I was up before the sun today, trying to get a head start during what is turning out to be a busier than normal week. How is that possible when we don’t even have a holiday to compress the work week here?!

At least my life is much more full of activities, people, and variety than it was a few weeks ago, which I think has gone far to improve my mood. At the same time, I find myself actually mildly stressed for the first time since we arrived — what a concept. It’s almost refreshing to feel the pressure of time and performance again after a couple months of largely unstructured time. (I know, I know, poor me.)

Yesterday was another busy and varied day, perhaps too much so to be termed productive exactly, but entertaining nonetheless. Gabe and I walked in to uni together to have lunch there, which we ended up eating with a Mozambican grad student from the lab. The guy opened up to us during the course of our meal, telling us about life in Mozambique, his girlfriend, holiday traditions both here and at home — the whole deal. It was a wide-ranging and fascinating conversation, and I learned a great deal about this guy and the country he’s from. (It takes as long to fly there from here as it does to California, even though there’s only a two hour time difference! It’s like flying to South America from the States.)

I almost hadn’t gone to lunch because of how much time it’d take out of my day, but I was very glad that I did. As we keep saying to each other, we didn’t come here just to work. We came here to experience, to learn, and to regroup after a couple of crazy years. And having a 90 minute lunch with this earnest, open young man was definitely a part of that.

That experience continued with my Portuguese lesson later in the afternoon. We are progressing much faster now, and again did a lot of grammatical work, launching from a conversation about my botched hair instructions the day before. My tutor thought that perhaps the bride was having a civil wedding, which would explain why it was on a Monday — and if it was to someone she didn’t want to marry, it would also explain her lack of excitement. Who knows.

At the end of our lesson, my tutor looked at her list of 7 or 8 things she had written down to prepare for next time, and informed me that this long of a list means I’m going too fast. Usually she has maybe 2 or 3 things to prepare each time, but with a list that long, it means I’m learning more quickly than she can prepare. This is a good thing, she explained, because even though it means I will finish with her sooner, I can then recommend her lessons to other people.

I was happy to hear this commentary on my progress, especially after I’d been so visibly unable to communicate with my hairdresser the day before. But I know it’s all seeping in slowly, as evidenced when she picked up a language CD at the end of the lesson and asked if it was mine. Without thinking, I replied in Portuguese that no, I don’t have the book that particular CD comes with. I walked away marveling at the fact that I hadn’t even had to think about what I said — it just came out.

So yes, progress is being made. Every day I’m aware of a new level of comfort, both with the language and society here as a whole. As I walk to campus, I no longer have to consult a map every three blocks, and I don’t find my surroundings quite so foreign any more. The language doesn’t sound strange and harsh to me now (someone who just arrived here remarked to me yesterday that it sounds like Russian), but rather round, soft, and full of shushing sybilants. Gradually, I’m becoming accustomed to our new home.

I have no doubt that I will forget everything in the month that we’re home and have to start all over again when we get back. But so it goes. For now, this is enough.

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