Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Discussions of Daffodils

Hello everyone!

I have to admit that a certain irony lies in the fact that my first blog post for Two Brothers is also my last. At the same time, after three months here, I can more clearly articulate the indelible impression that Rocinha has left on me. While I have taught the kid's class for the last three months, Katie (a volunteer from Australia who recently returned to Brazil to continue volunteering with 2bros) asked me to teach her advanced adult class for one night, and I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on how that class and our discussion resonated with my experience here in Brazil.

"I wandered lonely as a cloud" by William Wordsworth

After a brief discussion of prefixes and suffixes, I passed out copies of Wordsworth's famous poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud."
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.  
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.  
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:  
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Because there were four of us sitting around the table, we each read one stanza of the poem (after I explained what a "stanza" was, of course). Then, we took the next 30 minutes or so to go through the poem line by line, discussing new words and confusing phrases. Very quickly, their photocopies of the poem became covered with notes and explanations: the difference between "shine" and "sparkle," what a daffodil looks like, the antiquated definition of "gay," etc.... Once we were all on the same page about the surface meaning of the poem, I began a conversation about the poem's actually meaning. For example, What are the different images that Wordsworth gives us of the daffodils? What is the crucial shift between the first three stanzas and the final stanza?  Finally, we arrived at the ultimate question to understanding this poem; what does Wordsworth mean by "They flash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude"?

At the heart of Wordsworth's poem lies a reflection on the power of memory. The shift in verb tense from the past to the present between the third and fourth stanza draws our attention to his memory recounted in the first three stanzas. The vivid description of the daffodils stretched along the bay, "dancing in the breeze," captures the clarity of memory and memory's incredible ability to transport us to a previous time and place. Of course, the next questions were "What is one memory that has this power for you? What memory affords you the 'bliss of solitude'"? The face of the woman to my right immediately lit up as she described the first time she saw her daughter; for one of the men, the memory of being accepted to university brought a glowing smile to his face.

Reflections on my time in Brazil

For me, the past three months have flown by in a blur of life-changing experiences, and I cannot believe that I will be on an airplane in less than two days. From listening to Vanessa de Mata and Caetano Veloso perform on Ipanema at sunset to watching the sunrise from the top of Rocinha, my summer has been a whirl of incredible beaches and breath-taking scenery. Like Wordsworth who "could not but be gay, in such a jocund company," I cannot help but smile when I think about the view of Dois Irmãos from Ipanema or the waves continuously breaking on the white sand. That being said, Brazil does not hold a monopoly on beautiful beaches, and I have had the pleasure of experiencing stunning beaches from Hawaii to Australia. On the other, I have never experienced something quite like living in Rocinha. From the endless bustle of the streets to the welcoming people that I have met here, my time in Rocinha will resonate with me for the rest of my life. Ultimately, I will miss the incredible openness of Brazilian culture, and the willingness of cariocas to play international charades with me as I butcher the little Portuguese that I know. 

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read this post, and I encourage you to find a few moments of peace and solitude to reflect on the past. 

All the best,
Wesley C

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