Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What I Love About Brazil

I've had some posts that discussed my frustration and annoyance with Brazilian culture, so I'm really overdue for telling you what I love about this country. 

The people. (Oh sure, just contradict yourself left and right, Jeanie!) I should say more specifically, I love the friendliness of the people. There is a community feeling that is very genuine. Maybe I'm biased because I lived in fast-paced, tell-it-like-it-is New Jersey. But when I interact with people here, even a passing hello, there is no underlying obligation of politeness.

My house is in a great location; two blocks from my son's school and one block from the grocery store. We're also within walking distance to the post office, clinic, the lotteria where bills are paid, and most things I need on a daily basis. Since we're so close to everything, I try to walk everywhere. And because our neighborhood is so small, I run into the same people every week. I know the moms at the school drop off/pick up. I know the grocers, deli workers, cashiers, and delivery guys at the supermarket. We go to the supermarket every morning to purchase fresh rolls for breakfast. As we walk into the store, the delivery guys say hello (one practicing his English with "Good morning!"). I call them Alessandra's friends because she's always so excited to see them. Sometimes she even blows them a kiss goodbye. The deli workers and cashiers love to hold her and Alessandra always waves goodbye to them. I know the old man who runs the office supply store. I know the two young guys who work at the internet cafe. I know my neighbors to the right, left, across, and down the street. I even know the neighbors on the whole route to the elementary school. I even know most of the neighbors in my mother-in-law's neighborhood. Governador Valadares is a city of 200,000, but the communities are tight-knit.

Everyone knows everyone. Alessandra is a mini-celebrity of course with her "exotic" blonde hair and blue eyes. I guess we all are. A Brazilian amiga of mine told me that when Americans would come to the small town her parents grew up in, they were celebrities, unbeknownst to them. I have experienced this at least twice. Once, I took my son to buy candy at a house near my mother-in-law's. I was told "Just knock on the green door." I knocked, it opened, and the woman said, "Oh you must be Farley's wife!" And just yesterday, I needed to buy a "hillbilly" hat for the Festa Junina party at my son's school (post on that to come). I reached out to a local Facebook group and after some conversation, a woman and I realized our children attend the same school. She said, "Oh yeah, I know you, the American." And everyone is always asking Maicon to speak both Portuguese and English for them. (Dance, monkey!) There are a lot of Brazilians in our city who used to live in the States, but I've yet to meet anyone who speaks both languages fluently. So it's quite the spectacle for adults to see him switch languages so fluidly. 

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