Woody was participating in a worship service in an evangelical church when the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. “I had seen catastrophes like that on TV and my first reaction was to run out of there, with my brother coming behind,” he remembers. Afterwards the two hesitated between helping those who were inside and saving themselves, but it turned out that, at least there, there were no fatal victims. Afterwards, he continued on to his house, where everyone was well.
Following a conversation with his father, he decided to come to Rio de Janeiro, initially to live with a brother who was already living here. His father helped to secure him a peaceful journey on a commercial airplane, with layovers in Panama and in São Paulo. When he disembarked in Rio, his brother was waiting for him in the airport.
There was, however, an initial disappointment in that he was not able to continue his studies in Medicine. He ended up studying Biology in the Universidade Rural (Rural University), after spending a year studying Portuguese in the UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). “Since my brother was living with a Brazilian woman I had lots of opportunities to practice, and besides that, the Latin structure of Portuguese is similar to French, which I already spoke,” he explains.
For him, the welcome that he received from Brazilians when he arrived reinforced his confidence. “On the first day of class everyone came to hug me; they seemed to know that I had been through a lot of difficulties. And that is without mentioning that when I arrived I was received with a party at my brother’s house,” he remembers, smiling. Besides that, he is crazy about football, and it did not take long for him to notice that many similarities exist between Brazilian and Haitian culture.
Woody studied four terms of biology and tried to find in the curriculum some similarities with the medical studies that he so idealized. When he ended up running into problems with the program administration, he decided that it was time to do a one-eighty in his life, which incidentally had already passed through intense changes in the last few years .
The prospect of now moving to Foz do Iguaçu doesn’t make him nervous. Woody is going with a group of Haitian acquaintances, who he hopes will become his friends through their living together. Whether he returns to Haiti following the five-year program that he starts this year will depend on “the will of God,” and, possibly, on whatever girlfriend might appear in his life.
Text: Celina Côrtes