Shortly after my return from Argentina I felt the emptiness inside me growing. My job did not fulfill me, not even my chica and fiestas, and the constant Dublin rain and general lack of culture scene so omnipresent in Prague pissed me off to put it mildly. I missed Argentina, its sun and open horizons. I craved the dust of the road more than anything else. Not surprisingly, few weeks later, I happened to walk that street which happened to have this board advertising sale of around-the-world tickets and this really friendly Slovak soul incarnated into a lovely girl behind the counter. It took me couple of days of consideration, but inside me I knew that I already decided the moment I saw the board. I bought the ticket in March 2008, left my job by the end of May (I needed to save at least some money) from day to day without bothering to give notice (hate those moments when they try to buy you off with fata-morgana of salary raise, promotion etc.) , went back home to paint the summer away and landed in Rio de Janeiro in September. Brazil here I come!
Who visited Rio knows how easily you fall in love with that city. Now imagine how I felt after 3 years of corporate office slavery, couple of grands on my bank account, zero ties, 29 years young, fit and free. And I had another mission- learn Portuguese! It had to be done and quickly. Local nature and other beauties were just too much of a motivation. Mind you, my knowledge of Spanish was helpful in that mission, but don't get fooled- Portuguese is very different from Spanish, especially the spoken language. All other South American countries speak Spanish (not counting French Guyana, Guyana and few others) and when they come to Brazil they understand bollocks. Funnily enough, Brazilians understand more of Spanish than vice versa. Brazilian Portuguese is a song, and I wanted to sing it.
Copacabana became my new neighborhood. I mixed caipirinhas in a hostel bar every second night for free bed and breakfast. It was fun and free booze. Dangerous combination. Mostly western crowd but few Paolistas (Brazilians from Sao Paulo) too. That was my target group. I asked them million questions and they were glad to answer them, especially when it involved teaching slang. Brazilians are warm-hearted, telling jokes without cease and sincere to the point of being blunt, which resonates perfectly with me. We had an instant connection and I always felt good in Brazil. I carried my little notebook in the back pocket of my shorts and put down dozens of words and phrases in it every day. I read the newspaper every morning and tried to convince my brain to switch from Spanish to Portuguese. Those of you who speak multiple languages will agree with me that the closer the language is one from the other, the harder it is to speak it correctly without sounding like somewhere in between. Speaking Portuguese was a real challenge for me. I could read it after a month, understand the spoken language after two, but I could not push my tongue into speaking it. It happened literally overnight. I was out of Rio, traveling the coast in direction of Amazon. Less tourists, more locals. One day I realized that I could speak it well enough that I did not sound like a total gringo. My experience of Brazil changed completely from then on. Many doors opened and many intense experiences embraced me at their threshold. In Natal I met a great dude Patrick, Brazilian who I later visited in his hometown Belem and stayed with his parents. In Fortaleza I met Carmen who hooked me up with her family in Manaus which resulted in me living in authentic illegally built ghetto-like suburb of the biggest Amazonian city.
Portuguese became my fifth language and Brazil left a permanent mark in my heart. One of the good kind.
Now you know more about me and you know why I am bit confused when I label myself with ESL sticker. Also, you will, hopefully, forgive me more easily now, when I mix up my English with all sorts of language mix I acquired along my curvy path as well as for my typos, wrong order of words, grammar mistakes and other writing crimes deserving a gentle but purposeful smack on my confused, but determined head.
And there you go! I meant this to be a short introduction to some other story and I ended up writing a whole blog on this subject. Hopefully it wasn't too much of a torture for you, dear reader. Stay tuned for next one!