Let me issue my usual disclaimer: I am allowed to join Snakes for the next 24 weeks as we learn to speak Portuguese at a “professional level”. I am totally grateful for this opportunity. Our situation is ideal for me to be able to participate in such a generous benefit. After two days spent at the Foreign Service Institute, I am feeling positively misplaced. I guess it’s my infamous, “take it as it comes” attitude that never allowed me to fully process the massive commitment that language training requires. (As I write, I have Brazilian soap operas playing in the background, developing “my ear”. I’ll admit to delighting in the notion that I could learn an entire language from a soap opera. I like to imagine myself at a market in Luanda, breaking into an eyelash batting emotive soliloquy, followed up by gut wrenching, lipgloss smearing sobs, ending with me on my knees, face to the heavens, fists clenched tightly to my ample bosom… insisting that I’VE ALWAYS LOVED ONLY YOU..!…! to the shopkeeper. Anyway, glad I’m attending proper classes to round out my vocab.)
Here’s the rub… I feel like such a poser! I feel like I’ve done NOTHING to deserve to be here. Many of these people have toed the line, tested, fretted, retested, stressed out entirely, interviewed, then waited and waited to finally make it here, a trail of flow charts and spreadsheets in their wake. It’s a life long dream realized. I get a little choked up when I think of how hard everyone has worked to get here. While I danced the night away to a brass band in New Orleans without a care in the world, these people were graduating from places like Columbia, Northwestern and UCLA. While I finished my piece-meal education at a public university that required little more than a pulse and a credit card for admission, these people were passing the bar exam or flying airplanes on top secret missions. And now, my jazzy little turkey sandwich sits next to theirs in the hallway fridge. Yeah. Me, a gangly girl from western Michigan who grew up with her mom and sister on a sandy dirt road pocked with chatter bumps which threatened to fishtail any driver who dared to give it too much gas.
I suppose it doesn’t help my confidence that the weather has been relentlessly inhumane, over 100 degrees every day. I’ve chronicled the challenges that my particular mop presents here before, so I won’t go into great detail. Let’s just say that motorcycle helmets + wet, naturally curly/frizzy hair + two months past due at the salon + ridiculous heat= a wicked rat’s nest perched atop my head, coaxed begrudgingly into a “bun”. I’m amazed they let me through security. I look insane with my make-up dripping from my red flushed face (“sun-blasted” from the 107 degree motorcycle ride), hair in a twisted up post-helmet ‘do, assembled whilst dragging myself through the parking lot peering hastily into darkened car windows. I’ve been operating under the false impression that the older I got, the more civilized I’d become. Oh! Cruel and humid world, could I be further from the truth?