A Guide to… Meeting the Best Brazilians

Mariah Donnelly - Brazil

September 12, 2011

Ola amigos. The following post will be useful for anyone who is interested in meeting the best Brazilians. This guide comes from the heart and first hand experiences. It is especially useful for people who know little Portuguese.

First, in order to find the most friendly Brazilians one must first fail at being able to swim.  I first experienced this the other day while swimming in the beautiful Atlantic ocean. It was late in the afternoon and the waves didn’t look too strong which meant perfect swimming conditions. I was floundering around in the water until all of sudden I noticed that when I tried to swim forward I would only get pushed further back. The only thing was going through my head was, “I am going to die here.” (warning: I am slightly dramatic).  I could barely keep my head above water when all of sudden I looked up and a Brazilian man with his surf board was next to me holding my hand bringing me to shore. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me. He had no obligation to help me. But yet despite me being a Gringa (an American/ a white person)  and making a complete fool of myself he decided to help me. Although all I could say was “Obrigada, obrigada” (thank you, thank you) and I knew nothing about him except that he just saved my life,  I had met one of the best Brazilians. I didn’t need a language or words to tell me that.

The second way to meet the a great Brazilian is to break a hammock. This story takes place at my beautiful hostel, Pedra da Sereia. The scene is set with two colorful hammocks extending from one hook, holding three of us fellows, one being me. We were swinging and enjoying ourselves until all of sudden the hammocks from the hook snapped off the wall. The three of us fellows fell down to our doom onto the concrete floor. When I look up I am greeted by a familiar face of the hostile worker Claudia who was laughing hysterically at the scene of the three Gringos sprawled on the floor. While cracking up she chided,”Maria, this is your fault,” in the cutest and friendliest way possible. Although Claudia cannot speak any English and my Portuguese is, at best, broken, this event brought me to recognize one of my favorite Brazilians. Every time she opens the door to let us fellows in she reminds of the hammock incident and goes on to say, “Oh, Maria” with a smile and proceeds to hug me.

The third way to meet a great Brazilian is to be completely inept at speaking Portuguese. Learning a new language is not a strength of mine.  This past week during language training I have been having a hard time with the differences pronunciations of various words. Thankfully, Wes found us Fellows a volunteer named Ana Paula  who is a native Portuguese speaker who also wants to work on her English. She often helps our non-English speaking Portuguese teacher answer and understand our questions. Because I have such a difficult time with the language, I am lucky enough to spend a lot of the time with Ana Paula, a near saint.  One night she sat with me for ten minutes at dinner making sure I pronounced  dinheiro perfectly (I promise it’s more tricky than it looks). But I eventually got it down. With her help I really feel like I can maybe learn this language by the time I leave. She has more patience than any American I have ever met and is one amazing Brazilian woman.

I have only been here a week  and I have already met more amazing Brazilian men and women then I can count on both of my hands. If this is already what week one has brought,  I cannot wait to meet the other phenomenal Brazilians out there during the next seven months of my stay.

Mariah Donnelly