25 November, 2015

Learning, Living, Loving

Hi, All!

Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! It seems impossible that I’ve been back in Brazil for so long now, but it’s true! 

Since being back, I have more of a schedule and more consistent plans of what I’m doing. Each month, I will spend 2-3 weeks in Erechim, a city about 5 hours north of Santa Maria, and the other 2-3 weeks in Santa Maria, my home-base. I first went to Erechim about a week or two after I arrived in Brazil to learn Portuguese. There is a school, Instituto Anglicano Barão do Rio Branco (elementary, middle, and high school) and Faculdade Anglicana de Erechim (college), that is owned by the Diocese of South Western Brazil, and I was able to take Portuguese classes for about 2 months there. My time there will be spent furthering their study abroad program, starting a book club in English, and putting together a summer camp. It’s a fun challenge getting to do all of this! I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to become friends with so many of the students, and recently, the high school students put on an educational fair. The students, in groups of 4-6 people, chose a topic and put together a booth and presentation on their topic. Different types of cultural dances, different religions, the United States of America, exercise and the health benefits, William Shakespeare, and the senses are just a few of the topics that some of the students covered. It was an incredible fair, and these students worked so hard! I am still so amazed and impressed with all of them! The pictures below are just a few of these awesome students.








Also, while I was in Erechim this past time, I was able to attend the wedding of my first two friends in Brazil, Marianne and Rodrigo. It was a gorgeous wedding and so much fun! I feel really lucky to have been able to meet them so early on and be a part of their day! 




 The bride rocking the wedding dress!

Kamila caught Santo Antonio, meaning she's next down the aisle!


I’m back in Santa Maria now. I’m working with Bishop Francisco’s wife, Talita, the Dean of the Cathedral, Silvio, and two teenage girls, Bibiana and Aline, on a children’s event on the 5th of December. It is basically a mini-Vacation Bible School that is being condensed into one day. The theme is Camping: Finding God in Nature. We have lots of activities and games planned, and I’m really looking forward to it! 

An interesting challenge for me, especially with the children’s events and the camp in Erechim, has been trying to learn what Brazil has in relation to what the US has. For example, here in Brazil, markers and crayons are much more expensive, and Crayola doesn’t exist here. There are also no graham crackers or gold fish crackers. It’s so weird for me to have a camping activity with no S’mores! :) Yet, Brazil has many things that I’ve never seen before and foods that I absolutely love! It’s a funny situation to be in, but I’m loving it!

Also, today is the 4th birthday of my most adored little friend, Ana Clara! Happy birthday! Feliz aniversário! Parabéns! Te amo! As the pictures show below, we like to play with the picture settings on my computer. :)






Until next time!
Love,

Rachel

15 September, 2015

A long time coming

Hi, everyone!

Once again, I must apologize for my absence on this blog. My computer died shortly after I got to Brazil, and it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to update a blog on an iPhone. :) So much has happened between January and now that it will be hard to fill the gaps, but I will certainly try my best! This post, however, will mainly cover my recent time in Brasília.

To start with, I just returned from a 6 week trip back to the USA for a new visa. I did not realize it until I first arrived in Santa Maria, but my visa was only for 90 days; so, even though I was given an extension of 90 more days, I had to return to get a new visa. In just a few short weeks, I was granted a new visa with the requested time of 1 year! Overall, it was a great, albeit brief, trip home, and I loved getting to catch up with family and see how much has changed! Saying goodbye was hard (so much harder this time around!), but I am happy to be back here in Brazil.


My last Sunday at St. Philip with Maggie Stephens and Nick Street.

I returned to Santa Maria, after about 26 hours of travel, on a Wednesday night only to leave again for a youth and young adult conference in Brasília on Friday. The conference was ENUJAB 2015, which roughly translates to the national conference of youth and young adults in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. The last time one of these conferences was held was in 2005, so this was a huge undertaking that was desperately needed. Despite being exhausted from traveling and the language adjustment, I was really looking forward to this retreat, and I was NOT disappointed! A small group (I’m talking about 5 or 6) of clergy and lay members organized and set up the whole weekend: Friday afternoon through midday Monday including travel, programming, housing, food, and staff. This wasn’t just a small get together, either. This was an open invitation to all of the youth and young adults of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (or IEAB: Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil). Hundreds showed up in Brasília (having registered, of course) for this event! It was incredible seeing people from all over Brazil arrive to celebrate and be a part of this!

