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.