Today marks our 31st day living in another country. We have frequent moments where we look at each other and say: “Holy cow, we LIVE here. In another country. On a different continent.” As of late, I often find myself in the stage of admiring our hefty-ball size for doing something so bold. #teampossum for the win, indeed.
It’s been awhile since I shared about the happenings down here in Sampa, so here goes.
- Students. My students have consulates and CEO’s as parents. My students are Olympic-bound athletes. My students are well-educated and articulate and reflective. My students say thank you at the end of the lesson with sincerity in their voices. I worried I wasn’t going to be good enough for them. But alas, all my fears about not being able to meet their needs have been assuaged. As a trusted friend said: “Students are students and Mary is Mary.” I have anchored my new classroom experience in this. And it is true. The Mary who makes connections reaches the students who thrive through relationships. Or vice versa.
- School. It has been a chaotic start to school. I’m still navigating, at times unsuccessfully, new professional relationships. The schedule has been surprisingly and frustratingly unsettled. There are so many different platforms to maneuver. I’m a bit astonished at how far behind international schools are from current US educational practices–some elements to my relief, some to my angst. And always, I am drawn to think about urban education. Despite these snafus, my current students steadily achieve at the highest levels of international competition. How I wish that were true for students for whom a defective system is just one more overarching oppression in their lives.
- Home. We are nesting more and more. We put up one of our collage walls. Bought some rugs. Supplemented our kitchen. Figured out laundry (#godave). Got internet (hallefreakinglujah). Cooked dinner at home several times. Ordered some chairs for the guest room. Slept in and lazed around. Hooked up the tv. Bit the bullet to buy more expensive–but better–wine. The routine is starting to become more and more normal. Slowly. However, it still is a struggle with Dave not working full time and him assuming some weird imposed identity of #housebitch. What does that mean? And how do we do that? How do we adapt our roles? Well, lots more nesting to do there I guess. On the upside, it has been really good for him to take on role as JV coach for boys basketball, and to join in on staff league once a week.
- Sampa living. It is starting to feel a bit more normal to not speak the language. We know the common greetings to give our porteiro and say them regularly. We use the beautifully industrious Google translate for images when ordering off a menu. We can consistently say “we’d like” (gostaria) and “2 more beers” (mais duas cervejas) and “no onion” (sem cebalo) and “thank you” (brigada). We are feeling more confident to order in stores by starting with whether or not someone speaks English. If not, Google translate to the rescue. We know the common questions asked at the grocery store. (No we don’t want to give our CPF. No we don’t need bags. No we don’t need parking validated. Yes credito.) [All of which clips quickly together in social Portuguese]). We regularly get around with Uber (aqui por favor) and order in with Ubereats (comida está aqui? vaminos [that’s Spanish, but it works]).
- Climate. This one’s funny. I’m pretty sure the Brazilian-God-of-Weather is punishing me for how I made fun of people needing “winter coats down there.” Today I straight up taught in my Neff hat. I have had days where I am so cold, I have a sweater wrapped around my sweatshirt. Dave and I nightly sleep with Mom’s warm fuzzy blanket (that I told him we were bringing not for the weather, but for sentimental reasons) under another ADDITIONAL blanket. I haven’t seen the sun for the past week (as my new colleague said, “oh yeah, RAINforest”). Dave and I are currently working the miraculous two inches of warmth coming from our space heater. And it’s not the temperature that gets ya. It’s the bone-decaying-cold that comes from the humidity. I mean, come on, I’m coming from Colorado! Several nights, Dave and I have gone to bed on wet sheets. (And though I’m prone to wonder what he’s been doing all day, nope, it’s just the heavy wetness hanging in the air, perpetually. Perpetually.) When I put on clothes, they feel damp. (So NOW I know what the heck that DEhumidifier is I saw in the store a month ago. People would laugh that off the shelves in Colorado!)
- What’s next? Well, we’re going to buy a car. Uber is convenient, but when it comes to driving out to Embu to buy furniture or shop without limit of trunk space or escaping for a hike or weekending on the beach or… And, we need to buy some tickets. I’m really holding to the advice we’ve been given: always have a ticket in your pocket. I think first on the docket is wine country in Argentina for Thanksgiving. You know, just a few hours away by flight (insert whaaaaaaa face emoji here).
As I type this, I recognize I am in the honeymoon phase of culture shock. I feel good, for the first time in a while. (I feel like I went through every single stage every single day when I first arrived.)
But I’m here. Now.
And life is good.