Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Brazilian Portuguese: What I learned

So, 3 months in a different language will teach you a lot. I definitely learned lots about Brazilians and about the difference between Brazilian Portuguese and English. Here are some of the main points:

"It starts at 10" - It will start at 1. 1ish. Depending on whether people get drunk or forget.

"Let's definitely have lunch tomorrow!" - I'll call you at around lunchtime tomorrow and put things off until dinner time. We'll go out and drink cachaca then.

"Come! There's all kinds of music!" - There will mostly be music I like (cheesy or crap. If you're in Ipanema or Leblon, it'll be Bieber or David Guetta) but I'll get you drunk enough on caipirinhas that you won't care.

"Yes." - Maybe. Unless I forget.

"Are you here alone?" - I'm going to try to kiss you in 5 mins.

"Oh, there's no meat in that." - It has chicken in it. Well, either chicken or pork. Or beef.

Aside from the language, I also learned a lot about my life. I learned that I can give off the impression that I understand things I don't understand, simply by smiling just a little bit and saying "be serious (fala serio!)" after just about anything.

I learned that R$9 shoes will not even attempt to keep your shoes in them.

I learned that if you want your boyfriend to be more affectionate, you should take him to Boipeba, the peaceful island in Bahia, where the ratio of men to women is about 70:30. And the ratio of hot men to non-hot men is about the same.

I learned that Brazilians will talk to anyone whether they know them or not, so you should ALWAYS be prepared to be part of the conversation. Not even giving someone the book-off will thwart them.

I learned that Rio is the ultimate city of opposites where everyone who isn't born with a silver spoon of açaí in their mouth has to fight for what they want. And that city of power and attitude fits me exactly.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

PMDD - making Rio rocky for women since the dawn of time (I imagine)

Tomorrow, lots of decisions need to be made.
1 - Do we move out of our apartment? (The lease is up and we're still debating whether it's worth keeping it for another month. This worries me because here, the internet is fast and free. Bonus and bonus!)

2- - Should I do a week's training course for a job which I probably won't be able to take? Sister's pregnancy and other family issues are making the decision to stay increasingly difficult.

3 - Should I sack it all off and go travelling around the country with the bf OR stay in Rio and slog it out for more students ergo more work ergo that sense of doing something that I've so badly been missing.

These seem like 3 relatively small issues, yet for the last 5 days have been tormenting me in my sleeping and waking hours alike. None of this is helped by a boyfriend who also happens to be a Question Machine, constantly fishing for answers I don't have. Again, this is not a *real* problem. I have a boyfriend who cares enough to want to know what I'm doing/thinking/feeling. Surely that's a good thing, right?

I honestly thought that by being here, in this city, in this country that I love so much, I would be happy. The occasional overwhelming feelings of "what the hell am I doing? I just can't do anything right. I want someone to just do it all for me" would leave me alone. Alas, I was wrong. At home in England, I put my occasional inability to make a decision down to the crappy weather/shitty job/lack of money getting me down. Before that, I was working too hard/not dancing enough/didn't have a boyfriend - why don't I have a boyfriend?! These thoughts would occupy my brain space leaving no room for rational thought. To this end, I was essentially a shell of a person just walking around emptily doing what was expected and occasionally crying at the impossibility of it all.

It wasn't until recent years that I started to make the connections between my bouts of hopelessness to the onset of my...having the painters in. The week before Auntie Flo came into town would habitually be the darkest time of my life. Each time was worse than the last. I'd consider ending perfectly lovely relationships. I'd not leave the house for anything for days on end. I would consider walking in front of cars just so I'd have to go to a hospital where all the decisions could be made for me.

Depression? No. I looked up the symptoms of depression. It sounds horrible! The worst part of it was, it made me feel worse knowing that I couldn't even be depressed properly. Imagine, thousands of people drag themselves through the dark tunnel of depression and I'm so blinded by self pity I can't even appreciate how lucky I am to still be able to get out of bed (just).

So I looked further into what was making me into such a weeping shadow of myself.



