I’m not trying to brag, but it’s not hard for me to make friends with strangers. I’m friendly and curious about people. It also helps that I’m naturally a people watcher and love to learn about new cultures. Today, in our observance of one of Brazil’s national holidays, Proclamação da República, my daughter and I made a new friend. Before I start that story, that I feel made me a little less homesick, let me teach you a little bit of what I researched for one of my adopted country’s special holidays.
Today is the day that many businesses, schools and government establishments celebrate or observe Dia de Republica, or the day Brazil ceased being a monarchy and became a republic. (I hope I retell the history of the important day correctly, if I make a mistake, please forgive me!)
Brazil began as a monarchy in and as time passed and the times of the world changed, so did many of the monarchy’s old doctrines and ideas. The country and its people disputed against the monarchy’s idea of abolishing slavery and eventually a man named Manuel Deodoro da Foncesca overthrew the king, Don Pedro II. He declared the country of Brazil no longer a monarchy, but a republic.
My little family and I enjoyed the day by walking to the beach and being so thankful for the sun and the holiday. We didn’t stay long at the beach because we started to hear the grumble of our tummies as it was close to lunchtime, so we decided to head towards the shopping area. We were all craving different things so we split up into different little shops, Sushi-style fast food for him and Mate (Rio’s favorite Iced Tea; they have several shops dedicated to their refreshing drink of choice) and Pao de Queijo for the girls.
As I said earlier, I’m a friendly person, but my daughter is even friendlier. Maybe it’s because she’s so cute, (okay, I’m definitely bragging now) or maybe because she’s so little but talks so much, everyone is attracted to her.
Today was no exception to her friend making abilities. She and I were talking in the cafe about the delicious food we ordered and one of the employees began talking to us. Our new friend gave Bella a free Pao de Queijo and Bella was smitten. After a while she noticed that we weren’t from Brazil and we started a quick but meaningful conversation.
You know how you don’t need to know a person for very long to really, really like them? That’s how I felt after meeting Eva. Our new friend is from Angola and we really connected.
To be honest, I didn’t really know too much about the country of Angola except its national language was Portuguese and it’s in Africa. After talking to Eva a little more, I learned a little bit more about a woman who I felt I really made a connection with in the short amount of time that I knew her.
Eva can’t be much older than me, but she has three kids. a thirteen year old, a twelve year old and a two year old. She’s only been in Brazil for two years but she misses Angola. I could see her longing for her country in her face when I asked. It was obvious and apparent to see. When I asked her if she had traveled back for a visit since she has been here, she said no. If she had gone home, she probably wouldn’t have come back, she missed home that much. Sadly, she knows she probably won’t return to Angola for that reason for a very long time. It reminded me of the sacrifices we make for our dreams, for our aspirations.
When she asked me why I was in Brazil, I told her in short for work. I told her I was a teacher at the American School and that I teach English. She said she really wished she could learn English and afford to have her kids learn English as well. I hear that a lot here in Brazil. In fact, I’ve also been asked why we chose to come here when so many people are trying to go to the U.S. The U.S is the land of Opportunity, not Brazil, they say. I always reply, not to me. To me, this is my opportunity, my dream. But then again, the grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?
I asked her if she left her native Angola for work but she said no, it was actually for the opportunity for her to get an education. Unfortunately, work has gotten in the way and she hasn’t been able to go to school here yet.
Although our conversation was brief, I really enjoyed talking to her. We were both comfortable talking to one another and by the end of the conversation, I asked if I could give her a hug. She laughed and said of course. We hugged and laughed and I think the moment was good for both of our souls and helped us feel a little less homesick.
And on the way out, she slipped a chocolate croissant for Bella into my hand. I told you Bella had a way of getting on people’s good sides.
I hope she has a brighter day because of our conversation, I know I did.