A quick excerpt from a typical day in the life of Igatu, Bahia:
After spending two hours in Centro Cultural sorting out books and organizing them into their respective genres (Romance, Idiomas, Módulos Pré Vestibular) I head home, starving for some almoço (lunch). I find my host dad Neu working on some home improvement project, pulling tiles off the roof in the restaurant and shoveling dirt into large buckets, dispensing the piles of upturned earth somewhere along the exterior portion of the house. I walk into the kitchen, greeting my host mom Patricia with a “Bom dia” e lavo minhas mãos (“Good morning,” and I wash my hands) to get ready for the second phase of the day. I watch Patricia for a couple of minutes, noticing her flow back and forth between the stove and the counter, cutting legumes effortlessly and frying peixe (fish) while having a deep conversation with her niece Denise, and finally I decide to pop the question.
Dropping minha mochila (my backpack) next to the table, I ask Patricia “Quer ajuda” (would you like some help)? Responding to my inquiry with a rapid “sim, quero” (yes, I would), she hands me a container full of tomates (tomatoes) that need to be washed. Scrubbing them with sabão and putting them through a rinse, I watch Patricia make the first few cuts, quickly dicing the red fruit into perfect little cubes. She hands me the knife, reminds me to be careful of my hands and I repeat the process over, only this time the tomato suffers from awkward handling and the outcome results in sad misshapen chunks.
Patricia looks at the cutting board and chuckling under her breath, she inspects the tomato and my hands, making sure tenho todos os dedos da mãos (I have all ten fingers). Occasionally she will repeat “cuidado Sarah, cuidado com seus dedos” (careful Sarah, your hands) as I grasp ahold of the knife, cutting cebolas e cenouras (onions and carrots) and peeling alface (lettuce) until finally I have made myself something that resembles uma salada (a salad). Patricia takes my work and shows it to Denise. “Olha” she says, “a salada de Sarah, que beleza” and turns the bowl over to me, giving me a wink.
After setting the bowl on the table, she continues her work of seemingly ten different tasks, resuming to her quick chopping speed. I pull a bowl off the top shelf and scoop up my freshly cut fruits and vegetables, watching my host mom be a modern-day Brasilian cook.