Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little About Brazilians

Shawn and Charlotte experience Futbol the Brazilian way at Maracanã Stadium

First of all, the country of Brazil is about the same size as the continental U.S. They are the largest country in South America and walk a fine line of being very typical of and also very distinct from the rest of the continent. They have the Latin American sense of time and relaxed schedules, being Polychronic in their sense of time stresses involvement with people and completion of transactions rather than adherence to a preset schedule. For the people of this continent, the future is not firm and therefore cannot be planned. Appointments can be broken and plans may be changed right up to their execution. They are interested in nature and clapping at the sunset. These are commonalities they share with other Latin American countries. At the same time, they seem intent on remaining unique and apart from the Spanish-speaking world. Brazilians are very proud of their country and find unity in their common patriotism.

A man we encountered in Jardím Botánico, Manoel Amorím, who spent 10 years in the U.S. where he attended Harvard Business School and then became Country Manager for Proctor & Gamble Venezuela, and is the current CEO of Ponte Frio, told us that Brazil was too big and Brazilians were too diverse to try and label them all. He said that there are 3 things all Brazilians everywhere have in common.

Number one was soccer. “If there is a World Cup or National Team game playing,” he promised us, “You can go to the busiest street in town and lay down in the road without any fear.” Unfortunately, club teams are just beginning their regular playing seasons right now, so we will be unable to test his assertion during our stay in Rio.

Number two was national pride. He said that all Brazilians agree that they are part of a great country with an exciting culture. Just don’t force them to define which culture that is.

Number three was not given to me by sr. Amorím during our discussion, but I have used my intuition to deduce what it could be: Brazilians love babies.

At the end of my first week in Rio de Janeiro, my wife and our 8-month-old baby girl flew down and to join me for the rest of our residency. During my first week here, I had only limited interactions with the local residents. By “limited” I mean they spoke to me when they were spoken to. The Brazilian people never initiated conversation with me and seemed content to let me wander their country in my own Gringo universe.

This all changed when I was carrying my chubby-thighed, blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl. People came from half a block away sometimes, children dropped what they were doing, old women crossed the street, and parents of other babies were drawn to us as if by a magnet. We had no lack of attention when we had our baby with us. On more than a few occasions, as I waited to cross the street, I found the person next to me holding onto the hand of or squeezing the little thighs of my daughter while she hung against me in my arms.

I embarrassed myself several times by attempting to respond to an enthusiastic “Oi!” from a local, only to realize that the greeting was not directed at all to me, but to the baby in my arms who is yet to say her first word in English, let alone make any reply in Portuguese. A favorite episode of our experience here in Brazil will be the lady in the Hippy Fair that labored to find a translator when we were unable to understand time and time again the words that she was saying to us about our baby. An exhaustive and stressful search finally yielded an individual capable of translating her missive. And what was this all important, cross-cultural communique? “Your daughter should be on the cover of a magazine." --Shawn Butler
This is Tiny Baby Charlotte in Rio saying, "Well, Of Course I Should."

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