We are sitting in the refeitorio, eating our lunch brought in from the local restaurant (rice, beans, (*groan!*) and salty meat, as usual). As we are chatting, the subject of Caroline comes up. Caroline is a Strider who did more exactly what I’m doing here in Viçosa about two years ago, and I sent her an email about some of my worries, to which she has not yet replied. Dantas, who is the vet who got us to the front of the queue in the Pepsi-diarrhoea investigation, a member of our local church, and one of my quietest, most reserved English students, asks if I have heard from Caroline recently. As I shake my head, he grins and asks:
“You know the real reason she hasn’t replied don’t you?”
“Because her English lessons were TERRIBLE. So I killed her!”
“Oh. But you like my English lessons don’t you? You’re not going to kill me?!”
Dantas’ grin grows wider. I look at him, I look at my plate of rice. I look at him, I look at my plate of rice. A long pause ensues.
“You’ve poisoned the rice haven’t you?”
“ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!” I turn to my friend Lícia and my room mate Brenda and shriek “you have to take me to the hospital, now!”
“But Tonica has gone out, and we can’t use her car”, chips in another friend, Laís.
“Don’t worry, we’ll catch the bus” says Lícia.
I sit down and know I am doomed. The bus only comes down the long bumpy dirt track to CEM once a day, if it feels like it, and always at least half an hour late.
At this point, for the sake of your blood pressure, I feel I should clarify that this is just one of the many strange dreams I have been having, which encapsulates all of the anxieties I am currently dealing with in my transition experience.
Anyway, the alarm goes at 6am, I get dressed, drink some potent, black Brazilian coffee and head down to catch the bus into town. My class at Rebusca (the day-care programme where I work twice a week) are having a swimming lesson today, and they are waiting for me to arrive so they can take me with them and throw me in the pool. Half an hour passes with no sign of a bus, and I start to sweat, and not just because of the heavy, dusty, morning heat. I don’t want the class to be late, so I telephone Rebusca and mumble something vaguely like Portuguese to the secretary, telling them to go without me. Just as I hang up, Daniel pulls up on his motorbike. Daniel is the polar opposite of Dantas. He is the school rebel/cool kid, and NEVER does the homework I give him.
“Hop on”, he says.
“No, errr, thanks very much Daniel... but errrr I’m scare... I mean, I’ve already phoned to say I’m not going.”
“Ring them back. Come on, let’s go!”
“Oh, errrr... OK then. But remember that if you kill me... no more English lessons.” As soon as I’ve said this, I realise it was a totally stupid thing to say. I telephone and find that they are still waiting for me at Rebusca, so I gingerly step onto the bike behind Daniel and he passes me a helmet which is so big I can barely see out of the visor. In 5 minutes flat, we arrive at the Church, Daniel’s eardrums permanently damaged, and his stomach scarred from my fingernails digging in, and his diaphragm aching from laughter. As I get down, my nose full of dust, he mumbles something but I don’t hear, I just want to get off. 30 seconds later, when I feel a searing pain on my leg, I realise that he had told me to get off on the other side. Jan says I will always have a little scar from the burn... what a souvenir!
The rest of the morning is spent walking to and from the swimming pool with Geraldo, the teacher I’m helping, teaching the children a few bits of ballroom dancing, learning a few bits of samba from them, and generally walking around with two small children stuck to each arm. Then I miss the bus back, walk the 1.5hour journey back to CEM in the scorching midday heat (stupidly via the supermarket with heavy bags of shopping), and arrive back in my room 10 minutes before my English lesson is due to start. I run in and out the cold shower, down to the classroom, and spend the afternoon running around touching things, stretching and speaking at a rate of a thousand words per minute, getting my students to parrot everything I say. Next week we will be at the “head, shoulders, knees and toes” stage. Oh dear.
When the lesson’s over, I grab a bite to eat, gather my books and head down to the classroom for our evening lecture on the socio-political climate of the New Testament. As everyone else mills around to chat, I mumble “What am I doing? What am I doing? I’m going to bed. I’m going to bed.” I crawl under the sheets and thank God for giving me the strength to get through another day of adventures, and for being in every high and every low. While I am tired and weary, I know He never is. I smile. Tomorrow is a new day.