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Back in this city, if only for a few days. Always a good time. Reminds me of home. São Paulo, Brazil. #sãopaulo #SP #brasil #brazil #fulbrightbrazil #conference #fulbright #scholars #fulbrightenhancement2014 #travel #citylife #theview #backpacking #calisfinestblog #wanderlust #southamerica
Aug 23, 2014

Back in this city, if only for a few days. Always a good time. Reminds me of home. São Paulo, Brazil. #sãopaulo #SP #brasil #brazil #fulbrightbrazil #conference #fulbright #scholars #fulbrightenhancement2014 #travel #citylife #theview #backpacking #calisfinestblog #wanderlust #southamerica

Aug 9, 2014

Liberdade: Online to reality, a “love” story of infinite possibilities

Intersection. By definition, it is a point at which two or more things intersect or cross. Synonyms; junction, interchange, crossroads…This story that I am about to tell you is about a crossroads in my life, a pivotal moment of realizations. To some of you, you will think I am crazy. It’s because I am. Being so allows me to experience such things that most of you won’t even allow yourselves to do. This story is about risk, adventure, leaving expectations and preconceived notions in the past, and living in & for the moment.

Liberdade is a Portuguese term meaning freedom.

This story is about a boy and girl who experiment with the concepts of being free and liberated. They are from two different worlds and intersect in Brazil in a way that society doesn’t like to talk about.

Online dating.

Yes. Millions of people around the world do it, but it still seems to be a topic of discretion and shame. I don’t see it that way. With our hyper-sexualized and commitment-phobia dating scene, sometimes it’s easier to type some words on an app about who you are, who you are hoping to meet and hopefully meet someone that is real to your standards. I could go on and on about the pros and cons of online dating, as it has been the focus of my research for the past few years. I am no stranger to this “world”. You meet the most interesting people and douchebags, simultaneously. You are compatible with some, others not so much. I think I have been on over 20 dates with guys that I’ve met online. And I can describe each one to you in great detail. But that’s for the future. Another time, perhaps. None of them knew my motives and quite frankly, neither did I. Although motivated by social curiosity, a small part of me was hoping that I too would find “the one”. At the end of the day, everyone has a desire for something. For someone.

At 25 years old, I have realized that the search for “love” has never been so increasingly disposable than in today’s society. Oh technology, I hate and I love you. I’ve met some really dope people through online dating sites that I would most likely never have met if this source of communication were not available. But sometimes, it feels like an interview process. People checking off boxes to ensure that all qualifications are met. It can become very impersonal. But than you meet those people who you know you were meant to connect with, even if it wasn’t in a romantic way. You can sense their soul via the site and are instantly drawn to them. And you don’t know why. You just know that you were meant to cross each other’s paths. You were meant to intersect. If this happens to you, don’t run from it. Embrace it. It may lead you to have the most amazing experiences.

And this is how I met Michael.

It all started in June when I traveled to Natal, Brazil for a World Cup game. I believe it was USA vs. Ghana. After the USA beat Ghana, I got a little bit too excited, stood on a stadium seat to take a picture, slipped, and almost broke my ankle. I went to the hospital immediately after and got my leg placed in a cast. While everyone was out partying and celebrating, I found myself immobile back at the apartment we had rented. I was completely bored, so I decided to download the online dating app, Tinder. I’ve used other dating apps, but this was a first. So after sliding pictures of nearby guys to the left (rejecting) and the right (showing interest), I eventually fell asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a message from Michael, who was conveniently located 3 miles away.  Seems like we both swiped to the right on each other’s photo. I thought, “He’s kind of cute. Let’s see what he’s about.” Why not? I had nothing to lose nor gain, but pure entertainment. At the time, I didn’t realize that my response to him would part the red sea for an amazing relationship to develop.

In the beginning, we texted each other on a daily basis in an attempt to get to know one another. Texting turned into voice messages and video messages. Eventually, I decided to pick up the phone and call him because I no longer wanted to continue down the path of “pen pals”. The conversation lasted about 2 hours. It could have been longer, but calling people in Brazil is not cheap.

Conversations got too deep too quickly. We were both shocking ourselves with how much of our past we were divulging. Personally, this was weird for me. It was out of the ordinary. I am usually guarded with my feelings and my past when it comes to just meeting people. I mean, I pride myself on being an open book but I don’t just give information away freely. You have to ask. Inquire. You have to be genuinely interested.