PMDD - Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. THis is basically what my problem is and has been for a really long time. I'm so glad I finally know the name of it. It's a real tangible things with suggestions on how to treat it and an explanation as to why someone widely considered as an excitable optimist can have such dark empty days where she pushes those who love her and who she loves so far away they can barely see the tears in her eyes.

So I'm sorry Rio. I thought it was you. But it's not you. It's me.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Favela Rising

I don't believe in the glamourization of favelas. Favela tours I think are kinda voyeuristic - that being said, I have never been on one although having read this, maybe I will). I believe favelas to be homes of communities of people who eat, drink and crap the same as everyone else. I respect that. I also respect that I haven't grown up or lived in a favela. I don't know their rules. So when a friend of a friend wanted company into a favela, I hesitated before saying 'yes'.

The back story was this. Girl meets boy. Girl and boy dance together and fall in love together. Girl lives in London. Boy lives on a morro. Girl and boy visit back and forth and the love in strong. Last week, girl surprises boy in his favela home only to find him face down in the lap of someone else. Girl gets mad, breaks up with boy and tells him she wants all of her stuff back.

Fair enough.

However, boy doesn't respond and so with encouragement and support of friends, girl + 2 friends (myself included) go forth. Operation Retrieval of The Things.

She says it's not far from where we'd just been sitting having drinks and shooting shit about relationships. There's a lift which takes us up and the Favela has been pacified after the UPP so I'm not too scared as we walk up the 19 flights of stairs up from the street to enter the level of the Boy's house. We pass a group of kids who are all playing on the stairs, commenting to themselves about these 3 girls walking through their streets. "Que e isssssso?!!!" We placate them with jokes and play flirtation with the loudest one who's subsequent blushes quieten him down. We walk up steps, through narrow alleys, right turn, sudden left turn over steps and planks of wood and Lord knows how many cockroaches until she gestures for us to be quiet. We're near his house and we don't need any nosey neighbours getting involved.

She still has her key and unlocks the door. We go in and she quickly gathers her things. Including 2 quite cumbersome Ikea blinds. we're in and out in less that a minute but a boy sticks his head over the wall at the sound of the door closing to ask if Boy was home. Girl says no and we start down the hill before she remembers something else in the house. Like a bad movie, she looks at me and tells me she's going back for it. I know it's a bad idea but she's hurt and she wants him out of her life and so I nod at her to get what's hers out of his possession. She runs into the house and as she walks out, like a bad movie, He appears.

Not so much Boy, he is a Man. A tall man who's stature immediately evoked a slight panic in me.

He calls after her. She says hi but carries on walking, signalling that we should walk too. Faster out than our walk in. He runs after us and asks her what she's doing. What's in the bag; who are these people that were in my house. She answers - she's getting her things, it's her stuff in the bag; she's here with friends and she's not leaving them. At first there's still tenderness in his voice when he asks her to come back so they can talk but her resolve is firm.

"There's nothing to talk about, I'm leaving."

On realising it's not going to be an easy conversation, if a conversation at all, the tenderness disappears from his voice and is replaced by urgency and anger. Come, let's talk, turns to Get back here, I want to talk to you. She walks away. His walk turns into a run and before we realise, he's right behind us tugging her bag off her back. I just want to talk to you. These other people can get lost.

We're not leaving without you I tell her. Mistake. Now he's more concerned with us. The Intruders. He grabs the plastic bag in our other friend, let's call her A,'s hand, asking if it's from his house. She's feisty and will not back down. "That's my book, that's nothing to do with you" to which his anger spikes and he turns to face her. "What were you doing in my house?" And throws the bag at her. It crashes to the ground, rips and the book rolls in front of my feet. He is angry.
To the Girl he hisses "Tell these people to get out. Get out of here."

She won't leave without her bag. She's stubborn and she wants what's hers. A is stubborn too and she's had her property ripped out of her hand by this man who has so hurt her friend. I'm standing behind holding two 2metre blinds wishing my Portuguese was good enough to have something to say when he eventually turns his anger on me. I place the blinds down so he has nothing from me to grab when I step forward to help my friends.

