Snapshots

Myriam Sitterson - Brazil


February 20, 2015

I

I‰Ûªve been learning the names of the parts of the body in yoga class. When I walked in my first day, I hadn’t given much thought to the potential issues caused by the reality that the class would be conducted in Portuguese, or that my understanding of Portuguese was limited. I figured I would be able to follow along by example rather than by listening. As it turns out, this is a bit of a different style of yoga, in which students keep their eyes closed for the duration of the class and face the walls, not the front of the room. The teacher conducts the class orally, without demonstrating the poses. That said, the first class went something like this‰Û_

‰ÛÏLentamente, vire o seu rosto para a direita.‰Û

Ok, turn my‰Û_umm turn my‰Û_

(open one eye to look at the woman next to me, whose face is turned to the right)

‰Û_rosto, face. Right, haha, knew that. I think.

‰ÛÏRespire profundamente.‰Û

Got that one, breathe. (:

‰ÛÏE agora, pessoa, estique os bra̤os para trÌÁs, certificando-se os cotovelos estÌ£o bem esticadas. Libere a pressÌ£o em seus ombros e coloqueåÊo fundo de seus pÌ©s na parede. EntÌ£o, alinhe seu pÌ© esquerdo com o seu umbigo, mantendo suas coxas virada para dentro.‰Û

Ok well, hmm, that sounds‰Û_maybe if I just‰Û_alright, I‰Ûªm just gonna‰Û_

‰Û_probably not the types of thoughts most conducive to the yoga practice.

II

It‰Ûªs gotten a lot better. I can now participate fully in the class, eyes closed and everything. I actually really like this style of yoga. I think it‰Ûªs helping me become more aware of my body. And not just in a profound, yogi way. Starting every class laying on my back with my feet up on the wall in front of me has given me the chance to really notice my feet. First of all, they‰Ûªve gotten dark. Extremely dark. My Havaianas flip-flop tan is intense. When did that happen? There‰Ûªs also a splattering of white marks on my right foot. I stepped on an ant pile while I was hanging up laundry about a month ago. Looking at the scars is enough to make me wince.

It‰Ûªs not just my feet. My whole body seems determined to stamp itself with bits and pieces of Brazil. By bits and pieces, I mostly mean the Sun and the bugs. Lime juice too. The citrus stains appear on my hands every so often, fading away just in time for new ones to appear. I‰Ûªm just not very careful with avoiding sun exposure post-lime squeezing. And I guess I squeeze a lot of limes.

III

I also eat a lot of a̤aÌ_. The availability of a̤aÌ_ in Brazil could be compared to that of Starbucks coffee in the US. The woman in Casa do A̤aÌ_ knows my name and order by heart. She told me her name too, but I‰Ûªve butchered it in my head so much that I‰Ûªm not sure what it is anymore. But we‰Ûªve already had conversations about life and now I feel bad asking. That happens a lot.

Everyone seems to know my name before/more accurately than I know theirs. I always forget who‰Ûªs who. That‰Ûªs so and so‰Ûªs daughter and that‰Ûªs her husband, or is it her brother? And I forget their names, too. Almost always. So, they greet me with an ‰ÛÏOi, Myriam!‰Û and I respond with an ‰ÛÏOi‰Û_!‰Û and big smile to try to make up for the rest.

Smiling is one of my apologetic things. So is washing the dishes. Whenever I‰Ûªve spent too much time in my room or forget to do something important, it‰Ûªs straight to the kitchen sink. I‰Ûªm not sure why, but that‰Ûªs become my self-imposed penance of sorts. I think my host family has noticed, because they always laugh when they see me scrubbing away.

IV

Earlier in the year, I accidentally enrolled in a calligraphy course. My librarian friends brought me along one day because they wanted to show me the place the classes are held, a beautiful, spunky little art space where several different art classes are taught. Within the hour, I was practicing my B’s in the Gothic style and learning about the history of calligraphy and the proper way to sharpen my double pointed pencil.

It‰Ûªs been four months, and I‰Ûªve learned four different styles. I‰Ûªll write all of your wedding invitations if you‰Ûªd like. Until then, I‰Ûªve been writing postcards to put my newfound skills to good use. They might take six months to get to their intended destinations, but they‰Ûªre cute! We found a stack of blank ones when we were cleaning the library one day, and I took a bunch. The artist of the bird paintings on the front of the postcards is a local and a regular.

V

Carnival season is coming up. Last week, I went to one of the samba school rehearsals with my host family. I started the night on the outer edges of the crowd, half-listening to the music while observing a couple of young kids doing their beer-can-turned-lightsaber thing. But it was the type of music that set the ground and the air rumbling and my heart was already dancing involuntarily, so I decided to get a little closer.

I think I‰Ûªve been made an official member of the group, because by the end of the night I had acquired a very legitimate looking t-shirt and a chocalho, (samba shaker) which I‰Ûªll be playing in the parades in a couple of weeks.

Myriam Sitterson