Thursday, June 29, 2017

From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 2.. Muito Obrigada and Baden Baden


These two phrases, muito obrigada and Baden Baden are what I remember the most when I started reminiscing about my six week stay in Sao Paolo, Brazil in the seventies. The first reflects the Portuguese language used in this country and the latter phrase is the name of the dorm I stayed in while I was there.

When I heard the term muito obrigada, I thought, it sounded like it meant we are obligated.  I found this weird considering you just did someone a favor, why then are you obligated? The phrase actually stood for thank you in Portuguese.

Baden Baden is the name of the dorm I stayed in with three other female attendees of the course I was taking at the Biological Institute.  It was walking distance from this research place.  The room was really too small for the four of us but that was all they had and the rent was cheap.  We shared a bathroom with people in three other rooms. I never liked going at night to this bathroom.  Irma from Honduras, one of my roommates, nixed the idea of me using a potty in the room instead.

The food came with the rent and was served in a big dining room in the adjacent building.  I was very amused when the persons living there greeted each other with not one both four or five kisses on the cheeks when they see each other.

The lady who organized the course at the Biological Institute, Elsa, saw to it that we were also entertained while in Sao Paolo. She had a terrible time in a similar course she attended in Vienna which was all work and no play. A secretary at her office took us out once or twice to a club named Tele Teco, another name I remember. When the disco music played, the rage in the seventies, I thought we were going to a dance floor. Was I shocked when our host stood up and danced where we were sitting.  I forgot already if I followed suit.

The course had two main instructors, Dr. Buchtela from Germany and Dr. Brooks from England.  They were both recruited by the International Atomic Energy Commission the sponsor of the course. The attendees came from all over the world.  My roommates were from El Salvador, Honduras and Spain.  Other attendees were from almost all the continents, Iran, Israel, Sudan, Indonesia to name a few.

I learned a lot in the course and was too intense the English instructor kidded I was just like Seville, my office mate from the Philippines who took the course in Vienna that he had to boot out of the lab for staying beyond the time allotted for the experiment.

I remember a long weekend I spent on a train with two other attendees, one from Israel and the other from El Salvador to get to the Foz de Iguacu or the Falls of Iguacu. It was in the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Being there has an added novelty since it would be considered having set foot in those three countries.  The falls was breathtaking in its massiveness and beauty.  The force of the water cascading from the natural huge rock formations was magnificent.

We also got to go to a beach in Brazil as a group.  The trip took almost half a day.  The traffic in Sao Paolo was worse than Manila.  I remember hundreds of Volkswagens piled in traffic.

Sao Paolo is a melting pot and I noticed a lot of Japanese living there. The owners of the dorm we stayed in is from Germany.

As for the food, I will never forget the meat I had at the churrascaria that were shaved from the long skewers. I also loved the white tuber, cassava, that was omnipresent in their meals.  I also relished the drink Guarana.

I explored a couple of the universities for further studies.  The language barrier existed so I was not that enthused about fulfilling that goal there. It would be somewhere else.

One day, as I was going home, somebody working at the Institute stopped in his Volkswagen offering me a ride to my dorm.  I obliged and while there he presented me with a small box with the words From Brazil with Love. Inside was a ring with a stone an inch long.  He wanted me to have it as a souvenir. While we were closed to the dorm he pointed to an engagement ring I was wearing.  I was not engaged though and just wore it to ward off guys. Well I accomplished that in this case. While he pointed to the ring he said, " You Engaged" in halting English. Before I could explain he let me off his car and I walked the rest of the way to the dorm. I have talked to him briefly while at the Institute and he mentioned a friend who was married to a Filipina.  Guys tend to do that, namely copy their friends. It just did not happen what he was thinking.

When the course was done, somebody had an idea to give a party to the organizer of the course, Elsa, and the two instructors.  We decided to hold the party at Baden Baden, the dorm we were staying.  They had a huge dining hall that could hold the honorees and the attendees from the course.

When I was with the others in a bus en route somewhere before this party, I was angrily confronted by one of the attendees from Africa. He was asking why they were not invited to the party which I helped organized. I denied this was the case.  I was shocked to know later that it was the truth. The owners of Baden Baden prohibited blacks from certain countries to attend the party. This was a rude awakening for me about discrimination in action and I felt sorry I was part of it. The other organizer never informed me.

I and Irma from Honduras took a trip to Rio de Janeiro for a short stay to see the world famous beaches.  I remember daring to wear a t-shirt with Sou Virgen written on it which got a lot of smirk from guys.

Irma and I also took at trip to Venezuela to visit a friend's family who helped me prepare my coming trip to the United States and Europe. Venezuela was beautiful and the family I stayed with were wonderful.  They generously offered for me to leave some of my belongings at their house to make my trip to the US and Europe easier.  I left a whole luggage of clothes behind.  Little did I know I would be needing them sooner and not for a short trip and not as a tourist either.

Muito obrigada, Brazil! Hello America.

Note: This is Part 2 in the series From Longaniza to Hot Dog.  It is an account of my immigration from the Philippines to the United States.

You might want to read From Longaniza to Hot Dog. Part 1. Brooklyn and Sao Paolo


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