Sunday, February 28, 2010

Relative Definitions of Friendship

Newfound reader Eric left a very interesting comment on a blog entry that I wrote about having a hard time making friends.

I'd like to repost his comment here for everyone to discuss.  Eric's general idea (and he can correct me if my paraphrasing is wrong) is that the definitions of friendship and respect within Brazil and the US are just different. (Neither one is wrong; just different.) Americans show respect and care for their friends and family by asking a lot of personal questions and providing a space for their loved ones to share their secrets and open up. Brazilians, however, show respect and care for their friends by NOT asking a lot of personal questions and keeping things light, therefore providing a space for their loved one to feel relaxed and free to be whoever they want without feeling judged. 

I talked about it with Alexandre, and he said it was a very good insight into the two cultures and something he hadn't previously been able to articulate. We agreed that, especially in the family relationships, a bad consequence of the American type of relationship is fighting and criticizing. And a bad consequence of the Brazilian type of relationship is that it's possible for some people to become isolated.

Here is Eric's comment. I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

After 14 years with a Brazilian partner and time to think/read/reflect, i've come to the realization that perhaps it is as simple as the idea that "friendship" and "intimacy" are cultural constructs like many other things that seem more obvious. it feels like those words should describe very universal emotional experiences, but perhaps they don't. those emotional experiences we (meaning here you as i read you and I) associate with those words are certainly human and universal experiences, but they may come about in completely different culturally defined situations and be connected to other words and norms.

my idea of friendship and intimacy is that with friends who i like and trust (and its mutual), i feel safe, i'm open with the good and bad, there is a sense of spontaneity and honesty and un-selfconsciousness that is truly wonderful and valuable. it is what makes life in the outside world of work, negotiation, conflict (and its avoidance) bearable. there isn't a sense of needing to perform, not as much anyway. there is a sense of being able to really let it all hang out, tell it like it is, have a sounding board for ideas and thoughts and feelings, to get advice, to confess sins and hope for forgiveness.

i don't think this is the expectation in general in Brazil. i've read so many blogs lately i can't remember where i read it (embarrassing if it is you!), but the blogger wrote that there seemed to be an inverse relationship between intimacy and friendship in Brazil. the more you know someone, the less intimate and more casual it gets. this really describes what i've observed myself.

i know that my partner's relationships with his friends and family looks utterly barren and bizarre to me. they don't talk about ANYTHING i would consider important, emotional, risky, vulnerable, doubtful, joyful, deep, profound, etc. my partner, the youngest child, left the home he was born in to move with a foreigner to another country (a man no less!), left his friends, his job, his family. and his parents never asked him ONCE, who is this person you are moving away with? where will you live? what will you do? what on earth are you thinking? they called him every week to talk about the price of electronics and popular brazilian cultural gossip. it absolutely floored me. my parents and i mostly fight, about politics, religion, the world, everything, but they would never ever have let me emigrate without knowing (and truly worrying) about every single detail. our struggle is part of the way we show our love to each other despite the insurmountable differences between us.

as i understand it now, brazilians provide their friends and often even their family members with a huge amount of space to hide their flaws, weaknesses, failures, etc. that is the way to show love and respect. there is an endless willingness to overlook even the unforgiveable, without even having to discuss or acknowledge it. that is extremely foreign to my way of thinking, but i now see how it might appear to have its own set of benefits. in my partner's family and set of friends, there is an endless easy flow of fofoca, the comfort of nothing being heated, no conflict, no discussions for more than a moment about anything serious, just a pleasant passing of the time. perhaps in a culture as unequal, as competitive, as violent and stressful, as unjust as brazil can be for many of its people, this is the safe space people want, not some hothouse of intimacy and drama, highs and lows, the stuff of novelas and movies (just the made-up self absorbed drama of the rich and spoiled you already wrote about so well!). 


Agree? Disagree? Anecdotes? Discuss.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why It's Hard for Me to Live Where I Live

I'm on the Amtrak going down the southern California coast, from downtown LA to downtown San Diego. The Amtrak is as slow as molasses, and stops unexpectedly. The drive to the station was a nightmare involving a stubborn family member (the mother), an over-reliance on a clearly misguided GPS, and poorly planned construction on a main Los Angeles avenue during rush hour. Southern California's allergy to public transportation is not one of its strong points.

