Arquivo da categoria: a blog with an accent

The melting pot I’m living in

There will be no underground blogging from Geneva because there is no subway (and because I don’t spend that much time in tunnels, although they exist in great numbers in Switzerland). But there will be mass transit blogging. This is the first experiment—on my first days using the tpg system (tpg is for “transports publics genevois”). The punctuality of which the Swiss boast is not at all as advertised, I must say, and especially not when it comes to early morning buses in the town of Troinex, where I live. Instead of getting annoyed with the delays, I’ll just blog.

During this first week in Geneva, I’ve been having many new experiences, as expected—learning my way around, meeting people, adjusting to the job. Yet, one aspect of this transition has struck me as the most surprising. It’s not completely new to me; just something I didn’t realize I’d encounter here. I’m talking about the melting pot of languages and accents I’m in.

On the train from Germany to Switzerland, I had a smooth transition from German to French. And when I say “smooth” I’m being somewhat ironic. The woman sitting in front of me on the train from Basel to Geneva had forgotten her discount card (uh oh!) and was trying to communicate with the ticketing officer, who was about to charge her the full fare. Her first language was Spanish and her German was not very good, so she was Italianizing her Spanish, hoping the officer would understand it. Italian is one of the official languages here, together with French and German. The officer, however, didn’t speak Italian; he replied in either French or German. I offered to translate from Spanish into French, but they managed to communicate without any translation. I’m glad. It would have been a lot of work!

French is the language spoken in Geneva and region, so that’s the default language in the street: from transportation to shopping to dining. My church shall also be francophone, I’ve decided; it will be a good opportunity to practice and to get in touch with some locals.

English is the language spoken at my office, with a variety of accents: British, Canadian, French, Indian, Italian… But on my first lunch break at the UNEP cafeteria, two young women sitting beside me were chatting in German. At some point one of them asked me, in French (the “default language,” like I said), whether I spoke German, just to find out if I would understand the confidences they were sharing. I said I did understand some German—and she said she was joking. Was she? We’ll never know. I wasn’t paying attention to what they were talking.

(By the way, UNEP stands for “United Nations Environment Programme”—yes, “programme” with a British spelling. Go figure. And ah, yes, there is some UNEP presence in Geneva, but the main office is in Nairobi, like I said.)

Finally, at home, Portuguese—my flat mate is from Portugal. We communicate pretty well, in spite of some “divided by the same language” moments, when he uses a word I had never heard of, or smiles at some Brazil-specific expression I inadvertently use now and then. Those are fun moments. Sometimes I catch myself using a word you would use in Portugal but never in Brazil. It will be funny if I end up with traits of a European Portuguese accent!

Goodbye, New York: A One-Week Saga

I’ve written the previous post on my subway rides here and there in New York City last week. Now that I’m far from that reality (geographically, at least), I can see the big picture of my saga—moving out of there and getting to Europe in less than a week. I invite you to read here the editor’s cut of that story, which, to me, is one of the finest examples of how blessed I have been my whole life. I’m writing this especially for the friends that were part of this saga in one way or the other (helping me out, praying for me…), and to the future me—my memory is already weak, and at some point I would start to forget the details if I didn’t write them down.

If I have to pick a date, I’d say that the complicated and painful process of saying goodbye to New York started on the weekend of September 18‒19. I spent the Saturday with my sister’s mother-in-law, who came from upstate New York to visit the Bronx Zoo and to see Roosevelt Island, where I lived for five months or so. Sunday was my Confirmation anniversary—I always remember the date, and this year it had an extra bit of significance, because it happened to be a Sunday, just like 11 years ago. I attended worship service at City Grace Church like I did almost every Sunday for more than a year, but it was certainly different than the average 2009‒2010 Sunday for me, and not only because of the anniversary. The pastors announced I was leaving to Geneva, told stories about my year being part of the community, and prayed for me. I got a special photo CD, a farewell/thank-you cake, and an unusually large (but by no means inappropriate) amount of hugs. Later in the evening, my two good friends Dana and Natasha hosted a farewell party, which many other friends attended. Each of them shared a short but endearing memory about me, and I gave a (wordy and uninspired) farewell speech.

