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Monday, August 25, 2014

Taking Samples to the Lab-Another Adventure in Learning Portuguese

Something microscopic seems to have taken up residence in my GI tract.  Sorry, that's the cleanest way I can put that.  I   have been feeling unwell on and off and then it took a turn a few days ago.  I was advised to take some 'samples' in to a local lab to see if we can get to the bottom of it...pun intended.

My darling husband was kind enough to go pick up the containers for me but that's where his kindness ended.  Once the samples had been collected, I had to take my woozy, pale and sweaty self to the lab to drop them off.

One problem.  I forgot to look up the medical terms for the...uhhh...samples.

So here's how it went down:

I entered the clean office and the cool of the air conditioning washed over me like a welcomed rain.  I felt a little better already.  I approached the counter where two women sat and greeting them with a perfunctory, 'bom dia'.

That's when I realized I was stuck.  I had a bag, two containers with bodily fluids and no idea how to explain what they were.

I stumbled along with, 'I need to..umm...make a test...'  I stopped there hoping she would immediately know what I meant and free me of my bag and my humiliation.

I was wrong.

She blinked, smiled and said, 'what?'  

It was in that moment that I realized the only words I had for what was in the bag.

I continued, sweating a little more now even with the air conditioning, my face I'm sure had gone from a pale shade of greyish pink to a sun drenched red in seconds.

'I, um, I have to make a test....I umm...I have...' I was putting off the inevitable. I thrust the bag forward over the edge of the counter and blurted, 'Pee pee, and poo poo' in portuguese, and then giggled a little, I mean what else could I do?

I apologized and explained that I was Canadian and I was learning Portuguese.

Thankfully she returned the giggle and asked if I would like to test a stool and urine sample (those words are now indelibly imbedded on my brain).  I nodded.

She freed me of my samples and I made a hasty retreat to the Kombi.  

Hopefully the results will reveal the uninvited inhabitant and I can free myself of it and my humiliation.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

You Can Change The World By Doing This One Simple Thing


There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world right now, wars and disease, things that can make us feel like the world is falling apart and that we have no power to change it.  But I say we can change it, and it's simple.

Love people.

If we expanded the circle of people we love and would do anything for to include more than the people in our immediate family, if we truly loved our neighbours as ourselves, I think the world would be a different place.  Instead of focusing our energy, time and Facebook posts on things we can't change, I challenge us all to have the courage to change the things we do have the power to change, the things that are right in front of us.

My friend Rob Hall who died in Zambia while helping people there learn how to use a small piece of land to grow their own food used to say 'lean into the things in front of you, and there you'll find the Kingdom of God'.

The Kingdom of God IS love.

There's a reason why the second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love your neighbour as yourself…we have the potential to change the world, we just need to tap into it.

It's a well known fact that the power of love is the greatest force known to man and each and every one of us has it living inside of us.

So, I challenge you, in the days and weeks to come.  Open your eyes to the things around you, look for ways to love your neighbours, and by neighbours I mean anyone in front of you.  Maybe the elderly lady at the grocery store needs help with her bags.  The single Mom who lives next door, offer to babysit (for free) so she can have a much needed night off.  There is more than enough need and more than enough love we just have to be willing to see and do.

I think you'll be blown away how simple acts of kindness to others will not only shine a light in their lives but in yours too.
-- 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aliens In The Grocery Store

Normally, I shop for our food alone.  Just little old me, silently and swiftly moving (now that I know what to buy) around the grocery store and as far as anyone is concerned I'm just one of those 'branquinhos' or light skinned Brazilians.  I am incognito as long as no one asks me to speak.

Unless of course, my kids come with me. For those of you who know my children, they are anything but quiet.

They blow my cover every time.

As we stand at a display of school workbooks Faith is chattering away at the speed of light and I look up to see not one but five staff members hovering around the table we are near, all of them staring.  They gawk actually, mouths agape but they are quick to smile when I make eye contact and smile at them.  But it doesn't stop their eyes being fixed on the rapidly moving mouths of my children.

We get to the cash register and I speak Portuguese to the woman at the cash, but again my kids are there, making a game with the packages.  A new woman comes over to pack our groceries and Faith says, or more likely shouts, something in English and the lady packaging our groceries freezes, empty bag in one hand, package of sugar in the other.  She's looking at my daughter like she just arrived off of a space ship.

I laugh and explain that we are Canadian and that they are learning Portuguese.  Everyone smiles, but the staring continues.

It's a good thing it doesn't bother us because it happens all the time, whenever we leave the house as a family, actually.

Yesterday, three girls in the river thought we were from India.  I had a good laugh at that one.

Learning a new language is one of the hardest things I've experienced in  my forty-two years.  When you've reached this ripe age, you've been through the trials of childhood, the self-discovery of your teens and twenties, acceptance of who you are in your thirties and arrived in a place where you feel like you know who you are and what you stand for.

Take away your ability to speak and suddenly you feel like that person you've come to know is trapped in a plexiglass box.  People can see you but they can't hear you.  Your thoughts, opinions and stories all fall silent. You long to connect with other human beings at a deeper level but when all you can say is 'how are you' and 'it's hot' you're always skimming along the surface.

For an extrovert, this is a special kind of torture.

For the past three months our family has been the only English speaking family on the base here in Marabá, which has pushed us, immersed us and challenged us, but more than that it has HELPED us.

A couple of weeks ago as the sun was setting, I sat with Monica, the church's pastor.  We watched our kids paint, first on paper and then their whole bodies grunting like apes and running around the soccer field.  We swapped stories, laughed, talked about our families and things we'd learned about life in the past.

After the sun had set and our kids were scrubbing their skin pink to get the paint off,  I felt like the 'real me' was out and able to tell stories, make jokes and share my heart with another person.

It was like coming up from a deep dive and taking a big breath.

I'm far, far, FAR from fluent in this new language but I am finally feeling more and more like getting there is not impossible.



Saturday, August 2, 2014

Kombi's Maiden Voyage: From Maraba to Pacaja on the Transamazon Highway

When you think of the word highway the images that spring to mind are usually ones of long stretches of paved roads, cars flying by at breakneck speeds, several lanes with well labeled signs.  Well, throw all that out the window when you hear the term 'Transamazon Highway'.

287km of dusty, bumpy twisting road (with speed bumps of all things) stretches
between Marabá and the town of Pacaja where Xingu mission has a church plant just three years young.

Two weeks ago at the crack of dawn we piled five of our youth, backpacks and hammocks, cold water and even a puppy into our beloved Kombi and headed north west. It was an in-country mission trip to Pacaja.

There are two seasons here in northern Brazil, rainy and dusty.  We happen to be in the dusty season which is less dangerous than driving in the mud but the red powder that lays in the road inches deep flies up with every passing truck and billows in front of you like a red snow storm, making visibility impossible.  Several times Phil had to stop.

Could she be any cuter?
Six hours and one rest stop later we arrived and were well received in Pacaja.

We hit the streets to invite neighbours to the first youth service and a children's event the following day.

The pastors there fed us and took care of us while we ran the events, musical training and a few of our youth performed a skit and a dance.  It was a fantastic opportunity for our youth to be able to pay it forward to this budding young church.




Inviting neighbours

The Kombi is serving us and others well!