First, the positive: I think our group is having a marvelous time in the "Marvelous City," as the locals call Rio. We have such a fun blend of people, 16 in all, mixed in ages from teenagers to grandparents. We arrived Friday morning and arrived at the institute around 11:30. It always takes a while to claim all the luggage, since we have so many wonderful donations of children's clothes and toys donated by the congregation.
I was one of the last ones to arrive in the hospitality center. Eliete and Fabiana were in the kitchen and started to shout with excitement in Portuguese. "You ARE here! We started to think you weren't coming this year!" They work 12 hour days cooking and caring for our team. I call Eliete "Mamae," which means Mommy, and we joke that Fabiana's daughter Adrielle is my Brazilian daughter. It made me really, really happy to see them again.
Later in the afternoon, I got to see my godson, Pedrinho. All the teenage girls are absolutely charmed by him and think he is the cutest baby ever. He is sixteen months old and has long, curly eyelashes. The group went for a walk in the hillside community that the institute serves (Providence Hill is the oldest favela, or hillside slum, in the city). It was a gorgeous sunny day, so they got some great views of the city. I stayed in and took a two-hour nap with the hopes of curing the laryngitis that had set in on the plane (I'd been sick with aches and fever since Monday). It was a national holiday, so the institute was closed and we'd have to wait a few days to see the kiddos.
Saturday we toured Rio, including some places we'd never been able to take our groups before. We saw some super-cool tiled steps in Lapa and got to take photos with the artist. He was QUITE a character and likes to stick out his tongue in photos. We were going to visit Corcovado (the Christ statue), but the crowds were insane due to the holiday. So, we ended up spending the afternoon in Santa Teresa, which is a lovely part of the city (lots of happy memories from time there with friends during my extended stay in 2002). In the 1800s, it was a popular neighborhood for the affluent, but it fell from favor, in part because it is surrounded by six or seven slums. It became popular with artists, so it has a very bohemian feel. A couple of the bars and restaurants were packed with young hipsters spilling out onto the sidewalk and enjoying the beautiful day.
That night, everyone else did homestays with local families (mostly from the Methodist church...other families work here at the institute). I decided to take advantage of the chance to rest my voice and stayed here with our trusty guide Neil.
It really seemed to help that I laid low until everyone returned at noon on Sunday. I felt much better, even though my voice still sounded awful. So, I tried not to talk as we went to Ipanema for the Hippie Fair (outdoor market) and time on the beach. We had dinner (at the usual "plate by weight" known to past trip participants) went to an evening service at the church attended by another one of my Brazilian mothers, Dilma, who let me stay in her home for three months in 2002. I have a lot more to say about the service, which was predominantly led by an American missionary who runs retreats for evangelicals. It was way too Pentecostal for my taste, and I didn't enjoy being yelled at. On the bright side, there were several hymns that we knew in English, especially my favorite, "Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord." Marie sang a solo and did an amazing job. Everyone LOVED their time with the families, some of whom attend that church.
Today was a low point. I woke up and still felt awful. I went into the kitchen to ask Eliete to make me some tea, and I just started to cry. She insisted I needed to go to the doctor, but I really felt like I was sabotaging my recovery by not talking and simply needed to rest my voice. But everyone else agreed I should go, so Anita and Sergio took me in Marion's car. After paying 204 reais (about $135, I think), waiting about an hour and a half, and having my temperature taken via armpit, I was diagnosed with an infected throat and given a couple of prescriptions, including an antibiotic. (Azitromicina once a day for five days and Nimesulida every 12 hours for seven days.) The doctor looked at my throat for about five seconds and said it was absolutely covered with white cells. Anita couldn't think of the English word, and we're not sure if it's exactly strep throat, since it has not really hurt that much (it has gradually started to hurt more, and I was coughing a lot last night). I slept for a lot of the afternoon and hope the drugs are starting to do their thing.
Anyway, sorry that this is such a Debbie Downer post, but it has been incredibly frustrating to be unable to speak Portuguese and help the group cross the language barrier. (Fortunately, there are several bilingual Brazilians with us, plus the Way family.) Plus there are so many things I love to tell people about the history, culture, food, etc. I have worked really hard to find deeper meaning in this situation -- thinking about all the ways we communicate nonverbally and trying to focus on those. But today it really started to get to me, so I am very glad they made me go to the doctor. I am also very glad that we had another fearless leader for this trip anyway...since I moved to New York in April, my friend Donna agreed to take on the trip planning this spring. She has done a fantastic job, and I can't even think of how hard it would have been to be sick and be in charge of the group. Letting go of control is definitely not one of my strengths, but I have really had no other choice, and I know that is a good thing.
Sorry that this blog does not really explain a lot of the back story of who's who and what's what. This is really more of an email to my mom and my sister in a public form, so thanks to you if you made it this far! Hoping to have MUCH more interesting things to tell you next time I post.