The day I was leaving for Brazil, in July 2006, I met a Brazilian guy who was also taking the flight, on his way back home. We sat in the terminal during our twelve-hour wait for the flight that we’d been bumped from originally and he taught me some things about Portuguese. I’d known just a couple of words–like hello and thank you. But as we sat together, he pointed out things we saw around the terminal and told me how to say them in Portuguese.
“Cachorro,” he said, pointing to a dog.
“Cachorro,” I repeated.
“Cachorrinho,” he said, pointing to the same dog but signaling with his hands a much smaller dog.
“Cachorrinho,” I repeated, understanding that the “-inho” meant “small.”
“Cachorroao,” he said, spreading his arms wide to symbolize a huge dog, and when I reapeated it, I understood that the “-ao” meant “big.” (There is really supposed to be a til–that little curvy accent—above the “a,” but I don’t know how to work that accent with my computer.)
Brazilians do this with a lot of words here. They make a lot of words mean “big.” They do it with “thanks,” (big thanks,) and “kiss,” (big kiss) and far too many others to list here. You can basically take any word and make it mean something bigger by adding the “-ao“at the end.
This brings me to our weekend, our trip to Rio. Our friend Montezuma stopped by for a visit and decided to make traveling an impossibility. Sometime around nine o’clock last night, just two hours before leaving, we here on Joaquim Novaes felt our guest’s presence in our guts and before we knew it, we were on our way to the rodoviaria not for travel but to exchange our tickets for another day. For next weekend, actually, by which time ol’ Monty should well have evacuated our systems.
And so, we find ourselves in Campinas, relaxing to the sounds of a circular saw rhythmically spinning through concrete the next block over, feeling the cool breeze across our brows as we work on expelling the enemy from our territory. It’s a full-on war here in Brazil, or at least in our intestines, and we’re deep in the trenches. (Or at least in the bathroom.) A small price to pay for life in a tropical country, but a gross one nonetheless.