Picture the scene: I’m sitting at work in Bush House in London when the postman comes up to me with an enormous box in his hands.
“Are you Ben Tavener?” he asks. “Sign here, please.”
Intrigued, my colleagues crowd round to see what all the fuss is about – surely only the Queen has two birthdays…
I open the box and inside is a card, a big heart-shaped balloon and an enormous bunch of red roses. What a wonderful surprise!
A video of me being embarrassed by the whole event can be found here.
Forget 14 February; move over St Valentine – 12 June is O Dia dos Namorados, “the day of loved-ones”, and every year on this day Brazilians dig deep to open their hearts to their nearest-and-dearest and remind them how much they love them.
Of course, they’re digging deep in their wallets, too.
In fact Brazilians spend more on this day than on any other day except for Christmas (Natal) and Mother’s Day (Dia das Mães).
It sounds cynical to mention it, and I’m not ungrateful in the least, but O Dia dos Namorados is, as you can imagine, as much as of cash cow in Brazil as Valentine’s Day is in the West, and perhaps even a little bit more so.
Each and every Brazilian website with the slightest chance of possibly selling you something for your namorado or namorada is guaranteed to have masses of banners and pop-ups straining to grab your attention – literally resorting to anything – naked women, pictures of irrestible chocolates… you name it.
As this is my first Dia dos Namorados I thought I’d celebrate it properly regardless of how strange it feels to be marking the occasion in June.
But it wasn’t as simple as just ordering something for my loved-one online on a local website – and it turned out to be the second time my burgeoning Portuguese has been truly put to the test. (The first time being in Curitiba airport in January.)
Anyway – in the blink of an eye, it was gone. Funny to think I’ll be in Brazil for O Dia dos Namorados 2012.
On that note, it’s now three weeks to go until I leave for Brazil – and, utterly excitingly, my year-long student visa is ready.
It’s all feeling very real now…