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.