Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You Don't Know Me

Last night we took another ballroom dance class. This time in the style of forro (fo ho), taught by a fabulous man named Evandro Paz. Click here to see an example.

Introduced to Armando by a mutual friend, Evandro in Portuguese and broken English, had a confession to make after we learned the basic step and one of the first variations. Apparently when Armando told him that he was bringing a group of gringos to learn forro (gringo is usually a slang word, perhaps derrogatory?, for white folk... but of course it was judiciously translated to us as a group of Americans), Evandro believed that he would have to start from the basics and he would be dealing with stiff, no-rhythm-havin' girls. Once he realized that this was not the case, he apologized over and over and allowed the gentleman who were there to dance with us to kick it up a notch and dance us all over the floor.

I must admit dancing forro once again put me in my happy place as I lived out my dancing dream of being led around the floor, twirled and dipped. From the moment our class began at 6 pm 'til we left the bar at 11:30 pm, I had a smile a mile wide and my cheeks hurt because I could not NOT smile.


This afternoon, after visiting the Sao Paolo Museum of Art, I sat at a table with Armando to have an espresso.

"You know Sydnie, last night Evandro was watching you dance and he said to me, 'She doesn't know it, but she was born in Brazil.' I told him, 'No, I think she knows she was born in America.' But he said, 'No, she was born in Brazil. The way she dances, she was born in Brazil. She just doesn't know it yet.'"

I blushed, smiled, and chuckled as he continued. "I just wonder, how does this make you feel? It's not the first time people have said this to me about you. But how do you feel about being in a place where the dancing comes so natural and you can feel like perhaps you belong here?" Not really sure how to answer his question, I responded by filling him in on how I have always wanted to take part in this kind of partner dancing, but never had the opportunity (or knew of the opportunity) in the states.

He continued, "It just seems to me that you are so different now. Even from 1 year ago, when you first came to Iowa with the glasses, and hair pulled back and you spoke so well and were just so smart... not that you aren't all those things now, but it almost seems like you are a different person, especially here in Brazil."

And with that, I found myself offended. I know he didn't mean anything by it and was just curious, but I was offended.


The fact of the matter is, I am a different person here than I am in Iowa. You know why? Because Sydnie in Iowa is not the happy Sydnie we all know and love. At this current moment, I am in my niche: in a large urban environment that I could explore and wander forever, under the sunshine where I can wear a dress and pretty shoes everyday, amongst a diverse population where you can spot every shade of brown on any given day, learning and thinking about my history and my people, eating delicious food daily and dancing until my heart's content. The only thing missing is having my family and friends to share all this with.

I found myself offended because although this man has observed and interacted with me for over a year, he doesn't know (and clearly hasn't paid enough attention to know) me. Up until now he has only interacted with me through classwork, and now he is spending almost 24 hours a day with me. The truth is, I am not really a different person, rather this is just a side of me that does not and can not exist to its fullest in Iowa because it's well... Iowa.

And maybe that's why his comments hit a sore spot... because I know very much who I am, what I enjoy and where I want to be, and for at least 16 more weeks, I cannot indulge myself in that very specific happiness.

So what do you all think of this? Do you feel like who you are changes based on your circumstances? Do you agree that being in your happy place simply brings out the happiest version of you? Or are you the same no matter what the situation or surroundings?


Stan said...

I agree with you, wholeheartedly, but there's no reason to be offended by what he said because he just doesn't know you. He's getting to know you now, but it's not his fault that the real you didn't or can't come out in Iowa. You're a city girl, with deep roots in your family and where you come from and who you come from .... and Who You Are and WHOSE You Are! Don't waste energy being pissed at him, he'll figger' it out eventually!

Judy Catalfo said...

Yup! Agreed! Different manifestations of the same core person, environment-specific :-)


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