I had written in another post about going out to dinner with one of my students and her family. They live in Valinhos, the city of figs, about a half-hour from Campinas. They picked me up tonight and brought me first to their house, and then to a restaurant called Rancho Arizona for dinner.
It was from there, Rancho Arizona, that this post gets its title: Zebra Joana Doce Vaca. Rancho Arizona is a very small and “simple,” as my student describes it, restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It’s on a windy back road off in the woods where I could actually see the stars. Its owners are Indian Brazilian, which means they are of a native Brazilian heritage (not from the country India), and they are a husband-wife team with two little girls, ages 10 and 7. Or 10 and 6. Whatever the case, those two little girls are gorgeous. Skinny little girls with soft brown skin and wide white grins.
We sat at a table, ordered drinks and food, and I began talking with my student’s parents. While we talked, the younger of the owners’ little girls came to sit next to my student, with pen and paper in hand. My student’s family has been coming to this restaurant for years and the owners have now become familiar with their family. When we arrived at the restaurant, the little girls came out and hugged and kissed us; so did the owners.
As the conversation continued between the parents and myself, I looked over occasionally to see what my student was doing. She was showing the young girl how to spell, sounding out words and showing the girl how to write the letters. I glanced at the paper: Zebra Joana Doce Vaca.
It means: Zebra Joana Sweet Cow
I loved it when I saw it and wondered why the little girl, Gabriella, had chosen to spell those words. After each word she wrote down on the paper in blue pen, she wiggled her fingers and arms with excitement as if her arms contained the next word she would spell. My student then sounded out the word, slowly, and Gabriella guessed which letter it was and wrote it down on the page.
I felt really comfortable tonight in this setting, with my student and her parents across from me. I thought I wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking Portuguese, especially in front of one of my kids, but there I was, carrying on and listening in this second language. I become so easily embarassed of my language skills, but when I talk to new and different people, I realize that I can speak and sometimes I can speak really well. I do know now that the key to getting better is just to practice. And so I will.
I loved tonight. It was so nice to be with a family and to see a new city and to eat good food. But most of all it was so nice to feel like that’s where I wanted to be.