Monthly Archives: January 2013

Adventures in Geographical Shock Treatment

Posted from Los Gatos, California

The great American author Wallace Stegner once wrote: “Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” While I cannot claim experience to the first part of his comment, I am certainly one of those “uprooted” who has come to understand even better the notion of home since leaving it for Brazil. I knew the U.S. was my home since I have lived here my whole life, but until leaving I’d not been able to see as many other reasons why. I came to greatly appreciate, in their absence, a number of things I might have overlooked otherwise, from holiday coffee drinks to awkward handshakes—yes, while I do love the opened-armed hug and kiss that define Brazilian greetings, I also found myself missing that particular type of earnest look and terse “hi” that come with a handshake.

Travel adventures - backcountry skiing at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Travel adventures – backcountry skiing at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

I’m being a little silly—and there were lots of silly little Americanisms I missed—but let me give a better, real-life example. Cara and I had the pleasure of working closely with two American families, Baptist missionaries, to coordinate and realize our first English Camp. I was thrilled to meet these other Americans and shake their hands with an earnest look, and over the course of the camp I came to like them all very much and look forward to more company and collaboration in the future.

I wonder if I would have had the opportunity for this in the U.S. There are significant religious and political gulfs between me and my new American friends, gulfs that are hard to cross these days in such a polarized home country. But being outside that country gave me a chance to step back and appreciate what indefinable things make us all American in whatever ways we are. Some people I know talk about emigrating out of the U.S. if this-or-that happens in Washington. I wasn’t expecting that being in Brazil, where there is universal health care and better gun control and an extremely broad social welfare program—all with their faults—might make me a little more tolerant of my own country’s shortcomings and where we need to grow. As Stegner suggested, being uprooted from home allowed me to comprehend a little better exactly what my home is all about.

I recently exchanged a few emails with my friend Caiti about Stegner’s quotation, and she offered forth this little gem of her own: “How strange it is to aspire to uproot oneself.” It might sound like a judgment at first glance, but I don’t read it that way and I don’t believe she meant it that way. Rather, it is a frank acknowledgment that some of our greatest, truest aspirations can sometimes be—well, difficult. Uncomfortable. Even unpleasant at times. Leaving homes and families in New England and California, when it came down to it, seemed ludicrous to me in certain moments.

Home adventures - sharing the wishbone with Mom.

Home adventures – sharing the wishbone with Mom.

But an aspiration is not only a desire; it’s actually a goal. The process of achieving goals isn’t always pleasant, but the best goals simply are and must be, and can’t be escaped when the going gets tough. The aspiration to be uprooted from a comfortable environment is a particular kind of need to grow and change through geographical shock treatment. No matter how much I missed home, in both superficial and deep, cutting ways, it was worth every moment away to learn the perspective and independence that I gained from being uprooted. And when I embraced my uprootedness, my new Petrolina friends rooted me again, making a new family and a new home.

Another friend recently made an excellent point about leaving the places you call home. Often, the fear of leaving is a fear of change—losing touch with friends or family, or losing your place or status in an important community. But some kind of change is inevitable no matter how rooted you are. In light of that, perhaps an effective way to handle that inevitable change—especially when young and unattached—is to initiate some of it rather than watching it happen unwanted. As I sit in my parents’ house back in the States, I have no regrets about uprooting myself. In fact, I’m embracing it a bit longer—I’ll be back in Petrolina beginning in mid-February. Until then, I’m finding the last of the holiday coffee drinks and searching out as many earnest handshakes as possible.

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PIEF in the News

It has been two months since the first Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF), a C² + 3 –Jeziel, Laraine and the US Consulate– event that was called by some revolutionary in terms of English-Language education in the region.

To refresh our minds of all that the fair accomplished and, of course, to bask a little longer in our fame, we would like to share with you the local news coverage (thanks again to the dynamic staff at TV Grande Rio): before, during the first day and then on the final night of the event.

Before:

During:

Grand Finale:

Long live PIEF and here’s to a repeat performance!

Petrolina is Calling You

… Pick up!

But seriously– come visit C² in Petrolina.

This Holiday season, I had the immense pleasure of hosting my dad, William, and twin brother, Nathaniel for a weekend.  As I approach year two of life in Petrolina, Pernambuco, they came to see what the hype was all about.  Should you, too, choose to venture into the Sertão, which I highly recommend you do, here are some places you may go and people you may see.

In the morning I'll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

In the morning I’ll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We'll take a ferry boat to the rodeadouro island to spend the morning coolingeating delicious river fish.

We’ll take a ferry-boat to a near-by island, Rodeadouro, to spend the morning cooling off and eating delicious river fish.

... and sunning our you-know-whats.

… and sunning our you-know-whats.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian bbq, at my best friend Jeziel's lovely home.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian BBQ, at my best friend Jeziel’s (pictured here) lovely home.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

And, if you are lucky, get a arrocha or forró-- two regional dances-- lessons with  Petrolina's finest!

And, if you are lucky, get an arrocha or forró— two regional dances– lessons with Petrolina’s finest teacher, Jessica!

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of viticulture, and very dear friend of mine -Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold).

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of Viticulture, and very dear friend of mine  – Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold) in the state of Bahia.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing at all four stages at the same time.  Thirteen hours of sunlight and  the hot, dry, climate year-round allow up to four harvests per year.  The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing with all four stages of development happening at the same time. Thirteen hours of sunlight and the  year-round hot, dry, climate allow up to four harvests per year. The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles and pruning, creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Wine science... yummmm.

Wine science… yummmm.

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging...

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging…

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the bottling.

…to the bottling

To the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerous distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

…to the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerable distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

My personal favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osbourne, but is made right here in my back yard.

My personal Ouro Verde favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osborne, but is made right here in my back yard.

Quick stop at the hydroelectric damn in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

We make a quick stop at the hydroelectric dam in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

After a tiring day of wine drinking you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels' and my lovechild - Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Then home, where after a tiring day of wine drinking, you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels’ and my lovechild – Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Em fim, we can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

Rested?  We can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

So, tempted to sojourn? You should be.

I can’t wait for you to visit!

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