As I stepped off the plane in Rio De Janeiro, I was relieved that the weather was more similar to Los Angeles. Bogota had been cold and wet – Rio, on the other hand, was all clear skies and sunshine.
I walked through the airport, and immediately noticed a heavy presence of what looked like the national guard – numerous policemen, armed with assault rifles. Obviously, security was a huge issue as the Olympics loomed, and it looked as though Rio was not taking any chances. I wasn’t sure if the sight of heavily armed guards made me feel safer or more in danger – it was an interesting combination of both.
This portion of my trip would be much different from the Bogota portion, and I could feel that instantly. I would be staying with a friend of mine for 21 days. Stephanie spoke little to no english, and we would be communicating in Portugeuse – which I do not speak as well as well as Spanish. Communication would be more difficult, and I did not know Stephanie as well as Maleja.
She was doing me a huge favor by allowing me to stay at her house, and I would spend far less time inside of it. Most of my time in Rio was spent out and about, exploring on my own and experiencing the city as a traveler – someone who had come for a massive, global event(the Olympics!).
I would walk extensively, to the point where I was sore at the end of the day. I would take numerous busses, taxis, Ubers, and metros, all over the city. I was pretty insulated in Bogota; not the case in Rio. In short, I was more vulnerable here, and my time was much less structured. I was nervous.
I walked through the airport, and asked around for a bus to Niteroi, which is where Stephanie’s house is. I immediately realized that my Portuguese was rusty, but I was able to get my point accross.
Gramatically speaking, Portuguese and Spanish have have many similarities. People no longer welcomed me with a “Bienvenidos.” Instead, it turned into “Bem-Vindo!”
“Yo hablo Espanol” turns into “Eu falo portugues,” which is similar on paper. However, the pronunciation is what throws most people off, and people hearing the language for the first time might feel as though it couldn’t be farther apart from Spanish. Like Spanish, Portuguese has a distinct rhythm that is essential to it’s understanding. Distinguishing words becomes more difficult, as one word blends seamlessly into the other. On top of all that, Portuguese relies more heavily on intonation and pitch than Spanish.
The things that make Portuguese tricky also make it extremely beautiful. It is commonly said that it sounds as though people don’t speak Portuguese, they sing it. The accent(or “sotacky”) of people from Rio De Janeiro is one of the best examples of this. I personally believe it makes listening to people speak that much more interesting.
Although the learning curve is steep, my Portuguese improves drastically within the first few hours as I regain the rythym of the language. The truth is that those who speak Spanish can easily learn the language with some effort and determination. Most Brazilians understand Spanish if you speak it slowly – something I am eternally thankful for. My Portugeuse is a mixture of key Portuguese words and Spanish – that I try to put a Portuguese accent on. It may not be pretty, but it works.
This is why learning Spanish is such a huge tool, not only in Spanish speaking countries. A very phenomenon occurs with Italian. French is similar, to a lesser degree. But the fact remains that Spanish is the perfect “gateway language,” and this is something that I was extremely happy to learn – and something that should make you even more eager to learn it.
The Bus to Niteroi is long, and it provides a glimpse into the city of Rio De Janeiro. Just as in Bogota, I am not necessarily staying in the middle of the city. Instead Stephanie’s house is a little more than an hour away. Niteroi is much less touristy because of its location – it is actually across the famous Guanabara Bay. One must either take a ferry or travel across a large bridge which connects the two masses of land.
Although I am here for the Olympics, Niteroi is not nearly as effected by the festivities as Rio De Janeiro is – which means I am able to assimilate into the actual Brazilian culture more, and that my trip is not necessarily all about the Olympics.
However, when I’m on the bus into Niteroi, all I can think about are the Olympics – which begin tomorrow! I purchase my first ticket – which is for the female gymnastics qualifying event. I buy the ticket from a friend of a friend, and it only costs about $120 reias – or $40 USD. I rest my head on my brazilian pillow, eager for what the next 21 days have in store…
To be continued!