I missed my first train, but a cheap cell phone call to Amtrak's headquarters warranted me a changed ticket, free of charge.

When I got to the station, I waited in a short and clearly organized line in front of the ticket kiosks to print mine out.  Then I waited in another clearly organized line to get onto my train.  Americans love lines.

Americans also love cell phones.  Upon my return, I've learned that most cell phone companies now offer reasonably priced unlimited nationwide calling. CALL ANYONE ANYWHERE ANYTIME AS MUCH AS YOU WANT! 60 BUCKS A MONTH! This is great because it's cheap, but the byproduct is that people talk on their phones... All. The. Time. Everyone sitting around me on this surprisingly crowded Amtrak train has been on and off their phones during the entire ride (it's been just over an hour so far). The guy in front of me literally has not hung up since the train left Union Station. He's got one of those super clammy Southern California accents that are so strong that it sounds like he never fully closes his mouth.


I made this. It's funny, I promise.

So he's annoying as all hell.  But around me is why I love America: the guy across the aisle from him is on his super cheap cell, speaking Arabic. He's trying to read his newspaper, but people keep calling him, interrupting his reading but always putting a smile on his face. There are 2 people occupying the seats to my left: A college-aged girl code switching between Korean and English, and next to her, an older gentleman with a strong Hindi English accent (but a native speaker, because, as any true Californian knows from all of their Indian friends, English is a national language of India, so it's this guy has a different dialect, not a foreign accent). 

The Indian man isn't as much of a fan of the phone as the rest of our passengers are. I catch his accent during only one phone call. He's bored on the train, so he leans forward and asks the Arabic speaking guy, "got a page of the paper to spare?" And in perfect California English (almost rivaling Mr. SoCal iPhone Addict to his side), the Arabic-speaking guy says, "Sure, no problem! Go for it," and hands him a chunk of the LA Times.

I can't possibly compare myself, my experiences like these, to the people I've met in my Brazil home town who have never been farther than 3 hours from the house they grew up in, who exclaim that I'm the first foreigner they've met in their 25 years of life, who don't understand why I still have an accent after studying Portuguese for 2 years, who don't know that this is what California really is and consequently ask me if I've met Michael Jackson. These people are not bad people. Our lives are simply incomparable. I need to work harder to find common ground and to be patient and peaceful.

I send Jamie a text message with my grandma's cell phone that I've borrowed (the plans are so cheap that even my grandma's got one now, 300 texts a month included!) to tell her about the linguistic utopia that I'm witnessing on the train.  And she texts back, "Welcome home."

My home in Brazil is my home too, but so far, just not in the "collective conscience" kind of way.  Alexandre is there, and we've built a happy little life together. But I'll eventually need to live somewhere where everyone else agrees that the world is bigger than we are.



My lesson of this trip has been that you are the product of what you surround yourself with.  And that prepositions can and do end English sentences.  And that tequila is way better than cachaça. The end. Ready to go home now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

California, California...

I'm home. It's great.

I bought Girl Scout Cookies to bring back to Brazil. Alexandre has no idea what he's in for.

There's a new Brazilian churrascaria in town. The translation of rodizio?  "An endless parade of meats". Pretty much the most hilarious translation of anything ever.

It's wonderful to be back. I wish I could live in 2 places at once.

Enjoy:






California
Joey Ryan
California, California, y'know I love you, California.
When I leave, I know you wait for me.
'Cause in the sun and in the weather, no one else has loved me better--
California, you're the place for me.

Los Angeles, Los Angeles, my heart goes out to you, and if I make it back, I'd love to drive around.
'Cause your streets are wide and dirty; yes, they've raised me in a hurry.
You're the city of the angels; yes, indeed.

San Francisco, San Francisco, you're always busy. You're always pretty.
I can see you just across the bay.
Your red bridge over the sea keeps me safe and warm and free.
On a clear day, there's no place I'd rather be.

In the mountains, in the mountains, no one knows you like I do,
(In summer streams, and knee-deep in the snow).
Just like The Giving Tree, you have made a man of me.
Yes, everyone needs some place beautiful.
Well, I think everyone needs some place beautiful.

