Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Great, Great Day

Yesterday in an email to my mom, I asked her to pray for me because I had a feeling this week would be a "Cris, you really live in Brasil" week. I got this feeling after a few less-than-desirable things happened in a period of two days (two scary car accidents on my street, and I thought my friendly neighbhorhood bakery was going to be robbed while I was in it...it wasn't, thankfully, and I know these are things that happen in the US, but they are much scarier when you don't speak the native language fluently to figure out what is going on....). (That was a very long parenthetical aside...my apologies.) When I got this feeling, it wasn't a good one. It meant that this week I would struggle, and really be reminded that I am here, living alone, in a foreign country, away from the luxuries and conveniences of my life in the US.

Well, I am here to tell you that God has done an amazing job of reminding me today that "Cris, you really live in Brasil," and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful day. You weren't expecting this? Neither was I. Let me explain. This morning I had my group class for advanced speakers, (pictured below,) and it went marvelously well. Although the readers may not agree, for there was quite a bit of heated debate, that's precisely the reason I wanted them to all get together to talk about their faith...but in English. When we talk about things that are important to us (faith) and other people don't agree, we become passionate about defending/proving our point. In order to defend/prove your point, you must search for answers within the Bible, therefore making us all better readers of the Word, and further deepening our belief and our faith. This was my first objective when I formed this group, knowing full well that we all come from different Christian backgrounds and therefore believe different interpretations of Scripture. However, as we all are Christians already, I knew that we would learn a lot from this time. And we did! (Please let it be known, however, that I'm not saying you should always passionately and heatedly PROVE your Christian points to others at all time. I'm saying that within the context of this particular group, where we all believe in Christ and the Bible as God's Word, we are able to do this in a constructive manner.) So I felt good after this class, and I thanked God that He brought this group together.

Then, this afternoon, God blew the door right open for me to very openly and boldly talk with two different readers (I'll call them Tiago and Jose, although those are nowhere near to their actual names) about the message of Christ, what God wants from us, why I believe, how much God loves us, etc. They were the types of conversations where, as you're talking, you get goosebumps as you listen to the words coming out of your mouth because you realize they are not your own. One of my biggest fears in this job is that I will cross the line, be too bold, and scare my readers to the point where they don't come back ever again. But today they both responded with even more questions, and it only allowed me the opportunity to talk further. At the end of the conversation with Tiago, whom I have talked with about this kind of thing several times, but who says he does not know if God exists or not, I asked him to just think about what we had talked about. He looked at me and said "I think about this every day..."

And that is how God reminded me that I live in Brasil...and that this is exactly, without a doubt, where He wants for me to be.

Would you please be praying for Tiago and Jose? Although those aren't their real names, (people here in Natal read my blog, so I want to respect their privacy, sorry Carol e Sergio!) I bet God will know who you're talking about. I told Tiago that I pray that he will open himself for God to work in his life, so that he can have certainty that God, the God of the Bible, exists. Will you pray this too? Yes, that was a bold thing to say to him, but faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I would like to applaud the Californian public school system (namely, the Goleta Union School District) for not only teaching me that littering is wrong, but for ingraining it so deeply in my conscience that it is now an irrefutable moral issue. In particular, I'd like to give a hand to Mrs. Melanie Dickey, my teacher in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade at Isla Vista Elementary School, because it was through her environmental science lessons that I learned that Styrofoam products are not biodegradable, and to this day I still feel guilty when I use a Styrofoam plate or cup. One day in 4th grade we all brought lunches in which everything was recyclable and we wouldn't have to throw anything away. (Except I remember Mrs. Dickey forgot to bring a cloth napkin, like she had told all of us to, and had to use a disposable paper towel instead. I kind of lost faith in her a little bit that day...a class of 25 4th graders all managed to bring cloth napkins, but the teacher couldn't? Come on...) Anyway, yesterday I carried around a candy wrapper for an hour because I couldn't find a trash can. Had my sense of littering morality not been so strong, I would have done what every other person in Brasil does and just thrown it on the ground. Looking around, it wouldn't have made a difference, maybe made the ground a little more colorful. But I just couldn't. I could not throw it on the ground, to blow around for several years to come, when I was bound to find a trash can eventually. My conscience really could not have handled it. So good job, California. You taught this 4th grader a lesson that she can't forget.

