Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cultural experience through a mission

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?
A what?
Pandeiro, pandeiro, pandeiro... I try varying the word to offset my accent
*blank stares*
"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
imaginary instrument.
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"


Aimee said...

Cool pandeiro, now I want one. "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 drawning some crop circles" - that REALLY made me laugh...I can relate. Your story reminded me of my search for these red shoes in all the Prune stores in Argentina. I ended up venturing out on my own (without my Chileno) and somehow managed to find my size on one of the mannequins and get them to sell them to me (all in Spanish which I'm not that great at yet). That makes me love my red shoes even more.

Sara said...

I loved when you said you started dancing and singing. After your short dancing demo on Saturday, i can totally see that.

Mamacita Chilena said...

This story was hilarious! I love how you chose like the most random thing you could think of to bring home to him. Did he appreciate his gift?

PS. Sorry I'm late posting your link, I was gone all weekend.

lydia said...

Aimee- now that i think about it, a lot of my trips have had a mission in shopping, the rest weren't quite as desperate though. I also went around argentina looking for a pair of shoes (came back with 2). HAHA thats funny. I feel like in the US they would happily sell you the display one of anything as long as you're OK with it, but here its like taboo. I'm not sure about Argentina but I can imagine that being a funny convo.

Sara- yeah people are always trying to convince me to dance (bc really, i dont like to that much) but I always think someone should know better!
Seriously though, I somehow felt that they'd associate my dancing with music that used the insturment!

Kyle- Indeed he did. In the end getting one that has the flag on it probably means it isnt absolutely top quality, but its alive and kickin!
I'm a huge fan of all that is random, but its actually isn't as random as it sounds. My boyfriend really likes a couple types of music that use one, like samba and capoeira music, both of whch have a strong tie with brazil so thats why having the flag is super appropriate.

To this day I think the tambourine gets played a minimum of about 3 times a week!

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