California, California, y'know I love you, California.
When I leave, I know you wait for me.
'Cause in this sun and in the weather, no one else has loved me better--
California, you're the place for me.

In the valley, in the valley, give me life and cradle me.
The sun is setting as I drive ahead.
So keep us and sustain us. Give us food and love, and I trust that, without you, we'd all soon be dead.

In the forest, all the trees, you make a little child of me.
How I long to know what you have seen!
All the people who are gone, and all the ones who once were strong--
oh, won't you keep their fate from claiming me?

In the oceans, in the sea, we have seen eternity.
How can I tell when you really end?
I'd imagine that you lead to other worlds entirely,
but we can save ourselves and start again.
Yes, we need to save ourselves and start again.

California, California, y'know I love you, California.
When I leave, I know you wait for me.
'Cause in this sun and in the weather, no one else has loved me better--
California, you're the place for me.

So nurse me like a mother. Raise me strong, just like my father.
Let me wander off, (and) discover who I am.
But I'll have learned your deepest lessons, gathered up your finest blessings,
and returned to California once again.
Yes, I'll come home to California once again.

California, California, y'know I love you, California.
When I leave, I know you wait for me.
'Cause in the sun and in the weather, no one else has loved me better--
California, you're the place for me.
Yes, California, you're the place for me.

California, won't you save a place for me?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I am Not a Mule

All right. I know some Brazilians read this blog. You are probably not the kind of people that do this thing that I am going to complain about. In fact, this probably happens to you, too. But I'd like to rant a bit, and maybe you can pass the advice on to your friends.

Let me give the Americans a little background information: shit in Brazil is expensive. Not the important things, like food and shelter, but the quality-of-life things, like clothes, electronics, makeup, beauty products, etc.  Couple this pricing system with a certain infatuation with American products (ya know how Americans do things like "wOW! This purse came from EUROPE!" Well, Brazilians do that with American stuff), and you've got a recipe for annoying-ass requests, like these:

Dani!!! You're going to the US?!  Can you buy me/my bother/my mother/my dog  a digital camera/Victoria's Secret perfume/pair of Nike shocks/laptop?

All right. It's cool if my friends ask me for something. What are friends for if not doing favors?  It's less cool when students / Alexandre's friends / employees at the gym ask. I am not a freaking Victoria's Secret drug mule. I feel like this is connected to the same problem as the teachers at work that don't realize that I'm going to America to VISIT MY FAMILY AND DEAR FRIENDS. Because I am a human that misses the people that she loves, not some movie star touring the sites and going on shopping sprees. 

I know that things are more expensive here, and it sucks. I get it. I live here too. I empathize. But the people asking don't think about how there is one of me and dozens of them. Ok, random girl at the gym. You want "only" 5 Victoria's Secret lotions. ONLY, right? Well multiply that by everyone else who asks, and I'd need a whole extra suitcase. (And to be honest, I don't empathize that much. None of the things that people want are like, vital for living. They're just popular name brands. Brazil has its own company akin to Victoria's Secret (not with the underwear part, but with the lotions and perfumes and all that). It's called Natura, and its products are very nice. That's why I call the things "standard-of-living" things.)


The last time Alexandre and I went home, we did this-- we bought things for people. We tried to be helpful. But after all was said and done, I felt kind of taken advantage of. We only went for a week, and we had 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons each. Remember that we live about 7 hours inland. So after wasting our time doing all the shopping for everyone during our one week, we had to deal with all that luggage to the airport in the US, with a connecting flight, through customs (which is also a risk-- if you get caught, you have to pay import taxes for sure, and possibly a fine-- I don't know what the law is, exactly) and then onto 2 different buses (one from the airport to the bus terminal, and then the other back home).  And after that, we decided: NEVER AGAIN. I know some people don't mind shopping for others. Some people do this almost as a job (albeit an illegal one), but I am not one of those people. I go home to relax and feel comfortable, not to worry about finding the exact camcorder that my neighbor wants back in Brazil.

So I've decided to write up a list of some rules of etiquette for asking people to buy things for you while they're in the US:

1. REMEMBER: This person is doing you a FAVOR. Act accordingly.

2. Don't ask the person to buy the thing for you and just say that you'll pay them when they come back. Give the person the money before they go. They are not your credit card company.