On an unrelated note, I would like to know what it is that compels a person to play with fireworks at 8 in the morning on a Saturday. I think I've figured out that fireworks explode at about the 8th-story level in the sky, which is why I bet they're much more fun when you're on the ground than if you're sleeping in an 8th floor apartment with an open window. I went out on my balcony to watch, and the crackles and pops were at eye level. Not only is that annoying, it's kind of scary as well. Just add it to my "Why Living in Brasil is a New Adventure Every Day" list. :)

Friday, October 26, 2007


Note: I title today's post "Stupid," because in it I will tell you three separate stories in which the main character did something stupid. Luckily for you, in 2 out of those 3 stories the main character was me, so you get something to laugh at today. I use the word "stupid" in its 2 contexts: first, lacking intelligence. Second, silly and embarrassing. And now, storytime.

I have a family of stupid, immortal flies living in my bathroom. I don't use "stupid" to describe the way I feel about them-- I use "stupid" to describe their thinking abilities as insects. They're not your regular house, trash can flies, but little flea looking flies that don't even fly away when I go to kill them. (They must lack that hexagonal dome vision that regular insects have...) I don't even get the satisfaction I feel I deserve out of killing them every day, the way you feel accomplished after actually succeeding in killing a real fly. (Come on, you know exactly the feeling I'm talking about!) So every day my task is the same: get in the shower, turn on the water, wait for the little flies to come out and drink (about 9 today,) and then smash them all against the wall and spray down the walls with the awesome little sprayer that comes in all Brasilian showers. I kill them all, and they still multiply. Scientific mystery, if you ask me.
This week I received a packet of papers from the real estate office that handles my contract in my apartment. There were 12 sheets, all similar to the invoice I used to pay my first month of rent. The amount due seemed fine, but in the "Date Due" section the dates were really bizarre. It started with 5/11/2007, 5/12/2007, 5/1/2008, 5/2/2008...etc. I could not for the life of me figure out why they were asking for so many rent payments in the month of May, and why they were on consecutive days, and why some of them were in May of 2007, which already passed. (You know where this is going...) I thought about it all night, and figured it was some kind of information Roberto had requested sent, like history of the apartment. You would think that at some point I would have an "Aha!" moment and figure out the mistake was mine, but I actually waited a full day to retreat out of my Stupid Hole, when I asked Roberto what it was. He told me it was my rent invoices for each month until September of next year. Great, I said. Why do they want all of the payments in May? He smiled his sweet, "poor girl" smile and gently reminded me that here in Brasil you write the date day/month/year. And I'm the one who even chose to pay my rent on the 5th day of every month...

Yesterday one of my readers told me that he dreams of one day seeing snow. I began to tell him all the reasons why I love snow, how it makes everything quiet, how I don't really love cold weather but I don't mind it if there's snow, how it's so beautiful, etc. I started getting really sad that I wouldn't see snow this winter. I was reminded of this when I went to the mall, and wearing shorts and a tank top and wiping sweat off my face, I saw the whole place decorated for Christmas with wreaths and red velvet ribbon. I went on with my day like normal, no big deal. But last night, as I was recounting the story to one of my friends in the States online, I began to cry. I cried that I wouldn't see snow. Shouldn't I be crying that I won't see my family? Haha...maybe it was a little of that, too. :)

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on a Tuesday

-I appreciate the value of heavy iron gates that serve as extra security to a building. I don't appreciate them, however, when they smash my thumb while being pulled closed. It's been numb for 7 hours now.

-In the last post I referenced the idea of "explaining a concept that is far too simple to explain" and how it is my most difficult task every day. How would you explain the word "throughout" to someone who doesn't understand it? This word has come back over and over to bite me in a place I don't want to be bitten, and it is not getting any easier to explain.

