Part of a group blog series of posts, the list can be found here: I'm a link!
When I traveled to Brazil a couple years ago, I went with a mission: to buy my boyfriend a tambourine as a souvenir.
I was especially excited because I knew he would think having a tambourine from Brazil would be really special, and I normally am kinda hit or miss on gifts...but this was going to be a HIT. The only thing was that I wanted it to in some way be noted that it was from Brazil and not the same exact one that is imported to Chile. Especially if I was going to lug it across a whole continent there must be a reason it has to be purchased in Brazil.
I started my search in Curitiba. We went to a zillion music stores. This was probably the best crash course lesson in understanding directions (or a language, for that matter) to ever have existed. Nobody had one.
Days later I found myself wandering the entire Florianopolos center alone, dipping into one music store after another. Realizing the search was a lot more difficult than one would think, I dedicated an entire day to the search. I had skipped out on the snorkeling trip to bus into town by myself. But again, there was one major problem with my search: Nobody had any idea what I was saying, fortunately Spanish and Portuguese words for the instrument only vary by one letter (Span. pandero, Port-pandeiro) so you'd THINK I could almost get it out right. Regardless, this was the typical chain of events:
Do you have a pandeiro?
Pandeiro, pandeiro, pandeiro... I try varying the word to offset my accent
"You know, a circle with metal disks around the edges, you hit it and shake it and...." I begin to motion
I add sound affects.
I start dancing, hitting, shaking, and doing sound affects for the
AHHHHHH, pandeiro!!!! No, we don't have those
It felt like a scavenger hunt. I would go in somewhere, do a task, make a fool out of myself, and then get directions to the next lead (which were always just as cryptic as any good scavenger hunt clue would be).
Anyway, it was great. The weather was perfect, and I was wandering a foreign city alone, observing everything, and most of all I felt safe. (Whether I was safe, is an entirely different issue that I try not to overlook, but the point is...) People weren't harassing me or staring at me as if I'd just beamed down from Mars and wandered into the city center after drawing some crop circles,
Also, everyone was so FRIENDLY. I loved it. People out and around the city were smiling. Thats right, being pleasant in public was not shunned. And people would start innocent conversations with me to be nice.
Anyway, a (well, many) days hard work paid off and pretty soon I was lugging around a pandeiro. And everytime to this day anybody says "Cool, where'd you get this?!" My whole story is reduced to "Brazil"