Finding My Way in Brazil - The Glorious Challenge

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 19

The Journey - Recife  July 28 -- August 13, 1980
August 3-4 Interview an opposition politician/spend more time poring over photographs of senhor de engenhos/evening with Ivan Cordero and group of young Brazilians/morning of 4th at State Museum/afternoon arranging visit to engenho (plantation)and interview with foremost Recife historian/ tonight to view cultural slides at gallery at 9!
And I wonder why I am occasionally tired? Not so much the physical effort, though extreme humidity can be taxing, as mental absorption of so much detail, especially constant switching from one subject to the next and need to store information under so many categories.
Today is exactly four weeks since I arrived in Brazil, the acclimatization/acculturation is over; what strangeness remains is of a local variety — the change of pace from one city, town or village to the next, the change of contacts with people. Broadly, I am beginning to look at this world around me with a sense of familiarity. Perhaps what brings it that much closer is that people, too, are beginning to repeat ideas and opinions, especially contemporary ones.
Right at the beginning of my trip, I entered into a rather painful debate with Antonietta about friendship, made painful by what she described as a typically cynical “New York” outlook of making friends only so long as there is a need, a “use” for the other person. The No 1 syndrome. I have been aware of this criticism and have consciously opened myself to people bringing a commensurate response at a personal and professional level.
But there are other factors, too: I have changed my own outlook from a narrow introverted one to that which is, once again, open to the world. I feared I'd never regain this after these past years of what I keep calling mediocrity, for lack of wanting to use harsher, perhaps more concise terms. “Regain,” in the sense of getting back to the days when I was a truly active reporter. 'Twas there all the time, waiting for expression, until finally it could not longer be contained and I took the steps needed toward breaking with the past. Courage.
James A. Michener and Errol Lincoln Uys, St. Michaels, Maryland 1979
Covenant - The Secret History of a Best-Seller
One thing I will always remember James Michener for: his essay on wasting time, on the fact that at 37 or so, if one is going to make a change, if one is going to realize so much that has been striven and dreamed about — on looking back it's wisest to take only the positive steps toward that goal, to comprehend how each and every move forward, even though some were stumbling, all contributed toward that achievement. So many things past, not understood at the time, all go toward creating understanding and a full person. Anything from one's liberation from SA racism and a deeper value of humanity to liberation from middle-class materialism.

Just as the past four weeks have offered a return to the real use of my talents of observation, absorption etc, this period also sees a true awakening of the urge to write. Yes, I have for years written thousands and thousands of words in all forms but there never was the sole responsibility, this glorious challenge to write something lasting.
Certainly, I still have a great fear but a healthy one for it isn't negative or nihilistic. It is a realistic fear of the outside forces that challenge one. I can and will do this but people have to realize, especially those closest to me, what a delicate balance is needed to maintain the magic.

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