Woke up this morning with the same dry cough that I’ve now had for 2 weeks. Le sigh!
Today we met with the American foreign service officers here in Sao Paulo. After a long speech about the various dangers of living in Brazil, I think I was left with a deep and healthy fear of getting mugged. Great!
Buffet lunch at a neighboring hotel was edible, though unimpressive. Things seem to be 1 of 3 flavors here: Salty, fried, or bland. I have yet to taste something complex and absolutely delicious. Still, I’m only 3 days in.
After lunch we were presented a lecture from a couple of professors from the local university about Brazilian culture. One of the professors told a joke:
A guy gets sent to hell, but he has the choice between American hell and Brazilian hell. He asks the archangel what the difference is. The archangel says, “Well, in American hell they make you eat shit for each meal, and it’s 200 degrees. In Brazilian hell, they make you eat twice as much shit, and it’s twice as hot.” The guy picks American hell, thinking this is the obvious choice. When he arrives, he sees that it’s completely empty but can see in the distance that people seem to be having a party in Brazilian hell. “What’s going on over there?” he asks the archangel. The archangel replies, “Well, theoretically Brazilian hell is supposed to be worse, but they don’t run it very well over there and half the time the Devil doesn’t show up.”
The point of this joke being: Nothing ever gets done in Brazilian bureaucracy.
They also talked a bit about how Brazilians like to keep things vague..
- Example 1: “When do you want to see that movie?” “Ah, after lunch.” In the states, this would mean sometime shortly after lunch. In Brazil, this could mean 1 hour after lunch, 2 hours after lunch, 6 hours after lunch, or possibly/probably never.
- Example 2: “Are you going to work tomorrow?” “Ah, I should.” This could mean yes OR no. Chances are, they haven’t decided yet, and don’t want to promise anything.
- Example 3: “A gente não gosta dele.” This translates to either “I don’t like him,” “We don’t like him,” or “Nobody likes him.” Especially when saying something not entirely nice, Brazilians like to keep it vague so as to shift responsibility for the negativity of a statement.
And finally, we discussed the complexity of the meaning of “saudade.” After much back and forth, we finally decided that “bittersweet nostalgia” was the best way to summarize this emotion in English. The professors were adamant in emphasizing that the sweetness of missing someone so much is the defining characteristic of this emotion, which fails to have its own word in all other languages.
After this 3 hour lecture I was pooped, so of course I did some more putzing in my hotel room. Putzing was followed by pizza dinner with the whole group of us. I won’t comment much about the quality of the food since I tend to dislike pizza. It was, however, totally edible. As was my suco natural de morango com leite condensado (a strawberry milkshake with condensed milk). Mmmmm.
..And now back to hunting for apartments and looking for portuguese classes. Living out of a suitcase is no fun.