Arriving in Brazil

At the customs counter in Sao Paulo, the officer took my passport and began punching information into the computer. After a struggle, she turned to another officer to clarify something that was going wrong.

I waited and watched.

The second officer bent over to identify items on the screen, stared at my passport ID information, consulted with each other on how to proceed and, finally, they both turned to me and asked in unison: Where are you from?!!!

I said: Singapore. (Note: this key piece of information is also printed boldly in gold on the cover of my passport.)

I caught phrases from their hushed and confused chatter: “Is it Barcelona?” “No, that’s Argentina.” Sudden insight: “Singapore… it’s in Africa, isn’t it?”

I caught on to the problem: It starts with a “C”…

(It’s spelled “Cingapura” in Portuguese.)

Another officer called out from the adjacent counter: Ass-see!

(Sounds like she hurled an insult, but “Ass-see” is really the Portuguese pronunciation of “S”)

My customs officer typed it in again, and a look of delight flooded her expression as she handed back my passport.

I’m in Brazil!

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