Then I went home and sighed—why did I tell everyone that that was most likely my last Sunday in New York? Yes, my internship in Geneva was supposed to begin in two weeks, and that Sunday was indeed supposed to be my last Sunday in New York before I left to Geneva via Frankfurt. Still, I could not picture myself leaving. Although my sponsoring organization had applied for my visa and work permit long before, it still hadn’t received the final letter of approval from the Swiss government. I would need to take this letter to the Swiss Consulate General in New York, which would stamp the visa on my passport. It could take an extra month for the letter to come—or it might even not come at all. This blocked everything. Since I had no visa, I couldn’t make any plans. I didn’t want to buy plane tickets without knowing for sure when (or even whether) the visa would come through, and hence had no motivation to pack my belongings. What is worse for a control freak like me, there was absolutely nothing I could do to expedite the visa process, and it was difficult to follow up on it, even.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a couple of lessons about visas. I had already had problems with nerve-wreckingly lengthy visa application processes—in 2008, when I applied for a German visa, and in July 2010, when I was waiting for the extension of my American student visa. First lesson: freaking out doesn’t help at all. Although that’s quite obvious, it’s unfortunately not that easy to avoid freaking out. Second lesson: if anything helps, it’s following up on the application process with the sponsoring organization and, to the extent possible, with the foreign government to which you’re applying for a visa.

In addition, through both visa-related and non-visa-related experiences, I’ve learned many lessons about my God. An important one is: He never lets me down. Even in instances when I initially thought He did, for example when something I really wanted and prayed for never happened, sooner or later I ended up realizing that He didn’t actually let me down—He gave me something that I hadn’t even thought I could have and that was much better than what I originally desired and prayed for. In a way, I think I can accurately say He spoils me.

Like any control freak, I need to have a plan, but I tried to be a better person by applying those three lessons and making them the core of my plan, like this:

  1. I shall not freak out about this visa application.
  2. I shall insistently follow up with my sponsoring organization.
  3. In order to accomplish (1) and to the extent that I will do (2), I shall trust this visa matter to God.

(3) + (2) = Augustine: “Pray as though everything depended on God. (= 3) Work as though everything depended on you. (= 2)”

Please don’t think I’m a hero. I’m still pretty new at this, and I have to struggle against my control-freakiness to be able to think like that. It’s not a superpower I was born with.

In line with my plan, I went to the Swiss Consulate General in New York on Monday, September 20. The idea was to ask how I could follow up with the Swiss government on my visa application process, why it was taking so long for my sponsoring organization to get the final letter from Bern, what my options were if I didn’t get the letter before my American visa expired (which would happen soon, in October). I won’t dwell on the details of how poorly I was treated initially, so I’ll just say that, at some point during the intricate dialogue with the consular officer, she said, “your name is in our system, and we’re authorized to issue you a visa.” That surprised me. It made absolutely no sense—wasn’t I supposed to bring the letter that my sponsoring organization would eventually receive from Bern? It was an unexpected miracle that my name was in their system. I went to the consulate again on Tuesday to drop off my passport and once again on Wednesday to pick it up—with a Swiss visa stamped on it!

The news that I would get my visa on Wednesday prompted intensive preparations for immediate departure. Tuesday I found a reasonably priced one-way ticket from New York to Frankfurt for Saturday. After I finished a translation work that was due Wednesday afternoon, I started packing, a task that I would only finish by Friday afternoon. After selling, donating, shipping, or throwing away many of my belongings, I managed to fill up two suitcases to check in. Each weighed the maximum the airline would accept to carry, even paying excess luggage (which I unavoidably would have to do). My carry-on bag had twice the allowed weight. Then I looked around… and there was still a lot of stuff to go! I decided simply to throw everything into the two large suitcases and hoped that the airline wouldn’t be too strict.

