Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tenho Saudade de Você

When I was in Brazil these past few months, there were some great songs on the radio. One of them has been running through my head the past few days since I returned to the United States. It is by Gusttavo Lima and is called "Fui Fiel." The song doesn't perfectly fit my situation, but it does match in a lot of ways. The story of the song is waking up with the desire to say good morning to the person you love only to actually wake and see that the person you love is not there. The song continues about how wonderful your relationship with that person was and how much you miss that person.

Well, I miss Brazil. I am glad to be back in the United States, glad to have my "real life" moving forward (as opposed to the vacation wonderland of my life in Brazil). But there are many things I miss. First, of course, being my husband, because he stayed in Brazil a week longer than me and now is in Virginia without me.

The following things I miss are in no particular order.

The weather. Don't get me wrong, snow has a time and a place and can be quite fun (how else could you sled, ski, and ice skate?), but for many other activities cold is inconvenient and snow/ice can be dangerous. The rainy season in Brasilia was very pleasant.

The architecture. Living so close to the downtown of the capital of the country gave me an opportunity to see really cool structures all the time. Brasilia was built from scratch in essentially the middle of nowhere only a few decades ago, so it has a past like few other cities in the world can claim. It was the crowning achievement of Oscar Niemeyer (architect), Lúcio Costa (city planner), and Roberto Marx (landscape architect). I had no idea that concrete could be so beautiful. It is really just impressive.

The people. It is impossible not to love people who are so welcoming! First of all, everyone I met from the embassy and the ward (church congregation) were incredibly giving and kind. Sincere offers of rides, assistance, household items, and activities were given and accepted. It made the experience so much more enjoyable to have friends so quickly. Second of all, the strangers. They were so sweet. I couldn't go anywhere without hearing how adorable and beautiful my children are. I never get tired of hearing that. ;)

The food. I really like Brazilian rice and beans. My feijão e arroz got better each time I made it. (It couldn't have gotten worse!) I don't know if I can ever go back to plain rice and canned beans after discovering how easy it can be to use dry beans and add a little flavor to the rice. I will also miss pão de queijo and pãozinhos. I had never before eaten so much mozzarella cheese in my life. Judging from the selections offered at the grocery store, it is by far the most popular cheese in Brazil. And inexpensive, fresh fruit being available everywhere—that was nice.

And here are a few of my favorite memories.

The first is simple: Swinging on the hammock in my back yard. There was almost always a breeze, the back porch is covered, and I could see the lake. My kids would usually all be piled on top of me, but occasionally they would go play in the yard as well, and I could watch them from my leisurely position.

Playing and dancing in the rain. It was the rainy season, and aside from an unusually dry January, we had lots of lovely warm rain in February and March. My children loved playing with their umbrellas (or not using umbrellas), splashing in the puddles as the rain fell down, and getting completely soaked.

Getting completely lost. On more than one occasion, Jeff and I got utterly lost (either by driving in circles over and over again or by ending up on a road that didn't have any turn offs for a long time). It was fun to just be together and look out the window, watching Brazil go by.

In a similar topic, driving. I am really proud of myself for how much I drove near the end of the trip. Brasilia is a city that originally was designed to have no stop lights, but due to how large the population has grown that didn't end up being possible, but the roads were still designed with a lot of round-a-bouts, speed bumps, and merging ramps. Add that to the fact that it honestly seemed, at times, that right-of-way on the road was simply given to the car that was the most aggressive, along with another fact that I had very little manual driving experience, I think I am a champion for driving there. Also, our rental car had a very loose clutch with very weak acceleration, so it was even harder. I'm amazing. ;) Just sayin'.

The magnolia tree. The flowers were so fragrant. Pungent even. My kids loved to bring me the blossoms that had fallen off the tree. I spent many days with a flower or two tucked behind my ear. Another reason why this tree makes the favorite list is that Jill had been asking me for a climbing tree all last summer, but our townhouse in Virginia did not have one. So she was super happy to discover that the magnolia tree in our backyard in Brazil was perfect for climbing. Even Daniel learned how to climb it.

Just Brazil. It was very strange being back in Brazil. I had lived there and loved it, but I had never expected to return there. I had decided about five years ago to stop trying to retain my Portuguese and just let my Spanish take over, because my Portuguese was, in my opinion, interfering with my Spanish abilities. It was surreal to be there again. To be surrounded by red dirt, open skies, samba music, Brazilian smiles, and colorful pants. :) It was wonderful.

One last favorite memory. Brazil's economy is doing much better now than when I lived there twenty years ago. There is even a middle class now, which did not really seem to exist when I was a kid. However, there are still a lot of people who have very little. Brasilia did not have slums (favelas) like I saw in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but there were still indigent people. I was impressed by their creative ways to earn rather than beg. They would offer to return my shopping cart at the grocery store or stand behind me holding up traffic helping me to back out or try to sell me random things. It seems so strange to have so much when there are so many people who have so little, people to whom my pocket change means so much. You're probably wondering why this is a favorite memory. The poverty was not my favorite; it was actually really hard to see. It made me feel very uncomfortable, because I don't really understand why my soul was born into a comfortable American family with safety, prosperity, education, and health care and their souls were born into bodies with none of that. But then I also feel uncomfortable, because who am I to judge that just because I've never known hunger my life is somehow better than theirs. Perhaps they have known happiness that I've never experienced. And then I feel uncomfortable again. Anyway, it makes me feel very uncomfortable, and I wish I could build them all homes and provide them with food. But back to the point of this memory.

After eating dinner at a restaurant, we were getting in the car. A man came up to us. He smelled and was dirty, but he had clear eyes and a warm smile. He knelt down and talked to Daniel. Danny did not understand any of his Portuguese, but he understood the man's friendliness. Jeff and I fiddled around in the car looking for spare change or bills and got some together. I gave the money to Jeff, who gave it to Danny. Daniel took the money and gave it to the man, and then my son hugged him. Daniel looked up at him, smiled his huge beautiful smile, and hugged this dirty stranger.

It was an unforgettable experience. Part of me was terrified—what if he is dangerous, what if he is drunk, what if he is diseased, what if he will hurt my child? But the rest of me was sincerely, deeply touched. My son saw past the exterior. He probably didn't even have to see past it—he probably never noticed it in the first place. He just saw a man. Another human.

And he gave him a hug.

I gave him money, but my son gave him a hug. I wonder which one was of more worth to that stranger.

We miss you, Jeff. Can't wait to be together as a family again!

From Brazil to Michigan: a bit of a temperature change.

Thank you, Brazil, for sharing your warmth.