Living in Brazil the first time, back in 97-98, was a challenge. We’d only been dating for a year when we go there, and it was the first time either of us had lived outside the country. With only one car, once I dropped Blake off at work in the morning, I didn’t have many people to talk to during the day. Although I had a friend, Jenny, an American about my age, she had her own life, and I didn’t want to overwhelm her with my whining. Without the internet to keep me entertained, I got bored once I became accustomed to my surroundings.

Blake and Pam circa 1997

The first few months of our trip, I read anything in English I could find. (Although I could read Portuguese, it was difficult and slow). I read and re-read my two big Stephen King novels I’d packed along with me and then moved on to an Umberto Echo novel I found at the airport in Sao Paulo. Another friend of mine (her husband worked with mine; however, she was painfully shy) gave me some romance novels, which kept me busy for a while. Unfortunately, they created more feelings of dissatisfaction in my life. That was NOT what I needed!!

Yeah, life kinda sucked for a while. It sucked so bad that I started feeling depressed.

What not to do.

Our clothes dryer wasn’t strong enough to dry Blake’s jeans. The winter rains made the air so humid that I’d spend all day at the ironing board. We had a few American shows (like Law & Order), so I would spend hours ironing his jeans and watching television. Add in the psychological poison of the romance novels, and that created the perfect recipe for depression. Although watching television and reading romance novels cured the boredom, they also made me feel even more miserable.

Back then, I had nothing to look forward to except picking up Blake from work. Ugh, when I think back to what it must have felt like for Blake to get picked up by a depressed, needy girlfriend, it makes my stomach turn. Poor guy, he handled it well. Come to think of it, he ended up proposing at the end of that trip, so I guess true love saved the day!

Mental health takes discipline.

I remember those days feeling like they’d last forever.

It had only been a few months since I realized I needed to adjust my attitude toward Mercy. (Click the link to read about the time I made an a$$ of myself.) Back then, having fun for me was still very much dependent on other people, especially Blake. It took me a while to learn that my happiness was (and still is) my responsibility. It wasn’t until our next trip to live in Queretaro, Mexico, in 2003 – 4 that I started painting and making burlap art to keep myself sane.

By the end of our trip, I was ecstatic to go home. I couldn’t wait to get out of Brazil, go back to American foods (peanut butter, ranch dressing, and cheeseburgers!), and hear English on the radio. I was tired of translating everything, and although I would miss my friend Jenny, I was ready to get back to normal. (She is now a very accomplished art teacher in the U.S. You can find her here.)

Looking back now, I’m grateful for the lessons. Going through that experience taught me that doing things to have fun and feel good is essential to maintaining health and stability. No matter where we live, taking care of ourselves, body, mind, and soul take time and effort. (And in some cases medication. If you or someone you know is suffering from severe depression, please contact a doctor or counselor for more support.)

Have you ever lived in another country?

How did it go? Did you enjoy it?

What did you learn?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

xoxo Pam

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