Colegio Damas, my new school, requires students to pay to attend. In Brazil, if you can afford to pay for private school, you go to private school. No question. In general, Brazilian public schools, despite recent improvement, provide a less than desirable eduction. This means rich people get a good education and poor people get a bad education. If I were to find one reason for such a large economic (not to mention racial) divide in Brazil, this would be it.
Mauro Senior, my host grandfather and animated old Brazilian man who everyone seems to know, told me of a time when Brazilian public schools were better than private schools. A time when the historic school downtown educated the future leaders of the country and was not in a state of decay. He hopes things will improve.
Last week I joined the school soccer team. I’ll be training with them twice a week. I’m the worst player on the team, but I can keep up most of the time. Keeping up is much more than I can ask for having joined a random team in Brazil of all places.
My host brother Rafael left for a three month stay in California last week, and today my host sister Leticia leaves for France for her year long Rotary exchange in France. I get the feeling this is some sort of turning point for me.
Everyday I meet new people. A new person tells me his name and then my brain instantly forgets that name as it attempts to figure out what the hell this new person is saying to me. Then a different person introduces herself. Repeat process.
It’s currently the middle of winter and also currently 85 degrees fahrenheit outside. Recife is the home of 3.7 million people and 3 competing soccer teams. I have so far avoided picking which team to follow, despite many pleas to support the right one. Thanks to imperialism, locals speak the language of Portuguese here. I, on the other hand, do not.
I live with the familia Sampaio e Silva, all wonderful people. Suzana and Mauro, the parents. Leticia and Rafael, the kids. Eliane the maid. Mauro writes software for Motorola and Suzana teaches at a local university.
I now attend Colegio Damas, a private catholic school, a five minute walk from my bed. Uniforms are required, which makes my life easier.
People here are unapologetically friendly, a little crazy, and outwardly loving to each other.
During my time in school I have learned how light travels through glass, how to make friends without understanding them, and the redundancy of fear in human interaction.
Fear is meant to protect us at our most vulnerable, yet it is of no use when attempting to fulfill a human goal. When presented with an unfamiliar situation and a new culture, fear urged me to book it home. Useless. In a new class and country, one may be mobbed by many young people on the first day of school. In this situation, smiling and reaching out proved to be the better option than jumping out of the window.