I have traveled to different countries before and was expecting some similarities, but this trip to Brazil has turned out thus far to be leagues away from my past experiences. Not only am I not with my family but I have been immersed in the language in a way I’ve never been before. My host family, Marcos, Fatima, and Pedro, together only speak a little English and so I have to rely on my little knowledge of Portuguese as well as Google Translate for our conversations. However, there is no better way to learn a language than to be forced to speak it to express yourself. Even with the language barrier, though, there are some things that don’t require words; in Brazil, one such thing is futbol, which both my host father and his son play.
When I first got to my host families house we were struggling to exchange greetings and make small talk. It was especially hard to converse in Portuguese as I had been up for almost two whole days due to our travels and couldn’t think very well. Despite this, I quickly found out that futbol was a common connection between us and that they play futbol with their friends several times a week. It turned out that they were playing that night at 10 p.m. Though I was tired, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to play soccer in a country where soccer is the most popular sport. And just like I thought, all those who showed up to play (mostly students) were amazing players.
After only twenty minutes of playing, switching between four teams of five every ten minutes, I thought I was done for the night; I was so tired. However, whether it was the Brazilian water or just the wind of the open-air hallway nearby, I was able to keep going until midnight when everyone had to head home. I even managed to score a goal once.
This soccer game taught me that language is not, luckily for us, the only form of communication. While playing with the others, we did not have to talk to understand one another. Soccer is a language unto itself. So despite my worries of not being able to communicate while in Brazil, I’ve found that there are many ways to cross the language barrier be it through sports, body language, or simply breaking into laughter. Thus, even though my first few days have lacked my usual amount of sleep during the summer, the trade-off has been well worth it, and I can’t wait to see what comes next, though hopefully there are a few naps involved.