An incredible stroke of luck
– the story of Philip`s journey to the unknown.
It was in 2015 when first I met a young guy Philip. I spent the summer in a Bulgarian resort where I was looking after my client`s child as a governor. During our days and weeks, lots of guests come and go, but there were always familiar faces who stayed there for longer, so we all recognized each other. Philip was one of the younger guests who I instantly spotted for several reasons. First of all, he was smiling non-stop and secondly he was always taking care of a young girl. So I thought might be a colleague of mine. Soon I learned that he is the big brother of the girl.
Here is a young guy around 18 and he all day looking after his sister. Not many would do that, especially when you are 18. We had a good conversation once when I told him how rare and beautiful what he does, and that is where we left off.
A year later a week ago we bumped into each other at the entrance of the same hotel. Well just to let you know Philip is still smiling nonstop, he had a funny laugh and told me his amazing story how he ended up in a small town in the middle of Brazil. This is his story:
“As you know as a young guy starting out in life I had a plan in mind. I quickly find an excellent global company with great reputation gathering enough work experience to secure a fantastic job. Well, it turns out it is not that easy. I did not find anything, so I started to look for other options. I went to my University`s website to find other ideas and try my luck. Then something caught my attention. There was a volunteer position advertised from AIESEC which is a good volunteer organization. Not so long ago I was considering becoming a teacher and AIESEC was offering teaching children English across the globe.
There were plenty of choices where to go, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Kenya and many other countries on offer. My heart wanted to choose some of these, but my inner voice said my parents would not allow me to go there because they would think those countries are unsafe. So I picked Italy. But: I already been to Italy before and I didn’t feel like Italian children need any help, since Italy is one of the most developed countries. So I changed my mind. I will go to Brazil. It was easy to change my mind, but it was hard to prepare myself how to tell my parents. What was their reaction? You guessed. They were in shock and tried to explain to me what can happen over there. Being robbed and killed are just a few of those. There was nothing could stop me!
So I bought my flight tickets London – Frankfurt – São Paulo – Florianopolis. I bought a good insurance too and had to do a dozen of vaccinations. I went to the health center where the nurse was very kind and in a short 10 minutes she started to list all the illnesses I could die from getting them. The good news was that the vaccines could prevent some but the bad news was that not all illnesses had working vaccinations. So off to a good start, nothing to worry! I said fair well to my family, and my long journey began.
The first lesson in Brazil was not taught by me
I landed in the biggest South American airport in São Paulo. I learned my first lesson here. Nobody speaks English. Of course, I knew they speak Portuguese, but I imagined an international airport I will have an easy job to find anything or do anything. I was wrong. I probably looked like a marionette sometimes while tried to use all of my limbs to express my needs or ask for information. It was fun! I had some time, so decided to learn more about the place I was heading.
It was a small town originally made by Italians and dominantly Germans in Santa Catarina State, which is entirely south. The city considered as one of the safest places with very high quality of life. To get there, you need to use an airplane, several buses, and your legs. Through the bus window, I could see how green, how beautiful Brazil is but I also saw the poverty, the struggle, and the dirt. I was tired, and these mixed images were bouncing in my head.
When I arrived, I was expecting someone to wait there, but there was nobody. So I called my host and explained the situation. When I got to their house, I was surprised because the place was modern and good looking. The Internet is not very good in Brazil, and this place was no exception. But it’s not that important. Later finally I met my project leader who explained to me in detail what I need to know about the town what to do and what not to do and painted a good picture of the major cultural differences. I instantly felt I am ready to start.
The next day we went to the school. I expected to see children between 6 and 18 years old, but they were from 0 till 5, so I was surprised, how they want me to teach children English who can’t speak Portuguese properly yet. We started our day at 9 am but nobody mind if we were late a bit. The timetable was pretty straight forward. 90 minutes class of drawing, playing with plasticine or learning new words. Then playing on the playground followed by lunch and then the nap time. I have to highlight here that the food was always plenty and fantastic at the same time. The time with children was joyful and very memorable. They were all unique and different, but something was very similar between all of them. All of them were very curious and confident about the world around them.
Time to time I have been left on my own with the children, and I had to control them. It was hard for me as they were often fighting with each other and then they complained to me in Portuguese and I couldn’t understand a single word they say.
Fortunately, two girls often helped me to control others. They were strict with others, and they could easily tell others what to do. Surprisingly, children listened to these two girls, and I was glad that I have such assistance. There was also one guy who was very cute but at the same time he was hyper-energetic, and he loved to fight with other children. If he wanted a toy, he would hit the other kid and take his toy. I tried to stop him many times and every time I felt that he is very powerful for a kid. I liked him, and he was one of my favorites, even though he was the evilest kid in the class. There was also a little girl who was much smaller than others. She couldn’t speak Portuguese apparently, but she liked me. She was always telling me something and smiling, even though I had no idea what was going on. She wanted to play with me, and she got very upset if I played with other children. There was also another girl who was like a monkey. Every time I went on my knees, she would jump on my neck and after that, I couldn’t get her out from me without somebody’s help. I could describe every child there, but I would probably need to write a book to do this.
I made so many local friends, probably more than I did in 20 years of my life. Everyone was very open and friendly.It is something I can’t often see in Europe. I am from Eastern Europe, and the quality of life is much better in Western Europe, so everybody tries to move to the West if they can. However, this is not the case in Brazil. Although there are huge problems with corruption, human rights and safety, people see their future in Brazil, and nobody tries to immigrate to North America or Europe. That was another positive surprise for me.
Every day of my work at school went better than the previous one. I still could not understand what everyone around me was talking about, but I could feel the connection with them. As time passed, I started to learn Portuguese and see that there are problems in this area. Teachers could choose to work in a much better area, but they stayed there with problematic children. I am probably wrong with calling them problematic, as there is nothing wrong with them and they are the happiest people I’ve seen, but all of them have problems at home.
One kid has to share his room with his older sister and brother at home, so he witnessed adult stuff while sleeping and therefore sometimes he tries to kisses other girls at school, to imitate what he sees at home, he is only 4. The other kid doesn’t have a da, and his mom is a drug dealer. Other girl`s mom been killed, and her dad is in jail. Many children have all sorts of problems some which could break an adult too. Not to mention that sometimes people being shoot down the street. But if you don’t speak Portuguese, you will never notice because they look euphoric and sometimes I even felt jealous because I am not that enthusiastic and optimistic as they are.
During the last few weeks I started to come earlier (around 7 am) and go back late (around 6 pm), so I can spend more time with them. I bought few magazines which had images to color. I made many copies so that each child could decorate. However, I still had a feeling that I don’t give them enough, and I learned much more from them than they learned from me. I have learned how to smile to simple things and be happy just because you are still alive. The life there went very slow, so I felt like my work is more like a resort. I also made an excellent relationship with the head of school, and she even invited me to spend my birthday in her house. I ended up spending three days with her family, and this was also a very enjoyable experience. I was comparing everything to Europe, and I realized that the Western World completely lost the idea of family and what purpose it should have in the lives. This family gave me a clear view of what family I should aim to make one day.
I have been to more than 25 countries in Europe but after one trip to Brazil, I completely lost any interest in Europe. During my five years spent in the UK, I didn’t even get 1% of kindness that I got from people in Brazil.
If you remember the beginning of the story, I said that initially I was looking for a work experience and decided to do volunteering just because I had no better option. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” -Philip
Children instantly and familiarly accept rejoicing and happiness, because this is their natural element.”
(Victor Hugo, 1862)
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