#7 days no
On the off days, I don't feel like writing.
You don't exactly feel like swallowing on the phone or on a video call, so you avoid the video call.
And when the video call suddenly arrives on the other end, and the longing for a tight hug, an unhurried conversation without an appointment becomes real, you apologize for the quick hang-up, for the discomfiture, or for the crying while staring at a screen in the middle of the street.
And for leaving those who want to take the pressure off us shrinking on the other side, and trying in every way to get close. Sorry about last week.
I don't really feel like writing about "no" days, but they do exist around here and they are very real.
Days "not" of privilege, of course, these days "not" are details, in the midst of serious health problems, or like those that come to us every day through the news. And that turn our stomachs, and get us talking to long-time friends who live in Israel, and make our hearts choke when we receive first-person news from there...
The girls ask obvious questions: "Another war? Now who thought of that?" I confess that I got lost in this conflict a long time ago, but these Breaking News They reek of uncontrolled terrorism, the kind that makes you want to vomit, and which first and foremost destroys innocent families. On both sides.
And they listen to the explanation, and like everyone else, they still don't understand.
But our days "aren't" ours, and on our scale. And they also have the right to writings.
We don't have serious or unsolvable problems, but when several scenarios come together that we didn't foresee during 327 sleepless nights, and they test our limits all at the same time, I avoid writing.
But even on the most difficult days there is room for incredible events, and that's what this news site is all about. Reports of days of incredible events, yes, no and more or less.
Toronto was top. In many ways. Intimacy with a former student, former student, current colleague/friend/confident. My dear Madalena, with whom Toronto was much more beautiful in shared mode.
There was room for meetings and conversations with long-time colleagues/friends, future projects, excellent presentations, pertinent questions, interest in the work we do, and lots of contacts. I can see beautiful things happening in the future.
After our introductions, I rushed to the airport. Everything was on time and I got on the plane to find my half-available seat between two seats.
At the window there was a lady so big that she took up her seat and almost half of mine, with the armrest that separated our seats raised and impossible to lower. And a gentleman sitting in the aisle seat looking at me saying with his eyes, "Good luck in Tetris".
The flight was completely full, and it was impossible to find an alternative. I carefully squeezed my 1.78m frame into the micro-space that was available, not wanting to stick my butt to the lady or literally sit on the lap of the other gentleman in the aisle. It was impossible to avoid both.
For the first 20 minutes we kept the ceremony going between three strangers with no living space. Then the lady fell asleep, relaxed and pushed me further towards the other gentleman. I apologized almost on the gentleman's lap, and when he noticed my non-native accent, we got into such a nice conversation that the flight of almost 5 hours squashed between strangers, after having been at a conference all day, was one of the most enjoyable things that has happened to me on a plane.
He was a senior law professor from the East Coast who had been living and teaching in California for over 15 years. A very interesting character and very interested in hearing about our adventures.
When the host came to remind him that his reservation included dinner (unlike me, who had opted for the most basic rate), he confessed that it was the University that made the reservations for him, and that he didn't even remember having asked for a meal.
So, although we both had dinner before getting on the plane, we found ourselves not only squashed together for 5 hours, but also sharing life experiences, and a platter of cheeses, fruit, nuts and chocolates in pleasant conversation. At the end of the flight, after he'd given me lots of tips on possible incredible days out, told me what he'd brought with him and what he planned to take with him on this adventure, introduced his grandson and explained his political vision of this country (I noticed that, as a teacher, it was easy for him to change my mind about a system so different from ours), we said goodbye forever. I got the feeling that neither of us dared to share the contact, and today I regret having given in to shyness.
However, as with all trips, one of the best parts is returning home, and when I found myself back with the troupe, it was truly wonderful.
Rodrigo not only coped with all the plates spinning, but he also dealt with the unprecedented tantrums of the little one entering school, helped with all the homework of the sisters without shifts to alternate, came up with strategies to relieve homesickness, and the children were always well fed and tidy. And despite having breakfast in the car on a day when the alarm clock wasn't effective, they were always on time. I'm proud of them!
