- Go home, you won’t miss anything interesting, you will probably want to miss what happens and anything really good will be retold in better, elaborated and more exciting detail the next day.
- Nothing really interesting happens when you’re not there anyway.
- Being a drama queen is a young woman’s game. It is relief not to be arguing, crying or kissing a frog. These days I can sit back, happily sipping strong alcohol and watching it all unfold.
- Hangovers are much worse, the only real cure is to drink every day.
- Friends are beginning to get real illnesses and warn you not to be unhealthy. You try not to drink every day.
- Finally give up smoking, miss it like a favourite pair of shoes because I’m still convinced it makes me cool and a bit of my personality is missing without a cigarette in my hand.
- Change is infinitely more possible than you imagine, nothing is stuck, you are not trapped and there is a multi coloured world of wonder to explore if you just get up, walk to the edge and jump.
- Don’t be afraid to be alone. It really isn’t as bad as you imagine and it is infinitely preferable to being stuck with an idiot for the rest of your life.
- Friends matter. Old friends matter. There is no one else like the people who have known you for a long time. People who have seen you fuck up, forgiven you, held your hair when you were sick and will pretend to forget your fashion errors from the 90s.
- You never feel like a grown up, you just get more lines on your face and more grey in your hair.
- All diets work, every single one no matter how ridiculous the instructions. It’s sticking to them that`s the problem.
- Also a problem is that one last delicious full fat meal on a Sunday before the diet starts on a Monday.
- Every Sunday.
- Anyway being too thin makes you look older, a bit of flab keeps you young.
- The world is full of beautiful and wonderful things to see and experience. Find them, look at them. I wish I had invested more time and money seeing waterfalls, mountains, oceans, cities and jungles.
- You won’t always wash your make up off before you sleep, you won’t always go to the gym, you will sometimes eat too much, talk too much, cry too much, laugh in the wrong place and kiss the wrong people.
- If you are not still doing these things at least once a month, you should be.
- A smile is a universal language. No matter what you are able to say or understand, a smile can take you pretty far.
- Pear shape is an offensive term. Everyone’s shape is differently wonderful and bodies have no need for fruit based labels.
- Don’t be afraid of dirt and mess. Life is grubby, enjoy it.
- You can’t control anyone else, what they do, what they say, how they think or how they act. All you can control is your reaction to them.
- Equally, no one can really control you. Refuse to submit, refuse to be manipulated, take your own path, make your own map.
- Whenever you can, replace fear, frustration, and disappointment with love. It brings amazing results.
- Sleep is fantastic but you can mange with less of it than you think.
- Women: if he tells you he is a bastard, chances are he really is a bastard and you won’t change him.
- Men: telling her you are a bastard doesn’t make it ok to act like one.
- Wear an amazing coat, and the rest of life usually falls in to place.
- Banana skins are the most slippery substance in the world.
- I am proud to call myself a feminist. This doesn’t mean I hate men I just don’t enjoy being oppressed by them.
- Have a voice, don’t be afraid to use it. Be loud, be proud. If anyone doesn’t like it fuck them. Refuse to be silenced.
- Your past might create you but it doesn’t define you. The possibilities for reinvention are endless. You just need the right script and costume.
- Being yourself is a lot harder than it sounds but it really is the only way to be.
- Never cut your own fringe.
- Try to avoid regret and guilt these are empty emotions.
- You might regret cutting your own fringe though.
- Embrace imperfection. Life is not symmetry and straight lines.
- Don’t open the door for me because I have a vagina; open it because it’s good manners. Good manners have nothing to do with your genitals.
- Sometimes it is just about the journey. The destination only matters when you get there.
- Everyone looks good in black eyeliner.
- Know when to leave and get going…
One of my more annoying traits is my childlike response to being told what to do. When advised not to do something my immediate response is to do the opposite. Nothing is more likely to bring out the teenager in me than well meaning advice. My usual reply would be “Don’t tell me what to do!” possibly with the addition of a sexual swearword…
As you can imagine this policy is not always the most productive. Well meaning advice is given for a reason, it is well meant and it is often thoughtful, kind and considerate. So to have a blanket refusal to act upon friends gently offered and sensible suggestions has often resulted in poor choices.
