Born to be Bad: My first encounter with the “law”

I was biking into town to visit with my host family a bit and to buy some chamusas from our favorite street food vendor when I heard the whisles coming from the shady spot on the side of the road where the police usually set up their traffic control stop. I looked around, and was shocked to realize that I was the only person around and they were defiantly were talking to me. 

I pull over and notice that these are not the police, but two men in semi-official looking traffic vests holding semi-official looking booklets. I greet them with feigned excited politeness, “Bom dia! Como estão senhores?” because I don’t have passport or ID or anything on me and frankly just don’t want to deal. After normal greetings are exchanged, the men ask me if I have a licence. I ask them, “A licence?  I need liscence to ride my bike to the market? No one has ever told me this.” They laugh and inform me that of course, every person with a bike needs to have a licence, and open their book to show me the forms I need to fill out, which are quite obviously forms for motorcycles and not bikes. I point out that it literally says moto at the top of the form they are showing me, and they explain that I am confused since I don’t know how to read Portuguese and that it is actually saying it if for things that are *without* motors (???). We go back and forth for a bit but in the end I realize I am not wining that battle. Instead, I change tactics and just play dumb. 

Putting my (fake) polite smile back on my face, I apologize to the men and tell them I am very confused, I don’t speak Portuguese well, and that I am actually using my coworkers bike, and that I think they have a liscence but I’m not sure. I explain to them that I am going to the market to get food for breakfast because I am hungry, but will be coming back this way to return to my house and can speak with them again then, alhough I fully planned on returning home via the dirt roads through the fields. As I left, the man asked me to bring him some breakfast as well, to which I laughed and replied, “we’ll see,” knowing that asking for a soda or a snack is a common low key way of asking for a bribe. 

When I arrived at my host family’s house, I told this story to my host dad and uncle, who just could not stop laughing when I told them how I got out of it. I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of that excuse so quickly, truth be told. My pai basically said that it was BS, that I should just tell the men I am a volunteer without money, and said he would talk to the head of the village about it for me. Since I had already planned on taking the back roads home, I wasn’t too worried about it until I was leaving my host family’s house and happened to run into the men again in the market. 

I tried to just ignore it when I heard them calling after me, but one guy jogged up and put out his hand in greeting. Still thinking that he was somewhat of an official figure, I politely shook his hand while he asked me again about breakfast. I apologized and said that I am a volunteer, I don’t recieve a salary, and that I can’t buy him breakfast. Undeterred, he asked me about lunch, and I repeated the same answer. He continues to talk, but eventually I cut him off, once again apologizing and explaining that I need to be back to school by 11 to controlar lunch for the students. He more or less accepts this answer, but while still holding my hand, says that he wants to “familiarizar” with me, and makes a motion as if to kiss me on the cheek. 

I don’t really know what familiarziar means but I think I could get the gist. Considering that I’ve passed the actual police checkpoint on the bike at least 10 times and never had them say a word to me about having a licence, I’m really not too concerted, but I might take the back road the next couple times just to avoid these concerned citizens. 


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