The Shifting Kaleidoscope: Concepts for survival and sanity

August 1967  São Paulo, SP  Brasil

It is night and everyone is tired!
Our bus brakes screech to a stop and we all pull our bodies and our children from the bus as a pile of suitcases grows on the sidewalk.  Our host families walk around us, searching for the specific family they will take home.  Our Hall family comes together: two adults and five children, ages from 15 to 2 1/2
It is only a little after 6 pm (I will soon learn to say 18 hours) and it is midnight dark.  How can that be?
I ask one of our hosts. Somehow I hadn’t assimilated the fact of São Paulo not having long twilights like I was accustomed to in the states.

In the next few days, besides the classes we take for a week to introduce us into the Brazilian culture, I am bombarded with new realities.
“Do NOT drink out of the tap. Get your water for drinking ONLY from the big water filter in the kitchen.”
(The water from the tap is loaded with bacteria, etc., that can make you very ill . In the coming months, we will all discover this truth from first-hand experience.)

“Do NOT put toilet paper in the toilet.  Throw it into the basket with a lid beside the toilet. Reason for this: the plumbing cannot handle the toilet paper.  (The baskets are emptied daily into the trash. )
When one forgets this rule, an overflowing toilet can be an embarrassing result.  One more item one learns from personal experience.

NO HOT WATER in the kitchen nor from any of the faucets throughout the house!  The only hot water is in the showers: from an electrical unit in the shower head itself. (What keeps me from getting electrocuted???)
HOW can one wash dishes without hot water?  ahhh, that is an art I learned quickly…

ALL FOODS, if not peeled nor cooked, HAVE TO BE TREATED IN WATER IN LARGE BASINS WHERE THEY ARE SOAKED FOR 15-30 MINUTES, ADDING EITHER BLEACH OR SPECIAL LIQUID DROPS TO KILL BACTERIA, ETC.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  This rule can actually mean the difference between life and death:  when one is careless, the result is so much misery one may wish they could die.

I help set the table for lunch, and put a plate on the table for the maid.
(I later discover the absolute need to have someone helping in the home.  I will write more about that in another blog.)  Our hostess asks me how many plates I placed .  I tell her, she does a mental count and tells me I’ve put one too many.
“And the maid?” I ask.
“No, the maid doesn’t eat with us. She eats in the kitchen.”
In the states, when someone came to do some work for me, we always ate together.  I was embarrassed and felt sorry for the maid. (With time, I learned that my “mirror” didn’t fit this situation.)

The classes are invaluable. The class that makes the biggest impression still helps me today, 49 years later.
Learn how to laugh – especially at yourself!
This is a new culture you are learning. Life will be full of challenges.  But as long as you can laugh at your mistakes, and even at your own tears and fears, you will make it through.  You will learn to depend upon God to greater depths, causing you to grow in understanding and compassion with others.
Remember how to laugh.  Learn how to relax – trusting God.  Learn!”

The kaleidoscope of life begins turning more rapidly around me.  image-woman-in-kaleidoscope
New language. New sights. New sounds. New smells. New colors. New stars in the sky.  Nothing is familiar.
I must keep God (the Trinity) as my focus so I won’t be drawn off into the unknown that surrounds me, and also help my children do the same.
Many verses in the Bible take on more depth and meaning.
One of them is: “Be still, and know that I am God!”   Psalms 46:10a
That is one powerful verse in my life!
What about you?  Are there times when you feel overwhelmed with the confusion of the world we live in?  What do you do?

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