PREVIOUSLY: Part 1
“So what do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a farmer. I have a farm in Belo Hor…” I’ll admit it comes across a lot better in the bars. I could tell it was sounding stupid at that moment so I ejected.
“Just kidding I’m a writer.”
“What kind of writer?”
“Right now travel writing. I’m writing a Colombia travel guide for men, like where guys can go out at night and things like that. I lived there for six months before coming to Brazil.”
“Oh cool. Have you written anything else?”
“Yes, a memoir of my previous six month trip through South America. I went to Ecuador, Peru…” Strangely enough I never got around to telling her about my other book.
“What do you do?” I eventually asked.
“I’m an actress.”
“Oh neat. I knew a couple actresses in Rio—they were always telling me about how tough the business is like. Are you a telenovela actress?”
“No, movie actress. I’ve been in three movies.”
What you’re supposed to do is pretend you’re not impressed so she doesn’t think her value is higher than yours. But when you see yourself as an equal to these types of women, which I believe I am, there’s no need to pretend. You congratulate them on their success like you would a good friend on his new promotion at work.
She told me about the movies she stared in and I said, “Good for you that’s very cool. I know it’s not easy to get roles like that, especially in Brazil, which doesn’t have the amount of acting opportunities as in the U.S. You have to write down the names of the movies so that I can watch them when I go back home. There’s this company called Netflix and they always have rare foreign movies.”
She wrote down the movie titles along with her email address.
“I put down my email address too, so we can keep in touch.”
“Great, we can do a little language intercambio. You write in English and I’ll write in Portuguese. Truthfully you’re the only Brazilian I know who doesn’t speak English. I think my Portuguese is weak because I would always speak English in Rio.”
“No your Portuguese is incredible for only staying here four, five months.”
“Thanks! Now I have a secret if you want to speak good English in two months.”
“What is it?”
“Study only four hours a day.”
“Four hours! I can’t do that!”
“Just do one hour when you get up, two hours in the middle of the day, and one hour before you go to bed. It’s easy!”
“That’s too much.”
“Alright I’ll let you get by with only two hours. I’m sure you can do that.”
The interaction was simple and light due to my limited ability to communicate. More than 80% of my game and humor was locked up in my head screaming to get out. Unfortunately it’s not a simple matter of translating word for word, as at least a quarter of what I say in English is composed of slang, idioms, sarcasm, and cultural humor that’s only funny to a Westerner.
Things started to change. For the first 30 minutes we mostly exchanged facts and basic stories, but those stories were getting more complex and frequent joking released more smiles and laughs. If we had been sitting closer I’m sure there’d be more touching as well, but the more I got to know her the more conflicted I felt. I have enough travel experience to know that I will never see her again, but then again I couldn’t end it.
Of course it turned out that we were taking the same flight.
“I know a lot of Americans come here for sex tourism,” I said, thinking about how this was a risky topic without any real upside. “So the stereotype about that is building and every time I meet a Brazilian girl I know it’s in the back of her mind.”
“Just like how there is a stereotype that Brazilian girls are easy and only care about sex.”
“Exactly, thanks to those Carnival pictures from the sambadrome. I think speaking Portuguese has helped me get out of that though. I’m a special gringo!” I added, “When you have really rich countries, and then poor countries, that sort of thing is going to happen. It’s a shame really.”
“Wait they haven’t called our flight yet.” She got up to read the screen. “They changed the boarding gate.”
“If you didn’t check we would have kept talking and missed the flight,” I said, not realizing that that would have been the best possible outcome for me.
We walked to another gate and waited behind a crowd of people. She was holding her English workbook and I took a look at it. She completed exercises in the present tense, with pencil-written sentences like “I like the music” and “Where is the apple?” I asked her to say a few words in English to hear her accent, and it was as cute as I had imagined.
CONTINUED: Part 3