Ten years ago, when we told our American families and friends that we were moving to Brazil, I knew in my heart that most of them felt like the people shown below:
Surprisingly, only one person — a former work colleague — came up with the knee-jerk comment I most expected: "Is it...safe?" There were also a few skeptics who couldn't contain themselves and blurted out, "B-bra-zi-i-il?" But I give the majority credit for swallowing their shock, surprise and/or disbelief and making the comment we heard most often, a casually-delivered "Oh, really?" You'd think we'd just announced plans to take a weekend drive in the country. At least the twenty-somethings among our friends showed some oomph, the spirit of undaunted youth. From them we heard "Cool," "That is so-o-o cool," and "Get o-u-t!"
There were some odd reactions. The neighbor who lived above us in our apartment building, a man in the real estate business, anxiously asked, "How are you pricing your apartment?" But perhaps the most off-the-wall reaction came from a fairly sophisticated, multi-lingual international businessman friend of mine. His main worry? "How are you going to get your mail?" To this day I'm still not sure what mail he was talking about. Our New York gas&electric bill? A couple of greeting cards? And now that all of these things are handled online — from anywhere in the world that you happen to be — the question becomes even stranger.
Notwithstanding the sangfroid of our compatriots, Brazilian reaction to our move was the polar opposite. Mark and I were showered with, "Oh, that's wonderful!" "Oh, fabulous!" "Welcome!" "Super!" and my personal favorite, "God bless you!" Brazilians certainly have a more-the-merrier party side, but they are warm and generous and outgoing by nature. They all take their cue from the open arms of one of the seven wonders of the modern world, Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue.
"Cristo Redentor, braços abertos
sobre a Guanabara"
(From Samba do Avião by Tom Jobim)