3. Give them the money in dollars. Take the time to go to the bank or currency exchange place and convert your reais to dollars. You don't know how much the tax is going to be in the airport's exchange office, and your "friend" might end up paying for your stuff.

4. Research the price online at a few different places, and give them the money for the most expensive price that you find. You don't know what kind of options the person is going to have. If the person tells you that the price is X, don't argue with them like "oh well I saw on THIS random website that I don't know and whose reliability I can't confirm because I know nothing about shopping in the US that it should cost less!" It's a favor, remember? If they want to just buy it in the Duty Free area of the airport, don't fight them on it. If you don't like the price that the person wants you to pay, buy the shit in Brazil yourself.

5. If you see a price at a strictly online company, it probably won't be available for that price in a store. (eBay, for example, is not a good indicator of store prices.)  Do not ask the person to use their credit card to buy the item for you online and have it sent somewhere in exchange for your reais at some later time. No. Come on. How folgado is that?!

6. Round up on your price. If you find it for 65 dollars, give the person 80 dollars. Give the person extra money. Yes, essentially, you are paying them to buy the things for you. But that's because they're being generous and doing you this favor, so you should be generous in return. And even if you give them extra money, it's still going to be less than what you'd pay in Brazil. It's likely they won't be making a profit after the conversion taxes and sales taxes in the US. (Do you know that in the United States, you have to pay a tax on almost every non-food item that you buy in almost every state? So the store's website may SAY that the price is 29.99, but your friend will end up paying around 33 dollars, depending on the state.)

7. If you don't end up getting exactly what you want, don't be rude about it. You may have asked for only "Tommy Girl Perfume". There are various sizes, colors, and sub-names (Tommy Girl Romance, Tommy Girl Sport, crap like that). Your shopper did the best they could. That's a risk you have to take.

8. If they get caught in customs and have to pay some kind of taxes, give them the money that they had to pay, and don't make them ask for it.

9. In fact, don't make the person ask you for any of these things. Just DO them. But the best thing really would be to just save up and go to the US yourself if you need these things so bad and let the person enjoy their vacation.


Okay? Clear? I hope this list is helpful for others. Feel free to pass it on in a passive-agressive email forward, if you'd like. Or rant here with similar experiences. 

In the meantime, I'm headed out. I have a vacation to take. :) See (most of) you soon! :D

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sugar Headaches, Tropical Fruits, and Cultural Translations

I have a slight addiction here in Brazil. The vice? Milkshakes.

Of course there are milkshakes in the US, too. And they're delicious. But Brazil's are better. My favorite is with ovomaltine (Americans may remember it as Ovaltine from when they were kids. Fun Wikipedia fact: the name in English was supposed to be ovomaltine, too, but someone spelled it wrong at some point and the wrong name stuck!).

The ice cream used is always a mix of chocolate and vanilla (if not on the menu, then per my request).

The addiction is facilitated by the availability of milkshakes and the plethora of ice cream stands around the city. These little "maquinas de sorvete" (literally 'ice cream machines') are pretty much all an entrepreneur needs to start up his own ice cream shop.  So they're everywhere. In the grocery store. In Wal-Mart. There are 6 or 7 in the mall.  On street corners. Some just sell small ice cream cones, but some buy a little mixer thing (like what McDonald's uses to make McFlurries) and add milkshakes to their menu.

The result? I usually make up some excuse to buy one every time I go out to run errands. Totally undoes my hard work at the gym...but I feel less bad because I know that Stephanie shares my addiction.

Then today, I met up with my friend Melissa. She is very very pregnant-- as in, due any day. What is a great way to relieve a pregnant lady suffering in the tropical summer heat?

Ice cream, of course!

But we tried to be a little healthier about it. A new ice cream parlor opened up in town that sells fruit-based ice creams and popsicles (as opposed to milk-based), so we went there.  The popsicles are small and cheap so you can try different flavors. They're essentially just frozen fruit pulp with almost no additives.
The exciting part was that the ice cream parlor prides itself in selling only Brazilian fruits and buying from local and domestic growers and all that. So they had popsicles made from fruits that not even Melissa had heard of.

