Volunteer in Mission to Brazil

08 September 2007

Goodbye for now

It seems quite surreal to be back in the U.S., especially in the city where I lived two jobs ago. I wanted to record a couple of things and some of the last pictures in one last post.

Running around trying to wrap up the last things with my apartment and cell phone was interesting. My friends who were selling my appliances and mattress came on Thursday afternoon with a hired truck & truck driver to move almost everything out of my apartment because the real estate agency had scheduled to do a pre-inspection at 9:00 on Friday morning. It was a pretty complicated procedure because I had a load of stuff going to the community center at São Gabriel (some stuff to return to my supervisors and other stuff to ask groups to bring back for me), the refrigerator went to church, the stove went to the pastor's house, and then the rest of the stuff went to my Sunday family's house. Whereas in the U.S., this procedure would generally be done in as short a time period as possible, the Brazilians were in no hurry, and it took more than 4 hours. When we stopped at the church, for example, the women's craft project was meeting. They'd planned to surprise their teacher for her birthday, so the truck driver played "Happy Birthday" and one other song on the guitar while everybody sang, followed by cake and other refreshments. After all of the stuff was moved, I returned to my apartment to finish packing and took a cab with all of my suitcases to my ex-roommate's apartment, where I spent my last few nights in Belo Horizonte. I had requested a large cab, explaining that I had several large suitcases, but what showed up was a regular sized one (i.e. economy car). One huge suitcase took up the entire trunk, and after double-checking that I would be the only passenger, the driver was very creative about putting the luggage in every available space. I had about 18 inches of the back seat in which to sit with a backpack on my lap, with luggage piled up next to me and in the front passenger seat.

Friday morning, I experienced a first--the inspection guy was early. I was walking over to the apartment so I would get there at 9:00, and at about 10 minutes to 9, he called my cell phone to check if I was in the apartment or not because I wasn't answering the intercom. The inspection went pretty well until he said something about a crack in the window in the "service area." I brought out the addendum that I submitted to the first inspection, but the crack was not mentioned. I was pretty sure that it was already there, but just in case, when I got to the community center, I started calling glass places to see if somebody could come out on Friday or Saturday to fix it. (First, though, I had to ask what glass places were called in Portuguese so I could find it in the phone book.) Only one of the places I called said they might be able to come out and give me an estimate, but that they would call me on my cell phone. Thankfully, I had taken digital photographs of every single defect in the apartment before I moved in, so I called the real estate agency and asked them if the photo could serve as proof that it was already there even though I forgot to include it in my addendum. I breathed a sigh of relief when they agreed to accept the photograph as proof and didn't require that I would fix the window (especially since it seemed so impossible to make an appointment with somebody to fix it). I had to pay the fine for breaking the lease (it ended up being a little less than 4 months of rent). I was pretty nervous about carrying around that much cash and glad to be able to get rid of it.

Last Saturday, September 1st, I had the last goodbye party for people who lived in Belo Horizonte. I had planned it for 3-6 PM, but people only started showing up after 4 and continued to show up until 6:30. It was a nice assortment of people from the Sao Gabriel project, my church and others I'd met in the Methodist community here. I received some really nice gifts. It is amazing how generous people with limited resources can be. We had friend snacks ("salgados") and soda and sat around talking and listening to music. When it was time to trade elogies, I once again was crying as I was thanking my Brazilian friends and letting them know how special they are to me. Fortunately there was also a lot of laughter--especially after my "Sunday family" showed up. You know when you are laughing so much that your face hurts? I was in some major pain, but it was a good thing.

Two of my amazing colleagues, Lu and Silene, who work full-time and study full-time.

The final picture of me and my "twin" Chirlei (and her daughter Camila).

On Sunday, I bid farewell to my church and Sunday school class. That was another tearful goodbye. Here's a picture of my Sunday school class. The little kids usually finish their class before we finish ours and then they come looking for their parents.

The "young people's" Sunday school class.

I'll only briefly mention the two hours I spent on Monday trying to cancel my cell phone contract (and pay the fine associated with that). Only with some major persistence did I get the phone canceled, and I still will have to jump through some major hoops here to get the final bill paid.

On Monday evening, I realized that I should not bring an extra suitcase with me since my credit card had expired on the 1st of the month and I might have problems paying for it. Tuesday morning, I brought the suitcase to São Gabriel and did a final clean-up of my desk, etc. I almost forgot to turn in my keys, but thankfully remembered to go back and do that before I caught the bus. Then I was off to the other side of town for a farewell lunch with my Canadian friends. I was a little late because I got off at the wrong bus stop (it's amazing how after so much time, I could still be making new and different bus mistakes...) but lunch was nice with them in their penthouse apartment. Then I took a taxi back to my ex-roommate's apartment, arriving literally five minutes before my ride to the airport showed up 20 minutes early.

We went back to pick up the mother and one of the daughters of my Sunday family and then headed out to the airport. When I checked in, the airline told me that I had to pay for my ticket because it ended up not being charged to my credit card. Miraculously, I had the cash for the cell phone fine that the company did not let me pay. We chatted for a while, and then I was anxious to go through security to get through the gate. Finally they told me to wait for a few minutes because my "twin" Chirlei and her family were on the way. I couldn't believe that they got off work early and took the daughter out of school early to come see me off. I told them that I'd always noticed the Brazilians at the airports with their entourages to either greet them or see them off, and now I had my very own entourage. After yet another tearful goodbye, I went to my gate and waited for my first flight.

One of the first things that struck me upon returning to the U.S. was that, in Brazil, two families were at the airport to see me off, but when I arrived in the U.S., I got a taxi, and that was "normal" for us.

And so here I find myself, back in the U.S., looking for a place to live while living with a friend who always generously offers me a place to stay. Today I'll see my sister's family and my parents as we gather for my niece's birthday party. My mother has already told me excitedly of the things she has bought/collected for me to help me start all over again. While sad to have left my Brazilian friends behind, I am ready to apply some of the great aspects of Brazilian culture to my new life in the U.S.

I thank you for your interest in my mission work in Brazil and hope that, if you haven't already had the opportunity, you, too, may one day experience the beauty and warmth of Brazilian culture.