Arriving in Manaus at 5 a.m., I was unsure what to expect. As I waited for my luggage wearing jeans and a T-shirt,
I could feel the humidity engulf me. Leaving São Paulo at 9 p.m. with a long delay in Rio de Janeiro, I knew Manaus
would be hot, but at 5 a.m., I never could have expected what I experienced. That was I. Imagine my luggage. I thought my
bags had been dropped in the Amazon Rivermeaning my bags had collected dew from the cold temperatures experienced
while flying. I accumulated my 80 kilos of luggage and left the baggage area for the unknown. After security checked my
luggage I ventured out into the openness of the airport looking for my host family. They knew about me, but I knew little about them.
Being 5 a.m., two and half-hours late, there were few people waiting for family members. So I waited and waited.
Shortly thereafter, a woman approached me. She asked me where the flight came from, and from what she later told me, I said
São Paulo with a strong Paulista accent. She began to walk away, but then quickly turned back and asked me if I arrived in
Manaus to teach. I said yes, and she quickly said that she was hosting me in her house. I think she was shocked my Portuguese
was as good as people say it is. We had spoken on the telephone before I arrived, but with international connections, the
sound isn't the best all the time. And after traveling in São Paulo and Salvador, my accent became even stronger.
The Paulista, a person who is from São Paulo, has an accent very unique. Although I do not know why their accent
is the way it is, it is an accent that demonstrates the clarity that the Portuguese language at times lacks. Words like
celular (cell-phone), mulher
(woman), carne (meat), porta (door), are said with a strong emphasis on the "r". In São Paulo,
very few people say their accent is strong, incorrect, or correct. What people say is that if another person has a very strong
accent; they are from the interior. Americans say they are "red-necks" or from the Deep South. There is nothing
grammatically incorrect. It is their accent.
But when traveling to Bahia or to almost any other state outside of São Paulo, it is very evident where a person is
from. In Bahia, instead of saying mulher, they say
mulé. For the American, the "lh" is a very hard combination. For the
Brazilian, their "lh" equivalent would be the "th" in words like "the, three, there, their, etc."
The Manauenese, or Manaura, a person from Manaus has an accent. Their accent is similar to the French or British
"r". Instead of forcing it like the Paulistas, the "r" is very soft.
My Paulista accent possibly saved me from being left in the airport, or even having to wait longer to meet my host
family. We hugged and exchanged the customary two kisses, and went for the car. Sweating profusely, we made the drive
from the airport to my new home, some twenty minutes away. Arriving at her apartment, I had a major culture shock. Not
because of the language, or weather, or food (which I had not experienced) but the size of her apartment.
I live in a relatively large apartment, and all my friends have relatively large houses. Moving from my apartment
which I share with my grandparents to a college dormitory was a major shock, living in an apartment with a kitchen, laundry
space, living room, all the furniture, full bathroom, and three people is even worse. Their living room and kitchen might
equal the kitchen my grandparents and other friends have. To put this apartment into perspective, for families that live in a
house, and have a basement, this apartment could easily fit in a basement. Or, take out all the walls, all furniture, leaving just
the exterior walls, and you might be able to place 6-8 Honda Civics in the apartment. Small.
Although I still speak slower than I would speak with my friends, I had to speak even slower in all my classes
because the students were not used to having a native speaker, and were used to listening to "Brazilian English". Brazilian English?
Brazilian English is the name I have given to the language spoken by teachers who have not studied abroad, whose
English is still affected by their native language, or whose English is not "native". It is a given that unless you are born in an
English-speaking country, your English will never be completely fluent, but it is very evident simply by listening to the other
teachers to decide who has studied more than six months in the United States or England, and who has not.
Now, I have students even at the basic level, who understand what I say when I speak quicker than I usually do, and
even when I speak fast like I would with friends in the USA. This shows that their listening skills are getting better. And
having a native teacher, at any level, their speaking and pronunciation will greatly improve giving them more ease in being able
to adjust to the actual English spoken on the streets of the USA, in England, in Australia, and all the other countries that
speak English. What many students do not always understand when they ask me to speak slower, is that when they travel
outside of Brazil to a country or place where English is spoken, the person will not slow down to explain something simply
because they are foreigners.
Manaus is a city that was founded as a fort to protect the rubber traders, and rubber collectors from foreign
invasions. Manaus is not like Salvador, Bahia or São Paulo. It is a working city that has grown because of the Zona Franca (Free
Trade Zone)even though prices are still high. The major tourist points are the Amazon Forest, and Amazon River. Most
trips into the Amazon, either by boat, or whatever type of trip starts and ends in Manaus.
