For the first seven months in Brazil, I lived a relatively avocado-free life. Not by choice! I had only come across them rarely, in one place, and they were really small, expensive, and worst of all, unable to ripen. Oh well, I finally thought. I can do it. I can make it until we return to the States without my favorite chili/toast/enchilada topping. No guacamole will be hard, but we also don’t have tortilla chips. Martyr-like, I carried on with lesser alternatives. Corn bread. Peanut butter. Cilantro. For seven long months.
And then! One weekend in February, we were hanging out with our friends Luis and Alana, and Alana offered me half of a beautiful, robust, perfectly-ripe avocado. It rested open-side up on a small cutting board, and it was huge! Easily two, if not three, times as big as an avocado I would find in St. Paul. I was at once thrilled and shocked. I asked Alana where she had found such a jewel. “Extra,” she said, naming one of the larger supermarkets here. EXTRA?! I thought. I’m at Extra at least once a week! She told me I should keep eating (I was holding myself back from devouring the whole thing), holding up the other avocados she had. That’s when I realized I recognized the peel! I’d been seeing heaps and heaps of avocados, for months, in many locations, without realizing the golden treasure that lay within. I just assumed it was some variety of papaya or other fruit that I wasn’t familiar with.
I have a tendency to give every event in my life a narrative arc (s/o to all my English majors!), but this felt like a corporeal metaphor smacking me in the face. Why had I just assumed that avocados only look one way? Why had I never branched out to further investigate (i.e. just freaking google) the clearly-marked signs boldly proclaiming ABACATE? Why had I so easily resigned myself to a life without a food I really love (um, especially in a country where fresh produce abounds year-round)? Why didn’t I fight harder, dig deeper?
In the right conditions, I can be a creative problem-solver. In most of my life, I readily recognize the grey. But every now and then, I am confronted with my own unspoken assumptions, my own rigid black-and-white thinking. When these notions stay in my brain, they go around and around, forming inflexible neuro-paths that I take without ever challenging my compass.
I want to say “lesson learned” and give this brief post a tidy little conclusion, but it’s probably more like “lesson in progress.” Which is cool, too. After almost a year of living in Brazil, struggling to learn a new language and new customs, I feel like “in progress” is a pretty okay place to be.