However, this does mean I can empathise with 14-year-old boys who refuse to remove their hooded tops in class. Although being an (almost) 40-year-old woman myself perhaps it’s time to grow up and stop rebelling? Strangely, despite my refusal to listen to others, I spend much of my working day telling people what to do and trying to sound like I am not telling them what to do. It is a fine line and one that I sometimes fall off.
This morning I was talking to a friend in England about a meal I had had and as I recounted the dishes a memory returned to me. Before I moved to Brazil I never travelled. I only listened to others stories of their travels and the food they tasted. I had one holiday in 10 years, a singles holiday to Crete; I don’t want to tell you what to do but NEVER GO ON A SINGLES HOLIDAY TO CRETE. It was not fun. There is an underlying air of sadness on singles holidays, which permeates everything. In particular, I remember looking over at the group of singles, as I downed vodka on my balcony to block out the experience. They were looking wistfully at the pool whilst drinking afternoon tea (provided free as part of the single’s package!). In the pool was a beautiful young Greek couple cavorting madly. The expression on the singles faces was doglike, that expression a dog has when you are eating and the dog looks mournfully at your plate like it’s starving. I had to quickly drink more vodka before I threw myself in the pool and attempted to drown myself under the lovemaking couple‘s contortions.
Whenever friends went away, which they seemed to do far more frequently than me I would ask them in detail about their travels and about the food they had. I loved to hear about it but I only lived vicariously through their experiences. I am sure than many of them told me what to do ‘You should go on holiday Luci.’ Or ‘Stop spending all your money on stupid crap you don’t need and go on holiday Luci’ or ‘Stop asking me questions about my holiday Luci I have been talking about it for 3 HOURS!’ I ignored them, because I won’t be told what to do and I continued to holiday in my own flat, avoid singles holidays and ask friends endless questions about what they ate. Till finally I realised that some of the advice was useful, that perhaps spending all my money on crap and never leaving Hove wasn’t the best life plan and I came to Brazil.
Even as I planned to leave, more advice ‘You’ll hate living in a big city’ or ‘You can’t runaway from your problems’ or ‘You’ll need to learn Spanish’ most of this advice was wrong. I love the big city, my problems are far more manageable with 5000 miles between us and I needed to learn Portuguese anyway.
This week, I have been working with another teacher watching his lessons and planning together. We have a tricky group, it is hard or them to follow instructions. As I watched his lesson I could see that the giving of instructions, telling the children what to do was at the heart of everything that could make the lesson work. If they didn’t know what to do they wouldn’t learn, they could feel stupid, they would lose interest and the lesson would be wasted. The art of giving of instructions, of telling someone what to do, has to be clear, make sense and be delivered without being patronising or demanding. Once we know what to do we can be so much more successful.
So, back to me, yes we had been off that very important topic for at least a paragraph. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do and even if I listen to instructions or let people tell me what to do I am still not convinced about the right course. I have an innate mistrust of what people say. Above all else I find it hard to trust my own instincts and judgements. I make mistakes; I have made errors many times. But to come back to a reoccurring theme, errors and mistake can lead you to new adventures and new beauty. I love mistakes in language; they create wonderful perfect descriptive phrases. I need to celebrate mistakes in my choices too.
So, we listen for instructive advice, ignore it, worry over it and dismiss it or follow it. Today it feels like a set of instructions to follow or ignore would give me a clearer idea of what to next, knowing what not to do can be as helpful as knowing what to do.
Please, dear friends, continue to instruct and advise me and I will try to ignore the teenage wail, which erupts at the thought of being told what to do and listen to my inner adult. Or I will ignore you, stamp my foot, make some bad decisions, laugh, cry, avoid singles holidays and see where I end up.
As my time in Sao Paulo draws nearer to its end I see the city transform before me. The once sinister and confusing cacophony metamorphosed in to friendly bars and smiling faces. Light seeps in to the darker places, infusing them with safety and normality. What once seemed so different, so other, is now mine, my own familiar world. No longer inhabited only by strangers, now friends and familiar faces.
On Friday I went out later than usual and on my own, travelling across the city in a taxi. A simple and common enough task in my old Brighton life. In that world I would zigzag the city throughout the night seeking out friends and entertainment until the sun rose and I found my way home. But not here, not in Sao Paulo. It was, in part, a conscious decision. The new lifestyle, the new me. But it was also fear of the unknown. I was afraid of so many things in this wonderful crazy city. Where I was going, how would I get there, would they rob me, shoot me, crash in to me. Danger lurked in every unfamiliar corner.
