Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Thing I Carried

(with apologies to Tim O'Brien)

This morning, the first object I saw when I woke up was a large crystal ball on my bedside table.  In that strange place between sleep and wakefulness, between staying in my bed and rising to meet the insistent demands of cats that wanted to be fed and dogs that needed to be walked, I focused my eyes on the little bubbles that float eternally inside it like miniature planets in a tiny solar system.  What I saw was more than an object.  Memories are captured in that sphere.

Of course, the first and greatest of the memories is of where I got it.  Rita's public school, David Campista, was one of the best parts of the "homestay" to me.  The head principal started taking care of us even before we arrived, helping Rita get us to and from the airport in Campinas, three hours away from Pocos.  Rita also told us that Leone had assisted her in planning our trip itinerary.

Our day at David Campista included all sorts of student presentations where we got to see all the wonderful talents the students there had.  We saw elementary school kids dancing to pop music, high school students presenting information about their hometown and their nation, and even a rap group that is in competition for a recording contract.  There were guitarists and singers, dancers of every conceivable style.  Even the walls of the school itself presented, banner projects made by one of the English classes describing the scenic and historic places in Pocos in English hung everywhere.

Both before and after the evening presentation, we found ourselves in a roundtable discussion about education with the teachers from the night shift.  They were curious about so many things, our class size, our salary, what our supervisory system and system of evaluation were like.  They wanted to know as much about us as American educators as we had come to Brazil wanting to know about them.  We talked and talked until long after the hours for the regular school session had ended.

At the very end of it, they brought out two beautifully-wrapped packages.  We opened them, and as the picture will show you, a beautiful crystal globe awaited each of us.  Pocos is known for its cristalarias, its makers of fine crystal and murano glass.  We'd seen someone making tiny crystal animals at a crafts pavilion at a waterfall we'd visited; we'd been to one of the large showrooms downtown for one of the companies.  I personally had been wanting to buy a beautiful paperweight, had been wanting one for a long, long time.  I never expected to own anything as lovely as this one, though.  The size of a small melon, it sat in my cupped palms once I got it out of its protective wrappings, for all the worlds like a sphere full of rushing river water that had somehow become solid.  I knew that every time I saw it, I would think of my trip to Brazil and all the kindness I had received, of all I had learned and experienced.

Getting anything that large and fragile home becomes a challenge.  It rode in a special tote bag carry-on during the two plane rides I would take to get back to the United States, snugged in its bubble wrap and nestled next to my other great fragile treasure, my Nikon.  It was one of the first things I unpacked when I finally got everything in the house.  It will probably go to school with me when the new year begins.  Meanwhile, it sits softly gleaming where it is one of the last things I see when I go to bed and one of the first when I start my day.

1 comment:

  1. Great memories will always emerge each time you look at your crystal ball.