-Xuxa, my childhood heroine, is in Natal right now. This is a BIG DEAL. My friend Andressa saw her by chance yesterday, and I'll admit, I was quite jealous, even at the age of 22. Xuxa's songs define my childhood in Brasil, and to this day I still know many of the lyrics by heart, despite the fact that I have no idea what they mean.

-If you received my mass email yesterday, I just realized that I forgot a major detail when I gave you my address: the word BRASIL at the bottom. :) I'm too embarrassed to send out another email, and I don't believe in doing that to people's inboxes, but I figure two things:
1. Anyone who is dedicated enough to actually send me something is also dedicated enough to read this blog, so you're getting the memo here.
2. People know that when you send international mail you always write the destination country in big, capital letters at the bottom...right? Now you do. You don't have to raise your hand if you didn't.
(If you don't know what mass email I am referencing and you are interested in receiving it, please let me know.)

-Today I purchased 20 liters of drinking water (approx. 5 gallons) for R$4 (approx. US$2.25). It arrived at my door 15 minutes after I ordered it. How many times have you paid more than $1 for a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina? The bottled water industry is a sham, I tell you, and the Brasilian water industry is awesome because it functions by motorcycle.

-I hope that the people who invented Skype are really, really rich, because they deserve it. Skype is a free internet telephone service that allows you to talk "by phone" (really, cute little microphone headsets that plug into your computer,) to any person around the world who also has the program. This is how I have been able to talk to my mom and friends back in the US so frequently without paying a dime. You can also pay to call from your computer to a phone line, but I haven't done that yet...because talking computer to computer is so FREE! Sometimes there is a bit of a delay, but the calls are always clear and I get to talk as long as I want to without worrying about a phone bill!

-I would much rather pay extra money for someone to take the time to prepare my food serve it to me at a restaurant than prepare it myself. I most definitely did not inherit the love for cooking that my sister inherited, and every time I go to cook for myself it's depressing. It's not that I can't, it's that I really just hate it. I find cooking in general, but especially cooking for one, impractical. So much time is spent preparing the meal and so little time is spent consuming. It's just a giant let down. Therefore, I usually end up eating some version of ramen noodles or bread and butter. Those take very little effort on my part. (And don't misunderstand, I could actually eat bread and butter for every meal of the day and be perfectly content in life. It's just not socially acceptable...And don't feel sorry for me. This is definitely of my own free will.)

-Of all my many favorite things about Brasil, one at the top of the list is the availability of fresh fruit juice at a low cost, everywhere. (Even at McDonald's.) Even though Brasil has the best soft drink in the world, I still split my time between Guarana and juice when I go to restaurants. Fresh orange juice, grape juice, passion fruit juice, lime juice, and other fruits that I'm pretty sure you've never heard of are available to me literally anywhere I go, including stoplights when vendors come to your windows and try to get you to buy stuff.

Ok, I think that's enough for today. If you're interested and can remember, please say a prayer for my dad (and consequently, my mom) at the end of this week as he is directing this year's World Mission Workshop on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. He has been working hard and losing sleep for over a year, and if you know my dad you know that he puts his heart and soul into any task he undertakes. So pray for his heart and soul, too, please, that they survive the next few days! I am excited for yet another chance for people to come into contact with the idea of missions and begin preparing their own lives for what the Lord has asked of them. I wish I could go...but I think I'm okay being in Natal. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celine Dion as my lullaby

Last night I had trouble falling asleep because someone in the neighborhood behind my apartment decided that it would be a good idea to play -what else?- a CD of American love ballads from the 90s at 12:30 am. If they had just been playing it softly, then there would have been no problem, I doubt I would have even heard it. But when I live on the 8th floor and can hear Mariah and Shania and Celine's words perfectly clear, then my only option is to feel sorry for the people who live at the ground level. When I stuck my head out the window to see where it was coming from, I think I determined that it wasn't even coming from the neighborhood directly behind me, but a few neighborhoods over.

