Today the novela Ti Ti Ti comes to an end, and I am reminded that I have just six more weeks here, and I havent written a blog since December, and for this I think it is probably best that I try to explain what Ive been doing here for the last three months. Because it has been so much time I want to prepare you for a jumble. My initial thought was that I would write only about my apprenticeship. However because there are so many overlapping parts to my experience and because it hasn’t at all been like any tool you use in math class to make a shape perfectly straight or round, maybe this blog will just be confusing. It also might be too long.
I arrived for the first time in Sao Francisco Do Conde on a Tuesday. That afternoon I sucked on my first geladinho in Sao Bento unknowingly in front of my house and met the neighborhood crazy, Tonio, unaware that I would later have more encounters with his stumbling, finger waving self just the same as the first. I went home that night to the hostel in Santo Antonio, slept there for one more night, and the next morning, with a half hours notice, was directed to pack my duffle because I was going to my homestay. The agreement became that I would live with Tom Black and his wife Dyna in Sao Bento and by day work with Dona Eliana, funder and director of the APAE of Sao Francisco Do Conde. APAE, short for Associacao de Pais e Amigos dos Excepcionais, is a huge, renowned organization in Brazil, with over 100 federations just in Bahia. The mission of APAE is to provide social services to disabled people to improve their quality of life; providing education to children as young as five and adults as old as thirty, as well as job skills and job opportunities. When I arrived in late December, summer was just beginning and therefore I was told students would only return at the beginning of February. In the meanwhile the almost 400 year old church where APAE of Sao Francisco is based would host classes for a different organization which promotes the same kind of thing: education for young adults with disabillities. What I found out immediately was that Eliana couldnt use my help. My time at Apae became about sweeping the floors that were interminably dirty because of the lack of water, or petting jubileu the church cat, or pouring guarana into the weak plastic cups that are all over Bahia or preparing cachorro quentes for the students. The lack of meaningful work grated on me, but the promise of Apae classes starting in February as Eliana claimed they would, and her insistence that I would have too much work when they come, the dream of becoming useful, a picture of me maybe pushing a paraplegic child in a wheel chair, provided me with motivation to to keep waiting, or going, or both.
What I found when February came around was actually just what I should have expected: I should not have expected anything, nothing happened. Eliana complained about the secretary of health in Sao Francisco being wicked and told me classes will be delayed until next week, then it became the week after, and then it was the week after Carnaval, and when I came back from Carnaval it was just not yet. And somewhere in the middle or maybe closer to the beginning of the middle of this I just stopped asking, stopped waiting for anything. I realized how really silly the image of me pushing the paraplegic child in a wheel chair was in the context of where I was and how much I already was getting every day. Maybe I realized when I was talking nonsensically with Adriele, five year old granddaughter of Eliana, or trying to dance rocha with Isabel, Dyna´s mom in Sao Bento, or schupa-ing a mango in the campo and watching futebol, or sitting with Jaysa in front of the house on Sunday night and watching everyone walk to church, or eating aipim cake with Netchy. At some point finally it became obvious that I really couldnt waste my time worrying about having something to do here. I have received so much, and I havent really given anything. I have a family, I’m understanding the lyrics a little better to more pagodge songs, and Im not ready to go home.
On Monday classes begin at Apae. Eliana tells me I will be very busy. What I care about the most is being present in every last moment I have with the people who have given me the most here.