The title of this post seems like a really obvious fact, but after a day in Brazil we’ve realized the language barrier may be more of a thing than we’d hoped or wanted. For this leg of trip, I’m traveling with an old friend/colleague from NI, TJ. TJ is from Canada, is fluent in French, and has saved up enough vacation to swing a month of traveling around South America.
So anyway, we both landed in São Paolo within an hour of each other and thankfully had a driver booked to take us to the AirBnb. We had some funny/limited conversation with him on the drive (TJs favorite phrase is “bebo leite” which translates to “I drink milk”. It’s the first thing Duolingo teaches you and seems ridiculous because when would you ever need that phrase??). We checked into our room and immediately headed back out, starving and determined to beat jetlag. Leaving the building we encountered our first challenge.
The main entrance of the apartment we were staying had two sets of doors; you can’t open one before you close the other completely for security purposes. I should also mention that there is a 24 hour security/lobby attendant for the building. We go to leave and open the inner door to get into the “in between” area. I close the inner door and go to open the outer door and it won’t budge. We look around for a keypad, button, intercom, anything. Nothing. We try pushing. Pulling. Nothing. We try the inner door to get back in. Also locked. Even better, is that the folks in the lobby can see us but we can’t see them. We resort to our phones to see if any of the signs would help, but they only say to close one door before you open the other. We’d checked that already, the inner door was definitely closed. Someone in the lobby must have noticed is struggling (it was several minutes of us standing in this weird little space trying to open doors) and let us back in. The attendant spoke only Portuguese, and we’d been instructed to direct all questions to our host so we headed back to the room to look for a keycard we may have missed/call him. After some confusion, he confirmed that no, we did not need a keycard, and yes they should just open to leave. We went back downstairs to try again. Now, I’m convinced that the guard had to buzz us out of both doors, but TJ thinks they just worked that time. Whatever happened, we got out without issue this time (and every other time). Wtf??
At lunch, I successfully ordered fish and learned if I tried enough Spanish words and hand gestures one of those combinations would similar enough to be understood. (Note that ‘to-go box’ in Spanish is apparently way different than Portuguese because our server returned with a menu when I asked for a ‘caja’ or ‘para llevar’…)
The city itself was very cool- there were lots of people out on the streets, and they block off the main street (Avenue Paulista) for pedestrians on Sunday. We happened upon a really cool random park in the middle of the city, and some pretty talented street performers. We continued to try out what little Portuguese we’d learned up to this point and TJ continued to tell people “Bebo leite.”
When we got back to the Airbnb we realized that the European adapter I had wouldn’t work here and neither of us felt comfortable plugging in our phones with the US charger in a 250V outlet even though the plugs fits (In my defense the pictures look really similar and the Internet is vague on this topic). We ventured back out to find a charger/adaptor.
We looked up the word for “charger” beforehand so we could ask around: “carregador”. We walked back towards the main shopping area and tried in a pharmacy. They sent us a few blocks down the street to the shopping center. We asked there, and they sent us to a different shopping center. That shopping center had closed, and so we headed back towards another promising store. No dice. We went into a nicer, more of a mall looking thing and asked a security guard. He looked at us as if we were nuts, and sent us back down the street. Somewhere along the way, figured out that we’d have to go to an electronics store to get it. It was almost 6pm, and most of the shops were starting to close. We went into another “mega-store” (that actually turned out to be a giant pharmacy) and the woman there was a bit more helpful and confirmed that the store she wanted to send us to was closed but would open at 8am tomorrow. On a whim, we tried a mall across the street, and low and behold they had a phone store and a Samsung store! I turned my nose up at the $40USD Samsung official charger and bought one from a little kiosk for $10USD with my credit card. TJ got a SIM card for his phone. Everybody was happy.
Trying to buy a charger really works up the appetite so we stopped at a good looking restaurant on the way home. This ended up being the best decision we made all day. A neighboring table was taking a selfie and after I offered to take it for them, he asked where we were from. Apparently, the guy had just lived in Montreal for 6 months and absolutely adored the city. TJ and Artur, our new friend, talked in French for 5 minutes before switching to (drumroll…) English!! Woohoo!!
They invited us to join their table and we happily obliged. They were appalled that we had been in Brazil for 8 hours already and hadn’t tried Cachaça (pronounced ca-sha-shuh) or a caipirinha yet. Cachaça was first- it came in these little shot glasses, but you just sip it. It had a pretty sweet taste to it, almost like a liqueur.
Our second drinks were the caipirinha- traditionally made with limes, honey, and some unknown type of alcohol. They gave us a bunch of tips- like don’t use your credit card at those mall kiosks (my credit card information did get stolen the next day 😕)- and phrases more useful than “I drink milk”. The Portuguese lessons transgressed into the cuss words and we relayed more of our challenges of the day. TJ told Artur that the only phrase we knew was “Bebo leite” and so we’d been using that kind of as a joke to random folks to say that we didn’t “falo Portuguese” (falo =I speak). That’s when we learned that in Portuguese “milk” can also be slang for….”sperm”. That’s correct. TJ had been telling random men and women all day that he drank sperm. I laughed so hard I cried.
Tomorrow we head to Ihlabella, a small island off the coast with beaches and waterfalls.