Carpooling to class

I have been taking the autobus (because to simply say bus is usually not understood) for the one-hour trip from Salamanca to Zamora for about four months. There were intervals when I attempted to carpool with my Brazilian classmate, but I think carpooling in the sense of picking somebody up in your car and driving to a location to which you are both destined to go has a different meaning in Brazil. I cannot imagine carpooling even existing in Brazil because you never know if the driver is going to show up late or not at all.

The last time I agreed to carpool, I waited for 45 minutes and upon calling was told that he and the family had just that day moved out of the city to a house with great garden potential but there was concern about the birds eating the newly-planted seeds so, no, I could not be picked up. I still do not know what scavenging birds had to do with carpooling.

I did enjoy our times together. He is an older man and ex-civil engineering professor of the University of Rio de Janeiro who is completely obsessed with marketing. Brazilians are said to be great salesmen and Spain is painfully lacking in aggressive promotion of their national products. So the theme of every discourse is mah-ka-tig to which he ends with a tap on the steering wheel, or if we are in class a knock on the desk, and a declaration: “Es una falta de mah-ka-ting” (It is a lack of marketing). This of course has become a running joke in class, as correct as he is.  He may repeat it because his Spanish is limited and he knows that we have trouble understanding his half-Spanish, half-Portuguese, or Portuñol as he lovingly refers to it.

Anyone who knows a bit about Romance languages knows that the family consists of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian, Italian, and Catalán. They share a very similar grammar structure and loads of vocabulary, especially Portuguese and Spanish. Still, they are not the same languages, and one must bother to distinguish the pronounciation.

Portuguese, especially the Brazilian tongue, is beautiful how the pronunciation forces you to whistle and sing the soft vowels that whirl around between consonants. Still, in the case of the Brazilian, week after week all I could hear was what I describe as drunk, slurry Spanish. Because of the Portuñol, half the words were in Spanish but with a thick, loose Portuguese accent that placed the wrong intonation on words.  It is what I imagine my Spanish to sound like after a glass of wine.

The worst were the rides after a wine tasting class when his Portuguese dominated his Portuñol. These carpooling moments were the trickiest: I took my cues to speak when he paused though I was never entirely sure if I was being asked a question or getting stranded in that conversational void of silence, having to think of something to say.

Thanks for the good times, old friend.


2 thoughts on “Carpooling to class

    • Yes, the bus has been nice, especially now that I live right across from the station. Now I wrestle with telling the gum-popping girl to stop and trying to breath through the intense Paco Rabanne that another girl insists on over-spraying on the the 2 p.m. bus every Thursday. I wonder if my public transport days will ever be over…


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