According to a recent pin on Pinterest, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." Verdade.
After 16 months in Brazil, I experienced my first dinner in Portuguese. We met a wonderful Brazilian couple in Mendoza and they ended up purchasing a bottle of wine for us. As a thank you, we insisted on having them for dinner back in Sao Paulo. This week couldn't have fallen at a worse time climatically speaking. 90 degree days with 89 degree nights. We don't have air conditioning so we gave them the option of coming over in sungas and bikinis or meeting at a favorite restaurant. As much as everyone wanted to dine in small pieces of lycra, we concluded one of our favorite new restaurants, Oryza might be a tad more classy.
Generally we hang out with Americans. Brazilians would say they do the same in other parts of world. Recently over dinner with our, "Brazilian Family," their youngest son was telling us about his experience in Calgary. His family expected him to be challenged, speaking only English during the 6 months he was to spend in Canada. Instead, he made good friends with the 12 other Brazilians in Calgary (who'd a thought Brazilians would like crazy cold Calgary?) and barely spoke English outside of school. Because its easier that way. When you are in a foreign country doing foreign things there is nothing better than to share a story over beers with someone who's been there done that. And this is coming from someone who likes to travel "local," far from the chains and the all inclusives. Living and traveling are different though and while cultural immersion is high on our priority list that doesn't mean it always works out that way. Sure, if you are an expat married to a Brazilian you do things differently as you have no choice but to immerse yourself if half your family is another culture. My husband speaks far better Portuguese than I working at a Brazilian company and he hesitates to put me in uncomfortable situations with his friends that know little english. But if I don't like staying at Club Med's when I travel why am I living one here?
So dinner it was, and how dare I expect Brazilians to speak English for my sake. Nervous and trying to keep up, I remembered where I was a little more than a year ago, forgetting how to even introduce myself. So when the appetizers rolled around, leaving baby steps to the past, I made my first leap. A joke in another language that actually made people laugh. No need for a back pat, in my little world that constituted branding a storage spot for a lasting memory. The four hour dinner ended up being 80% in Portuguese and I've never felt more proud, like I'd run my first marathon. When you are slow to learn, moments of acceleration taste all the more sweet.
It was a hurdle I only wished I'd crossed sooner. Thats the thing about these so called comfort zones, the grass is greener on the other side.