It's weird. You know people are listening from inside their houses - rooms in the community are so close to one another - but they don't do anything. It's their own business. What a man will do to the woman in his life is His Business. So when Boy grabs Girl by the arm until she shakes him off and shouts that she wants her bag back now please, there's no reaction from anywhere. A stands in his way and Girl who has now broken free from his grip, starts towards me. Angry that she's gotten free, he clips A's arm and stomps past her. Girl has rushed ahead of me muttering in English "let's get out of here".

It suddenly dawns on me that we are in a favela. His community. Whatever he wants to do or say, he has people there who he can trust and he knows the rules. We are definitely on the back foot.

So we get out of there. He runs after us for a bit saying "You've already come up to the hill so you know what to expect from here when you go into someone's house".

We run faster.

Through alleyways, down steps. I barely know where I'm putting my feet, which way I'm going, I just follow Girl. She's steps ahead of me hurrying us along. "We've got to get out of here girls, come on." I look back at A. There's a look on her face I recognise as fear and anger. She doesn't like to get pushed around, she's angry he manhandled her friend, but she knows as well as I that we're not on good ground up here where the air and the ways are different.

Back down on the flatlands of Ipanema, we drop the pace - but only slightly - as A and I accompany the Girl to her door. She thanks us for coming with her and apologises for putting us a horrible position. I think how brave she is and how hurt she must still be have wanted to venture into a favela at 11pm. I look in her eyes and know that the man we saw was not the same man she fell in love with, but also that she did still love him. Love turns to hate so quickly that sometimes we forget what it used to be. When we're faced with the person, sometimes we're forced to recognise it and it hurts.

After we left her, A and I thanked each other for being brave and being good friends. There was no telling what would have happened if we hadn't been there with her. Maybe they would have spoken calmly as he wouldn't have had the provocation of knowing Intruders had been in his house. Maybe he would have hit her. We'll never know.

What I do know is that after we left her, he went to her apartment, pushed past the doorman and tried calling her out from the street. But is was on the Flatlands now where his tactics had responses. She stayed inside and she is fine.

Tomorrow, she's coming to stay with me.

Rocky Rio?

SO, I've called this blog this because it's how I'm feeling at the moment. You know what you're climbing over rocks and the next step looks secure but everytime you lift your foot, the rock you're standing on jiggles around making you convinced you'll slip and plummet to your death, smashing your beautiful face against the rocks so your mum won't be able to give you an open casket funeral cos your nose and teeth will be so mangled you'll be barely recognisable? That's how I'm feeling at the moment.

I'm sitting in my apartment in Rio de Janeiro - somewhere I've longed to be for the past 7 years of my life - and I'm feeling kinda fuzzy about what I'm doing let alone what I should be doing.

I'm not making any sense...

This time last year, I was in a job that I loathed, but with amazing people earning good money. I had a great apartment in Brixton with flatmates I adored. Good friends, good times - but I wanted to be in Rio.

I felt like if I got a TEFL qualification, I could move to Brazil and live the life I'd wanted. Teaching and being surrounded by samba, my one true love - what more could you ask for?

Fast forward a year and I'm here. I've got my CELTA certificate. I'm in Rio, yet something's missing. And I can tell you now what that is. Money. Skrilla. Dough. Benjamins. Dolla. Reis. Pounds sterling.

I've been here for nearly two months, handing out flyers and sending off CVs to Rio's most (and least) prestigious English schools. Through a friend of a friend, I managed to wrangle and interview with a new school who wanted me! Finally, I thought. It's starting. I can begin my Rio life. Being a grown up person with a job! Means to support herself! I can go out and buy some mascara!(I've been looking like I've had no eyelashes since my Maybelline ran out).

However... the job wants me to start, um, about 3 weeks before I'm due to fly home.
"Just change your flights!" I hear you shout. And yes, I have thought about that. But a conversation had with my other half about 30mins before I began writing this reminded me that I already owe him shedloads of $ and I'm not sure how I'll pay rent if I stay longer, let alone the extra money airlines inexplicably charge you for taking your name off one flight and entering it onto another. Also, my little sister is having her first baby in July and the longer I stay the longer I'll miss out being skinnier than her.

Not sure what that next step is but I'm sure I'll let you know.