What I’m Looking For

The best part of saying “this is the LAST time” is changing your mind.

That said, I have found the perfect thing to do on my last morning here in beautiful Belo Horizonte. Ok, so it really isn't all that ground breaking that I would be reading the New York Times, but the article (or group of stories, really) that I found could not be a more fitting close. “The Lives They Loved” is a collection of short obituaries written by family members or loved ones and accompanied by a photo. No, I'm not dying, and no, I'm not overly morbid, but as I was reading, I was overwhelmed by two things: One, my life is not nearly over yet (I hope!), and two, I could not be making a better decision–now is definitely the right time to return.

I know that people often say nicer things in obituaries than were the reality, but as I was reading folks saying things like: “I never heard him say a mean thing about another person,” and “she saw potential in everyone she met” I realized that some goals are just not within my reach. I'm just being honest with myself–I am far from perfect, and I'm okay with that, most of the time. But I have no regrets either, and I look back on much of my life, including these last four years here in Brasil with joy and thankfulness.

And if there is one thing I have learned from the culture here in Minas, it is the importance of family. Yes, there have been many occaisions where the blind devotion I have observed in many Brazilian families has seemed absurd, crazy, time-consuming and burdensome. But there is beauty in extremity, and in the end, don't we all want to be able to tell unforgettable stories about those that we loved? Well, that's what I want, and just like any good story, this next one will require proximity, patience, and sacrifice before it can be well-told.

So, this morning as I was reading and drinking my coffee, my son came into the room, and with my emotions running high I grabbed him from reading the Guiness Book of World Records to hug him tightly. “Are you ready, buddy?” I asked, with the full weight of what is to come. I waited. “Well, I really have to go to the bathroom now.” Sigh. I guess we aren't all looking for the same thing.

Thanks so much, Brasil, it was worth every sacrifice. Now we are off to learn some new stories. Grande Abraço!

Foi inesquecível pra todos nós.

 

This is What it Sounds Like

It's 7:30 in the morning, and I am already fielding emails and sifting through dates and events in my calendar. I probably shouldn't be writing, but I will keep it short.

My mom (and maybe yours too) used to say “You can never have too much of a good thing.”

I'm not going to argue with that, except maybe to tweak it a bit. You CAN have too many good things. I suppose it doesn't help that I have children–just multiply all those good things by three. Oh, and add in my wife, too.

Do you hear that? It's the sound my heart being stretched and pulled and…eventually I guess I'll just leave part of it here. That's a good thing too.

 

The Other is Gold

Google strikes again

 

I like to watch TV. In fact, I would really like to be watching something now. But I can sink my eyes into that endless tube of telly anytime–in fact I already watched part of a movie earlier today. I'm trying to be more disciplined here. And I have things to say–things that won't just write themselves on their own. I could just let them go unsaid…but that wouldn't be so much fun now, would it? And remember, IM4FUN.

It will look like this when we return

 

So, the big news around here is that in about a month, we are moving back to the good ol' US of A. Some of you that read already know, and some do not. Now you all know. It's been a good ride here in Belo Horizonte, but it's time. Time for what? For new adventure, of course! For roads untravelled! For discomfort, and new places, and … colder weather!

 

I do love it here, though. I love you, Brasil. What's that, you say? You couldn't really tell???

Yes, I understand. My love is not that groovy kind of love we all sang and dreampt about in the 80s. No, my love has always ebbed to the truthier side of things. If I love you, I'll tell you EXACTLY what I think in curt direct sentences. Just ask my wife. Actually, don't ask her, just trust me on this one.

So as we leave, I'll be truthing it up here. And the truth is, I'm going to miss you, Brasil.

I promise, I'll write!

I'm gonna miss all your crazy monkey-ass laws that no one knows but everyone has to follow at certain times that will be revealed only when it is time. I'm gonna miss all the beautiful people who have laid their lives down for us, and the raucous drivers who have tried on many occaisions to take our lives. I'm gonna miss the coldest beer I never would have drank, and some of the best beers I have ever tasted. I'll miss your children who greet me with a kiss on the cheek, and all of the plentifully unhelpful and snarky clerks that fill the ailes and counters of each and every retail establishment. I will miss your rolling hills, your samba, and your Verdi-esque anthems. Your pão de queijo, your goopy bowls of desserts, your mangos, your meat.

I'm serious too–I really will miss all these things. Heck, I'll probably even miss my inarticulate ramblings in Portuguese. Not so much for the actual inarticulate awkwardness of it all, but because I DID IT. WE DID IT. We have adapted to life here, and while Brasil may not have always completely accepted us (which is a completely “normal” feeling for an immigrant–not meant negatively in ANY way), we have accepted Brasil. The good and the bad. And we are sad to leave.

It's the beginning of the end, but I'll never forget you. Let's become old friends; those are the best kind.

 

Look the Other way

So the other day I was enjoying another wonderful walk to work, watching the buildings I always pass slowly get taller, and enjoying the fresh clean air. Oh, and yes, of course, yelling at the cars that almost hit me as I cross the road. This time, right after I screamed a quick “OI!!!!” at the passing car full of women who were on their way to some important salon appointment, I looked behind to find a young woman in trendy sunglasses (read: Ray Ban's from the 1980s which are for some reason enjoying a renaissance of sorts with the younger generation here in Brasil), and I smiled at her as if to say “Yeah, I got your back, don't worry.”

She responded differently than I would have assumed: “You scared me…,” she said, in a low sultry, insistantly laid-back voice. “Oh,” I said, “I'm sorry, but I think it's important for them to understand that the law says they need to stop for pedestrians who are crossing the street in a cross-walk.”

