Sunday, March 04, 2012

To new beginnings....



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.

10 comments:

Nina said...

it's really good to find brazilian friends. I think you it's cultural barrier you need to cross to live here. I was opposite, in my rural area no Americans here. But my Portuguese teacher used to nag me to drop English with my husband and only speak Portuguese here. I didn't agree with her, although it took me longer it's important to speak English in our house. That way our son will be bilingual.

Jana said...

Yes I completely agree. We have talked about trying to speak portuguese a little at home now too. I think in Sao Paulo its just way toooo easy to be friends with americans but Im trying to branch out more, its so important and also lots of fun!!!

Alex said...

YAY! I bet you feel good about your accomplishments! And Brazilians are the best, they appreciate it when you try with their language!

Jennifer Souza said...

Congratulations! It's not easy to immerse yourself, especially with the internet and other ex-pats around. Good for you. :-)

Tony said...

WONDERFUL!!!!! NICE GOING.

Suzanna said...

Woohoo! Congrats, Jana. I could use more of those nights too.

Victoria Barry said...

I love that quote! Oh so true. Sounds like you had a great time despite the weather ;)

Born Again Brazilian said...

Congratulations!!

ojeitobrasileiro said...

Congrats!! We've done dinner in the past and I was always silent like an idiot. It's soo wonderful to be part of the convo.. you are official!! We're visiting someone this weekend that we visited a long time ago when we first got here, so hopefully I can be as proficient as you this time around.

Sarah said...

Jana,

As I admitted to you on the phone the other day, I haven't been good about keeping up with your blog, so I made a promise to myself to catch up. The thing is, maybe these things happen sometimes for a reason, because I guarantee that had I read this in March (really, almost a year ago this was posted, I really am bad), then it wouldn't have meant as much as it does now.

Four and a half months into my stay in India, this post speaks volumes to me (to no surprise, given our conversations of late). But living in a foreign place, is...well, foreign. When we are travelling, we want that experience, but when we are living, often we want home or at least a little piece of home.

I'm proud of you and have always been. Whether it was 2 years ago when you made the move, 10 months ago when you made your first joke or now, as you continue to chart your own path in this forever 'new' world you are living in.

Cheers to you.

All my love,

Sarah

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