Definitely time for an update! Amidst all the emotional turmoil, heartache, and violent mood swings, lots has been happening here in Viçosa this month!
In everything God’s hand has been so clearly at work. After one particularly difficult, teary morning last week, I came back to CEM feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth. My friends Brenda and Tercio said they wanted to talk to me, as we had had a minor falling out. We spent the afternoon under the tree chatting, crying, praying and putting the world to rights. I was meant to give an English lesson that afternoon, but amazingly, two of my three pupils didn’t show up, which meant I was free to carry on praying! Lots of hugs and a milkshake later, I was starting to feel perkier. That afternoon, I received a letter from my mum. She had written it three weeks earlier, but it was so meant for me to receive on that day. It told me that I was in good hands, that I was meant to be where I was, that I had been called to do something special, and that “all would be well with my soul”. I felt so much peace, it was like a massive weight being lifted off my shoulders. A weekend hidden away in Jan’s flat for some English food and “cat therapy” also did me the world of good!
Every evening before our lecture, we have a devotional, and it was my turn to lead it which was a bit scary, as I’m still nervous about speaking in Portuguese in big group. It went really well, and everyone said it had really blessed them... so that was all good! They all ended up crying actually... but I think they were good tears! My language skills were severely tested last week when we were studying our second module on New Testament Theology. Our usual teacher was bedridden with a nasty bout of dengue fever, and our cover teacher was an Argentinian called Ernesto. His “Portunhol” left my brain in shreds! Especially on the days where I gave an English lesson, then immediately gave a French lesson in Portuguese, then went straight to a lesson on Portuguese material given half in Spanish! Thankfully I am getting along a lot better with Systematic Theology this week. J
My days at Rebusca are still my favourite, despite the fact that trying to teach the children English is like trying to teach an ostrich to fly. They are demanding, loud, fidgety, craving attention, and yet slow to listen and easily frustrated when they don’t understand something. Not only that, many of them can’t read or write even the most basic things in Portuguese, which makes throwing another language at them pretty tricky! My patience is sometimes severely tested, particularly by Ana Paula, who can be quite a little madam when she wants to be, but I keep remembering that there is probably a good reason why she is like that, and that she needs my love and understanding all the same. I am learning the art of keeping a balance between talking at them, and giving them pretty colouring-in things to do. My maths skills are also being nicely honed, as I am giving them times tables tests every week, which has led me to mutter in my sleep (according to Brenda) “dois vezes dois são quatro” (two times two is four).
One thing I find quite hard is noticing the poor quality of the children’s clothes and hygiene. Silvio wears the same T-shirt every time I see him and it has a massive hole in the back. There is no way a parent in England would let a child go to school dressed like that. It makes me want to dress him and look after him, but I know it’s not as easy as that and that I have to love and accept him just as he is, not thinking of myself as coming from a better place.
Recently most of our time has been taken up with rehearsals for a presentation they did at the “Festa da Familia” (a kind of school fete to celebrate “National Family Day”). Watching them dance and sing their hearts out in perfect time to the music was a very proud moment for me, as well as their parents, especially knowing how much blood, sweat and tears had gone into it.
During play time at Rebusca, the playground game currently in vogue is “Beauty Salon”, of which I am the main regular customer. They delight in pretending to do my nails and makeup, putting my hair into all kinds of inexplicable styles...watch out next year’s catwalk! Last week they decided to dress me up as a bride, and made me a cake out of some chair padding they found and then “pretend married” me to Glauco, one of the liveliest of my boys. My new best friend is my shadow Yasmina, a little girl with learning difficulties. I have never understood a single word she says, and she clearly doesn’t understand me, but it doesn’t matter one tiny bit. We are inseparable, even to the extent that she will happily get hit by footballs to stand next to me when I am in goal playing with the boys! She likes to wear my sunglasses all the time and pretend to be me!
In animal news, I am feeling cat withdrawal symptoms since the kittens got taken away. L Fox, our dog and my least favourite person at CEM, has been inseparable from a number of mangy lovers these days, and is now looking suspiciously swollen... so it won’t be too long before the pitter patter of tiny scoundrels will be terrorising me! Unfortunately, instead of having to contend with kittens when doing my washing, I now have to contend with Fox having a bath and taking great delight in giving me my second muddy shower of the day.
My clown phobia, if anything, has got worse. They are everywhere! When we went to do some evangelism work with children last weekend, facepainting and the like, I couldn’t move for clowns! My dear friend Daniela, has initiated into the CEM clown club, which leaves me massively conflicted when she’s dressed up as a clown! When she was getting dressed up on Saturday, she said “Heather, give me a hug now, because I know you won’t be able to manage it once I get the make-up and false nose on!!”
Things are as crazy as ever in my English lessons at CEM. At the moment I am teaching them “I’m coming into the classroom”, “I’m going out of the classroom”, “I’m putting butter on my bread” etc. (to teach the present progressive), which involves me running in and out of the classroom at top speed with butter and bread flung everywhere. My pupils find it hysterical! A few of them have been struggling to keep up the pace and nearly dropped out which really left me worried. They are currently having extra lessons with Jan to keep on track, but I am concerned that they will become too dependent on her. Please pray for perseverance and stamina for all concerned!
All in all it has been a very good month, despite having to say goodbye to two of my good friends, Ariane and Paula here who graduated last year and have moved on to new things. I have managed to conquer my motorcycle fear and am becoming quite a seasoned traveller! The food situation has much improved since my friend Renata took over cooking lunch here, and I even find I’m liking rice and beans! That said, I did eat potatoes twice today just to compensate!
I have rambled on for far too long... I am off to make a cup of tea and watch a film with the girls. I might even do a bit of knitting... I’m making a scarf to beat the winter chills!
Lots of love and hugs,
X x x