There was one with a fruit called taperebá (whose more common name is apparently cajá). I don't really know how to explain it, so you can just get an idea from the picture.  One page describes taperebá as being part of the mango family.

The English name is apparently "hog plum", but as an aside to the Brazilian English teachers reading:  it's important to inform your students that, just because a word may EXIST in English for a given cultural thing-- especially food-- very few Americans will actually know what they're talking about if the fruit doesn't grow in the US and isn't part of the diet. Case in point: Knowing the word "passion fruit" for maracujá doesn't help anyone. Ask an American who hasn't lived in South America or South Africa to draw a passion fruit, or ask them what color it is. Most of them won't know.

(Another important example is palmito, which is often translated as "heart of palm". I have a student. She's a flight attendant for a Brazilian airline company. On a flight to New York, the dinner on board was "frango com palmito", which was translated as "chicken with heart of palm". Almost every single American on board stopped the flight attendants to ask what "heart of palm" was. She and the other flight attendants had no idea how to explain it-- they had all been taught by their Brazilian English teachers to just call it "heart of palm"! So when she asked me about it during her next class, we came up for an explanation that she can use in the future. We decided on, "It's a sort of vegetable that we have in Brazil. It's made from the inside of the bark of Brazilian palm trees. It's soft and kind of salty-sour. You should try it!"

In terms of the opposite translation-- from English to Portuguese-- we have a nice example with the blueberry. Blueberries don't grow in Brazil (well, according to Wikipedia, some very cold parts of Rio Grande do Sul have been able to cultivate them).  There's technically a translation-- mirtilo-- but when I've shown people a picture I have of Alexandre eating blueberries in the US, they always ask, "what's that?".  I know there's a kind of similar fruit here in Brazil, but I can never remember the name.  So I explain blueberry by saying "it grows kind of like a strawberry, but it's small and blue and the flavor is very strong."

Do you guys agree on these types of explanation-translations? I actually have a list of cultural elements of Brazil-- mostly foods-- that don't have easy translations, and I make my students practice explaining them to me. I think it's an important habit to build. The cultures and countries are different, too-- not just the language.)

Anyway, the guy working at the ice cream shop recommended eating the taperebá popsicle with salt. I know you're probably thinking "a popsicle with salt? Gross!" But I don't think about food like that. My logic with food is.... if these people didn't die eating it, I won't either. That doesn't mean I like everything, but I try most everything at least once. So I threw some salt on my taperebá popsicle. It was delicious, of course.

I also had a guava one. And a corn one (my favorite). And a caju one. And now I have a headache from all the sugar.

(Another important translation fact: yes, castanha de cajú is "cashew", but there's no word for just "cajú" in English, at least that I know of. Only the nuts get imported to the US, not the fruit, because the fruit doesn't last very long off the tree. So most Americans don't know that cashews are actually attached to a fruit. I didn't know, and I didn't know for a while that cajú and cashew were the same thing for a long time after moving here.  So teachers, you can tell your students to explain this to Americans, because it's something interesting!) 

But yes, delicious. Melissa had one made of graviola (which again has an English name but I doubt many Americans know about it-- I didn't!), and another one that we also ate with salt but whose name escapes me now.

The next time I go back to the place, I'm going to try the South American avocado popsicle, and the peanut one, and one of the other fruits I've never heard of. :) At 75 calories per popsicle, at least they're healthier than milkshakes, right?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Second Piece of Good News!

Sorry that I left you all hanging! I was working a lot, as usual. You're getting this quick update while I wait for my student.

Okay! The second piece of good news! I have a student named Joselí. She's in the Rotary club here in Brazil (just like the one in the US).  She invited me to the meeting because I told her that I wanted to do some volunteering stuff here, and also because there are 3 American girls studying abroad here under the Rotary program that she thought I'd like to meet (she was right).

So after my classes on Monday night, I met her at the meeting. I was a little late, because I had a class, but the American girls had saved a seat for me at the table. Yay! Did you see that? American Girls! Here!! So they're young -- 17 -- and one is actually Australian. But they seem pretty mature for their age after living away from home for a couple of months, and I'll take mature 17-year-olds over 60-year-old missionaries any day.

