Wednesday, July 28, 2010
So, making friends in Brazil. You've heard the rumours. Brazilians are so so nice and so so friendly. It should be a cinch to make friends then, right? Not wrong, but not totally right. In my experience with trying to make friends with Brazilians, I've sort of come up feeling shortchanged. The conversations can be alright, especially if they speak a little English. It usually turns into an amusing attempt at conversation with both sides making multiple errors and ultimately bonding over the fact that you are both making a fool of yourself in the other's language.
On the other hand, when you do speak Portuguese, and the person you're speaking with is relatively open-minded, they are pretty good to try and make you feel comfortable, translating occasional words into English (albeit you already know those words, but it's the thought, right?)
I had been getting a little bit tired of this though. Friendships are never really truly developed. Deep, meaningful conversations are never truly had. There are too many pauses, stumbles, stutters... (for now at least).
And another challenge for me has been the whole 'I live on the other side of the planet' thing. I live in a neighborhood on the far west end of Rio. I mean far. You think Barra da Tijuca is far? I live past Barra.... It really is the same experience that any of you living in a small town (or Niteroi) have. You are surrounded by Brazilians who have lived there their whole lives. Their families live there (both sides if they're married). Their friends live there. Cliques are made and although I've been invited out by my lovely SIL to join in, it never really evolves beyond that.
So I decided as of late that I need to get me some friends the good old fashioned way. Just totally interrupting whatever they're doing and pushing my way in!
I probably should point out that I can only do this when I hear people speaking English and I can only find English people in Zona Sul. On the subway, looking at a map on the street, in a bar...There's nothing that brings people together more than going up to someone speaking English in a bar full of Brazilians with your best 'Night at the Roxbury' opening... "you? me? you? me? you? me?"
I went to the only 'Irish Pub' in Rio last night (Shenanigans) looking for some friends. The second I heard them (there were only 3) walk by me I practically ran out to the balcony after them. (Another 'keep in mind', I had arrived at 6 for happy hour, it was now 9:30 and I was already 3 1/2 pints in - Oh yes, I was alone in a bar. Big deal, wanna fight about it?)
At least you know you always have a good opening line when approaching other foreigners. Especially when your goal truly is to make friends and not to pick up. (This makes it substantially harder, I might add!)
But it's like winning a game when you are well received by your chosen victims and they respond well to your methods, which are rather unconventional. I sound like a goddamn vampire/molester. English teacher by day, Vampire Molester by night. That is, a vampire who molests people, I don't molest vampires.... what are you, sick??
Anyway, my friendship attack went pretty well - we exchanged emails and talked about meeting up again sometime. It can definitely be tricky to make friends with the opposite sex. I try to keep things reeeeeally casual and name drop my husband a lot. Not in an annoying 'Just so you know I have a HUSBAND' way but in a protective 'Back off! Get your own sandwich!" kind of way...
See this Canadian commercial to know what I'm referencing here...
Friends are working their way into my life. I would love to make good friends with some Brazilians here but I just have to keep working on the Portuguese bit by bit. If I were to make this blog into a 'tip' blog, my #1 tip for people moving to Brazil (or any foreign country for that matter) is:
1. BACK OFF! GET YOUR OWN SANDWICH!
and my #2 tip is
2. LEARN HOW TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE!! YOU'RE A FOOL IF YOU DON'T!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Let's start with Thursday. Ro took the bus out to Botofogo to meet me after work so we could have a few chopp's and then catch an Anima Mundi film. The festival is playing animation films from all over the world. The set we went to see included two films from Canada, two from Brazil, an American, a Japanese a... Danish? British? I'm not remembering very well anymore. Anyway! We saw a bunch of different short animations which were all very... interesting.
Actually the whole thing really made me question whether or not I really enjoyed the films themselves or just the concept of going to the festival. I did LOVE the idea of going there... being amongst the artsy society of Rio, the bohemians, the creatives. But the films themselves were a bit out there - even for me, and I'm pretty open minded to the weirdest shit.
