There is so much to write concerning the differences of the countries we’ve lived, traffic, food, people that I will have to make a special posting for it later.
Here in Sao Paulo I see graffiti everywhere, and is even used to decorate and advertise on store fronts. The pics below is what I see on the way to and from work every day. These were taken on a Sunday that I had to go in. The shops were closed other than a few restaurants.
Last year before I arrived, the Consulate brought in a local artist to draw on the wall in front of the Consulate, then invited everyone to color it in. This is a common Make everyone feel like one happy family thing. I was told it got out of hand and the next thing they knew, people were adding drawings on the neighboring walls. Below is the wall after the removal of the extraneous artwork.In Turkey, drivers will fight to get in front of you, even if their vehicle is sticking halfway into the intersection. Here in Brazil, it is polite and steady. The stop signs are still ignored like in Turkey and any intersection without a light is a four-way stop regardless of any signage. What really shocked me is, one day on my 5-block walk to the apartment, an ambulance came screaming down the road. The little green man was indicating I could walk across the street, but I instead stood to let the ambulance go by. But, the ambulance stopped at the pedestrian walkway, and waited for me to cross! I was stunned. The ambulance stopped for me at a crosswalk! I then realized I needed to cross very quickly, so I ran. Not only did they stop for me, but muted the siren so it wouldn’t scare/bother/deafen me. …. weird. You talk about politeness.
When I first arrived, I found a restaurant halfway to work to occasionally stop by on the way home for a beer. One time I decided to get something to eat, so I asked the young waiter for a cheeseburger. I thought that would be pretty much universal. It was. He brought me a small bun with a meat patty about the thickness of a pencil and a slob of cheese. That was it. More cheese than meat. I pulled off most of the cheese and shot some weird colored mustard on it and … it was good!
The next time I asked for a menu, but the waiter did not understand. So, I used the international gesture for menu, putting my hands together like a book. He was still baffled, so I used the international gesture of hunger, hand to mouth. I saw a light go on in his eyes and he smiled. He understood. Two minutes later, he brought me this:
I found out later it is called a Coxinha, which has some smashed up meat that I originally thought was crab, but was later told it is chicken. Another time I was handed a menu and I pointed at something that look like a hamburger. This time, I was brought a bun with the patty of meat and a slice of ham, and on top of that were strips of bacon. Then an egg was added, and finally a slob of cheese. I pulled off some of the cheese and proceeded to eat it.In years past when Terese and I went to a restaurant, she would comment how messy of an eater I am. I would beg to differ. Just because the restaurant does not put enough napkins on the table, does not mean I am messy. So, she started throwing a couple of our cloth napkins into her purse. I didn’t really need them, but went ahead and used them anyway so she wouldn’t feel like she brought them needlessly. Now I don’t remember whether I told you or not, but in Brazil it is considered impolite to eat with your hands. So the napkins you find in the restaurants are kind of waxy instead of absorbent, to keep your hands clean. So, I tried a few times to use the kind of waxy napkins, but they don’t work. Especially the cheeseburger I described above. When I bit into it, the entire contents of the burger slipped out of the back of the bun and into my hand. … not a pretty picture. So, I now carry a multitude of the cloth napkins in my backpack.
Last month, one of my big bosses in Montevideo, Uruguay came to see me. A good guy I first met in Moscow many years ago. We had a couple of hours before his flight out, so we decided to go to the restaurant and have a few beers.
He suggested getting something simple to go with the beer. No problem I thought. So, I indicated to the young waiter I wanted several of those pointy things. I used my hands to show their shape and how high they were. It took a couple of seconds, then I saw the light go on in his eyes. He understood. He asked, Um ou dois? (one or two?). I said Dois. He smiled and left. Five minutes later, he brought us two cheeseburgers.
I cannot fathom life without these polite misunderstandings, and yet some people would be angry in situations as these. That is sad. When Terese and I got lost driving (hardly ever), or something didn’t go according to plan, she would point out it was just a new adventure. I don’t know if I will ever to be able to see life the way she did, but I admire her for that.
In the many hours that I sat out on my balcony with strong drink and fine cigars, I contemplated her life and realized she needs a proper tribute. I proceeded to write it, and as I add to it, the more I realize how incredible Heaven must be with her passing out hugs, kisses and napkins. I will eventually finish it with many tears, smiles and laughs; and pass it on to you good people.
Until then, keep kicking butt.