Today, September 7th, 2017, is a special day for those 200 million Brazilians who still live in the country: It's been 195 years since Brazil declared independence from the Portuguese monarchy. Especially this year, when, landing on a Thursday, offers an opportunity for an extended holiday to those who are still employed. Even Google joined the party:
Coincidentally, today also marks the day a Brazilian engineer - who could be transforming the country into a better place but was denied the chance - was born. Vinícius Neves Motta, brain drained but the heart still intact, becomes 27 today. Circumstances are to blame for separating him from me and his lovely wife, but today is not the day for witch-hunting. Today is the day to celebrate.
My memory has become as sharp as a brick, but, fortunately, my obsession for self-organization makes up for it and allows me to claim Vinícius and I met for the first time on August 4th, 2009, when fate made him and his friend Leandro Cardoso (are you still friends, by the way?) were among the first to arrive after lunch for Programming Languages with former professor Sérgio Barbosa Villas-Bôas. This is relevant because, in Brazil and even more at UFRJ, it is considered perfectly okay (and even expected) to show up at least 30 minutes late for class. At that time, his dream was to transfer to the Industrial Engineering program and command all the other engineers, which remains a running joke among us every time I remember this conversation.
I don't really remember, but we perhaps might have exchanged a few meaningless words in between classes, but the only register I have is this picture, taken at TB Globo Studios in 2012, when we weren't exactly close:
My next memory dates back to August 2012, when we met for his farewell at an (in)famous pizza place at Barra da Tijuca. For the unaware, Barra da Tijuca is a gentrified neighborhood for the emerging upper-middle class that is known for being 50km (30 miles) away from Rio and excruciatingly hard to access without a helicopter. While I'm sure this meeting happened, I couldn't find any picture for this day, although I did find this tongue-in-cheek reminder:
Becoming friends only happened with him in Vancouver and me in Rio, trying to follow in his footsteps. We met briefly again in August 2013, when I arrived at Vancouver a week earlier than needed just to meet him at the UBC campus. Again, I'm 100% sure we took a picture, but I have no idea where I stored it.
As nice as it was my experience at Canada, my free time just vanished. Adapting to a new culture was a lot harder than I could have ever imagined and our contact boiled down to League of Legends matches than proper conversations. Still, 2014 brought it back stronger than ever. Our weekly meetup used to be at the all-you-can-eat pizza place with a few other Computer Engineering former exchange students, which eventually had to be stopped because our cholesterol levels started moving off the charts:
When Vinícius graduated and started working at Barra da Tijuca, meeting him for pizza or anything else became even more painful. Still, I'm glad to boast that, on May 26th, 2015, he confided in me a moment that would change his life forever:
This might be one of my proudest moments in life, because, when I read it and encouraged him to take the plunge, I'd have never imagined she'd become the kind, lovely, selfless, patient and devoted woman who would marry him. Writing this piece was an emotional rollercoaster, without a doubt, but here is where my heart grows heavier than ever. Getting used to the absence of a friend is already challenging, but living without the perspective of ever meeting Brazil's cutest couple again is rather cruel.
Therefore, at this September 7th, the only celebration is to wish him a happy birthday. Thank you very much for standing by me when I needed the most, and congratulations on building such a beautiful and strong family. I hope our goodbye turned out to be no more than a see you soon, because I already miss you both.
Salut, mon ami!
PS: we need to take better pictures together.