This again?

27 01 2007

So it’s Saturday night, 11pm. I walked home, alone, from Piola’s, the amazing pizza place in Cambui. I was so excited for the night; excited for pizza that I hadn’t had in ages, excited to hang out with Mandy and her boyfriend Marcelo, excited to talk (in English and in Portuguese) and generally excited. I even wore my hair down. That’s how excited I was. I even straightened it. Down, straight….earrings, heels. It was going to be a night out.

And then it happened. Somewhere between the meeting of the Other Couple, friends of Marcelo’s, at Piola’s and My Leaving was when it happened. When I realized:
A) Even though I could understand almost entirely the Other Couple was saying while they dined with us, I had ZERO desire to say anything back because,
B) I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPEAK PORTUGUESE. I can listen to it, I can read it, I can appreciate music sung in Portuguese, but man. When it comes time to speak it, I stumble over almost every single word, sounding like a complete idiot. I feel so stupid. And then…
C) I remembered a couple of months ago when I was having a REALLY hard time with the language and when I would freak out and walk out of bars and stores because I couldn’t handle it and I felt that same old insecurity, the same tension in the upper stomach, start again…and then…
D) …then I knew it was time to get out of Piola’s.

And I’m so upset with myself for it. I guess the truth is I didn’t feel comfortable talking with the Other Couple because I didn’t know them. I don’t like to make mistakes around people I don’t know. It’s times like this when I realize, as a teacher, how important it is to create a learning environment that feels safe for students to feel comfortable making mistakes and asking for help. Mostly, when I’m around new people–friends of Brazilian friends–I shut up. I speak so quietly, preferring to whisper questions or nod my head instead. I say sentence fragments, I laugh, smile, look up at the ceiling, anything to avoid having to construct a sentence that will be riddled with mistakes and an obvious accent. It doesn’t help that I’ve been out of the country for a month, either. I don’t know. I feel like now that I’ve been here for six months (well, really five months b/c of New Zealand), I should feel more comfortable. Before I left for NZ I was feeling comfortable.

Ah, whatever. Just another night where I, the Foreigner, actually feel like one. It’s all good. I’ll feel better tomorrow. I already do feel better.
On the phone tonight with Dennis, I told him that one of the things he’s taught me to do is to let things go. So tonight, rather than letting my language deficiencies get the best of me, I’m just going to let it go and understand that I am not responsible for learning this entire language in six months. (Exhale.) Go with the flow, G. You’re only human. And while you’re doing a super job of being a human, you don’t actually have super powers. Therefore, chill out, drink your soda water, put your pj’s on, and get a grip. You’ll learn what you can while you’re here, and then you’ll move on.


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9 responses

29 01 2007
Davis Wildman

You’re a million steps a head of most of us Gina. I bet you are doing fine. Trying to tell Kristin’s stories of MMU. I picked up my year books from my parents house and showed her pictures and such. Of course, last night I had crazy dreams that we are all back at MMU.
Very disturbing in a way. Anyway, I know you are dying of heat. It’s about 0 here right now.

29 01 2007
ginacoggio

Nice to know someone’s cool right now…I really miss home. What’s making it bearable right now is that I am getting back in touch with people from years ago. (Can you believe it…? I started a MySpace page. I had no idea so many people from my class had pages already!) So it’s really fun for me to talk to all of these people from years ago. (Nice to know, also, that I’m not the only one dreaming of Mount Mansfield Union High School!) What stories were you telling? (Remember “Die!”) Ah, geez. Beijos.

2 04 2007
Gerhardt

I understand exactly how you feel, and can relate 100%, especially with (B)… I have been here (in Campinas) for jsut over 2 years, and I am still struggeling. Struggeling very much to master this language. And it does not help that my working environment is English. Originally from South Africa, I can express myself exceedingly well in English – I absolutely hate not being able to do the same in Portuguese.

3 04 2007
ginacoggio

Gerhardt,
Nice to hear from you! (Especially to find out that you live in Campinas! Where?!) Portuguese is so freaking difficult but at times I feel like I’ve got a better grip on it than at others. But then there are the times when I feel like a child. What’s interesting now is to see Dennis go through the same learning curve I did. Thanks for writing!

4 04 2007
Gerhardt

Hi again

I live pretty close to Shopping Parque Dom Pedro. I married a Brazillian 10 years ago, and we moved here from South Africa about 2 years ago. So, all the suffering that she went through to master English back in SA is now visited upon me in the form of Portuguese. With interest. Biggest problem is that I work for a client that is situated in the US, so I speak English all day long, and at home it is just so much easier to speak English with my wife that I do not get nearly enough Portuguese practice.

I stumbled upon your blog whilst searching for nice restaurants in Campinas by the way. You had a note on Piola`s. We have not been there yet, but will certainly go visit it soon – it sounds really nice. Amarettos in Shopping Iguatimi also makes a really worthwhile pizza, and the service is usually great.

Welcome to Campinas Dennis, and good luck with the Portuguese 🙂

4 04 2007
ginacoggio

Piola’s is amazing! Get their Tre Funghi pizza!!! It’s fabulous! And then, have you been to Montana Grill in Shopping Iguatemi? A.MAZ.ING. I’ve been to a lot of different places in the Cambui area (which is where Piola’s is), so if you’re looking for something specific, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction! (But Piola’s definitely has the best pizza I’ve had in Brazil. The most similar to New York style.)