We talked really fast in native speaker English, and I felt old after hearing some of their slang. There was actually a 4th girl there who was Brazilian but studied in the US under Rotary and now is kind of a helper for the girls here. Her English was excellent (lucky teenage sponge brain) and she was nice to talk to, too. We all made tentative plans for a pizzaria night.

I'll be honest that I'm less excited today than I was on Monday, because I gave all the girls my number and email, but only the Brazilian girl got into contact with me. What if they didn't like me?! I hope they're just waiting for the weekend. If they don't, I'll still try to do something with the Brazilian girl.

But yay! On top of possibly having some new friends, I met some very nice people from the Rotary club, too. Most everyone was much older-- my student that invited me was the youngest, in her late 30s-- so I don't imagine we'll like, go out for drinks together, but they'll be nice to do some volunteer activities with.

Since I quit the school (whoo hoo! My boss actually handled it very well when I told her), my last day will be in mid-March, and after that, I'll be able to get to the Rotary meetings on time and hopefully get a little more involved. Every week they have some kind of guest speaker that gives a little talk on Rotary-type themes, like social responsibility and getting involved in the community.

So, yes, high hopes!

I'll leave you with the oh-so-helpful weather map that we got on the news this morning. It always makes me laugh:
Hot and rainy. Everywhere.


But I would argue that these super general maps are not nearly as ridiculous than the American style of showing the high and low temperatures for every single city (like, why do you need to know that it's 2 degrees cooler in the next town over?).   Two cultural weather forecast extremes!

All right. My student didn't show up, so you got a much longer update than I expected.  Have a good day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One of Two Big Updates!

No, Alexandre isn't going to do his residency in the US. :( I got super excited when I read Mrs. Carioca's blog and she said that her husband was doing HIS residency in the US.  But while Mr. Carioca's plan worked out for him, it just wouldn't work out for Alexandre. Too bad. I'm already over it.

Because this decision happened just today:

1. I'm going to quit the school. 

I've been saying this for months and months, but I really mean it this time. I'd like fellow teachers' thoughts on this, whether you think it's a good idea or not, etc. Here are my reasons why I've stayed this long: 

*It's good for me to get out of the house and be with groups.

*I have coworkers, and coworkers lend themselves to possible friends and going-out buddies (though this hasn't been working out as well as I'd hoped).

*It keeps me introduced to a steady stream of new students.  I don't actively "steal" students from this school, but sometimes people quit and then later decide to start private classes with me. I never bring up the idea, but it IS a result of working there. Also, many times people are students at the school but their brothers/friends/husbands want classes with me.

*It's a nice boost to my monthly income, but at this point, it's not making much of a difference. The money is actually the weakest/least important reason for me to still be working there.  My American job pays about 5 times more than the school, depending on the month (I get paid by project with the American job, so the per-hour pay varies a bit). My private students pay twice as much. I also have translations on the side. This list is starting to turn into the reasons why I'm leaving:


I'm leaving because: 

*I don't need the money, and I'm working too much, and something's gotta give. I have 15 hours of contracted students per week, plus an average of about 5 hours a week of non-contract people (students that can only come once in a while, or people doing short-term things, etc). I work about 15 hours a week on the American job.  Then I do the translations on the side (Some months I have none; this month I got 2). As of now, I'm at the school about 12 hours a week.  I'll help you with the math: Since I got back from vacation, I've been working about 50 hours a week (and we can't forget the pronunciation book!).

*Alexandre and I are so busy that it's getting to the point where we (and by we, I mostly mean I) don't have time to take care of the household things, like the grocery store and cooking and the laundry.  And there's no point in working extra if I have to shell out money for dinner at a restaurant because I'm too tired to cook.  And then we bicker about who should be less tired and should therefore be washing the clothes/doing the dishes/cooking dinner.   These things are all "expensive" and factor into my real hourly wage.

*The textbooks are horrible and the students hate them and spend most of the class complaining about them to me. Some days I feel like I spend more time trying to be diplomatic and optimistic about the course than I do actually teaching.  And the worst part is that they're totally right, the books ARE as bad as they think, and I feel like I'm selling my soul for 7 dollars an hour.

