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The Good Stuff

In the World's Fifth-Largest Country, There Have to be Some Good Things.

By Grant PattersonPublished 5 years ago 5 min read
"You say so many bad things about Brazil. I'll have to be careful who to introduce you to." -My wife
"I'm enjoying your blog. But don't get that last one translated into Portuguese. Ow." -My friend, whose opinion I trust so much I get him to proofread my novels

Wait, what? Really? If so, that was not my intention here, folks. In my old job, if there was one thing I hated, it was an immigrant who spent all his time bitching about Canada. My attitude was always, "If you hate it so much, go back to whatever 'Stan you came from, dude."

So, now, I'm that guy. Shit. In my defense, I have to admit to being generally snarky. I believe we have touched on my misanthropy in previous posts, such as the one where I declared the entire species is on a downward trend to Pauly Shoredom. So I tend to look at things, anywhere, through that lens. I can't help it. I'm a writer with a background in law enforcement. Cynicism is my oxygen.

With that in mind, I have decided to turn over a new leaf, and dedicate this post to the good things about my new home (For fans of my snarkiness, don't despair: this is strictly temporary).

Now, here are the Good Things About Brazil:

  • People are nice. Even when you aren't. Sometimes, I get frustrated. Surprising, right? It's when I do that the basic niceness of Brazilians shines through. I had a bit of a tantrum last week over the surprising inability of the staff at my expensive hotel to produce a bottle of wine I had clearly seen behind the front counter. Rather than grimace, mutter under their breath, or snarl in the manner one would expect in North America, the subjects of my entirely unwarranted frustration smiled, called me "amigo," with what I am sure was unintended irony, and produced the requested bottle with apologies. It's called "grace under pressure," and though it is by no means universal, it happens often enough that it causes me to wonder just what the hell is wrong with us gringos. People are just nicer here, it's that simple.
  • It's big. Useful big. Yes, Canada is big. We're rather a bit stuffy about that fact. But how much of it is habitable? Though the Tragically Hip may have sung of walking from Churchill to Thompson in the winter, I doubt they actually ever did it. It's a good way to die of exposure or become Polar Bear Chow. Brazil, the world's fifth-largest country (I do love statistics), has a very large part of its area that you can actually drive around in. The distances are mind-boggling, and, unlike in Canada, you can drive in any direction. Only the Amazon is largely impenetrable. For a person who likes wide open spaces and long drives, Brazil is heaven. And some of the roads are actually pretty fucking sweet.
  • Beaches. That's all I have to say, really. The world's best beaches concentrated on a massive Atlantic coast from south of the Tropic of Capricorn to north of the Equator. Populated by people who know how to live on them. Snacks and drinks widely available. Very few buzzkill rules.
  • Meat. Oh man, the meat. There are supposedly some vegetarians here (my wife has suspicious leanings), but they generally keep a low profile. Meat is king here. Get out of the city, and it won't be long until you encounter vast free-range herds of Zebu cattle, prized for their tender Picanha humps. Go back to the city, and hit a churrascaria. The meat won't stop. You may not want it to.
  • Cachaca and caipirinhas. Cachaca is the slightly sweet sugar cane liquor that is the national drink. Caipirinhas are the cocktail made with it, using limes, crushed ice, and sugar. I'm not much of a mixed drink guy, but down here I drink 'em like water. I'm also not much of a straight booze kind of guy, but give me a double of a smooth gold cachaca on the rocks, and I'm a happy writer. Cachaca. It's the best spirit you're not drinking.
  • Saudade. This doesn't really translate. It's kind of a catch-all phrase meaning "a general, spiritual feeling of contentment." Brazilians are happy. Which may account for the niceness, and the general ability to tolerate the intolerable (crime, pollution, corruption). To me, saudade manifests itself in a general lack of stuffiness. There are almost no "Little Hitlers" as the English would call them, here. Rules are enforced casually. Want to drink in the street? Sure. Drive on the beach? Why not. Just be nice.
  • Free Entertainment, 24/7. This can be supplied by street people, watching the news, garbagemen... you name it. Last night I was walking down Rua Verguiero to an English lesson (I am learning, I promise), when I heard a man shouting "Um real, um real, um real." He was selling little bags of Doritos that had, no doubt, fallen off the back of a truck. And doing so with zest. An hour later, as I returned to street level, where he still was; moved down the sidewalk, but still shouting with zeal. Nothing is boring here. People selling stuff. The news. The dancing, singing, garbagemen, full of saudade.
  • Motels. It doesn't mean the same thing here as it does in North America. Here, it's a discreet, clean, well-appointed location for romantic encounters. They're everywhere. Sounds seedy, right? Sure, hookers and tricks use them. Affairs are conducted here. But if you're a married couple with a minimum of time and space to see to your physical needs? They're a godsend. And the seediness just makes it more exciting.
  • They still make things here. Brazil is a protectionist economy. That's supposed to be a bad thing, right? Sure it is if you want to wear Tommy instead of a local brand, Nikes instead of Olympicus. But if you can get past the high markups on imported goods (everybody smuggles, it's a given, and nobody seems to give a shit), maybe you can see the value. Lots of people have jobs making things. That insulates Brazil from a lot of global shocks, such as the one in 2008. The current recession is entirely the fault of the scum-sucking thievery of the political class here. There's a lot to be said for a country that refuses to be held hostage to China just because it wants to save a couple of bucks on beach towels.
  • The music. You think you know it, but you don't. It's big, diverse, and almost virally capable of making you move. And the country values its musicians so much they name airports after them.
  • People like kids more than animals here. Ever get the feeling in North America that there's a lot of people who just can't stand kids? As if the next generation of the species was some sort of annoying intrusion? I sure did. But they don't think like this in Brazil. They understand that kids make noise. They want stuff. Sometimes they poop themselves. And that's okay. And if you need help with your kid, they'll put down what they're doing and pitch in.
  • Driving skill. What? You hear me bitch about the driving here all the time. Yes, they are nuts. But usually, they know exactly what they are doing. Because they're always testing each other, you see? And for all the batshit stuff I've seen in all the time I have been here, I have only seen three accidents. None serious. And their parking skills are superhuman. Since Sao Paulo has about three times as many cars as parking spots, you have to get good at parallel parking. I am certain that my wife could park an aircraft carrier in a pill bottle if given suitable time and mirrors.
  • The women. There's just nothing like the women. That one I can't explain. Just come here.
  • The sun. No, I don't miss winter. And neither will you.

That should keep my wife off my back for a bit. All true, not a lie in it.

south america

About the Creator

Grant Patterson

Grant is a retired law enforcement officer and native of Vancouver, BC. He has also lived in Brazil. He has written fifteen books.

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    Grant PattersonWritten by Grant Patterson

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