The Student Has Become the Master (Part One of Two)

The Student Has Become the Master (Part One of Two)

Nordeste, Brasil

I tried to hide the amazement on my face. “You want me to ask what?”

“Ask if she can keep my knife in her pocket during the flight.”

“No. She can’t. I’m not asking that.”

I asked it. She said no. The other security agents at Fortaleza’s Pinto Martins airport pointed at us and snickered. We checked a bag with my friend’s Swiss army knife against his protests.

Being an interpreter can be tough, but being an interpreter for someone with stupid questions can be excruciating. This was karma.

The Student

Three years ago I had been the one with lots of stupid questions but little Portuguese vocabulary. I arrived in Brasil and dialed up Juliana every time I had problems, who reluctantly saved me from my own stupidity on a regular basis.

“Are you stupid?” she asked after a two hour car ride across state lines when I couldn’t communicate with the driver.

“Why would you do that?” she demanded when I got lost near her neighborhood and called for directions.

“You will get rob-ed!” she lovingly scolded when I walked to a mall through a dangerous area.

After two weeks of abusive help in Joao Pessoa, I cut the umbilical cord and set off for Bahia, a coastal state and the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture. I learned rudimentary Portuguese in my two months there, plus explored the area endlessly and found exorcisms, robbery attempts, hidden samba parties, and several other hidden adventures.

Before leaving Brasil I called Juliana and thanked her for all she did for me, then apologized for all I did to her.

Three years later, in May 2017, the shoe was on the other foot.


Me and Juliana


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