In the midst of all the packing craziness, I still had a chance to say private goodbyes to many friends, including some who I hadn’t seen at the farewell party. Tuesday, I had proper Italian lunch with Maurizia from NYU, late dessert (and what a wonderful dessert) with chef Christine from City Grace, and a memorably fancy dinner with Leslie and Stephanie from City Grace. Wednesday, I had dinner and ice cream and a wonderful chat as usual with Kyle from City Grace. Thursday, Isabela from NYU offered me Bahia-style food and hospitality, and later I met Leslie and Stephanie again at a fundraiser Leslie helped to organize. Friday afternoon, Natasha came to visit me from New Jersey, giving me a huge incentive to finish packing (including coffee, which I really needed at that point). Friday night, my last night in New York, I attended Kyle, Lee, and Ryan’s loft-warming party, where I got to see once again most of the good friends I just mentioned, as well as so many others (who I won’t name here because it would be a long list). It was the perfect way to end a wonderful year in New York.

At all times, but especially when things didn’t seem to go well in my preparations, it was evident that I remained under the care of God.

  • I had never had problems getting to Roosevelt Island with the F train—except, of course, on my second to last day in New York, when I wasted a couple of hours because of unexpected delays, accidents, and service changes. But even MTA couldn’t stop me: in spite of the waste of time, I was still able to get ready to go in time.
  • Saturday, the cab I took from Roosevelt Island to the stop of the Midtown-Newark shuttle bus couldn’t get quite there, because of temporary traffic changes in Midtown. Fortunately, God sent me one of His angels, my friend Naoki, who helped me to carry my luggage to the bus stop.
  • When I got to Newark airport, I was shocked when the shuttle bus stopped and dropped me off at arrivals, not departures. So frustrating! I had to move one step forward with one of the suitcases, then go back to get the other two suitcases and catch up with the first one—and so on and so forth. There was no humanly possible way I could carry all of them at once, and there were no carts nearby. Out of the blue, an airport staff member approached me and brought me a luggage cart!
  • Then I went to the airline counter to check in. Both my large suitcases went through—miraculously, even, since I knew both of them weighed more than the maximum allowance. Plus, not only they didn’t ask to weigh my carry-on bag, but they offered to check it in free of additional charges. Unbelievable! Finally, they offered me an aisle seat (my favorite) at the emergency exit row (the space for my legs was so huge I could waltz there). And I didn’t even have to ask.

Everything seemed to be prepared for me. Only God could have done it that way. He took care of details I didn’t even think of.

When I landed in Frankfurt, Germany, my parents were already waiting for me at the gate. I told them this whole saga as we drove to Limburg, just in time to attend worship service at the evangelical church to which my sister and brother-in-law belong. As I calmed down, I finally realized I had arrived. On the previous Sunday, my Confirmation anniversary, I was in New York, saying goodbye to my home community and to my friends, but I had no idea I’d get the visa and leave so quickly. Only one week later, I was in Europe, with my parents. My sister and my brother-in-law, who I was so excited to see again after one year, would arrive soon with my niece and my nephew, who I was so excited to see for the very first time! I felt accomplished, although exhausted from the trip. I had had no sleep on the plane. Plus, I had to reconcile the excitement of encounters and reencounters with the sadness of abandoning a reality that I truly loved—I was no longer living in New York, that church was not City Grace Church, and none of my friends were there.

I only have beginner’s German (not being modest here), definitely not enough to understand an entire sermon in German. I pick up some words here and there, infer some from the context, and that allows me to get to an understanding of 65% of what’s being said. And I have no idea how I’m coming up with those 65%, because it’s probably much less than that. Still, for some divine reason, I understood very clearly when the pastor said the Bible verse of the week was 1 John 5.4:

“…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (New International Version)

I was paralyzed. I immediately interpreted the verse in light of the recent events in my life—overcoming earthly challenges through faith and trust in God. But that’s just the tip of an iceberg of meaning. Tears instantly started to jump out of my eyes when I heard it. I only managed to turn to my dad, who was right beside me—”Dad, do you remember? That’s my Confirmation Bible verse!”

