The elementary school… the little girl… a question of hope.

Her question left me speechless. I have never been hit with words that have sucked the wind right out of me. I couldn’t even look the little girl in the face to answer. She asked it with that youthful innocence that only a child has. The answer doesn’t even matter because it is the asking of the question that matters. She asked it because she wanted and answer. She asked a question that was loaded with pepper spray and exploded on impact. It left every adult in range red-faced, watery-eyed and sniffling in front of a hundred kids… even the seasoned teachers from the school were casualties.

We started the afternoon by visiting a local elementary school. Maura explained that it was one of the poorest schools in Ibitinga and most of the kid’s parents were homeless, in jail, and/or drug addicts. We put our guards up and walked into the bright cheerful looking school. The students filled the hallways and were escorted outside to a covered pavilion and were seated. Priscilla and I didn’t quite catch what was going on but they had prepared for us a short program to say hi and welcome us.

We were welcomed by the staff and students with a great big “hello” in choral unison. They had prepared a Capoeira demonstration for us by a local master. He was part of an after school and Saturday volunteer program the school was starting and trying to fund. The program helped the students stay in school, learn skills, and ultimately stay off the streets and out of trouble. It had been successful at other schools and they were hoping it would work at this school. We also saw a kid play a song on the guitar that he learned in one of these programs. Apparently, the kid has a pretty rough life and has a learning disability. Since he has been a part of the program his grades have improved and so has his behavior. Music Saves…

Here is part of the Capoeira demonstration- pretty awesome stuff. I remember a really bad movie about this from the 80’s I think.

Here is the kid with the guitar. Awesome song!

After the demonstration the Capoeira master played a stringed instrument used by the sport as the soundtrack while they are moving. It was interesting. He then showed me how to play it… pretty cool. It wasn’t too difficult to get the basics on how to hold it and play it. Although I didn’t make it sound too great, I could see the basic idea.

After the demonstration they gave us a few gifts to take home with us. They had two of their special education children bring us the presents. The little girl that brought mine was partially blind and had a physical deformity. She gave me two kisses on the cheek and thanked me in English- she was very sweet.

I also snapped this picture of a little girl after I got her to smile…

We fielded a handful of questions from the students about life and schools in the US. They wanted to know what we thought of Brazil and the food. They asked their counselor, and Maura’s friend, Mirinha the question and she had Maura translate. Maura had already gotten teary-eyed a couple of times during the visit because she felt so bad for these kids because they didn’t have anyone except the teachers to care for them.

Then the last little girl stepped in line to ask us a question. She was about 10 years old with a little grey uniform dress on and her hair pulled back tightly into a ponytail. She wore very thick glasses and looked at the floor the whole time. When she stepped up to ask Mirihna it took her a second to understand what the girl said in Portuguese. When she looked up and looked directly at us, Maura’s face told us she had heard what the little had asked and she was starting to tear up… Mirinha was also showing signs of feeing the effect of the question.

“What did she ask?” Priscilla said…

I looked at the little girl, staring at the floor and waiting for an answer.

Maura told us in choked up English-

“She wants to know if parents in America like to spend time their children.”

My first thought was Gibson… and how utterly lucky he is and how much I missed him. Priscilla told me later that she thought the same thing.

We answered her because you have to answer a child’s questions- no matter how difficult. We told her that yes, some parents do and some parents do not- just like here in Brazil.

Each trip is a series of memorable moments or chapters, if you prefer, in a travel book that encompasses the entire experience. Some of these experiences burn a little hotter, cut a little deeper, and leave a little scar that helps you remember them when the others fade away. This was one of those moments. It will forever be emblazoned in my mind as a reality of life in this world for some people. I am thankful for it as much as it hurt me to see it.


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