Thursday, April 10, 2014

Loving and leaving - São Paulo

Today I went to a meeting of what I call the "gringalhada" (a large group of gringas) also known as the newcomers club here in São Paulo. Yes, it is hard to call myself a newcomer after 6 years here but I am volunteering now as a board member, paying back the advice and help I've received here. It's a truly wonderful group of international people, including many Brazilians. The only requirements are speaking English and living in São Paulo.  Many of my best friends here came from this club.

In general, we are all positive about our lives here. Many of the women are long-time ex-patriate spouses. They are used to moving somewhere every 2-3 years and they find the positives about each place they are stationed. We have very few complainers and while all of us have our bad days with a foreign culture and language, we are all pretty happy to be here.

Today, however, one of the women I met was a repatriated Brazilian. She was clearly having a terrible time with her move back "home" which was no longer home to her. She hates it here. She says nothing has changed during her whole life and that people here are treated like garbage by their politicians  and that everyone has terrible manners, and the best place in the world is the United States. I did not ask her what her sample size was...if it is between Brazil and the US, you can hardly call one the best place in the world of two countries. 

I was shocked. And as long-time readers know, I have run into more and more Brazilians more pessimistic about their country and more cruel and more hopeless than the expatriates. Yes, one group knows they're leaving. The other may not be able to do so.

So, I wanted to make something very clear here on my blog. I love Brazil. I love the passion, the emotions, the proximity to nature (I mean REAL nature not a national park), the warmth of everyday meetings, the humor of the everyday man. And I love the banal: the weather (you really can't beat São Paulo weather), the food, the caipirinhas, the ability to hire household help for less than college tuition. 

As most of you know, I am moving to the US in July with my kids (and later BH will join). But I am not LEAVING Brazil, I am GOING TO the US. I am going because my kids are half American yet have only lived there up to 18 months old. I am going because I miss four seasons (she says until she meets Boston in February). I am going because I miss home. I am not going because I hate Brazil. I am not going because of security problems, FIFA World Cups or corruption or politics or an expensive life here. I am going because I want to go, not because I want to leave.

I admit that Brazil makes me sad some days. I try to keep the humor up here but there are days where I want to literally weep for this place. I don't see a way out of the entrenched corruption, the crappy politicians, the broken justice system, the terrible education and public health issues. I wish I did. I wish someone did. But I don't want Brazilians to give up and I really dislike meeting those who are giving up--leaving the country, complaining that nothing changes yet spend no effort in changing it. Your country is beautiful, rich in natural resources, filled with intelligent people and warm with a warmth that has nothing to do with the sun. And it's not just your country anymore. I'm married to it and have kids with it in their blood. It's in my soul.

I have less than a month of this daily blog to go. I will continue on a less-than-daily basis until it makes no more sense. Please know how much I love Brazil, as much as I laugh at the daily life or have my bad days where I want to leave immediately. I'm not a fighter. I'm a flighter. But I'm not leaving. I'm going. 

And I'll be back. I (heart) Brazil. I hope you do, too.


  1. My wife and kids would move back to the U.S. in a heartbeat. I'm the only one content here. I'm also the only one of us born in the U.S. I get the frustration with this country, but I see value as well.

    1. I love it here too but I can't imagine never moving back to the US. It's home. Glad you're on the valuing it bandwagon--I need more Brazilians to be on it too!

  2. You went straight to the point here - "complaining that nothing changes yet spend no effort in changing it" - this is a summary of Brazilian mid/high class people. And they love going some place where people has already done something to make things go right. Lots of friends now say "I don't want to make the effort now and die without seeing the change". This is what I "discovered" about Brazilians when I lived abroad for one year: we are a nation of selfish people, who never think about the next generations. There is no sense of "public", of nation. Each one makes its own path.

    1. I have noticed that. Where are the Rockefellers and other civic minded families that donated money, homes, whatever to better the lives of their neighbors. Just doesn't happen here.