Rodrigo received giant Toblerone trophies, and he's already preparing to do the same to me at the end of the month. Fair enough.
Over the weekend we went to watch the choir from Los Alamitos High School with the aim of contributing to the fund raiser in order to support an initiative that we thought was beautiful and within the same school district. It was completely forbidden to film or photograph, as they are already preparing this year's show. We're used to wonderful shows by the Ana Mangericão Dance School, but this show, completely inclusive, with hundreds of boys and girls on stage, and with choreography, and songs and closet style broadway left us completely surrendered. When the show was over, Maria gave a standing ovation and declared: "If we're here next year, I'm going to join the choir." You can watch the presentation video here:
We prepared for the rest of the week with shopping, an airshow in Huntington Beach, local snacks and runs that make you feel like you're at the end of a marathon at 3 minutes of moderate effort. I don't know exactly what the mechanism is, but running along the Atlantic and the Pacific is very different. Or else I'm frankly out of shape, which wasn't really meant to be.
During the week, and despite the challenges, the sis continue to play their cards.
Maria signed up for a CJSF club because her friends had also signed up, without really knowing what it was all about. She asked us for last year's grades and content, authenticated by the Spanish Embassy, and she was terrified that she wouldn't get in. She got in, and we looked up what it was: California Junior Scholarship Federation, whose mission we read on the website: Scholarship. Character. Leadership. Service. And we realized that it had to be a good thing.
In the meantime, she prepared a 1-minute speech explaining that she likes challenges and that she could count on the help of her peers to lead this group in her school, and that her "European style" vision could be beneficial in managing this group. And so she took on the role of CJSF ambassador. We realized how big it was when the other parents started sending her congratulatory messages. And in addition to this achievement, she brought home the student of the month awards. In her various subjects, and despite the language challenge, she turns in all her work, participates and asks questions she doesn't understand. He is confident enough to ask for help in public, and has received awards for this too. His grades are brilliant, in fact, but they don't feature in the awards he's received.
Yesterday she told us that she likes this school and this education system better. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, Maria," I replied. And she, with the maturity that has come to characterize her, said: "Laugh, Mummy, it would be much worse if I was having a bad time! We'll see!
Mercedes has been stoic every day.
The teacher says that she doesn't need to complete all the exercises in class, and she makes a point of bringing them home and doing them with our help the next day. She doesn't want special treatment or kindness. But she gets exhausted, and I get heartbroken.
This week, during an exercise in class on a text to give an opinion on Honesty and Dishonesty, she blocked, and could do almost nothing. The teacher noticed and asked the class who spoke Italian, French, Spanish or Portuguese. She asked if her classmates found the exercise difficult and if they thought they could do it in another language. And if they had anything to say to Mercedes who was trying without giving up.
The first friend replied: WOW Mercedes. Mercedes told us that when the teacher put her hands on her shoulders from behind, and her friends started talking, she couldn't stand it, and "cried with sound".
This has been it. Achievements, challenges, and more achievements and more challenges. But watching everyone's work and resilience, and especially Mercedes', and imagining her feeling like she can't do it and suffering in public about it, is so hard for us... and we try to take away all the importance of not completing exercises or having them adapted.
I focus on what Joana told me: "like this" and "now" take a lot of the weight off what happens to us. Now it's like this, tomorrow it might be different!
Even so, with adapted exams and the help of a translator, and with all the incredible support the school has provided, it has brought brilliant results, and awards for good conduct. And as you can see in the last few seconds of the video (6.09), the awards are real and have nothing to do with academic results.
Whoever receives these prizes also gets a coin to go to a vending machine and pick up a book.
Mercedes brought home a book to read to her brother. From a collection they've loved since they were little: An Elephant & Piggie. Just Cuca.
