Taking Candy From a Stranger

Winson Law - Brazil

September 9, 2011

It’s hora pico (rush hour) in Salvador and we’re on our way back to the hostel. In the middle of city, as our bus stops, a man I’m sitting next to passes some centavos (Brazilian coins) to a street vendor and gets three pieces of candy. What is this guy doing? I think to myself. Before I know it, he offers one of his candies to me.“Não obrigado,” I say, hearing my mom’s warnings about stranger’s candy (apparently, it is laced with poison). I look to the Plexiglas wall in front of me, hoping to dissolve the awkwardness.

Eventually, I figure that I might as well use this chance to practice my broken Portuguese.

O que é isto?” I ask, knowing that it is clearly candy.

É Paçoquito. Você quer?” he offers again.

Qual o seu nome?” I ask him as I unwrap his hospitality and an invitation to a Portuguese conversation (I realized that I just saw him buy the candy – there was no way that my mom’s fears could come true).

Meu nome é Ailton” he says, gladly chewing on his.

Meu nome é Winson.”

We try to have a conversation about our lives. Every time I say, “Eu não entendo,”  Ailton gestures and tries to explain so that I can eventually understand. But even in moments of awkward silence, Ailton and I try work through it together despite our language barrier. Even then, we sit in silence and just enjoy each other’s company. When I arrive at my bus stop, I let Ailton know that it was muito prazer to meet him and step off the bus.

I made a temporary friendship on the bus today. Even though I broke a major childhood rule to do so, that peanut brittle candy was a milestone in my journey here in Brazil. Ailton showed me hospitality, perseverance, and a smile even though we were languages, continents, and lives a part. Because of our brief friendship, that little Paçoquito wrapper will always remain a treasure from Bahia as a token of working through barriers, hora pico, and beginnings.

Winson Law