The Return: Hey Canadian!
When I lived in Brazil, I had a varied group of friends, one of whom was Seu Leonildo, the elderly gentleman who manned the back entrance to my building. Seu Leonildo worked every second night from 7pm to 7am, opening and closing the garage door to the building every time someone came home or left. Prior to becoming the night doorman, he had worked for the building's property management company, in the accounting office. However, as pension plans in Brazil are notorious for being insufficient to allow a subsistence-based retirement, he took up his doorman duties post retirement in order to make ends meet and help his two daughters through their education. All-nighters are tough at any age. They are particularly tough when one has already reached an age when one should be at home enjoying a quiet life with one's family. In addition to having to work the graveyard shift, Seu Leonildo also had to commute back and forth to his home in Vitória de Santo Antão, a smallish city approximately 55km inland from Recife, a journey which took hours by bus each way.
Seu Leonildo was friendly with us right off the bat, a facilitating factor, I think was the fact that one of his daughter's names was also Karen. It was a instant conversation starting. Over the months, Seu Leonildo, along with some of the other doorman and women became my local confidants. They would tell me the news of the building and always keep a look out for me. They were some of the hardest to say goodbye to when I left. Old Leonildo, especially. The night before I left, he hugged me tight and hiccuped and sobbed his way through his goodbye. I was sure that he would pass out from a lack of oxygen. I wasn't sure if we would meet again.
Fast-forward to February 2009: The Return. In among the required and anticipated visits is a late night stop in at my old building. We call ahead to make sure that it is one of Seu Leonildo's nights and are surprised when one of the younger doormen is stationed at the backgate. He recognises me, smiles and we chat for a moment. He says that Leonildo now works the front door, a much better gig as far fewer people come in and out the front door than the back door. There is also a couch in the entrance lobby, but I'll leave it at that. We go around to the front, only to be greeted by a tearful Seu Leonildo who has been alerted by the backdoor guy. He lets us in and we hug and talk for ten minutes. He spends most of the time telling us that we must come visit him in Vitória and stay for one, two, three or even seven days with him and his family. Seeing that we are already more than half way through our twelve days in Recife, with a full schedule still ahead, we know that we cannot accept such an invitation. It is a important one though and we agree that we will go up for one day. We exchange phone numbers and promise to call and plan our trip inland....