But on Friday as my taxi zoomed the busy streets and I remembered how I once was so afraid, afraid that it was dangerous to drive, afraid that I would be in an accident, attacked, lost, sold in to slavery, missing, murdered, remembered the doom scenarios constantly filling my gringo mind. Now, as the taxi made its way to a new part of this world I didn’t know, I realised, I was comfortable, and maybe that was why it was time to go.
When I arrived in Brazil almost 2 years ago I relished the unfamiliarity and challenge, I thrived on not understanding the rules or language. Now I contemplate a return to my familiar world in England I feel so sad to let it go. I have become addicted to unfamiliarity, obsessed with not understanding, proud of survival.
In my moments of homesickness I longed for the familiarity of home. The normal tastes of English food, sitting at the bar in a pub, my beloved and beautiful Brighton beach on a windy day, the friends who had known me for more than 10 years, they who had already forgiven me for foolish acts in my 20s and loved me in my 30s. On those days I craved familiarity. Sought to recreate a little piece of England in my flat, eating roast potatoes, drinking tea, British TV blaring, sending messages home, connecting to the familiar.
I have grown to love São Paulo. When I flew in from my last trip to Nicaragua I felt like I was coming home. I was coming home, home to my familiar life. I wasn’t lost or confused, I knew the route the taxi would take, I knew what to do, what to say. But a small piece of me is saddened by the loss of mystery. Of course I will never be a true Paulista, a Brazilian, totally immersed, but I can see how it would be easy to stay, I can see how I could adapt, that this could be home.
So I have decided to leave, I’m still not sure yet where I will end up next. I have been given a very dangerous gift. The gift of choice. I have a whole world to choose from. Safer now in the knowledge that I am able to make a home in amongst unfamiliarity. That I even enjoy the confusion and struggle of the new place.
I want my classroom too, to be a space filled exploration, discovery and unfamiliarity. I don’t want my classes to know what to expect when they enter the room. I want them to be occasionally surprised, shocked, confused and excited by the lessons. And I want this for myself too. I am most afraid of returning to the UK and returning to my old apathy, sunk in to a life of frustration and laziness. The electric shock of unfamiliarity Brazil gave me has bought me back to life. I think I need the unfamiliar to continue to feel alive.
I’m angry. Actually, I am also frustrated and despairing. I am struggling to find the language to express the feelings that I have about what I have been reading. And it is mainly due to the use of language.
What has made me mad? Mainly that abhorrent, destructive, misinformed egotistical, vile muck spreader Gove and his insidious use of linguistic propaganda which is slowly but surely dismantling the education system I was taught in, and worked in, for 38 years.
He makes an incongruous enough comment on the school snow closures:
‘…while the decision on whether or not to remain open or closed is a matter for the headteacher, everything can and should be done in order to ensure that all children get access to a good education.’
Everything can and should be done to ensure that all children get access to a good education… excuse me for one moment as I take a breath at the enormous fucking audacity of that comment.
For a start, why is there an assumption that this is not already happening? Why is there an assumption that schools and teachers see a flake of snow, shut and lock the gates and fuck off home immediately? I am not in the UK at the moment but I was two years ago when we had snow. Was everything done to ensure the school opened? Let me see, teaching staff that lived nearby (including the head teacher who did not live nearby and travelled for a few hours in the snow to get there) went to school on a Sunday to dig the school and nearby roads out to ensure the school could open. On the Monday when the school opened some roads were still inaccessible so staff walked in the snow for 2-3 hours to get in to work. Yes EVERYTHING was done to try and open the school. Did all the parents choose to send their children across the city in treacherous conditions? No, not all of them. Should we have opened the school for the few children who could get in? We couldn’t really teach them, as with more than half the class missing work would have to repeated again once all students were there, no we had to look after them while their parents went to work. Is the purpose of school, to be available to take children off their parent’s hands during the day or as Gove puts it, is it to provide access to education? So why must we ensure schools are open despite most of the pupils not being there? What is the role of the school in the community?
