Oi. The Only Macs are at MacDonald’s | Robin Sparks

Oi. The Only Macs are at MacDonald’s

September 6, 2005
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Oi! (Brazilian Portuguese for hello).

I have a computer bloated with stories and photos meant to be passed on from me in South America to you in North America. But there is a language problem. My Mac speaks a different language than Brazilian PC’s. I spent hours last night trying to get online. Macs are as rare here as glaciers so you can forget about Mac support. The host of the home (castle actually) where I am staying works in I.T., but since he has a PC, he doesn’t speak Mac-ease and I don’t speak PC. He speaks Brazilian Portuguese with a smattering of English and I speak English with a tiny splash of Brazilian Portuguese. We gotta a major communication problem here.

I hired a taxi today to take me “somewhere where there is internet” pronounced internetchi. Through tunnels, speeding along highways, down residential sidestreets, our mission was to find an internet connection! He pulled up in front of “Shopping” – the Brazilian moniker for shopping mall. And he assured me that here I would find internetchi.

I walked the floors of that mall back and forth, first floor, second floor, but no internet cafe. Internet? I asked security. I asked security. They pointed me to a MacDonald’s restaurant at the end of the mall. Huh?, but sure enough, when I stuck my head inside, there were three computers for customer use. Now that’s one way to get me into a MacDonald’s.

I don’t understand. Usually the more remote a place, the more internet cafes. Perhaps the deal with Brazil is that it has gone in the past few years from third world to second, meaning lots of folks now have their own computers, resulting in little need for internet cafes, sort of like in the U.S. (ever try to find an internet cafe in San Francisco?) And so I stepped under those Golden Arches prepared to sell my soul in order to get online. Maybe I could skip the burger part I thought sneaking over to the bank of computers.

But no, a gal with a pointed paper hat motioned to me that I’d have to buy something to earn 20 minutes on the computer. I mentally reviewed the list of menu items. I don’t like coke and I wasn’t hungry. I could probably be bribed into eating a Big Mac – but there was a long snake of a line of eager Brazilians in line ahead of me. There’s only so far I’ll go to get online. I hailed a taxi and returned to Ipanema. Later that afternoon I found a book store with computers. They weren’t cheap, but they were there.

I´ll be in Rio another day or two…

Ciou (Brazilian Portuguese for goodbye.)


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