Friday, April 27, 2012

Cultural Quirks and Perks - Vol. II

Hello?! That was a stop sign!

Here's a quick **Goiano Portuguese lesson...

Oi [pronounced: "oy"] = Hi

Hola [pronounced: "oh-lah"] = Hello

There is also a funny (and sometimes pretty rude) way to use "Oi!?" as slang, which is the not-too-distant cousin of the "Hello!?" used by teenage girls in the United States.

U.S. teen girls when you are overlooking the obvious:

"Hello!!" (Variant:"Um, hello!")

Goiás peeps when they don't understand what you just said:

(*Often yelled loud enough so that onlookers can help in deciphering the next go at it.)

And, no... This isn't only reserved for foreigners with accents. It's for anyone & everyone, and for some reason I find it either hilarious, or annoying - it all depends on how it is delivered. Sometimes it's way harsh, guys.

Depending on the intonation and [deliberate] volume it, more often than not, reminds me of a testy teen queen with a 'tude. It can be a major manners misstep. (So rude!)

More than once I've fought the urge to pull a Cher and exclaim, "As IF!" [in English - just for fun]. Of course, just imagining this scenario usually makes me giggle so much that it's all I can do to get through the rest of the conversation without drawing any additional, unnecessary attention.

You see, the "Oi" in this case serves as a "What's your problem!?" (aka "You can't speak normally.") or even, "Hey! Gather 'round people! Look at the loser who's wasting my time." People are generally pretty nosy, so this is a sure way to draw a crowd. (If you're a drama queen!) It's like it is a crime to try to keep things on The DL. I just don't get it.

I still crack up when I remember the first time I heard this use of "hi." I was signing in at the doctor's office, and the receptionist asked me for my detailed info. Since I didn't want to share with the rest of the group, I spoke in a low tone as I replied.

"Oi?" the receptionist asked, noticeably raising her voice.

I thought she was rebooting our [live, face-to-face] conversation that we'd begun a mere 2 minutes ago. I was confused.

"Oi?" I replied timidly.

That was when the testy teen queen surfaced. I saw it in her eyes:


"O-o-o-o-o-i-i-i-i-i!" she roared back (with ear-splitting efficiency, enough to make everyone look up from their magazines).


I was like, "Um, you had me at... 'Oi.'"


**Does anyone know if this is a Brazilian, or a regional thing? I don't recall hearing "Oi" used in this manner, in any of the other regions I've visited. The locals I've asked don't seem to know the answer to this question, either.

All pics found on Google images.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boating Buddies

This last trip to the lake, we came into contact with all kinds of critters. It seemed like we had an almost magnetic pull with certain creatures of the 8-legged sort. Fortunately, we survived... and so did they.

No creepy-crawlies were harmed in the process of jumping away in terror, and then rummaging through bags to find the camera.

The first subject was about 5 inches in diameter... and under my seat.

Since it escaped and was lying in wait hid out somewhere in the boat, I showed the pic to locals in the area, who assured me it's not poisonous, before I agreed to board again. If anyone has any information to the contrary, please let me know - I'm officially keeping track of my near-death experiences.

As spiders go, this one was truly a beauty.

That's not something I'm accustomed to saying in regards to arachnids - not to mention, the prettier ones are usually venomous - but this one had the neatest texture & coloring.

(I'm only a fan if they refrain from sudden movements and/or jumping. As long as they keep their urge to be near me in check, we can be buds... from afar.)

So, from where I sit [next to Miss Muffet, long after she ran away and met her buds at a local cafe to tell her tale] my guess is that it is a wood spider, due to the similar markings of trees in the area.

The second subject was very nearly a new glove/mask set, which still makes me hyperventilate slightly, just thinking about it...

This thing was in the dark, finishing off a meal on the deck of a houseboat that had some secret stash of bait, or something. All of the fishermen were stopping there on the way out, so I assume that's why we went there.

