We left Recife early in the morning to head to Natal (“The Birth”). We checked into a lovely beachside bungalow hotel called the Manady Praia. I had a beautiful room with a balcony that opened over the pool and flowery gardens and with a vista of the waves. I found out what a small PD world it is, as I sat next to a prof from American University, who was a colleague of Prof. Craig Hayden. She knew of the work of American Voices from her students, whose classes I had lectured in. She also was aware of the recent gastrodiplomacy conference.
For someone who loves to communicate, I love the subtle silences found in a world not my own. Of this world, but never quite in it. But the silence I find in worlds not my own gives me the space I crave. With granules of sand filling my back pocket, I watched swell after swell came crashing white across the black night under the apparition white moon.
Natal was hosting a large study abroad/ academic exchange conference. Heidi had mentioned that the northeast of Brazil had been doing a lot of work to promote academic exchange for Brazilian students, and there was interest in vice-versa connections. In Recife, where we had departed, the government had enacted a program that was giving thousands of students access to English, French and Spanish training. Something akin to the top 1,000 students in each language earned some sort of academic exchange trip in the US and other locations. Not sure if Natal was doing a similar program, but there is a lot of effort at bringing Brazilian students out for academic exchange opportunities.
Anyway, Keola and company did a nice program at the conference for the Brazilian (and American, Canadian and Australian) academic advisors. The place was pretty gaga over the Hawaiian tunes, it was a good event.
That night, I had a free evening, and I wandered around the boardwalk environs. I found a little hole-in-the-wall burger joint, where I ate a chicken burger and drank cold beer out of a tiny cup as I watched the Brazilian nightly news and Brazilian soap operas. Brazilian soap operas are probably second to Mexico in terms of cultural outreach via telenovela soft power.
The days I love the best on tour are the nights when I can get out of the consular bubble. Away from the posh restaurants and the four-star hotels--nights where I can find a world more my own.
I spent the night, sitting in silence on the boardwalk as the tides came crashing in. I was reminded of my free night in Bishkek, where I wandered the streets until I found a bar with a picture of the St. Louis Arch. Anastasia the bartendress had no idea what city it was, but smiled big and fille my cup with Kyrgyz brandy and chilled vodka. I sat reading Dracula. I wish I had called her, but I had other responsibilities at the time.
I could have watched the waves crash all night as I swam through the tides of memory. The prince of nostalgic tides. My tides are turning different directions, but I am ready for the wave.