Don’t get me wrong I believe in community and in particular I believe schools should serve a community. I believe schools should be for the children of the local area, and not, as in my local authority, lotteries of placements, meaning children travel the city to get to the ‘best’ school. Leaving an inequality, a lack of community and ‘failing’ schools filled with challenging children other schools reject so they won’t damage their league table results. In my ideal world yes, I think we should open the school, and as a community support each other parents, teachers, everyone. True community schools would do this instinctively. Unfortunately, in my experience, the government and local authorities set up systems, which discourage this type of network, placing schools in competition, and creating ghettos.
What I also find offensive is the still implied ‘vocation’ of teaching, that we teachers are somehow gifted this job, that we are ungrateful for this opportunity. That somehow we didn’t have to work to get here, that we are lazy shirkers, that this profession is not recognised or respected by the current government and subsequently the media and consequently some of our community.
Teachers’ work hard, they are not lazy, they believe passionately in the education of your children and do everything, EVERYTHING possible to ensure they have the best, the very best education they can provide. And they do this up against an unbelievable wall of apathy, abuse, negativity and misinformation.
I work abroad now in an international school. I am taking a break from the UK, I will go back but it was a punishing existence in the field I worked in. I spent 15 years dealing with damaged children and damaged families. I watched over the last few years as their support services were whittled away. I know things are worse still, my wonderful colleagues who battle on, tell me they are. But I got to see the other side by coming here. Here, where there is an automatic assumption that the teacher is doing their best. It sounds so simple but it makes a massive difference. Here, where the children are generally compliant. Here, where education is valued for the life changing opportunities it brings.
I was talking to a Brazilian colleague about the daily battle I used to have to get the pupils to take off their hooded tops in class. “But why didn’t they take them off?’ she asked confused. No child in my current school would refuse to remove a piece of non-uniform; she had no conception of having to do this. And I remembered how daily, hourly, every few minutes battles would take place in school over the smallest to the biggest issues.
I believe that these battles were caused by comments such a Gove’s about the school closures for snow. These seemingly harmless words infiltrate our minds like disease. Every negative comment about teachers and education that seeps out finds its way to the classroom. Our wonderful education system, and believe me it is wonderful, the Brazilian families would be immensely grateful for a free education system of that standard, should be celebrated not denigrated.
So, I am angry. Angry and sad, to watch something that I believed in be slowly ripped apart. I return to UK teaching in August, fired up by what I have seen across the ocean. I urge you teachers, believe in what you do, you do great things and the rest of the world has respect for the British education system even if Britain doesn’t. And if you are not a teacher, believe me please, these people work their arses off every day, they are not lazy, cheating, bullying, strikers, constantly looking for the easy option. All the teachers I have worked with want the best for your children, I promise you, everything that can and should be done is being done. If it is not being done right then we need to stop blaming and assuming and start asking for what we really want. A properly funded, autonomous community education system staffed by educated and respected professionals who are allowed to get on with what they love to do, teach.
Gove quote from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21122453
Can you imagine your perfect beach? I may have spent Christmas on it. I was in Costa Rica, staying in a tiny beachside apartment in Samara. The beach had fine pale sand, you have to avoid the dried horse turds, but sight of the horses running on the beach at dusk is worth the mess. The impacted sand makes it easy to walk across the low tide to the soft undulating waves. People learn to surf here, I watch a young girl riding the low waves in to the beach as I swim. There are no high rises, no real buildings at all. Only tin roofed restaurants. We have an iguana living outside our window. He attempts to get in the bedroom, tapping his claws on the corrugated iron roof, we lock him out and scare him off eventually, he is like the Tico men who attempt flattery on the gullible gringas “Hey Chica, muy guapa!” they are also scared off and kept out…
Palm trees, banana trees, mango trees line the beach. Noisy birds and geckos everywhere, Costa Rica is alive and moving. This country is beautiful but the Americans and Germans have arrived in droves and the accents jar slightly against the tranquil beauty. These accents are indicating change rolling in. I wonder what Samara will be like in 10 years time when the moneymaking potential of this little paradise is recognised and the new international airport in the north of the country grows to accommodate more and more gringo visitors.
