I had classes/meetings from 7:00am-4:00pm (with an hour break for lunch) so I'm kind of tired, and I have nothing to do tonight. (Boo Friday night plantões!) I made a huge pot of Nanny's chicken stew for dinner last night. We had it for lunch today, too, and I'll be finishing it up for dinner. So going out to dinner's out. Besides, I hate eating out alone.
I dropped Alexandre off at the hospital, and then went over to the grocery store for some goodies. My fantastic Friday night supermarket basket included fresh bread (to go with the chicken stew), chocolate syrup (to go on the vanilla ice cream that's still (miraculously) in the freezer after my Wal-Mart trip last weekend), Malzbier, and some chocolate mousse, just for good measure.
It wasn't my first time with the cashier who was ringing up my order. Let me backtrack with a story: The last time I went through her line, I tried to recharge my cell phone that I almost never use (a) because I have no friends and (b) because cell phone plans are atrociously expensive here and I won't use it on principle. At that time, I'd only had the cell phone for a few months, and I had refilled it all of 2 times. Both times that I had refilled it, I went into the actual cell phone store in the mall. I gave them the cash, they printed out a code, I called the code using my cell phone, and voila-- cell phone minutes recharged!
Anyway, so yes, it was my first time trying to recharge my cell phone in the grocery store. I assumed it'd be the same. I told her I wanted to recharge the phone. She asked me which carrier I have. I told her. She asked me how much I wanted to put on it. I told her. Then she asked me to put my cell phone number into the credit card keypad.
My number? I know, it's ridiculous, but like I said, I never use the thing, so I didn't know the number by heart. When I had a prepaid cell phone in the US when I went home for Christmas, my number was automatically saved in the phone. I assumed it was the same with this phone. It wasn't.
I told the cashier, "I'm sorry, I know this is ridiculous, but I don't know the number. I hardly ever use it. I'm sorry... forget it, I'll refill it later."
So yeah, pretty embarrassing. Now back to today:
As she was ringing up my delicious treats, the cashier asked smugly,
"So, did you learn your cell phone number yet?"
And I said, "Oh... you remember that? How embarassing."
"Well, it's your accent that I remember. You're not from here, are you?"
"No, I'm not." (I know that she wanted me to say where I was from, but I thought I'd make her work for it a bit)
"So you're from... where, then?"
"The United States."
"Oh, wow! Are you going to live here?"
"I've lived here for almost 2 years now." [side note: Can you believe it?]
"2 years?!" said the cashier incredulously. "And you still have an accent?!"
My career background made me scoff instinctively at her ignorance. Those of you who know me in person know how hard it is for me to not have "you are a total retard" written all over my face when I think that someone is being a total retard.
But I said, "Yup, it takes a while when you learn a language as an adult."
"Wow, but you really have an accent. Well, it's your Rs. Your Rs are really forced."
"Yes, that they are. They are forced. That is the way that I talk." Sometimes I'm glad that my sarcasm doesn't portray well in Portuguese. I wanted to say, "that's the way you talk too, caipira", but it wouldn't have been worth it. Besides, I know mine are a bit stronger. If they weren't, she wouldn't have noticed and so eloquently commented on them.
We were finishing up the transaction at this point, so I mumbled a quick "boa noite" before she could make any more inappropriate comments.
*******Why does this constant "Where are you from?" shtick bother me so much, exactly? I know that, when people ask me things like "where are you from?" even when they ask it by saying "Você é que?" ("You are... what?"), and even when people make comments like this, like blatantly criticizing my Portuguese, or saying asinine things about the US, they're not necessarily trying to be rude. They just don't know any better. But that's just it. It's hard feeling like the only one in the community who "knows better." It's not enough that people don't have bad intentions. I grew up in California, the Land of The Whole World Meeting in One Place, where relativity abounds, and respect ensues. I went to Berkeley, for Christ's sake. In California in general, and in Berkeley especially, people are just people, and everyone is so different and everyone has so much of their own shit going on that when you talk to other people, you focus on what you have in common. (Or you argue about Veganism, sei lá.)
So that's the first reason why I get frustrated having to explain my life literally every day. I have a new definition of success: My day is considered a success if I am getting ready for bed and realize that I didn't have to say "I'm American" or "I'm from the US" or "I"m here because my husband is Brazilian" or "Yes, I 'am liking' Brazil" for THE WHOLE DAY. (Oh, also, added to that list of successes is if no one hung up on me on the phone. Those of you who subscribe to my blog using Google Reader got a glimpse of my rant that I later deleted. Yes, people actually hang up on me when I call places trying to get information, like what time the restaurant closes, or why my portable air conditioner hasn't been delivered yet. Talk about social rejection. See below.)
The second reason is something I've mentioned before... that 19 months is a long time to feel like a social outsider. I'm like, indirectly rejected. I'm hoping Ginny or Michelle can back me up here with psychological data/statistics/terms so I stop feeling like a lunatic. The Malzibeir's starting to kick in, but let me explain: the minute I open my mouth and my English allophones come out, people stop seeing me as "one of them." People here don't ask me things that they ask each other, like "Wow, crazy weather we're having, hein?" or "Can you believe [xyz current event on the news]?" They're just so bowled over by having a real-life AMERICAN in front of them that they forget all social norms. I work in this city, too, with its relatively low wages when compared to Sao Paulo. I drive on these streets with all their potholes (something that people here love to complain about as a form of small talk). I go to the same gym. I shop in the same stores and pay the same high prices for [insert inflated priced product here]. I use the same annoying internet/cable company that has its monopoly on the region.
My day-to-day life is the same, but I don't have anyone to relate to, because my being Not Brazilian overrides and overshadows everything we could possibly have in common.
And like, Jesus Christ. My Portuguese is not that bad. I'm always going to have an accent, and most of Brazil doesn't care, I imagine. Not a single person in Sao Paulo (a big city with lots of tourism and immigration) asked me where I was from. People on the metro complained about the heat to me, and then we talked about our days, and the employee in the bookstore sold me English books without enchendo saco (no idea how to spell that) and he only smiled a little when I said that I didn't want to give my CPF on my receipt.
I'm trying not to be like 'hicktown is the worst place and Sao Paulo is the best place" but I can't help it.
I'll leave you with a song that's getting me through this evening. It's by The Mountain Goats. It's called "This Year." There will be feasting, and dancing, in Jerusalem this year! The day we drive away in Alexandre's Peugeot behind the moving van taking us to another city for his residency, or, better yet, taking all our furniture to his parent's house because we're on our way to the USA, I am going to blast this song and probably cry a lot.
If you think I'm being melodramatic, or if you know some more optimistic way to view my current lot, please, tell me. I won't be offended. I am usually a pretty optimistic person, but I'm losing it, and I'd welcome a new perspective.