Matias hasn't won any prizes yet, but he switches between languages with an ease that continues to amaze us, and his teacher says it's the first time she's had a bilingual pupil without one of the languages being English. But in two months he's already forgotten that he's not a native speaker.
He also makes us happy and proud, despite being an authentic pirate.
This weekend we decided to start by visiting the Griffith Observatory.
The children have no plans to go to the movies by the beach, as the season ends in September, and after swimming, they plan to visit one of the must go in LA.
One of the swimming parents with whom we've shared the anguish of not being able to find good fish and bread, and who has been a source of good advice, replied to our plans: "Today? to LA? are you out of your mind?"
We dismissed it, even though it has been a good advisor so far, and off we went with our expectations adjusted to 1.5 hours of traffic instead of 30 minutes as we had initially thought. Kids cross peninsulas without changing, so we ventured off confidently anyway.
We wanted to see the sunset, so with a snack and a change of clothes we left the pool at 5pm, and at 7pm, with the sun down, we were still trying to figure out why Waze was telling us that we had 3 km to go, and 39 minutes of queuing ahead of us.
We took a detour to give dinner to the tolerant but lickety-split kids and stopped at what they consider to be the best Hamburgueria ever: In - n - out.
Always without getting out of the car, we ate our way through Holywood, saw the atmosphere, closed ourselves inside the car, passed the Chinese Theater, the Beverly Hills mansions, and arrived.
The Observatory is really worth it. And it's probably not the same at night. We loved it.
On the day we chose to come, it was also the start of a series of concerts at the Greek Theater (just below the observatory), which congested all the entrances.
Never again will we underestimate the father of swimming.
But we explored the area, we saw the sights, Saturn, the Tesla coil, and on a hot summer's night, we once again had the feeling of smallness in this giant city.
We got home at 10.40 p.m., after having set off at 5 p.m., with the kids screwed and the rest of us milling around. Rodrigo said: "It was like going to Madrid for ice cream. But without planning it!"
And we went to sleep.
On Saturday, we volunteered to help out at an event that I signed Maria up for through the Girl Scouts for having a wheelchair in the image advertising the event.
The person responsible for volunteering at the event came to meet me, because someone had told her that a physiotherapist and biomechanics researcher was here at CSULB, and she invited me to come along. I agreed.
When I received the instructions on how to get there, I realized that it was Rancho Los Amigos, which is not only a world reference center in rehabilitation, but was also the "home" of Jaquelin Perry, who wrote a book that we still follow today, and several more recent documents from this huge institution, which we continue to follow. I even doubted whether it was the same Ranch I was thinking, but it was.
Maria was happy with her volunteering, helping all the Mexicans with little command of English to sign up, or to find what they were looking for, from activities to water or toilets.
But with each person I met, I found it difficult to express what I was feeling. Being able to visit everything, with my colleagues explaining every detail of the facilities that had just been inaugurated and the projects underway, was overwhelming. We'll see what happens next, but expectations are high.
At the end of the afternoon we all went to the beach and tried to slow down.
On Sunday, to break up the dynamic with my Cuca and her homework, we both went to a tribute concert to the 100 years of Disney. It was a jazz concert, but I thought it could have some kind of childish image to suit my middle daughter's tastes.
The concert was incredible, but pure jazz... and the two of us must have been among the few people without walking aids. On the way to the toilets at the interval, there was a rush of walkers, canes, crutches and wheelchairs. Cuca even said that if I needed to help someone move more quickly, she'd understand. I recommended that I be discreet and not reveal my profession, and that we could perfectly well hold our bladders while the queue of walking aids moved patiently to the toilet.
It was fun, but what she really liked was being the first of the brothers to visit the campus where I work, since the concert hall belongs to the university.
This week I'm still focusing on "this" and "now".
And with the hope that with each challenge we will all be a little stronger and better prepared for the circumstances that come our way.
To all of you who follow us, thank you for the good energy.
We miss you so much.