Y'know when you look at a painting that everyone has titled 'a masterpiece'... it's like a huge black circle with red streaks of paint all across it with one, single, tiny yellow dot in the middle that is supposed to represent something? And you are thinking to yourself "I don't get it." That's kind of how I felt with some of these films. One was about a man who hated to waste anything, who suddenly discovers a tree growing out of his head. In the end people start going to this tree as it blooms and having fun, partying, drinking, and end up leaving tons of garbage on his head. He gets so angry that he rips the tree out of his head in a giant rage. Then he has a big hole in his head which turns into a lake and the same people come back to go swimming and littering some more.
So umm.... I don't get it. I mean I get it. I get the symbolism. I also get that sometimes you aren't meant to get it. It's the creator's art and it's for them to understand sometimes.
Anyway, I DID love drinking chopps on a Thursday with my husband in Botofogo and going to the film festival after. Sometimes the idea of it is all you need.
Friday we went to see the Christ for the first time since I've arrived in Rio! IT was a beautiful day for siteseeing and the Christ was really impressive. Yep, that's all I have to say about that. Instead, here are some pictures.
SATURDAY, as you may have heard, I met up with Jim, Rachel and Greg for chopps in Copacabana. Guys, thanks for such an awesome afternoon. What I thought was especially great though - in addition to speaking at a normal speed with common expressions - was that BECAUSE we all live in Rio and therefore speak the same Brazilian slang, the conversation was also littered with these everyday Portuguese expressions we now use here in Brazil that are only REALLY understood by another foreigner living in Brazil. From the two kisses hello to the 'ti, ti, ti', to the 'opa' to the brushing off hand movements, to the mais tres chopps, and then mais quatro chopps (when Greg arrived) and, of course, finishing off with a nice saidera. This is what's nice about hanging out with other foreigners. We can talk 'foreigner' and we can also talk 'native'. Rachel, I don't know how you went to another party afterward. I definitely fell asleep on the bus on the way home.
Ladies and Gents, please schedule into your day planners the event on August 20-22 or 27-29. www.carnavaldasculturas.org, Rio's annual multicultural event by the beach. I know it's far for some of you (very far for some) but it would be a GREAT weekend away and you know we will all make time for each other!
What a great weekend!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
There are many a stereotype in the world. Here are a few (as taken from this site:
Here we have the Canadian Stereotype:
American – arrogant; assertive; open-minded; materialistic; ambitious; progressive; efficient; straight-forward; alert; practical; US-centered world view; egoistic; anxious; fast food eaters; war mongers; God is with us!
British (UK) – drinkers; lousy food; stiff upper-lips; ultra-traditional; steady-on, old chaps; bulldog spirit; bad teeth and hygiene; rude; thin; smoke cigar or pipe; scruffy hair; “fitted” clothing; heavy binge drinkers; swear all day long; artistic; “fashionable”; deep thinkers; intelligent and articulate; boastful; anti-American; ride bikes; God save the Queen!
And just because I see some people in France are reading my blog (Sacrebleu! lol), here we have the French Stereotype:
French – good lovers; best cuisine in the world; chaotic; irresponsible; introverted; selfish; cultured; social “players”; do not like to work – prefer to strike; always surrender in war; don’t speak English; rude to tourists; anti-American; ungrateful; live in a bureaucratic Socialist system, totally dependent on the state; don’t use soap; arrogant and conceited; distant and difficult to meet; don’t respect religious freedom; snobs; God who?