Also, are you liking it here in Campinas? I’d be interested to know what you think!

5 04 2007
Gerhardt

Nice … mushroom pizza right? I will give it a shot. I know Montana grill, and have been there on 3 or 4 occasions. Love it! I know Cambui reasonably well, I worked in the neighbourhood for a year, and I nearly always had a good experience with the restaurants there – I just somehow missed Piola’s. There is a nice place that sells ribs (beef) in Cambui that I also like. I forget the name now, but it is close to the BMW dealership accross a hair saloon (Mona Lisa).

Campinas… what do I think. hmmm… some things I like, others I don’t. To explain, I studied and worked for a number of years in and around Cape Town. And as dangerous as SA is, it is still one of the most scenic places in the world to visit or live in, and with so much to do. I miss that here. I miss good roads, truck drivers who do *not* believe that they are driving Porches, the natural scenic beauty all round, the pride people have in a clean beautiful city, the mountains, and above all else, the sea.

So, when we can, we take off to the north coast (and by this I mean the state of Sao Paulo, not the country). Why? Because it is not that far, not that expensive, the beaches are pretty (and) nice, and it is a little rugged – not overdeveloped nor too crowded like Guaraja in the south of the state.

Having said all that, the 3 malls to eastern side of Campinas are rather nice, and I love the food here. It also does not have Sao Paulo traffic, and that is important. Both me and my wife are in the IT field, and right now, if you are an IT expert, and you can speak English well, it is pretty easy to find a good job since so many American companies are outsourcing their IT needs to Brazil and India – in US$s, we are far cheaper.

So, like all places, Campinas has both its good and bad points. I don’t mind living here – point is just when we want to go to a nice place to relax, it is often not in Campinas.

Coming from NZ, which is also very scenic (I never visited, but I did appreciate the scenery in the LotR movies), how do you see Campinas?

15 04 2007
ginacoggio

(Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you!…vacation.)

How do I see Campinas? I think the best time to have asked me that question was when I first arrived. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, or to my little corner anyway. I know that when I came back to Campinas after vacation, I didn’t want to be here because the coast is so much nicer, and safer, than here. I know also that there is some pretty excellent food here and that the people, for the most part, are kind. I agree with you–the drivers here scare the shit out of me: bus drivers, taxi drivers, motorcyclists…pretty much anyone not on foot. And that’s no joke about Sao Paulo traffic.
What I miss here are wide open spaces to enjoy lying around in the grass. I miss mountains and I definitely miss the water. Campinas is surrounded by tons of farmland, as you know, and not a mountain as far as the eye can see. But there are tons of apartment buildings.
Compared to New Zealand….they don’t compare. You can’t compare the two. Campinas ITSELF is 1/5 the size of the entire country of New Zealand. There were entire days when Dennis and I didn’t see another human when we were driving around and visiting beaches and whatnot. That’s impossible here. But New Zealand, for me, wasn’t as culturally satisfying as Brazil is. I like interaction with people, which is why I like it here. I went to New Zealand to enjoy nature and see amazing views, not to have full-on cultural immersion. Because it’s not that different from home for me.

15 04 2007
Gerhardt

Vacation. One of my very favourate words.

Cristina and I went down to the coast over the same time as well (with the rest of Brazil sigh), but only for the Easter weekend though – what I would do for a whole week away! It was a totally unplanned trip, which just made it even nicer. As usual, we went down to Lagoinha, which is a lagoon (see the panoramic picture in my site that I listed with this post) situated approximately halfway between Caraguatatuba and Ubatuba. We like it there… in fact we probably like it a little too much, since we are always too afraid and/or lazy to go somewhere else in the event that we don’t enjoy it – our breaks are few and far between as Cris studies at night.

Anyhow, whats nice about Lagoinha is that it is sort of rugged, but civilization is actually not too far away in case one suddenly develops a desparate craving for it. About 20 minutes drive north or south will provide a cure. The main beach itself is pleasant, with vendors that sell all the important stuff… beer & caipirinha. And fried shrimp onna stick and pastel, and the obligatory coconuts. Ha, of late they even have small portable bbqs that they use to prepare melted cheese sticks. There is a lovely hiking trail that leads from the main beach where one can discover secluded and unspoilt little beaches as you walk. There are people, sure, but not too many, especially this time of the year. There are some reasonable places to stay, but we prefer Hotel Laguinha. It has a heated swimming pool, and all the other important stuff… beer & caipirinha. And fried shrimp onna stick… you get the picture. Plus ping pong, snooker, sauna, etc for the lazy evenings. Oh, and aircon in the rooms so that one can actually manage to sleep at night in the sweltering heat. And I *will* demand a rebate from them for this free advertisement 🙂

As for mountains: Well, the closest I got to that here up to present was by travelling from Campinas northwards to Jaguariuna (Google Earth 22°42’24.38″S 46°59’11.57″W), then southeast to Pedreira (22°44’36.09″S 46°53’40.90″W – full of crazy curiosity shops – worth a stop), and finally northeast to Serra Negra ( 22°36’30.15″S 46°42’5.46″W.) This region is slightly (sigh) more mountainous than Campinas, and the town has dozens of shops, specializing in winter woolware. For really very reasonable prices. A pleasant weekend or Sunday trip during winter time.

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