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LUV Mission Trip: Beginning the Journey

Friday, May 10, 2013
by Caitlin Dotson

I love to fly. I love to take off and stare out the window as the city I am leaving becomes smaller and smaller. As the houses, cars and people shrink away and something new and unchartered comes closer and more tangible. A part of me thinks the excitement lays in the uncertainty of adventure. Leaving behind what is known to discover something fresh and new. Every flight marks a new adventure where there is a chance to learn, change and grow.

As I stared out the window on the way to Brazil and watched Nashville drift away I hoped I was headed toward something amazing and that plane was symbolically taking me away from my comfort zone and into a new place. I hoped that same plane would bring me back with new and updated luggage: new outlooks, perspectives and love (and a new LUV). Embracing the adventure and embarking on it fully with complete openness is key.

When your plane does eventually reach the clouds and settles in a steady pace it is like a clean state; you are surrounded by vast sky representing endless chances and the beautiful clouds are numerous opportunities. This whole journey is guided toward the suns unfaltering light (God reference there, anyone catch it?)

That flight marked the beginning of a journey of all sorts: physical, emotional and spiritual. This journey is a change to come back as a new person with new carry-ons packed with compassion, understanding and a full heart. Flying is a magical thing because it can take you to new places, if you let it. As you throttle through the air at unimaginable speeds you have no idea what you are headed toward. With a tank full of hope and aspirations and a good pilot to guide your internal compass you may just find a stamp on a passport can yield so much more than what you bargained for. 

And what they say about time and flying is true, time flies- unless you’re flying. Our first two days seemed like one long 48 hours as we travelled and got settled into our new Rio residence. Brazil is not what I expected. We have all remarked on the remarkable difference in socioeconomic levels. As we walked to gather supplies people gawked at us. A fair skinned group composed mainly of blondes is a rarity here.

Not many people have talked to us, many stare and smile; that could be because our body guards (Brandon, Garner and Matt) have a constant eye out for any suspicious behavior. Our first night ended with a visit to the beach to snap a few quintessential sunset pictures and then a sandwich shop where pineapple was a key ingredient. After arriving back at our hotel we all were passed out before 8 (6 Nashville time), which was a nice change of pace for insomniacs like myself.

The 12 hours of sleep was much needed though because Friday was spent preparing for our exhibition to Campinho, similar to an American grade school. After spending the day there I now know what Justin Bieber would feel like in a shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon. Those children acted like we were celebrities, saying we were swarmed is an understatement. The kids loved us and we loved them back. We started with some volleyball demonstrations and had them participate but that quickly dissipated into bracelet making, photo taking and attempting to cross the dreaded language barrier.

Language does not seem to matter that much because we are speechless at the affection that they show us and how immediately taken by them we are. Their exoticness was breathtaking to us and they were equally as enamored by our light colored eyes and hair. They shine; they personify sunshine so taking what seems like thousands of pictures of them is not hassle to us. The children ranged from 6-14 and were so enthralled by us they cheered for our team when we played their school team.

Although, their perception of American pop culture may have been a bit off (to them, Brittnay looks like Katy Perry) they were pretty well versed on the latest songs. The four hours passed fast and as we drove away with kids banging on our van smiling and waving I felt famous and loved and I hope they feel the same.

We have also started writing down “Brazil-isms” which are supposed to be inside jokes from the trip but the list is quickly turning into “Britt-isms.” Just to give you a little taste of it, she asked us if we were on the right side of the equator to see the sunset… yup.

That plane was definitely taking us on a new adventure, flipping us upside down, literally and figuratively. Overall, from what I can make of Rio thus far it is like the cobbles stone that lines it’s streets. Elaborate and beautiful it is from afar; the patterns are seamless to the unfocused eye, but between each carefully chosen rock is dirt. The closer you look the more you see the grime that is weaved into the pattern.

This grunge is directly next to the beauty and splendor. Such little separates the monstrously rich and the devastatingly poor. As Americans it is almost unfathomable that neighbors can differ so drastically in socioeconomic status. Here, it is just the way of life. We are hoping to come in and enhance the beauty of these cobble stone streets in whatever way possible, starting at the simplest stepping-stone: smiles and spread LUV.