Brazilians – body-centric; party animals; impulsive; incestuous; megalomaniac; most women are super-models, most men are gay or machos; always late; carnivals addicts; soccer and coffee lovers; criminals and robbers; lazy/manana attitude; bean and meat eaters; beach and sun-worshipers; bikini (called: dental floss here) inventors; active; inventive and constructive people; always trying to outwit government and regulations; impossibly favor-oriented; family- and community-oriented
The whole point of this post started because in the last two days (and of course on other days as well) I've heard some very negative stereotypes about Brazilians being spoken out loud. By Brazilians. It seems to me that Brazilians have a very negative stereotype of themselves and I really didn't understand where it came from. In Canada, at least, the impression Canadians have of Brazil is beautiful women, small bikinis, beaches, carnival, soccer. At least, that's all I really knew about before meeting a (real life!) Brazilian. Of course, it's a true stereotype but maybe it just perpetuates the Canadian stereotype that we're all so nice and open-minded, that we really wouldn't have a negative opinion about anyone anyway (except Americans of course!)!
Anyway, the only things I ever hear Brazilians saying about themselves is that they are lazy, hate working, and steal everyone's shit. Oh that, and they are all so friendly because they kiss hello (and North American's are cold because they don't). Getting off topic! Note to self: Don't turn this into a rant!
In the last two days I mean, I've heard 2 Brazilians talking about how Brazilians hate working and if they didn't have to work they wouldn't. And they were telling this to their BOSS! And the 3rd guy said that in Canada, the reason Canadian are able to carry our bikes on the front of busses (side story) is because no Brazilians live there! They say in Brazil, you would never be able to do this because someone would steal your bike.
I just wanted to get to the bottom of whether or not certain stereotypes exist cross-culturally and if these stereotypes are generally true or not.
What do you guys think of this stereotype? I personally have never even seen this type of behaviour in 'real' Brazilians. At least, no more than you see it in any other culture.
The point is, stereotypes exist because 'apparently' the majority of the population is like that. According to the website I acquired this info from though, it says that “National character stereotypes are not even exaggerations of real differences: They are fictions.”
I dunno though! You tell me - what do you think of your own stereotype? Is it true for a lot of people or totally off?
Monday, July 19, 2010
Anyway, I'm tearing up now because the fatties on Biggest Loser just got to call home and, well, y'know, sad sad tears sad.
Seriously though... this show is so sad sometimes :'(
I also cried while watching the Shakira video of Waka Waka Whatever (y'know, the World Cup song?) So I'm pretty sure I'm not a very reliable source of what is genuinely sad and what is not.
I had kind of a flip out moment on Friday night as well. I know it's a combo of my being sensitive but also of experiencing something that I have experienced more than a few times here in Brazil. This thing is Brazilian Rudeness/Lack of Social Skills.
It started out as an awesome night. Ro and I going on a date to Outback (where he works), drinkin' some beer, eating some junk food. Always a good time. What I maybe wasn't expecting was the constant line of people coming up to the table to talk to us. It's cool. There are some people there that I've met that I like. They are friendly. They talk to me and include me in the conversation. I try really hard to pay attention, understand and contribute.
But there were also some people who were not these things. One girl came up just because she heard I was there and she wanted to look at me. The only problem was I was not in the mood to be looked at. In that way. That way where I am foreign and different and she doesn't want to 'know' me, she wants to look at me.
Another friend came up and had several lengthy conversations with Ro while completely ignoring me. In that way where you talk to one person directly and don't even glance in the other person's direction.
Another guy came up to us, said hi to Ro, shook his hand, said hi to the waiter friend serving us, patted him on the back, and didn't even look my way for a second before leaving! Totally snubbed!
I just don't get this. After the third time, even Ro's nice waiter friend commented on it. "Some people just don't have good social skills". Ro said "I think it's a cultural thing." Cultural thing? Try really rude thing.
I don't think it is a cultural thing because not everyone is like that here in Brazil. But this specific situation has happened to me on more than one occasion and it makes me feel so invisible and unimportant. Not to mention it's just f'ing RUDE. It really just widens the gap I feel here with making friends with Brazilians.
*I have to repeat though that IT'S NOT LIKE THIS WITH EVERYONE. In fact, I've met some really really awesome Brazilians who I think I can consider my friends.*
Maybe if this situation happened in another weeks time, I would be able to just brush it off but on Friday it just hit me like toothache. Annoying, painful and... toothy?? Terrible simile. Whatever! It hurt my feelings a lot. I just felt like such an outsider. Anyway.
