Brazilians are friendly people and helped us adjust to their culture and lifestyle. I discovered that most families had at least one maid to assist them with household tasks. Since I didn’t particularly relish doing our laundry by hand on a scrub board in cold water, we hired a woman to do our laundry for $7/month. Then when I realized that we both needed to teach classes to bring in some money, we hired another person to help with childcare and cleaning our apartment.
With our new Brazilian acquaintances as references, we found Theresa who eventually moved into our one bedroom apartment into a small lean-to off our patio. She was a devout Seventh-Day Adventist. Although illiterate, she would faithfully thumb through her bible each evening. Watching the two youngest during the mornings while my husband and I taught classes and our oldest son was off to kindergarten, Theresa called them “meu filhos” or in English “my sons.” Under her loving care, our little guys enjoyed going outside to the nearby park to see the iguanas. They played together in our small apartment and learned to speak Portuguese from interacting with her.
Our oldest son was enrolled at the nearby Pan American School in the mornings where classes were taught in English. I taught macramé and children’s dance to pay for his tuition. From playing with his classmates, he too quickly picked up Portuguese. Our daily routine began with a trip to the bakery for hot bread, then a simple breakfast of reconstituted powdered milk (which was quite tasty), and wonderful tropical fruits: mangos, pineapples, and papayas which were readily available at open air markets. How fun it was to buy a stock of small green bananas to take home and eat as they ripened. One tasty dish we all loved was mashed avocados with sugar and lemon juice.
Without any modern supermarkets nearby, cooking was a real chore. Meat was not refrigerated, and there was no hamburger. Fish was expensive and only chicken was available for a reasonable price. Our maid didn’t want to cook, so I was “it.” Having another person working at your side most of the time I found was a real adjustment, and trying to communicate with her in Portuguese was a daunting challenge. Theresa loved to tell visitors in Portuguese that the “senora nao fala (doesn’t speak) portugués,” but I did understand that much.