Note: I have been told so many times by a few different people how "brave" or "adventurous" or "outgoing" or "free-spirited" I am. (I would agree with adventurous and outgoing, but not with brave or free-spirited.) My friends have described me as such after I have told them about various conversations with taxi drivers. Apparently it's unusual that I strike up conversation with people I don't know in a language that I'm just learning. But, to be honest, my conversations with taxi drivers are pretty much the only time I get to practice Portuguese. I don't really have the opportunity to talk to many Brazilians during the day (because all of my students are American or British).
Almost every taxi ride ends with me being extremely excited, rushing upstairs to tell Peter, "I just had the greatest conversation with my taxi driver! He told me this this and that, etc." Only once, in the past 10 months, did I have a taxi driver that was rude and "mean."
|Photo used legally|
Sorry that the only picture I could find via creative commons was of an NYC taxi... Just imagine that it says "Rio" on it haha
Taxi Conversations #1:
Last night I was taking a taxi home and we got stuck in really bad traffic. Luckily, my taxi driver was super friendly. He was an older man, married with at least one son, and we talked about everything from how he speaks fluent French to how I conducted a choir on stage with The Rolling Stones. We were stuck coming out of a ritzy neighborhood, and the street we were stuck on has been called "the Gaza strip of Rio" by the people who live there, due in part to the fact that there are so many robberies that occur on that road. (The very wealthy ex-pats who live there get stuck in traffic and are like sitting ducks.) We talked about how teachers don't get paid enough for all the work they do, how Brazil's economy is in such a bad state, how he thinks it's crazy that my husband and I chose to live in Rio instead of the U.S., and much more. He complimented my Portuguese and practiced the little English he knew.
Eventually my taxi driver told me to call my husband to tell him that I'm alright, since the traffic was making my usually 5-minute commute into a 45 minute ordeal. I hung up with Peter and told my taxi driver that my husband told me to "stay in the car." My taxi driver was so sweet and said, "Don't worry, you are safe. I will take care of you."
After we finally got to my condominium, he looked at the fee (which had gotten pretty high by that point) and told me that I could pay him whatever I was able and not to worry about the amount if I didn't have enough! I paid him the full amount and he wished me a great night and "blessings" for my life.
That might have been my final solo taxi ride in Rio, and it was a great way to end the taxi adventures I've had thus far.
Stay tuned for more taxi stories, some of which are funny, some are sweet, and one that left me incredibly annoyed.
I think the key to having a good conversation with someone in a language you're just learning, is to master the phrase, "I'm learning [language]." Every time I get in a taxi I say, "Disculpa, estou aprendendo Português." They are instantly thrilled and excited that I'm taking the effort to learn their language and talk to them. They almost always speak more slowly and clearly, too.
So tell me, am I a weirdo for talking to my taxi drivers? Do you talk to people you don't know when overseas?