Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Best of Brazil

Michael on a boat off Floianopolis Island with Rodrigo (left) Thais (far right) and a cousin of theirs (middle).

He's been home almost a week now. His first day back on American soil he spent most of his time waiting out, then driving through a thick snow storm. He and dad arrived safety home right in time for dinner.

The next day I gave him a freebie from school, jet lag and all that. He had been so psyched on his first night home that his three hours of sleep on the ten hour overnight flight hadn't really caught up with him yet. He slept until after ten the next morning.

It was so great to have him back. Have him be one of the options when I came around the corner into the kitchen to see who was home. I had to get used to him being around again. Every time I saw him I smiled. My boy is home. My boy is really home.
He told many stories on his first day back but more have been trickling out of him as the week goes by. I thought I'd better write some down before I forget in the comfort of our new four-kid normal.

One thing that humors me is that he hung out a lot with the staff who lives with the family in Brazil. They have a full time driver,a cook and two household maids. And my shy boy hung out with them, to his advantage.

The Cook took him to the market and convinced all the fruit vendors to give 'naive american boy' a free sample. They eagerly sliced off pieces of foreign fruits for his tasting pleasure. Kind of like a Brazilian version of free samples day at Sam's Club.

Then he and Driver went for long rides through town, to 'show him around'. He has pictures of a crazy motorcycle they saw and the guard towers that are posted around the parking lot at the shopping mall. Kidnappings are still fairly common in Brazil (so much so that Brazilians have insurance policies on it) so the fact there were security guards at the mall, in look-out towers, actually brought me comfort.

Because the family still had work and school the first five days he was there, Michael had a lot of hang out time. And he chose to spend a lot of it with the staff. Did I mention that the staff basically spoke NO English?

Yeah, I think that's one of the reasons he enjoyed their company. My boy doesn't use a lot of words in a day. This quiet, just hanging out time worked for him. No expectations for small talk. Just drivin' around. Just hangin' out in the grocery store. Smiles and nods were sufficient.

Then the second week they were all on the island together. Staff stayed back in Sao Paulo. Suddenly he had to use all those words he'd been saving up. He hung out with his new Brazilian siblings and did his best to fit in with the events of each day.

He played a lot of chess with Rodrigo, who is the same age as Sam. The big brother role is familiar and comfortable to Michael. I am sure it made him feel at home, to hang out with a little guy. He enjoyed those long silent games because as he put it "its all about who is the black pieces and who is the white, then 'your turn, my turn'....until someone wins." It was the perfect game to share with this new little brother who understood some, but didn't speak much English.

Nina, the oldest daughter, who spent a week with us last summer, speaks our language well. She is just fourteen but between school lessons and her immersion in our culture last year, she does very well. She got to practice her translation skills (which pleased her mom) when her friends were over and she wanted Michael to be included in the conversations.

But Michael brought home some funny mannerisms and habits that were fun to watch until he dropped them. Things like speaking very slowly when he spoke to Sam, because that is how his Brazilian brother best understood the language. Simple word choices, spoken slowly. We had to remind him that Sam speaks English very well, thank you.

At one point Michael and I were having a conversation and Sam, so happy to have big brother home and showing it the best way he could, was shooting Michael repeatedly with Nerf bullets from across the room. Big brother just ignored it, stood there allowing little brother to pelt him with foam artillery.

I paused our conversations and said, "Are you really going to take that?"

I know I shouldn't promote violence but this was just not a natural way to react to an annoying little brother. Michael had forgotten that this was not the little brother he had to be polite to. This was the real thing. And no, he was not going to let it go.

He calmly walked over and scooped Sam up, turning him upside down and tickling him until he squealed.

Then there is this issue with how he says, "yes" to everything. Very deliberate, with emphasis. Where he used to say 'yeah' or 'I guess so', he now answers a very polite "YES." I know it is how he answered his Brazilian parents, trying to be polite, and I like it, but it just doesn't feel like my laid back boy. I'm kind of glad he's now dropped that habit.

I can tell that Brazil is still in the back of his mind, even as he gets back in the groove around here. Out of the blue, totally out of context, he'll say things like, "down there, they didn't have this kind of meat." or "once, when I was down there, we were in this elevator, and Nina leaned on the button..." The story goes on and it is assumed that we all understand that he's talking about Brazil.

A place that now feels very much like home to him. He fit in with their family and soaked up their culture. He watched a school (posse?) of dolphins leap next to their boat when they were water skiing one day. He saw amazing views and incredible countryside landscapes. And he hung out with the staff and had inside jokes with Driver. A little brother was left behind who thinks Michael hung the moon.

What's not to love about Brazil?

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