Português of the Week

comemoração - celebration

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pneus Envy

The Portuguese word for tires is pneus. That is all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


through some blogs about Rio de Janeiro. Written mostly by self-proclaimed ex-patriots, these web logs capture experiences and provide a comprehensive guide for travelers and prospective residents. I have a deep admiration for such selfless bloggers, these literary philanthropists. They provide a service. They help people. They use their efforts and creativity for purposes beyond their mere amusement.

My blog posts help nobody. They are for me. They are medicine for my ailing self-esteem. If anything, they would give travelers a disadvantage.

And yet...I am devoting this blog entry to you, traveler. I want you to be as prepared as possible when you arrive in Rio. I want to pave your road with the smoothest of pavements. I want to personally pack your parachute and be the one to kick you out of that helicopter. I want to be your Jesus, but instead of God’s message, it is Rio’s message—a message of hope, of joy and of where to go to get 3 beers for R$5.

What a better place to start than the Centro? If you find yourself downtown, particularly around the Uruguaiana black market, you will come across one of the most popular professions in Rio—the paper-passer-outer. I would call them flyers or pamphlets, but these disposable sources of information are no bigger than a band-aid. And your normal moves of evasion won’t work against these experts. The I’m-looking-at-the-ground-and-don’t-notice-you won't work. The all-the-sudden-I-have-something-very-important-to-tell-my-friend-next-to-me fails every time. Even the both-my-hands-are-holding-very-heavy-bags won’t save you. These people are smart. They will wave those little cards at your soul. You want to know my advice? Take the paper. Yeah, why not? Take all the papers en route. Hell, even thank them for it. Then when you get to your destination, simply place the wad of juice bar promotions and love motel ads into the nearest receptacle or use it later as free confetti. Sometimes confronting a conflict is the only way to reach urban enlightenment.

Don’t Push It!
In Portuguese, the word for pull is puxe (pronounced pooshie). I know this, yet I always pull a door that opens outward. Learn from my mistake.

Playing Cards
There is a park in Ipanema that, on certain days, converts itself into a card tournament for senior citizens. I have no idea what game they play, but it involves a small table, four players and about twenty spectators. This is, however, not what I want to discuss. The card playing that I’m talking about is that of the Gringo Card.

That’s right, it is okay to play the Gringo Card in Brazil. But don't mistake this for a Master Card or a Visait is not accepted everywhere. For example, if you are haggling down the price of speakers at the black market, mispronouncing cinco reais is not going to help your cause. If you are walking through the Praia de Botafogo underpass and are approached by several bottle-huffing runts asking for money, you may not want to say, “now fallo Porchageeze." Basically, if money is involved you should keep your Gringoness safe in your pocket with your wallet.

There are, however, instances in which the G-Card can be helpful. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you and your cousin are at the last Vasco da Gama futebol game of the season and you buy two scalped tickets only to find out they are not for sale nor accepted by the turnstile guard. Stay calm. Don’t be afraid to over-gringify your Portuguese and explain how your other cousin gave you the tickets. With any luck you will only be threatened to go to jail, and the security guy will eventually just let you in. The Gringo Card is also an acceptable form of payment in the area of romance. Although I personally am not a GGG (Gringos Getting Girls/Guys) cardholder, I am very confident in its effectiveness. As exotic as dark-skinned samba-dancing Brazilians are to us Gringles, our bad-rhythmed pasty-white asses are attractive to them. To some Cariocas, there is no sense of sexual accomplishment greater than the Gringo. If shame is not an option, use that card!

Beach Vendors
You may think your trip to Rio will include a leisurely period of relaxation on one of the many picturesque beaches. Think again. First, good luck finding a 5 square-foot area to put your chair. Second, unless your headphones block out a rocket take-off, you will not experience any form serenity. Another one of Rio’s favorite careers is the beach vendor. The cheese-on-a-stick guy. The jjjjjjjjjjornal do Brasil guy. The guy that sells those twisty bikini tops that, when untwisted, look like footwear from Aladdin. My personal favorite is the AAAAHHHHH-bacaxi guy, who finds so much amusement in scaring people with his pineapple kabobs that he never actually asks people if they want to buy anything. If you’re thirsty, I recommend waiting for the guy with two kegs of matte iced tea and lemonade under his arms. Number one, it’s cheap. Number two, shouldn't you support someone who’s been carrying around two kegs in the sun all day? Another tip: If a vendor has passed by and you want to flag him down, use the Carioca hiss. It’s a loud tssssssthiiuuu (kind of like saying ‘tissue’ but with more of a hiss). My hiss can travel hundreds of meters, and it's so accurate that it communicates to the vendor what I want.

My Issue with Scar Tissue
Within a few weeks of being in Rio, you may notice a scar on the right arm of every Carioca. They are small dots no bigger than a frog’s eye. This will baffle you—these little crop circles of flesh. Where did they come from? I discovered, through my own deductive reasoning, that there is a form of initiation in Brazil. On your fourth birthday, you have to go into the rain forest for seven days. In that time you have to find and kill a family of monkeys and turn their hides into Samba drums. When you come back out, the oldest member of the family stabs you in the arm with a smouldering-hot churrasco spear. My friend who lives in Lapa explained to me that Brazilians get their childhood vaccinations injected into the right arm, and the scars are from the needles. We agreed to disagree.

And there, my friend, is your travel guide. I hope my new blogging philosophy will enrich the lives of fellow travelers instead of just obscuring my own personal experience as unsubstantial, lowbrow comedic material that, at the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day), benefits no one.

Boa noite e boa sorte.