Are you picking up on a general lack of communication? Me, too.

Truthfully, my fright wiped my memory banks of the minutes surrounding the event of almost wearing this thing - which was more than big enough to make me look like Tom Hardy's Bane character in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises (the final film in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy).

How did this happen, you ask?


As a last-ditch effort at catching something while out with my husband for some night fishing [aka stargazing], we stopped by the houseboat of secret-y stuff... As we docked, I stuck my hand out to brace my part of the boat (my vision limited by what little moonlight was coming through the nearby trees).

I felt a spider web.

I no longer cared if the boat hit anything (excluding, of course, a massive nest of spiders that might soon fill the boat, after ramming through and relocating their webby home right into our laps) quickly found my flashlight, only to discover it was literally in my face.

It was so big, the two guys on the boat couldn't believe it, either.


They screamed yelled, too!

I nearly did a limp backward roll into the water on the other side, but my fear of dark, murky water (infested with piranhas and such) kept me in place.

Upon review of this photo, [I can no longer relive the incident] I see a strong resemblance with the Grinch.

If you look closely at the head (and ignore the legs of some other creature hanging out of its mouth) I think you'll see a mini Grinch face that may or may not reflect a certain amount of animosity.

Let me know if I'm seeing things.

(To enlarge pics, right-click and open in a new window.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunsets at Serra da Mesa

Good Friday

'Easter Eve'

Easter Sunday Sunset

On Easter weekend we stayed at a place on Lago de Serra da Mesa ("Table Saw Lake"). Presumably, the lake gets its name from the panoramic view of the horizon, where hills jut into the sky like a spiky row of teeth on a saw blade. That is, unless you happen to be floating behind one of the many islands that weave through the middle of the lake - in this case, you may only see a 'tooth' or two, for a time. For someone unfamiliar with the layout, it can be quite a challenge navigating though the veritable maze of islands clustered together.

Serra da Mesa has 689 square miles of some of the consistently prettiest views in this state! I have yet to see actual bad weather on this lake. It's like the Bermuda Triangle of bad weather - you just can't find it here. We usually see rain on "the other side" of the lake, wherever that may be. Meanwhile, back on the lake... the sunlight dances on the waves, the boats bob on the water, and dragonflies weave in & around the remaining trees that stand as reminders of the forest that lies below.

There have been trips where we drove for 5 hours straight, in the pouring rain, only to arrive at the lake ...where it quickly went from slightly overcast to stunning, in a matter of hours. Likewise, we have packed up & set out from a lovely day at the lake, only to spend the next 5 hours in a downpour on our way home.

Although there hasn't been any bad weather to speak of, I can't imagine that it would spoil the experience for me, if there was. This weekend certainly didn't disappoint... It was amazing, as always.

(To enlarge pics, right-click and open in a new window.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


(To enlarge, right-click and open in a new window.)

View of the countryside just outside of Goiânia this past February.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol IXb

Encounters of the Not-So-Forthcoming Kind

When living or traveling abroad you may, on occasion, run into other expats or tourists that share similar interests, which can add a whole new and enjoyable dimension to your trip.

My husband and I became fast friends with another couple that we met while on our honeymoon in Mexico. They were living in Canada, and we were living in the U.S., at the time. We had such a blast with them that we keep in touch to this day.

Something to remember is that not everyone you meet is friendly – or worse, isn't on the up & up. By the same token, sometimes you may just have nothing in common with them (they may bore, offend, or annoy you) and it would do everyone good to seize the next long pause as a cue to exit stage right.

There are other fish in the sea, and we don't all necessarily ride the same currents ...and that's okay.

This brings to mind the only night on our honeymoon that we didn't "double date" at dinner with our new buds because we arrived a few minutes late, at a restaurant in the resort where the staff was in charge of the seating arrangements. The waiters sat our new friends with another couple, while we were seated with a couple from the UK.

