Thursday, October 18, 2007


Highlights of a phone conversation with Faustino, the company's bureaucracy-solver and paper-pusher, who has taken a painfully long 4 months to get my Mozambican residency permit (DIRE) processed. Mind you, though he's been workign on my documents for quite a while, we have never met and this is the first time we've ever talked on the phone.

A: [in Portuguese] Good afternoon, Mr. Faustino, this is Ali la Loca with the Banana Empire. I was wondering if you could come by the office and pick up some papers that I need processed at the notary's office.

F: Epa! You speak decent Portuguese! I thought you'd speak terrible, accented Portuguese because, you know, you're American.

A: Yes, Mr. Faustino, I speak Portuguese. I used to live in Brazil. So do you think you can stop by and pick up these papers?

F: Sure, I'll be there tomorrow afternoon. And by the way, your DIRE will be ready d'aqui a nada (literally "in no time at all", but really means it could take for-e-ver to be done). The Director of Immigration is out of town now, but will be back late next week and can sign your papers then.

A: Perfeito. I'll be glad to finally have my passport back.

F: So you speak decent Portuguese by now, right?

A: Right. [I'm thinking, "Haven't we already been over this?]

F: Aaaaah. Because I have to tell you, when I took your passport to the Immigration Department, it was so funny. Aquela gente fartou-se de rir com o seu nome. Diziam que só faltava um 'a' no final! Aí ficavas burrrrrrrrrra!

Unfortunately, my last name is just one letter away from meaning "stupid girl". Apparently, the immigration officials "exhausted themselves" laughing at my name, keenly observing that if you just tacked an 'a' on the end...

I dryly informed Faustino that, despite his obvious amusement with the joke, it wasn't the first time I'd heard it in the 10 years that I've been speaking Portuguese.

Realizing that quite possibly he'd just made a terrible impression on someone who is his boss' right hand woman, Faustino tried to backtrack. "Epa! Mas não estou a dizer isso sobre a sua pessoa. É o nome da senhora que é engraçado, 'tás a ver?" (I'm not saying that you are stupid, it's just your name that's funny, you see?)


My hope is that Faustino was sufficiently embarrased that not only will I have my DIRE by the end of next week, I'll also have the Mozambican equivalent of my driver's licence in hand.

*"Notionless" comes from the bastardized English back-translation of the Portuguese "sem noção", the perfect way to describe people like Faustino.


Alina Popescu said...

Wow, I still cannot get over officials laughing together at a possible joke instead of doing their job! Hope it all gets sorted out quickly, Ali!

Ali la Loca said...

~Alina - A sign I have passed my period of culture shock: I didn't find it strange at all that they'd be laughing at me instead of doing their darn job!

Anonymous said...

Ha, that reminds me of people in Manaus: when they saw my last name they couldn't get over the fact that it shares its name with a certain whiskey brand.

How annoying for you though to sit through that. :S I also hope that he was fully embarrassed into speeding up the process of getting your documents ready.