How hiding from the rain turned into a well-spent afternoon filled with human connection.
Last week, I took a trip with a few other exchange students to a fishing village in the Northeastern region of Brazil. We rented a house and spent four days learning about another side of Brazilian culture. We were hoping to spend lots of time on the beach, practicing Portuguese and perfecting our tans. We got just that.
On the first full day of the trip, we decided to look for a wifi connection so we could send word to our host families and the people responsible for us back in São Luís. I took a walk with one of the other intercambistas through the dirt streets in search of a bar or restaurant offering free internet to their patrons. As we were wandering aimlessly around the village, an elderly gentleman opened his gate to warn us that the rain was coming, and to offer us the shelter of his garden. Sure enough, the rain came showering down not five minutes after we settled in under the gazebo. The man's wife appeared from amongst the flowers and we struck up a conversation. Marina, my Italian friend, and I asked them about lifestyles in the village and surrounding areas. They confessed they had never lived anywhere else. Marina told them about Italy while I inspected the vibrant red flowers getting pummeled with raindrops just outside our meager shelter. We sat in hammocks and listened to distant thunder and stories from the elderly couple, occasionally adding anecdotes of our own. Apparently, the two had grown up together and had been married for over fifty years. Now they have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all over Brazil and the rest of South America. The conversation continued until well after the rains stopped.
When their eldest son appeared to ask why we had been walking in the streets when the beach would have provided a better view, I explained our lack of internet. He told us that they ran a hotel and would be happy to share the wifi password with us. By then, we could leave the garden structure without fear of drowning, so Marina and I also agreed to a tour of the property. The hotel had three rooms and all were empty. The older woman told us that the rooms are usually full during the Christmas holidays, but there are not many people arriving during the rest of the year. Having successfully connected to the internet by then, and worrying about our companions and finding our way back in the dimming light of dusk, Marina and I quickly sent our text messages before thanking our hosts for the shelter and conversation.
The next day, we stopped by to say hello on our way to buy milk at the store, but only exchanged a few words. I never caught the couple's names, and I will probably never return to wait out another bought of rain in their garden, but I will always remember that time I did. There are quite a few people who travel the world in search of this sort of genuine human connection, but we were lucky enough to encounter it randomly. This is a perfect example of how welcoming Brazilian culture is and just one of the many reasons why I really feel at home here.