The Unknowing Gringo

Sophie Winter - Brazil


September 30, 2017

In the month I have lived in Brazil I have had a few “oops” and “oh shit” moments, a few more than I care to admit. My limited Spanish vocabulary has changed my language to a blurry mess between English, Spanish, Português, and a few wild hand gestures. Most likely the reason my conversations with people outside of my family are cut short as they decide to scurry away from the strange foreigner. 

More than a few times a day for the past month my conversations have revolved around the weather. Whether it's hot or cold, rainy or sunny. Often times I would choose to remark, “Sim, está muito caliente hoje.” Or, “Yes, it's very hot today.” I learned the word, “caliente” mind you in my Spanish class years ago. Still thinking that Português and Spanish ran closely together I used caliente daily. Both when referencing the weather, and how I was feeling. 

Upon arriving at my Português class, and declaring I am hot because it is hot outside, my teacher looked at me, and asked me to repeat myself. After repeating, and giving her a few minutes to stop laughing she explained that in Português, “caliente” does not mean hot. It does indeed mean horny. 

If that is giving you vergonha alheia, or second hand embarrassment I suggest you stop reading. Every Tuesday my coworkers attend a club called, “Pintura de Mulhers.” A place where we gossip, paint, crochet, and have coffee together. It's an incredible club, one where I learn many new words, meet interesting women, and create pieces of artwork. Naturally I feel the need to tell all my friends about the super amazing, “Pinto de Mulhers,” club I am apart of. After excitedly describing my group experience to the Garopaba team leader, Marcella. She stopped me and told me that I must have the name wrong. “Pinto” does not mean painting, pinto is one of many terms for a mans genitalia. 

Great, I've been going around to all my friends and new family saying both of these words wrong, and worse I've definitely had conversations with children where I have made these mistakes. A small part of me wants to apologize, but another larger part wants to embrace my mistakes and laugh. Because it's not often you can walk into a room, declare you are horny, and walk out with no consequences. For right now, I am the unknowing “gringo” and I intend to milk that for as long as possible. 

Sophie Winter