Sometimes in our lives, we have the honor of receiving genuine friendship. I happen to have the honor of having known multiple Brazilian exchange students through a program at my church and a local university. Today, I was able to reconnect with two of them – Nanda and Luciano — who have remained friends with me and my family over the years we have spent hemispheres apart.
We spent the day with the rest of the honors group at a beach resort in Bertioga, São Paulo. Although our adventure began with a morning stuck under pouring rain in a pavilion looking at a whale skeleton (don’t ask), the sun eventually decided to shine and the rest of our time was filled with much needed rest and relaxation. A few highlights of the day included Luciano attempting to teach me to dance (to no avail — that would be my fault!), running as fast as possible into the refreshing salty ocean water and enjoying its notable warmth (or coldness, if you’re a Brazilian who is used to 75 degree water), and realizing that it is completely normal to pack your toothbrush when going to a beach and take time to specifically “escova os dentes” (again, if you’re a Brazilian).
While all of these activities combined to make a memorable day, no combination of moments could compare to the gratitude I had for the love my Brazilian friends showed me. As soon as I mentioned that I would be coming to Brazil, both of them immediately started to make plans for when they could see me, even though they each had to travel at least 2 and a half hours to meet up with our group, including a flight from a different state and a long car drive. When we finally did get to see each other today, Nanda and Luciano patiently waited through the rain for the sun to arrive, swam with me even when they were cold, and took the time to get to know my friends as well.
Throughout the course of this trip, I have come to realize that this love is characteristic of not just those who previously knew you or had some obligation to serve you, but it is a cultural standard. Whether it is through the willing smile and conversation from a stranger in the university dining hall, or the caring hugs and kisses from host family members, Brazil’s people have made me feel incredibly welcome in this country.
I truly hope that I can bring some of this love back with me as well.