Last week, over a brief long-distance “Viber” phone call, my mother told me that she had recently run into my Kindergarten teacher. She proceeded to tell me that Ms. Dorris McFall was interested in how I was doing in Brazil. You can imagine my surprise. The last time I saw Ms. McFall, Sandra Bullock had just starred in The Net, ironic since I was reminded about Ms. McFall via a conversation with my family on my iPod Touch using technology didn’t even exist back then.
Fortunately, my memory of Ms. McFall has not been wiped clean like Sandra Bullock’s identity was in the movie. We have kept in contact, in general fashion, over the years, but I can honestly say the recent news was a blast from the past. Reflecting on all this while leaning against a tree in Curitiba’s botanical garden, I realized that it has been about 16 years since I dried off my hands in the elementary school bathroom by shaking them in the air, sprinkling my classmates. 16 years ago, I had to do everything fast, fast, fast; I knocked over chairs and bumped into tables as I tried to cross the classroom and I distinctly remember how I got into trouble for coloring outside the lines.
Looking back, I can see why Ms. McFall let my twin brother and I (we were similar then as we are now), play “Batman and Robin” in the gym so much. While feeding our love for the Dynamic Duo, she was able to drain all of our innocently destructive energy through running. Smart lady. To use a superhero analogy, I guess that means, in a caring, teacherish sort of way, she discovered our kryptonite (or Kryptonian atmosphere, if you are a fan of Man of Steel). Maybe sugar was my brother’s and my energy-giving solar radiation then. Who knows!
Well, a lot has changed in 16 years. I still have energy, mind you. I most definitely still collide with my surroundings. You should just see me attempt to navigate the gauntlet of furniture in the living room (just ask my current host family). Also, I still occasionally ignore directions to stay within boundaries. But in many ways I have changed. For example…
I’ve gotten a job in Brazil! Wahoo!
Now, at age 24, I have become the teacher as well as a student.
Where? Centro Europeu (European Center), a quality organization that promotes the learning of languages and professions. Classes begin this week.
I realize that it has taken me a while to get this information out to all my readers. I am sorry that it took so long. You see, since my last post, I have contacted/applied/interviewed/taught demo lessons/received training/and taught at (to varying degrees) about 10 schools. I have ridden the bus downtown pretty much every day in the last three weeks and memorized the names of bus tube stations between my house and multiple terminals. The short and long of it is that, as I considered the pros and cons of various schools for the last three weeks, my life was essentially in a state of flux. But no more, at least not for the present. And speaking of presents, here is a gift for you…
YOU ASKED FOR IT:
You, all my Brazilian Summer readers, voted for what you wanted to see more of in the posts of yours truly. What were the results? Anecdotes, or stories, stories, and more stories! Pictures came in a not-so-close second and Observations in third. I appears that my readers like to read more than muse philosophically or stare at photographs. Who’da thunk it?! [Lucky for all my “visual” readers, I have included a gallery at the end of this post!] So bring on the stories!
*Small print: This post’s “blog story” comes from my experiences in the last few weeks. I have many stories, but different constraints keep me from posting them on this blog. I chose this one thinking that since almost all of the photos in my last post were food-related, it would be good for readers to have a more healthy reading diet. The readers are following Brazilian Summer Digest after all. 😛
“The Half-Forgotten Park”
There I was in the realm of Xaxim (shah-‘sheem, a bairro in southern Curitiba), visiting my close friend William. We had time to kill. Being the sun-lover that I am, I decided to go bask in the glory of the backyard while Will organized some things in his room. Deliberately, I sat down in the light and removed my running shoes. Then, I peeled away the white socks from my suffocating feet. Air! My feet could breathe again!
Even though it was winter in Southern Brazil, the day was balmy in the sunshine. With blades of grass in between my toes, I couldn’t complain. All I was missing was a sheet of long hair down my back. Ah, I can taste the bittersweet sensation of nostalgia even now. But no, it already burns away like fog, or like the hair that used to adorn my temples.
Unaware of my contemplations, William came outside and pointed at chrome. No, not my chrome dome, silly. He was pointing at a pair of bicycles.
“Vamos dar uma volta” / Let’s go make a loop,” he suggested. There was a place that he wanted to show me.
