It is hard to believe that I have been in Estaquinha a little over a month, provided with a few trips away. While the hours seem to drag on at times, it also feels like I’m still getting the hang of how to live here, though I imagine in some ways that process will continue throughout my time here. It has been interesting to observe the changes in the community as students and teachers trickle back, and I’m enjoying the increase in activity. The neighbor children in particular are interested in the newcomer who is living next door to them. They have been coming over every day to use my nail polish (even the little boys) and play with my hair—they are very intrigued by its length and color. They asked if both my parents were white. People are always surprised to hear I have only one brother, and that I don’t have children or a husband, even though I am clearly here by myself.
Though everyone who lives in our little complex is a teacher, many of them have small farms of their own that they seem to hire other people to work on. For those like my friend Etelvina, who has a peanut farm, it seems like it might be recreational, at least in part, but for the others, the gardens provide food to supplement the meager offerings at the market. Yesterday, about five households were working together outside on a huge pile of corn husks: shucking them, stripping off the kernels, letting them dry in the sun, pounding them into fine corn flour.
All of them also have domestic help to aid with such labor-intensive household activities. Many are students at the school, both males and females, who live farther away but work in exchange for a place to sleep. I myself agreed to let a girl in tenth grade stay with me in exchange for taking over the tasks of my previous empregada, who is now working at the girls’ dormitory. I feel bad that I am one person living in a house that families of four or more are sharing. She hasn’t moved in yet, so now I’m not sure what the plan is, but I am curious to see how that will turn out. I wouldn’t mind the company.
I had been planning for a while for classes to start this past Monday, but the day keeps getting pushed back. Every day I wander over to the teacher’s office, discover that there is nothing required of me, and wander home again. My pedagogical director—the boss of the teachers at the secondary school—says we can set up a plan for the trimester, but both my English teacher colleagues are out of town so we have to wait for them to get back. Now classes are planned to start this Thursday, so we’ll see what happens.