You eventually start to think that you’re adapting well, picking up the language more and more, and smelling the Brazilian coffee every morning, but one instance of insecurity and self-doubt can bring all your progress down.
Let’s start with defining the term micro-aggression (subtle prejudices): commonplace, dailysocial exchanges in which someone from a dominantculture says or does something, without intended harm, that belittles or alienates someone from a marginalized group.
On the first day I arrived in Florianopolis, our team leaders Belisa, Isabela, Belkis, and Daniel took all the Fellows to a restaurant by the lagoa (lake) where we ate ensalada, friedpolenta, and batata frita. I couldn’t believe that I was finally here in Brazil, breathing the Brazilian air, looking at the crisp blue of the lagoa, and eating some of Brazil’s iconic lanches (snacks). As I was leaving the restaurant area, I heard “Arigatou”, but perhaps, it was “Obrigado”; both the former and latter mean “Thank You”, but I turned around and I heard a firm “Arigatou.” I replied “De nada” and walked away.
Three weeks into In-Country Orientation, I was walking home alone at around 9:30 P.M.I was walking the same route home as I have been for the past three weeks. Heading for the next left at the end of the intersection, I felt a tug on my left shoulder from behind. My first thought was Oh my Buddha is this how I die? Alone in a foreign city?” Then I turned around and there was a stranger with a girl leaning on his right arm. They both met my gaze and loudly said “Konichiwa!” and “Arigatou”.