. She said he was a Canadian filmmaker. So we sat and chatted. I said “Marcela mentioned you are a filmmaker, what kind of films do you work on?” He said “I don’t. I’m retired. I’m a recovering workaholic. Work is a dirty word for me.” Flash forward to me, 10 years from now. Oh God, is that going to be me? Here I am, chegando, chegando. Will I ever just arrive? He says when he comes here to spend three months he comes to do nothing … with a capital N. I can’t think of a better place to do nothing. He instructs his team of support people not to ever ever contact him by phone or by email unless the world is absolutely ending. And even then, maybe not.
So while I try diligently to get as many things on my fieldwork “to do list” done, I am also remembering something my dissertation co-chair has tried to teach us over and over again. Be open to the situation, to what I can learn, and allow the work to emerge. Don’t try to know in advance what you are going to learn before you even get there! It’s difficult to try to let go of the idea of “getting things done” or “accomplishing” something. I really just need to take things one day at a time.
Can I even continue to have ambitious plans in this setting? If so, what is the best way to act on those plans? By what criteria should I judge the outcome? And how do I best proceed in a way that doesn’t impose my beliefs and worldview onto a setting where those beliefs and worldviews might be irrelevant or even worse – damaging to the ecology of this social system?
If I think back to Bateson’s Ecology of the Mind I remember that is the space BETWEEN things or the relationship between people and groups of people that holds the key to understanding how best to foster the healthiest ecology of a social system. For now, I will just take things one day at a time and be grateful for each experience that offers me new insights about this particular setting.
Ever faithfully, em busca do axé.