At the beginning of August, as I wallowed in a pitiful state of homesickness during the Olympics, I reached a significant milestone in Brazil – that of having lived in São Paulo for 6 months.
It was, of course, purely coincidental that the passing of this historic landmark occurred at the same time that I had my first serious longings for home. It also came as something of a surprise as the six months had seemingly flown by, although I can only take that as being a good thing.
At the same time though, it also had the effect of making me reflect upon all the the things I’ve learnt about São Paulo, Brazil and myself.
Some of which are….
I had actually intended to write a separate post about Portuguese, but I started to get the impression that it might end up becoming an epic that only Peter Jackson would appreciate.
Why? Well, because Portuguese is a complex language that I think would be impossible to satirise in under 1000 words. It is, more importantly, bloody difficult – a fact my wife made very clear before we moved here.
It’s also advice that I should have heeded. I mean, her being a student and teacher of languages and all that probably means she knows what she’s talking about, as well as being someone that you should probably take advantage of (not like that) when learning a new language.
I am, though, definitely someone who prefers the idea of doing something as opposed to someone who actually does, and so I never really got much further than the first couple of chapters of the book she bought me.
I did though slightly rectify my (indifferent) approach to language acquisition by enrolling at a university three days per week. And that, thereafter, was what took up most of my first six months in São Paulo.
And the language itself? Well, as I said above, it’s a bit tricky. Firstly, it’s one of those annoying Latin languages which has grammatical gendering. Secondly, the grammar itself is a beast, with verbs seemingly having a million different conjugations and tenses that are not immediately comparable to anything I know in English.
Fortunately, six months of lessons have enabled me acquire a pretty good understanding of the behemoth. Unfortunately, as with many things in Brazil (see Jeitinho Brasileiro), Brazilians tend to improvise when it comes to the rules and structure of their beautiful language.
As such, it was not until recently that unless I understood the context of a conversation most of it would pass me by whilst sounding like a collection of garbled syllables pronounced with either a thick sh (Cariocas) or excessive rrr / unnecessary e at the end of words – e.g in Brazil, hot dog is not translated and so in São Paulo it’s pronounced hotchy doggy.
But, after six months of attuning my ears to these peculiar sounds I am now at the point where I can almost understand most of the words that are said during a conversation – almost. The main problem now is trying to remember what they all mean, as well as making sure that I pay attention to absolutely everything that other people say – which as a man is much easier said than done.
Yikes, I always thought I was like Mark, not bloody Jez…
Work, Rest & Play
After conquering Portuguese I also had a (very) vague plan that prioritised travelling and volunteering as the two main activities that would fill the remainder of my year in Brazil. Plans though, are overrated in Brazil and so instead I’m going rogue.
Admittedly, I’ve done pretty well on the travel front, as we’ve managed to take in Bahia, Minas, Iguaçu, Paraguay and Buenos Aires. As for volunteering I’ve started a little later than I’d hoped but I’m now helping out a little with a couple of refugee charities here in Sampa.
Getting work, however, was not a priority – partly because we’d saved a little before coming away but also because we’re staying with my wife’s parents (why work when you can sit by the pool?). Unfortunately (for me) our situation changed a little when my wife discovered that she would need two years and not one to complete her degree. As a result I thought it would probably be for the best if I made myself look busy.
Alas, I’ve started teaching English. It wasn’t in anyway my intention to do so, but that’s probably because like many other expats I thought it’d be easier to find something else to do. Unfortunately, that’s very far from the case unless you speak almost fluent Portuguese (understandable) or are transferred here by a bank (shoot me).
As a result, I’ve gone from a situation whereby six months ago I was happily making home visits to refugee children as a social worker in the UK, to one where I’m visiting tall, glass towers in Mordor (Vila Olimpia) to teach English to the 1%. Hopefully, the karma I’ve accumulated from my previous life as a do-gooder won’t be wiped out by my flirtation with the corporate world.
On a more positive note, I’m actually learning a lot about English grammar as I don’t recall ever being taught any at school. That’s probably not the most ideal scenario for an English teacher to find themselves in, but I can guarantee I’m not the only ‘English teacher’ that feels this way. Besides, I also get the impression that the school I work for aren’t particularly bothered either – I’m a native speaker after all aren’t I?
One of my best friends from London is coming over this week so I’m going away for a bit. ROAD TRIP (shh, don’t tell my wife). Unfortunately, for my sun-starved British friend that is, he will be arriving on the first day of rain that we’ve had in over 60 days.
Anyway, despite my absence I still hope to have Part 2 up next week, but in case it isn’t it’s most probably because: a) I’m drinking, or b) Because we’ve been washed way by the rain (only kidding mum).