Monday, July 10, 2017

The Amazon River - What Does Home Mean? - Brazil Diary

Watching as we pass the boarded up wooden homes, the loud chug of the engine and sweet warm earthy breeze maintain their presence for hours and hours. This is my third time taking this boat trip up the Amazon between Santarem and Manaus.  The last time was 12 years ago, back when a second generation iPod was a great Christmas gift, and W was president. It seems like so much has transformed since then in the world and in me, but the scenery on the river looks unchanged.

The lush plants in greens and shades of pink, the elevated homes with colorful soccer team shirts hanging out to dry, the dug out canoes and occasional cattle pasture, the horses sipping river water with ibis perched on their backs. 

I've been inside some of those houses over a decade ago. Back then they were bare on the inside, mostly just the straight lines of wood panel walls and corners of a box with hammocks hanging inside. The hammocks serve as chairs, sofas, and beds. The kitchen is in the back and has the most furniture, maybe a table for cooking and eating, or maybe not and the eating is done on the floor.  

Mariano and I start to joke about building a house here, property rights, and how people would come visit us, "You go up river about 3 hours and then make a left at the big Brazil nut tree.  The house with the blue door."  How do people get mail? How do kids go to school? The School Boat must pick them up in the morning.

As we approach within 3 hours of Manaus, power lines begin to run above the river bank.  The houses remain simple looking on the outside, but I fantasize about the inhabitants having 25" LCD screens and Xboxs inside their homes.  After all, even poor people in the US have iPhones and SUVs.

In the Southern Hemisphere, July corresponds with the water level swell and some houses are boarded up because their pastures are inundated. I imagine they are rustic summer homes for people who have moved to the city.

Passing by I find my thoughts drifting and I start to long for a home.  Ironic because literally the day before I'd stated to Mariano how comfortable I was with living out of a suitcase.  In 2017 already we've visited Thailand, Cambodia, Dubai, Suriname and Brazil. I drove across the country from DC to Oregon and DC to Florida. My love for traveling is not a daydream over morning coffee; it's here, it's actualized.  I can have everything in my possession neatly packed up in a suitcase and a backpack in 20 minutes or less.  

Lunch on the Boat
Seeing the little homes speckled on the river bank pass by with a melodic rhythm, like cords of lullaby, I think about what 'home' means.  Mariano's parent's home is a forever home. It's protected in a gated villa of about 35 houses set in a busy part of town that used to be sketchy but in the last 15 years has turned hip. Since I've known him in 2002, the entrance was always lined by gossiping woman sitting in patio chairs, he says they've been there for at lease 20 years. 

Mariano's parents have made modifications to their home many times, like changing the layout,  adding rooms, taking away rooms, dividing into a rent-able one bedroom home. Currently Mariano's sister is running a cake business out of the front of the home.  So the house morphs and serves for all stages of life.

The kitchen table is the spot. The meals filled with smiles and laughter congeal the meaning of home.
After the sleepy morning we landed and had breakfast with Mariano's sisters around the table, he commented to me that the experience was priceless. Worth the thousands for plane tickets, overnight with three kids on four flights, two trips through security, and a feisty 2 year old pulling an all nigher. It was rough, but it was worth it.

I want to give a place like that to my kids. I want them to have a sanctuary base that they can return to at any point and feel welcome, safe, and protected. I'd like to create a space the kids can create happy memories in and return to for years to come.

But I realize I'm far off from settling. In my mid thirties and I have no idea my life purpose. I know it's weird that we actually live in the house I lived in from 2yr - 11 yrs old. My home should be that home, but it doesn't feel like it to me. Maybe it will be but I'm not ready to accept it yet. Maybe I have more to do and grow first, I don't know. 

So I'm still searching for the place to plant my family. I worry I'll never grow up enough to get there, and their home will be decided by default. Because life does not stop until you're ready to make a decision. It keeps going and everyday is your opportunity to be intentional with your actions.

Down the rabbit hole of thoughts of home and I remember a book that was gifted to the kids called Casa. It had really cool pen illustrations of all different types of people and animals in their homes. With words like, "Some homes are sweet, some homes are on your back, some homes are loud, some homes are where you rest your head, some homes are in dreams." Like everything in life, there is no perfect right answer. People find satisfaction doing things in different ways. 

I wonder what does home mean to you? What do you seek in a home?  

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