Because Manaus was/is a wealthy city, it was the second city in Brazil to receive electricity. Because it had wealthy
residents, the municipal theater was constructed. There is not a lot of culture besides for the above.
Being that Manaus is located along the river, people eat a lot of fish. Some of the most common are
tucunaré, pacu, and sardine. The food is neither spicy nor very different from food in the northeast of the United States. Whereas typical
food in Salvador, state of Bahia, is made with
dendê (palm oil), there is no special oil, or spice used here.
There are some foods, mostly fruits, which are not found any place else except here. There is one dish,
tacacá, which is indigenous soup made with shrimp, a seaweed type of leaf, and a clear gel-like substance that gives the soup a little
nip. It isn't spicy or sour.
Fruits around here are numerous and abundant. Besides the typical fruits like banana, grapes, pineapple, watermelon,
melons, apples, oranges, that are found in the United States without problems, there are others like
jambo, ingá, buriti,
tucumã, and hundreds of others only found in this region
Women throughout Brazil are of a different nature. In general, Brazilian women and most Latin American women
are skinny, dark skinned, small breasted, tight ended, perky women. Because most of Brazil is located in a warm climate,
their clothing is less, and tighter. This for foreigners, especially Americans who are raised to not wear tight clothing, show
little affection in public, etc. is wonderful. Americans arrive in Brazil and drool for Brazilian women simply because of the
fact they are different than American women.
When Americans go to the beach, men wear Bermuda style shorts, and women wear bikinis that cover their entire
ass. The top of the bikini covers the entire breast. Americans who see women wearing smaller bikinis, or men who wear
Speedo's at the beach, or even at the pool may consider them to be gay, lesbians, prostitutes, etc. In Brazil, women wear bikinis
that rarely cover their behind, up to skimpy dental floss bikinis that show everything.
Bikini tops too are skimpy. They cover little but the nipple and surrounding area. Why they wear anything is
sometimes hard to understand. If they only wear a bikini top that barely covers their groin and barely covers their nipples, why
wear anything? Brazilians too have trouble answering this question. They wear little clothing or revealing clothing to us
Americans because their culture is warm. For example, it is currently 10 p.m., and it is approximately 88 degrees Fahrenheit. The
humidity is decent, so a nice sweat is pouring down my body.
But Brazilians wear clothing to the beach because Brazil is a traditionally Catholic country. For those who have
studied Brazilian history, or any history about Latin America, they know the Catholic Church played a large part in the creation,
and colonization of the country and most cities. Because of this, they wear clothing.
To the Brazilian, although they wear little clothing, if they wear little or if a bit of the areola or nipple peaks out the
side of the bikini, it is awful.
Men too wear sungas (Speedo) to the beach and pool for many reasons none of which have to do with their sexual
preference. The Speedo is similar to the underwear Brazilian men wear. Their underwear is different from ours. To see a
Brazilian man's underwear and a Speedo made of the same material, anyone would say they are the same.
Because Speedo's are made of less material and cover less of the man's body, they are lighter and cooler. They also
allow the man to get a tan on 95 percent of his body that he can then show off to the rest of the population. Why would he
want a tan?
In studies done recently, they said that men find women more attractive if they have a tan, being darker skinned, than
women who are white, or their natural color. I would assume that women think the same. I doubt it is a conscious decision men
and/or women make. Rather it is a subconscious decision that has to do with the chemical balances in our brain. When we
see a dark skinned woman, it seems rational for our brain to take longer to process the color of her skin thus making the
man look at the woman longer, making the desire of lust even larger. I recall studying that one reason the human has the
ability to recognize a face after only seeing that person once, is because the eye registers hundreds if not thousands of points of
a persons face like crows' feet, lines around the mouth, and who knows what else.
Most of what we see goes undetected by our conscious brain, but when we need to recall a piece of information that,
at that time, seems inconsequential, but later important, we are able to do so. It is the wonders of the human brain. But it is
the uniqueness of the person to be able to store and later recall these minute pieces of information that make story telling,
and our daily lives so interesting. It is also this same minute information that makes hindsight become 20/20. Of course, this
same information is used against us when we are telling a story and the way we see things is different.
Women in Excess
Here in Manaus most everybody agrees there are more women than men in the city. I believe there are
approximately 3 million more women than men.
What does this mean for men? This means the man can choose which woman he wishes to go out with, date, marry
or cheat on. This means, if he wishes, he could be like Baskin Robins and have his 31 different flavors.
What does this mean for women? This means women are men crazy. This means women are single and available.
What does this do to Men/Women relations? A simple, one word answer could be strain. Or betrayal. Why strain or betrayal?