I had already dropped some tears in three occasions in the process of leaving New York, and I had already failed in my determination to weep only when I got on the plane to Europe. First time: when I went back to Roosevelt Island after the loft-warming party. Second time: as I entered the Holland Tunnel on my way to Newark. Third time: during the flight, especially when I read the farewell cards Naoki and Stephanie wrote me (well, Naoki intentionally drafted his as a “weeping aid,” in case I had forgotten an onion to chop, as he put it, and Stephanie said hers was very “emotional and crap,” in her own words, so no surprise they made me weep). But those times were different. I had control over the situation, and I didn’t let anyone see I was weeping. This time, in Limburg, I simply couldn’t stop. I guess I only did when I remembered I would meet my two-month-old niece and nephew afterwards, and when I realized that they would have behaved better during worship service than their 25-year-old uncle.

In all seriousness, I don’t know why exactly I was crying—maybe because I was so relieved that I had arrived safely here after my saga, or because I was sad to leave New York, or because I was happy to be in Europe and to see my family again, or because of a mix of all those reasons. You can always rationalize and think that I was exhausted and particularly sensitive and whatever, but another possibility is that I was moved by the Spirit. It’s hard to explain or describe. It was just very intense.

I never thought I’d post something this personal on this blog. On the other hand, I don’t think I had ever been this grateful to God! My gratitude explains my boldness. I simply needed to share this. Sorry it took me almost 2,500 words! 🙂

I’m leaving today

This is most likely the last underground blog post I’m writing this year. Start spreading the news: I’m leaving today. Unlike a year ago, however, this time I’m not going to New York—I’m leaving it behind. And please don’t ask, “for how long?” I’d find it much easier to reply if you asked me to define happiness. There’s no possible way I could know when and even whether I’ll come back. Although I’d love to (at least to visit!), it’s not entirely in my hands—and what is, anyway? (Thank God it is so.)

The last few weeks have been increasingly intense for me. I could make an impressively long list of accomplishments, but I’ll just list some meaningful moments. I’ve taken many photos and delightful long walks in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. I’ve rehearsed a choir with an accent (lovely people and lovely accent, I must say). I’ve resolved bureaucratic and practical entanglements in record time—well, some of the entanglements were miraculously resolved, and I should claim no credit for that.

Also, I’ve been extremely sensitive and on a seesaw of emotions these days. At times, I’m on the verge of bursting into tears because of experiences that otherwise would be more on the trivial side. But there are also moments of the most pure joy: when I’m with people I love and won’t be seeing so often, when I think about this chance of visiting family in Germany and getting to know my newly born niece and nephew, or when I’m reminded that this fall, just like last year’s fall, will lead me to an exciting (albeit potentially short) new life adventure—this time in Geneva, Switzerland.

Now, a few curious facts about Geneva, Switzerland, and me (please note that this time I mean the three of us: the city, the country, and the Christian).

A Brazilian friend of mine, before he knew I was going to Geneva, wrote me jokingly that he would visit me whenever I moved to Geneva to work at the U.N. Environment Programme. He didn’t know UNEP was actually in Nairobi, but it was funny that he mentioned Geneva (and I hope he visits me there anyway!).

On the first day of my visit to Philadelphia, I walked along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is lined with flags of countries from around the world. It caught my attention that the Brazilian and the Swiss flags were exactly across the street from each other.

Remember Celina from the other post? I talked with her again in the elevator the other day. She saw I had a book with me, and asked me if she could see what I was reading. As I showed her the cover of my book, I noticed her old-timey watch, with the inscription “Genève” on the display.

