|In Ribeirao Preto, 2008.|
Here in Ribeirao Preto, my current short-term city of residence, I am quite famous. Well, not in the everybody-knows-my-name sort of way, but more in the everybody-knows-I-am-different-and-therefore-must-stare kind of way. (Whew! It is quite difficult to type so many hyphens! Ok, back to my story...) Really. Everywhere I go, people stare. And it is funny to me because this city has a LOT of white people. Maybe not as white as me, for sure, and definitely not as blonde, but white, yes. I think it must be more than my skin color. I think everything about me screams, "YES!!! I AM NOT BRAZILIAN! IT IS TRUE!!! STARE SOME MORE!!!"
But really, it isn't that bad. I get treated in an almost celebrity fashion. I walk into the gym, and people who have never seen me instantly know, yes, this is Tiffany. I go to the store, and I have people who are more than willing to help me find exactly what I want, and continue smiling even when I found nothing that suits my fancy, they are just so thrilled to help me anyway. At some places, the grocery store for instance, people are pretty mild about it... "Eh, whatever. An American, not big deal." Oh yeah, but there was that one bagger who stared, pointed, and then got all his friends in on it. Hmm... ok, so it isn't AS bad at the grocery store.
Today at the park I had quite the treat. While playing frisbee I was apparently spotted by a fan who decided to sit down and watch me. I think it was my counting points aloud in English that caught this young man's attention (he was probably about 12). He just sat there on the grass, watched intently, laughed when I would call something out, and had a good time. Of course, it didn't bother me or anything, so I smiled at him and kept playing. When Paulo and I were done I was getting a drink at the drinking fountain and this kid had gathered his buddies. He would see one of them, gesture the new guy to come over, whisper something to him, and then they would stare when they didn't think I was looking. But I guess that wasn't enough so they decided to share their incredible English skills with me. You can guess how that went...
Giggle, snicker, giggle.
And so on and so forth.
Oh, the things we teach people through media.
The almost funny part is that, according to Paulo, and I totally believe it, they have no idea what they are saying. They are just trying to communicate in my language.
Well, we went to get some sugar cane juice (sounds weird but is pretty awesome) and my little fan followed me. And of course eventually called over another friend. "Dude," he must have whispered to his buddy, "I think this girl is an American!" But, eh, whatever. I am white, I practically glow in the dark, so there isn't anything about this that surprises me. And since I am no Jennifer Aniston or Sandra Bullock, I am ok with this for now. One of these days I will head back to America and be one of the many nameless people walking down the street and I will remember that, for at least a little while, I was a star.