Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dave mistaken for a native shock! OK, I was at the mall last night with my good buddy Dyego. We were about to go and watch the new Morgan Freeman/Angelina Jolie film when I decided to nip over and get a Pretzel from Mr.Pretzels. We're frequent visitors to the finest (and only) pretzel-making establishment in Natal and perhaps because I was devoid of screaming children or Rachel, the guy serving didn't recognise me. Anyway, I placed my order and then he asked me: "Então, tem Mr. Pretzel lá no Portugal?"... Strange, I thought. It sounds like he's asking me if they have Mr.Pretzels in Portugal. How would I know that? I probably misheard. "Como?". Back came the question, followed by "Voce é do Portugal, não é?". "Am I from Portugal? No, I'm English!". He shrugged his shoulders and said he thought I spoke very good Portuguese but that my accent was European so he thought I was from Portugal. I almost hugged him and wanted to take a picture of the moment! So, I may not sound authentically Brazilian, but it seems as if my accent is slowly creeping out of the British Isles, traversing Europe and is now poised on the shores of Lisbon. How many more months, before my accent sounds authentically Brazilian! I pray for the day...

Things I miss about England #75: luxury cars (or how to get a Porsche to Natal). It was one of the first things I noticed about being back in the UK last summer. When Mum and Dad picked me up from the airport, Dad had parked next to a blue Aston Martin and by the time we got to London luxury cars were two a penny - in all shapes, colours and makes. For a guy, it just makes life more interesting if there are some interesting cars to look at...

In Natal, the major popular car manufacturers have outlets here - Toyota, Fiat, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, VW and Honda. All of there cars are either black, white or silver. You have to look back to some of the pre-90s bangers that still clutter the roads here to see a bit more variety - namely, in the form of Brazilian-built box cars or VW Beatles and Kombis. In the case of the latter two they are often painted in a variety of startling colours reflecting many years of replaced panels at dodgy back-street garages. There are of course buggys for riding on sand dunes - and it is said that Natal had a big factory for these a while ago. You see a lot of SUV and pick-up trucks too. According to the Cultura driver Natal has the highest proportion of new cars bought and pick-ups bought for anywhere in Brazil - a statement of the new wealth that this town has in recent years of economic prosperity. So, there is some variety of cars on the road, but not much. I suppose I don`t really care too much but I know it would make Nelson very happy if we had a few more interesting cars that looked a bit like racing cars.

So, what is there here? I once asked my students and they immediately named (while counting on the fingers of one hand) the luxury cars here in Natal. There`s a yellow hummer (owned by an American), a Porshe, a Chevrolet Firebird and a handful of Mercedes and BMWs. The fact that all my students knew where these cars were, who owned them and how many there were highlights the first problem of owning anything "out of the ordinary" here - you draw unnecessary attention to yourself in such a small city. And then there`s the roads - Natal`s only Porsche is owned by a man whose daughter goes to Nelson`s school. (I hope we get invited to her 2nd birthday party!). I saw her Dad driving up to the school recently and seeing his flat-as-a-pancake Porsche struggling with the potholes and sleeping policemen. And there`s the traffic. Being rear-ended or (instigating rear-ends) seems to be a regular part of life for most Natalense drivers - when most buses and trucks don`t pay much attention to the vehicles around them, hiding in a sportscar that probably rides below the view of bigger vehicles` mirrors (if they have them) can`t be a good idea. When I asked my students how a man would get a Porsche to Natal, I suggested the answer myself "Perhaps he had it driven from Rio?". They fell off their seats laughing. "Drive a Porsche to here from Rio!?!". The 3000kms trip, they clarified, would, thanks to the roads, absolutely tear the vehicle to shreds. They also thought that based on the crime-rates of cities that the Porsche would have to pass through, there would be nothing left but 4 rims, an axel and a brake light by the time the car rolled into Natal. In other words, the Porsche would need to be shipped by sea... an expensive and time-consuming venture in its own right. This is probably how the chappy in Natal did it - and it`s a valid question to ask if it was really worth it.

1 comment:

Brazil's Girl said...

I can't stop laughing when I read your blog. It's hilarious, I loved the post about the sport bloopers.

Hope you guys are well.
Miss you guys!