A 'boeremeisie' in Brazil
I see myself as a proud South African. An Afrikaans girl who loves the outdoors, having a braai and boeremusiek. I'm in love with our country and its diversity. I have always been independent, being well able to get around and do my own thing, whether it was in South Africa or abroad.
That said, I have never travelled anywhere where English was not one of the main languages and if not, at least widely spoken. A week ago my colleague Marc Lewis and I landed in Brazil to cover the Fifa World Cup. For the first time in my life I was nervous to travel… not because of the flight or the long hours we would be working, but because of the language.
Seven days in and I have found one person who understands me, a kind Brazilian man called Wesley who could (barely) understand me when I desperately asked him for flu medication at the local pharmacy. On the other hand, Jane who was at the till, stared at me expressionless for about a minute when I said the word 'English'. Not to sound prejudiced in any way, but imagine my disappointment when someone called Jane could not speak a word of English… it just doesn't make any sense.
Walking down the street in Sao Paulo, I was approached by a young guy wearing a 'Save the Children' shirt. Obviously selling raffle tickets of some sort, he stopped me and started speaking very fast Portuguese. When I said I was English, he just turned around and walked away. Surely one should be able to save the children in any language? I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that English just doesn't exist here. That I feel like a deer in headlights every time someone speaks to me. Is this the true definition of culture shock?
A very confusing, sometimes lonely past week has made me realise just how big the world really is. In Brazil, my world, my language, my ways and what I know means nothing - and no one cares. They only care that you are blocking the aisle in the grocery store, but not that you have been standing there for 10 minutes staring at the chips, not knowing which one to choose because you can't understand the flavours.
I can barely do anything myself, I am at the mercy of my iPhone (thank goodness for iTranslate!) and my Portuguese colleague to do pretty much everything. Oh the feeling of complete helplessness when you can't even order a pizza. The only thing I am certain of is the soccer fever that has completely taken over the country and the vibe in the air when Brazil is playing.
While the five weeks we will be spending in Brazil will surely be the most amazing experience, I will not trade my nationality for anything. My heart stays in and yearns for South Africa and I will be so appreciative of my country when I return. At the risk of sounding clichéd, there really is no place like home!
Christa Eybers is a multimedia editor at EWN.