Having returned from Brazil, I thought I would revisit my July 8 post, 5 Tech Things That Will Keep My Family Safe during the Rio Olympics to report on how the tools actually performed.
Google Translate – we’d heard that not many people speak English in Brazil and that was certainly the case in the parts of Rio and Salvador we visited. So, despite some drawbacks, Google Translate became an essential tool. We used it on my wife’s iPhone, turning on the data function only when we needed it. It worked great for short conversations like asking where things were in the grocery store. However, more in depth chats were challenging when using the audio feature instead of text as people tended to speak in long paragraphs, which would come out as gibberish. (My most used line was, “You-have-to-say-one-sentence-at-a-time.”) So, for times like that we used…
Whatsapp – Once when Google Translate failed us in our attempt to communicate with a guy sent to fix our air conditioner, he suggested using Whatsapp to call our Airb&b host to translate. It worked perfectly, despite our host living in Washington, DC. In fact, we used Whatsapp exclusively communicate with both our hosts because it’s free.
Uber – We’d been told to use Uber because it was cheaper than taxis but we ended up using it for more important reasons. In a country where few people speak English and we don’t speak Portuguese, Uber removed the need to haggle over money since it’s all automatically paid by credit card. We also didn’t have to explain where we were going as our drivers’ GPS took care of that. Lastly, we didn’t have to depend on knowing a taxi company telephone number or hoping an empty one came by when we needed it because we could request one on our phone.
This really saved us one day in Salvador when were playing pickup soccer with some kids in a park near a beach. We were about to start our second game when a boy about 15 years old named Rodrigo pulled us aside and said, “This part of Salvador gets unsafe at night and it’s about an hour from sunset so you and your family should leave now.” I pulled out the iPhone and six minutes later we Ubered off safely into the sunset.
Laptop – I was blogging the trip for rabble.ca and brought a MacBook to do it because I hate creating large content on touch screen keyboards. Also, blogging requires opening and switching between lots of windows which is way easier on a laptop than an iPad or phone. However, the laptop also served an unexpected purpose: being the place to dump pictures and videos from my phone. Without the laptop, my phone would have filled up the first day and I wouldn’t have been able to take any more pictures!
To SIM or not to SIM – our Rio host told me I could get data on my cell phone by buying a SIM card from a local Brazilian carrier and putting it in my phone. He said it would cost about $5 Canadian. As it turned out, we got along with just my wife’s phone being connected as we never separated and many of the places we visited had pretty good wifi. (Two notable exceptions were the Olympic stadiums (one for the athletics, the other for soccer). Both had paid wifi with long registration processes that didn’t work for any of us.
Out of curiosity, I bought a SIM card on the day we were leaving. It cost 10 Brazilian Reals or about $5 Canadian like he said. I popped it in my phone and I got a message asking me to enter the supplied PIN #. When I did so it said the PIN was invalid. That disappointment was, luckily, an exception on a trip where tech was mostly like a reliable friend.