I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have to leave Brazil in just four weeks. Words cannot even describe how sad I am to have to leave this incredible country. that has truly stolen a piece of my heart. I now know why “saudade” is a Portuguese word – there is no possible way you can live in Brazil and not feel saudade after leaving.
The other night, two days before I was supposed to start my job working as a Writer for the broadcasting services (HBS) of the FIFA World Cup, I got a call from HR, telling me that they would not be able to hire me due to my (illegal) visa situation. My heart felt like it broke into a million pieces. I have never felt so disappointed in my entire life. I was in Portuguese class at the time and just started bawling. It was a sad sight. To be told this em cima da hora (so last minute) after I had signed the paperwork and everything – that was the worst of all.
Now, I don’t meant to throw a pity party here! It’s obviously not the end of the world. I learned an expression in Portuguese the other day: “Vão os anéis, ficam os dedos” (The rings go, the fingers stay – meaning that other opportunities will come along, maybe even better ones).
So onwards and upwards! I came to Brazil so determined to find a job and to make this work (legally) – I encountered a lot of negative nancies along the way, who told me that it would be “impossible” for me to find work without a work visa (at least in Rio)…who said I would have to marry a Brazilian if I wanted to make this work…or have a baby here (people actually said that to me as if I should legitimately consider that as an option..I’m not that desperate!)…And while it’s definitely not impossible, it is a lot harder than I had thought it would be, especially in my line of work (in Rio, there are an abundance of jobs in the oil and gas field and engineers are the ones in high demand – definitely not my speciality).
Tip: For anyone who is thinking of moving to Brazil, if you want to find a real job (and by real, I mean one that will sponsor you for a visa) and do not work in the oil or gas industry, I suggest heading to São Paulo. I had no desire to move to a crowded metropolis like SP (or “Sampa” as Brazilians call it), which is why I stayed in Rio. But there are far more job opportunities in São Paulo.
If, on the other hand, your goal is to just live abroad and work enough to get by, teaching English is something you can do anywhere (and I did some of that in Rio). I did meet expats who had been in Rio for several years (illegally), just teaching English (and they earned enough to live off of and travel etc).
And don’t worry about staying illegally – unlike the US, it’s just a little slap on the wrist. All you have to do is pay a fine (which will vary depending on how many days you overstay) when you reenter the country (and sometimes, they don’t even make you do that…oh, Brazil…).
Whatever happens in the future, I’m so grateful that I was able to follow my dream and live in Rio. I have learned so much about the Brazilian (and carioca) culture and have become much more confident in my Portuguese.
While it will be heartbreaking for me to leave Rio, the saddest thing for me is leaving behind the people I’ve met here. Here are the things I will miss the most about Rio:
1) The amazing people I have met here (this definitely tops the list)
2) Speaking Portuguese on a daily basis and hearing it all around me
3) The breathtaking sunsets and sunrises and the magical way that the mountains rise over the beach
4) Taking the bus (believe it or not, I’ve come to love it!) and the crazy way that the bus drivers drive. If you sit in the front, it actually feels like you are riding a roller-coaster! Only in Latin America do you see this kind of driving…
5) Random parties in the middle of favelas.
6) Jogging around Urca (one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rio). Or enjoying a beer on the stone wall that overlooks the water and a faraway Christo.
7) How houses/buildings are often built up against mountains and amazing views can be found on nearly every street corner.
8) The casual vibe and the way that people just say “Relaxa” (Relax) if you seem the least bit stressed. Or “tranquilo” (It’s all good).
9) Ipanema/Leblon beach boardwalk/street on Sundays…when the street that runs along the beach is closed off and there are bands playing, people riding bikes, skateboarding, walking dogs and jogging…it is the definition of laid-back. All with the most beautiful backdrop I’ve ever seen.
10) The amazing street music and dancing…everywhere.
11) Things like Pedra da Sal on Monday night. Samba music being played in the square and people all around mingling and drinking. The energy is unreal.
12) The beach culture and the freedom and uninhibitedness of Brazilians. How Brazilian women are not self conscious about their bodies – no matter their age or size, every single woman wears a bikini to the beach. And nobody judges.
And honestly, I don’t think I can go back to those “fraldas” (diapers) that I used to wear! The Brazilian cut is far more flattering.
13) Things like this:
But if I’m going to be honest, living in Rio has not been without its difficulties – admittedly, there will also be some things that I won’t miss. Like…
1) The food. I do love Brazilian food…but in moderation. Rice and beans gets old after a week. I am excited to go back to the US just to eat organic, healthy food again and not have to rely on salgados when I’m on the go – hallelujah!
2) The insane prices. And the fact that I can’t even buy clothes or beauty products here. Quality shampoo, shaving cream, sunscreen, makeup, eye gel…forget about it. Back to the land of cheap, high(er) quality products and discount stores!
3) The lack of Mexican food. Strange, I know. But coming from a country where Mexican food is pretty much everywhere, this is something that I missed. There are only a few Mexican restaurants in Rio and they are insanely overpriced and just don’t taste the same as Mexican food back home.
4) Inefficiency. I will not miss the long lines, having to check out at two different places when I want to buy just one thing…etc.
5) Bad customer service and rude people working at supermarkets, shops and the like. I will never take the customer service in the US for granted again!
But still, as much as some things can make it frustrating to live here, the good still outweighs the bad.
I was talking with someone the other day who lives in Switzerland. She was saying how there, everything is efficient and works, but otherwise, it’s a bit dull. She appreciated how in Brazil, people may not have as much and things may not be efficient, but there is at least happiness and an energy that you just don’t have in Switzerland (or many other places for that matter). I’d take the latter any day…