In October 2003 my family was putting the final matters in order for our move to the United States. One day as I stood in Uberlândia’s main city bus terminal awaiting my ride home for the evening, I looked around and reflected on my experiences in that country. My few years in Brazil opened my eyes to different ways of looking at the world, some which I found helpful, but many that I continue to find frustrating at least and infuriating at the worst. I had witnessed the thorough devastation accomplished in a society that buys into the lies of collectivism, centralism and positivism. At the same time I had witnessed the patient resolve and resilient creativity of a beautiful multi-racial but somehow homogeneous people facing incredibly adverse economic circumstances. Amazing. That late afternoon as I got ready to get on the bus I thought I could write a book.
The thought of writing a book about my perspective on Brazil was always purely theoretical. I had no real interest in such an endeavor. Still, I wish I would have documented more of my observations from that time. With the passing years my memories of the absurdities and joys of life in Brazil have lost some of their clarity. Details fail me, and sometimes when I remember something particularly odd I think, “That can’t possibly be right.” So far, my flashes of recollection have turned out correct.
Earlier this year I was pleased to discover articles written by Seth Kugel, an American journalist living in Brazil. He writes from there on an ongoing basis, and I have enjoyed everything he has written. His articles are from fresh experience and carry that tinge of amazed frustration I felt almost daily while in Brazil.
The following are my favorite articles (thus far) by Seth Kugel about Brazil:
How much do you know about Brazil? Published: April 23, 2009
People I knew in Brazil told me that Americans don’t bathe every day (some bad apples have confirmed these embarrassingly mistaken notions over the years) and that I only bathed regularly because my wife was Brazilian. Yes, people actually told me this. No, they didn’t think I’d find it incredibly offensive. Yes, I was insulted. This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as dumb ideas Brazilian people have about Americans. As you will see in Seth’s article, they also believe we don’t know what their capital city is (Brasília). Really, though, there are roughly 200 countries in the world. Are we supposed to know all the national capitals of the world? Do Brazilians know them all?
Adventures in Brazilian bureaucracy Published: March 2, 2009
In the United States if you want to open a bank account, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of forms of ID, a signature or two and perhaps 30 minutes of your time. In Brazil it is an ordeal.
Home ownership woes in Brasilia Published: January 21, 2009
What this article doesn’t really discuss but which I discovered looking deeper into Brazilian property law is that all real estate ownership is conditional. That’s a topic for another blog post.
The Elian Gonzalez of Brazil Published: March 25, 2009
This case makes me so mad every time it comes up in conversation that I can barely speak.
Longing for ginger ale Published: April 18, 2009
I really wish American immigration policies made more sense, were less xenophobic and focused more on contributing to the diversity and strength of the United States on all levels of society.