Lookin forward to our bloggy date this weekend! I want to see you all!!! Even (especially) you guys who have to travel far distances. Plleeeeeeeeeease come!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Last night I hung out with a friend that I met randomly in Outback Steakhouse. Funny story. She heard me speaking English. She made the first move. I'm so glad she did because at the point I'd been here for only 2 months and wasn't feeling
It was a great evening of English speaking, eating, drinking and good company. I miss speaking English so badly. What I really miss though, is something I haven't even had until now. I miss speaking English with another foreigner who understands what I'm going through. Is it any wonder that I rely on our blog network to share/discuss information about the goods, the bads and the uglies? I don't have any other social network that lets me vent and observe in the same way. That, of course, is part of the sacrifice of living in the suburbs of the city.
I've started to realize that if I really want some friends I've got to just go for it. Just be honest. I'm starting to just say it. I'm telling my students. Guys, I got no friends and ps. don't speak English like that. I'll travel distances.
Do you guys want to come to Rio for a weekend in August? There is a big multicultural event happening over 2 weekends and I figure, what better time than that to come together. The dates are 20-22 and 27-29 of August. I'll get more details and post!
Monday, July 12, 2010
1. As soon as you get home you realize that your dogs 'diaper' has
2. You are trying to cook very quickly and your cat continues to jump onto the counter and lick your food behind your back.
3. As you finally sit down to enjoy your dinner, a BAT suddenly flies in through the living room and flies frantically around the ceiling before diving down and scuttling along the floor. This sets your cat off like CRAZY who starts chasing after the scuttling bat who is clearly TERRIFIED and is running further and further into the house.
You start doing that cry/whine/freaking out sound like "nooooo-o-o-oh-oh-oh-oh!!!!!!!! oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god whaddo ido whaddoido!!???" Then you tap into your spidey sense and have a moment of clarity. A bowl and plate! Yes. You go get said bowl and plate and upon returning discover bat and cat are nowhere to be found. oh god oh god oh god oh god.
You tiptoe your way into your mother-in-law's bathroom where you find that your cat has cornered the helpless little bat behind the toilet. Armed with plate and bowl you help the bat (which definitely looks like a mouse with wings) into safety, walk onto the veranda with your heart pounding, and set the bat free!
4. As you are walking back inside, patting yourself on the back, you discover a small pool of vomit because someone (probably that cat) PUKED everywhere. For crap's sake!
I just wanted a nice relaxing evening at home!!!
But he goes to work sometimes (!) and sometimes I just wish I could invite a girlfriend over to have drinks with or watch movies with or to go out with. Someone who can just hang out with me all night and eat junk food and gossip with me.
Having close friendships (even just one or two - I'm more of a quality over quantity person myself) are what I miss the most about Canada. It's also probably the worst thing about my job. Both of the main offices at my school are in Centro and I travel to my students' place of business to teach their classes. This means I don't often come into contact with my coworkers. In fact, I don't know any of the other teachers (minus maybe one or two who I've met) and I don't know any native speakers here. Sure, I've met quite a few Brazilians but nobody who I've been able to develop a friendship with (aside from my husband's amazing friends, but nobody lives close enough to just 'come over' for the night).
I miss the companionship of people who speak my language though. People who just understand what things are like across the border(s). I know some of you out there have gone through a similar situation to my own. Any advice on how to meet people?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
He has a fresh can of beer in hand. Now, I realize it's legal to drink in public here in Brazil but it still shocks me to see people actually taking the country up on this offer. Especially in places that you really don't need to be drinking. Like the bus.
