The last few days have just made it even clearer to me how precious every moment is, how much I’ll be leaving behind Friday night. S., L., and I had a fun time learning more maracatu drumming from P. If I had the money, I’d seriously take real lessons, for it’s so much fun. After our complimentary lessons, P., we girls, and another “amigo,” a sweet guy named C., went to a cute little restaurant for some drinks, and we had the best time together. Much laughter. I love P. He’s this short, muscular black guy, who’s bursting with energy and good humor. He loves to have a good time, and is very, very affectionate with all the ladies. You can’t be around him and not have a smile on your face.
I also had a wonderful time last night. Our lovely older guy friend V. was at the drumming on Alto da Se again. He’s a sweetheart. He greeted L., S., and I with warmth and delight. C. was also there. Once again, I just got so swept up in the atmosphere of Sunday night’s street party. Being with all those Brazilians, listening to the amazing drumming, holding hands with them while dancing in a circle, seeing joy on everyone’s faces–it just made me feel so alive. Incredibly, wonderfully alive. And that’s one of the things I will miss so much when I go home. Back to staleness, back to cold, blank stares, back to lives being lived half-heartedly. No dancing, no music, no kisses on the cheek. Just another reason why I know I will cry when I leave here.
10/18/05 I never had a chance to finish chronicling my last days in Brazil. Things got so busy.
I am now home, in the US. But I know I must record the happenings of my last week in Brazil, before they disappear from my memory. Monday was my next-to-last day at the school with the kids. I was joined by a new volunteer, a young Englishwoman named H., who was to take my place. At the bell for their 30-minute break at 3:30, I was told by Prof. S., the English teacher, that some of the kids had prepared a surprise for me. He led me (and H.) down to the first floor, and to the door of another classroom. When he opened it, I was greeted by several of my favorite students shouting and running to hug me. Music was blaring from a boombox in the corner, there were balloons taped to the blackboard, drinks and cake and treats were set out on a table, and on the blackboard was drawn a heart with the words “Para A.” inside it, and beside it, the signatures of the students. I nearly cried. It was so touching. I hugged the kids over and over, while thanking them over and over. I was so appreciative of their beautiful, heartfelt gesture.
Before I left that day, I got many, many hugs from students. Some thought it was my last day, so I had to explain to them I would be back one more day, and I would say goodbye then. My last day there was not a normal school day. They instead had an assembly-type gathering of the students in the downstairs courtyard. The students were to present their projects about health, sanitation, and the environment. Much to my surprise, Prof. S. got me and H. to join him and the other teachers up on the podium in front of the students. What’s more, in the middle of their presentations, the microphone was thrust into my hands, and I was asked to say some words to the students, since I was leaving. I, of course, was totally unprepared for this, but strangely enough, once I stood there in front of all those students, many of whom I’d come to care deeply about, it wasn’t difficult to think of anything to say. My heart spoke for me, and it spoke entirely in Portuguese. I told them how important they were to me, that I cared about them, would never forget them, and thanked them for the time I got to share with them. At my words, they cheered and clapped loudly.
I was so overwhelmed. After came the hardest part–leaving. I was surrounded by children–some of them I had never even seen before–who kept hugging me and wanting their picture taken with me. Finally I was able to walk out the front gate with Prof. S. and H., but only with a heavy, heavy heart and many glances and waves back. Would I ever see those beautiful children again? I wondered. I told them I would try to come back and visit, and I said it truly meaning it. I got the school’s mailing address from Prof. S., so I fully intend to at least keep in touch. [I did keep in touch via e-mail with the teacher Prof. S. for a while, and two years later, in 2007, I went back to the school on another visit to Olinda, Brazil, but the school was closed due to Carnival.]
After leaving the school, Prof. S. walked with H. and I to A.’s house [A. was another teacher], who happened to live nearby. A. had a little farewell “party” for me, with Prof. S. and some of the other teachers. It was so touching. Both A. and Prof. S. gave me gifts–A. gave me a CD of Brazilian music, and Prof. S. gave me a journal. Then they walked with me and H. to the bus stop, and when the bus came a few minutes later, it was with much sadness that I hugged and kissed each of them goodbye. A. actually sniffed me–my first real Brazilian “sniff.” [This is an interesting custom among some Brazilians.] And he told me the sweetest thing afterwards–he told me I smelled good, and that smelling good meant that I was a “good person.” Bad people, he said, smelled bad.
And that was my very last day in Tabajara. With a heavy heart I left all my wonderful friends–teachers and students–behind.
L. just sent me an e-mail today that made me cry. She said she hung out with our Brazilian “gang” of friends Sunday night and that they all missed me very much. She said V., in particular, had some very nice things to say about me. I was so touched. And she also mentioned that W., believe it or not, would not shut up about me.