January 2nd, 2017
Officially in Brazil! Officially an obvious American!
Even when I was trying to ask questions in my beginner Spanish (I didn’t realize so many people would know some conversational Spanish) I was greeted with Ingles? (I’m extra surprised at how many people know English?!) Bummer. I’m so obviously American it’s humorous. I can’t blame them either. I’m walking around with my L.L. Bean duck boots, a huge and colorfully patterned cardigan resting on my forearm, beads of sweat forming on my forehead, and a constant look of confusion plastered to my face. I don’t think the Macbook Pro I’m writing this on is helping my cause either. I’m not from these joints! I’m also sitting here, probably at the wrong gate, wondering how American I actually look. Am I just self-conscious because I don’t know the language or the people, so I feel as though I’m sticking out like a sore thumb, or am I really sticking out like a sore thumb? I’ll find out in a minute when I go try to figure out the partidas domésticas board again.
I’m at the right gate! I was just thrown for a loop whenever this gate is hosting two plane arrivals and departures within one hour.
UPDATE: That was the wrong gate and I am obviously American. I scream American so badly that while I was talking to the picturesque Brazilian man—very tall, beautifully colored, and extra muscular—the flight attendant spoke to him in English as we were walking by. He instantly responded to her with what I deduced was something like, “Oh no! I am not American—she is!” This encounter was hilarious to them, and admittedly to me, too. So I got to my seat, an aisle seat, and started waiting for my neighbors to arrive. Whenever a couple walked up with the proper body language I gestured if they were sitting with me. They both responded with, “Yes!” #AmericanGirl
Once my flight landed after twenty minutes craning my neck to catch glimpses of the city from the tiny airplane window, I was ready to conjure Rio. I strutted out of the arrivals terminal on a mission to find Emilton, a man who works with OU in Rio and came to come pick me up from the airport and take me to our hostel in Leblon. He was suppose to be wearing a specific OU affiliated shirt, so I tried to check out every man’s clothing without being too conspicuous, but I could not find him! I stopped to exchange currencies and try to hop onto any free wifi I could to contact Caren for probably twenty minutes, but no luck. Just when I was debating between sleeping in the airport until everyone arrived the next day or attempting to hail a taxi, I realized he might be at the international terminal, thinking I was flying out of the U.S. instead of Mexico. THERE HE WAS! I felt so bad. Not only did I spend way too much time looking around the domestic terminal, but our bags from the flight were horribly late coming out of the chute. He was there waiting for at least almost an hour! Then something else, very important, made me feel worse.
I couldn’t talk to him. At all. It’s completely my fault, too. I didn’t even know how to say “thank you” yet. I didn’t realize and know that to say hello it was “hola,” like in Spanish. The entire ride to the hostel was either filled with silence or him trying to speak to me in a language I couldn’t understand a single word of. I was so embarrassed. I have been so passionate about respecting and adapting to cultures since I want to travel abroad as untouristy as possible, but I failed! My mom even got me a Portuguese/English dictionary—I forgot it in my car at DFW. I spent so long preparing for this course with its particularities that I forgot to prep myself for the experience. Whenever I was walking out of the hostel, Matt at the front desk took my laptop and my camera from me (that I was going to keep in my backpack) to watch it while I went and ate. I didn’t even have a lock for my drawer to keep my stuff safe in the hostel.