Arriving early in the morning on Good Friday, my friend Amanda and her friend picked me up from the airport. I was slightly embarrassed at having just turned up with one day’s notice, but thankfully her family said they didn’t mind, and they seemed happy to host the ‘English speaking, Australian girl’ for the weekend.
A nice surprise was to meet Amanda’s younger brother, Bruno. He spoke brilliant English, so it was easy to converse when he was around, and Amanda and I made a go of it when Bruno wasn’t there. After being fed a large breakfast and showering, we went by bus into the city of Brasilia with two of Amanda’s friends. Feeling less than dressed for the occasion compared to her glamorous friends, I apologised for my lack of nice clothes. One friend said she was just wearing something regular too, and not to worry, but that made it worse because she looked like she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine – what did she look like dressed up, if this was ‘something old she just threw on’?!
Admittedly, the girls didn’t seem to care what I wore, so I decided I shouldn’t either. We went for a tour of the National Congress of Brazil, and saw the uniquely shaped Cathedral of Brasilia. I learnt how much of an influence many women had had in the building of the now capital city of Brazil, and that the city is shaped like an aeroplane to signify always moving forward.
While Amanda had to work, I spent some time with Bruno, and met many neighbours who wanted to see the ‘English speaking spectacle’. It was amusing that so many visitors would just happen to ‘pop in’ to say hi, and yet they all seemed to know there was in English speaker in the house. I soon realised just how much English is like gold here – so many people in Brazil do not speak English, nor understand it, so when a native speaker visits a place off the general tourist trail, news travels fast!
I believe I could travel for many months just by exchanging my time and conversational English practise for a bed and a meal per day. Many of the younger generation are now learning English at school, but they often don’t have the money or time for extra classes to practise what they learn. Considering accommodation is my biggest expense after flights, it would work out well to travel that way.. Except I first want to learn more Spanish..
One night we went out dancing with more of Amanda’s friends. Dancing is in the blood of many Brazilians, and you see people of all ages moving along to the music played in the buses, in the supermarkets and even at the gas stations when you refuel your vehicle. Although I enjoy dancing when I get past my own self-consciousness, it does not come naturally to me. Adding to that concern, I have only two pairs of flip flops with me on this trip, one regular black pair, and one ‘fancy’ silver pair. Combined with my one summer dress of white, purple and pink colours, I was not at all prepared for a night out on the town, at a Brazilian dance club of all places. Amanda graciously offered me her clothes and shoes to wear, and although I greatly appreciated her offer, she is a very petite size six, so there was no hope of me wearing anything of hers.
Seeing all the girls at the clubs in their fancy dresses and shoes did nothing to ease the knots in my stomach, until I decided that they were probably all more concerned with how they looked, and who they were attracting, to be worried about me. Once I got over my own embarrassment – and amazement that I was allowed into the club with only flip flops on – I had a good time. The guys taught me some basic steps, and I will admit that it is much easier to dance when the men know what they’re doing and lead the way!
The bar was an open bar, which in Brasilia meant self service of spirits and mixers! I was impressed that although people were serving themselves alcoholic drinks (Responsible Service of Alcohol and measured shots seem only to exist in Australian), nobody got outrageously drunk, and everyone left the club walking upright and with their shoes still on their feet!
I felt bad the next morning when we slept late and missed a friend’s daughter’s birthday party I thought we’d agreed to attend. I had been invited, albeit in Portuguese, and I’d said I would go (in English), but it appeared that that conversation had been forgotten. I like to keep my word, even when given to young children, and I was upset I hadn’t been able to attend..
Amanda wasn’t worried about the birthday party, but she was concerned with how her mum and I would communicate while she was at work and Bruno was at university. We got along fine, using many hand gestures, and exclamations on my part about what a good cook she was – and she was, except I simply couldn’t eat everything that was put in front of me.
Bruno’s friends later came over to play UNO cards, and they were a very intelligent bunch of young adults. They all spoke Portuguese, English, and were learning Spanish, and they simply amazed me with their language skills. I enjoyed playing a card game I was familiar with from many years ago, although the rules were slightly different and I often lost rounds based on my slower recognition of cards.
Amanda took me to the beautiful Paranoa Lake and the JK bridge, and I continued to admire her ability to look stunning in every photo we took. Along with dancing being a natural talent of Brazilians, knowing just how to pose for the best photograph is a skill they also posses. At night we went to the city for a personalised tour of Brasilia, and I love anything that sparkles and shines, so the view from the TV tower didn’t disappoint – with lights on, Brasilia is a very pretty city at nighttime.
My whirlwind stop in Brasilia came to an end with a lovely dinner of pizza with Bruno and his friends, yet another night time outing with Amanda and her friends, and another early morning ride to the airport. Every person I met in Brasilia was so friendly and welcoming, and happy to show me around their city. The hospitality in Brazil continues to astound me, and is beyond anything I’ve experienced before. Once again I was sad to leave, and said I hoped to visit again in future.