During the weekend, we had many services, Bible studies, much singing and dancing, many outdoor events like we had on Field Days at school, a beautiful Prayer service, talks and ice breakers, a Talent Show, panels given by the Primate of the IEAB and several Bishops and priests, random jam sessions, and so much more that I can’t begin to list it all! 

In the registration application, we had to rank 10 items on a scale of 1-10 of what we would most like to learn about/do, and on a first registered, first served basis, we were assigned what our 2 offices would be. I was able to attend the Liturgical Dancing office and the Unity in Diversity office. 

The Liturgical Dancing was so great! It was about being in the moment, letting the music move you, and allowing yourself to flow in movement and spirituality. I certainly wasn’t spectacular at it, but it was very freeing and allowed me to access and enjoy a part of spirituality that isn’t usually as encouraged. I’ve heard and done many things like meditation, silent prayer, and others that are similar where you are to focus on being still and silent; however, being told to do the opposite, to move and flow, to just feel the music and the Spirit and move as the Spirit moves through you was fascinating. It was peaceful. The last half of the office, we split into 5 small groups to dance/act out one of the 9 Fruits of the Spirit. Ours was goodness.


Our last pose for Goodness in the Liturgical Dancing class.

My other office, Unity in Diversity, was held by a professor from a university in Recife, and I loved it! He engaged us and asked us, by drawing on a piece of paper, to answer what should have been a simple question: How is a young person in the IEAB? It made us stop and really think about who and how we are in the church. We talked about inclusivity and equality; how not everyone is ready to hear what that message says, but that it doesn’t mean that we should stop pushing for the equality of all in our church. It was a truly great office!

Something that was really incredible about this conference was that there were some participants from all over the world. There was 1 from Portugal, 1 from the Dominican Republic, 1 from Honduras, 5 from Ghana, a representative of Us from England, me from the USA, and a few others from different areas in Central America and Africa. Everyone was mixed in together, so it wasn’t as if it were easy to spot the people who weren’t from Brazil. It was a great mixture of cultures and nationalities, and a true testament of everyone’s faith that we were all there, together, being accepted and growing in the love of Christ. 


The group of us from outside Brazil.

If I could only take one lesson from the weekend (there were so many more than just one!), it would be that we are all equal in our differences. No one person is the same, but the beauty of our faith is that all people are equal in the eyes and love of God. In the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, in our Baptismal Covenant, we are asked, ‘Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?’ Our response is, ‘I will, with God’s help.’ I believe that is what happened at ENUJAB 2015. We respected each other as beloved children of God, acknowledged our differences, and loved each other, with God’s help. I received an incredible welcome back to Brazil gift in that weekend! 


The official picture from our weekend. A beautiful time with beautiful people.


Thank you all for your patience, support, and love! It means the world to me! I promise another update soon!

Love,

Rachel

29 January, 2015

Saudades. Esperença. Justiça.

Months without a post, and now two posts in one week! Unfortunately, this post is not as joyful as my other one. Tuesday, January 27th, marked the second anniversary of the terrible fire that killed 242 people in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. This nightclub is just around the corner from my new church and office. It was a solemn day around the city; even the sky was crying. In a pause between the showers, I ran out to take some pictures of the front of the former club.










Several students from one of the local universities went out and painted these murals just before the anniversary. There is much unrest in regards to justice for the lives lost. There are many different levels of blame from officials falsifying documents about building codes down to illegal pyrotechnics being used, and very little, if any, jail time has been served by anyone involved. 

