I am exhausted. I haven’t had more than two hours of sleep in the last twenty-four hours. My first day in Brazil was overwhelming. In Salvador, very few people speak English, so as someone who speaks very little Portuguese, I’ve had to whip out my dictionary quite often.
On the cab, our cab driver didn’t speak English, so in broken-Portuguese, I said “Ele vao o hotel _____ e nos vamos _____” We had a half-conversation about a song we liked on the radio, where we were from and our nationality…just basic conversation. The cab driver was very nice.
Then, we got to our home-base. There is no air conditioning, we have bunk-beds and we aren’t allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet, even when we sh*t. So, needless to say, I’m not feeling the home-base at all, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it two weeks. Call me a spoiled American, fine…but it is what it is.
I went to the store (loja) to try and get some stuff, I got a bag and some soap. I wanted to go to the beach (praia) but it was too late to go back to the home-base and get my bathing suit. I felt overwhelmed, what’s even more overwhelming is that people seem to assume that I am Brazilian, so they speak to me in fluent Portuguese and when I do not understand and I stare at them with a blank look on my face…I feel stupid.
When I went out to look at the beach with my roommate who is a blonde from the mid-west, all the vendors were approaching her trying to get her to buy things, but no one even asked me.
People come up to me and just start speaking in Portuguese and most of the time, I’m like WTF?? sometimes I can muster out some broken phrases, but it’s hardly anything.
The funny thing is, I actually LOVE that FOR ONCE, I blend right in with the population. I LOVE that for once when people see me, they don’t assume that I’m an outsider, but that I belong there. I’ve never felt that way before and if I could, I would keep it so that everyone assumed that I, as a Black person, belonged there.
But, as soon as I open my mouth or don’t open my mouth (stare blankly), it’s a dead giveaway that I am not one of their own, but a foreigner. I wish that I could speak Portuguese fluently, so that for once I could truly feel like I belong.
All my life, I’ve been an outsider in the United States, always the minority, always “the other,” it’s nice to be looked at and assumed to be “one of the clan,” for once. But, the drawback is people expect me to know the language…
But, so far I have mixed feelings about Salvador, I think it’s beautiful and the people seem warm, but at the same time the actual program that I am in, is not going as I thought that it would.
We’ll see how things go, I’m supposed to be teaching English to school kids on Monday…
I went to a Jazz concert at an Art Museum today, we met up with some Americans by chance.
Here is the funny thing, this white American woman came up to me and started speaking to me in Portuguese automatically and when I looked at her blankly like a fool and said “Americana,” then she laughed. It’s funny because even other Americans don’t know that I am American because I am one of the two Black people in the program. Most of the Blacks here are Brazilian.
But, after realizing that I was not Brazilian, but American, she helped us order some caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail. Also, it’s interesting that everywhere you look you can see mixed-looking Black people. I saw today, a black-looking mother and black-looking father with a little baby boy who had blonde, curly hair, tan skin and green eyes. You can see that people wear their admixture on their faces here.
Anyway, that was my first day in Brazil, very tired. TTYL