On the last few posts, I have written about the various travels I have done – from actual vacations to one-day trips. What I have (mostly) left off were the more humorous things that happened during those events – possibly because they slipped from memory at the time of the writing or just because I didn’t want to get the focus off the topic itself. But given that I don’t really want to do any political commentary this week, I think this is a good opportunity to share a little bit of these funny anecdotes.
Back in 2007, my wife and I took a summer trip to Fortaleza, Brazil, where I went to cover a classical music festival that happens there every year (it was the only time I actually wrote about this – for whatever reason, music magazines were not interested in assigning me to do this again). Since most of the recitals were in the evening, we had the days to ourselves, and I was happy to show Renata my Brazilian hometown.
I took her to the Central Market, a large building where artisans and small shoppers sell their wares. We walked into one of the kiosks looking for gifts for our friends back in New York. Since Renata speaks no Portuguese, we talked in English all the time, and as we browsed I could see dollar signs on the salesman’s eyes. When I turned to ask about the price, I spoke not only in Portuguese but with my Cearense accent (which is very distinctive). When the guy realized that I was a local, he sighed and gave me the actual price, not the ‘tourist’ cost.
That same week, we visited another artisan fair on Fortaleza’s waterfront avenue, Avenida Beira-Mar. When Renata inquired about a large seashell on the stand, the lady in charge said, “well, it’s five reais, but it’s more expensive for that gringa with you.” So much for honesty in pricing.
Later that year, we made our first visit to The Dominican Republic during Thanksgiving weekend. I was looking forward to enjoying their famous beaches, wonderful weather and of course the perks of all-inclusive resorts. As we walked out the customs area, we were greeted by promoters of Brugal rum, the country’s most famous spirit. They handed us cups with rum and coke cocktails, and as Renata sipped, she remarked, “geez, I have been here for five minutes and I’m already drinking!”
The following year, we used our extra tax refund (Pres. Bush gave taxpayers a $600 rebate to stimulate the economy – see how that worked) to buy ourselves a trip to Jamaica. As we walked to the beach, a local guy walked up to us and said, “Welcome to Jamaica! Where are you from?” We said we were from New York, and he said, “Ah, New York. Nice town. So, you wanna buy some weed?” And we were warned that the stuff was illegal….
On our second trip to Brazil last year, we made a stop in Rio de Janeiro, where we stayed for a week. As we walked to the beach, we were greeted by artisans… in English. I guess we really needed to work on our tans after a long New York winter and a very rainy spring.
A few weeks back I wrote about our trip to Poland, but I didn’t mention that when I got to Krakow, I called Renata and asked her how to get to the downtown area from the airport. She told me the directions, and I memorized the words she told me over the phone. As I reached the train station, I turned to a woman to make sure I was taking the right train. As I parroted the Polish words what Renata told me, the woman turned and said? “I’m sorry, I speak English.” I smiled and said, “Me too… I just need to know if this is the right train…. “