Waves of Doubt

One of the reasons I hate to relax, hate to stand still, is that when I do a dark part my unconcious mind starts talking. I knew this would happen when I was told last Wednesday that I would be in Olinda through the weekend. I dreaded it, and nearly broke down. Then I started thinking of how to survive the next few days.

I try to fend off the subconscious by turning up the volume on the conscious. This is sort of like saying “LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” (but of course you can.)

I read books voraciously. Since arriving in Olinda I’ve read two books. The first is “A World Full of Gods” by Keith Hopkins. It’s an excellent (albeit uneven) early history and analysis of Christianity. The second books was “The Heartsong of Charging Elk” by James Welch. It’s beautifully written, but a bit homophobic. Gay characters are portrayed as being ‘evil’ to the Lakota protagonist, whereas Lakota actually revered gay members of the tribe as being closer to god. (Next book: “‘Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.)

I would also watch TV or go to films, but those two options aren’t available to me here. Television is incomprehensible. Daytime TV seems to consist mainly of game shows featuring transvestite hosts, or wildly overacted telenovelas. The current ‘hot’ show is “Uga Uga!” It features a city man who gets lost in the Amazon and saved by a beautiful Indian woman.

For some reason he’s lost all of his clothes but his underwear. Naturally, she’s wearing a bikini. He speaks Portugese, she speaks something else. Zaniness ensues. This is intercut with something happening in an art gallery involving a serious handsome young artist and a beautiful but boozy older woman. The gallery segments seem to be as weepy as the jungle segments are zany.

American films are generally in English with Portugese subtitles, but I haven’t gotten up the initiative yet to find a theatre. There doesn’t appear to be one in old Olinda. Recife is a US$15 cab ride away. Tomorrow I may explore new Olinda, which is within walking distance (3-4km) and is more commercial.

But I can’t read and hang out in the cinema all of the time. And when I’m walking the streets of Olinda, the thoughts come up from the back of my head like dark moths. Am I doing the right thing? Am I a loser, a quitter? Will Jeanne and Tyler hate me for abandoning them? Will Dan still love me?

I think about these things over and over, and I still feel like I’ve made the right decision. I cannot imagine being happy if I continued the journey. My melancholy would have poisoned the entire group, ruining the trip for them as well. And when I consider my decision, I feel like it was actually a pretty brave thing to do. It takes a certain amount of courage to admit that you’ve made a mistake. I still intend to make this journey, but I want to do so under different terms.

Of course, the sub-concious doesn’t pay attention. There are also a few people on the trip discussion mailing list who are apparently on the payroll of my super-ego. Though it may not be pleasant in the short term, these sorts of trials help us grow and know ourselves better. I’ve definitely learned some things about myself on this trip, some very surprising (though not unpleasant.)


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