I had this same problem on Thursday night when a house behind my building decided to throw a party and let it last until 5 am. I know for a fact that it was very close, because I could see the people dancing inside, but when I woke up at 4:45 am to the loud start of yet another song, I wished for a moment that my source for ventilation was an air conditioner and not an open window.

In related news, this morning was the first morning since living in my apartment that I have not woken up with the sunrise at 5:15! This was my eventual goal when I decided to train my body to sleep with open windows and open curtains. Since I don't have AC, or even a fan (which is my fault,) I have to leave the windows open all night to keep me from dying of heat exhaustion. However, due to the early sunrise, my window is equipped with very nice blackout curtains. But, if I pull the curtains all the way across the window, that defeats the purpose of leaving them open for ventilation, and if I choose open window over blackout curtains, that defeats the purpose of having blackout curtains. So, I compromise. I open my window halfway and pull the curtain over the half that is still closed. I'm pretty sure it does absolutely nothing for keeping the sunshine out, but hey, I don't mind waking up to sunshine. I'll take that over an alarm any day!

A few pictures from the weekend, which I'll tell you about later this week:

Marta Braga, one of the missionaries

Thursday, October 18, 2007

When Learning a New Language, Be Careful Who...or What...You Trust

This really might not be funny to anyone who doesn't speak Portuguese or has not had a cross-cultural language experience, but I laughed for a good 10 minutes tonight when this happened. One of my favorite readers, Jaelson, came to our session tonight with a lot of questions from our last lesson (the lesson in Luke 7 about the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet). He is a pleasure to work with because he is so eager to practice his English and such a joyful person. And he giggles a lot, which is never a bad thing!

So tonight he arrived with a furrowed brow and said "Cris, I have a question. I've been looking up some of these words from the last lesson in my dictionary, and I just don't understand." "Okay..." I thought, as I prepared myself to explain another extremely simple concept that is too simple to explain...my hardest task every day. "You told me that the word 'sin' is 'pecado,' right?" "Yes..." "And that the word 'sinner' is 'pecador,' right?" "Yes..." (a continued furrowed brow...) "Okay...but when I looked it up in my dictionary, it said that a sinner was a pescador." (Fisherman).

At this point I started laughing...and laughing...and laughing, realizing that whoever had typed this dictionary had made a gross error, adding an 's' where it really didn't need to be, completely changing the meaning of the story for my poor friend. (Also a bit ironic to use the word 'fisherman,' don't you think?) So here is how Jaelson read the story, with his new definitions in hand:

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a fisherman." -Luke 7:37-39

In unrelated news, I had a dream last night that as I was riding the elevator to my apartment the bottom fell out at floor 6 and I fell down 6 stories of an elevator shaft. This has proven very, very unfortunate for me today, as I live on the 8th floor and riding the elevator is necessary multiple times each day. You better believe I'm watching the digital numbers pass as I ride along, holding my breath between floors 5 and 7. My subconscious is out of control sometimes...

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brasil is playing soccer right now, and fireworks go off every time they score

Yes, it's true. Every time Brasil scores the town erupts with gladness and show that gladness through fireworks. Thankfully, scoring is minimal in soccer. But I have the game on in the next room because I have a TV now. Finally, a roommate! I have found myself not even watching it that much, mostly because I'm gone most of the day, but I like the background noise. Especially the background noise of Brasilian soccer games! I only have basic cable though, which is about 40 Brasilian channels and one English channel, so I hope to find some good Brasilian TV to be addicted to...not.

I was remiss in my last post, probably because it was so late, and didn't finish my commenting on the comments section. I mentioned Deborah Niccum and then got distracted. I would like to also welcome Carol, my boss from ACU, Patrick, a fellow former overseas-liver, but he was in China so he's more adventurous than I, my aunt Nette, my aunt Glenda, my aunt Nell again, a girl named Nina whom I don't know but lives in Germany and was cool enough to leave a comment, Lee Ann Paris, a fellow Brasilian-MK who has family living very, very close to me in a nearby city, my friend Katie from ACU, Melanie, my roommate from ACU, my friend Ann, my sister and brother in law, Karin Bryan, my dad, and....drumroll please...MY MOM!!!!!!!!! to the comments section of Living and Loving. If I left anyone out, I apologize, that list came from memory. But hey, my mom finally commented! That's like 25000 points for Team Oklahoma. Sorry, Arkansas.

