Where I Have Been Map

Monday, June 1, 2009

What do you call two blondes in Brazil?

The answer to this question is not a punch line. However, I was laughing out loud when I found out. We have come to find that Brazilians have a very different way of looking at people. You don't really have a race in Brazil, and they pride themselves in the fact that racism does not exist in the least. Nevertheless, they do prioritize your class standing. It doesn't matter if you are black or white in Brazil. The only thing that classifies you are things such as how you dress, where you live, and your income. And if you are in a higher class, no matter what you look like, they see you differently.

This was made evident when Mary Alice and I went to the mall with our new friend, Aline, the other day. We met Aline at the English School, and she is only 18 yet speaks English almost flawlessly. She actually just interviewed for an internship at Disney World to be the Brazil representative!

Aline was telling us that she was talking to her other friend about our group of Americans. Her friend said that he had met the two blonde girls that live together. Mary Alice and I were so confused because there are no two blondes on our trip. That's when Aline explained that they were talking about me and Mary Alice!!! Mary Alice is very blonde, but my hair is brown... actually closer to dark brown! But what they had done in Brazilian culture is lighten my hair because I live with an upper class home stay in Brazil. If Mary Alice and I had been put with a lower class home stay, they would have called us both "morenas" or dark haired.

This kind of thinking is so different from back home. Both ways of thinking seem to have advantages and disadvantages. Back in America, even if you were a minority in the upper class or had a really respectable job... you would still be considered a "Chinese Doctor" or a "Black President". This might mean that even though a minority can reach the higher class, they might never fully be accepted in that class. In Brazil... they do not have any main stereotype based on race. However, there is a HUGE separation between the upper class and lower class. In certain home stays, for example, they hire a maid. These maids tend to be bossed around a lot from the people who hire them. If these maids changed their clothes, moved into a nicer area, and got a better job, their standing would immediately change, and they would be treated as upper class. But does that fact make up for how poorly some maids get treated now? Is this better than how America deals with class and race? I honestly have no idea!

What I DO know for a fact is something I found out last Sunday... Brazilians must not have a fear of heights... or dying for that matter! Our neighbors took us to a water park where the water slides were EXTREMELY dangerous! And we did not find this out until after we had ridden all of them!

There was this one ride called "Insaneo" or insane in English. The slide was practically 90 degrees and fell straight down. Let me explain what my experience was like on this slide.

We walked up stair, after stair, AFTER STAIR... what felt like 20 stories up until we finally reached the top of the slide, gasping for air. The line was short, probably because most Brazilians were smart enough to know not chance your luck and try this monster more than once or twice. Mary Alice looked at me with worried eyes and said "I am NOT going first." So, I took a deep breath and stepped up to the edge. I looked over and saw about 10 feet of slide before it completely disappeared.

The Brazilian lifeguard motioned for me to sit down in the slide. She then told me safety instructions... in Portuguese. I looked at her confused, and I was about to say "I don't speak Portuguese" before she yelled "BORA BORA BORA" or "GO GO GO!!!" I pushed off and started sliding down thinking... oh crap.

The slide was relaxing at first. The water felt cool in the heat wave we were experiencing, and the flow was pushing me forward slowly. Then, all of a sudden, I noticed my feet were no longer visible. For a split second as my feet dangled off the drop... my life flashed before my eyes... I knew that the rest of my body was about to follow.

I screamed at first as I fell at the speed of gravity. But then the shock of it all and the butterfly feeling in my stomach overtook all reactions. I was falling so fast that I was actually going faster than the water flow, and the effect was that the water began to splash upwards from my feet and onto my face. I held my breath, too afraid that I might drown if I tried to breathe... yet at the same time having the time of my life. When I finally fell into the pool at the bottom, I swam up, gasped for air, and realized I had THE WORST wedgie I had ever had.

We ended up not riding Insaneo again that day... but for the first time we understood why Brazilian thong bathing suits are seen as acceptable in public. If Brazilians have a habit of riding as many water slides as we had that day... this style would be inevitable.

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