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34 c Elizabeth WilloughbyIs there a doctor in the house!
by Elizabeth Willoughby

Our new Brazilian landlord introduces HB and me to the gardener and housekeeper, both of whom come with the house we are about to rent. But since we are only two adults, we do not feel that we need such dedicated, daily care. The landlord helpfully points out that these people will then become unemployed, so we compromise and hire them Mondays and Fridays. See you next week!

On Monday, her first day with me, the housekeeper Nair, who speaks only Portuguese naturally, hands me a note. It is a list of the cleaning products she would like me to purchase. I head out to Carrefour, an enormous store with 69 checkouts and with support staff who get around on roller skates. It's a grocery store that also sells appliances, clothing, hardware and most anything else you could ever need.

I grab a cart and head to the cleaning product aisles. All new to me, slowly, arduously, I find item by item on my list, adding each to my cart, except the last item, two Dr. somethings – I can't make out the handwriting. Up and down the aisles I walk, scanning each product for a 'Dr.' on the label.

14 c Elizabeth Willoughby

A girl in roller skates stops and asks if I need any help. I show her the list. She can't make out the handwriting either, but skates up and down the aisles looking for the product with the same results. Another clerk joins the search, again no luck. One suggests we talk to the man at the meat counter, who lived in Montreal for a year. I'm not sure why that would help, but I don't see how it could hurt, and I'm please to know a Brazilian has ventured to my home country as well.

The meat counter man also cannot find a Dr. item in the cleaning product aisles. He asks if he can phone Nair to ask for some hints. I hand him my mobile. He calls, converses with her and hangs up.

"Nair has a doctor appointment at 2 o'clock today," he says. "Oh! Ha!" I say, slightly stunned. We all laugh and slap our foreheads. I presume whomever wrote the note, likely one of Nair's granddaughters, was trying to reach out in English by writing 'Dr.' instead of the Portuguese 'medico'. I head towards the checkout counters lickety-split. I need to get home asap so Nair won't be late for her appointment.

There's nothing like a great adventure travel story — one that's fun, thrilling and full of the unknown. If that's what you want, check out my WorldGuide Tales from the Road pages. This blog is about the stories a travel writer can't sell. The misadventures. The plans gone awry, luck run amuck. Sometimes with my partner, HB, sometimes with friends, and sometimes I manage to mess things up without any help at all. These are the stories that make your friends laugh and call you a knucklehead. These are the stories you really remember.

Images and article ©Elizabeth Willoughby 2015

This article was originally published at WorldGuide.eu

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