Today’s walk with the krakens made me realize (again) that the isolation bubble that engulfed me when we moved here is shrinking. Initially, I walked along the sidewalk completely unable to understand anything around me, whether talking or signage. And I walked alone, unacquainted with another soul on the street.

Not so anymore.

On today’s walk, we had no sooner exited the man cage and greeted our porteiros than one of our neighbors greeted me, “Bonjour! Como ça va?” (For some reason, she thinks I’m French.) “Ça va bien, et vouz?” “Ça va. Au revoir.” “Au revoir.” I smiled and turned up the hill, realizing that the porteiros probably wondered what the heck we were speaking, given that I’m American. (In my mind, I began reciting dialogue from the Dr. Seuss book Go, Dog, Go: Hello. Hello. Do you like my hat? I do not. Good-by. Good-by.)


As I passed the magazine stand, the Barao Banca, I smiled at the woman who runs it, whom I see twice a day at least. We actually greeted each other verbally today, since she had no cigarette in her mouth.

Up the street, I nodded to gentlemen who were holding down the concrete at one of the local lanchonettes, beers in hand and cigs dangling. They still intimidate me, but at least I get a smile and a nod in return.

Just past those gentlemen, I passed two empregadas from our building. We’ve seen each other enough that they smile and I smile in greeting. Connection established.

Approaching the Mambo supermarket, I nodded at the van of policeman who have taken up residence along the road during the day and evening. I recognized two of them, and they nodded and whistled at the pups (who, rudely, were whizzing on the lawn near them).

Around the corner, the dogs saw one of their favorite friends, a fellow who lives on the street and sells Halls cough drops in front of the store during the day. The pups pulled at the leash to go greet him, jumping up and kissing him as he made over them. We greeted each other, and I asked his permission to give him a beaded bracelet with God’s-eye beads on it. He gave me permission (very formal, the two of us), and I said it was from the girls and me. He put it on immediately, with obvious delight. (What the people at the bus stop or stopped in traffic next to us thought of this exchange, I’d love to know.) Tomorrow, I’ll tell him my name and ask his. Then, we’ll be set.

As short way past him, we encountered a man sitting on the sidewalk selling homemade honey. I stopped and asked what it was: thought it was honey, but could have been whiskey, judging by the color. Honey, at only R$7 for a small, Coke-size bottle, or R$15 for a larger fifth of liquor-size bottle. He turned the bottle upside down so I could see the bubble float lazily to the top. Yum! I told him I had no money, but would try to buy some tomorrow, said tchau, and then turned on my way.

As I walked, I heard an older voice say in Portuguese, “She is speaking Portuguese now,” and his wife (I assume), saying, “Yes, she does now.” I didn’t turn to see who was speaking, but I understood, and they were talking about me!

En route back to the apartment, we encountered four dogs and owners who also stroll these streets. Two of the dogs are friendly, and two (small little ragbags) threaten to rip my girls apart. My girls just wag their tails and greet each of them and walk on. They, too, are getting to know the neighbors.

As we came into the complex, we greeted Simone, one of the building staff, in English. “Oi, Simone, how are you?” “Fine. And how are you?” (That’s as far as we’ve gotten in her passing-in-the-elevator lessons.)

So, not so isolated. Still a bit, but that will change as I improve my Portuguese skills, and as I continue to interact with the world around me. It was a pretty darn good walk!