I need a new watch

Laura Harvey - Brazil


October 24, 2018

Time is different in Brazil.

There are many reasons why – I went from British summer time with the sun setting at 11pm, to it setting here at 6:30pm. We eat lunch anywhere between 1pm and 4pm, and tea just before going to bed. The busses can come up to 20 minutes before or after their scheduled time. At my apprenticeship, a four hour shift can be considered productive even if we just sit and chat the whole time.

Despite all this, on Monday my timing was actually wrong, even for Brazil.

My alarm went off ready to go to my apprenticeship working in environmental education at Comcap – the waste management department of the city council. I rolled out of bed bleary eyed, having stayed up too late the night before spending time with another fellow at Café Cultura, and forgetting the irregularity of the busses on a Sunday night. I had my normal breakfast of granola and fresh Brazilian bananas in the quiet living room; my host parents work from home and my host sister works in the afternoon so I rarely see them before I leave. The sky was clear outside and I laughed at my change of lifestyle – I used to scrabble to find all my A level folders before leaving for the bus, now I dig through my bags to find my sunglasses.

The bus was later than usual – I whatsapped the fellow who lives near me as she was planning on getting the same bus as me that morning, to let her know that she could still make it. She still wasn’t there when the bus eventually arrived. 15 minutes into the bus ride my phone vibrated in my bag – she had replied seemingly very confused. “How has it gone if it’s 7:16”.

After a couple more confused messages we established that the time on my phone was an hour ahead – I was fuming. After all, there is nothing you learn to prize more than sleep when it’s so exhausting living in a space where you don’t speak the language. How on earth had my phone just jumped ahead an hour? And why had no one else’s? Why had I been sat at the bus stop at 7am?

I realised that I don’t normally wear my sunglasses at the bus stop because the sun isn’t normally that low in the sky at that time. I realised that the neighbour who normally gets the same bus as me wasn’t at the bus stop. And I remembered that I do normally hear one of my host parents showering during breakfast even if I don’t always see them.

Annoyed at myself, I slumped off the bus and went to get a pão de queijo to pass the time – I now had the choice of arriving at my work an hour before everyone else or sitting at the bus station for an hour. With a surprisingly good bakery and an eBook on my phone, I chose the latter. I messaged another fellow to see if her phone had done the same thing, it hadn’t but she said that “it’s Temer’s fault”. At, what I now knew to be 7:30 on a Monday morning, I was too confused and delirious not to believe this, and I googled what President Temer could possibly have to do with my phone’s clock.

It turns out, in one of the most random pieces of legislation I’ve ever read about, President Temer decided to change when the south of Brazil would change between summer and standard time, and also alter which states used summer time. Apparently my phone provider didn’t get the memo, and jumped forward an hour two weeks early. Still grumpy over my lost hour of sleep, I was reminded that I’d have to do the same thing again in a fortnight.

Lots of people at home have been asking what Brazil is like. This is a hard question to answer, but I guess this experience gives you some insight: more sun than I’d ever seen at home, questionable public transport, a relaxed pace of life, unbelievable politics and unpredictable days. Oh, and technology doesn’t work very well. My watch broke a week after arriving and I’m now sceptical of my phone.

This morning it was very sunny again. As I reached into my bag to put on my sun glasses, I caught myself and glanced at my phone. Not again my friend.

My bus stop view

Laura Harvey