A few weeks ago I went back to the Serviço Social Nova Jerusalem (hereafter referred to as SSNJ) with Gamamae to deliver some donations. Since Gamamae has a Master’s of Social Work, is staying for another year, and speaks English and Portuguese fluently, I think she is the perfect person to whom to pass this little baton of volunteerism. Zeze gave us the tour and showed off all the painting the mission group from Michigan had done. The church in Michigan also gave a healthy donation to the church, which in turn lent (or gave) the money to the SSNJ to tide it over until April. So, for the time being, they are almost out of the hole.
While we were there, for entertainment, the 3 and 4 year olds were having fun cooling off by way of a teacher spraying them with a water hose. Stripped down to their underwear, the had gone out onto the patio for a spritz. When it was time to go back inside, they lined up single file and followed the teacher, a level of order and progress* that adults cannot attain, especially in airports. One of the little boys had an enormous, deep burn scar webbing across the whole of his right shoulder and part of his tummy. That he had survived and had any mobility in that arm was a miracle. Gamamae and I had the same sick thought that perhaps he had been abused but Zeze later told me she thought he’d been the victim of a gas explosion down in the favela. I am hoping Gamamae will write in with her impressions of the SSNJ. For sure, it needs some playground equipment and plants, something green. And milk, they still need milk.
Which brings me to my next subject, palm trees. About a year ago, Louise’s old house, up the street from mine, was knocked down. The yard was leveled. A new pool was dug. In my humble opinion, there is nothing charming about the house – it is utterly sem graça. I would have added a second story to see over the privacy hedge into the beautiful valley. An entire side of the house has no windows and I do not know what is up with those fake window/niche things. The owners have sunk about 20 mature palm trees, 12 smaller, younger trees around the edge of the pool and 8 large mature palms in front. A crane is needed to sink a palm tree into the ground. Constanza, the contractor and mother of children who are in the same school as my kids, told me that the owner trucked the big palm trees in from another property of his so he only had to pay for the transportation and installation; she did not know how much this cost since she was not involved in the landscaping.
I wrote the above a few weeks ago and have been meaning to stop to take the photos. I did so on Thursday morning of this week. There were no construction workers there and I had my camera in my purse so I stopped. A man was sitting on wall outside the house. I asked him if I could take some photos of the palm trees. He said yes and we had a conversation about palm trees. It turns out that Adinilton is the palmeira, literally the person who takes care of the palm trees. This is his sole job, to water the trees and make sure they flourish. He told me it cost about $2,500 USD per tree for installation/transportation. The smaller palms each cost around $1,000 USD for the tree itself. Adinilton went on to say that few people look up at the palm trees God has given us to observe and appreciate, to take care of. He said a lot of other profound things that I can’t remember, mainly because I was surprised to be having this conversation. I should have taken notes. He also said that the owners of the new house were wonderful people, excellente. I left with the impression that Adinilton loves his job. To be honest, I had thought that the money could have been better spent on a palm tree for SSNJ but Adinilton did not seem to feel this way. It was just fine with him that these people had the palm trees; I got the impression that to him, spending money on palm trees was like Mary anointing Jesus’s feet with costly perfume.
While I was writing this I got a call from Zeze. I had been thinking about what it costs to green up a favela and the price of not doing so. She has been working on a plan to sponsor the other 400 children of the favela who are not sponsored by Compassion International. I am going to see if Toucan Tom, Missionary Girl’s hairy legged husband, can help them out with this, along with a few other expat princesses such as Katpat and Gamamae. Toucan Tom’s church in Maryland recently sponsored 450 children in Africa so I think this is right up his alley. Asking for a palm tree and a glass of milk is not too much, is it?
P.S. Happy Birthday to Louise, who lived in the house above and who saved my bacon 5 years ago.