Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clapping At the Sun

I believe that the Cariocas (what the people here in Rio de Janeiro call themselves) epitomize the Hispanic idea of polychronic time. Hoffstede’s cultural dimensions study places Brazilians on a par with the Asian cultures for long-term time orientation. It can be commonly observed that these people take the long-view time perspective rather than allowing themselves to be confined by things like schedules and apparently clocks.

The people of Rio de Janeiro have a custom which perfectly illustrates this distinction. Each evening, be it a work day or weekend, thousands gather on the beach and the small stone hill in Parque Garota de Ipanema and stand in silence to watch the sunset. At the completion of this event, the audience erupts in applause. It is a sign of appreciation, like the close of an opera or the finale of a symphony performance, where the people express gratitude for the talents of great artists through collective applause. Standing together in their timeless and clockless ritual, the people collectively take in the splendor of nature’s artistry and together celebrate the end of another day.

Hearing of this quaint and poetic ritual, we made our way down the beach as the sun fell into the ocean. We climbed to a nice point on the short hill to watch the setting sun. There was a considerable mass of people already gathered, so I assumed that the moment of “spontaneous” applause at nature’s wonder was near at hand, but as any of you who have taken the time to watch a sunset already know, a sunset will be held to no one’s schedule. We shifted restlessly on the hillside, moving locations three different times to get a better view. I didn’t like the man in the meditative stance, his feet interlaced lotus-style, ahead of me blocking my view of the horizon. I didn’t like being so close to the straight-haired girl and bandana-ed boy playing a recorder and dancing. After a few minutes, maybe twenty in all, I was pretty bored with the sun and the big rock. I admitted to myself that the clouds and the colors were nice. The whole scene was admittedly nice. I looked around at my business school friends and said, “Alright, let’s go. We’d better leave now so we can beat the crowds.” I lead us back down the hill, cutting across the entranced gazes of the rapt nature-viewers and onto the road up towards the hotel. Behind us I heard a bunch of people clapping. One of the students walking behind me commented, “That was nice, somebody ought to video tape that. Then we could watch it all in fast forward.” --Shawn Butler

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