Throughout the month I am generally am on the look out for something to blog about; often I am surprised how the smallest of things impacts me while larger issues don't seem to produce the same effect. This month, yet again, a small instance looped together several experiences for me and the story begins with a book case...
My neighbor had had an old box spring sitting awkwardly on our landing since I had moved in. I had often wondered about it, but it never occurred to me to ask if she needed help disposing of it or what her intentions for it were. One afternoon, a friend of mine was visiting and the idea of using it as a bookshelf occurred to him and he mentioned this to me. I looked over the course wooden structure and observed that if stood up on the short end it did truly look like a bookshelf. All that it was missing were the shelves themselves. As is typical with me, I dragged the whole process out.
Two weeks passed before I asked the landlord at the church if the bed were his (at the time I didn't know whose it was). He said that it was my neighbor's. Two weeks after that, I knocked on my neighbor's door and asked her permission to appropriate the crude assemblage. Permission granted, I left it right were it was.
|Mom's visit, we did do fun stuff too|
A few weeks later, I moved the futures bookshelf into my room and during the next few months I told any visitors of the future plans. My idea was to ask at the grocery store for any wooden boxes they stored produce in (in Brazil they still give these out for free, in CT they do not), pull them apart, borrow a hammer and nail on the slats of wood. My plan never got beyond thinking, "maybe I should ask for boxes today...."
Months later, the bookshelf was still there and I had a friend over for lunch. It was the first time she has been in my house and I gave her the tour, dutifully explaining the future of the box spring. She was in the process of moving in with her boyfriend (who lived across the street from me) and mentioned that she had a piece of furniture that she was getting rid of. I could take it apart and use it for shelves. I accepted. A week goes by and I see her again and she tells me that the furniture is at her boyfriend's old place and I can coordinate with my other friend there to pick it up, which I do a week later.
I realize that even though I have five months left in Brazil, I really only have three left in this apartment because two of the months I will spend elsewhere. This bookshelf must become a reality. But as I look at the piece of furniture, I am becoming doubtful because I am going to need a lot more than a hammer to make it work. Fortunately, I am reminded that I have friends through caopeira who are well equipped to handle such circumstances; even better, they'll do it for me!!! So, the same day I pick up the piece of furniture (I call it this because I actually have no idea what it was supposed to be), I contact one of my capoeira colleagues (actually I got confused and messaged the wrong one first; but eventually it got straightened out) and two days later he came over to assemble my bookcase.
Now is the part of the story where I tell you that the bookshelf has absolutely nothing to do with my reflection apart from that my friend was putting the bookshelf together for me, and it was an interaction that we had that inspired the reflection. I just really wanted to, and enjoyed explaining the story of my bookshelf for you all.
While working, my friend accidentally stabbed himself with a nail and went into the bathroom to clean it up. When he came out, he commented on the smell similar to incense within, and jokingly asked if I was a macumbeira. I had no idea what he was talking about and he reminded me that it was his religion; I then felt quite silly because I have been told the name of his religion numerous times. I explained that I had essential oils in a jar with two wooden sticks dispersed the scent. I also commented that I do frequently burn incense as well. My friend started a bit, looked at me and asked, "Doesn't your religion prohibit it?" I responded that, no, it didn't and in fact many Episcopalian churches will burn incense during the service.
|Mentioned capoeira trip|
|Research team minus one member at a conference in 2015|
In Spanish, the word "compartir" means "to share", same as in English, but it can also be mean as in to share time or an experience. My friends would often invite me to hang out just to "share," to share our time and moments together. It was always and expression that I found lovely. In Portuguese I haven't learned a word that has that same meaning, but they have another word that is very similar, "conviver," to co-live, live with. I've never looked up the exact definition but I understand it to mean, to live our lives in a connected, interlocking way.
To me, these three experiences: bookshelf building, religion swapping and researching, were all just that, sharing moments of our lives, sharing parts of ourselves, accepting the shared parts of others and learning. They were moments in which I felt like a bit of something larger, where someone tried to understand a bit of my humanity and I attempted to do the same.
|The finished book shelf|