Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Monday, 08 May 2006

A newbie story

On the way home in the bus today, the usual hawker got on and started handing out his wares. Jorge started laughing and reminded me of an incident when I was a newbie foreigner in Brazil. Its a silly story, but enough to bring me out in blushes and cause a few chuckles among friends and family.

As a freshly landed, newbie foreigner, I was on my way to my second meeting with the English school I was going to teach through. I was on was approaching my destination bus stop when a woman got on the bus and proceeded to hand a packet of sweets to each passenger. I can't remember what sweets they were. I simply remember being unfamiliar with them and tucking them into my bag, thinking, "Wow! What effective advertising... giving out samples on the buses."

I arrived at my meeting and related my very positive experience of this new country. I just couldn't understand their incredulous looks and subsequent laughing. The one lady said to me, "Nothing is for nothing here. If its free, there's a catch". I was so embarassed and felt so guilty when they explained what had happened. I really felt bad for the woman who relied on the income from those sweets. Gosh, was I naïve! And I didn't learn my lesson...

A couple of months later, I was wandering down Avenida Paulista, which, I would say, is the main business road in São Paulo. I was stopped by a nurse, rigged out in white robes as nurses usually appear, with stethoscope around the neck, and holding a blood pressure cuff. "Oh!", says naïve me to myself, "a health care program!" I submitted to the test, as I have a bit of a blood pressure issue and was sincerely interested in the results. After giving me my results, she held out her hand waiting for her pay. My face must have been a picture (I bet she was wishing she had a camera on her!). Needless to say, my Portuguese back then was absolutely hopeless and it took her a little while to communicate her demand of the R$5 payment. My colleague's words came back to me, "nothing is for nothing here" and I payed. I confess, I was a little huffy with her. She really could have told me before-hand. But lets be honest here... she probably did tell me and using my excellent interpretive skills, I understood her to be giving a speech on health care.


  1. Anonymous6:47 AM

    I would have done the same thing! I wonder if they can really make a living that way...

  2. Many people on the buses do buy from them. Their sweets and pens, etc are usually way cheaper than shop price. I've even bought when on a long bus trip when hunger gnaws. And yes, they do make some form of living, albeit not a good one, or they wouldn't do it, right?


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