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Monthly Archives: December 2009

…and they serve barbeque sauce. So the first place I went after stepping off the plane was…yes. Hard Times. I could take on the world after spicy chili and their amazing nachos. Oh, yes indeed. Next step? Call everyone I know to see “whazzup!” Whazzup indeed!

I have beautiful friends. And this is only a handful.It is truly a gift to have people in your life that are constants for you. It may be one month or 10 that we don’t see each other, but we pick up right where we left off, as if we were only away for the weekend.

This is definitely what I came home for.

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5:30 am found me deboarding the plane from Rio with a spring in my step, walking into a still-sleepy Atlanta airport. Maybe I had just finished watching Up while I couldn’t sleep, but Ooh, look at that! Haven’t seen carpet for a while! Ooh, look at all the big, scary TSA advisories—it’s good to be home.

I stood in line for the re-entry customs check, hardly containing my excitement to be on US ground again. As we waited, I watched the welcome video playing above our heads, showing gorgeous scenes of incredible natural and urban landscapes, intermittent with various people, families or groups saying, “Welcome. Welcome to the United States.” I was ready to drop my bag and pledge my allegiance to the flag with the first grade zest with which I’d first learned how. I kept watching, but really wanted to hug everyone around me. I told the guy behind me that, and we both decided it’d look like less of a security threat if I held off.

Welcome to America, land that so many dream of, land that I am lucky to call home.

If I had attained celebrity status this year, I can now add “Rock Star” to the list of titles, after my debut in Quissama’s Talent Show. Okay, so they never called it that, but a talent show it was, with all the dance and music classes performing at the Sobradinho on a structured stage, with lights, sound crews, and live video footage. Wait, you mean they’re preserving this?! Oh, Brother. I was set to perform with my guitar class, we had been practicing for weeks for this. Why should I be nervous, then?

I was actually singing in front of the audience, something I had never done nor had the desire to do before (No, don’t even try to mention karaoke nights. I leave my dignity at the door willingly).

I should have known it would be awesome. So after watching hours of ballet dances, cool hip-hop dance routines, and forró music, most of the crowd had already gone home by the time my motley crew stepped on stage. The benefits of going last? When we started “Stand by Me”, my mike wasn’t on, so we played and mimed while the tech guys scrambled around us. I was laughing, it was so amusing, but couldn’t control myself when the fog machine went off and we were suddenly enveloped in a cloud of “effect” that was just epic. So much for the song. When that ended, to our relief, we kicked up our surprise number. “One of Us” by Joan Osborne—you know the one, where we all wonder what God would be like if he were one of us, another stranger on the bus. The only people in the crowd were my groupies and a few relatives of my bandmates. They started waving whatever was in their hands at the time, reminding me of the hilarity of the situation. I briefly pictured crowd-surfing at the end of the song, but my daydream ended in disaster. Just as well, cuz the piano solo ended, and I finished the song, much to my relief—both to get off the stage, and to be leaving town in a matter of hours afterward, so I wouldn’t have to relive any part of the show when it resurfaced on the tv.

It was incredibly fun, all things considered. The music teachers became my friends after going to the music room nearly every day to dink around on the guitar (usually as either stress-relief or because I really didn’t have anything else to do!). I love that I learned to play, as it has become something I see doing for a long time, a sort of companion if you will. Besides, if that’s what gets little girls to come ask for my autograph after the show, I’m all for it. Rock on.

I’ve never liked “good-byes.” Maybe I am awkward, but I don’t think it is anything anyone likes to do. When I learned at El Lago Del Bosque, “Nunca dicimos adios, sino hasta luego” (We never say good-bye, but ‘See you later’), I adopted the mantra. It’s really a peace-out, if you will, an “I’ll see you again in a bit”…

Paula and her ever-present smile. I love this woman!!

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Eliza and I (left), on the last of our “Thursday night social lives” at the Calderão. Well, the last for a while, that is…

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Fernanda (left), one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure to know. More like a sister, actually. I honestly feel like I’m part of the family with her.

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Aline (above), one of the first people to befriend me, and someone I’ll be glad to know for a very, very long time.

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What is a day worth without goofy people to spend it with?

Josara, Luisa, Me, and Maycon, acting as usual.

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And the fabulous Fabio and Taís, at my churrasco de despedida.

