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1 March 2013
It was kind of a shock to get a reminder for Eduardo's birthday. Not that I didn't know he was having a birthday, but reading "Eduardo will be 54" kind of hit me.
But if course he is 54. He turned 22 when he lived with us, in 1981.
(The figures on the side of the banner are having a conversation: "What's new? What's new?" "Eduardo's 22." That is, left to right: David, Tom, Ned and Paul, who looks like he just woke up.)
Eduardo changed our lives. If it weren't for Eduardo, we would never have had ten years of international exchange students. I would never have learned Portuguese, Ned and Tom would never have visited Brasil, I never would have made friends with Roz and Stan in Maryland, I never would have had the chance to travel all over the country for meetings.
I had always thought, in passing, that it might be fun to host an exchange student, but given the "casual" (i.e., sloppy) nature of my housekeeping, I never thought that would be possible. No way I could keep a house neat and tidy for a year for a high school student.
But when someone asked me if we would be willing to host an older student for 3 weeks, I thought I could probably do that. It was through The Experiment in International Living and a group of Brasilians would be arriving in Davis, needing accommodations for only three weeks. Well, heck, even *I* should be able to keep the house clean for 3 weeks, so I said we would take a student.
We received a dossier with information about Eduardo, who was from Rio de Janeiro, and who seemed like a nice looking guy. On the appointed day, all the families gathered at the home of the coordinator and we met our student.
We brought him home and he immediately started bonding with the kids. Especially Tom and David, who were the "babies" (David was 9, Tom 10). I was happy that he spoke pretty good Englsh, and he was so serious about improving his English. We constantly had casual English lessons. I learned a whole new way of speaking to people who are learning the language. For years, my speech was slow and deliberate, and I chose simple words instead of complicated ones. The end result sounded like normal speech, but it was definitely "foreign student speech." (I had a non-English speaking woman at Logos yesterday and I was surprised at how quickly I slipped back into that mode of speech when dealing with her.)
The three weeks passed so quickly. We went to San Francisco, to Lake Tahoe, to Reno so he could try gambling, and there were parties with the group. I couldn't believe how quickly the time passed. When it came time to leave, Eduardo and two of his friends, Sapo and Celso, along with the group leader, Rejane, wanted to remain in Davis and take an ESL (English as a Second Language) class at the universtiy. The coordinator for the program let us know that we were under no obligation to let them stay longer, and that they could get an apartment, but of course we were delighted Eduardo wanted to stay. We went to the airport to see off the rest of the group.
(Sapo is the tall one on the left, Eduardo is the tall one on the right, and Celso is the guy in front of Eduardo, with the big moustache, Rejane is the blonde with Celso's hand on her shoulder).
Then our real bonding with Eduardo began. He went to school, he got a job painting a house to help give him some spending money. His mother, Rosa, and I started a correspondence. She wrote in Portuguese, I wrote in English (she spoke a bit of English) and he gave me his dictionary to help me translate her letters, by which I started to learn Portuguese.
There were more trips, more family activities. We went to Yosemite and Disneyland. Eduardo was here when David made his First Communion. Though his family is Jewish, he came to Mass with us and took pictures.
I learned how to make his favorite Brasilian foods thanks to recipes he wrote to ask his mother to send. I made a mean feijoada and salada de bacalau (which is potato salad with codfish in it). We struggled to find the translation for "beringela," which we ultimately found out was "eggplant."
Eduardo helped me with the Boy Scouts (in the years before they started discriminating!) and taught the boys how to make kites. He helped Walt with mowing the lawn. We took him to Portland to see the ash from the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's, he went to a Pinata party gathering, we took him to Finocchio's (female impersonator) nightclub.
He and Ned became particularly good friends and it was very hard on all of us, especially Ned, when five months finally came to an end and Eduardo really had to leave. Walt and I made plans to travel to Brasil some day (we still have not done so--and Eduardo, his wife and daughter have lived in Canada for a long time now).
Because the Eduardo experience was so good, I agreed to take over organizing groups of foreign students for home stays in Davis. We, ourselves, hosted many more groups, and ultimate some 70 people from 14 different countries in our own house. The bulk of them came from Brasil and the international friends who have stayed in our lives, with the exception of Jane, who is from England, are from Brasil.
A year after he left here, Ned was having serious social problems in school. Eduardo invited him to come to Brasil and we thought that might be a good idea. We told him he could go for a week, for the summer, or stay a year. We hoped he'd stay the year and he never knew that Eduardo and I talked on the phone every week to assess how bad his initial homesickness was. He would write about how he wanted to come home and I would write and tell him on which date I would call him, and that it was expensive to call frequently. I would, of course, have talked with Eduardo once or twice before I made the official call to Ned who, by that time, was no longer homesick. It seemed to be a very good year for him. He grew about a foot while he was gone and came back fluent in Portuguese.
Tom was on a business trip to Toronto in 2003 and stopped by to see Eduardo. They had both changed a bit since 1981!
I often wonder how different our lives would be today if we had never met Eduardo, or if he had not been such a likeable guy. He brought the world into our house and he will always be a part of our family.
Happy birthday (a bit late), Eduardo. We love you so much...
PHOTO OF THE DAY
He came to see us in 2004. He fit back in as if he had never left.
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