As I walked off the plane and scurried down the terminal just landing in Brazil, I was surrounded by Portuguese. I would try to focus in on conversations to see what I could pick up, but all I could here were the beautiful but frustrating “ju” “jee” and “sha” sounds masking the Spanish I was trying to find within the whimsical conversations. This was going to be tough. After 3 months in Mexico working hard to learn Spanish, I was back to square one with Portuguese – and it was so hard to remember the little I had picked up last summer.
It is so easy to forget how a little thing such as understanding random conversations around you, and being able to be understood – are so vital. And you can’t really understand that until that ability is taken from you. We go through a whole day back home not realizing how many things we say to friends, family, and even strangers that express our thoughts, emotions, and personality. Now back in Brazil, I felt as if I were stripped of that window to my personality and left mute.
Even though I see the language challenges in front of me, I am not overwhelmed. I think the reason for this is because I just did this in Mexico. And as frustrated and stressed I was in the first month, I eventually started getting better. And by the end of that trip, even though I was still far from fluent, I was no longer mute. I came back feeling proud, and I’m ready to start that process again with Portuguese.
Walking out of the plane in Belem, I hopped on the crowded terminal bus barely noticing the pushes and shoves because I was excited to see my parents. It had been 5 long months being countries apart.
When I caught sight of them through the glass exit doors from luggage claim, I hurried my step and took a sharp left towards them. Well, apparently I wasn’t watching where I was going because my rolling suitcase got stuck on something. I tried to pull it past the obstacle, but it wasn’t budging. I looked back only to see my suitcase stuck on the staggering, leopard printed stiletto of a very agitated Brazilian women. Forgetting where I was, I quickly said, “Oh my gosh I’m so sorry!” She gave me the death stare as I rearranged the wheel of my suitcase to glide past her daunting 6 inch heel.
Well there is one new Brazilian friend I will not have gained on this trip, hopefully I will have better luck tomorrow. But either way tonight was about my parents. They gathered up my things and took me in the taxi to what was going to be our new shared home.
As we were driving, I looked out the windows at the streets. Some streets seemed nice, others very shady. I quickly began to realize this was not going to be like living in the safe town of Merida, Mexico – were you could walk in the streets at midnight alone and be fine. I would have to be more careful here, as in any bigger city. My initial impression of our new neighborhood was by no means sugar coated with my mother’s taxi ride stories.
“We see our friend Bernal there every morning!”
“Oh who is that?”
“He is the rat that lives in the gutter. He runs by every morning and goes Squeak Squeak Squeak!”
….. oh lord.
As we walked up the steps to our apartment, my mother opened the door and I walked in. I took about 4 steps, and then realized I was at the end of the apartment. This 10 ft by 8 ft room was going to be interesting for 3 grown adults to inhabit. The kitchen attaches to a small closet-sized bathroom, that opens up to the main room – consisting of one queen bed for my parents and one hammock for me. It’s no stretch to say that my freshman year dorm room would give this place a run for its money.
But, even though claustrophobia will take on a whole new meaning over these next months, this just comes along with the experience. There are families who have to live in a suffocating small area with even more to house. And somehow it works out.
I know one thing for sure, as the sound of my typing is accompanied by my mother praying the rosary and my father snoring loudly… I will definitely be getting some bonding time with my parents. Whether I like it or not!