Being Brazil a Catholic country, one would assume divorce would be low and infidelity even lower. In São Paulo
and Bahia where I have lived I would agree. Arrival in Manaus however has shown more single divorced women than in any
other part of Brazil. Why, is the obvious question, but the answer is not that easy. One place to start would be where
marriage psychologists started a long time ago: Why do men cheat?
As a student of mine told me (he is a doctor in this field), men cheat because they can. Not because their marriage is
boring, or because their marriage is lacking something, but simply because they can. Because Manaus has millions of single
women, men here have become bold enough to go out with one woman, leave her at her house, and go pickup another woman, to
even go after married women. Not that Manaus is the only location where married women sleep with other men.
I frequent a bar on Saturdays that is full of prostitutes. But these are not called prostitutes. They are called
garotas de programa. This bar is located along a river on a floating pier. It is wonderful because I am enclosed by walls Monday
through Saturday at noon, and going to this place, having lunch, sitting in the sun sipping an ice cold beer is just the perfect local
Dating seems to be an interesting topic here in Manaus as well. For most Americans, if a man sees a woman who is
attractive and wishes to know her better he tries. If he finds she has a boyfriend, he gives up. It seems that here in Manaus, if she
has a boyfriend, it makes it all the more fun. If she has a boyfriend, it adds a thrill that is almost disgusting to the outsider. I
wonder how any woman in this city can trust any man. Then again, maybe that is why if a man or woman goes out without
his/her partner people think it is strange.
When Americans date, they show very little emotion or feelings for their partner in public. Americans shun those
who kiss in public, those who hug in public, or those who do more than hold hands. We call this Public Display of Affection (PDA).
In Brazil, the word PDA does not exist. If you are dating, you let the entire world know it. You sit next to each
other, not across the table from each other. You kiss throughout the evening or night. You hug, embrace etc. your partner.
Friends do not care. They would do the same in public if they had a girlfriend/boyfriend. People sometimes throw napkins at
couples who are kissing because, if anything, they are jealous. But it is normal. Maybe this is why, when Americans come to
Brazil they fall in love with Brazilian women. Of course it is also their dark skinned bodies.
Garotas de programa are prostitutes by most definitions, or at the least call girls who do everything. They sell their
bodies to make money either for themselves or for a man who acts as a pimp. Some have nice bodies and are a 10. There are
some whose bodies might be an 8, but whose face I would give a 2. Then there are some that should not be let allowed to go
out except at night once the rest of the city has gone to bed.
These women go with any man imaginable that has money. Old fat men in their 60's are seen with women in their
20s. Then again, this is normal here. Not just for prostitutes. Men in their 50s with women in their 30s or early 40s.
Anyway, these women "dominate" this place. What makes it more ironic that I frequent this place is that I go with
lady friends from work who are not related to prostitution. We go because it is a way for us to get away from the confines of
concrete and air conditioners.
It is not just here at this floating bar that you find these women. Frequent any nightclub or local and there will be
some. They don't just go after the foreigners. They will go after any man whether or not he already has a woman by his side.
Dating and Sex
I have had little experience with this topic. That is, here in Brazil. Being a male, and being a male who love to read
and remember stupid facts that help entice a conversation, I recall reading that Brazilians are supposed to be wild flames in
bed. A study done by a US University over many years, which was published back in 1999 in the Brazilian magazine
Isto É did a study on how long couples last in bed. Brazilians ranked at the top of the list lasting around 30 minutes in sack without
loosing steam. Americans ranged about half that. So my original question was: Brazilian women will want Brazilian men?
American women will want Brazilian men. Where does that leave American men? I'll let you imagine.
There is also the stereotype that Brazilian women will do everything in bed. Everything being defined as: every
sexual position imaginable in every orifice possible. From experiences told to this author, most American women do not even
like to have their rear ends touched by anyone except a doctor. Meaning that for a man to go near there is a serious offense
likely to cause World War III.
Brazilian women have told me that yes this stereotype is true. Others say no, the stereotype is false. Obviously it is
the preference of the woman as well as the man. But most Brazilians I know say that the man's weak point (where he is
most vulnerable) is when a woman's rear end is involved. Apparently Brazilian men will do anything for them.
What do Brazilian women like in a man? American women would better sit down, because I have never heard the
following before. Brazilian women love men's legs. Men go to the gym, not to work out their upper body as Americans do,
but to merely do leg exercises to strengthen and tone the muscles in their legs.
Bryan is an American residing in Manaus. He graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Brazilian
Area Studies and Latin American Studies. The author is currently an English teacher who travels into the interior
to experience a view most tourists will never experience. He may be contacted at