Friday, October 5, 2012

Birthday in Brazil!!

This was meant to be the day of all days – nine months in the making, the day where God’s extravagant love would be demonstrated through a lavish act of generosity – me taking my ten Brazilian Compassion kids and their families to a special Park with a mini-zoo, horses, a pool and a soccer field, and having a day we’d never forget. 

In all honesty the day actually got off to a pretty crap start for me. Firstly I woke up with a bit of gut pain, which for me is never a good sign. Then, since I was paying for the day, my translator and I had to get to a bank. Simple enough? Yes, but it turns out that none of the machines accepted my “all-around-the-world” Commonwealth bank travel money card. Guess what Commonwealth Bank? It doesn’t freakin’ work in Fortaleza Brazil!!

On the other hand, I learned later that the buses were due to pick the families up at 8, and everyone was there by 7.30, ready and raring to go! Bless them :)

We ended up driving around Fortaleza for about 40 minutes, which caused us to be late and really steamed me up. It affected me for probably the first 20 minutes of our day. 
Isabela hatched a plan to go to a local bank and withdraw the money from a teller, which made sense, but it meant I would be without a translator for a while. I probably didn’t think about it too much, or it would have terrified me – a park full of Portuguese-speaking Brazilians…..and me! 

So I spent the first twenty minutes of the day subdued and pissed off about the money thing. The majority of the kids and siblings were under 12, so they headed straight for the pool and had a blast. I joined them, but originally wasn’t going in. What could I do in a pool where the water was only thigh-high? Besides, I didn’t bring a towel. Turned out that both those excuses were lame, as I witnessed the pure, unrestrained joy of these kids laughing, splashing and just being kids. I don’t think I can underestimate the importance of that in this day. Even though I visited some of their houses, I definitely didn’t get a full picture of the difficulties they face in their lives.

I ended up “getting over myself” and getting in with them, forgetting about the “adult concerns" of not being able to get the money out, and being late. I played ball, I went around the pool on my hands and knees carrying 5 or 6 kids on my back, we played thumb-wars, paper-scissors-rock, sang silly songs and just had fun. I needn’t have worried about a towel – I was dry after 10 minutes in that sun!

The hardest part of the day was when Isabela left, and this coincided with lunchtime. The families were seated in their Project groups, and didn’t seem to mingle much. With no translator, I was unable to really interact with anyone.

Finally she returned and I went with some of the kids to look at the animals. There were various species of snakes, owls, other birds and monkeys. Peacocks and iguanas roamed around. The kids had a horse ride, where they were led around by a Park worker. Some of the boys (and Alynne) came and had a kick of the footy with me.

I was happy with my ability to get around to everyone on the day. I made a special effort to have a couple of extended conversations with poor Monalisa, who was stuck in a wheelchair because of her broken leg. She generally stayed under the covered area where we had lunch. It was pleasing to see Jessica and Cristina open up to me more today, since at the Project on Thursday they had been shy and reserved the whole day. I still didn’t get to talk to Cristina like I wanted to, but Victor assured me that after my visit she was talking about me and asking questions. I think some of them found it too difficult trying to communicate using a translator.

The biggest surprise came when we gathered for afternoon snack. On the way there I heard “Happy Birthday” being played – by live music! My jaw dropped as I saw my new favourite band – the teenagers from BR-329 I met on Saturday! They had brought all their instruments and gear to the Park to surprise me. I was speechless and humbled at the effort they had gone to, to be there. They played a couple of tunes, then it was gift-giving time.

BR-329 gave me a CD with all the photos from my visit on Saturday, as well as a drink bottle and t-shirt with a picture of me with Monalisa, Larissa and Alynne. BR-110 gave me a wooden “Fortaleza” photo frame. Alynne gave me a pendant with an electric guitar on the end. Larissa gave me a bass guitar made of hardened clay that she had painted. Monalisa’s mother gave me an embroidered table cloth-type thing, with a picture and some writing on it. I asked her how long it took, thinking a long time. She shrugged and said “An hour.” Wow, okay then.

We prayed, then I jumped on the drums to play a couple of songs with my favourite crew. I told them that what I was most impressed about was that between songs half the group switched instruments and it still sounded just as good. They were very versatile. I also had some spare clip-on koalas, and it was my joy to be able to give one to each of the band members.

Then it was time for cake and winding down. We had some group photos. I got photos of the kids from each Project, then with their siblings, then with siblings, parents and Project workers. Finally one with all ten kids, and then the whole crew! There would have been about 30 family members altogether, because many of the parents had to work. All ten kids had at least one family member with them.

Goodbyes were sad, but not overwhelming. Some of the things that were said were very humbling to me. Larissa’s mother said some nice things. In some ways the impact of my visit to Larissa could be considered negligible. She really didn’t take to me at all, she was just too young. However, on the other hand, I played a lot with her brothers on the Fun Day and went goo-goo at her baby sister every chance I got. This obviously had a positive effect on the mother. She was very grateful and thankful for my visit and for the sponsorship. I have a feeling that visiting Larissa this young may plant a seed and add strength to our sponsor-child relationship as she gets older. She and the family will grow up knowing that I care about her because I’ve been to visit her.

I told Monalisa again that even though she was graduating, I didn’t think this was the end for us. I believe she will be accepted as an LDP student and God has big plans for her. I will be part of it.

I said goodbye to each of the band members individually. I was so proud to know them, and also humbled at their response to me. I can honestly say that I’ve never had an effect like that on a group of teenagers. They were so thankful for my visit, but I was the one who was inspired by them! I singled out the girl drummer Tereza. She is a bit of a tomboy and probably doesn’t fit in that well with the other girls. I told her to keep developing her drumming gift and use it for God’s glory.   

And with that, the big adventure that was nine-months-in-the-making, was over.

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