Missed Connections: What I learned Riding the Bus in Brazil

Missed Connections: What I Learned Riding the Bus in Brazil

Took my first bus to work yesterday! At first, I wasn't feeling the 120-minute round-trip commute, but upon boarding, I told myself: this is an opportunity to disconnect from the world of LCD/LED screens and *actually* connect with the living, breathing, traveling souls and sweaty bodies seated and standing comfortably around me.

In the hope of actually connecting with people, I boarded the bus in high spirits, and jokingly saluted our conductor with a:

"¿Que é o sabor de dia?"

But actually: right before the words escaped my mouth, I got super nervous, and my Spanish (which after two years of struggle is actually rock-solid now) took over. What I actually said (in Spanish) was:

"¿Que es el sabor de dia?"

In my head, this roughly translates to "What's the flavor of the day?" In the moment, this actually translated to gibberish. The conductor replied:


Well, I actually have no idea what he said in return. 


I got even more nervous, and did a little jig on the spot ‘til the conductor broke out in laughter. Passengers joined him. But it was cool! I laughed at myself as well, snatched a seat next to a smiling elderly woman, and enjoyed my ride conversing with her and those around me for the remaining 55 minutes feeling less apprehensive about (and at one point - even comfortable with) yet another failed Portuguese attempt. The shame was momentary, but the growth was worth it. And looking back, the momentary shame wasn’t that bad.


But actually actually: none of this occurred. 

I had only nervously boarded this bus, snatched my seat and sat - absorbed in my own little bubble, clutching my banana for comfort while staring out the window and typing this message, nervous about being vulnerable to the painfully embarrassing (it really sucks) likelihood that I'll open my mouth, and someone will hit me with a "Não entendi". 

The ride was a lost opportunity. Language barriers are undoubtedly fucking frustrating, but they should never be an excuse not to make every effort to connect. 

What platforms, what mindsets, what tools currently serve not as tools at all, but as distractions, as escapes, as excuses that now enable - or serve as justification for - this disconnectivity (or the lack of outreach) we maintain with the real world and real people around us?

I look forward to being reasonably cautious, but moreso cautiously optimistic that when I open up, when I choose to make myself somewhat vulnerable and choose to connect with the living people around me, those people will greet me with the same energy, same enthusiasm, same genuine desire to connect (or just briefly chat!) and share our different experiences. To not only share and acknowledge what makes us different and disconnected, but celebrate and embrace those things which make us beautifully unique, and then foster an environment of inclusivity as we (ourselves and the persons we connect with) become the sparks that make this sometimes-disconnected world a bit more connected, a bit more inclusive, a bit more peaceful one. And to stay resilient and keep trying to connect when others don’t reciprocate.

Boa tarde!

Originally posted January 2016

Nicholas Korom

Nick graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee December 2015 after leading in various AIESEC roles over the last 2.5 years. He currently works for a technology startup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil after having taught English in Bucaramanga, Colombia in 2014. He enjoys cooking, dancing, parallel parking, peanut butter, satire, NBA basketball, and documenting his passions on Snapchat. He enjoys literally nothing else.