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.
This 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.