Monday, November 27, 2006

I made my introduction. I tried to speak clearly, ignoring my racing thoughts, and my instincts to use English words that would explain how welcomed I felt and how excited I was to be meeting everyone. I held these words back and restricted thoughts and emotions to a few simple sentences. I asked them all to repeat my name out loud. They thought this was funny, and I thought, well, at least they will know my name. Emma is not that difficult for Portuguese speakers…in Portuguese Emma means emu. Yes, the large, awkward, sort of ugly bird. Three toed feet and loose, shaggy feathers. Should I change my name?

One child caught up with me as I was walking away from the group. He wriggled his small fingers into my hand and held on tight. We walked down the road for a while, his legs moving twice as fast as mine, my feet stumbling on the cobblestones, and my head spinning. I felt confused. I was thinking about the heat, my burning skin, the itchy welts on my legs. My mind was scrambling fast, trying to make things make sense, searching for firm ground, a solid place to land, and a place to rest. After a few minutes I was conscious of this hand that was clenching mine, and this little soul by my side. I felt a tug, and stopped.
“O Emma, eu não indendi nada que você ja falou.” He said in his small 8-year-old voice. (Emma, I didn’t understand anything you just said.)
I sat down on the ground and he sat down next to me. I said,
“I think you did understand something. You know how to say my name.” He giggled. I laughed.
“What’s yours?” I asked.
“José.” He said.
“Prazer.” (it is nice to meet you.)