Communicating with Michael was so natural. I really didn’t care or fear what he would think of me. Never once did we talk about the possibility of “us” in a romantic relationship with the boyfriend/girlfriend title. We simply talked about life. I soon realized that we both had this fascination with theories of social construction. Yes! I found another nerd to indulge in the works of Marx, Engles, and Waber with. I guess it makes sense, since he studied Anthropology in college and I studied Sociology & Psychology. I felt like I had known him my whole life. Like he was my best friend. What was going on? Why am I feeling this way? Feeling so free and uninhibited. Brazil has certainly done something to me. Since I couldn’t quite figure it out, I attributed all of this to my own personal goal of living my life with liberation and freedom as much as possible and left it at that. No need to think too much into it. “Just enjoy the ride, Vannessa”, I whispered to myself.

Eventually, the topic of actually meeting in person came up and an opportunity presented itself. Last week, as you all know from the photographs I’ve posted that I was in the state of Maranhão, Brazil to witness the beautiful white sands of Lençóis Maranhenses. On my way back I had a layover in Recife, a city relatively close to Natal. He asked me, “Do you want to meet in Recife? It’s only a 30 minute flight for me and you will already be there” With no hesitation, I said “Yes. Let’s do this. We are beyond crazy, but let’s do this.” We booked an apartment on the beach through airbnb and waited until that day came.

Well, the day came on August 4. We both arrived at the Recife airport at the same time. 4:20pm. We had never actually skyped prior. Just texting and sending voice messages for 2 months. Was I nervous? Yes, but not too much actually. I assume anyone would be somewhat nervous in a situation like this. I was meeting a perfect stranger to spend two days with in a random city. I know. I am crazy. We are crazy. And although we had never met in the flesh or skyped to verify one’s existence, he didn’t feel like a stranger. I didn’t feel like I was on my way to meet a perfect stranger.

As I was sitting on the plane on the way there, so many thoughts were going on in my head. “Will we like each other? Will we hate each other after this? I am so crazy. Vannessa, how do you get yourself in these situations? What am I going to do when I see him? Do I shake his hand or give him a hug?” A part of me wanted to recreate a scene from all those chick flick movies. I was thinking I could run and jump on him and passionately kiss him. But when the moment actually came and we laid eyes on each other for the first time, I got scared. Instead, I settled for a very long embrace. And in that moment I realized that I wasn’t meeting a perfect stranger.  It wasn’t love at first sight or anything either. It simply felt like I was meeting my best friend. It was comfortable. I was comfortable. And this doesn’t usually happen to me. Trust me. I have been on enough dates to know.

I’m not sure how long we remained in each other’s arms, but it was definitely more than a few seconds. We let each other go and proceeded to get a taxi. On our way to the apartment, I got nervous all of a sudden. But it was a different type of nervous. I wasn’t nervous to be next him or talk to him. It’s hard to explain. The whole time in the taxi I really just wanted to kiss him and go back to being in his strong, muscular arms.

When we finally arrived at the apartment, I could no longer contain my desire to kiss him. I surprised him and myself by placing a passionate kiss upon his lips. He quickly responded back with the same passion and desire. I was breaking all of my rules. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you that I don’t even kiss on the first date. That’s saved for the second date, if it ever happens to make it that far. And here I am kissing on our first encounter. I was surprising myself more than you could possibly know. I was truly living my resolutions of liberation and it had a taste of sweet addiction. There was no turning back and I reveled at the thought. 

The two days spent with Michael was such a surreal experience for me. It was deep, intense, unknown, tiring, full of laughter, full of curiosity, comfortable, passionate, enigmatic. When we touched each other, whether it be our lips or our fingertips, a surge of energy would shoot through my body. When we looked at each other, the gaze was more than a look of lust. It was deeper than that. Even our silence was comfortable.

If I am going to be completely transparent with you all, I must tell you that I had not felt these types of feelings with a guy before. Or maybe I had never allowed myself to feel such intense emotions. Maybe I was just so scared in the past to let myself go for fear of rejection. I have never been in a serious relationship in my life. Close, but never the real thing. If you want to talk titles, than we can also say that I have never had the official title of “bf/gf” either. I have dated plenty, but nothing can amount to what I was experiencing in Recife. Not even the time when I thought I had fallen in love with a certain someone in my past 7 years ago. Because if I compare the two situations, my past was not feelings of being “in love”. It was a desire to be wanted and cherished, as all women strive for.

