Thank you Tatu, see you soon!

Me, Eunji and Sofia
In my last article I wrote about my experience of being a volunteer for two non-profit making organizations (IICD and Humana People to People). As part of the volunteer program that I participated in, I spent four months in the poor communities of Bahia, Brazil as a development instructor, together with my teammate Eunji.

While I was there, I started to put my thoughts and experiences on paper, and I would like to share some of these with you. This was one of the most beautiful stages of my life, but only because I encountered difficult moments in which I had to discover and challenge myself.

Testing my limits, breaking boundaries and forming new ones, that is what it was all about. I got to know a freedom that came from within me.

It doesn’t matter where you are and what you are doing, nobody can control your mind and your thoughts, but yourself. You can see beauty in every small thing, embrace imperfections, accept everything that is coming your way or concentrate on what is missing, what you don’t have, always imagine how it could be, living in an „if” world. It is your choice. We have the tendency to forget that we are in control, and blame our suffering and bad moods on situations or on other people. I can say that this is one of the most important lessons that community life has taught me.

And here we begin. We arrived in Quijingue, the small city near our future community. We were there for one week, waiting impatiently to get to see our future home.

30.01.2015 – It is time to move to Tatu. It is only when I am looking at that truck that I realize that this is actually happening. This is it. If I can make it this far, there is no going back. I am feeling excited and frightened at the same time. My biggest fear is: what if I won’t be able to adapt?

Moving day

31.01.2015 –I woke up and I am feeling so estranged. It is so different from what I use to call home. I feel like I am on another planet. I can’t speak Portuguese and neither can Eunji, so we are not even able to explain why we are here and who we are. It is really frustrating. But then I look at the kids who are too shy to enter our house, staring at us from a distance, probably thinking the same; that we come from another planet.

02

7.02.2015 – We started to get really close to the families, which gives us a feeling of safety. We have several encounters with men coming to our door, out of the blue, asking for a glass of water, checking us out. But the ladies around always get rid of them for us, so we feel protected.

8.02.2015 – Two weeks have passed since I haven’t looked in the mirror. We don’t have one. A superficial matter, right? I am so surprised to see how my opinion about my own appearance is changing from day to day because I simply can’t see myself. Sometimes I feel like I’ve even forgotten what I look like. Next time we go to the fair, we are going to buy a mirror. After all, two girls can’t stay for too long in a house without a mirror.

9.02.2015 – All the TV shows and movies that we downloaded on our laptop are over. We’ve watched them all. As we don’t have any internet or TV, I don’t know what to do with all this free time. I have so many thoughts. Good and bad ones. This is the moment when I realize how easily distracted we can get by the media and by technology. It can occupy so much of our free time. We say we don’t have enough time to think, but actually we don’t allow ourselves the time to think. There is always something more important to see or to do. For the first time I have nothing better to do than to think. I realize what a huge influence our thoughts can have on my mood.

04-road

22.02.2015 – I miss my privacy. They are in our house all the time. If we close the doors and leave the windows slightly open, they pop their head in and look at us. Sometimes I have even caught the children looking at us while we were sleeping. We closed the windows. Now they knock on them and run away. It is so annoying because I still can’t understand what they are saying.

25.02.2015 – I feel so good. For the last three days I have gone running. It is so interesting to observe how my sleep cycle has changed. I go to bed at 9, and wake up at 5, voluntarily. I go for a 30-minute run, I watch the sunrise, then I buy some bread, and start my day. What I am most happy about is the fact that the local women decided to join me. And know we have a small running group.

1.03.2015 – School has started and I can finally feel useful. They agreed to let us teach English to the kids. It is quite hard because they have never heard it before, so they can’t even pronounce the words. As for the classic way of teaching, I don’t think it will work so we have to think of some interactive games that hopefully will produce better results. But it feels good to finally make a contribution and have a purpose.

26.03.2015 – One thing that I will miss for sure are the fruits. To go in the backyard and just pick up some goyaba from the tree, or make some Cocada from licuri. I think this place is a paradise for vegetarians.

30.04.2015 – When I look back from where we began and where we are now, I can’t believe that we did it! We had our ups and downs but we adapted. I feel like I’m at home. I feel really comfortable and I am happy that my Portuguese has improved so much. I can communicate properly now, which means I can discover even better the people and the stories of this place. Working at the school is going well. We realized that what the kids really want is just to spend time with us, so we started to paint together, play some sports and they really seem to enjoy it. We tried to make a movement to clean the garbage from behind the houses but nobody seems to understand why we would want to do that. In front of the house is clean, so why does it matter what is at the back? It took us a while to comprehend that we have to let go of our European mentality and give the people the help they want and need. Instead of cleaning the garbage, we started to plant mango trees.

8.05.2015 – Today was Mothers’ Day. I was so surprised to see how important this day is for them. They closed the school, and the kids, sang, danced and played theater in front of their mothers. The teachers organized a big table with cake and coffee for everybody and also a small present for each mom. We also had to prepare a song in English with the kids. Most of them got embarrassed and bailed on us, so we ended up singing the whole song, which didn’t go well with my fear of public speaking.

11.05.2015 – Only 7 days left in the community. I don’t even want to think of the fact that we have to leave. When will I see these people again? We went there to help and teach them, but actually it was the other way around. These four months have been so intense, such a rollercoaster, but I loved every minute of it.

Thank you Tatu, see you soon!

Credits

Image Title Author License
Uiuiuki and sugar cane Uiuiuki and sugar cane Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Our fridge Our fridge Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Siringuela Siringuela Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Jack fruit Jack fruit Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Acerola Acerola Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Pina Pina Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Maracuja - Passion fruit Maracuja – Passion fruit Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
09 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Eunji having a presentation about her country, Koreea Eunji having a presentation about her country, Koreea Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Unsere Bäckerei Unsere Bäckerei Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
05-1 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Die schöne Umgebung von Tatu Die schöne Umgebung von Tatu Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Lia und ihre Schwester Lia und ihre Schwester Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
04-road-1 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Lucia, unsere liebe Nachbarin Lucia, unsere liebe Nachbarin Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Lia und ihre Schwester Lia und ihre Schwester Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Der Tag des Umzugs Der Tag des Umzugs Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
School yard of tatu School yard of tatu Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
My first mango tree My first mango tree Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Eunji Planting in the messy backyard Eunji Planting in the messy backyard Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
This is how the backyards usually looked even though in front of the house everything was swept This is how the backyards usually looked even though in front of the house everything was swept Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Panarchy Panarchy Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
22-mal-1 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
23-projeto-identidade-1 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
The mothers The mothers Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Goodbye Tatu Goodbye Tatu Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Juan and his chicken Juan and his chicken Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Erica and laoana helping their mother with the house chores Erica and laoana helping their mother with the house chores Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Juan an Uiuiuki helping their father to feed cactus to the animals Juan an Uiuiuki helping their father to feed cactus to the animals Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Me, Eunji and Sofia Me, Eunji and Sofia Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Graziela Graziela Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
We are 1 We are 1 Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0
Little Laiza upset that we are leaving Little Laiza upset that we are leaving Carina Toma CC BY-SA 4.0