Oh, Candeal

by kangcuzzi

Oh, Candeal.

In nine days I’ll no longer be calling you home. I’ll never find myself walking around wearing spandex shorts and carrying nothing but the house keys, which I spin around my finger to the music that trickles through your streets. I won’t find myself sitting in the nearby praça enjoying the evening breeze, nor talking to my downstairs neighbour as I open the front gate, which always clangs and rattles despite my efforts at being discreet.

In nine days I’ll have said goodbye to Raízes do Dendê, the capoeira group I only just grew to love as a family. I’ll never ginga along to the berimbau I never learnt how to play, laugh as Professor Del jokes around with the small kids, commiserate with Mari about how hot the room is, or grin sheepishly at David as we clumsily mouth the capoeira lyrics we still haven’t figured out.

In nine days this room will no longer be mine. The wardrobe will be cleaner than it’s been in five months, the desk void of handmade calendars and scraps of paper and the occasional ball of yarn. The bathroom will lack an extra toothbrush, the kitchen my messy stash of snacks. The container I borrowed months ago to shuttle my rice cakes and raisins to work will finally be washed and placed back in the cupboard.

And oh, it’s difficult.

It’s difficult, and heartbreaking, to know that I won’t be celebrating my birthday with my family — a birthday my mom admitted she’d already started planning. It hasn’t sunk in that the milkshakes I’ll share with my homestay family are numbered, that I’ll no longer spend evenings lying on the couch conversing with my mom and waiting for my brother to finish his shower so that I can take mine. I joke that the one thing I won’t miss is the dog, what with its constant yaps and yells and insistence on staying put in the bathroom when I need it most, but his perspicaciousness in regards to how we all felt when we found out — shocked, sad, and incredibly helpless— has touched me just enough.

It’s also difficult to know the long drawn-out acarajé hangout with my neighbour hasn’t happened, and that there isn’t much time left for us to actually do it. I haven’t put potted plants in front of the community association as I intended to do, nor received my first cord in capoeira. Last night, post-class, as David and I ate abarás made by the lady who sells acarajé every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we realized it was our first — and last — time eating dendê after capoeira. The thought that we should’ve done it more often makes my heart hurt. It also makes my heart hurt to know that we still don’t know which route to the program house is faster: the one that exits from my end of the street, or his.

Yet it is in moments of sadness that we seek the brightest sources of light.

There is joy to be found in the way I can hear a percussion band rehearsing at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. There is joy to be found in the kimbap I made for my homestay family today, which they enjoyed — and, in the case of my brother’s girlfriend, learnt how to make. There is hope in the way the woman who made last night’s abará told us that a fellow Bridge Year student from last year loved her acarajé with lots of pimenta; perhaps, a year from now, she’ll be talking about us too.

Who knows?

For now, I’ll do what all Brazilians do: aproveite, or enjoy it all while we can. Enjoy these last moments of sitting on my bed, stomach full of moqueca and fan on, doing what I love — writing about what I love. Of walking down the streets admiring the life that makes Candeal what it is: the people, the colours, the sounds, the constant energy that runs from the supermarkets to the praças to the associations to the art splayed across the walls, which we all admired the first time we walked through the streets. To think back to our very first night in Candeal, when I stood on Hanna’s balcony and looked at the steady glow of apartment buildings in the horizon.

Back then, I had a heavy feeling in my heart: what did this land have to offer me, when it — unexpectedly — looked so much like home?

Exactly that: a home. Candeal é casa,  I told my mom this morning as I left to the supermarket. Superficially it was to justify my walking out of the house in my pajamas, but  of course it was more than that. Candeal is home. Where I know, and love, my neighbours is home. And even though I’ll soon be packing up what I have and leaving for another adventure, at least I know there’s a part of me that’ll stay behind.


(As a means of context: due to recent events of violence in the community, the program has decided — in the interest of student safety — to relocate in the coming weeks. It was a very sudden decision. Whereas we intended on staying in Candeal until the end of April, now we have until the 27th to be with our homestay families. The situation is very complex and I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile to explain it all in this space. All that I can offer are these words of goodbye, or appreciation, of love, and for the moment it is what matters.)