As I travelled in Costa Rica and Nicaragua I became aware of a tension. The desire for ‘realness’ to not be a tourist, whilst simultaneously being one. A need to be the first, to go somewhere undiscovered or unspoilt, to capture a place at exactly the right moment before it became ‘too touristy’ or ‘too westernised’. I struggled with this. I don’t view myself as a traveller, I see myself as a tourist, a western tourist. I try to be respectful. To not trample over other cultures. Only tasting tiny pieces here and there. Not ticking off my list, done, done, done. But the fact remains, I am a tourist. If there is a search for an experience of truth or beauty. I am looking for the beauty, the building the landscape, the waterfall, the mountain. I find the search for truth, for the authentic experience sometimes troubling. We must get the local bus because that is what the locals do. I don’t think the locals would choose the bus, I think they have to get the bus because they can’t afford anything else.
Of course this may be an intellectualising of my own laziness and the ‘truth’ is that I prefer the ‘beauty’ of the taxi ride because it is easier.
I have always loved storytellers, constantly attracted to those who can weave narratives for me. A friend of mine often says ‘never let truth get in the way of a good story’ as his slightly exaggerated versions of events portray us in less than flattering ways. And as I upload my holiday photos to Facebook this comes to my mind.
I look at the story unfolding in those pictures and I see the beauty, and of course the pictures don’t show the whole truth. The catcalls and grabs in the dark street, which make me uncomfortable (but the female Nicas assume me are safe and normal!). The rats in the market. The cockroach and frog I shared the shower with. The beggars, the crazies, the missing limbs, the children around the restaurant, constantly chased off but coming back for more scraps. The homes which are only two walls and a roof, people burning rubbish in the street because no one collects it. The sense of lethargy that pervades when there is (apparently) 70% unemployment.
However truth doesn’t completely override the beauty. I suppose it just means that travel, like life, is made up of a million different shades and hues.
So perhaps in a search for truth or beauty, the most important thing is just that, the search? The ability to look and see and consider.Why am I a teacher? I think fundamentally it is because I am interested in the world and I like to share that interest. I find that everyone I meet or teach has something to tell me or show me. Some topics are more interesting to me than others but everyone has something to share. In being an educator I am seeking to share both truth and beauty. As an English teacher with passion for language I share my love of words and that wonderful moment of connection when you read the words which express something you struggled to articulate. That is the essence of truth and beauty captured in a moment. The same way that when a crowded local bus moves as one to ensure the man that needs to get off can get out. That despite the heat, the dirt, being uncomfortable, and slightly angry that I am even on this dam bus, I see the beauty of connection flit across the moment like words on a page.
I have come to embody a very different mentality. Perhaps I presented a version of myself for so long I started to believe in it? Perhaps I was never quite as stuck as I thought I was? Luckily one day, I took a chance to change and I arrived in Brazil. Being here has given me many opportunities, but one of the biggest changes has been having the time and the money to travel. I still find it hard to believe I am really in the places I am visiting. There is a constant sense of unreality about walking down these South American streets. It is like I am in a Disney created ‘Latin America Ride’ except this ride is interspersed with reality checks; instead of animated singing puppets I see a hungry man eating rice and beans off the pavement. I still cannot think of myself as someone who travels. I have a borrowed rucksack, it sits awkwardly in my flat and seems as out of place as the guidebooks, photos and souvenirs on my bookshelf.
Did I move too fast, change too quick? Is half my mind still tucked up on my sofa in Brighton watching TV and dreaming of escape? Travel brings me joy but I`m not sure if it is the chance to look at this beauty, these amazing, wonderful sights and experiences, or is it more simply just the act of being there? I can`t decide if looking at these remarkable things is as important as the feeling of: I managed this, I did this, and I am here. For me travel is rooted in the sense of freedom and confidence it brings and this is as important as the place. I don`t want to be the person who ticks off a list; seen that, tick, been there, tick, tick, tick. I want to relish each opportunity afforded to me. When I think about leaving Sao Paulo and I look from the rooftop pool across the magical city to the view of the mountains in the distance and the sun is shining down and I think I must be crazy to leave all this behind… I have to check myself. At least I had this, at least I was here, at least I got to experience this.
In a few days I travel to Costa Rica, another wonderful opportunity. To see a friend I met in Bolivia, who lived in Australia and now I am meeting her in Central America. If this seems normal to you, I assure you it is not to me. Look at the map in the picture at the start of this post, not so long ago I wouldn`t travel from Hove to Brighton. A good friend moved to London for two years and I visited her once. The journey from London to Brighton is a 40 minute train journey. The distance and time is shorter than the average Paulista´s journey to work. And yet it seemed too far to me. My horizons were small and they have been expanded beyond my wildest dreams.
