When sitting down to write this I wondered how I might go about writing a blog that is meaningful and at least somewhat unique. So I will focus upon one key thing I have learned during my stay here in Garopaba which I wish I knew from the beginning. Names. It is quite simple, but makes all the difference. I have learned that whenever I meet a new person, if it is a clerk at a grocery store, a bouncer at a nightclub, or even people I meet on the streets, I always ask them their name and give them a good handshake.
Some time later when I return to that gas station or bar, I see the person again who clearly does not remember me at all. When I greet them by name, their face lights up and suddenly they become so friendly. Normally I am terrible with remembering names, and it doesn’t help that the Brazilian names are somewhat different than what I am used to. However, I have learned that it is critical because by remembering someone’s name, you acknowledge them as an individual and you become more than just a tourist to them.
An example I can think of is Danielle, a gas station clerk in Praia do Rosa. He only works at night and that place is always vacant, devoid of customers. When I returned a week after learning his name and called him by it, he was so excited. He suddenly became so happy and we talked for 15 minutes. Just by doing something as simple as remembering his name, we made this guy so happy. Now every time I return there to buy something or even if I am just passing by, I always talk to him for a bit.
So I believe that the simplest way to spread happiness and grow connections is names. Something totally unique to each and every person. Not to mention all the benefits reaped from doing so; free drinks (non alcoholic of course), admission to all sorts of places, and new acquaintances to practice Portuguese with.
To be frank, it was never difficult to live in Garopaba. I never felt overwhelmed or even in my “Stretch Zone”. Has the program failed in this aspect? I would say so. However, I would also say that I don’t think this aspect is critical to one’s development. What is critical is a fresh environment. A new place with a language one does not know and a town thousands of miles away from one’s own. It is adapting that matters and allowing yourself to be melded by your environment while also influencing that environment to a certain degree.
In recent weeks as Garopaba’s population has swollen for the tourist season I have felt more Brazilian than ever. Whether it be our mutual disdain for the hordes of Argentinian tourists who seem to have descended overnight or giving those very same tourists directions around town. I rarely leave my house without running into someone I know from one place or another. It is humbling to go days without speaking your language. Walking into a room and knowing you are the outsider is something I have grown accustomed to. The strange thing for me is I don’t belong in either of these groups. I am not a clueless Argentinian tourist asking people for directions and crowding on to the beaches so densely that one struggles to see any exposed sand. However, I am also not a Brazilian, most of whom have families that have lived in the south of Brazil for generations. So I continue to live and learn. In April I shall return to the United States a little older and a little wiser.