Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Real talk though….

Everything in Floripa and in Brazil has been beautiful so far, and it has definitely been an experience of a lifetime. I cannot believe that it is already the 5th week, and that half of the program is over! I have certainly enjoyed the live music in the restaurants, tried many different foods, tried many different snacks, and I have also been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Rio for an international brain research conference next week! Of course, working in the lab and analyzing my data is keeping me extra busy, too :).

BUT, it never occurred to me how important the ability to communicate really was until I was not able to converse effectively in a different country, a different continent. Here I am, an Asian American that is fortunate enough to know one of the most widely known languages in the world, English, as well as the ability to understand my parents’ native language, Indonesian, because that’s what is spoken in our household. However, upon arriving the Brazil, the people spoke what sounded like an alien language, Portuguese. In some instances, it sounds like Spanish. But things can go completely awry when trying to translate from English to Spanish to Portuguese. Not only were things difficult for me to understand, but the people speak so quickly in Floripa, and apparently they have an accent. I guess the experience could be compared to a foreigner going to New York and hearing them speak with their accent.

Anyways, the inability to properly communicate my ideas really put things into perspective for me. I could not even buy a bus pass or print out business cards without someone shaking their head, sighing with frustration, or having a look of impatience on their face. It was hard to not get frustrated; it was as if I was a tiny infant that could only make sounds and wave my arms around to try and convey my ideas and needs. It made me think about all of the people that come to the United States hoping for “better” opportunities, only to realize that their inability to communicate hindered them from even getting the simplest tasks done.  

This experience also reminded me of my mom, who often has me check her grammar in different pieces that she writes. In the past, I would begrudgingly do it, groaning with each sentence I read and corrected. Now I understand what it’s truly like to live more than a week in a country where the language is completely different from your own, and you only have your family to talk to. Now, I understand WHY people tend to stick with people from their own culture and communities. Now I understand why people like to keep their cultural roots. Overall, I think this idea, this concept of the difficulty of foreign communication, has truly opened my eyes. 

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