The night we arrived at the Posada Maria Florencia, we were greeted in the courtyard first by a lhasa apso named Theo, and then by his young master, Guilherme. As Theo circled our dogs, Guilherme walked up and welcomed us to the posada.
We knew he didn’t work there: he was a youngster dressed in onesie pajamas.
He asked me in Portuguese, “Are you Brazilian?” Somehow, he knew I wasn’t. I smiled and replied in kind, “No, American.” I pointed to the pups and said, “They’re American, too.” He laughed and declared himself Brazilian, and introduced us to his sister and her boyfriend. Then, he wandered off while we checked in.
Later that evening, as we sat drinking wine and eating bread and cheese we’d bought at a nearby grocery store, he joined us to chat, speaking the little English he knows (which isn’t so little), and patiently helping me with my Portuguese. I enjoyed his ease with us, and his willingness to engage with strangers, American strangers at that. Again, he wandered off to hang out in one of the posada’s hammocks down by the river, before saying good-night.
The next morning, he was there again, still in his pajamas, eager to chat some more. He’d already had breakfast, but he sat with us while we ate ours. He laughed when I struggled to pronounce his name (Gi-lyer-may). I told him he’d be called Billy in the U.S. He liked that, so that became his name. (No, I didn’t use it all the time, just when I wanted to tease him.)
We were enjoying his company, so I suggested to Tom that we invite him to go with us to the antique car show we’d heard about in town. He accepted with delight and said he’d ask his mom. At eleven o’clock, we were ready to go. We’d heard Billy splashing in the pool with his family, and he dashed in to change when he saw us coming.
While we waited, I spoke with his mother and told her how much we enjoyed his company, and verified that she was okay with him going with us to town. Thinking that she had no idea who were were, I offered her my (expired) U.S. driver’s license, so she’d know our name if she had to report us. She declined, saying there was no need. (Definitely more trusting than I would be.)
During the drive into town, Billy chatted away, clearly delighted to be driving in an “American” car. (Perhaps the only Toyota Highlander in Brazil.) We drove all over the small town seeking the car show, even leaving the town briefly (one minute we were in town, the next, we were around a corner out of town). I told Tom we needed to turn around NOW, so we didn’t terrify Billy that we were kidnapping him. Tom did so, but Billy seemed unfazed. (Projection much?)
At Guilherme’s prompting, Tom stopped to ask directions to the car show. Turns out, it was scheduled four weeks hence, so we parked and walked along the river, crossing to the Ilha Grande with its capybara greeter, stopping for ice cream, and giving the dogs a good long walk. Later, we drove to find a park with enormous boulders, but the park was closed for renovations (how does one renovate a boulder?), so we were 0 for 2 for the day.
We got back to the posada and Billy asked if we were going to swim. His mom, sister, and the boyfriend were already at the pool, so we changed and joined them, and spent the afternoon getting to know them.
Turns out that mom, Roz (I’m giving their American names here), is a head nurse at an emergency facility, sister Izzy will be a senior in high school this year, and Link is moving to Canada with his parents. In January, Billy and his mom and sister will move to Argentina, where the women will study medicine, with the goal of becoming doctors in eight years or so. Billy also plans to be a doctor.
They don’t know whether they’ll return to Brazil, but plan to see their studies through in Argentina and see what life has in store then. Link wants to be a businessman, and plans to go to college, as well.
We swam and enjoyed the barbecue they shared with us, laughed and shared our stories. At one point, I told Roz I was pleased that we had met her family, and was enjoying our time with them. She then said the oddest thing: that most Brazilians of our “class” would not have spoken with them in the first place, explaining (in response to my look of puzzlement) that while Brazil isn’t racist, they are very class conscious, and that the classes don’t mix. I was taken aback, but she explained that there are definite classes here, and implied that we are one, and she and the kids are another.
I was flummoxed. Tom and I spoke about it after they had left that evening, and I declared that Billy and his family are Brazil’s future. Whatever class they are, they have their eyes set on a goal and will move hearth and home to achieve it. They are Brazil’s great hope.
And they are the perfect example of Brazilians as I see them: welcoming, hospitable, gracious, and enthusiastic about their future. I’m glad we’re “class ignorant.” Were we not, we might have missed that connection. I look forward to staying in touch with the family in the coming years, and seeing how their dreams are faring.
Stay in touch, Billy! I can’t wait to see the man you become! And return to Brazil. She’ll need you.