I’m trying. I spend hours a week trying to learn, and I watch TV with Portuguese subtitles. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned, but I still can’t speak it, or understand it, for the most part.

Yesterday, I spoke with our housekeeper for about half an hour. She has worked for Americans for twenty-plus years…and speaks no English. She is a gem, and is very interested in helping me to learn, and patient with me when I speak. I enjoyed our “conversation.”

But today, Bete called (my neighbor) on the phone and I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Finally, I got out, “Eu estou doente,” because I am sick today. She said several things, and then the line went dead. I didn’t call her back. What was the point?

Later, I took the dogs on a walk along the one road in the neighborhood where I feel safe and where the broken sidewalks aren’t jammed with people at noontime, necessitating our walking into the roadway to pass. I always carry two bags with me when I take the dogs out, to clean up after them. It’s amazing how many people don’t pick up after their dogs. Amazing and disgusting.

So, I’m heading back along the street toward home and a cleaning lady is pretending to sweep along a driveway. As I approach, she turns to me and begins speaking. I immediately say, “Desculpe, naõ falo português,” but that is no deterrent for her. On she continues, with me catching the words “caca,” “doodie,” “sacs,” and “cuidadosa” (which, I think, means careful or cautious). She isn’t mad, but she’s serious about something. I pull the one remaining bag from my pocket to show her that I’m responsible, and point to the ground, saying, “Nunca nada.” (Yes, I are a linguist!)

She nods and keeps speaking. Again those words, with “cuidadosa” repeated several times. Now I don’t know whether she’s saying it’s dangerous for people if left on the ground, or if I need to be cautious walking the dogs, and, if the latter, why. So, I simply repeated that I don’t speak, said thank you and good-bye, and walked away, tail between my legs, carrying the guilt of all dog owners in the neighborhood.

My one safe road, where Cricket doesn’t skitter away from trucks and motorcycles, and we don’t have to wend our way through a crowd of pedestrians. Argh. What do I do now?

I came home and input some sentences into Google Translate: I am responsible for my dogs. I always pick up after them. I’m sorry for your troubles.

I’ll memorize these and put them in my little bag of tricks. Of course, I won’t understand their response, but at least I’ll make myself understood, and slough off a bit of the guilt and deter future attacks. A bit.