As the years went by, my longing to see all things Brazilian
secretly grew. I studied as much as I
could about Brazilian
culture. I studied about the place I saw but never really knew.
I haven’t found all
the answers, but I’m fine with that. For me,
the journey is more important than the destination.
I landed in São Paulo, Brazil on June 20th, 1997, according to my passport. I was with my father, who from time to
time, has to travel outside the country for business. He never brings much luggage, just a change of clothes, a good book
and occasionally one of his four sons. My older brothers chose to accompany our father to some pretty interesting countries,
such as India, the Philippines, and Spain. When my turn came around, I chose Brazil.
Like a typical kid, I asked, "Are we there yet" one too many times. Without the desired response, I decided to
surrender. I took refuge by doing what kids on airplanes do best, I glued my face to the small window next to me. My eyes
instantly fixed on the Amazon river below, the largest in the world. As we closed in on our destination, I started to see the
makings of a city in the distance. I was sure the captain would come over the intercom and announce he was preparing for a landing.
What seemed like forty-five minutes later, I found myself still above the city, soaring over countless buildings
and skyscrapers. I was amazed by its enormous size. After we landed and made our way to the hotel, my father sat me down
for a talk. He told me not to leave the hotel while he was at work. He knew that I knew virtually nothing about Brazilian
culture or customs. I didn’t argue.
When we got settled, he had some errands to run, so I was dropped off at the closest mall. After scouring the whole
place for something to buy, I ended up in a clothing store. I found a cool shirt and walked up to the counter. Without saying
anything, I put the shirt down and pulled out some strange foreign bills from my pocket. Since I didn’t speak Portuguese and the
shirt didn’t have a price tag, I handed a wad of money to the female cashier and she kindly gave back what wasn’t needed. By
the time I got out of the store and to the parking lot, my father was waiting in a cab, ready to take me to dinner.
I ended up with my father’s business associates at a steakhouse. While the older people gave their attention to work,
I gave mine to the little wooden trinket next to my plate. One side was colored red and the other was green. Since my
mind associated the colors with stop and go, I quickly picked up the name of the game. As long as I turned the trinket to the
green side, the waiters kept bringing me more to eat. I felt like a king, and although the food never ran out, my need for it did.
The next morning in the hotel room, we packed up the personal items we unpacked the day before and proceeded towards
the airport again. Our next stop was Rio de Janeiro.
The hotel my father booked sent a car to pick us up in order to make things less confusing. A short time later, we
pulled up to a place I thought looked like the White House, its actual name was the Copacabana Palace. We went up to our
room on the third story and I went straight to the window, which gave me a panoramic of Copacabana beach. Again, my
father repeated his words of warning and still I listened. For two days I stayed at that window with the view that continues to
haunt me till this day.
On occasion I left the room to explore the rest of the hotel. The evening before we were to leave Brazil, my father
and I went on a self-guided tour of the famous Copacabana sidewalk. As night fell, we decided to return to our hotel and
ready our things for the morning. I could finally return to the more lenient, less restrictive life I knew in California. At that
point in my young life that was all I wanted.
As the years went by, my longing to see all things Brazilian secretly grew. Coincidentally, around that time, one of
my brothers asked me to go with him on a trip to Brazil. I seriously considered it, but in many ways I was still naïve, so I
declined. Our conversation about Brazil made me rethink my thoughts and experiences there. I’d like to thank my brother for
unknowingly sparking something in me.
Soon after discussing his longing for a journey, I had a longing of my own. So for three years, on and off, I studied
as much as I could about Brazilian culture and customs. I studied about the place I saw but never really knew. Maybe I
haven’t found all the answers to all my questions, I’m fine with that. For me, the journey is more important than the destination.
Adam Lee has traveled all his life due to the professions of his parents. When he turned 18, he gladly took over. His
next trip is studying for a year at a university in London. He can be reached at