With Michael, it was a completely different ballgame. I even cooked for him - Three times! Not because I felt obligated to or I was trying to show off my “wifey skills”, but because I genuinely wanted to. I wanted to cook for him. I wanted to cater to him and put a smile on his face. I had actually been wanting to cook for him for awhile. If I cook for you, it means that I care. I wanted to do that for this perfect stranger. 

You should have seen the shock in his face when he realized that I could actually cook and knew what I was doing in the kitchen. And the food was edible and tasted good. At first, he felt that he should help me in the kitchen. That it felt sexist. I appreciate his feminism, but had to explain to him “that’s just the way I was raised. It’s not about being sexist, its a cultural thing. And I don’t feel any type of way cooking for you”. Seems like his previous girlfriends never cooked for him. It’s a shame that nowadays many women are utterly clueless when it comes to these types of things. They can barely boil water, how do they feed themselves? It’s none of my concern, though. Haha. To each her own. 

Oh, had I grown as a woman. I was no longer the person I was 7 years ago, let alone the same person I was last year. Traveling and being in Brazil has done something to my soul. I see things differently, because I have made a conscious decision to do so. I am no longer bound by the fears that we, as women, posses about love, relationships, sex, sexuality, motherhood, and how a woman should and should not be. I made the conscious decision to be happy and to live, to liberate myself, and to not care what the world thinks. So far, so good. Since doing so, I have felt and experienced the most incredible things.

For the longest I could remember, my best friend China would tell me to just let go of all my expectations and preconceived notions about dating and just enjoy that person’s company. And for the first time, I understand what she means. It took me awhile to figure it out.

Now, I am not saying that I think I found “the one” or anything like that. I am not really thinking too far into the future. Such thoughts can set yourself up for failure and disappointment. I am simply saying that what Michael and I shared was beautiful in its truest form. For two people from different places in the world to intersect and feel so comfortable with each other is a beautiful thing. We left our insecurities, thoughts of potential regrets, and fears at the doorstep before walking into this and innately agreed to just be a figure of solace for one another. 

Who knows what will transpire from this, but I don’t need to worry about that. I just need to enjoy my life. Enjoy his company. Enjoy the time that we spend together. If we happen to be together in the future, get married, and have kids – well so be it. I won’t complain about the happily ever after. If we happen to go our separate ways, that’s perfectly fine too. Because either way, it was a beautiful moment that we will always have.

When Michael left to the airport after our two days of bliss, I sat on the couch and looked at the gift he had given me as a reminder of us and so that I would never forget him; a simple gift of a coffee cup with one of our favorite quotes written on it that had connected us in the beginning.

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” – D.H. Lawrence

I thought to myself, “how fitting this quote is for this exact moment in my life.”

Oh, the possibilities…

;)

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Since living in Brazil, I’ve been experimenting on ways to make my favorite foods healthier without sacrificing taste. Today’s cooking adventure: Sopes de lengua, with the sope (dough) made from only egg whites and oats. Same as protein pancakes, just with more oats to give the mixture a thicker consistency before cooking in olive oil. Top with refried beans (Cook and blend them yourself. Don’t use canned refried beans. There’s just way too much sodium in canned food), lettuce, a little bit of cheese (I have light queso crema. It’s like sour cream, but healthier. I would have used Greek yogurt, but they don’t have it in Brazil), your choice of meat (I have lengua. Don’t judge me until you try it. It’s my fav and I was craving it. Feel free to put ground turkey, chicken, carne asada, etc.), and chile/salsa. You can also add onions, tomatoes, etc. But I was damn near starving and didn’t bother to chop that up. I didn’t realize it took 2 hours to properly cook the meat. Guilt-free and packed with a lot of protein and fiber! Satisfying my Mexican food cravings one healthy recipe at a time! Enjoy!
Aug 9, 2014 / 1 note

Since living in Brazil, I’ve been experimenting on ways to make my favorite foods healthier without sacrificing taste. Today’s cooking adventure: Sopes de lengua, with the sope (dough) made from only egg whites and oats. Same as protein pancakes, just with more oats to give the mixture a thicker consistency before cooking in olive oil. Top with refried beans (Cook and blend them yourself. Don’t use canned refried beans. There’s just way too much sodium in canned food), lettuce, a little bit of cheese (I have light queso crema. It’s like sour cream, but healthier. I would have used Greek yogurt, but they don’t have it in Brazil), your choice of meat (I have lengua. Don’t judge me until you try it. It’s my fav and I was craving it. Feel free to put ground turkey, chicken, carne asada, etc.), and chile/salsa. You can also add onions, tomatoes, etc. But I was damn near starving and didn’t bother to chop that up. I didn’t realize it took 2 hours to properly cook the meat. Guilt-free and packed with a lot of protein and fiber! Satisfying my Mexican food cravings one healthy recipe at a time! Enjoy!

