Oh boy, have I been absent from blogging for the past several months! While I feel like there is really nothing new to say, at the same time there is so much. Living on a subtropical island presents challenges I never would have dreamed of, plus the fact that I’m back in school after moving to a place where I know almost no one and people have really unintelligible accents.
Let’s get into some of my random thoughts, then.
Floripa is a really, really frustrating place to live if you’re used to São Paulo. The public transport–let me put it diplomatically–is suboptimal at best: when it rains, which it does a lot, it takes me almost 3 hours to get home from school, even though I only live 8 km away. Thus, socioeconomic segregation becomes more pronounced when you don’t have a car, and obviously your social life becomes way more difficult to coordinate. Racism is more subversive, more ingrained, and more tolerated. In a similar vein, people do things one way because they’ve always done them that way, even if it doesn’t make much sense; provincialism is still alive and well on the island.
I’m probably going to get absolutely flamed by prodigiously google-happy Floripa defenders here, but I’m not trying to point out how terrible this city is; these are problems that present in pretty much any society I can think of. As I said to my friend Flá when I visited São Paulo earlier this month, the smallness of the city forces you to see with and confront these problems, whereas in a city like Sampa, it’s very easy to only see and do the things that are amenable to you. It’s even easier to avoid interpersonal interaction, which may seem counterintuitive when we’re talking about a city of over 15 million inhabitants. A smaller selection of options means dealing with the people around you, and at the very least seeing what they have to deal with. Floripa, due to its geographic limitations, happens to have a smaller selection of options.
I didn’t experience much culture shock in São Paulo because I was able to mold my experience in the city into an agreeable, not-completely-alien form. The culture shock really only started in February, after I had been here for a little while and started to realize how different life is here. It’s starting to become a bit more bearable, though, because I’ve been consciously trying to adapt. By now, I’ve learned to put the mattress, towels, and heavier clothing out in the sun during the day to avoid mold. I’ve had some incredibly weird conversations with my elderly neighbor, including how gruesome death by accidental electrocution is. The 1.5-mile walk to the grocery store is…well, let’s not kid ourselves, carrying a full load of groceries up a giant hill with no shade trees will always suck. I have taken to downloading a ton of podcasts and using comfortable shoes for my ridiculous, frustrating commute. Things like racism and lack of will to help out the poorer classes through public policy, though, don’t really come with coping mechanisms; those are factors I keep in mind and, to be honest, really don’t know how to handle yet.
All these considerations aside, I feel really lucky to be able to live here. My life is a great deal less stressful, for starters. I have managed to stumble into what seems to be the fourth best university in South America (I have no idea who comes up with these statistics, but take that up with Wikipedia), and I am really enjoying my classes. I live a 25-minute walk away from the beach. Any time I get fed up with the buses, which is pretty much any time I have to use them, all I have to do is lift my gaze from the pavement, find mountains and ocean, and remember exactly why I live here.
Boy oh boy, after that sort of grandiose sentence, how the hell am I supposed to end this? I guess this all sounds like pretty Deep Stuff, and I don’t know if it is or not, but anyway, let’s get back to that old maxim: you only stop learning when you are dead. So, to end this on a lighter note, another thing I’ve learned recently is that there is absolutely no way to procrastinate a translation job–not that I did! I started this one early, and I’m glad I did because it took forever. And I’d like to learn a bit more about herb and vegetable gardening, since produce inflation right now is hitting ridiculous heights.