“You're not from here, are you?” she said, in her best yousillytouristyouobviouslydon'tunderstandbrasil voice. And then she continued to explain to me why here in Brasil, it's just best to let that kind of stuff go, because it will never change, and your life will be so much better if you just forget about it. And I responded with my best American politeness that I completely understood what she was talking about, and that while I value the same kind of serenity in my life, I could not disagree more with her statement and found that she was completely wrong. Was she aware of the laws? Weren't they written there for some good reason? To which she languidly responded that she was in fact aware of the laws, and also was studying to be a lawyer, but still, she argued that my attempts to raise others awareness were going to do nothing but make me more and more angry.

Studying to be a lawyer, eh? She obviously had no idea who she was talking to. I was born a lawyer. It's in my blood. Bring it on.

You see, don't all people deserve respect, whether they are in a car or not? And if we cannot respect these laws, how can we be expected to follow any of the laws? And without laws, how can we call ourselves a society? or part of the civilized world? And was she also not aware that there are also plenty of places WITHIN BRASIL that people are already obeying laws, respecting each other, slowing down to let others cross the street? In the end, she saw my position, and then quickly ran into a bank before she lost too much ground in her argument. A good lawyer in the making.

That is the problem with living the good life–you have to give up a lot of things that would make your life easier; things like ignorance, self-indulgence, and laziness. And then you have to continuously ask your self (and your friends if you're brave) the hard questions: How can I give more respect to my neighbors? How can I care for the widow, the neglected, the overlooked? Who is my neighbor?

Not an easy way to live (I don't do it very well), but the alternative is just empty “beleza.”

 

Wearing Gloves is Advisable.

One helpful thing for you all who read this blog (a number which I hope is growing, if for nothing else than my terribly hungry ego) to understand is that I am…well…not always such a nice person. I think a good word to describe me could be “prickly,” but others may choose asshole, or blunt, or truthful to a fault, or something else worse that I choose not to publish here. For elaboration, I think a picture/video essay would be apropos.

I think cacti are a good “plant comparison” for me (as I'm sure you all were wondering, “Hmm, I wonder what a good “plant comparison” for Matt would be?). I have an appreciation for them having lived in the Southwest of the United States for ten years, and I do think they are beautiful. But getting close enough to touch them is not advisable! I mean, we cacti produce fruit and flowers and such, but we're also going to prick you if you touch us, because, hey, we're prickly and that's what prickly things do.

I think “dog analogies” can also be helpful, don't you? I love dogs. And of all the breeds of dogs, German Shepherds are not my favorite. Just being honest. They are a crunchy breed, often “one-family” dogs, and if you mess with them, they will bite. Also, without all that thick lustrous hair, they would not be so attractive or youthful looking.

Yes, Jerry is one of my favorites, but not only for his brilliance, but also because his character on “Seinfeld” was, well, not quite the vision of perfection himself, and yet he always seems to be looking for perfection in others. But he makes people laugh, and so they let him get away with it. This clip of different phone calls is classic Jerry: there is never a bad time for a joke. Never.

Yeah, I read the book. But more importantly, I am just the kind of person who is ALWAYS trying to improve what's inside and outside of me. Some people don't like the constant critique, but hey, I'm used to it.

I don't hide my emotions/thoughts.
This does not always mix well with the cultural syrupy sweetness that surrounds me.
Bon Apetit!
 

 

Wandering thoughts…

Just returned from a short orchestra tour to Diamantina (one of the historic cities here in Minas Gerais)–twas a nice city, but there really wasn't enough time to enjoy it. Here are some of my reflections from the tour:

I took a taxi from my house to where we all met to catch the bus–I love that taxis here are cheap and generally very easy to come by. I called, and this one came right to my door, and took me to my destination for about 5 bucks. But when I was paying, the taxi driver got a little upset with me because the only bill I had to pay him with was a R$50. This is common: people whine and complain here when you ask them to give you change. But please, people, really? Get over it.

People from Minas really love their own food. I mean REALLY. And I like it too, for the most part, but it's just one type of food among many that I consider good to eat. We stopped for Churrasco (Brasilian barbeque) on the way to Diamantina, and one of the people in charge of our tour was ranting loudly and approvingly of the food, and going around to say “Hey! This is great food, isn't it???!!! Wow, REAL authentic Mineiro food!!! soo wonderful, eh?” It's hard for me to understand how someone can get so excited about something that they eat everyday, but I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm.

I love my job. Sure I complain about certain aspects of it, but I am well aware of how lucky I am to have a job in an orchestra. I especially love to play for people in small towns who don't often get to hear a symphony orchestra–I love hearing their sincere cheers and seeing their happy faces. Diamantina was no different–there was probably about three thousand people at the concert, and they were all so enthusiastic and thankful to have us playing in their town. This concert was in celebration of Brazilian Independence (September 7th), and for the first time, I heard everyone singing all the words to the National Anthem–a difficult task considering it is a strange Verdi-esque march with lots of vocal twists and turns. Go Diamantina!

On the long bus ride home, I had the chance to watch the scenery as we rolled through the interior of Minas Gerais. Not particularly exciting stuff, but as we passed by the small towns, I couldn't help but think: What would it be like to live here? And my mind wanders to buying a small plot of land, building a house, having a garden, chatting with neighbors, playing the cello and receiving students from all over the world that can't resist coming all the way to Brasil just to study with me for a week or two.

Hey, it's fun to let your mind wander every once in a while.