The final coincidence is the most interesting (and the least silly). I was part of a Lutheran church community in Brazil, but I ended up finding my new home church in a Calvinist community in New York. From here, I go to Geneva, where John Calvin promoted the Reformation in the 16th century. By the way, Calvin also studied Law and was about my age when he moved to Geneva! Maybe being there will inspire me again to do the theological readings suggested by Pastor Ben from City Grace Church—readings that never quite worked out for me because of the craziness of my year here.

Even crazier is that the craziness of my year in New York is over! For sure, life in Geneva won’t be as faced-paced as in the City. The challenges will be of other kinds. New address, new culture, new job, new church, new people, new language, new accent… New York, goodbye [for now].

From the depths of the City

I’ve recently read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1985), by German writer Patrick Süskind. It’s the first book I’ve read since I finished my studies (finished for the time being, that is) about a month ago. Up until then, the bulk of my reading this year consisted of legal papers and casebooks. I love legal reading and research—which is a great thing, considering I’ll be doing that for the rest of my professional life!—but it can get quite overwhelming. Every once in a while, it’s comforting to remember that nonlegal literature is out there, waiting to be devoured. Plus, reading Perfume, and doing so mostly on the subway, was an interesting experience, for at least three reasons.

First, as its title hints, the book develops around olfactive impressions, as opposed to acoustic, visual, tactile, and gustative perceptions—all of which seem to receive more attention, both in literature and in real life. Reading it while on New York subway cars, immersed in their most unusually rich variety of summertime odors (good as well as bad—ok, mostly bad), made me more aware of my underexplored olfactory sensibilities and gave the reading experience a realistic touch—or smell, to put it in more sensorially proper terms. (The book is good and highly recommended, and I don’t want to give away too much about it! I’m now anxious to see the 2006 movie based on the novel.)

Second, my subway reading provoked curious looks. The book’s old-style cover from the 1990s was probably responsible for drawing some of the attention. I noticed that some people couldn’t avoid persistently giving furtive looks at my book. If on the one hand I was slightly uncomfortable being aware that people were looking over my shoulder, on the other hand I felt comforted to realize that I’m not the only one who tries to find out what the stranger sitting beside me is reading. The fact that I was reading a Brazilian Portuguese edition indubitably contributed to draw some more attention: one young woman even asked me what language that was. “Ah, I figured it was Portuguese! Looked like Spanish, but not quite.”

Finally, the habit of maintaining a routine activity during my subway rides has inspired in me a new mania I’ve been enjoying more and more. Just like reading is a valuable use of subway time, for me and probably millions of fellow subway users, I figured the same could be true of writing. So here am I, posting from the depths of New York City. The previous post is partly and this one is entirely a product of my underground blogging. It’s been a good exercise as a two-fold challenge: using my time productively and efficiently, and developing my ability to focus and think and write in unfavorable environments.

Celina got me thinking

Yesterday I crossed the Roosevelt Island Bridge to Queens, then the Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn, and kept walking all the way to Prospect Park. Throughout this long and enjoyable walk, I saw new places and new faces—the views to Manhattan from Long Island City, the people wearing orthodox Jewish clothes in Williamsburg, the beautiful homes in Prospect Heights. When I was done with walking for the day, I took the subway back home to Roosevelt Island. To my own surprise, after walking 10 miles in novelty land, it was right at the entrance of my building that I found a genuine source of inspiration to write this post: I finally met Celina.*

Celina was there, at the building entrance, waiting for someone to open the front door for her, to hold the elevator and press the button for the 12th floor, and to ring the bell at 1205 so that her nurse would let her back in. To move around, Celina depends on a machine—an electric wheelchair. Not only that: to breathe, she depends on another machine—a medical ventilator.