This week has been a wonderful week, despite the way it started with the little cleaning debacle. I had to say goodbye to a dear friend, though, which is never fun. After I left the States, my sister wrote an interesting blog post about what it feels like to be one of the ones left behind, rather than being the one doing the leaving. When I said bye to Pollyanna, I had the same feeling as I realized that she won't be in all the places in which I'm used to her being anymore.

Almost 2 years ago, she married a Canadian guy and has been waiting for 1 year and 7 months for the Canadian government to approve her Visa to move there and be with him. I've never been married, but I'm guessing that 1 year and 7 months is a long time to wait to see your spouse again! (I met her, returned to the States, and moved back to Natal during this time that she has been waiting!) As we said goodbye, we rejoiced that she would finally be able to begin her married life with her husband, but we cried as we realized that we'll have to get accustomed to life without Pollyanna. She has taught me so much about what it means to walk with the Lord, and what it means to sacrifice for His sake. She is a strong, strong woman, and Canada is about to be a much better place! I wish there was a way to watch their reunion in the airport...we're all imagining what kind of joy will take place! So this week, as I'm praying for my readers and praying that my adjustment to life in Brasil will continue to go smoothly, I'm also praying for Pollyanna, that in the same way that I'm learning how to live in Brasil, God will bless her as she starts her life in Canada.

Here I am with Pollyanna the night of her going away party. Not only is Canada about to be a better place, it's about to be a PRETTIER place!

Pollyanna and her just-as-beautiful sister, Fernanda.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jim Carrey has nothing on me

It's been a while since I commented on the comments section of Living and Loving in Brazil. I'm not sure who is winning the great race between states, I'm not good at keeping track of these things, but I do know that Team Oklahoma received a special member when Deborah Niccum requested to join of her own free will. I also would like to mention that not once, but twice in the last week has my mom e-mailed me to tell me she liked my recent blog post, rather than simply clicking on a link to leave a comment and tell me in the obvious manner. However, in her defense, I will say that she e-mailed me today after reading the last post to tell me that she had been trying to post a comment and it wasn't working. I must acknowledge and appreciate that kind of effort, right?

Thank you to all of you who have been commenting. I've said it many times, but I'll say it again: it really means so much to me to know that you are out there, somewhere, being interested in what's going on with me and taking the time to read. I really am so encouraged by the comments you leave, even if I don't acknowledge them in a timely fashion.

Also, I wanted to direct your attention over to the awesome little map on the right and make a point to welcome Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, and a variety of European countries to the blogging audience. I have absolutely no idea who you are, but welcome! Even if you came by accident, it's nice to see some red dots over on your side of the world. Won't you come again?

I have much more to say but I have a reader in exactly 8 hours and really should not be here, but rather in the next room, in my bed, listening to the dog chorus that likes to practice outside my window at 1:45 in the morning every day. I wrote the following yesterday, just another insight into how my adjustment to Brasil is going. As always, please enjoy and feel free to laugh at me. Yes, at me. You may join me in laughing at myself. Goodnight...
I'm pretty sure I could have been my own episode of "The Truman Show" today, and the whole country of Brasil would have tuned in to watch the dumb American girl try to keep her head above water as she cleaned her apartment for the first time. It had to have been Emmy-worthy to watch me try to clean this with that.

Don't misunderstand me here. This was not my first time to clean my apartment. Because the whole thing is floored with tile, I sweep about every day since I keep the windows open all the time and my shoes track in dirt. But this was my first time to pull out all the stops: mops, liquid cleaner, toilet brush, etc, and then some other stuff that I don't actually know what it's for, but I figured Roberto bought it for a reason, so I just got creative and used it anyway.

