suco de cacau and palafitas

Laura Rohrer - Brazil


October 18, 2010

I am sitting on the sofa of my host parents’ bedroom, the only corner of the apartment that has reliable internet. All the windows and doors are open, and the long flowy curtains which frame their balcony sway softly. The warmth here lulls me to sleep at night; I don’t even use my sheet. My host family is so kind to me. They have a maid named Josie who squeezes fresh juice every day to drink with breakfast and lunch. When I am not in class, and not drinking suco, I can lie on their hammock and gaze deeply into the blue of the bay. They call me Lau-lra here. I love it. At the beach, a man with dreadlocks and a deep voice sells cocos for 2 reais. There is a ken doll hanging by the neck from the ceiling of his hut. I drink water from his coconut through a straw. After I finish, he cuts it open for me with his machete, and I scoop the white creamy meat of the coco out and eat it. Muito refrescante. Needless to say, home is very comfortable.

The faint smell of sewage seems to be almost everywhere but in Vitoria. All it takes is a short trip on the bus to realize how much of a haven Sete De Setembre is with its high-rise gated apartments and doormen. Yesterday Tony took us to see the palafitas in Massaranduba. Palafitas are shacks built on stilts over the water. We all had the chance, two at a time, to walk over the stilts and peer discretely into the rickety homes.  As I walked out over the water on the creaking, shaky bridge, I wondered about how fragile the lives of the people inside were; yet how much stronger they must be than me. I tried to wrap my head around this being home. As we wandered through the narrow rubbly streets and I listened to Tony translate for Marceau, a community member, I longed to understand what he was saying.

I am grateful for this month to learn and I’m trying to take advantage of every moment with my family. When I come home from class, I sit in the kitchen and listen intently to my host mother speak to Josie, to Eduardo, to Maria. I scramble to form full, coherent sentences, throwing my hands about every which way to compensate for not finding the right words. They smile and wait patiently as I search through my brazillian-english dictionary.  “Como-se fala” this…”como se chama” that…etc. I am scared about not learning in enough time to comprehend and communicate with my next family and in my apprenticeship. I want so badly to connect with the people here. In some ways I feel like a young child again, but then I also have to take care of myself in ways I haven’t been forced to before.  I am learning that I have no choice but to be patient with myself as I struggle to understand. I am beginning to accept that I can do as much as I can do right now and that is enough. Here I am in Brazil.

Laura Rohrer