And in my school and my classroom, a plethora of languages and experiences. I spent a lesson yesterday exploring and sharing Google maps with four students. They shared with me their worlds in Japan, Belgium, Argentina and Brazil. I got to show then Brighton too, our worlds bought closer and connected by these comparisons.
I struggle to explain how privileged I feel to have the opportunities I suddenly have. I struggle to express the changes that have occurred in my life and in me. I find it difficult to express my gratitude for and pride in, this achievement. I know I am rewarded by the things I get to do, I know I will take pleasure in every moment. I advocate change to others; I tell them how it helped me. I encourage my students to appreciate the experiences they have, to relish the interactions, to share and celebrate languages, cultures, similarities and differences.
As the memories of the sights and smells fade, I think something else will remain with me; a connection with people. The knowledge that my horizons can be so much wider than I thought, that you can communicate and connect with people and make a home in a different place. ‘We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.’ Anais Nin.
I have a question, when you ask for the bill across a crowded restaurant what do you do? Do you mine an action to indicate to staff that you have finished and want to pay? What is this action? I have spent 15 years miming an elaborate version of my signature, signing my name with a grandiose gesture. I recently discovered that not everyone mimes signing their name, in fact many other people are adding up the bill in their mime, or mime the action of the staff writing out the bill. This has generated drunken debate and discussion, as we argue, should it be adding the bill or signing? There seems to be a gender divide, males preferring the adding gesture and females the flourish of their name. This is very revealing of the differences between men and women…
Whatever you are miming, a symbolically phallic column of numbers or a soft undulating signature, the understanding is still same, I have finished and I want to pay. People understand. There is a universal communication.
After 16 months in Brazil I have become skilled at communicating without much language. In my previous existence I was a language ninja, using it to weave webs, taking pleasure in its vowels and consonants. Drawing people in, telling stories, listening to stories, sharing stories, laughing. Endlessly debating, bantering, charming and talking, talking, talking. Now I smile, I touch your arm and search my brain for the memory of a single word to reply with. Am I still English in these smiles and gestures? Do I continue to signify my nationality in these movements, the way I signify my gender in the dancing signature I mime to the waiter? My ‘otherness’ is apparent in Brazil. I stand out as not Brazilian. Maybe American, maybe European. I feel reduced by this sometimes, becoming a place instead of a person not I’m not just British, I’m Luci. A friend of mine confuses people here by stating he is not from England, he is from Liverpool, resulting in a Colombian colleague confusedly consulting a map. I am drawn to my gringo friends, not because I don’t like the other nationalities surrounding me but with them I communicate with ease, with word play and shared cultural references. But even amongst the Europeans there is difference, my Spanish and Belgium friends describing themselves as being ‘mainland’ to my ‘island’ mentality. I am forced to unpick my edges and look at how I am constructed and hope to find there is enough of a commonality to connect me to most people I meet.
How far is the ability to communicate effectively a product of our culture or personal history? If we all spoke the same language would we still misunderstand one another? My school is international but the language of instruction is English. English, the language of imperialism, the language of colonalization. They mainly speak English or Portuguese, imposed languages from Europe on this beautiful Latin American country. And when I tell one of my pupils, stop speaking Portuguese, you have to speak English, and he is actually from Lebanon and tells the class the loudest noise he ever heard was a bomb exploding, then the plethora of communications and experience that exist in my classroom are bought sharply in to focus. I am uncomfortable controlling language, no pleasure for me in finding a misused apostrophe or a grammatical gaff. I revel in mistakes, contradictions and language rule breaks. I care only for communication, understanding and connection
I am surrounded by second, third, fourth, fifth language users and they use the English language better than me, taking familiar phrases and energising them with fresh life, and making me laugh in the delighted newness of a familiar word. One colleague described another’s ‘purity’ in his approach to teaching, another using ‘snooked’ to describe taking something in a sneaky way. My friend who loves people and asks them questions about life, love, family and friends was described as ‘luring’ someone out. Someone saying swimming trousers rather than swimming trunks, making me laugh at the perfect symmetry of the unfamiliar combination.
