Hey There, Cowboy.

7 08 2006

It is Monday morning. I am sitting in my classroom and I have been catching up on e-mail for a few minutes. Kids are just starting to arrive now, and the sixth graders congregate just outside my door. Although the door is closed, I can hear their conversations in the hallway.

´´Hey there, Cowboy,´´ one boy says, presumably to one of his friends.

Where do kids hear these things?

My weekend was alright. It started off really good and had a little sad slump toward the end. On Friday, my friends and I went out for drinks and Samba. On Saturday, since Kendra and I were not feeling excellent, we spent the night watching Fried Green Tomatoes (don´t judge) and I fell asleep on the couch. It was a good girls´night in. Sunday, since I had absolutely nothing to do, I was determined to get work done for the week. I must have selective ADD because for the life of me, I could not concentrate on doing any work in my apartment. Sitting down to plan for History one minute, up reading about middle school students the next. Sitting down on the internet to find pictures of the middle ages, on the phone with Dennis, or doing laundry.

Since I have been here, I have had something to do every day. So yesterday was the first day I had nothing to do and, like I wrote to a friend this morning, it was a shock to my system. My friends who didn´t go biking yesterday didn´t know I was home, so I was basically on my own all day, which is not good, especially when I´m about four days away from the monthly gush. We all did get together last night for pizza, though.

Brazilians love sharing. Their sandwiches are cut up into little pieces, I assume for sharing, or for making it easier to eat with forks and knives. The pizza is also cut up into 1 or 2 inch squares. It´s actually a good philosophy since it looks like you´re eating tons of pizza, but really when you add up all those squares, you´ve probably eaten only two whole US slices. Portions here are not overwhelming, and since you´re sharing all the time, you actually pay attention to how your stomach is filling up.

So last night at Giovannetti´s (the place with the tiny plates to count the number of beers consumed) ten or twelve of us sat down at a huge, long table. It was nice to meet some new people and to catch up with my friends who had biked, but Kendra told me this morning that the table was too big. It was too long to converse with everyone, and since most people were speaking Portuguese, I felt REALLY out of place. Last night was the first night when I really felt uncomfortable. I know I have only been here for ten days and that I should not be fluent overnight, but I realized that I have to learn quickly if I want to feel comfortable.

I feel like I have a split personality. Half of me here feels so comfortable. When I am in my apartment or at school or walking around Cambui, or even riding the bus I feel comfortable. I am observant, I am at home. The city is beautiful and everything I want is here. But the moment I have to talk to someone, or the moment someone speaks to me–asks me a question or answers something I have asked, I feel stupid and uneasy. I get the stupid Traveler´s Smile and have to fumble telling them I have no idea what they´re saying. I wrote to my friend Katie this morning that half of me feels comfortable and the other half is alien. It is a strange feeling because I am almost surprised by how sudden this discomfort comes over me. I walk into a store and suddenly I choke up. I can´t remember words, I can´t even hear people. I look down or I whisper.

But the part of me that feels uncomfortable also wants to push that discomfort out and look people in the face and ask them to speak slowly. I long to speak with these people and I long to understand them.

I once had a writing teacher who explained that the best kind of writing was that which expressed a kind of longing on the part of the author. Then, when I read the essays she gave us for class, I could identify the parts of the writing that conveyed that sense of longing. A paragraph here, a paragraph there. But here in Brazil, I am not just a paragraph of longing. I am an essay, an anthology, sheer volumes of longing to speak with and feel whole again.




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