I love this place, and I love navigating a new city and culture. I remember how frustrating it was in Bordeaux trying to survive, find an apartment, make friends, all in another language. It felt the same here all over again:
Me: "ah que fofo"
Me: "fofu? fahfo? FOHfoh? Fawfu?"
Them: "Oh, you mean 'fofo.'"
Me: "what did I say?"
As soon as you realize that you can communicate enough to have food, shelter, safety, and a bathroom, the rest just becomes a game. Lucky for me I am an expert at Catch Phrase and Charades. The best was when the person spoke no English because I was forced to practice and they were forced to have patience with me. At the drugstore:
"Excuse me sir, do you speak English? No? Ok here we go. I am wearing shoes. My feet are hot. Sometimes my feet are wet. Can you please help me with my wet feet?"
He found me some foot powder.
At the rehearsal:
"it's like a little box and when you play, the box tells you if you need to adjust your instrument."
Someone found me a tuner.
Pantomiming a request for a straw at the bar later got a funnier reaction.
At most of the corner places, ordering a tasty coxinha or pão de queijo and juice was a treat but a challenge. They didn't want to play along as much and I think they upped their accents on purpose so I wouldn't understand. They have like ten different ways to ask "for here or to go" just to catch you off guard. "Pra levar? Pra comer? Pra viajar? Pra agora? Pra aqui? Pra ai?" Then you don't pay until after you eat but they won't remember what you had, so you have to stumble through your order again to the same blank stare. In the end you are drinking fresh squeezed guava juice so who cares?
Did you know as Sylvie pointed out that when the door says "empurrer" it means "push" which is fine. But when it says "puxe" pronounced "pooshy" it means pull? Gets me very time. And when speaking a mix of Portugese and English in a potential romantic situation don't forget that "nao" sounds like "now."
It feels somehow like the stakes aren't as high, like I wasn't as stressed about making a mistake as I was in France. One reason is that I find the Brazilians more willing to play along than the French but I also think I've changed a bit since then. Both times have been just as rewarding to unlock a culture through navigating its language. But I also remember how special it is to get to a place in the language where you can have conversations you treasure. My 83 year old cavaco player friend explained that the choro "Ginga do Mane" is about a famous futebol player and his moves. At the next rehearsal he had printed out the story for me. Love this place.