Karyn Miller - Brazil

January 4, 2011

A student from Salvador asked me, while we were conversing about why exactly I’m in Nova Suica, what I bring to the community.

At our first monthly meeting, during our Portuguese check-up with Marcelo, he asked us how we think we can contribute to bettering our communities.

A doctor from the health post in Santo Amaro asked me what my objectives were for my six months here.

These questions all stumped me. In part because GCY is hard to describe in English, let alone in Portuguese. But also because I’ve got six months here and no specific project yet—as Tony put it, this is more an apprenticeship in a way of life. Sure, I’ve been working with Raquel, but much of this is watching and learning, since I’m not exactly qualified to perform the tasks of a Community Health Agent. And there are times when I pass the whole day in the house with nothing to do—something difficult for me to accept. Right now, I’m still just trying to wrap my head around Nova Suica, the people and culture here, the MST—how everything fits together (a process which will continue for some time). Oh, and trying to communicate with people in a language that I have less than 3 months of exposure to.

But things are starting to become clearer with time and improved language skills. I’m starting to feel like part of the family here, and every successful conversation I have gives me the courage to talk more. I can work in the different sectors of the community (in the farm, with the cattle, at the school), teach English if there’s interest, and continue helping with the daily housework. There are students coming in January who are holding workshops and things which I can participate in, and a tourism company looking to expand their business (something that, as an outsider, I can certainly offer advice on). There’s even the potential for working with another fellow in bringing environmentally-friendly wood stoves to the assentamentos in the area.

And so, I’m hoping that when I get asked these questions in the future, I won’t freeze. As my Portuguese improves and I become more comfortable here, I can feel my options opening up. The coming months should be very interesting—I look forward to making myself useful.

Karyn Miller