As I have only been in Santa Maria such a short time, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and loss the people of this city have suffered and continue to suffer. There was a memorial service held Tuesday night that was incredibly touching. The theme of the service was Saudades, Esperença, and Justiça. Saudades does not have an equivalent translation in English, but the closest would be an intense heartache over being apart. Esperença means hope. Justiça means justice. The service began with thousands of rose petals being dropped from a helicopter flying overhead and ended with the release of over 200 white balloons. Bishop Francisco was asked to speak, and while I could not understand as he spoke in Portuguese, it was inspiring to see the families and loved ones of the victims react to his words. Be united in the pursuit for justice. It was wonderfully done.






As my brother passed away in December, it was challenging to be at this service. It was difficult and painful to see the pictures and hear the names of so many young people who died in such a terrible way. It brought my grief to the surface. Somehow, though, it was also very healing to be able to connect with over 1,000 other mourning people. While I certainly did not lose my brother in such a horrific fire at the hands of so many like the grieving people at the service did, I have lost someone recently that I love dearly. I felt closer to the people as we all grieved and celebrated those precious lives. As an outsider looking in at such a personal and tragic part of so many peoples' lives, I did not feel disconnected and invasive like I know I could have. Instead, I was a part of that service by being able to grieve over everyone's loss of cherished loved ones. It was a very powerful moment of healing and teaching for me. Saudades to the 242 beautiful souls who died in that fire. Saudade to Ben. No one is forgotten who is loved.

Love,
Rachel

26 January, 2015

And my year begins...

Oi, amigos!

I made it! After months of delays, I'm finally in Brazil! I apologize that I haven't written in many months! Here are my multiple reasons:

To get the type of visa I needed for Brazil, a FBI background check was required. As it worked out, once I applied for this, the FBI started a technical update that put them several months behind schedule. It was frustrating, but I'm a firm believer of everything happens for a reason...and life seems to have worked that way for me especially now.

At the end of September, my family dog, Knox, died. He was an Irish Wolfhound/Black Labrador mix. The day Knox died, my next up older brother, Ben, became very sick with a misdiagnosed illness. He got worse and worse and eventually passed away on December 9 at my parents house with our family surrounding him. He was only 34. It was extremely difficult, and I'm still struggling with this loss; however, I cannot imagine how much harder it would have been had I already been in Brazil. God works in mysterious ways.


My brother, Ben, and me in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I arrived in Brazil Wednesday, January 21st. I left Memphis at 1 pm on January 20th, and arrived in Porto Alegre at noon the next day. I was lucky to be able to spend a few hours with The Very Reverend Marinez Bassotto, Dean of the Cathedral of Most Holy Trinity in Porto Alegre. It is a beautiful church, and The Very Reverend Marinez is wonderful!

As my apartment was not ready yet for me to move into in Santa Maria, my first couple of nights were spent at the CDC which is a beautiful conference center just outside of Santa Maria. 




The view outside of my front door at the CDC. 

I moved into my apartment Friday, and it's really nice! Still in the process of organizing and getting everything set up, but pictures to follow. It is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment to the Diocesan Office and the Cathedral of the Mediator. I cross 2 courtyards, walk by probably 20+ shops (including a couple of shoe stores, which may be a problem for me...), and see countless people. Santa Maria is full of life and happiness! 

There are many cultural differences between Santa Maria and the U.S., but one that I'm loving the most (and also having to get used to the most) is that everyone hugs each other. In both greeting and leaving, everyone hugs everyone. I'm used to having my personal space and only hugging when it's family or close friends. Not here! It's pretty incredible. Everyone is like family here, and with the way that I have been welcomed, I don't question it. Bishop Francisco, his wife, Talita, Bira (the Bishop's secretary), his wife, Rosie, Fernando (the Treasurer), The Very Reverend Silvio (new Dean of Cathedral of the Mediator), his wife Joelma, and their daughter, Clarinha have been the most incredible, gracious, and loving hosts and friends I could ever have asked to have. They have taken care of every need I could possibly have, included me in everything (despite my not knowing Portuguese and most not knowing English), and enclosed me in their families. While this transition is a challenge, these wonderful people have made it their mission to make me feel like I belong. Talk about really showing the love of God to someone... :)

After the church service on Sunday. 

I promise I will write more soon (and include more pictures!)

Love,
Rachel