I got an email last weekend from my dear Brazilian friend Julianna with a much-needed infusion of her uplifting worldview. She said she’d been thinking of me since Carnival had been going on there and we have big plans to go next year.
I’ve talked about Julianna before; I had the good fortune of meeting her about two days into my Argentina trip. She is the kind of person you know you want to be friends with just by looking at her. She could land on Mars and befriend the natives in one day flat I’m sure of it; she’d have learned the native language in three. Not that she’s all sweetness all the time (who wants that?); for instance, jokes about Brazilians not wearing any clothing and partying all the time will not go over well, trust. Since I can’t share the actual Julianna with all of you, I thought I’d share a few of her thoughts on things to help get you through the weekend.
Julianna has worked internationally so she knows that it’s a big deal to be on time in the Northern Hemisphere. She would run late every time we met up and I could tell she was worried about me thinking she was being rude. For my part I was trying to chill the eff out about time since I was a- on vacation and b- in South America and trying to go as native as possible; I’ve spent enough time south of the equator to know that it’s useless to expect people to regard start times as anything more than a suggestion but it was Julianna who finally explained to me the reason for this difference. ‘If you show up right on time,’ she told me ‘ the person you’re meeting might not be ready for you yet or they might be late and then they will be embarrassed. Better to show up fifteen minutes after and give them some time to prepare.’
One day in my Spanish class I learned a completely fabulous word that I wanted to immediately share with the girls and import into American slang (kids at home, get on this) ‘amigonovio’. It means literally ‘friendboyfriend’ and is used to describe someone you are more than friends with but not quite in a relationship with; this basically describes most of the romantic interactions I’ve ever had. I discussed with Julianna and Ninna. Why did we have no words for this in English? Why were we left with the ’guy-I’m-kinda-sorta-dating’ or the dreadful ‘friends with benefits’? This conversation lead Julianna to share with us a whole lexicon of terms for romantic entanglements: there is ‘amigo con colores’; friend with colors which is something a little more serious than the American ‘friends with benefits’ and a little less serious than the Argentine ‘amigonovio’; people living together but not married are ‘enamorados’ and my very favorite, ‘el arroz’ or ‘the rice’. In Brazil rice is served with every meal, it’s always around but it’s never the main dish. This is basically the Brazilian way of putting someone in the ‘friend zone’; ‘Oh James? Nah we’re not dating, I just see him when I’m bored; he’s the rice.’ Of course once in a blue moon, the rice can become a risotto but the rice probably shouldn’t hold his breath.
In general, Julianna is very upbeat and positive but she believes in giving sadness its due. During one of my first long talks with her, I remember she said ‘life is beautiful, even when it’s terrible. You have to appreciate your sadness as well; it’s how you know you are alive. And it is always better to be really alive.’ In talking about heartache she said she disagrees with the song that says ‘owner of a lonely heart is better than owner of a broken heart.’ She said she’d rather have a broken heart that is alive and full of experiences and memoires, better to have sadness than not to have memories.
Readers, I cannot disagree.