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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.



1 comment:

Jason B. said...

Language barrier is a stretch for you, eh? But I know you, and I see that God has given you so many other ways to communicate. Your compassion, your expressive face, eyes, your willingness to give hugs to people. Even your role as a parent gives you an indirect way to communicate as those around you watch you raise your kids and discipline them and cheer them on. And, while writing might be paltry therapy for an extrovert who just wants to have a conversation, we hear your stories here and we hear your voice.