Thank you Malema, who started off as a random town name on a piece of a paper, a place I’d be “sent” to, and with time turned into a place with my house, later on, home.
Thank you Marcelo and Adelia, my landlords, for giving me my three chairs and helping me buy a mattress in the pitch black when I arrived to my house for the first time. Then thank you for checking up on me almost every day, showing me the best place to buy onions and tomatoes, somehow figuring out that my diet when we had no electricity was only stale crackers and taking it upon yourself to feed me meals large enough for four adults.
Thank you Veronica, my first friend and neighbor from two doors down, for filling me in on the bairro gossip and knowing exactly when I needed a hug.
Thank you Neusa, the curious 9 year old from across the street, for peering over my wall and see that I was struggling with the lighting of the charcoal stove. And thank you to the rest of the neighborhood kids, the maluquinhos, little crazies, for being the best form of birth control. You were so annoying when you knocked on my door before 8am, but thank you for the countless hours of screaming the alphabet, thousands of drawings, and unsolicited sweeping knowing you’d get a candy or a coin out of it. Thank you to the ones who’d sneak into my yard to steal my mangoes but leave the largest ripest ones on my veranda for me, and the ones who checked up on me and ran errands for me when I was sick.
Thank you to my director who asked me what days I wanted off, and when I said Monday or Friday, gave me both Mondays and Fridays off. And thank you to all the colleagues who were clearly confused by my own confusion and exceptionally patient with all their explanations, conversations and curiosity. Thanks to the students who corrected my Portuguese over and over again and told me when my shirt was inside-out (only happened twice)!
Thank you to the chapa drivers who pack 23 plus people, live goats and chickens, in a 16 seat vehicle and still somehow getting me to my destination safely. And thank you to all the strangers who have stopped for me while I was hitchhiking through the middle of nowhere, especially the one man who upon hearing we were American proceeded to turn on Lionel Richie’s greatest hits for the six hour ride. Special shoutout to the hitchhike who gave me a ripe pineapple that was a great surprise. Thank you to all the pick-up drivers who have let me sit in the front and the cops for not being too annoying at traffic stops. Thank you to all the street vendors who have sold me snacks out of chapa windows and gave me back all my change. And thank you to LAM for free hotel rooms when there were (numerous) flight delays.
Thank you to the Peace Corps Medical Officers for answering all my calls about irrational fears and unlikely diseases, and Peace Corps staff for also answering my numerous calls about more irrational fears and general worries and countless rides and lunches in Malema.
Thank you to every market drunk who called me “senhora” instead of “amor” and the owner of the hardware loja who stuck up for me when another customer said “buying a hammer isn’t appropriate for a woman.”
Thanks to the bakery for saving me the freshest pieces of bread, and my favorite onion and banana vendor for all the bachelas, free extras.
Thanks for the call to prayer for waking me up every morning before 4am but serving as a reminder that the day was about to start.
Thank you to Hortencio, who started off as my guard and ended up as my right-hand-man-fixer-upper-encourager-of-all-DIY-house-projects. Hope to see you on HGTV one day.
Thank you to my “familia Americana” and American friends for answering all my phone calls and texts, especially when it was to listen to me vent, cry, or ask about random things about American pop culture that I didn’t understand anymore.
Thank you to all the fellow PCVs, my government issued friends, for constantly being a Whatsapp group, city weekend, bad idea and dollar beer away.
Thank you Malema, for the past twenty four months, you’ve been good to me.