Monday, July 23, 2007

embora para São Paulo

I went to thank Maria for the party she hosted for me in Nova Esperança last night and to bring the kids chocolate chip cookies. I told Maria how I felt sincerely grateful to be able to celebrate with so many of the kids that I worked with in the neighborhood. I was really impressed by the party. There was an enormous cake and about twenty children. The kids went crazy, and, as usual, pulled my camera out of my hands and photographed each other dancing to loud axé music (this is the DVD you love to dance to, right Emma?) licking the last bits of cake icing off their napkins, crying, screaming, kicking each other, and playing with fire. All of my 4-7 year old friends have mastered the basic functions of a Cannon 20D. Good luck to any other photographer who tries to photograph in this neighborhood in the future. The kids will surely expect to be in charge of the camera.

“Did you get home all right last night? We were worried about you leaving late.”

“Don’t worry, it was fine, I am used to leaving here in the dark. “

It’s the truth, at this point I know the roads, I know every gaping hole that could puncture my bike tire, even in spots where the dim streetlights don’t reach. I know which roads to avoid, which houses have dogs that bark at me. I know who lives in every house and everyone knows me.

Ricke ran outside to grab my knapsack and search for my camera. He pulled my back out of the basket, knocked over my bike and then came running back into the house. Maria said that she wants to know where my city is.

“I have a map in my kitchen, lets go look.” But it is only a map of Latin America. I point to a space on the blue wall way up above the map. That’s where my city is.

We sit for a while talking about how difficult it would be to get there from here by bus, and why an airplane is scary but much more efficient.

I eventually turn back to the children who are making at least 20 photographs a minute with my digital camera.

“I want to let you know that I am leaving for my home in the United States and that I will never forget you.” I said to Ricke and his little three-year-old sister, Iba.

“Iba doesn’t really understand what you mean.” Maria says, “She just doesn’t get it that you wont be visiting us anymore.”

Maria stoops down to the eye level of her daughter and says,

“Iba, Emma is going far away. Emma is going to São Paulo. Go give her a hug.”

Iba comes out from her hiding place under the bed, hops onto my lap and gives me a hug.

“Iba doesn’t understand what it means to go home to the United States, but she understands what it means, ‘to go to São Paulo.’ For her São Paulo means the distance between her and her father. São Paulo is where people go and don’t come back for a really long time. In fact this morning she asked me if her father was coming back tomorrow. She is young, but she knows what São Paulo means.”