As of recent, I can officially retract the word “almost”, “about” and “nearly” from a phrase I’ve been using for the last few years…what’s that phrase? “I have been studying Brazil for almost 10 years”. While many of those 10 years were dedicated to armchair academics, almost a year has now been spent living in Brazil, and I would add ‘amongst Brazilians’ but here in the States (that’s right, I moved back), I’ve surrounded myself with Brazilians for about 8 years.
During my last bout, which lasted all but 3 months while living near the Amazon basin, I hit a turning point. When that moment was upon me, those 10 years dwindled down to one phrase.
If you love Brazil, you don’t need to live there to get your slice of culture and language.
I’m certain that communities like the one in the US (800,000 Brazilians), Paraguay (455,000), Japan (317,000) or the UK (250,000) among many other countries where Brazilians can be found in large numbers…I’m certain they can give you most of what you are looking for. A Brazilian vacation will pick up the slack.
Why am I saying these things? Because Brazil is tough, complicated and confusing. If you go there to live, and you stop being a tourist, you will start to see these things I’ve just mentioned. If you are like me and love the culture and language as much as I do, then you ask yourself how such beautiful things come from a country that is also hard to live in…but they do, it’s undeniable.
Why? Brazil is a dichotomy, a contradiction, it is something to be dreamt about, to be missed, to be vacationed in, to be romanced…but not always to be lived in. Keep in mind, I say this as a foreigner and this message is to foreigners. The only reasons that make Brazil okay to live in are if you are a legal citizen, if you are happily employed there, and if you are rich enough to not be poor. I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been the opposite of all three of those things while living there.
Those very Brazilians who live abroad seem to share my thoughts on the subject and I know this not because they’ve read this post but because as much as they love their country and as much as they miss it…they left it. Most of them, from what they tell me, led fairly good lives in Brazil yet they left it only to find themselves as the three things found at the end of the last paragraph. I don’t expect this paragraph on the subject to explain the intricacies of all the reasons why Brazilians leave Brazil (I’ll leave that to someone like professor and author Maxine Margolis, whose book I highly recommend) but problems can arise because sometimes the best minds leave.
In the end, my love of Brazil is written on my face and well, tattooed on my body. I may never be able to let it go but one thing I advocate is to be prepared in the best way possible. Learn a reasonable Portuguese before you go there, read a book or two on its culture and history, dive into the differing opinions and altered attitudes from others living there, befriend Brazilians living near you, and don’t naïvely think your Brazilian dream of life in the tropics will become reality just because you speak English or are a foreigner. Go with some sort of nest egg, no matter how meager and speaking of eggs, don’t put them all in the same basket! Last but not least, don’t ‘give papaya‘ to anyone (as Colombians would say) because the world-over, there are plenty of people lying in wait, wanting to take it.
If Brazil might be your thing, read through some of my over-600 posts on the country or check the links page which I’m pretty sure contains the largest collection of Brazil-related links in English on the net.