Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Better Not Cancel Those Classes Just Yet

Portuguese: it's a tough language. But some days I think I am doing pretty good. And then others I get brought down a notch or two. This morning I experienced the latter.

I've been needing to go in to the lab and have some blood work done that my doctor ordered. Today was the day; I would go over to the lab and let them take my blood. My doctor told me that no appointment would be necessary, just go in before I eat or drink anything for the day, and they will take care of it. He had written up a lab order, so I didn't even have to explain what I needed - Perfect!

I arrived right about 9:30 this morning after making the 15 minute walk. I took a number, just as the sign told me to, and had a seat to wait for it to be called. After about 10 minutes my number was up and I went to the counter. I handed the nice lady on the other side my doctor's orders along with my health insurance card. She asked a couple questions that I easily answered and then she asked for some identification. I pulled out my passport and I think that's where things started going downhill. When she realized I was American, she asked me if I spoke Portuguese. (Please remember I have already answered a few simple questions, like what's your address, phone number, etc in the native language.) I told her I did but not real well yet. I think that freaked her out a little bit and she quit speaking to me in complete sentences and instead just used short phrases or single words. After she finished entering all my vitals into the computer she told me that I needed to come back tomorrow at 2:00. "Tomorrow at 2:00," I asked, a bit confused since the doctor said I didn't need an appointment. "Yes, tomorrow at 2:00," the nice lady confirmed. "And I return here to the reception area," I asked. "Yes, tomorrow at 2:00 you return here," she assured me. (All in Portuguese, of course!)

So I left, and on my walk home, I realized that I needed to be fasting for the blood work. Oh boy, tomorrow was not going to be food until after 2:00?

I got home and got started on a project when my cell phone rings. I answer it and there is a somewhat panicked voice asking where I am. Before answering, I asked my own question, "Who is this?" After a lot of fast spoken Portuguese, I finally got the lady on the other end of the line to slow down and eventually (I do have a lot of trouble understanding people on the phone still) I figured out that they were looking for me at the lab.

Turns out, I was supposed to wait and have my blood drawn...and then return tomorrow at 2:00 for the results. Oops! So, my 15 minute walk again later and I was back in line waiting to be called into the nurse's station.

I would like to say that the lady behind the counter never said a thing about me waiting, she just went right into the come back tomorrow part. But I can't really say that with any certainty. So for now, I continue my Portuguese lessons. In the future either I catch the "wait" here part, or I can at least tell the lady I speak fluent Portuguese as to not freak her out and have her forgot those all so vital instructions!


wondering ego said...

Hehe... I think people are not yet much used (<-- is this correct?) to foreigners and they just freak out (a bit)


Rachel said...

don't feel bad! i speak portuguese fluently and sometimes, when people find out i'm american, they'll stop speaking portuguese completely and speak english.

also, i had a similar experience, where an assistant called me to set up a meeting and said she'd call me back to confirm the time with her boss. She never called me back, and a few days later at 9am I got an angry phone call from the assistant saying WHERE ARE YOU?? but i swear she said she had to confirm...anyway. i feel for ya

Elaine Myers said...

Hi Emily, I just found your blog through a comment on Rachel's. And I must say It's addicting. It's interesting to see the other side. I am a brazilian, living in Tucson, AZ, married to an american citizen. It's hard to be away from my country and my takes time to get used to a different place, different culture, but it's a very rewarding process.
I love it. And I am loving to read about your experiences in Brazil.
I already put a link of your blog on mine. And I will definitely come back more times.

Joe from CO said...

Hello Emily and Eric, this is Joe from Denver. Stumbled across your blog while researching an upcoming trip to Rio - my wife and I are headed there next Feb. for Carnival. I attended Carnival in Rio back in 1994 and loved it, but never got out of the city. Your blog and others I've seen have really kindled my interest in the rest of Brazil, especially Minas Gerais. How clean and safe is Brazil outside of Rio? Many thanks for your blog - it's terrific and I check back often.

Emily said...

Wandering Ego: Your English is awesome! While I can't think of anything gramatically wrong, a more natural phrasing to me would be to leave out the "much" (I think people are not yet used to...) REAL English teachers out there, feel free to correct me!

Rachel: Thanks for the encouragement!

Elaine: Eric and I often wonder what it is like to go the opposite direction in this culture exchange! I'll be reading your blog for a little Portuguese practice and to check out the "other side" as well! :)

Joe from CO: Thanks for the compliments! So far, we find Minas Gerais to be a very safe and clean place to travel and explore. We regularly go out at night and walk around the streets of Belo Horizonte and we have never felt the least bit threatened. Of course, you have to use common sense, but the crime stats of BH are much nicer to see than Rio's! The colonial towns of MG are especially nice and I would highly recommend visiting some of those if you have time. Check out my archives from February to see our first Carnaval in Brasil (we stayed in a small colonial town-great time!) Next year we plan to do Rio's Carnaval, but we had fun in the small towns this year! I'd be happy to get you any more MG information that you might want (on pousadas, means of travel, etc.)

joe from co said...

Emily - I'd be grateful to ping you offline with occasional questions as we plan our trip. My email is joe at smartcompany dot net. You can also check my blog at zuffoletto dot com. Haven't updated it in over a year but I plan to change that soon.

wondering ego said...

I agree with Elaine. Emily's blog is addicting, and she got a positive look to see Brazilian daily life. I found other blogs from americans living in Brazil, but Emily's have a special "tempeiro" .

Jeremy Sarber said...

Man, that's gotta be tough. I can't imagine trying to get along in a place where they don't speak English.