From Tuesday through today, I was out of pocket. On purpose. No Internet (lan house, once), no phone (called home from a payphone, how 20th century is that?), no car, no contact with known humans.
One of my objectives was to unthink. I sometimes kid myself that I think too much. My mind works overtime. I seldom put it in neutral. So part of my time was to walk, walk, walk, lose myself in a city of umpteen million people, and disengage.
And as paradoxical as it may sound, I went to get away from people. (I’m an introvert, get peopled out after a while.) Some go into a wilderness; I find it easy to become anonymous in the city.
In three days I had one conversation that lasted more than two minutes. That was this morning, with the owner of a franchised bookstore, where I asked about a new Bible version in Portuguese. It was early in the day, little activity in his store, and we talked for more than an hour.
I think I’ve gotten into the Brazilian rhythm of life, including the year only starting after Carnaval, which, this year, comes the first part of March. This time gave me opportunity to (un)think about the year. What I want to do, where I want to go. Not far from where I stayed, the International Church of Grace (Pentecostal, can’t you tell by the name?) had plastered beside its entrance a special program or yearly theme: “The Year of Our Accomplishment.” Sounds better in Portuguese. But every time I saw it, I thought, I want 2011 to be the Lord’s year of accomplishing great things in me.
Our family doesn’t watch TV. But I caught a few items on the TV where I stayed. One was an Official Government Pronouncement. Yesterday our (Brazil’s) new president introduced a new slogan (more appropriate for a campaign than governing, but such seems to be one of the ills in executive leaders today): “A rich country is a country without poverty”. Sloganeering at its worst, not even accurate. (Did I just repeat myself?) Jesus said, “you will always have the poor with you” (John 12:8). But politicians don’t listen to our Lord, they just use him when it’s convenient for their purposes.
From 9-11 a.m. in one Catholic church you can go to the “Ministry of Listening” and get anything off your chest. In one corner of the ornate, humongous building is a little metal desk and a couple of chairs. (Yes, I went inside to look; no, I didn’t use the service.) Volunteers staff the service. I didn’t see a timer, didn’t ask if you have 10 or 15 minutes or more to unload your burden. There’s much one could probably criticize here, but I wonder if each Christian couldn’t work on the gift of listening. Could we consider it a gift, a talent, a good work in the kingdom?
On the home front, the Maiden has got a job. I got back just in time to hear the news. She starts teaching English at one of the language schools on Monday. Where did the time go?
The school chain where she’ll teach specializes in catering to business people. They’re starting up classes for teens, which she hopes to work with beginning in March. But for now, our little teen is going to treat the suits to some correct English. She’ll be good at it, too. She’s responsible and knows how to be firm.
Back to my little jaunt. Yesterday morning I sat in a public square and watched thousands of people pass by. The night before, I’d watched a Brazilian journalist interview Nicholas Sparks, who’s coming to Brazil for a book promotion tour. (Richard M., the guy reads 125 books a year.) So I imagined I was writing a novel and observed how people walked, expressions, gestures, as if I were sketching out characters. From the young mother who sat across the park with a two- or three-year-old and kept jumping up to keep her close. Or the elderly lady, hungry for company, who talked non-stop to a young man who sat down beside her. Or the young pregnant girl, who sat for two hours doing word searches and waited for, what? And the passers-by! What a diverse, different, sometimes strange, mass of humanity I saw in those two hours!
I wrote one little list during my time out. More on that later. Other than that, no writing. And a good time was had by me.