Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nirvana is Elevator Music

My local supermarket never fails to surprise me. At least, whatever's pumping out of the speakers never fails to surprise me. I don't know who chooses the soundtrack to my bread and cheese excursions, but they have some wild tastes (no pun intended). Sometimes I hear inappropriately hilarious tracks like Warrant's Cherry Pie. Sometimes I have to stop myself from singing to Major Lazer's Lean On, or Tom Petty's American Girl (ironic), or Boston's More Than a Feeling. I mean is it so hard to find an English-speaking duet partner in a grocery store in the middle of nowhere, Brazil? Sheesh.

Anddddd then there are times that I'm certain I'm the only one in the store who can speak English. Like when they play R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts, Gary Jules' Mad World, or Sufjan Stevens' Casimir Pulaski Day. Those songs are sad as fuck! I'm always caught off-guard by them and I have to restrain my emotions and calm myself down, which just makes me look weird because no one else is impacted by these words that they clearly don't understand. I remember the morning I learned Bowie died Space Oddity was playing as I stood in line. SPACE ODDITY FOR FUCK'S SAKE. I wanted to shake the cashier and yell, "The stars look very different today! Don't you get it?!" No? No.. ok...

Today it was a cover of 93 Million Miles (embedded for your pleasure/torture). I had to gather myself by the spices. I mean, "If you do it right / you'll love where you are / just know that wherever you go / you can always come home," ..... not what an expat needs to hear at 7:30 a.m. Because there's this duality to being an expat that you can never overcome, right? I love where I'm from and I love where I am, but there's no possible way to reconcile the two. Even in Brazilian communities in the US, even when I find maple syrup in Brazil, it's impossible to amalgamate the two. And so along with this amazing experience comes a distressing duality. Two sides of a life that will always be separate.

Someday I want to find the guy who selects the music and give him a good slap for not knowing what the hell he's playing. But as my wonderful tri-lingual Brazilian friend once said, "Nirvana is elevator music to us." They like the sounds, but don't get the context. (Which reminds me of the time RAPE ME played as I checked out and handed over my money in a state that can only be described as shell shock.) And so I remain alone, crying into the oregano or inconspicuously playing a miniature air guitar as Journey follows me from aisle to aisle.


  1. I can definitely with that nostalgic feeling of duality in the expat life. However I like to think that home is here and now, with hubby and the kids, wherever we are living at the moment, not where I come from or where I come back to. I heard once "home is where you always come back to" which I cannot agree with -- I am pretty sure that I will never go back to some of the places that I've called "home" in the past!

    1. I can respect that viewpoint. For me though, I moved around a LOT while growing up. I lived in at least 10 different places - I'm sure there were more than 10, but 10 is what I can remember. So far my kids have lived in 3 different places (4 if you count the two months we spent at my MIL's while furnishing our place here, 5 if you count the 5 1/2 months we spent at my mother's while in the States last year). And when we move back to the States, we'll move into an apartment before eventually buying a house again, so that will add another two places onto their "total places lived in" list. I HATED moving around. I still hate it. I really want to settle down and stay in one place. And for us that will eventually be back in New Jersey. So it's hard for me to think of our time here as more than temporary, even if temporary means 3-4 more years. But even though where we live in NJ has a large Brazilian community, it's really not the same as living IN Brazil. I think you know what I mean. It's like eating chocolate-flavored candy versus eating chocolate. We also won't have our in-laws nearby anymore which will be a huge loss for us. I think for us, "home is where you always come back to" does makes sense, but for us that place is NJ. Neither of us are originally from NJ, but it's where we built our life together. Every year it feels harder and harder to live in Brazil. It's a hostile country! (Not the people, but in a personification of the country itself!) I remember when we moved here almost three years ago, the cost of a rotisserie chicken (the ones they sell on the corner every Sunday) was R$14. Now one is R$22. The taxes on my husband's business were less than R$1,000. This year they are R$6,000. 😩 And don't even get me started on our future president, Bolsonaro, haha. So as much as we love Brazil, it is very much a pit stop in the story of our life. I wish I could combine the aspects and people that I love from these two cultures, but it's impossible

    2. Read that as best as you can, the kids are digging into all my desk drawers so it's difficult to concentrate on what I'm writing. 🙃

    3. You know what Brazil seems like sometimes? Have you ever known a beautiful person and you were like, "Oh my gosh, you're so beautiful and you have all these wonderful attributes, let me love you." And they were like, "Fuck you, I'm going to treat you like garbage and self destruct instead." ? That's what Brazil reminds me of. 😶 (It should be noted that my location plays a VERY large part in my experience with Brazil).

    4. Oh yes, I totally agree with you on all aspects of what you wrote. I moved a lot growing up too (well, 'only' 5 times but 4 countries, 3 languages). So yeah, I know what you mean. I can honestly say that coming back to Canada after Brazil felt really like coming back home, though we had never lived in this city before, at least we can narrow 'home' to a country! :) The analogy about Brazil being self destructive is spot on, unfortunately. I strongly believe that a country that does not value education has NO FUTURE whatsoever, and that is the root of all the problems of Brazil. It saddens me greatly because for many years I had a dream of living close to my in-laws in Brazil, but when it finally happened we realized that the reality of the Brazilian daily life wouldn't work out. You know how it is to realize that the path you are on has NO FUTURE??? Are you familiar with the saying 'Brasil, Pais do Futuro'?, it's the title of a book. Well, IMO Brazil is definitely NOT the country of the future, not even of the present...

  2. My kids (6 and 7 yo) have lived in 8 different places... I hate it too. Come here, sister, we need a hug!!! :)