There’s always those moments where life comes full circle and it all makes sense. Growing up and experiencing poverty, the foster care system, women’s homeless shelters, violence, etc…I would ask God “Why me? Why have you blessed me with this life?”, not seeing any blessings to come from such a life. Now, as an adult, I still ask the same question, “Why me? Why have you blessed me with this life?”. The answers have always been there. The difference is, I understand now. The blessings of strength and the will to keep going, to keep striving for more. Thank you for giving me the blessing of experience. 🙏❤️ ✨ Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.
Aug 4, 2014

There’s always those moments where life comes full circle and it all makes sense. Growing up and experiencing poverty, the foster care system, women’s homeless shelters, violence, etc…I would ask God “Why me? Why have you blessed me with this life?”, not seeing any blessings to come from such a life. Now, as an adult, I still ask the same question, “Why me? Why have you blessed me with this life?”. The answers have always been there. The difference is, I understand now. The blessings of strength and the will to keep going, to keep striving for more. Thank you for giving me the blessing of experience. 🙏❤️ ✨ Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.

Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.
Aug 4, 2014 / 1 note

Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.

Damn. I just want to show you more. More of this. So you can feel what I felt. I could show you a thousand pictures of this surreal place, but it still wouldn’t suffice nor do it proper justice. You can’t just see. You have to feel. You have to surrender yourself. Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.
Aug 4, 2014

Damn. I just want to show you more. More of this. So you can feel what I felt. I could show you a thousand pictures of this surreal place, but it still wouldn’t suffice nor do it proper justice. You can’t just see. You have to feel. You have to surrender yourself. Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.

Up close and personal. The lagoas (lagoons) are filled only by rain water. Mother Nature is a powerful being. Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.
Aug 4, 2014

Up close and personal. The lagoas (lagoons) are filled only by rain water. Mother Nature is a powerful being. Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.

My thoughts…”I wonder what is going on in their whispered conversation. What secrets are they telling each other? So innocent. The purest of souls simply living to live…why doesn’t the universe allow us to remember our conversations, dreams, thoughts, and secrets from that age? I’m sure some of us could use a reminder of who we use to be…who we dreamed of being…who we currently are ✨ Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.
Aug 4, 2014

My thoughts…”I wonder what is going on in their whispered conversation. What secrets are they telling each other? So innocent. The purest of souls simply living to live…why doesn’t the universe allow us to remember our conversations, dreams, thoughts, and secrets from that age? I’m sure some of us could use a reminder of who we use to be…who we dreamed of being…who we currently are ✨ Lençóis Maranhenses. Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil.

If there is a heaven on earth, than this has to be it. Such a magical place. They call it the “Bedsheets of Brasil”. Lençóis Marenhenses. Maranhão, Brasil.  ☀️🌎💛 #itsmagical #wheremyfuturehusbandwillpropose #loveatfirstsight #bedsheets #lençóis #lençóismaranhenses #beautiful #sãoluis #maranhão #brasil #brazil #travel #backpacking #southamerica #lagoaazul #lagoabonita #lagoon #rainwaters #desert #oasis #solace #heaven #heavenonearth #calisfinestblog #wanderlust #nature #earth
Aug 3, 2014

If there is a heaven on earth, than this has to be it. Such a magical place. They call it the “Bedsheets of Brasil”. Lençóis Marenhenses. Maranhão, Brasil. ☀️🌎💛 #itsmagical #wheremyfuturehusbandwillpropose #loveatfirstsight #bedsheets #lençóis #lençóismaranhenses #beautiful #sãoluis #maranhão #brasil #brazil #travel #backpacking #southamerica #lagoaazul #lagoabonita #lagoon #rainwaters #desert #oasis #solace #heaven #heavenonearth #calisfinestblog #wanderlust #nature #earth

A conversation with nature is never one-sided. Aracaju, Sergipe, Brazil. 
Jul 22, 2014 / 3 notes

A conversation with nature is never one-sided. Aracaju, Sergipe, Brazil.