By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here’s part 19 of Joe’s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.
Welcome to Chaos!
Going back home after not having taught class really irks me – especially since I have yet to get started on this dumb HBO video. But I really can’t complain, since I now have the rest of the afternoon to do the transcription.
Hey, what was that? Oh no, the subway has just stopped between stations, and all the lights have gone out! Now the overhead fans have stopped circulating!!! Boy, it’s really getting hot in here after only a few minutes. What the hell is going on now, anyway?
I feel the subway car lurch forward, and several people are thrown together by accident. Well, we’re moving again. Must have been one of those five-minute, energy-saver breaks I’ve heard about – you know, where the city’s subway lines just sit there on the platform, with no lights, for minutes at a stretch. This is São Paulo’s radical new solution for energy conservation. Huh, good thing it was only for a short spell.
The last time I got stuck in a stalled subway car it lasted for over an hour. And another time, all the passengers were told to disembark from a car that had suddenly caught fire. The platform at the Praa da S station was filled up in seconds with people from the other arriving and departing subway trains. It was a positively claustrophobic experience that reminded me too much of Manhattan during rush hour.
Frequent work stoppages and strikes, as well as unplanned delays, demonstrations and detours, are all common occurrences in the big cities, and can happen at most any time.
Luckily, I only experienced a few such minor slowdowns, but they were enough to disrupt the flow of traffic and prevent me from getting to class on time. I would usually try to replace the missing session, but it’s not really a requirement since it wasn’t my fault. Besides, my schedule had grown so large that I rarely had time anymore for replacement classes. You, too, will find this to be the case. Offer to give the student a discount on next month’s payment, if replacing the canceled lesson proves to be impractical.
Early in my teaching career, as I was going to a private in-company class, the bus I was on came to a grinding halt along Avenida Tiradentes and did not move for over ten minutes. Some of the more impatient passengers onboard started to shout abuse at the driver without knowing what exactly was going on.
From my window seat, I could see several perueiros (private van drivers) staging an impromptu demonstration along the side street that emptied out into the main avenue. The van drivers were fuming over some city ordinance or other that required them to pay additional fees to register their vehicles with the Department of Transportation.
In protest, they had strategically parked their vans right in the middle of Tiradentes to prevent any oncoming traffic from moving.
As I was watching them, the van drivers grew more and more agitated with our bus – and started yelling at the driver and at various passersby. I decided to leave in a hurry. Walking brusquely past the dueling drivers, I headed straight for the elevated subway line for the ride back home. I wasn’t about to risk my hide over some ridiculous disturbance, and I certainly wasn’t about to risk being without a means to get back home – which seemed very likely, given the length of time it took to bring the situation to a semblance of normalcy along Tiradentes.
When I finally got home, I tried to contact my student to inform him of the delay and, more importantly, to cancel the lesson. I was told that he had gone to a late-afternoon business appointment and wasn’t expected back in the office until the next morning – and he hadn’t even called to inform me beforehand of this change in plan.
If I had gone to meet him downtown that evening, I would most certainly have been stood up. As luck would have it, I chose the right course of action.
I cite this incident not to scare teachers away but merely to alert them to the very real, and ever-present, inevitability of strikes, slowdowns, demonstrations, and the like; and to train them to be prepared at all times for emergency situations which they may need to face in order to teach.
Always plan on an alternate route to-and-from your class or home. Unfortunately, the options here may be limited, because if traffic stops in one part of the city, it may very likely stall in another.
Congestion in the Big Abacaxi (pineapple) is a universally accepted fact of daily urban life, as is the ever-present crime and violence; in other sleepier towns and villages these problems may not exist, or be as bad, but there might be other hazards that take the place of crawling traffic lanes. Keep your eyes open at all times to avoid serious trouble.
Subway workers, bus drivers, bank employees, autoworkers, civil servants, municipal and government employees, and many other functionaries frequently stage walkouts in sympathy with their brother protesters. In the event of strikes or other mass interruptions, stay tuned to a good all-news radio or television station for the latest up-to-the-minute information.
Part 20 next week…
Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes
A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.
To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:
Teaching English In Brazil Part 18
Teaching English In Brazil Part 17
Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?“