I suppose that it must be a global norm that one of the first things that we say to each other when we first meet, is what is your name?
In the business world we always had an agenda item No.1 entitled “Introductions”, and infallibly I would forget everybody’s name in an instant unless I immediately wrote it down.
Living in a foreign country brings an additional set of problems. The names are often unfamiliar, pronunciation can be difficult, and it is not normal social etiquette to whip out a pad and pencil and jot down what you understand to be the name of your latest acquaintance.
Brazilians are fundamentally practical people, and hence the title of this piece can be literally translated to read; “How are you called?”
Thence we depart from the traditional Western concept of a name issued shortly after birth, to a more loosely interpreted idea of what people call you.
That can be a name, or as in the case of a foreigner, you will inevitably become an estrangeiro or “Gringo”.
This may irk you a little, as it is more of a generic title or description, rather than a name, but bear with it for a while at least, because your name may well cause more derision than simply being labelled a foreigner, and it may well be nigh impossible for a Brazilian tongue to get around.
Rs are a case in point. They are pronounced as an H sound in Portuguese, and therefore Randy becomes Handy, Raul becomes Howl, and Brenda becomes Benda.
As your time in Brazil increases, so is the likelihood of you becoming the owner of an apelido, or nick-name.
Ex President Lula is an often quoted example of someone who not only became known in Brazil by his apelido but became a world-wide figure who would have struggled to be recognised under his formal name of Luiz Inácio da Silva.
Apelidos are a fascinating subject, as they not only identify a person, but also convey something of their character and are, in a way, a sort of Brazilian stamp of approval that is only gained when people get to know you.
Mine is “Caqui”. Pronounced as in Khaki and derived from the fact that I give away each year, large quantities of persimmon fruit, (Caqui in Portuguese.), that grow in my garden.
It’s okay as apelidos go but I used to be fond of being called “Madruga” by my ex wife, who always slept late and complained that I got up in the middle of the night.
Hence apelidos can change with circumstances and depend on who is calling the shots.
If I have a longing to become more authentically Brazilian, as many of us do, it would be gratifying to receive an apelido with a Z in it, or even more than one!
My friend Zeca is an example of one who has achieved that indelible mark of Brazilianness.
Zaza Gabor would have been an instant hit here, as would Zorro, and anyone boasting the title of Zanzibar would have found themselves an immediate sensation, even if the R had become an H.
Foreigners are often bemused by what would have been taken for granted in their home town, but is unavailable in Brazil.
You might call it the ” I don’t belive it!” factor.
A couple of years ago I suffered a heart attack and six months later my wife left me living alone in rural Sao Paulo.
No, this isn’t a plea for sympathy, I just got on with my life, but as part of the general chaos surrounding divorce, when the telephone ceased to work, I discovered that she hadn’t paid the bill and I had been dissconnected.
No sweat thought I, I just place an order for it to be re-connected, so off I went, filled in the form, presented an old telephone bill and awaited the technician to make the connection.
Weeks turned into months and despite a return visit to Vivo’s office, still no connection, so I took my problem to my friend and lawyer who gave Vivo’s complaints section a call. He spent more than half an hour in conversation with a series of people who informed him that there was no application registered on their system and for me to make a fresh application. No sooner the word than the deed and a new application was made. Weeks past and still nothing. My friend deputised his secretary to make the next complaint.
She went through the same procedure,which incidentally baffles me with a series of questions from a robot and a series of options to be entered on the telephone only to be finally waiting for an extension to picked up but which then times out, leaving you hanging on an empty line.
When she finally got through the answer was the same. “We have no record of your application.” So another application was made.
This went on for several more months, with patience wearing thin and a growing sense that behind the scenes, Vivo was not telling us the whole story. Friends spoke of similar stories and in a confidential whisper when her supervisor was out of earshot, one brave Vivo employee told me that there were many others with the same problem but couldn’t be persuaded to tell me any more.
I had almost given up on getting my telephone restored when one sunny morning I spied a Vivo van parked near my gate and with hopes rising, went to investigate .
Two Vivo operatives were hard at work . To my dismay they informed me that they were carrying out routine maintenance work, and so I took the opportunity to tell them my story, and ask them, why will Vivo not give me a line?
Immediately the veil fell from the corporate Vivo image and with a broad grin on his face, the senior technician informed me that the answer to my question was simplicity in itself. There is no capacity for any more lines in this cable senhor! You are in a queue with all of the others who are waiting to be connected. In fact, the cable does not even reach to the top of the hill!
Off I went to my lawyer’s office to spread the news and ask for further advice. My friend was indignant and wanted to open an action against Vivo, but explained that it could be expensive and was not certain of success, so I shrugged my shoulders and booked an appointment for a test installation for an antenae to link my cell phone. Unfortunately the test proved negative because the hill behind my property blocked out the signal.
Time for a re-think, and a change of strategy. If there are so many others in the same situation, could a petition be the answer?
Several conversations with friends later I sat in the air-conditioned comfort of my Town Council’s offices talking to Vereadora Debora.
After she had patiently listed to my entire story, Deborah launched into a detailed description of all of the previous attempts made by the Council to persuade Vivo to install lines to rural properties. It was a lengthy response and despite the failure to date to achieve a single success, she agreed to my request for the health service to distribute a petition for me, on the grounds that I and many others in the community, were dissadvantaged in accessing medical help in an emergency.
As a parting shot she told me that I was up against a “Lion” and wished me luck!
That was when the ” I don’t belive it!” factor kicked in!
I am not a person to be easily riled, but this situation struck me as being totally ridiculous and wholly unfair on the most vulnerable members of the community who live with a medical condition in rural areas.
What happens when you need to call an ambulance in an emergency?
I am therefore using my blog and every other resource available to me, including this year’s elections for State Deputados, to summon Public and Political opinion in order to get a change in the law.
Please take a second of your time to register your response to my Poll.
Will you support me?
If your answer is YES, please give me possitive feed-back and spread the word!
Have you had a negative experience with Vivo?
If you have a complaint to add, please feel free to join my bandwagon!
The Count Down is followed by many millions of people all around the world and of course now you can watch it all on TV as the clocks tick towards the final hour in different time zones.
This year was a first for me. I went to bed at 11.30 and slept like a log!
Meanwhile revellers let off fireworks, jumped over seven waves at the beach to bring good luck into 2014 and woke up with their first headache of the New Year several hours later.
On New Years Day I rode my trail bike high into the Jureia mountains and had lunch there at my friend Maria’s house. Her husband works in the banana plantations there. Their little house is an oasis of colour in an ocean of mono-culture. As we sat on their veranda a cool breeze was blowing up from the coast. A welcome relief from the 37 degrees in the shade and some 83% relative humidity down in the valley.
Wherever you are I hope that you will continue to visit my blog in 2014 and that you will notice some changes that will bring more of a personal touch.