I am in this rich linguistic world, surrounded by professional language users, adults and children. Their skill amazes and humbles me as they switch between languages, cultures and communications. I feel as though I am standing in the centre of this whirlwind of words, most of them buffering me around from here to there, constantly turning my head to catch what is said, to understand. In amongst all this, there is usually a smile on my face, because I get to be here, to hear here, to hear all this and every time I say Tudo Bem? And get an answer and I’m a tiny part of another place, I feel pride.
I was blown here on the jet stream of a thousand conversations, woke up in my Brazilian castle on top of the world. In 6 months I will be saying t’chau t’chau to my temporary adopted home, and goodbye to all the warm wonderful people I have met. This makes me sad but the gifts they have given me in every tiny communication, in every gesture word or deed, these are gifts for life.
When I see the Brazilian finger wave, the gesture I love, which seems to mean, ‘no no, no way’ or someone slap the palms of their hands on the back of each other to say ‘no thanks, I don’t want that.’ When I see someone in swimming trousers and laugh at the words, or when I hear the lilting melody of Brazilian Portuguese with its x and chi. When I lift my imaginary pen to mime signing the bill. I will take you with me wherever I go, I will continue to try to understand.
For the month of November 2012 I am trying something very new and very difficult for me, commitment. I am not a committed person I am a fly-by-night, faddy, over enthusiastic, easily bored, wilful female. I usually start fantastically, have a good steady middle and then fade out at the end when I run out of steam or get bored. I have never been married, never owned a property, and barely had a serious boyfriend. I dislike routine. I don`t even like committing to a single brand of toothpaste of shampoo!
I like change, variety and difference. I struggle to make a commitment to most things. I have been fortunate in that the teaching profession allows for diversity in what you do and that I have been able to move around within its parameters. Starting out as an English teacher and ending up teaching History in Brazil. I am committed to teaching but only because it has allowed me to constantly change and grow and develop, if I only I could find a man like that too…
This month I am committed to the new love of my life, writing. One of the most life changing events of the life changing event of moving to a new country has been finding the inspiration and commitment to write. This is my 22nd Blog post; each post is about 800 words that is over 17,000 words written about my experiences here so far. I have penned a poem in Portuguese for a book the Portuguese department have put together (you can read it at the end of this post if you like). I have been writing other bits and pieces of poetry, putting together a documentary for a film course I am doing and trying to write a play. I am not intending to stop being teacher and be a writer but it feels wonderful to be writing and creating.
November is Nanowrimo, National Novel writing Month and so this month I am trying to commit to writing every day. The aim of nanowrimo is to write 1667 words each day, I am well below that target (day 9 and I have about 8000 words) but I have written something everyday. It`s not a novel, it has no narrative, no plot and no real characters. It is a meandering waltz through droplets of ideas, but I don` t care, I am writing.
Often teachers expect a high level of commitment from pupils, they should be committed to their studies, to doing their best. I wrote about motivation before, where does this intrinsic motivation come from. I`ve always loved writing but never committed myself to it before, so what`s changed.? Me. If something has been imposed on me from outside I will fight it, indeed if you said you want to be a writer sit down and write everyday I wouldn’t do it, I’d have got angry with you and told you all the reasons why I didn’t have time, had too much to do, was too tired etc. etc. etc. We can`t expect children, especially teenagers to be any different. Why would they be committed to their homework when they are more likely to be committed to updating face book? We have to support them in finding intrinsic motivation, why would you want to do this, how will it help you?
Brazil has infected me with its intoxicating fever of possibilities, and as I see new things and have new experiences, I feel the freedom that this life brings me and I am less afraid. I am less afraid to fail here and that has helped me to commit. I think the move to a whole new life away from expectations also allows you to try out other aspects of your personality. I just wish I had done it before, in the UK, and not been afraid of looking foolish or giving up. And now after 15 months, I have a decision to make, to commit to Brazil for another two years or finish my adventure and get back to real life. Will I be able to carry my new commitments back with me or will they remain in Brazil? The decision to leave is much harder to make than deciding to come. I want to make a commitment but as always, it fills me with fear and the urge to move on is strong. I am committed to Brazil and my new life her but as Paulo Coelho writes in the quote which opens this blog, you have to choose to commit to what is best for you and once I work that out, I will definitely commit to it….
A Historia da minha Viagem
A cidade me salvou.
