Category Archives: expats

Blessed relief

This is a follow-up to my previous post, so if you haven’t read that one yet, here it is:

O poeta e o mendigoI was so grateful for all the replies, both here and on Facebook, about my dilemma of whether or not I should return to the USA. Funny how things can turn around in one’s mind in a matter of days…or even hours.

I’m not usually the sort to seek out other people’s advice about decisions…I guess you could say I’m more of a pray-er. I listen for inner inspiration and guidance, as a general rule. But who’s to say that intuition can’t come through someone or something else? A casual word from a friend, a passage in a book, a remark overheard in the street, even the flight of a bird can suddenly spark something within, and then there’s no more doubt.

I’m especially grateful to two friends: Merrilee Trost and David Brown, who nudged my thinking into new directions, and wittingly or not, helped me make my decision.

Dave saw my previous blog, and simply said: “You should stay in Rio.” He pointed out that he sensed no real desire in me to move to St. Petersburg.

Merrilee also felt strongly that I should stay here. She commented on my blog: “I’ve thought many times about moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to some place where my money would go further. And then…the same thing…I see a commercial on TV with the Golden Gate Bridge…and I think…how would I feel in Kansas or Missouri looking at that commercial? And that settles it, I would shrivel up and die.”

That really hit me in the gut. I remembered when I spent a year in the states in 2007 and every time I’d see or hear anything even faintly Brazilian, I’d be absolutely overcome with that feeling that we describe here as “saudades.” It’s more than missing, more than nostalgia—it’s a tugging of the heart that’s often too profound to describe. Redentor lua

The first thing that hit me after reading and digesting all the comments was that fear of not having enough money was just a bad reason for leaving Rio…prices could go down, and there are always ways of earning more money. It was as if I were waking up…I remembered when I used to spend a month in the USA every year, and I thought…why, I could do that again! That would resolve any cravings I might have for things American, such as quality international foods, seeing old friends and family, and so on. Why had I forgotten that? I don’t know. I simply got caught up in the thought “I have to leave.”

To tell the truth, “leaving,” or “running away” is an old, bad habit of mine, and I saw that this situation was an opportunity to stop doing that (anyone who has read my book knows about my habit of fleeing to “solve” things). Whatever needs to be worked out I can do right where I am.

So now I don’t have to tuck Rio in my heart and take it with me. I have no idea what will happen in the future, but for now I’ve decided to stay in my beloved Rio de Janeiro.


Filed under expats, Rio de Janeiro, Uncategorized

Where do I belong?

Copa sunsetI’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro for around fifteen years, with a couple of side trips back to my native country, the USA. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I love Rio…you could even say I’m “in love” with Rio.

But Rio has been changing over the past few years, in a way that may soon make it impossible for me to stay here. I’m not sure if the World Cup was entirely at fault, but prices have skyrocketed, and my rent has been raised twice in the last year or so, so it’s now more than double what it was five years ago. Food prices are out of sight now, along with just about everything else. When I first moved here, things were cheap—really cheap. Compare the $60 a month I paid for an apartment in the same building I’m living now, to the $1000+ I’m paying now for a very similar one—it’s just a little bigger, but no better. In fact, it’s old, rundown, has lousy plumbing that needs ongoing repairs, windows whose rotten wooden frames swell so you can’t open or close them, and…well, I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say, it’s not a nice apartment, even though it’s close to the beach.

So I made a decision: I would move back to the USA. Even though I’m a New Yorker at heart, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand those long, freezing winters, so I picked Florida as a good spot. St. Petersburg, to be exact, because it has reasonably priced rentals, seems like a pleasant place, has a warm climate, and I have a few friends there and some family not too far away. I felt fine with my decision—at first. I admit I was a little sad over leaving Rio, but I quickly got over it and moved on, or so I thought.

I started making plans, throwing stuff away (my goal was to reduce several years of stuff to squeeze into one large suitcase), and checking out St. Pete rental websites. This isn’t the first time I’ve scaled down to make an international move, but this time it seemed a bit overwhelming, so I decided to take my time.

Then one night a while later, as I was watching some Brazilian music videos on YouTube (one of them featured the trumpeter who played in my band and recorded on my CD), I burst into tears and couldn’t stop sobbing. I surprised myself, because I hadn’t realized how deeply I was feeling about this move.

After I calmed down to a sniffle, I decided to assess the situation. When you live in a foreign country for a long time, especially when you speak the language of that country most of the time and are deeply involved in its culture, it’s not so easy just to uproot yourself and go “home.” What is “home?” That’s the question I asked myself. And I realized that the answer had more to do with a state of mind than with a physical place. I knew that going back to the USA would be a culture shock—I had spent a year there in 2007 and had had a very difficult time. But then again, living here in Rio, there are things about the states that I miss, too. I knew I wasn’t a Brazilian, but I didn’t feel like an American either. I felt like a cultural schizophrenic.

I still feel that it’s probably right for me to go, but now I understand why I wanted to take my time. It’s not so much because of the sorting, selling, packing, and so on—it’s weaning myself away from a place I love and will always love. I figure the only solution is just to tuck it away in my heart and soul and take it with me.


Filed under expats, Rio de Janeiro

The expat quiz

I moved from the United States to Brazil around 15 years ago. What initially motivated me to do this was a movie I’d seen thirty years previously, if you can believe that! I knew nothing about Brazilian culture at that time, but when I saw the film “Black Orpheus” back in 1960, I immediately felt that it was “my” culture. How is this possible?

1) What makes a person leave their country of birth and live in another country?

2) People sometimes even leave family behind to start a new life in another country. Is it possible to love a place more than a person?

3) Lots of people like to travel and visit other places. What’s different about a person who never wants to go home?

4) How can a person not feel “at home” in the country where they were born?


Filed under expats