So he is trying to get through the gate and the lady (who is one of the horrible customer service people we are all talking about in Danielle's blog!) is taking her sweet time, not even looking up at the guy. So he starts pushing against the gate, pushing and pushing and pushing in a real rocking "drunk in public" sort of way. She finally gets the hint and lets him through (still not even looking at him - shocking I know). He
I'm watching him, just plain interested in this guy who obviously hasn't a care in the world. Watching as he chugs his beer. Watching as he starts prying the tab of the can off. Watching as he successfully removes the tab. Watching as he takes the tab, opens his mouth, and sticks it all the way down the back of his throat. Wait... wait a minute. WHAT did he just do??????? Did he just eat that beer can tab?? Oh yes, my friends. Yes he did.
Okkkk... so now y'know, it's just weird and neurotic. My actual first thought was WTF? My second thought was "good luck pooping that out!"
So the bus starts to get a little more crowded. Then a little more and a little more until I can't see him anymore. THEN I smell the distinct smell of tobacco. I'm like, whoa... did someone JUST have a smoke and hop on the bus? Then, I hear people start shouting "hey hey put it out!!!"
It's our old friend, the Beer Tab-Eating Guy, lighting up a cigarette ON THE BUS. What????? You just thought, "Well, I'm done my beer! Now it's time for my smoke! Dum di dum!"
People are getting pretttttty agitated by this point. Everyone is shouting at the guy and calling him names "Seu viado..." I start looking around to see if anyone is going to do anything! Like a staff member... y'know... someone with some authority? But low and behold... who is just sitting on her fat butt looking at her nails, either not smelling the smoke or just not caring (probably the latter...)?
Our other old friend, the Stupid Bus Lady.
Just another day in Rio!
Monday, July 5, 2010
Pretty darn delicious! Looks a bit like an orange tomato and tastes a bit like an orange tomato! Okay, more like a really sweet tomato. I didn't really know what to do with it so I just cut it in 4's and started to gnaw away at the insides. I guess it was right.
Try a persimmon today if you haven't! I'm not kiddin'... go buy one and eat it now!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
As someone who has been on the favela tour, I have to comment that there are definitely tour groups who have good intentions, and give back to the community. There are so called "good favela tours". On the tour that we went on, we were given some really useful and informed information about life in the favelas, most of which broke down negative rumours and stereotypes that favelas are crime ridden, poverty stricken, slums. The woman who led the tour was really passionate about setting us straight on what the favelas are all about.
The people are poor but they're not miserable, was more or less the theme of the tour.
On that note, the proceeds from the tour went towards funding a community elementary school (which we did go to visit and meet the teachers and students in this school).
Obviously, I too felt a bit timid going on the tour. I didn't want to be the ignorant tourist going to gawk and stare because the reality is I have a huge interest in life inside the favelas. They are such a huge part of the culture and community of Rio. You can't turn a corner without seeing a huge favela community spiraling up a mountain. We were so privileged to be allowed in. And I was so grateful and surprised at how friendly and accepting the community was of us entering. Everyone we passed said hello, smiled, said bom dia...
Yes, the favelas are run by drug dealers. Another reality. But as far as crime ridden? The only rule inside the favela is 'don't shit where you live'. They don't want the cops coming there. Of course, drug dealing is sort of an invitation for crime but at least you know the intentions are there!
Anyway, I was really impressed with how respectful and informative the favela tour was that I went on. I will post the name of it shortly because I can't remember right now. The only advice I can give if you are thinking about going on a favela tour is to do your research before. Do your research before you take a tour and make sure you're joining an ethical one.
Here are a few pics from the tour we went on in April...
Friday, July 2, 2010
I've been crying and complaining inside (and out loud to my husband) for so long about the lack of Indian or Thai food here. It hurts me how long it's been since I ate a delicious chicken tikka masala.
The problem, however, (as most of you have already blogged about) is also in the availability of ingredients. The ONLY indian spices I have found here (in the most giant of supermarkets) are saphron, cumin and curry. No turmeric, the most important ingredient :( And you can forget about garam masala.
I did succeed in making a coconut chicken curry last night with fresh roma tomatoes, coconut milk (soooooo good here) and curry powder. Hot damn was it good. It was almost like the real thing.
