Vinhetas do Brasil - Vignettes of Brazil
This year I made my fourth pilgrimage to the Nordeste, Brasil’s northeastern coast. Although my travels in Brazil have taken me into both the rough interior state of Goiás and the urban sprawl of southeastern cities Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the state of Ceará on the northeastern coast has been my first and faithful love. It is the Brazil that I know best and that has had the greatest impact on me; it is the land of red dirt, brown skin, and white smiles. I am drawn not just to the foreign terrain, or the luau of exotic fruits, or the sweet sway of the samba. I am called to the children. I need to go back and see how Wellison is doing. Has Dalmo been taking care of his sister? I wonder what Tayane thinks about the pictures that I sent her.
minha familia extendida – my extended family
Nowhere have I felt the bonds of family greater than at the Davis Lar, an orphanage located in a small rural village of Fortaleza called Araças. Literally meaning “Davis Home” after its American founders, the orphanage houses approximately 100 of the most active children imaginable. With ample space to run around, the kids wrestle and wiggle every free moment they have. The dress code of the children is the first feature that I noticed when I entered into their world. Buzzing blue shorts, scorching yellow tank tops, and vibrant green Havaiana sandals, the clothes that the children wear were so bright that I felt as if I were seeing color for the first time. My thick shoes and socks suddenly made me feel constricted and out of place. Most of the older boys sport thin ball caps worn backwards and pushed back far on the head so that they cover the neck. Donated clothes from America create messages that the kids are proud of but do not know the meaning of, such as “I ♥ My Body” and “Camdenton Rowing Champions 1994”.
A remarkable fact about Brazil is that the majority of the population are children. While many orphanages are working to fix the nation’s problem of abandoned children, there are still overwhelming numbers of street kids who have learned to live by robbing tourists and doing drugs. The Davis Lar is full of children with these perilous backgrounds. Underneath their joyful and colorful surface is a pain that lies dormant. It is the common hardship of their lives that brings the orphans together. As I have returned many times to their home and proved my devotion to them, the children have welcomed me as a father figure. It was strange for me to realize that at a mere 19 years old, I had become a significant male role model for a large group of fatherless children.
I have often said that the word resilient sounds a lot like Brazilian. This is the quality that I see in these orphaned children. They are a special breed; able to fly homemade kites in a world that seems to have forgotten them.