Luciano is here!
Luciano arrived Thursday at SeaTac airport after his first-ever plane flight. In my effort to be helpful I told the agents at Delta that he might need some assistance because he didn’t speak English and was a double-arm amputee. I was concerned mostly that his plane-change in Atlanta and the walk through customs go smoothly. I met him at the exit area of the gate – he was being escorted in a wheelchair … apparently most people requesting “special assistance” receive this courtesy. I think he was embarrassed. I later learned that someone on the plane tried to feed him, thinking he couldn’t do that himself. I’m glad he had a good laugh over it and didn’t start his trip off thinking Americans are helpful, but presumptuous and maybe a little dumb. (Wait a minute… we are all of those things…)
After spending three days with him, let me tell you, he needs very little “special assistance”. My teenage sons can learn a lesson from him. His bed is made every morning without a wrinkle anywhere. His things are tidy, he buses his dishes and offers to wash them each time. (”Thanks, but I got it. In America we are lazy – I just put them in the dishwasher – you have about 20 plates to choose from each day.” UGH, overabundance is another American trait.) Before his arrival the question I was most asked was, “How does he eat?” I didn’t know. I had only trained jiu-jitsu with him in Brazil. Well, he eats with a fork; not exactly like you and I, but neatly and efficiently. His left arm is able to bend a little at the elbow and that afforded angle is the key to most things. He uses a toothbrush, carries all of his own things and takes pictures with his new tablet (courtesy of Professor Foster). He holds the tablet with is arms and pushes the button with his chin. His shoulders are also incredibly flexible. He can write and is a maniac for a computer keyboard. Most of his downtime is spent on “Faceebookee” where he keeps his family and friends up to date on his trip. He’s amazing and I feel blessed to be learning from him.
We trained the first day he arrived. He proudly wore his new Hyperfly gi. Debbie Foster – seamstress extraordinaire – had altered the sleeves for him and put on patches. (I was off a little on one sleeve length, which by IBJJF rules must be a “finished seam” and no less than 5 cm from the [wrist]. More sewing gratitude to Sam Geist for shortening the sleeve and adding his team patches.) After I introduced him to Coach Foster, Luciano bowed onto the mat and introduced himself to every team member there. He joined right in; A fine example that BJJ is for everyone and we are all one on the mat. He needs someone to tie his belt for him, but other than that, his game is incredible and he trains “duro” (hard) – preparing himself for Worlds. *Side note – today I told him he could train for five hours if he wanted to and his grin went from ear to ear.
Yesterday we did not train, but we got a lot of exercise walking the hills and stairs of the Seattle Waterfront. We went on the new Big Wheel. It was a gorgeous day and we could see the Olympic peninsula, Space Needle, ferries, barges and sailboats. At one time I thought I lost him when I was waiting in line for the Big Wheel tickets and I told him to go look around. I’d gotten the tickets and he still hadn’t returned. I wandered a bit looking for him, but then used the good Scout rule of staying put when you (or someone else in your party) is lost. Eventually he returned with photos of himself with a variety of Seattleites; people in Mariners shirts and SeaHawks jerseys, himself by the carousel and with street performers. Good job Seattle!! Way to welcome a visitor. I was proud of my city. That morning he and I met my Portuguese tutor so that he could speak freely and I’d learned that one thing he was shocked by was how everyone just left their stuff around, doors unlocked and women put their purses on the ground. We were in a Starbucks and a gentleman near us got up and left his laptop on his chair to go outside and make a phone call; both Hellem and I plopped our purses on the floor when we sat down. I was scolded many times in Rio for my naiveté. But, we were in suburban Maple Valley. I know downtown Seattle is not Maple Valley, but neither is Rio de Janeiro.
Thank you to all who helped make his trip possible. I did not do this alone. A “thank you” list will be up soon. Tomorrow he will fly to Irvine to stay with Master Giva Santana and his wife Erica. He will train and prepare for the tournament. I arrive Wednesday and he competes on Thursday. I will keep you posted.
Obrigada e vai com Deus.