The Saudades of Christmas

{Jimin Kang Diary}

With the approach of Christmas comes saudades for home. Although I don’t celebrate Christmas back in Hong Kong, the familial mood surrounding Christmas is pretty universal. As lights are strung up on trees and Christmas music blares from the radio, families are planning meals, present exchanges and opportunities to enjoy each other’s company before the arrival of a fresh, new year, which will likely conclude in the same way in which it began: in loving company.

To be honest, I don’t miss my family as much as I thought I would when I arrived in Brazil. It helps that technology has eased our communication despite the great distance that lies between us (17,000 kilometers!). It also helps that I have a new family here in Brazil, with a mom and a pair of siblings I’ve already grown to care for. (The dog? Unfortunately, not so much.)

But there are little things here that make me miss my family more each day — such as the plants I care for at the nursery.

A few months ago, my mom fell in love with household plants. After her friend inspired her to put potted plants in our home, she began placing vases of green in the living room, my room, her room… every new pot would bring a new surprise.

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But unfortunately, I wasn’t a great help. When she watered the plants, I merely watched. When she had to change the soil or the pots, I would walk by, completely disinterested.

It was only when I visited the Chapada region of Brazil that I realized how plants can impact our lives. I could see that the abundance of plants in places like Capão directly influenced the easy-going nature of the town’s inhabitants; the presence of plants inspires great qualities in people, whether they are caring for the plant or simply watching it grow.

And whenever I passed these plants on the streets, I couldn’t help but think back to my mom’s little garden, the little garden I had never considered my own.

This was one of the reasons that I decided to work with Canteiros Coletivos: to learn as much as I can about plants, so that I can go home and help my mom grow beautiful seedlings. One day, I want to grow herbs in our mini garden so my mom can run her fingers against the leaves and feel the rosemary, the basil, or the mint on her fingertips in the same way I can feel it in the nursery. I want to eat meals with my mom that incorporate these ingredients, so we can connect over tastes that we grew ourselves.

As Christmas draws closer, I find myself thinking more about my mom and her little garden. Although it’s saddening to think I’m so far away, it’s also exciting to know that I’ll be able to do so much once I return home.