For the last several weeks, I wake up with two sizzling questions: Where am I? and What day is this? There's a sense that just moments ago I was somewhere far, far away from wherever I am, a distant space and time.
A slightly less intense inquiry blinks on-and-off behind those questions: What language do they speak here?
I would attribute the disorientation to "jet lag" (the
Rua João Afonso and that it would cost no more than 35$R. To facilitate transport, I'd printed out two copies of the directions and carried an old-school, flip-top spare cell phone on loan from my friend in Rio Claro (my newish smart phone required a SIM card to function in Brazil and I didn't purchase one).
The cheapest taxi I could find after a quick survey wanted 55$R for the trip. I consented and got in. Language was the first hurdle. The accent of cariocas -- the affectionate nickname for residents of Rio -- is very different. Think English as spoken in the Deep South versus Boston and you have some idea of what I faced. As the taxi crawled through traffic that managed to be simultaneously sluggish and treacherous, the driver and I successfully found our way to a primitive shared language. He informed me that, given the traffic, it would take close to two hours to reach my destination using the directions given. He knew as shortcut...
I grew increasingly concerned as I struggled (and failed) to spot street names that matched those in the directions I clutched. Attempts to reach my host by telephone were also unsuccessful. As my imagination began to meander toward "hopelessly lost in Rio de Janeiro", I decided to call my hosts in Rio Claro, over 500 km away, and ask them to try to reach my host in Rio de Janeiro.
The strategy worked. My host telephoned, I handed the cell to the driver and, between them, they mapped a course and I reached my destination safely.
The situation was "I don't know where I am, I don't know where I'm going, I don't know anyone here, and I don't speak the language" to the nth...
In a way, it's not a unique situation. To some degree, the description applies metaphorically a lot of the time.