Where I Have Been Map

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"What is this PDA???"

I have never been the one to talk openly about my relationships. Most of my friends and family know that if you want to know about someone I am dating... you pretty much have to pry it out of me. I had met a boy in Fortaleza and maybe only two or so of my closest friends back home knew anything about it. When my mom finally figured out that we had started dating, she begged me to write about it on my blog. My initial response was "No way jose", however after awhile she finally convinced me. You see, not only am I shy to talking about my relationships, I am also shy to showing people that I am in a relationship. This fear is of course known as the coined phrase "showing PDA" or public display of affection. In Brazilian culture, they know of no such thing. They are so much more open to public affection that you see it 24/7 around every corner. It occurs in the streets of the city, in the shopping malls, in the grocery stores... heck I even saw one couple all over each other at a crowded McDonalds, and no other Brazilian thought of it as strange at all. So if you take one very affectionate Brazilian named David and put him together with me, you can see where many stories could come out of this! So my mother told me to write this blog, if anything to at least let people know about the culture differences between Americans and Brazilians when it comes to relationships. So this blog is purely for research purposes... at least that's what I tell myself to be able to keep writing this!

If you were to ask me how David and I first met, I would have to say he just showed up on my doorstep one day. Mary and I had made friends with a bunch of the kids in our apartment complex, and every night they would run up to our apartment, ring the doorbell, and ask if we could come downstairs to play. We both loved these kids, but they would come up to our apartment so much that eventually we would have to tell them we were too tired to play. So one evening we were relaxing in our apartment when the doorbell rang. We knew it was our little friends again, so i got up to answer the door in my t-shirt and unbrushed, wet hair... only to find a very attractive Brazilian boy on the other side. I was caught off guard and just stood there awkwardly for a minute as I realized how much like a five year old I probably looked at that moment with a mouth full of cookies I just stuffed in at the last second and my clothes wrinkled from laying on the couch all day.

He broke the silence first and asked in a heavy Portuguese accent, "Do you want hang out in lobby?"

I just nodded my head and slowly closed the door, then once the door clicked shut I ran to my room to make myself look somewhat decent.

Mary and I both hung out with him that night, and played this game similar to pool, but called Snooker, in the lobby with some other kids. That was the first night of a number of consistent nights in a row hanging out with David. The more I hung out with him, the more I got to know about him. Since he spoke English much better than I spoke Portuguese, we would speak (very slowly at first) in English. He told me that he was studying to become a lawyer in Brazil and his ultimate goal was to be a defense attorney and defend all the poor people in Brazil. Since Brazil is heavily stratified when it comes class separation and the huge gap between the rich and poor in Brazil, with the poor being the overwhelming majority of almost 80%... this job would be a huge task. It said a lot about his character that he would be willing to take on this task, with little reward.

David and I hung out as friends, until one random night when we snuck up to the roof of our apartment complex. The view of Fortaleza from 22 stories up at night was unbelievable. It was pitch black up there, yet the whole roof was somehow lit by all the city lights in the distance.

David was trying to teach me some words in Portuguese, and I was trying to teach him how to pronounce some words in English. He could NOT get the "th" sound for the life of him. I was trying to show him how to say "Thursday" and not "Tursday" when he all of a sudden kissed me, and at that moment fireworks went off. No, I am not trying to be romantic and cheesy... fireworks literally went off. I think a neighbor had set them off down the street, either that or it was multiple gun shots that we heard! But I'll stick with the initial thought.

After that moment it became known that we both liked one another. But when we would walk down the streets with the rest of the group, he would try to hold my hand, hug me, and kiss me... and I would step back. It was odd for me, even though we both knew we like each other, to show the rest of the world only a day after we discovered this. Then one day when we walked to the mall he asked me "Are all Americans this cold?". I laughed out loud at this and tried to explain that there is a culture difference. Even when you are not in a relationship, Brazilians are a lot more friendly and touchy. When you first meet a Brazilian you are suppose to kiss both their cheeks, instead of the American way of just shaking hands or something along those lines.

David understood the culture difference (but didn't like it), but what he still couldn't grasp was my OWN fear of public affection added on to that culture difference. This didn't really become a problem until our group traveled to Jericoacoara beach for the weekend, and he got to come along for the trip! One day while on the trip he was getting to close for my comfort in front of a lot of people and I yelled "PDA PDA!!!!!" He looked really confused and asked "What is this PDA??" I unsuccessfully tried to explain it, but in the end he thought is was something bad because I would yell it when he would try to show affection. So he decided he didn't like this American "PDA".

The days went by and we became more and more frustrated with one another trying to find a balance between the two cultures. He would get mad at me and start going off in Portuguese and I had no idea what he was saying. Then I would get frustrated with him and just go to my room for the rest of the night. It seemed like our relationship was going to be over before it even really started. But then that same night I took the advice of a friend and decided to work harder on my end of showing PDA. Almost immediately I think David saw my effort, but at the same time he wanted to make sure I was really trying harder and not just saying it.

So the test came when we spend the whole day together then ended up sitting in a hammock at a very crowded area of the beach. He asked me to kiss him in front of all these people if I really was trying to get over my fear, so even though this was the last thing I wanted to do, I turned around.... And the hammock SNAPPED! We were thrown on our butts on the sand and had to run out of the area before the worker ran out to yell at us! I could not have asked for more perfect timing!

The last week back in Fortaleza was perfect because we had finally found our balance. He was no longer as intense about public affection and I was working on not caring whether he was or wasn't. It was time for me to leave Fortaleza sooner than we both realized. Although it was hard to say good bye, because we both knew that his life was in Brazil and mine in America.. and we didn't know if we would ever see each other again or what the future would bring... I learned so much from him. I actually kissed him goodbye in front of people at the airport before I got on the plane, and THAT was a huge step! It is weird that it took going out of the country and meeting someone with a completely different culture to make me view relationships differently. But I guess that is the strangest part about traveling! It not only opens your eyes to a new world, it also makes you appreciate your world back home more and lets you see it through someone else's perspective.

Oh and the very last day before I left David finally understood what PDA really meant.
Now if you ask, he will say, "PDA? I love PDA!"

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