When I lived in Abilene, I cleaned the house, but never all at once. I would vacuum one time, clean the kitchen another, clean the bathroom another, and dust another. (Okay, I'll be honest. The dusting didn't really happen too often.) But in those cases I had a vacuum, Swiffer, Pine Sol, Lysol, and English to work with. Here, I have a giant Squeegee, two large rags, a bucket, some bar soap, some disinfectant, some stuff in a blue bottle, and a broom. The stuff in the blue bottle has no section detailing its purpose, even in Portuguese, so I guess I can use it for anything. The bar soap seems like maybe it would be used to wash clothes by hand, and the disinfectant looks like a bottle of Snuggles fabric softener.

What would you do? Hire a house cleaner? Yeah, that's what everyone else does, too. :) So if you'd like to make a contribution to the "Cris Has No Idea What She's Doing, Still" fund, you can send your checks my way and I'll hire someone who knows what this stuff is for. Until then, maybe I'll turn on the webcam so you can see what me getting creative with housecleaning looks like.

Using dish soap in the toilet,


For Dad, and for Vovô

If I've learned anything from my father in the 22 years I've spent with him, it's to always appreciate the sunset. And by "always appreciate," I mean run inside the house and get your whole family to come outside to look at it. My dad learned to do this from his own father, and although Vovô ("grandpa" in Portuguese) died several years before I was born and had the chance to meet him myself, from the stories I hear it sounds like he was a pretty special guy. Wouldn't you say that any father who teaches his son to always appreciate the sunset is a special guy?

Before I left for Natal, my dad reminded me that my coming here is actually a part of a long legacy that my family has in Brazil. Had my great-grandparents not moved to Sao Paulo back in the 40s (or 30s?), and had my grandmother not met my grandfather while my grandfather was working for her father's company, and had my parents not met while they were both in Brazil doing their own thing, and had my parents not decided to move to Brazil as missionaries, then maybe I wouldn't even be here. That's a lot of "what ifs," but I know I definitely wouldn't be here.

Although I didn't think too much of it before I came, this "legacy" has become very special to me since being in Natal on my own. I am exploring a new part of Brazil that the rest of my family has never really ventured to, but I can't help but wonder what my time in Natal is going to mean for the future of our Carpenter lineage (although the name dies with me...they just couldn't produce any boys!) Anyway, as cheesy as it sounds, every night as I go home and see the sunset just as I walk in my front door I think about my dad. And then I think about Vovô. And then I think about how I'm not the first person with my DNA to be here, trying to learn this language, trying to find my place, trying to learn how to samba (not really, chill out.)

I took these photos with my dad in mind, the first from my front door and the second and third at the beach this weekend. My photography skills aren't so good, so please use your imagination as to what these sunsets actually look like on a day to day basis. I'll be back soon with more thoughts and better grammar (it's late, and I'm sunburned.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There are so many things to tell you, like how I can pay my bills at pharmacies, how I can leave my apartment, go to the bakery, and be home within 7 minutes, how Brazil has a holiday like every week, how people stop me in the grocery store to practice their English, how this morning as I was walking down the street I was applauded, how I love my readers so, so much, but this morning only one thing seems to really matter:

I am studying Portuguese from a grammar book intended for 10 year olds. How do I know this? Because it belonged to one of my friends. How old was she when she used it? 10. I should frame my ACU diploma and hang it on the wall, just to remind myself that in some country, with some language, I have a mental capacity higher than that of a 10 year old.

Monday, October 8, 2007

When in Rome...

Due to a serious lack of internet access as of late, my blogging has been scarce. I wrote the following on Saturday. Enjoy...

Just because the man who sells you your dining table out of his used furniture shop is not wearing shoes, or a shirt for that matter, does not mean that his product will be inferior. In fact, as my experience has gone, he will cut you a great deal, deliver on the day he promised, cover the seats in new material and polish the wood. No matter that his 3 year old daughter is running around nude during the business deal. No matter at all.

