Brazilians LOVE their telenovelas (primetime soap operas). In fact, they love them so much that the most popular one comes on at 9:10 at night (after the news), BEFORE the night’s soccer game. Oh yeah, you don’t miss the telenovela. Rumor has it that men and women (yes, men) from every class and economic level watch the shows, including President Dilma. We’ve even seen cab drivers at night watching the show on their dashboard TVs as they drive through the city.


The current offering is called “Salve Jorge,” and it involves human trafficking, with women from Brazil being exported to, gasp, Turkey. (I joke, but, apparently, the show has heightened awareness of a very real problem with trafficking here in Brazil, so I temper my guffaws as I watch the glammed-out girls dance for the evil rich men who would buy them.)


There’s also “Guerra dos Sexos,” an in-depth look at, surpreendentemente, the battle between the sexes. Such drama! Such antics! Such social awareness! Now THIS is television!


For almost a year, I was able to (mostly) avoid watching the shows. But now, my homework from my Portuguese teacher is to watch a MINIMUM of fifteen minutes a day, preferably longer. It’s going to be an endurance test for me, I can already tell.

She gives two reasons for this assignment: 1) it will help me improve my ear for Portuguese, and 2) it’s a huge part of the culture here, so I should expose myself to it…and it’ll give me something to talk about when I go to the hair salon.

The first reason is valid. I am able to read a lot of Portuguese now, and now sound less like a three-year-old, but I still listen on a word-by-word basis. My ear isn’t attuned to phrases or liaisons between words (such as gotcha and whadayathink or din’tcha in English).

I get the gist of sentences, for the most part, and understand about 50 percent of what I hear. But I have to increase my vocabulary, by reading and, now, writing down words I hear on the telenovelas … which I can then look up in my handy dictionary.

As far as watching because it’s part of the culture, well, the jury’s still out on that. I didn’t watch soaps in the States and chat about them at the salon. Why on earth would I start that here? But, it’s true that I really have nothing to say to the gals at the salon now. We try to talk, but they give up on me quickly. I usually just end up watching their daytime TV shows or reading.

How cool will it be when I walk in one day and say, “So how about that Salve Jorge last night, eh?” Problem is, the show ends in May (here, they last about six months; people don’t believe me when I tell them we’ve had some in the States that have lasted 30 years and more), so I’ll have to watch the next show. Woot!

One of the things that bothers me most about these shows, which can be visually truly sumptuous, is the faces of the older women. The young women are stunning, of course…they’re Brazilian…


…but the older women are less so, and there is something about their faces … (Physically, they’re still knockouts, damn ’em.) Then I realized, they don’t move their faces. It’s all mouth and widening of the eyes. The rest of the face is static. Botox.

Here is a typical expression:


It can mean ANGER, SURPRISE, JUBILATION, CONCERN, SUSPICION, PASSION, SUPPLICATION, CONSTERNATION, or GRIEF. That’s why I need to learn the vocabulary, ’cause I’m not getting much from the expressions.

So, for the next few months, don’t bother calling me at 7 pm (Sexos) or after 9:10 (Jorge). I’ll be busy reading lips and jotting notes. Vamos telenovela!