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Lost in Paradise

I woke up late, it's true. I really have only myself to blame. The night before had ended in a heated conversation with a bouncer, threats of calling the police, and eventually a R$ 229 bottle of Tequila. I had stumbled home just as the sun began to rise on a beautiful Saturday morning in Fortaleza.

I was definitely still drunk when I woke up. But not the cheerful, dancing on tables drunk. It was more of the groggy, misty, why-is-everything-so-blurry sort of drunk. In my hazy state I managed to misread a digital clock: 0930 (1.5 hours late) was misread as 0730 (30 minutes till bus departure). Thinking that I had only 30 minutes to make it to school where our group bus tour of the city was scheduled to leave at 8, I quickly threw on the nearest clothes I could find (not-coincidentally the same ones from the night before), I grabbed my bag, and hustled out the door to shouts from my host mother about how I was running late (or so I assumed, I didn't really understand what she was saying. Now I realize she was probably telling me that I was in fact already late.) Anyways, I hopped on a bus and figured I might be able to make it before they took off. I sent my friend named Ben a text, "hey tell them to wait for me. I'm on my way." He was confused.

Now if it had actually been 7:30 when I woke up, I may have had a chance. But 20 minutes in, at my first bus transfer, I checked the clock again and realized my mistake. Only then did the true gravity of the situation begin to sink in.

On my ninth day in Brasil I found myself alone in the center of the fourth largest city in Brasil. I had not yet found a bank that would take my Chase debit card so I had on me a grand total of R$2 (roughly 75 cents US), sunscreen, flip flops, an empty backpack, extremely limited Portuguese speaking skills, and a used cell phone with low battery, a broken right-arrow button, and only 10 contacts programmed in it, 4 of which were from the previous owner. Luckily one of the numbers happened to be the hero of this story my good friend William, who had also gone out with me the night before, but unlike me had been responsible enough to wake up on time.

In these sorts of situations I believe that there are two types of people. There are those who hunker down and make logical decisions to solve the problems at hand, and there are those who run. I am a runner.

Looking down at my phone I received a text from William (who had been brought up to speed on my current plight via text message, phone calls cost more and I didn't have enough credits on my prepaid phone to complete one). "Go to Dragão Mar" it said. Dragão do Mar was the square where we had been the night before and also serves as a well-known cultural center. Upon reading the text I reasoned that if I could find the ocean, I could find Dragão do Mar (which literally means "dragon by the sea"). In my half-drunken state I fell back on my PGA tour instincts (I don't play golf, but I've watched the masters a couple of times). From this I reasoned that on courses near the ocean, most greens break towards the water. Likewise it must mean that in cities near the ocean, most roads slant towards the water. So when determining which way to run, I figured if it is going downhill it must eventually lead me to the sea. So I started running downhill. (...it could have been brilliant you know.)

Roughly a mile in, nothing was looking familiar. So I ran up to a friendly looking guy and asked, "Dragão do Mar?" and pointed in the direction I had been running. "Não," he responded and pointed in the direction I had come from. Splendid. Note to self, don't rely on golf knowledge for directions.

So I ran back to where I had gotten off the bus and along the way decided that since I knew how to get to the ocean from school I ought to just take the bus to school and go from there. That being said I had no concept of when the tour bus would be going by Dragão do Mar (or if I had already missed it) or if they even would be stopping there. So time was of the essence.

Momentarily foregoing my running strategy, I hopped aboard the bus, shot off a few texts to William explaining where I was, and proceeded to sweat profusely in the 90 degree weather. Twenty minutes later I got off at my stop and started sprinting. In my flip-flops with an empty backpack flapping behind me, I must have been quite the site. I asked nearly every person I ran by to ensure I was still going in the right direction and about 15 minutes later I found myself sprinting down the street to a familiar setting. Dragão do Mar, at long last. I pulled out my phone to ask William where to meet and as I composed the message I realized that the low battery indicator was flashing. Frantically I changed my message from "where should I meet you?" to "I will meet you where Larissa's taxi picked her up last night." Click send. "Sending...sending...sending..." Phone dies.

Well great. So I'm here, in Dragão do Mar. I still have my R$2 and a bus pass with an unknown current balance. Did the message get to William? I have no clue. Had I missed them altogether? Quite possibly. But what could I do? So I sat down and waited. It was hot. I was sweating. I was tired, scared, and desperate. But at least it wasn't raining. And then it started to rain. Downpour actually. I stood up, held my hands up to the sky and laughed. It was a beautiful moment. I realized then that this was exactly the reason I had come to Brasil: to be lost, to be alone, and to be soaking wet.

I am starting to believe that the greatest catalyst for growth is adversity: adversity of the mind as well as adversity of the spirit. If one faces no mountains they never learn to climb. I believe we all ought to seek out challenges with the knowledge that sometimes you will find yourself broken, scared, and alone, and just at that moment when you think you have hit rock bottom it will probably start raining. But do not despair or accept defeat. For I have been there and survived. Looking back I reckon that it is moments like these that we live for, for it is in these moments that we really live.

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