Monday, January 26, 2009

Out-numbered, eh?

After living in Brasil for more than a year, one might think that we were used to being minorities now. In all of my blonde-haired, blued-eyed whiteness surrounded by Mineiros (who tend to be a pretty good mixture of everything giving them gorgeous tan skin and dark hair), I've become rather used to being the odd-ball.

And then we were invited to a party on Saturday night. It was a party hosted by a Canadian couple for expats they knew - and us, whom they had just met. There were signs in the entrance of their apartment building directing everyone to the Gringo Party.

Woohoo! I was so excited! After living here for 14 months and basically knowing a total of 4 gringos (with three of the four being one family), I was going to a place where I would be surrounded by the chatter of native English-speakers. I was going to blend in!

After our arrival at the designated 4:00 pm start time, the introductions began. And after just a few minutes it became obvious that we were still going to be minorities . . . most everyone (um, okay, actually everyone) else is here due to their involvement with the mining industry. Our meaningful purpose here, meanwhile, is related to the construction equipment world. And as we made our rounds among the 30 or so people at the party, chit-chatting, and enjoying the English-speaking company, we found many people from Australia and a whole heck of a lotta Canadians. There was one other American there for a while too, but still, we were majorly in the minority! So, we took to introducing ourselves as "Hi, I'm Emily, this is my husband, Eric, we're Americans and in no way involved with the mining industry." It went ahead and saved us from the "Now, do you work for Company X or Company Y?" and "Which project are you on?" questions. And it also saved us from the inevitable question of "Where are you from?" and the Oh-REALLY?-and-here-I-was-thinking-that-I-might-actually-like-you looks that followed. (Just kidding about that last part, as we do all co-exist quite nicely even if each country is full of jokes about the other one, but the couple of times that it was revealed that we were Americans midway through a conversation, we'd get this really shocked look as if we just told them we landed here from Mars . . .)

But anyway, we had a really awesome time Saturday night. It was the first time we had been in a social situation with that many people speaking English since we arrived. We hung around until after midnight, and as we walked home (the hosts live on our same block, three streets over - how crazy is that?!?) I couldn't believe how not exhausted I was. There is something about socializing in Portuguese that still completely wears me out - it just takes so much concentration for me to follow the conversations around me and try to interact with so many people in my new language!

We met a lot of really fun people that I look forward to hanging out with some more (including some other expat wives who live within walking distance and have rather flexible days like I do!)

My speech patterns tending to be highly influenceable though, it could be interesting to see what kind of transformations my dialect might take from this association . . . I reckon we'll just have to wait and see, eh? (<--imagine that sentence with my hint of a southern accent. Yeah, I can't even keep a straight face typing it.)


Corinne said...

Totally can relate to how tiring socializing in Portuguese can be, especially since my husband feels the only proper thing to do is be the LAST guest to leave the party. I had an eye-opening moment in the US, going to dinner with Americans after spending the afternoon with Brazilians. As much fun as I had in the afternoon, my conversation was so much more lively at dinner. I guess I realize, "gee, I guess I really do speak English much better than Portuguese!"

AcesHigh said...

You would fell less of an odd-ball in Rio Grande do Sul or Santa Catarina I think. In relation to looks of course. Blond blue eyed people are far from uncommon around these parts. You guys havent visited southern Brazil yet, have you?

Eric on the other hand can easily blend with the population of most of Brazil. I would easily take him for a paulista, mineiro, paranaense...