Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm an alien

Since moving here in December 2008, I have been on the long road to gaining permanent residence here, i.e. a legal alien.  I made my first visit to the 'Policia Federal' in Maringa, in April of last year and was told to await a home visit, which sounded to me like they were going to approve where I lived and deem it suitable 'alien accommodation'. 

A couple of weeks ago after returning to Brazil from my honeymoon, I finally had a visit from the PF representative.  Of course she came on the day when I was still in my PJs, with honking morning breath, gossiping with my mother-in-law, yes she is that nice.

I had slept in, left my bed unmaid.  It's always good to make a great first impression when your future is at stake.  Or maybe it's better that it was messy, more realistic, who knows.

Simone, a tall blonde, came through the door and introduced herself.  "Hi", I said hoping that my Portuguese would see me through all the answers I was about to give.  She asked me all these questions about how I'd met my husband Paulo, and it began to feel like a scene from Green Card, remember that awful 90s movie with Andie McDowell and Gerard Depardieu?

Soon enough I had turned it into a scene from MTV's Cribs when she asked to see our bedroom.  I apologised for the unmade bed.  "Don't worry, it's the fifth one I've seen today", she said slightly miffed.

Unfazed I proceeded to show her through my entire wardrobe, explaining how I categorised our clothes, which were my favourites and which ones I couldn't wear here as I thought they were too chic.  I realised almost immediately that my capsule collection of Issa, McQueen, Basso & Brooke and Vivienne were hardly going to see the light of day in this small town, where popular brands are Guess and Tommy Hilfiger, but at least I could look after them!

Aside from giving a lesson in British fashion I managed to learn a bit about the other foreigners living in Maringa.  Apparently we are some 3,000 strong and consist mainly of students who attend the University of Maringa, where my brother-in-law works as a physical education teacher.  Also working there is an Englishman called Peter who has lived here for about 20 years and is married to a Brazilian woman.  I know that there are several other English and some American citizens living here, but as yet I have yet to meet any of them. 

All in all it was an interview that I will never forget.  I now have to wait up to six months to know whether my apllication has been successful. 

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First meets third

For some time now I have been wondering what really makes the difference between a person from the first and a person from the third world, I mean in real terms. 

Personally, as someone who was born and raised in the so-called first world, I believe for better or worse that my expectations are higher, I am more spoilt if you like and I find it harder to put up with things that don't work in the way that I am accustomed to.  In plain English this makes me a pain in the arse around here. 

That being said, when we are outside of our comfort zone, are we victims of are own success, so dependent on modern technolgy, so able to buy practically all the things we desire that we have become incapable of surviving on our own.

I have lived in Maringa, a small city in southern Brazil on and off for six months now and I am supposedly living in what counts as part of the third world as my family jokingly reminds me when I complain about things and constantly compare them with my own city or country. 

I realise that this is unfair but it seems fairly instinctive and also vaguely patriotic.  Why do we feel the need to wax lyrical about the benefits of our own country, especially when we are living in someone else's?  Is it because we are homesick?  Is it because we regard ourselves as superior?  Or is it because we enjoy boasting about a higher standard of living?

At this point I still don't know the answer but all the expat blogs that I read inevitably make comparisons between their native country and their new place of residence.  So based on this evidence I can only assume that it is human nature and nothing more.

Hopefully one day I will find out what the answer is. 

blog abroad

Friday, October 9, 2009

Japan Brazilian style

The islands of the Japanese archipelago were formed from the tears of a goddess.  Where each tear fell into the Pacific ocean, an island arose or so goes the legend.

Today, Japan has grown into a land of contrasts where uber-modern gadgets, buildings and culture go hand-in-hand with time-honoured traditions and rituals. 

My first visit to Japan was great.  Although I didn't travel through this country as much as I would have liked to, I did spend time getting to know some members of my husband's family that I otherwise would not have met.  We were the first family visitors they had had since moving to Honjo, a small town about an hour away from Tokyo, ten years ago.  I couldn't help feeling sad that most of the family will never be able to afford to visit them as travel is so expensive in Brazil - never mind that it is practically the otherside of the world, but I was glad to be able to relay news and show videos. 

My Japanese Brazilian family at Mount Fuji

Japan and Brazil have an immigration partnership that dates back over a hundred years when Japanese farmers arrived to work in coffee plantations in 1908.  I have always been fascinated by the Japanese population that in exists in Brazil, mainly in Parana and Sao Paulo.  They make up the largest concentration of Japanese descendants outside Japan, beating the US.  Despite some initial problems and ill-treatment during the second wolrd war, similar to what happened in the US at the time, the population recovered and today has become one of the more successful groups of immigrants within Brazil.

The beautiful Japanese countryside

Conversely in the 1980s and 90s Japanese Brazilians started to migrate to Japan, the approximate population today is 450,000.  Tokyo currently holds the largest carnival outside Brazil and communities of Japanese Brazilians remain Brazilian from a cultural perspective.  Portuguese is the third most spoken language there after Chinese and Korean and is also among the most studied languages in Japan.  

Japanese Cultural Festival in Maringa

In 2008 a census was conducted on Japanese Brazilians from the city where I live, Maringa.  It revealed among other things that 15% of the 15,000 strong population was working in Japan; that 6.61% were born in Japan, 40 was the average age, 47% can read and write Japanese and that 52%  are women. 

Everyday I am learning more about Brazil's culture and its past.  I have come to love the racial diversity and fascinating history that surrounds this giant of South America, the country that has now become the first in its continent to host the Olympic games.