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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back ‘home’

It is time to write about my return to Brasil.  I have been here for a week and am just starting to get over my usual identity – cultural – confusion, a minor crisis.  After driving in the US for two months; wide open roads, huge parking lots and traffic rules (basically) followed, and shopping where more than one cart (or person) can pass down an isle at a time, and being where no one walks on the streets - even in downtown Houston, coming back to Brasil is always a shock to my system. 
DSC_28740010This last week was an extra challenge to drive and to walk in Nova Friburgo.  Before I left the streets were already clogged with cars and people but now, after the sense of space you get in the US, I’ve felt claustrophobic.  In Brasil, everyone receives a 13th salary, an extra months wages, in November / December.  Just in time for Christmas shopping and paying year end taxes.  It is normal for there to be a lot of people on the streets in December, but it seems that this year it is extremely bad.  A byproduct of the good economy?  Whether on foot or in the car, darting and dashing to avoid those who seem to stop for no reason, talk on their cells in the middle of the sidewalk, park wherever it is convenient for them.
The election of the last mayor (Prefeito) was based on his promise to improve the transit in Friburgo.  The government changed some street directions, made a few more one-ways with parking only on one side.  More parking lots with exorbitant hourly rates, actually with 30 minute rates when you can’t do anything in less than 1 hour, have popped out and, last but not least, they hired a consulting firm – a private transit company – to find the solutions that they have not been able to find and still be re-elected.  But this last week it was abundantly clear that nothing is solving the problems.    Cars were still double and triple parked, flashers flashing because everyone knows that if you put your flashers on it is okay to park anywhere you want and block all other transit.   My 15 minutes from the house to my appointment took well over an hour – not to mentioned the drive home.   Yes, I could take the bus, the one that was stuck in the traffic right in front of me..... The one that is so full of people coming in from the countryside that there was room only to hang from the rafters .... The bus / company that is owned  by the mayor and his family? 
Yes, I could.   I am not sure though that this would help me feel better during this transition period between the US and Brasil.  I am suffering culture shock – plain and simple.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Signs of the times – 3


I am going to try and write what I started out to write when writing  'Home is Where the heart is'.  The thoughts that I need to put down have been in my head for weeks now, but vague, without that spark of inspiration that I sometimes get when thinking about a topic.  My intended topic was the changes I’d seen in Adrian and, as you can tell, I got majorly distracted when I started the post last week.  I will try to do better staying on topic this time around.  

Back to Adrian. 

DSC_7050 (2)I spent two weeks in Adrian at the end of September and it felt like a visit not a return home; these are the feelings that trigged my last post.  Even though born in Adrian, I only lived in the area for 9 years or so as a semi-adult.  Returning to my city of birth during my freshman year of high school, and leaving when Patty was 3 (Sept. ‘64 until fall of ‘73).  I don’t have many memories of these years.  My high school years were spent in a hustle of work and school; no dates, no dances, one basket ball game, no making trouble – just the years passing without note.  And immediately after high school my early married years spent in Morenci were about taking care of the babies not thinking about hometowns, belonging and other complex thoughts that I have today. 

During this time, my perception was that Adrian was a good sized city.  Only after I left and went to progressively larger cities,  Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Rio de Janeiro, did I start to see Adrian as a small town.  And now I see it as a small town that is getting even smaller.  Just to see if there were any facts to back up this change in perspective, I Googled for population history of the area (if you use Google as a verb is it capitalized?) and found that yes it is shrinking.  The population loss is not great unless you look at how a town would normally grow as families grow and multiply.  The numbers for Adrian when compared to the national averages have been pretty stagnant since the 60s. 


Adrian #

Adrian % 

National %

20,347 10.60% 18.50%
1970 20,382 0.20% 13.30%
1980 21,276 4.40% 11.50%
1990 22,097 3.90% 9.80%
2000 21,574 −2.4% 13.20%
2010 21,133 −2.0% 9.70%

This could be from the area going from farm to industrial to.... loss of industry?  There are two universities and one junior college but after graduation the young people leave for jobs in larger cities.  Now this is all my conjecture – but what is there to hold young people and their future families?  For that matter what is there that would draw the young people back as they age and begin to retire?  This is probably the better question.Adrian would be a wonderful size town to retire in if it had a few amenities; a place to go dancing, a golf course close in, coffee shops and tea rooms to meet for breakfast.    These are a few of the things I see retired people do in other cities.

When last in Adrian I saw a small charming town surrounded by natural beauty, the downtown empty of businesses, without even one nice restaurant but with one downtown theater (which is wonderful) and a couple of bars and a few cafes.  The outer streets are lined with fast food, with one very badly maintained shopping center on the outskirts.  When looking for entertainment or good food my sister and family drive to Tecumseh (under 9,000) or to Toledo.  Why does Tecumseh, a town half the size of Adrian, have nice restaurants and Adrian doesn’t?

One thing in Adrian that really impresses me is The old library, now a museum of local history.  The displays are interesting, the interior of the building impressive.  The only thing I can say that needs to be changed is that it needs to be bigger.  Maybe there could even be more old buildings used to expand the displays.  The manufacturing history of Adrian is interesting and I could see one of the now empty buildings housing a display telling the story of the Organs or the making of just one of the original cars.  I can see families bringing their young children to Adrian for a weekend of local history.        

Of course that would mean more hotels, ..... a train from Ann Arbor to Toledo .... organized transit .... but then maybe Adrian would no longer be a small, sleepy little town and the families that have stayed just for those characteristics would have to find another hometown.....  And in the end it goes against my nature (that wants to fix everything) that I have to admit that the loss of work, the exodus of families is just another sign of the times in America that has no easy fix.