Adjustments

Karyn Miller - Brazil


December 9, 2010

A few things I’m realizing will be a normal part of my life for the next 5 months:

  • Every rooster in the settlement having a cockadoodldooing competition at all hours of the night
  • Every dog in the settlement simultaneously breaking out in a chorus of shrieking and barking—also at all hours of the night
  • The painful sound of a donkey freaking out somewhere in the distance—or right next door
  • TV: a lot of news and novellas—which I watch in my now abundant down time
  • Abundant down time—and being okay with that
  • Buckets of water: for transporting water between tanks, for flushing the toilet, for washing clothes, for washing dishes, for washing myself
  • Tucking my mosquito net in each night and hoping one doesn’t get caught inside—and waking up to at least 30 chilling on the outside of the net in the morning
  • Fast-talking Brazilian women and hardworking Brazilian cowboys
  • Machetes
  • Fruit fresh from the tree, or juice fresh from the fruit fresh from the tree
  • The sound of my host mom, Raquel suddenly yelling at one of the cats or cackling at a joke, in classic loud, Bahian fashion—oxe!

After about two weeks in the assentimento (or, settlement) of Nova Suica, part of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (Movement of Workers Without Land, or MST), I’d like to think I’m beginning to get some of how things work here. At its core, it’s a community of people who came, whether from the city or other parts of the country, reclaimed unused land, and set up communal farms. Everyone has their role and there is a whole hierarchy of leaders. The vocabulary of all the operations is still too much for me, but after 5 months here I should be an expert.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep up with rapidfire Portuguese, adjust to a slower pace of life, and meet some of the people in this 70-family town. It´s tough being an ousider in a community where everyone knows each other, and has for a long time. There’s no blending in here—we’re the visiting gringos, and I’m realizing that I just need to bite the bullet: speak awkward Portuguese, ask obvious questions, assert myself, let myself be the oddity that I am. I’m also learning that sometimes I need to be the one to break the ice when I meet people on the road—as soon as I do, people couldn’t be more hospitable. This is Brazil, after all.

Karyn Miller