Part one: I did a thing
I did a thing, back in January ’19. It was something scary and weird and at that point, I’d thought it to be so absurdly out of character, that I almost didn’t do it at all: I traveled solo.
There’s something about traveling solo. I’d traveled before, in my country and a little bit abroad, but I’d never truly felt like by getting lost I was finding myself. I made this trip around a few countries in Europe during a month, and documented it through Instagram stories. The word I used the most was beautiful. Everything was beautiful, everything was amazing, and I think the reason why isn’t only that being in those places was remarkable, but because I went there with a mindset of being open to seeing beauty.
The experience of traveling for me was more than getting to do extraordinary things and meet fantastic people. It was about finding the extraordinary and fantastic in myself. Seeing myself through a traveler’s eyes, I found that I could take that mentality home, too.
I’m here to find beauty in everything.
Part two: even when peeing
For the past eight years, I’ve been an ESL (English as second language) teacher. I’ve taught in schools, language institutes, in-company, and even in the Military Airbase. I’ve taught toddlers and this one private student who was eighty-six and spoke fluent Mandarin, even though she was Argentinean. I’ve taught English, but I’ve also taught Portuguese to foreigners for one disastrous semester (if any of you, my former Mexican students, find this post, I am so terribly sorry for putting you through so many Legião Urbana songs. I didn’t really know what I was doing).
I remember this weird conversation I had with Dad once. He was the first to suggest that I start teaching English, but he’s also the one who keeps trying to convince me to stop at some point. The last time I was so frustrated with a student I took it home, Dad happened to call and invite me out to dinner. My heart wasn’t in it. I was still thinking about the thing with the student. I vented to him, and he listened. After listening, he told me: “Gabriela, you know what you should do? You should quit and live off writing. It’s what you love most.”
You know what? I do love writing. The only thing I’ve been doing for longer than teaching a language is writing fiction. But the thought of quitting nearly made me spit out my water. You know, through the nose. Because that’s the single strangest thing he could’ve said.
I love teaching. Even when it’s frustrating. Even when it’s difficult.
There’s something I always tell my students. If I’d just loved English, I would’ve become a translator and never entered a classroom, because that’s hard work. Being a teacher is equal parts being a psychologist, mom, philosopher and grammar expert. I’m a teacher because I love them. It’s all about that human connection, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So it is about teaching. But it is also about languages. I’m all about that self-taught stylez. Though I only dare to say I speak fluently two languages, I get by in five. I only plan for that number to go up. (And I’ll share all about my learning process here and on my newsletter.)
The truth is, I love languages with all my heart. When I’ve been the most upset, the thing that brings me back is trying to talk to myself in a language I haven’t mastered yet (this is a judgment-free zone, right?). Even when I’m beyond exhausted, I still make a point of spending five minutes in a language app – sometimes sitting in my car, just before work, when I can squeeze in those five minutes. Other times, I’ll admit, while I’m peeing. There has to be some study out there about how willing our brains are to learn while you’re sitting there, right? (Judgment-free zone!!!! Right!!!)
Part three: I want my echo to be positive
Fair disclaimer: this is not my first time blogging. A few years ago, I used to have a blog in Portuguese where I wrote mostly creative essays, slice-of-life posts. I still lived with my parents, and we had a poodle called Téia that had been with us for the past fourteen years.
She was diagnosed with pulmonary edema.
Téia used to sleep with me, follow me everywhere. I was deeply in love with her, and her with me. A year before her diagnosis, I spent two months in the USA. She became so depressed she started scratching herself until she opened wounds. She only got better when I returned. This is how close we were.
The pulmonary edema had her dying slowly on my bed while I studied, dying on my lap while I texted with crushes, and dying in the sun by my side while we sunbathed in the backyard.
Living with her as she coughed her way through the last months was exceptionally hard. I’d had teenage friends die, and close relatives saying goodbye, but there’s a special kind of sadness that’s provoked by the approaching loss of a dear pet.
I wrote a post about how I felt. This must’ve been around ten years ago. I no longer have the password for that blog, somehow lost forever, but the comments still get forwarded to my email. And at least once a month there’s a new comment by someone who’s just found out their dog has pulmonary edema, or who’s just lost their dog to it. Someone crying or grieving or powering through who tried their luck typing the diagnosis on Google and stumbled upon my post somehow. People sharing their stories and saying thank you for sharing mine.
My empathy still echoes. Years and years later, that post still gives people warmth and understanding, every now and then.
I want my echo to be positive. I want to reach people with content that’s useful, yes, but also heartfelt. Moments end, but the Internet is forever. That can be really sucky, or it can be a beautiful thing. I choose the later.
Hi, I have a blog, and it’s about traveling and languages
I found that the only way to live authentically and respect myself is to dedicate time and energy to things I love. This blog is an expression of that. I love these things with all my heart, and starting now, every Friday I’ll be talking about them. One Friday about traveling, the next about language(s).
PS: I thought of Gabriela Travels because maybe Gabriela Travels And Learns Languages And Teaches wouldn’t be as catchy. Maybe.
*takes a deep breath* Is that how introduction posts work? Let’s hope so.
See you next Friday, you gorgeous sunflower, you.