I’m stoked to share this unique “teaching abroad in an international Christian school” experience with a large group of newbies. We’re awaiting a couple from Romania, and we have five Americans, one Canadian/Brazilian (Cabrillion? Brazadian? He rides a moose to school. Jk. I love you, Nick!), and two South Africans that can call ourselves “rookies” this year at our beautiful ministry of a school.
We shared some of the highs and lows this last week during orientation, marveling over the food, the friendliness, and the fun we’ve had so far here in Brazil. We also pondered (respectfully) the cultural differences we’ve encountered in the process of acquiring visas, navigating grocery stores, fighting the never-ending battles against bugs of all shapes and sizes, and trying not to die anytime we are in a vehicle (Driving in Rio traffic is a faith-building, fate-testing adrenaline rush on par with the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland…on crack…on New Years Eve…in Vegas…and I will leave it at that.).
Maybe I’m just so excited to be moving on from where I was to be here, but it hasn’t been a hard move for me. However, it is different, and it is an adjustment. Things that are specifically different would be:
Bugs. All the time. And your attitude about them changes. If you’ve ever been in a tropical place, you know the almost invisible quick buggers that are everywhere and you begin to simply accept that they will be in your drink and food. Then the mozzies, the roaches, and the dead moths that end up in every crevice no matter what you do.
Smells. Are stronger. Including personal ones. You also don’t flush your toilet paper, but put it in a trashcan. Food smells amazing, because I’m always hungry, and I’ve yet to eat something here I didn’t like and need seconds of. Luckily, Brazilians are fanatics about dental hygiene. But there are swampy smells and unregulated chemical smells and burning smells. Lots of cologne. It’s smelly.
Time. Moves at the discretion of the person controlling it. One of our coworkers described the checkers at grocery stores thusly (with some of my own input):
She thinks about scanning a few items, punches in some numbers, takes a sip of water, checks her phone, texts someone, talks to a friend, scans a few more things, goes on a break, talks to a neighbor who is moving through a separate line, looks through some paperwork, drinks more water, scans a few more items… I bag my own items in bags that break before I walk the half hour back to my house.
Meanwhile, back in the States, I would have been home from Target with twice the items for half the price, already cooking dinner.
I even caught myself griping during training that we had too many breaks and that an hour lunch was too long – I’d rather have no breaks, a twenty minute lunch, and be able to work in my classroom more! So American of me. Of course, when I get to the hour lunch, and have an amazing meal, and start talking about everything from buffets to transvestites to the Twilight book series, I end up being late to the afternoon training. Because in the end, like the Brazilians, I’m way more interested in the conversations and the relationships than getting any actual work accomplished.
Prices. Despite all the warnings, I am still shocked at the price of everything in Brazil. Saline for my contacts is 60 R, which is about…18 dollars a bottle? Avocados are $2.50 each. Post-it notes are about $8 USD for 100. A single flat twin sheet, with a thread(bare) count of about 80, is roughly $10 USD. But clothing is the worst…we saw a pair of regular running shoes for a thousand Rs, which is almost $500 USD. I don’t know how people survive. I’ve made a pact to not purchase any clothes for a year. But I think I will be able to supplement my rockstar lifestyle pretty well once I set my black market ideas in motion, smuggling saline and M&Ms and post-it notes from the States to sell on the streets of Rio.
The things that are free are beautiful, though. I’m almost done cleaning out the random stuff left by the previous tenants in our apartment, and I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to discard all the random baby stuff and the mismatching Tupperware. My classroom is ready to go. I’m learning new Portuguese everyday. And you can’t beat the beach, or the pleasure of walking almost everywhere I need to go, or the politeness and friendliness of absolutely everyone. How I feel absolutely at home and accepted here, and beautiful no matter what I look like. The way it feels to be around little kids again and anticipate being a part of their lives.
Two days until the students are here!
love you miss you wish you were all here.