For some people, coming to Brazil has been a little difficult, but for me, I’ve been pretty ok. I don’t get homesick too easily, I enjoy exploring new places, and like trying new food. Also, some things about Sao Paulo really remind me of being with my family in India, so this city is a little nostalgic to me.

Honestly, my biggest problem here has been the language barrier. It’s not as bad as I thought it would have been but it still has been difficult to communicate simple things with people. However, I found some things easily surpass the language barrier. And that would be GAMES! It’s not something I thought about at first, but it makes sense; they require little talking and you just follow the rules to know what you’re supposed to do.

Pedro showing me his soccer cards

Tonight, some of my host’s extended family came over after dinner and were hanging out. I was talking with her seven-year-old nephew, Pedro, about his soccer cards for a while, struggling through some Portuguese until he suggested playing Dominos. I didn’t really know how to play but I thought it might be fun, so I agreed.

We gathered some of the family to play dominos and honestly, it was one of my best experiences yet. After we struggled through some google translate as to how to play dominos we started playing and struggling to communicate became an afterthought. We played, made faces, and laughed at our mistakes. They taught me some slang terms, I taught them some English and we were able to easily interact with each other through playing dominos.

Us playing dominoes together

After a while, I picked up what they say for certain situations. Like, when it’s your turn but you are distracted they would say “Vai”, which means go. Then, if you did not have any dominos you could use then you would say “nao tenho” meaning I don’t have. Playing dominos was not just fun, it also helped me study my numbers in Portuguese since Pedro would always ask which numbers he had to match even though he could easily look up and see the numbers.

An interesting thing I learned while playing was that here they call a cheater a cat. While we were playing Pedro “accidentally” put a four next to a five and we didn’t notice until a bit later. Then everyone started saying “gato, gato, gato” (gato means cat) and they explained to me that when someone cheats here they are called a cat. Then, Pedro became gato for the game.

Playing dominoes with the family was really fun and allowed me to push myself to use my Portuguese in a comfortable setting. Apparently, dominos has no boundaries. So if you ever find yourself struggling to communicate and connect with people bring out some dominos!

~Hannah Saxena

Categories: Brazil 2018


Susan Richardson · May 15, 2018 at 9:05 pm

You are all certainly being immersed in the Brazilian culture! How exciting and I love your perspective on playing a game that could have become frustrating, but became a learning experience and was fun!

Peter Saxena · May 16, 2018 at 1:14 am

That must have been fun. I think you should tell Pedro that you think Brazil will win the Football World Cup. He will really like you then. Lol.

Keila Guimaraes · May 16, 2018 at 3:57 am

What a great experience Hanna. You are right games are great to interect.

Rebekah Distaffen · May 17, 2018 at 12:20 am

Aww, Hannah! I love hearing about your experiences playing games with your family despite the language barriers. I have found that games and dancing are often the best ways of communicating across languages and cultures, and one of my favorite things to do is to find new ways to communicate. Thanks for sharing, and glad you had fun 🙂

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