Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Obrigada. Thank you.

When I first felt comfortable enough to use this Portughese word of thanks, it started sneaking out in little mumbled whispers after a waiter refilled my coffee or a gentleman held the elevator door for me. After a day or two, I became more confident and my obrigadas rolled out of my mouth like a native. I soon found myself thanking everyone for everything, and loving the sound of gratitude in a foreign language. Obrigaada. I even chopped off the first syllable here and there in an informal, "I feel so comfortable here" version that sounded like 'brigada.  So cool.

I began to realize how much I would need this word about 4 days into my trip. There were so many instances of generosity that I began to worry that this one word could never be enough to show my gratitude. My host teacher devoted 8 full days to my travel partner and me, making sure we visited as many schools, cultural sites, and beautiful waterfalls as was humanly possible. She did this, along with her full teaching schedule, family obligations, and nightly paper grading. So to my host teacher, Lolly, obrigada.

The students who geeted us at each school graciously prepared music, dances, homemade food, and slide shows to welcome us to their country and school. One student even handcrafted a box to carry two lovely souveniers. Two students baked Brazilian chocolate truffles and presented a full plate to us at 8 am, saying these are the best and please can you taste them now? Despite the early hour, I ate three and loved every one. To the students, obrigada.

In the capital city of Brasilia, we visited a glass cathedral that still remains in my mind the most beautiful place of worship I have ever seen. The sun glimmered through thousands of blue stained glass panels and shimmered across the pews, bathing the entire cathedral in a blue, ethereal light. I thanked God for every kind of beauty that has taken my breath away, whether it is a glowing catherdral or the smile of a 4th grader singing the alphabet. For all of this, obrigada.

It turns out that I decided to keep all four syllables of this word intact. The thanks I wanted to give deserved every syllable and more. Obrigada.

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