This Nurse & Brazil: A Diary, Perhaps


Here I am, in between holidays, minds.

The whir of semester-end crashed quickly into break; no space for anticipation. And then south I went – without snow – was it ever really Christmas? Unique stressors and blessings of family, and then, on Christmas night, a trip even further south. Transitional, I’d call this holiday season.

And now, here, I am in São Paulo. Last summer, when I thought to take this winter semester off to travel, I believe Paris or Sweden came to mind, not South America. I am a cold-blooded creature by birth, craving the scarves and boots of winter all year long, happy to leave the sticky naked moments that plague me in New York’s summers.

But the strangeness of life continues, giving strange things that we sometimes ask for without name. And so, I discover a new place that has many unknown things to me, and with the tiniest grasp a person could possibly have on a language.

This barrage of transition has me completely forgetting my nursing mind. What was my last patient’s name? What did I do for him, or her, or their family? My time at the bedside for 2014 ended without ceremony, and I wager moments of fear, here and there: If I can forget so quickly, how will I ever remember how to return?

I don’t like this. I want to write all of this work down, to remember the stories that I once created with my hands and care. If just a mere two weeks apart from the presence of the rituals and the requirements of nursing deletes them from my mind, I’m afraid it will be too difficult to recreate.

I know that all of my moments remain, and that they are just a tiny bit hidden. But I must dig for them now, in this land where I hear but am deaf to the words around me. These days that I’ve committed to this country are without much agenda – except to meet some contacts in the nursing world here, except to write.

This task is impossible, it seems. I’m very used to writing on assignment, about topics of other’s choosing, and the vault of my memory seems quite rusty and full of the dust from years of neglect.To move myself from the work of words for others, to the work of words for myself, is a little like moving from a land where language is my own, to one where language is everyone else’s.

Perhaps it is just the mechanical ritual of learning a language that I must focus on. Memorizing new words, rearranging structure for the grammatical code of this land. My own work, the same, a process of new learning; reorienting my words for the sole purpose of creation.

I’ve often wondered why people wrote in the past, when there was little avenue for sharing. These days, we write to share. It is as though our creation is not validated until experienced by another. But what of the artists and writers of old, who simple wrote out of need to create? Does anyone work this way now?

I must find a balance between these two modes, I think. A way to fumble through the language of my relaxed, yet active mind. To practice my past as though it were today, to relive the moments that brought me to my experience now, in this new place, with a new hope for the future.

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