He walks out to meet you.Expecting only his usual friends, eyes bright as he greets each of them. Kiss. Hug.Manly handshake.Hug.Then a pause.
He looks at you questioningly and your host sister says”That’s my sister, a Americana.“His eyes widen and he looks back at his house in panic but I’m still stuck on the word sister.He leans toward you for the customary kiss and hug.
“Prazer. Meu nome e JoÌ£o.” I apologize I’m not better dressed and my hands are so dirty.
This time, your eyes widen, “O prazer e meu.”Gabi told me you just arrived from work please don’t feel the need to apologize.
JoÌ£o smiles and shows you into the house where you meet his dad and friends. They all have a similar reaction, hearing “the American” and immediately looking down at themselves, at their surroundings as if worried about your judgment. It takes time for you to get then to feel at ease but once you do, with the help of your sister, the conversation that follows is an amazing culture exchange.
You are walking out the door with a smile on your face, feeling alive surrounded by people who are so interested in your culture and so open with their own when you feel someone grab your hand. You turn to look into the eyes of the owner of the home you were visiting, JoÌ£o, eyes full of sincerity, and kindness. He utters words you never would have thought would be directed to you, “thank you,” he smiles, “for coming and accepting us despite our differences and despite our poverty. It was an honor to have you here.”
Speechless. Humbled. Grateful. These are just a few of the tumult of feelings that rushed through me as I heard those words. Never had I imagined that someone would be honored to have me, an 18 year old who has not done anything awe inspiring, in their home. This man thanked me but what he did not realize was that his words were greatest gift he could give me at that time. I had just finished another work week and was feeling like I was not making an impact in my community. I felt like I was giving the people more work than help and that my biggest impact would be breaking a record for number of vegetables killed during harvesting. I was trying to figure out my role in the camp, learn how to bond with my family, and trying to learn the details of my job before seriously hurting one of my coworkers and it was all becoming very overwhelming. I think my sister saw my stress because she decided it was time to take me out that day. And she had been right, that day I finally was able to break out of the weekly routine that was becoming monotone and be reminded why I had come to Brazil. I received a taste of the rich culture I had been searching for and revitalized my will to work and my determination to reach the goals I set for this gap year.