Big District, Small Town Feel| Natural Language Institute

Insights and Experiences


Big District, Small Town Feel

By Rita Elena Daniel - 25/nov/2015 #Historia, Cultura y Artes

I have very little patience with being lost. It is true that when I first arrived and was still very new to the city, I always asked people at the bus stops for help (in broken Portuguese). If there was no one at the stop with me, I’d hail down buses and ask the “motorista” (bus driver) which way I needed to go. As I’ve been here over two months now, I’ve asked countless strangers for help. I finally realized a few weeks ago that I might try to stop being so conspicuous when I received a text from a friend saying that one of his friends said he spoke to an American girl at the bus stop and she asked for advice on how to get to a different part of town. Imagine my embarrassment—I knew it was me and so did my friend! I’ve since tried to tone down my inquisitions and rely on my sense of direction.

With a hint of shame, I related this embarrassing story to my students and to some colleagues, but they assured me that it’s really not extremely uncommon because, “Brasília is big, but the city has a small town vibe.” I thought, “Aw, those guys are just trying to make me feel better,” but, since then,  another incident has occurred, leading me to believe their claim. Two weeks ago, I found myself sitting in the chair of a salon in Asa Norte. I finally decided it was time to try my luck at getting my hair done—anything would look better than the overgrown highlights I was sporting. Without really having any suggestions for a good salon, I went to a place which I thought looked legitimate. I negotiated a price with the hairdresser and sat down, waiting for him to “mix up the magic,” (hair dye) as the famed hair stylist Ted Gibson so famously says.

After the stylist got started, an assistant approached and told him that his next client was already waiting in the lobby. He responded, saying that the client should come up, and so she did. I was shocked and a tiny bit embarrassed—a head full of foil, gasp!—when the “next client” was one of my students at Natural English! Actually, we were both taken aback by the coincidence, but found ourselves laughing and talking throughout our time there. It was a totally random occurrence, but another indication that Brasília is, indeed, a large district with a “small town feel.” Frankly, it was great seeing a student at the hair salon—we got to have a bonding experience outside of the school and now share this fond memory. Plus, we had each other to talk to during the lonely process of sitting through a hair appointment—and of course—speaking to me offered my student another opportunity to speak English!

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