Recently, my sister lost her beloved beagle. On fb I noticed a “Thank you, Manoel” in the comments and knew right away, with that particular spelling, our one and only Manoel had sent his condolences.
I learned this phrase in the title from him, a Brazilian foreign exchange student, who lived with our family for a year many years ago. It’s a singular phrase unique to Portuguese and it translates as “many longings.” Languages have words and phrases that just can’t be easily translated from one language to another and this is one, I think.
“Do you miss Brazil and your family?” I asked him.
“Eu tenho muitas saudades do Brasil,” came his response.
“Saudades? What is that?”
“You don’t have that word in English. Yes, I miss my family. I miss my mother, sister, brother and parents. I miss carnaval. I love being here, but sometimes I get this longing to be back home.”
“Everything here has a schedule. We don’t program everything in Brasil.” He used the word “program” rather than “schedule” a lot.
Then I understood.
I remember the number of times a shout would go through the house, “Manoel, it’s time to go.” For him it was an endless series of “Time to go.” Time to go to school. Time to go to soccer practice. Time to go to rehearsal. I would hear him answer back “I’m going.” In Portuguese and Spanish, one says “Yo voy” (I’m going.) for “I’m coming.” How I instinctively wanted to say “No, don’t go, come.” How many times I had to explain, you say, “I’m coming not going.” Then he would smile broadly and I thought he had it.
He played soccer much to the soccer coach’s delight. He became a star within a week of playing…he was the star.
And talking about stars, he auditioned for the school musical “Hello Dolly” and got a part in the chorus. How we laughed to hear him rehearse ♪Hello Jolly♪ “D, dddolly– Manoel, put your tongue behind your top teeth.”
He told me how his mother ironed his sheets. He told me about special recipes she prepared. The American-Brazilian contrast was great…no, neither my mother nor I ironed sheets. And well, let’s say we had a stock of simple casseroles and TV dinners in the freezer to get us through the week ready to be heated up at whatever time.
At the time I was in graduate school and so was my mother. I was working toward a master’s degree and my mother on her doctorate. My younger sister was a senior in high school and Dad was still working at the space flight center. We were busy. My two brothers were working on their respective degrees. My mother and dad were used to having four kids 24/7 and I think with my brothers gone, they thought the timing was right to host a foreign exchange student. Manoel loved it when his two American brothers came home for a visit. I still smile at the thought of him calling my brother Robert, “Hobert” almost like “hobbit”. The “R” in Portuguese sounds like an “H”…no r trilling in Portuguese.
We had a good, active year together and we loved having him. In fact, we all fell in love with him and he with us. Since that time he has visited us in TX recalling the wonderful year of memories we forged. His own brother who came to study at Georgetown came to visit us too. We think of him…them…often and are grateful for fb that has kept us connected.