When I started to tell people I was leaving, the usual response went something like:

“Rebecca, nao gostou?” No, that’s not it. I loved Quissama. “Nao! Nao iria embora se realmente gostou daqui.”  For real, I loved it here, don’t think I didn’t! I am leaving because my contract is over. “Mas nao vai procurar outro trabalho aqui?” No, I’m not going to look for other jobs around here, my time here is over. “Ah, nao gostou!” Look, they are deporting me.

(pensive silence)

I know someone you could marry if you needed to stay. Thanks. I’ll think about it.

Turns out you can’t just drop into another community, another life, and leave it as quietly as you arrived. Even if I didn’t have such comical celebrity status, I’d still find it hard to say goodbye to all the people that have been a part of my life for the last ten months.

If the issue of distance weren’t so great, we wouldn’t have the problem of saying goodbye. No reason to. One of the best phrases I’d learned at Concordia Language Villages was Nunca dicimos adios, sino hasta luego—we never say goodbye, just “see you later.”

When you participate fully, open your heart and your life to make real connections to other people, there is no way to say goodbye if you would still like to see them again. They are part of you now, they know you in a way that many others who know you back home have no way to comprehend, in the same way that these same people will never know you the way some people you can’t wait to see back home know you. Normal.

I am not an experiential tourist, I don’t need to make a photograph to sum up this year and then tuck it into the book with a nice caption. I could try, but it’s deeper than that. Much, much deeper, past the point where you could say ‘goodbye.’ This experience, this time spent in this place will always be there, because it is me now.

If there is anything to finish off a new experience in a charming and satisfying way, it is small children in costumes. “Teacher, paint my nose!!!” one class of pre-K students kept chiming as they put on their flower, duck or alligator hats. A dab of bright yellow, pink, green, or “brue” and they were back out the door, heading to the stage.

Um, so cute. Funny, as I was looking at the rows of shiny smiles, I could pick out my favorites, pick out the bagunçeiros, the quiet ones, the ones I want so much to succeed. Actually, that wish goes for all of them. As we wrapped up the project for the year, I had to wonder if–but put my absolute faith in the idea that–the project would be successful far into the future. What this would mean for the community is a “new generation” of readers, with not only a new set of vocabulary and mastery of songs like, “Mr. Sun,” but also with a broader conception of the world, whether they recognize it or not. What this would mean for the students themselves is potentially much bigger.

Recognition of vocabulary in other languages—however large or small—creates a sort of participation in the world, a curiosity in things bigger than oneself. I saw it every day, as people would say, “Hello! How are you?” to me on the street (though usually after I had already passed them—curiosity won out only slightly over shyness). I’m convinced that everyone would love to communicate in another language if they could (meaning: if it weren’t so painful to learn!). We’re all fun-loving creatures, I believe, with a healthy curiosity. “The book is on the table,” is still my favorite phrase I hear from people who want to try “the English.” Long story.

Even if language training doesn’t turn into fluency or even international travel, the immediate expansion of a mind’s horizons is amazing. To watch these tiny students, now, singing our greeting song, “Hello, how are you?!” gave me a sense of solidity, of having started something—something important. So while this last year was at times very difficult for me, and often frustrating, it brought out a lot of growth, adventure and learning, and a compassion and patience for people and situations I never thought I’d find myself learning from, and my horizons—though considerably broad—were widened too. The book is on the table, and it is most certainly open.

Have you hugged your Baobá lately?

Fado, no Sobradinho. Quissamã claims the only “original” African Fado dance group in Brazil. Kind of, nearly, looks like some good ol´country line dancing, with a Brazilian rhythm section. Go figure. Wanna try your foot at dancing? Good luck–gotta be Quissama-ense, says Antonio, as he waves his pandeiro. This group´s got roots.

Who are we kidding? It´s so quente these days…everyone needs a good cup of água de côco, right? The homeboys in the plaza certainly agree.

I heart Quissamã.

“…I told ya, pretty baby, that I always take the long way home…”

Tom Waits croons in my ear, as I wonder why I picked this bus. I got on the first one that came by, ignoring the fact it´d be a long detour ahead, opting not to wait…which is ironic, as I´ll get home later. *sigh*. “…Let´s go out past the party lights, where we can finally be alone….come with me, together we can take the long way home….”   I do love the detour, though.