Leaving Paradise

I ultimately accomplished nothing in Fortaleza. I would love to accomplish nothing this way again.

Everything started in Oregon last winter. I hated cold enough already, but scraping ice out of the inside of my windshield in the morning was what pushed me over the edge. Once the freeze set in I stopped going to restaurants, going on trips, or spending any unnecessary money. I saved every dime I could, studied Portuguese in my free time, and found myself in Brazil a few months later.

I told myself I would work when I arrived in Fortaleza. I meant to, but a combination of procrastination and excuses prevented that. First I meant to write a draft of a book about working for unorthodox non-profit groups, such as at an unrecognized refugee camp or as a Real Life Superhero, but quickly found that I could not do very much of this until I finished my first book, about dealing with epilepsy, depression, PTSD, heartbreak, and death while traveling the world alone. Several themes and stories from the first book would be in the second, so I told myself I couldn’t finish the first until the second was done. Easy, I told myself, you’re already done with the second draft and after that is edited it will be quick. To make a long story short, I’m not done with either.

When I met my girlfriend, I realized I would be here for a while and decided to find real work. I applied to teach English at several academies, but my status as a native English speaker with a masters degree in Education, years of teaching professionally, and experience writing for a newspaper wasn’t enough; they wanted CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) certification. While there are several schools with certify teachers to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), the CELTA courses are certified by the University of Cambridge and is what the better schools require.

When the cracks started to appear in my relationship with my girlfriend it crumbled quickly. We’re both too old to spend years together wondering if things will fall apart. I had been thinking about how to break up cleanly, then I stopped thinking. I just did it. After four months of dating, we pulled the bandaid off quickly. It will be rough for a bit but better than an extended process full of second-guessing and drawn out emotions.

Statue of Iracema
Iracema, who protects Fortaleza.

With no work and no girlfriend, it was time to leave Brasil. I went to the beach twice every day while here, swimming or running in the morning and exploring the boardwalk at night. I wanted somewhere similar for the next leg of my trip, with warm water to swim in and warm people to meet. Costa Rica’s Puerto Limon, Peru’s Lima, Ecuador’s Guayaquil, and Colombia’s Cartagena came immediately to mind.

This would have brought me back to the same problem I have now: I would be working informally or at a hostel while watching my savings account wither every month. Instead I chose to get CELTA certified to teach English, something I feel unnecessary but English schools feel completely necessary. When I depend on them to eat, their opinion matters more than mine.

After three interviews and 30 pages of applications my next step is set. I’ll always remember the four months I spent in Fortaleza, but on Sunday I’ll be in Bogota, Colombia for a CELTA certification course. It’s cold and nowhere near the ocean, but through sheer tyranny of will I’ll survive. After that a search for a real, sustainable paradise begins.

Thank you for everything Fortaleza. You were exactly what I hoped you would be.



One comment

  1. Dude, I’m glad I now get your posts in my email, and that I came across that picture of your shoes on imgur. Seeing that 3ID patch on your pack gets me every time. What unit were you in? I was in a few in 1st brigade, as an artillery observer 1-41 FA was my home base, but I went to Kosovo with the brigade cav, OIF 1 with 2-7 infantry, and OIF 3 with 3-69 armor.

    Good luck with the course and with finding a job that’s both personally sustainable and enjoyable. And with the books. I hope you are able to take your time with it.


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