When worlds col­lide

Brazil­ian stu­dent en­joys his time at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Seated at a con­fer­ence ta­ble at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts, Aquila Stan­ley Soares de Lira ap­pears to be count­ing on his fin­gers.

That’s not ac­tu­ally what he is do­ing.

Plac­ing his fin­gers on the light brown ta­ble, Stan­ley, as he is known around school, is spell­ing out the state where his Brazil­lian home­town of Itambe is found. He is work­ing out the English al­pha­bet in cor­re­la­tion with the Por­tuguese al­pha­bet in or­der to find the right let­ters.

He is speak­ing along with his ac­tions. ‘P’ goes with one fin­ger and ‘E’ with another un­til fi­nally he has com­pletely spelled the word Per­nam­buco, a state in the north­east cor­ner of Brazil.

For this re­porter, it is a lot eas­ier to spell Marys­vale, where Stan­ley has been stay­ing for the last few months with Max and Donna Bartlett. “They are awe­some,” he said. Since ar­riv­ing in New­found­land on Sept. 4, the ven­er­a­ble 16-year-old with a gi­ant smile has made a home for him­self amongst the stu­dent body at As­cen­sion and the com­mu­nity at large.

He’s done so with an open at­ti­tude and the will­ing­ness to put him­self out there.

“I said I was go­ing to speak with ev­ery­one,” said Stan­ley. “I was go­ing to do it my way and I have to have fun.”

His way is sim­ple. It in­volves that gi­ant smile and a hearty hand­shake. It is some­thing some aren’t used to in to­day’s world of fist pumps, high fives or the hand­shake that turns into a hug.

But, what can you ex­pect from a pas­tor’s son. His fa­ther, Al­cides Soares de Lira, is a Protes­tant pas­tor in Itambe.

Since ar­riv­ing at As­cen­sion, Stan­ley has im­mersed him­self in ath­let­ics and the mu­sic pro­gram, just to name a few.

Stan­ley was one of nine Brazil­ian ex­change stu­dents who im­mersed them­selves in stu­dent life at As­cen­sion.

“Ev­ery­thing is brand new to us,” said Stan­ley.

A long way from home

Look up trop­i­cal par­adise in the dic­tio­nary and one might find a pic­ture of Itambe. A short dis­tance from the prov­ince’s cap­i­tal of Re­cife, it is a vista full of trop­i­cal fauna and sun-kissed beaches.

Warm tem­per­a­tures are the norm and it is a far cry from what he has ex­pe­ri­enced liv­ing in Marys­vale. Un­for­tu­nately, spend­ing your time around beaches and flora does noth­ing to pre­pare you for the east­ern New­found­land win­ter.

When the weather started turn­ing at the be­gin­ning of fall, Stan­ley quickly re­al­ized the dif­fer­ence.

“I brought three sweaters with me,” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”

An out­stand­ing ath­lete on the volleyball court, Stan­ley flour­ished with the Astros. At the AAAA male tour­na­ment last year, the Brazil­ian helped the team cap­ture the team sports­man­ship award.

In ad­di­tion to that, Stan­ley cap­tured the Astros’ in­di­vid­ual sports­man­ship award.

“I was stand­ing in the line and they were se­lect­ing the name,” he said. “I was lis­ten­ing and then they said Stan­ley. I just smiled. Then they told me to go ac­cept the award … I was so happy.”

It was a spe­cial award for him. Stan­ley has big plans for it.

“It will be placed in a spe­cial place in my room,” he said. “I’ll look at it every­day.”

Stan­ley started play­ing beach volleyball when he was six-years-old. He learnt from his fa­ther and con­tin­ued to grow in the sport from there.

He fol­lows soc­cer, or foot­ball as it’s known in­ter­na­tion­ally, and calls what hap­pened to Brazil in the semi fi­nals of the 2014 World Cup “one of the worst things.”

“Ger­many scored five goals by half­time,” said Stan­ley of his coun­try’s team, which was also host­ing the tour­na­ment. “We’ve never seen any­thing like that.”

Upon ar­riv­ing in New­found­land, he no­ticed a cou­ple of dif­fer­ences be­tween ath­let­ics here and ath­let­ics in his home coun­try. There are no high school sports as it is found in North Amer­ica.

“Sports is more im­por­tant here,” said Stan­ley. “There is so much support, not like it is in Brazil. You go to the games and peo­ple say they’ll see you there. “It is re­ally in­ter­est­ing.” Stan­ley’s high school volleyball coach Ste­wart Ralph had noth­ing but good things to say about his young charge. He praised the young Brazil­ian for his tire­less work ethic, his spon­ge­like at­ti­tude when it came to the sport and his at­ti­tude with his team­mates.

“Two words – team chem­istry. I knew him as an ath­lete, but as a per­son, his per­son­al­ity com­pletely molded our team chem­istry,” said Ralph. “The boys are good fel­las, they get along to­gether, but Stan­ley so­lid­i­fied the team. No mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion, he was al­ways smil­ing, he’d come to the gym with a new story to tell.”

On road trips with the club, it was not un­usual for Stan­ley to make small talk with op­pos­ing play­ers and of­fi­cials. He was al­ways snap­ping pic­tures with them and com­ment­ing on their play style.

“Stan­ley is gen­uinely po­lite,” said Ralph. “He was not say­ing thank you be­cause some­one told him too, but he was say­ing thank you be­cause he gen­uinely ap­pre­ci­ated what you were do­ing.”

Pho­tos by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Aquila Stan­ley Soares de Lira poses for a pic­ture next to the Astros sign in the main lobby of As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts.

Aquila Stan­ley Soares de Lira.

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