I made an ignoble exit from my last home. My last look back was at a dirty duvet dangling from the balcony beneath mine, we had tried (and failed) to throw it down from the window. The contents of my kitchen were scattered on the pavement outside, waiting to be picked over by passersby. I was carrying two suitcases, packed so fast I could barely remember what was in them. And when I arrived in Brazil, what I had chosen to bring and I why I had chosen it, was a mystery to me.
Truth is I had run out of time. Time ticked away as the contents of my flat disappeared around me, like the sand trickling out of a timer, I ran out of time. Around me, the furniture was collected by friends and recycling companies, the books half packed in boxes were taken by removal men. Memories stored in another carton, cried over as I read about unrequited love, broken hearts and forgotten friends. The possessions that created my home dripped away, until it was just us left sat in an empty flat tangled up in the dirty duvet preparing for me to leave to make a new home.
There were many things it was hard to leave behind, but I when I arrived, surprisingly, I mourned the plates most, crying over the crockery. Sobbing over the spoons I had discarded. Dreaming of the green tiled table, a Brighton boot sale bargain, also left behind, taken by a stranger to make their home. I arrived in Brazil to an empty flat. Only a bed, me, two suitcases and a trail of possessions strewn behind me across Brighton. My home, 5000 miles away.
I keep going to use a large yellow plastic bowl that I had in the UK, for some reason it is this item that my brain has decided must be in Brazil with me. A yellow plastic bowl bought from the Pound Shop. More than once I have gone to the cupboard to find this bowl only to remember, I didn´t bring it, it´s not here, someone else has it. Would a plastic yellow bowl feel like home?
So where do you start? How to create a home? What to buy to make a home? I thought about this as I negotiated with the school about how to support the new staff arriving this year. What would I want to make me feel at home? What did I wish had been in that empty flat? What makes me feel at home now?
After the shock of arrival had worn off, I was surprised how quickly I got over the loss and leaving of my possessions. I bought new plates, drank from my new mugs. What made my home, I realised, were connections. It might be different for other people but the priority for me was to connect. The first thing I wanted was an internet connection. Luddites may deride my reliance on technology, but for me it´s not the ability to play Angry Birds that was important but to connect to home, friends and family.
My darling mother struggles with technology, clinging to old ways of staying in touch, just about handling sending texts or Skyping (although I’m pretty sure she believes Mr Skype monitors our calls and cuts us off when he gets bored of our conversation). I nag her to use the internet more because I feel I have been able to have such a regular and wonderful connection with my friends, to share so much of this new life, it´s almost as good as having them with me. But for Mother, labouring over opening emails and phone calls, much of this new life is a mystery. When she does hear about it, it comes in such great waves I think it´s overwhelming; Bolivia, Argentina, Rio, Brazil…
My home is created by the network of love and care that cocoons me from the important people in my life. I needed this Internet connection to the ones I left behind, but over my time here, new magic has happened. Through Twitter I also gained a network of strangers who became supportive friends (I´ve met some of them in real life too now). In Brazil I developed a social world that has entertained me, helped me, made me laugh, hugged me when I cried and took me on amazing journeys. I also travelled alone and met new friends from around the world, and again the Internet helped me hold on to these people and I have plans to meet and travel with them again.
My home is not about cups or plates, or even that safely stored box of letters, cards, photos and memories in the UK. My home is made by people. So now, my friends laugh at me because as soon as I arrive anywhere I seek out the Wi-Fi and make sure I’m connected. I need a connection with the people I know to make my home. I share my new adventures with my old friends (and I know it must get boring and annoying ´Luci´s on holiday AGAIN! ´) but I need to share it to make it real. Most of the time I’m still so shocked that I am here, that I was able to tumble out of that flat in Brighton with the dirty duvets and tables and plates. Still shocked that I wasn´t left behind too, in crumpled heap on the streets of Brighton, hoping to be collected by passersby. I have to share it; it is just me pinching myself to make sure this is really happening.
I didn´t need that Brighton flat full of things to prop me up as much as I thought. And although I still love shopping and buying and spending and I have created a new wall of possessions that I occasionally use to hide behind and fortify my castle. In leaving most of it behind I was able to focus on the real things that make my home, my connections to the people around me. Even though I see myself a solitary being at times, I have been able to recognise the importance of my connections. I appreciate you; I need you, thank you all. Without you I’d be homeless.