When in Brasil, do as the Brasilians do. This means don’t flush your toilet paper (and take out the trash every day.) This means don’t speak in complete words, but abbreviate where you can and learn that a simple "ta" actually means “esta bom,” or “OK.” This means each morning wake up and go across the street to your friendly neighborhood bakery to buy fresh bread for breakfast. This means don’t go barefoot in your own house. This means only wear a seatbelt if you’re riding in the front of a car, because in the back seat “you don’t need it.” Consequently, this also means grow accustomed to the feeling of “I just might die right now” during heavy traffic. This means wherever two or more Brasilians are gathered in the same place, be prepared to have a great time. This means don’t be satisfied with a simple handshake as a greeting, but be accustomed to a kissy kissy on both cheeks.

I am absolutely loving my reading sessions with my readers. They come from all walks of life and, consequently, give me lots of things to think about and talk about. Some of them are Christians already but worship with different congregations, and often as we read the text from Luke they have insights I have never considered before. They encourage my faith. Some call themselves “believers,” but aren’t too familiar with the stories from Luke and have never really taken the time to study the life of Jesus and examine His words. Seeing the text for the first time, they often have insights I have never considered before, and they encourage my faith. Some are adamantly non-Christian, and make it very clear to me that they are only interested in our sessions to practice their English. Fair enough, I say. That’s allowed. But we still read the text, as it is the material for our lessons and the guide for our conversations, and as skeptics, they still have insights I have never considered before.

They encourage my faith. So really, it's all win-win for me, which is nice, but I have watched several of them beginning to want to apply what we read to their own lives. I will ask them a simple question, like, "So, what do you think God wants to teach you from this story?" (legitimately, I really want to know what they think. These aren't "I have the right answer, hope you can guess it" questions,) and they will really spend some time in thought and produce beautiful, personal answers. It's amazing to watch.

In all honesty, last week was a trying week, the hardest I’ve had since being here. Tuesday marked exactly one month since my arrival, and I think the reality of actually living in Brasil began to hit me. Not that I’m sad to be here, I’m not, but I think any time you move to a new place, foreign or domestic, you have a short honeymoon phase of excitement and then there’s a period that follows where reality begins to settle in. Reality is perfectly fine and normal, but compared to the first weeks of honeymooning, it sure does pale in comparison. It’s frustrating to still be struggling with the language, it’s frustrating to have to rely on other people to get things done. But by the same token, I am so thankful to already know as much Portuguese as I do. I am so thankful to have the Signorettis and Bragas here for, literally, anything I need. I can and have relied on them for so much, and they are still willing to do more.

I debated whether or not to confess this to my little blogging community, but then decided that I wanted to be honest. I wanted you to know that although I do love it here in Natal, and have not for one second ever regretted my choice to come here, it’s not all smiles and rainbows every single day. Some days it’s misused words, some days it’s tears, and some days it’s falling asleep with such a big smile on my face and not enough words to thank God for bringing me here. Please keep me and the work I am doing in your prayers. It becomes more and more obvious to me every day how essential your prayers and my prayers are to my job and for me. So, thanks. Until next time...which I really can't predict...tchau!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sleeping with the windows open will give you some vivid dreams

I've written three posts over the last few days, and when I go back to proofread them before publishing I can't even follow my own thought process, much less expect you to. That right there is evidence to what kind of week this has been! I have so many things to tell you, about my apartment, about my readers, about church, about my friends, about my fundraising, but any time I sit down to write, my thoughts are disjointed and jumbled, very similar to the way it has felt inside my head this week.

So, just wanted to let you know I haven't forgotten about you. To keep you entertained until my thoughts begin to organize themselves, here is a little tour of my new apartment. I spent my first night there last night, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. I did wake up to sunlight flooding my room at 5:19 this morning, however, and it was so bright I was sure I had slept through the day and it was 5:19 pm. I had to double check the clock on my phone to make sure it said AM! The adventure of living in Natal definitely continues, and in many ways a new phase has just begun as I figure out how in the world to light a gas oven with a match...prayers are appreciated. :)