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.


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!)