Right after the 9/11 attacks, the students at School #8 in Ceilândia made an American flag representing their feelings and sympathy toward Americans. It was a beautiful and moving gesture and several generations of Foreign Service Officers and Brazilian colleagues have kept the flag over the last ten years and kept the memory of how it was made and presented.
We reconnected today; this time we went to the school in Ceilândia where we met the new generations of school and a few of the original kids, now young adults. I admit that it was a good media event with great visuals. We got coverage on radio, TV & in newspapers. But I think it was also a good way to pay back, or maybe pay forward, friendship and sympathy expressed a decade ago at a time when we really needed friends.
The kids were very friendly and funny. They liked to hear us speaking English, even though they couldn’t understand it. Some asked what their names would be in “American,” but names don’t really change. One little girl very seriously promised that if we came back next year, she would speak to us in English. It was hard to understand their questions and I have to admit that I am not really very good at talking to little kids in any language, but I tried with limited success. When they asked me about my favorite team, I told them Corinthians, because that is the team that came quickest to mind. I found immediately out that their favorite team is Flamengo. Who knew? Flamengo is based in Rio de Janeiro. I also learned that the team recently signed a very good player called Ronaldinho Gaúcho & that Flamengo is not named after the birds with a similar name. You can learn a few things from little kids. Next time somebody asks me about my favorite team, I can say Flamengo and reference Ronaldinho. I will be okay as long as nobody asks any follow-up questions. I always wanted to know more about spectator sports, but I just don’t care. I am the opposite of most guys. I watch the news every night, but my attention drifts when the sports comes on. I think I will master a few more facts about football, however.
BTW – Ceilândia is one of Brasilia’s satellite cities. It grew up out of an informal occupation by people who worked in Brasilia but couldn’t afford homes there. Even the name of the city reflects this. The CEI comes from Centro de Erradicação de Invasões, which means center of eradication of invasions; in this case the term “invasions” refers to irregular occupations of land near the capital.
My colleagues did a very good job. The visit to School #8 in Ceilândia was the last event in our 9/11 campaign themed on resilience “Superação”. The webpage is here. Our social media got around 170,000 comments and probably around a million visitors. We also got good coverage on TV and in newspapers. My colleagues also made a good video to go with the visit in Ceilândia. We sponsored graffiti artists to paint a couple of walls at the school. You can see it being done on the video.
The pictures show the kids at the celebration. Below is a newspaper article reporting on the event. The last picture is an interesting juxtaposition of the Brazilian symbol of Christ that stands above Rio with the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t make it. It is a little corny, but the thought is nice.