For whatever reason, there just wasn't any spark... and our five-course meal seemed like it took five centuries! We all tried to do the polite, small talk thing, but it soon became apparent that there was just nothing there. We couldn't wait to excuse ourselves, and meet up with our friends.

It’s nice when it happens that you can connect with others on a similar journey, but it’s really rare. More rare still is the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime run-in with that couple that seems to be just a little bit off

Here are the top 5 clues you’re in the company of a slick pair of con artists, spies of the Get Smart variety, or real-live cult members. (Let the good times roll!)
  1. This couple has an awesome job locally ...only they can't explain what they do, where it is located, or even how they came about getting it. They also claim that neither one speaks the language, yet somehow have the aforementioned awesome job (where strangely enough... no one speaks their language, either). Ohhhh-kaaay.

  2. There is an entire group of what the locals assume must be "foreign church people or spies," who have been living in a compound in an out-of-the-way town for about 20 years. They have a strict don't-interact-with-the-locals policy, but when asked once what they were doing here they claimed to be missionaries who weren't working in this region (but another that could never be confirmed). This compound is simply their home base, that is allegedly used as a jumping point to even more remote [again, let's stress unconfirmed] nowhere-near-here regions in the country. Of course!

  3. This couple claims that neither one “knows the area," even though they've been around awhile, drive everywhere to run their errands (including to & from their top secret job location) ...but the go-to answer to anything you may ask regarding the city will be another big question mark and awkward blank stare. Although you may simply just want to know how to get to the local mall, they may see this as a test to 'out' them.

  4. Despite the fact that this couple may appear around the local language school for a semester or two, they will never learn the language, nix any social activities with other expats, and will avoid making any friends [to avoid loose ends]. The partner in charge may also veer across 3 lanes to take the inner left curve of the traffic circle when you, by chance, see them in traffic and wave hello - even though you were about to take a right, anyway. Weird.

  5. When you accidentally run into this couple a few years later in another international city airport, they will not only have changed their names, but their nationalities - so it is clearly a case of mistaken twin couple identities. Sure!

Best advice I can offer: Plead delirium (you're off your meds, again) and if you are getting on the same flight as these people, watch your drink! Have your travel buddy take first watch.

All pics found on Google images.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Five Facts for Foreigners - Vol IXa

Creepy Faux Faith Peeps

With the possibility of a meet & greet or gathering of other expats, I couldn't help but think back to the strange run-ins I’ve had with a few expats(?) ...fellow foreigners and/or countrymen... "tourists" of the shady kind. You know: those people that are clearly not who they purport to be...

Word to the wise, as Walternate said in Back to Where You've Never Been (Fringe - S4, E8)... "Everything is not as it seems." Avoid the near Fringe event in the pursuit of finding friends abroad by correctly translating the telltale tip-offs.

Here are the top 5 ways to tell someone's mission's impossible (i.e., totally fake). What they are really doing here, is best left to someone else's imagination. Don't let on that you know anything's amiss, and feel free to make tracks, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Better yet, here are a few highlights I've gathered in a guide to creating your very own Mission Improbable.
  1. Wear random religious shirts that you and your cohorts picked up at a Goodwill back home. (Make sure you're reppin' at least 3 denominations on opposite ends of the spectrum. Shirts with vague, happy phrases should suffice if you aren't quite sure on this one.)
  2. Claim to be on a missions trip, but don't have a clue about theology, or even which church you are [allegedly] affiliated with (here or there). Be sure to get hostile when someone has the audacity to inquire.

  3. Be 0 for 2 in the 'local church as a liaison in the missions field' category.

  4. Travel sans translator, though no one in your group speaks the language.

  5. Be noticeably high while cruising a local mall with your group. Not-so-covert, furtive glances go a long way, too.

There are only two probable scenarios when presented with these clues: they are either running from something, or running something. Either way, the best thing to do is appear naive, and leave.

It's a wild & wacky world out there. Be safe!

All pics found on Google images.