Shake It Out I

I didn't update the blog as of my last visit to South America, exactly this time last year. On that occasion, it marked my first trip back in over three years. In 2012, Brazil was arguably still enjoying its commodity-inflated bubble, and yours truly still a Ph.D. student, living the student lifestyle, with numerous expectations, but less settled, less found of the structured routine I came to enjoy over the last years after settling down in Munich. My grandmother, while weakened following her stroke in 2010, would still greet me and ask on the progress of my studies. Both my parents' business were blossoming, and boarding an overcrowded bus downtown was an experience I could, if not enjoy, at least laugh about. All in all, nothing far from the status quo I remembered when I first packed and left, in 2008.

Contrastingly, the situation last year had a different flavouring. If in the years prior, friends and relatives would ask when would I come back ("we need people like you here"), this time, the tone was borderline sombre ("I'm happy at least you managed to get out"). The burst bubble of expectations following the hosting of the 2014 soccer world cup, the downfall of commodity prices coupled with the sudden devaluation of the national currency and rising unemployment were all cause for desolate perspectives permeating virtually every conversation back then. Experiencing first hand a particularly graphical example of all that seemed wrong about the country just as I was checking in for my return flight, I remember feeling a sudden jolt of relief when the doors closed on the plane which was to take me across the pond - cue escaping war on the last civilian machine out of the conflict zone.

(Obviously, the situation was not, and is not, in such dire state. An alarmingly increase in crime rates, while by no means to be taken lightly, still doesn't translate into an open civil war. Strolling around our neighbourhood on a sunny Sunday morning, I even remarked that, minus the desolate sidewalk pavement, one could be excused for mistaking the surroundings for an European suburb).

This time around, the impressions were different. If a year ago I was still awed, shocked by the downfall, today - perhaps due to the context surrounding my journey - the conditions only seemed to leave somewhat of a bitter aftertaste. Often I would be somehow all too aware of a certain trait of the local lifestyle, manifested through a disdain for the system - or which perhaps defines the system itself. Moral relatives are exceedingly commonplace; all justifying their actions by acknowledging that much worse undertakings take place on the spheres above, or, in a Machiavellian tone, that such actions are in the end necessary to achieve whatever good purpose lies at the end. Others, if not acting upon similar guidelines, seemed reluctantly accepting of having to go through the motions, reinforcing my view that much revolves not upon concrete ideas, actions and results, but rather on the external appearances, with the representation, the outside shells, more important than the actual content.
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And yet: not only by developing a growing appreciation for certain nuances of my parent's characters, in particular over the course of the many evenings as we extensively talked about family, relationships, past, present, and future plans, but also through lively gatherings, dinner and lunch meetings with friends and former colleagues, this week served to once again remind me that there is still so much more in heaven and that tropical part of the earth than often dreams my vain philosophy.

As my flight pulled from the gate, I did not feel like I had just managed to escape a collapsing pandemonium. Being ever more certain that staying in, or returning to, Brazil would not be a decision I could come to terms with, I can still recognise it's a part of me and will forever explain a little of how I came to be who I am.

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