*I thought having coworkers would add to my social life, but the particular people I'm working with now just irritate me. I have met some good teachers that have turned into friends, but none of them are working with me at this moment. (That also proves that I can stay friends with people even if I'm not working with them.)  The people I work with now are a particularly small-minded bunch. Today's metonymic conversation at work was a sort of tip of the iceburg:

Teacher 1: So, you're going to THE US for Carnaval?

Me: Yup. I'm going to visit my friends and family. I haven't seen them in 7 months.

Teacher 1: WOW! That's so cool! THE US!

Me: Yup. Also, ya know, my family is there, and I miss them. But anyway, what are you guys gonna do for Carnaval, since the school is closing?

Teacher 2: I'm going to the beach.

Me: Oh that sounds fun. What bea--

SUPER OMG SHOOT ME ANNOYING Teacher 3: Why doesn't your family come to Brazil?

Me: Well, you know, it's expensive to travel across the hemisphere.


SOMGSMA Teacher 3: But don't they want to 'know' Brazil?  (Her English is as bad as she is annoying)

Me: Sure they do, but plane tickets are expensive. Plus, they'd have to miss work, and it's easier for me to just go there and see everyone at once. Speaking of seeing things, did you guys see Big Brother last night?

Teacher 2: No, but I saw a news report on Mardi Gras "there." Is it true that "there" girls take off their shirts for money? (If you haven't figured it out, some (usually the more ignorant) people here in Brazil just use the word "lá", or "there", to refer to the United States when they talk to me. It drives. me. crazy.)

Me: Well, not really. Some really drunk crazy girls do it during Mardi Gras for the beads. It's stupid but it's certainly not culture-wide.

SOMGSMA Teacher 3: But why doesn't your family come to Brazil, then? It's so beautiful here!

Me: I just said, it's expensive.

SOMGSMA Teacher 3:  But they have DOLLARS!


Me: :: sighing and blinking a lot::  They can't afford it.

Teacher 2: :: showing some humanity and realizing that I was uncomfortable::  I was just going to tell you that I'm going to the beach for Carnaval. My family and I rented an apartment--

SOMGSMA Teacher 3: So Daniel (they also call me Daniel because they can't pronounce Danielle. I tell them that calling me "Daniele" in Portuguese is okay, but they insist on Daniel. It's not a langauge-wide thing, it's just THESE teachers), does that mean you're from a poor city, then?

Me:  ::sighing:: No, it doesn't.  But some parts of it are poor, just like in almost every city in the world. Just like Brazil.

Teacher 2:  But I mean, POOR?  "There" have Favelas?

Me: I have to go.

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These people are supposed to be my peers, my equals. We have much more in common in our day-to-day lives than we don't. But as much as I try to be treated as an equal, and to treat them as equals, they can't get over my American-ness, and conversations like these show me that we're not equal at all. The ignorance is just all-encompassing. And these are the people who have gone to college here and everything.  They don't really have an excuse.

I've been working at this school for 18 months and they STILL talk to me like this. I want to say so many things, like "Yes, I'm American! Effing get over it." It's clear that there is no sense of relativity for them.  Like they just talk about how they're jealous of me going to the US, and making the same "can you pack me in your suitcase?" joke 500 times, and there's no like "yeah, it's America, and that's cool, but it's also her homeland, where her family is, where she grew up, where she feels comfortable." Because most of them have never even been to Sao Paulo, let alone out of the country or away from their comfort zones.

Since I've been there, they've also made comments like, "the only reason people want private classes with you is because you're American" and "wow! Bahia and The US in 3 months? You must be rich!" and "I saw the notes you made in the book, but I'm not going to teach it that way. You may say that we use the word 'anyway' wrong, but that's how I learned it, so that's how I'm teaching it."


Now that I've just typed all this up, it's hard for me to understand why I've stuck around this job for so long. I guess I thought it would get better. I guess I was scared of all of my private students canceling or something.  But now, you know what sounds much better? Working less, taking better care of myself and my house, and focusing on my income-generators that don't infuriate me.

Yup. Sounds much better!  Anyone think I should stay?


The second big update is way cooler and way better (and another motivating factor for why I'm quitting once this semester finishes in March), but this entry is just too long, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow. :D
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