We grabbed the bikes, and I quickly discovered that mine had a flat tire. I look at William. He smiled. Before we went wherever he wanted to show me, we had to go to the bike shop.
As we walked the several blocks to the bike shop through suburban Curitiba, I relished the experience. There I was in Brazil, walking in the middle of the street, hand on handlebars, headed on an adventure. A new inner tube was the only thing that stood in my way.
In addition to fixing the tire, the bike master had adjusted the height of the seat and applied some lubricant free of charge. Neat guy, who had apparently been working with bikes since before I was born (hence, the honorary title “bike master” I have bestowed).
Back at the house and ready to roll, I laughed at the face of the unknown path ahead of me. Did a mere inner tube think it could keep me from my dual-wheeled destiny? I think not! With a legendary hop upon the newly adjust bike seat, I set off. Then I remembered I didn’t know where I was going, so I decided I had better stop and see if William turned right or left from his house. He turned right. Aha! I knew I was going the right way!
A few kilometers down streets and across intersections, I had to ask William where we were going.
“Uma parque” / “A park,” he said. “Meia esquecida” / “Half forgotten.” You can imagine my anticipation.
Riding on the sidewalk when one was available and on the road when one wasn’t, I was content to focus on not hitting people or not getting hit by a car. It was fun, if a little against the grain of my childhood behavior training that said “You can’t go past the mailbox.” [Love you, Mom and Dad!]. But as fun as it was, I was starting to sweat. Curitiba is at noticeably higher altitude than St. Louis, and I was beginning to feel it. That said, I didn’t complain: adventures weren’t supposed to be easy.
Like any true adventurer, I found I had worked up an appetite. In the distance, I saw a “caldo de cana” or “sugar cane juice” stand. I asked William if he wanted to stop. No, he said, we could stop on the way back. OK, no problem, Will.
A little later, at a crosswalk, I asked William how much further. He pointed down a road.
“Look over there? See that bridge? We’re going to cross it, and the parque is nearby.”
I nodded. But I couldn’t see no bridge. Oh, boy, I thought.
It turned out that, to William, “uma volta” / “a loop” wasn’t what “a loop” was to me. I was thinking the whole trip, there and back, would be 10 km tops. Nope. It was more than that just to get there.
You can imagine how I sweated for the rest of those 13 kilometers. Needless to say, I was slightly miffed by the fact that I had not brought extra clothes and would be sleeping over that night. Talk about beyond belief.
However, the kilomarathon (26.1 km, haha) was not without its benefits. I was able to go to a spot where William said he liked sitting and looking at the park. It was quite beautiful, Parque Iguaçu, with its grass, bike trails, and lake. As we rode around the lake (Maybe this was the loop William was talking about, the stinker!), I saw what looked like large rodents near the water. Upon closer examination, I found my initial assessment to be correct: large rodents. I smiled: I had never seen capybaras outside of the zoo.
William explained to me that the capybaras lived in the park. They were monitored by local biologists, but they stayed in the park because it was their home, not because they were forced to. We didn’t get too close, so as not to scare them, but we did manage to get a photo, which is shown in the Gallery.
When we got home, my clothes were fairly saturated with salt and body coolant (sweat, people). But do you know what the worst part of it was, though? Not the level of sweating. No, no. I sweat like that all the time. The worst part was… with all the sweating and push-paddling I did on my way back, pressing down on my knees with my fists because my quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles weren’t responding, WE DIDNT STOP FOR SUGAR CANE!
William explained: It was getting late, and we didn’t want to be out after dark. It was hard, but I let it go. He had a point.
Plus, if we delayed in returning, we could miss dinner, because I sure wasn’t gonna drink on the go and risk spilling perfectly good sugar cane juice. I knew his mother’s cooking was ambrosia anyways, ten times better than any sugar cane, so it all worked out for the best. But next time, I get my caldo.
If you have enjoyed this edition of My Brazilian Summer and would like to read more like it, please leave comments below. Also, if you have any suggestions, let me know. Together, we can make a better blog. But only together!
Ms. McFall, if you are reading this… what do you think? I’d love to hear from you.
For additional anecdotal gems, please see the Gallery below! Click on the thumbnails to view them in Slideshow Mode.
TESOL Teacher Kyle