Sometimes I Put the Wrong Date on the Check

Ahh, the New Year has arrived. Time to wax poetic on the past and publish new hopes for the year to come. And how lucky I am to be changing countries and jobs and as many things as I possibly can at the same time. Lucky? Yes! Lucky! Because I have always found that internal transitions are made more powerful and affective if our external conditions are similar.

Rio NYE 2013. I was not there.

And so this New Year I find myself in Puerto Rico…not just a beautiful island, but also a land of in-betweens: one foot in Latin America, and the other in the United States. How fortunate for me, because that's how I feel too. One foot firmly and happily moving back towards my country of origin, and the other lingering in Brasil, anticipating the samba schools of Carneval, and yelling at the poor drivers as I cross the street. It will be like this for a while, I am sure, and those I am with will have to hear a lot of “In Brasil, we did it like this…” and “I'm thinking of the word in Portuguese…” If that's you, sorry! I can't help it! That's what happens to all of us on some level as we move from year to year, decade to decade. Things change, and sometimes we don't move as fast as the time requires.

So from this land of in-betweens, I wish you all a wonderful year of full of the wisdom from years past, and hope from the changes and challenges that are to come. Happy 2014!

 

One of a Kind

I'm moving out of my neighborhood in a couple of days. It's a bit stressful yes, but before I leave, I thought I might give you an idea of my everyday experience here in Brazil. I live on what looks to be a small street, but it is a major thoroughfare in and out of my neighborhood. There is often traffic on my street–honking horns, and honking delivermen on bikes (delivering bread from the bakery, of course), and like almost everywhere in my city, there is always a constant din of construction noise.

To avoid the traffic and driving as much as I can, I often walk where I need to go. Just up my street is a very fancy boutique for women's clothing–I have never been inside, but I'm sure they have some great deals on dresses in the R$5,000-7,000 range. Seriously. And I will sometimes run into the new BMW that belongs to one of my neighbors–not such a huge deal in the US, but here it was purchased for three times the amount of retail in the US. I'm not bragging, and certainly not everyone around here lives like that (myself included), but it does give you an idea of the kind of traffic that frequents my neighborhood.


Graffiti tagging is hugely popular all over my city–it's ugly, but a fact of life that we deal with. Just about a month ago (maybe more?), this unusual graffiti appeared on the side of an apartment building about two blocks away from mine:

I know what you're asking: Yes, it is a direct translation. Many questions have arisen for me as I have hiked past this wall many times a week (it's on the way to my kids' school). Why? Why this word? Is it an advertisement? Does someone living there have this specialty? I know, these questions are impossible to answer, and most likely, it was just a cruel joke played by a random drunkard with some extra blue paint. So here's my real question: WHY IS IT STILL THERE? Does no one in that building have any time to cover it up? the self-respect and respect for their neighbors to paint over it? Why, after more than a month, is it still shouting at me every time I pass?

I don't know. But I have a guess. No one really cares. Its an incredibly lucid symbol of why its so difficult for me to live here. There's so many things I love. But now it's time to leave.

 

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.

 

You would scream, too.

No Problem! I'm Flexible!

One of the many things I have appreciated about living in South America is the pace of life, the encouragement to slow down, to worry less. Wherever I go here, there are people encouraging me to calm down and situations that require flexibility.

But lately I have been wondering, “Why? why so much focus on this calm lifestyle? why? why? why???” Sure, I know, it's part of the culture, but cultures come from somewhere, grow over time, and even change through the influence of powerful events, and people, and political movements. So, why so much emphasis on tranquility? where did it come from??? why? why? why???

Estou muito tranquilo.

And here's what I think: because if you don't constantly remind yourself that it's okay, that life will go on, that eventually things will work out, then all the things that are NOT okay, the things that threaten your life, the things that WILL NOT work out, along with the constant bombardment of alarms and busses and cars and people and honking and sirens and yelling/singing garbage workers, will slowly drive you insane. I'm talking, literally, pulling the hairs out of your head, rubber room, ape-crazy insane.

Here's an example: this past week, there was an important soccer game (which, by the way, almost all of them are) and one lucky team (and their fans) from my city won the game, and as a result, became champions for the third time. That is great. It's just wonderful. And here's how wonderful it was: for 36 hours, my calm “tranquilo” mantra-infused life was accompanied by a near constant barrage of honking horns (both high and low, because motorcycles have the high beeps, and cars have the lower honks in differing keys, cuz yeah, I'm gifted like that and I can recognize that stuff), random blasts of fireworks, and choirs of yelling fans. Oh yeah, and the occaisional patriotic fight song soaring out of the poor stereo of the small fiat driving as slowly as possible past my apartment window. At 2:30 in the morning.

That was a hard 36 hours. We didn't sleep so well, it was hard to work, and by the end, I'm sure my heart rate was at a higher level than it has been for the past 36 years. I talked with friends, and co-workers, and yes, it was quite hard for them as well. In fact, most people I spoke with (Brazilians included) agreed–its not so much fun.

And here's the thing: while this example was extreme, it was not irregular. This happens ALL THE TIME. Brazil is noisy, Brazilians are noisy. People here think they have more of a tolerance for noise, that it doesn't affect them as much. I'm not so sure. All this talk of a calm lifestyle here, it's just a band-aid. The wound is deep, and painful. Yeah, you would scream too.