Sorry that there haven't been any posts for a few days. We spent the weekend at Alexandre's parents' house, which didn't amount to much because Alexandre's mom was out of town, and I spent ALL of Saturday (read: 12 hours straight) finishing that godforsaken translating project. It was almost 2 days late, but whatever. I'm supposed to get paid for all that this week (which in BrazilTime means next week or the week after), and I won't have to do any more for a couple of weeks, so I guess that's good.
I've been on vacation from Main Job this week, so it's been pretty relaxing. I'm on my own time schedule for the materials prep part of the job, so I can sleep in (yay!).
Today, I went to get my hair cut-- my first one since I left, because I don't have Nancy Pants here to do it for me. :o( Most hair salons here are just the living rooms of people's houses/apartments, with a sign on the front of the apartment complex listing the services and a phone number. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable with this, because it required me either making (to make?) phone calls in Portuguese, or walking (to walk?) into mysterious apartment complexes and knocking on strangers' front doors. Some of Alexandre's girl friends recommended a place for me that's somewhere in between living room and full-fledged store. It's only 10 reais (about 6 bucks), but it was closed yesterday. So I went to the giant American-style shopping center to try my luck. There was a "fancy" salon inside-- very SuperCuts-esque. I inquired about the price of a cut. It was 45 reais, and all the hair stylists had ugly hair, so I said I'd come back and didn't. Pleh.
I was walking home, dejected, defeated, and missing Nancy, and about 90 seconds from home, on a street I don't normally take, I passed an open salon. It was someone's apartment living room, but her front door was open and I could see her cutting hair from the street. So I walked in and had to make an appointment for today-- 15 reais, I could live with that.
When I went in today, there was a little boy hanging out in the salon. The stylist explained to me that someone-- aunt maybe? I didn't catch who-- lived upstairs, in one of the other apartments, and he and his brother were here visiting on vacation. The little boy was super excited that I was American. He was asking me all kinds of questions, most of which I didn't understand until the stylist told him, "you have to speak slowly for her. She doesn't understand little boys." He asked me if I spoke English well. I told him that it was my family's language-- he speaks Portuguese with his family, I speak English. I asked him how old he was, and he held up 10 fingers. He asked if I liked Portuguese, because he thought that English and Spanish are much prettier than Portuguese. I told him that every language is pretty, including Portuguese. He asked if I had visited Rio de Janiero, because all the Americans go to Rio de Janiero. I asked what his favorite subjects were in school. He said PE, and then, after a pause, added, "and English." I think he was trying to suck up. He told me my hair was really pretty. He asked what school I went to. I told him I already finished school, and that now I'm a teacher. I asked him if he knew what his shirt said-- many Brazilians wear shirts that have English slogans that they don't understand, and it's a great conversation starter for me. I translated "Beach Inn" for him, and he was thoroughly pleased.
He asked if it was hard for me to live in Brazil after living in the US. I knew what he was getting at, because I have gotten this question from almost all of the kids I've talked to here, who believe that America is the promised land of theme parks, video games, and 2-story houses. I told him that Brazil and America are very similar, and that the only thing I miss about America is my friends and family (doing my best to destroy the inferiority complex, one kid at a time). Then his face lit up. "My brother speaks English very well!" he said in Portuguese. "Let me get him. He can talk to you." He scampered off before I could answer. When he left, the stylist told me, "their family is very poor." I tried to explain that that was why I was trying to play down the cultural differences, but I don't think it came out right.
The little boy (he told me his name, but I couldn't pronounce it and therefore can't remember it now) and his brother came back a few minutes later. They sat in the waiting chairs and looked at me eagerly. The brother was about 12 or 13. I said to the older brother, "your brother tells me you speak English very well!" The older brother smiled shyly. "He's lying," he said.
"He's the first in his class, and he goes to a good school!" the little brother piped in.
"All lies! All lies. My English is really bad. I only know the basics." the hair stylist was laughing to herself.
In the end, I couldn't get the older brother to say one word of English to me. But I had a lovely chat with them about their favorite video games (anything with guns) and what they like about this city (the movie theatre), and I got a decent hair cut to boot. It's not Nancy's fine work, but it'll do. Tonight, I'm going to dye it. Oh, oh. I finally checked out this beauty supply store that I'd passed by a million times. It's wonderful! Like the big chains (Wal-Mart and CarreFour), they sell a lot of American products at jacked-up prices (Finesse hair spray for 18 dollars), but, unlike the chains, they also have some American products and many Brazilian products at reasonable prices! I FINALLY bought mousse (happy day), and also got some hair dye aptly named "Danielle Brown":
As I can't waste my money at bookstores anymore, this is probably where my extra income will go.
My original plan for today's entry was to make a list of small, funny differences between America and Brazil. So here it is:
1. At sushi restaurants, it's socially acceptable for adults to use those little kid trainer chopsticks. You know, the ones with the tape and cardboard that hold them together.
2. The school buses look like this (man, the kids are so lucky):
3. In Portuguese, people answer questions using whatever verb was used in the question. (English does this, but only with auxiliaries. "Can you?" "Yes, I can.") In Portuguese, questions are like this:
Q: Do you go to school?
A: I go.
Q: Do you have a dog?
A: I have.
Q: Do you want to go to dinner?
A: I want.
It's totally bizzarre and I always forget to do it. I just say "yes," and I think I sound like a robot. I also spend about 30% of my time with my students reminding them to use "Yes, I do" in English, or at least a direct object.
4. TV shows rarely start exactly at the hour or half-hour mark. Soooo Brazilian.
5. In 2-digit numbers, 6 is the half-way mark. When I'm giving people my phone number, and when I say "46-21" (since both Spanish and Portuguese divide phone numbers into 2-digit number sets), people ALWAYS correct me by saying "four and a half, twenty-one." Alexandre says it's logical, you know, because "6 is half of one dozen." No.
6. Since most people use alcohol in their cars instead of gasoline, gas stations and car exhaust smell like tamales.
PS: Even more props to Nancy, who was the 1,000th visitor to the blog. (Yay site trackers! I don't there's anyone else reading this in LA proper.)