What is awesome is that in having to improvise with the lack of ingredients, we all become much better cooks as a result because we really need to get creative with substitutions! Did you know that instead of using baking soda (which doesn't exist in Brazil) you can x3 the baking powder for the exact same effect? Meaning recipe calls for 1 tsp of baking soda so you just add 3 tsp of baking powder. Voila.
Of course, some things you just can't substitute and I know you're all having enormous saudades for this one. Cheddar Cheese. Not neon orange imitation cheddar. I'm taking real Canadian/American cheddar. Or marble. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm marble! Cheese in general suffers a little here. I used to live on feta and cheddar so I'm outta luck. I'm starting to appreciate queijo minas though (tastes great when cooked)!
I'd love for us bloggy people to have a giant potluck of our favourite comfort foods. I think it would be a really interesting spread. :)
I got on the wrong bus. This time it CLEARLY said 179Recreio on the side of the bus. I was exhausted after an already 2+ hour ride home from Centro and failed to check the front of the bus to see if the signs matched.
Long story short, they didn't. (*Side note: Apparantly the stupid signs have to match. It could say 179Recreio on the side but if it says 179Central on the front, it's going there. Please see this post on why I hate busses in Rio)
Me being tired and trying to fight for an inch of space, I didn't pay attention (not that I could see anyway) to where we were going until about 20 minutes in when I noticed we were going through a tunnel. There are no tunnels on the way to Recreio. Then we passed through a toll. There are no tolls on the way to Recreio. I had already whipped my phone out to cry to Ro that I did it again.
I got off at the first stop after the highway ended which happend to be a pretty scary looking favela town! Luckily, Ro came to my rescue. Good thing too because if I had stayed any longer I would have surely been robbed. Sigh! Frustration.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Something that bugs the HELL out of me is Brazilians telling me how EASY English is and how SO VERY HARD Portuguese is.
This is what you're saying to me (in essence) when you tell me this.
"I have mastered the language that you are struggling to speak and will always struggle to speak while I could easily pick up your language (if I wanted to but I don't)."
What really kills me? Is that the people who say this to me DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH. They actually have horrible English speaking skills. People who do know how to speak English (at least are learning and are perhaps at the same level or higher than my Portuguese level) NEVER say ignorant things like this. Why? BECAUSE ENGLISH IS NOT EASY EITHER PEOPLE!
Learning ANY language is not easy. If you're going to make empty claims like that (that aren't just ignorant statements that you have heard other people saying all of your life and so now that opinion has just emalgamated itself into your collection of other people's opinions posing as your own) AT LEAST have some good knowledge of the language you claim is such a cinch to back it up.
Now, if we are going to compare apples to oranges, I will agree that Portuguese is a much more complicated language verb-wise. It is a very verb heavy language with many tenses meaning very different, very specific things. Sometimes ad naseum. Let's be honest. I'm keepin it real with about 5 of the 1000 tenses available. I only say "eu vou something something" to talk about the simple future. I don't know always when to say when someone "e bonita, esta bonita, or fica bonita" (especially the fica one). I only use simple past or some other kind of past which means you used to do something. (I don't even know the names of the tenses I'm using!) But I am learning to speak the way people speak here, and that is the lazy way. The way - newsflash - EVERYONE SPEAKS their own language.
We're all learning conversation here.
But try to talk to the average Portuguese speaker in English and see if they can master even one English preposition. Or understand how to use the infinitive form of the verb after using the first verb. Little things like this - 'EASY' things like these - many Brazilians cannot master. Because, Goddamn it, they are not easy.
And so. It drives me out of my MIND when some cocky Brazilian, thinking they are so smart because they are speaking the language they have deemed SO MUCH HARDER than English, asks me "You like eat?" and "I want very learn speak ingles" after telling me how difficult Portuguese is.
Get real people! I dare you to travel to Canada or US and live amongst the easiest language to speak. I will not wipe your tears when you get back!
Holla back if ya feel me!