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Christina's Walk of Life (and all the perils, confusions and magic she went through...)
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He was delighted. Another message. He couldn't stop thinking about her, day and night. She was in his dreams, in his daily activities, even in little daily things and he would hurry home now in order to check his e-mail. He only wanted to know about her, more and more about her. Who was she? What had she done in her life? She was a criminal lawyer but decided and preferred to teach languages, why? He needed to go to the Marina, fix the boat, check the dingy, maybe go sailing but it was hurricane season and Riley would be hungry by the time he returned, besides, he was addicted to her now. And so he stayed home and read more about her. She was sweetly addicting.
Dear Butchie, adored man,
After four years in Africa my father was transferred to Vigo, in Galicia, Spain as a Consul General. He decided to go there by a different way. Not by plane or ship but by car. He loved cars and had a beautiful, white Chrysler 300, his baby. He sent all our things by ship in big trunks and I said goodbye to my dolls. I was happy to leave the boarding school but it killed me inside to leave Emmanu. He looked like that actor of The Green Mile (one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen - directed by Frank Darabont), Michael Clarke Duncan that was the seven-foot giant John Coffey in that film (together with Tom Hanks), but even being tall, big and strong as John Coffey, Emmanu cried like a baby. I was sad for many months after because he was my true, dear friend. I still miss him today. I never forgot him and the way he would say my name in his dialect by clicking his tongue. I left him and scorpions, blue frogs and baboons, nuns, friends and cabbage and going up the hills wearing uniforms and a tie all behind to start a new life in another country, with a different language, another school, another home, different food (soon, fish for breakfast in the morning, in Spain!), different cultures and habits. This would be our life from now on, changing, moving, adapting, learning but in each place, leaving a bit of my heart.
We were halfway between Zululand and Swaziland, and it was about 6pm. There was still a bit of daylight. it was very hot and dry. We were on a highway where, on both sides, there were thousands and thousands of Zulu villages with more thousands and thousands of traditional low, round-shaped Zulu huts with their low entrances. My father bumped on something and abruptly stopped the car. When we went out he saw that it was a dog. A big, black dog. Dead. The Chrysler was full of blood but we also noticed the Zulus looking at us, angrily, shouting and shaking their arms and we, in fear, by all those Zulus, with more and more Zulus gathering, became terrified. Did we feel like the King Scorpion? No escape? No way out? Face the reality? Before something else happened, my father ordered us to get quickly into the car and we drove away to Tanzania and Somalia. If we had stayed longer, what could have happened to us? I really don't know and still always wonder today.
We spent many days traveling by car from Cape Town going East up to Port Elizabeth and Durban, then Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia until the Gulf of Aden. There we got on a big ship and crossed the Red Sea all the way up to Egypt, with Saudi Arabia and its hot desert on one side and hot, hot Sudan and Egypt on the other. We spent one week in Egypt. What a lovely but strange, weird, secular, narrow-minded and conservative country.
We went by car to Cairo and to where the Pyramids of Giza were, driving down South The Nile River to Luxor. We saw an enormous oasis, The Sphinx, and the Great Pyramids. I rode a stinky camel that smelled like 7-day pee all over him! When I finished the ride I hugged him tight to say goodbye and then it was me that smelled like 7-day pee for 7 days, nobody got close to me, it was simply horrible! The camel rider was a young man called Ahmed, no front teeth and skinny, smiling happily with the big tip that my father had given him, he followed us everywhere we went, happily telling people what he got and by the end of the afternoon my father was surrounded by camel riders, vendors, beggars, children and dogs!!!
I remember thin, hungry looking kids all around me, fascinated and touching my blond hair. I gave them money and my food, and to a dark, sweet girl, my favorite doll. My mother nearly killed me but my father laughed so much that he felt pain in his stomach. The girl looked at me and then at the doll and smiled showing no teeth... Her mother came from behind a store and handed me the doll back. I said: "No!" and pointed at the little girl. The mother, all covered up in a black burqa or chador, removed the veil, happily kissed me quickly, put the veil back even quicker, covering her face again and went away with her daughter who, mesmerized, was looking at the doll in her arms and then at me, then waving goodbye. My father had ordered that doll especially for me, in a Sears' catalog, taking 3 months to arrive in Cape Town by ship and I just gave it away like that! And today, we shop on-line and the purchase arrives in 2/3 days, anywhere around the world! Incredible changes.
We went back to the ship and continued our cruise, crossing the Sinai up to Port Said, then, crossing the Mediterranean Sea and the Ionian Sea all the way up to the boot of Italy and around Sicily up to Naples. I was seasick for one whole week, looking pale, green or purple, depending on the ship's motion, the ocean or the waves, throwing up and dizzy but I never missed meals or going to the pool with some Egyptians girls I made friends with on board. In Naples we got our car back and stayed there for some days. We went on an excursion to the Blue Grotto in the isle of Capri (it's really blue inside) and to the Lover's Arch. It was wonderful. Italians are happy, noisy people and I loved them but pizza in Italy is really, really horrible!
