Stuck In Guacamole

“Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage”.
Regina Nadelson

I could not agree more. In fact, I have lost my luggage. Well, TAM airlines have any way! NOT a good start. I waited in Sao Paolo airport until the baggage belt stopped. No joy. It gets better: The airport staff didn’t speak a word of English. My kindle having run out of battery before I even got to Heathrow (the major disadvantage of electronic books), I haven’t had the chance to look up even the basics of Portuguese. Luckily an elderly Brazilian man was in exactly the same position as me, also having come from a stopover in Frankfurt, so we were told to see if it arrived in Rio. It didn’t. They’ve told me that they will deliver it to the hostel when it turns up. Brilliant. I’ve been wearing stinking aeroplane clothes, complete with dirty socks and walking boots, around all day. It had better be here soon or this is going to get interesting!

At least these disasters are occurring in small manageable chunks (touch wood). Bite-sized fiascos are easier to manage. I did, at least, have all of my important documents, electronics and money in my hand luggage. The main things I would desperately miss from my backpack are the highly expensive Malarone (anti-malarial) tablets.

My first impressions of Rio were that the ‘favelas’ (Brazilian slums) were completely overwhelming, stretching as far as the eye can see; in contrast, the iconic ‘christ the redeemer’ statue seemed incredibly small! Today has been pretty overcast and rainy so I’m afraid I haven’t bothered with any photos yet.

When I arrived I agreed to go straight over to the volunteer project to introduce myself. The crèche turns out to be around 40 minutes on the metro and then a further 20 minutes walk, which I am now expected to have memorised and be able to do again solo. Hmm. The staff at the crèche are all Brazilian and, again, do not speak English. Ideal. It is so frustrating having such an impermeable language barrier. Don’t be fooled, it is not as similar to Spanish as you would expect. I just spent half an hour trying to explain to the cashier that I didn’t have change for a 50Real note (well that’s at least what I think she was asking about, I really can’t be sure). I was also told that I would have to, as in Papua New Guinea, wear long skirts/trousers for the work. I would have appreciated being told in advance; I can’t really get away with wearing my pj bottoms here. So one revolting dress and a pair of havaianas later, I’m settling down in the hostel which fantastically has free wifi! Yay!

Babel

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” -Dr. Seuss

Pigin: Sampela meri i lainnim mi long tok pigin. Mi tok mi interest long how yupela makim bilum na ol tok olsem bai mipela go makim bilum. Ol nice tru. Lo morning mi kirap, mi kai kai. Big Mami boilim wara. Mi was was na mi wasim grass blo mi. Mi long walkabout lo tik bush! Em no hard tru long mi. Behind, Mi go lo skul na mi teachim ol pikinini. Em narapela samting hai. Mi like lukim ol sing-sing na mi like go long lukim solwara.Mi lukautim cas cas – mi got em insit lo haus. Em col Kai. mi likim em! Mi week, tasol mi bai sleep behind. Em ol gutpla

English: Some girls are teaching me to speak pidgin. I said that I was interested in how they make bilums (special wool/rope bags) and they told me that they would make me some! They’re very sweet. In the morning I wake up, I eat. Big Mami boils the water. I ‘shower’ and wash my hair. I go for a walk in the jungle. It’s not too difficult. Later, I go to the school and teach the kids. It’s different here! I would like to see a sing-sing and I want to visit the coast. I have a pet possum in the house called Kai. I love it! I’m tired, but will sleep later. All is well.

Not sure how much of this is actually accurate – just stringing together bits and bobs that the girls have taught me! I’m getting there though.

I’m teaching the grade 6 this week – they were fantastic today: really well behaved.  The trouble is some of them are clearly very bright and need to be given extra work to keep them occupied whereas a couple of them can barely speak English and can’t even grasp the most basic concepts so need lots of extra attention. I’m shocked by how some of the other teachers treat the children though; In the assembly this morning (held on the mud outside) the headmistress was calling them ‘dirty pigs’!

P.B. I tried a thing that they call a ‘tree tomato’ today. It tasted a bit like a cross between a tomato and a guava, except much more acidic. I’m not sure I’m particularly taken with it.