We traveled through Italy, France and Spain all the way up to the North of Spain, La Coruña. We stopped in Rome, in Florence, then in Pisa. We went up the "Leaning" Pisa Tower, it's totally leaning to one side and so I felt dizzy again. Then, Nice and Marseilles in France all the way across to Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valladolid to Vigo, in Spain, bordering North of Portugal. We were exhausted but happy to be "home" and start a new life. I don't remember much of Vigo because my father had asthma and could not bear the cold weather and the cold winds, he was sick all the time therefore, my mother did not put me in a boarding school! We were going to be transferred soon, to another country. I had a private tutor and I guess it was because of this that I learned how to speak perfect Spanish. I also learned how to dance flamenco, play the castañolas or castanuelas and went to the Plaza de Los Toros and saw a torada or bullfight. I felt sick to my stomach with the blood and violence! I never went to another again!
The Spanish are noisier than the Italians, nervous and joyful but sometimes rude to foreigners, just as the French are. It is said that many Americans lie when they go to France, they say that they are Canadians or Australians in order to be treated with some type of respect by the French. Yet, they don't care. They treat tourists in a nonchalant way and make their own rules. In Spain, it's different. They don't expect you to speak the language but to kind of blend into their culture.
We lived in Vigo for a year until my father's transference arrived from the Foreign Affairs Ministry or the Itamaraty, in Brazil. We were to go to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he would be the Consul General. I was happy because I would still continue speaking the same language but in a different country and with a different accent. Besides, Uruguay was in South America and close to Brazil, close to home. We left Spain before Xmas and spent a month in Rio de Janeiro, where we had an apartment, in Ipanema beach. We brought along with us from Spain a maid from the Flat Hotel we lived at in Vigo that became close to us and started working as a maid for my mother, a companion for me and an extra help for the family. Her name was Manolita. She lived with us for many years and was a loyal friend.
Montevideo is a lovely city, traditional and elegantly European like Buenos Aires, Argentina. We lived four wonderful years there. I studied in Institute Crandon and we lived in Punta Carreta Golf, an elegant neighborhood near the Golf Club. The people are sweet and kind but they are not very fond of their neighbors, especially Brazil. Why? Because in the past some of Uruguay's land belonged to Brazil and they wanted it back. They fought against Brazil and lost in the famous Batalha de las Piedras where they threw stones at the Brazilians, trying to protect their land but in the end, they lost. They never forgot about this, I guess. I was the only Brazilian student in the school. One day, in History class, the radical teacher that hated Brazilians told them about the Batalha de las Piedras and all of the students were looking at me with angry eyes and with resentment. I started to cry and left the classroom. Were the students going to throw stones at me now? I was 11 years old. I refused to go to school the next day... My father sent a formal complaint letter to the school from the Embassy. The school immediately fired the teacher, informed the parents and the students what had happened and that they would not permit this type of bias in the school. I was the most popular girl in school after that but never again had good grades in History and always had problems with any History teacher. This shows how influential a teacher can be in children's lives, forever.
My very first kiss was inside a closet in the kitchen of our big apartment in Punta Carreta given by Alexandre. He was tall and thin with blue eyes and short brown hair. We were playing hide and seek. He found me in the kitchen's closet and slowly went inside, closed the door and embraced me. His kiss was wet and warm, firm and insisting. He held me close to him in the darkness of the kitchen's closet that smelt coffee and sugar, condensed milk and cinnamon. I melted in his arms and felt something move between my legs. It was good and long, a feeling never ever felt before and so intense that it became wet and sticky down there. I had had some experiences in my bed with my pillow but never like that. Manolita suddenly opened the door, caught us red handed and we screamed. She pulled Alexandre out of the closet by his ears and sent him home. He was never welcome in our home again even though living in the same building. I thought I would die not seeing him again and often wondered if he felt the same tingling, deep, delicious feelings between his legs, like me. I never forgot that kiss in the dark; it was a warm, wet cinnamon kiss.
I tasted the wet taste of a kiss.
Manolita ruled and was 100% in charge of me since my mother started having migraines every other day. My father spent most of his free time with me and I accompanied him to parties, diplomatic cocktails and sometimes I went to the Consulate General building downtown Montevideo. At home, with him, I learned to love boxing; we watched together Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. or Mohamed Ali win his Olympic Gold Medal for boxing in 1960. We were his number one fans. I wouldn't mind all the punching and hitting and all the blood as long as my father was there with me...
After four years in Uruguay we returned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We spent a year in Rio de Janeiro, in our apartment in Prudente de Moraes Street, in Ipanema Beach, before my father was assigned to another diplomatic mission, as an Ambassador of Brazil, in Panama City, Panama, Central America. I was starting to like and accept these changes especially because of the Spanish language, the new friends, and a new, different life. We arrived in Panama City on a holiday.
My mother and I never imagined that we would be leaving in exactly two years, on that same holiday that we arrived in Panama City, without him...