Roosevelt Island must be home to hundreds of people with physical disabilities (because of the large hospital and nursing facility on the island). There’s the man whose legs were amputated, who is often on a wheeled hospital bed just outside the subway station. There’s always at least a half a dozen people in wheelchairs at any time you walk along the riverwalk. And there’s Celina.

This was not the first time I saw her around. In fact, I see her often. She lives on the same floor, two doors away from my place. Having lived here for three months, I had of course seen her around, and—I must admit—every time I did, I felt helplessly sorry for her and even afraid of any contact with her. What could I even say to someone whose suffering seems to be so evident? This was the first time she and I talked, introduced each other, and helped each other out.

“You mean you helped her out,” you might be thinking, but I really don’t think so. Help clearly went both ways in that situation. The encounter with Celina got me thinking… Two final points in this post.

First, one point about rehabilitation. A few weeks ago, I had a stupid (there’s no better word to define it) accident at home: I accidentally skipped the last step going down the stairs and twisted my right foot. It did not look good for quite a while. Although it’s still a bit sensitive, as soon as most of the swelling was gone and I felt confident enough to go for a walk, I starting walking all over the place. In one week, I walked at least 20 miles in the City (and the week is not yet over, and there shall be more walking). It probably wouldn’t be fair to say it was like being able to walk after spending years in a wheelchair—but it felt so good! Perhaps I could say it felt like reaching the end of a dark, freezing winter, and being able to enjoy sunshine again. I hope I don’t come off as cruel (or, even worse, sadistic) when I say this: the encounter with Celina further reminded me never to take my health for granted.

Finally, one point about living with a disability. Despite her dependence on machines (and other people’s goodwill), I must say Celina seemed to be doing great. Again, please don’t be shocked with the assessment I just made—I’m not being inhuman. Yes, she has overwhelming disabilities, but she somehow manages to keep her spirits high, which to me shows an enormous strength. If I know anyone who could be said to be in her right to be cranky, it would be Celina. Yet, she didn’t say a single word of complaint, and her tone was joyful and friendly the whole time we talked. We’re never immune to serious medical conditions or accidents (unlike the stupid one I had), and end up in a wheelchair for a long time, or even for the rest of our lives. Still, whether we let ourselves be imprisoned in a dark and freezing winter—like a great many things in life—is a matter of choice. Sure, we can choose to be cranky and whiny, and tell everyone we hate our lives. Celina is a fine example that much better options are available.

*True story, fake name.

You’re not Brazilian, are you?

Living in a foreign land is an exercise in (re)defining identities—your own and, to a given extent, that of your home country. It’s not just a matter of helping to deconstruct established national stereotypes; you also have to make an effort to convince people that, even when an aspect of a national stereotype is accurate or at least somewhat justifiable, you might just be one of those oddballs who don’t conform to the expected pattern.

Every time I meet someone for the first time, I learn about a new misconception about Brazil, or an additional trait of mine that doesn’t conform to the stereotype, or both. Yes, there are blond, white Brazilians. No, I don’t samba and I’m not that much of a soccer fan. Yes, I do speak Spanish, but the official language in Brazil is Portuguese. No, I didn’t live in a tree house. [Sigh.] These are some answers that I had to give (or that I didn’t really have to give, but that I thought it would be funny if you thought I did) in conversations with Americans here in the U.S., but I’m sure it could happen anywhere, with anyone. Except in Brazil or with Brazilians. Or so I thought.

One of these days I went to a Brazilian grocery store in Queens to buy some Brazilian products—chiefly, guaraná (a type of soda) and pão de queijo (an appetizer or snack). Sure, the Brazilian grocery store in Queens is formally part of U.S. territory. That said, you can sort of think of it as a small part of Brazil. You find Brazilian food there. You meet Brazilians who go shopping there. You can speak Portuguese with the store clerk. You need a visa to go there if you’re American—not really; I got carried away. Plus, the guy behind the counter was Brazilian: I heard him speak perfect Brazilian Portuguese with one customer, and later he spoke English with another customer—perfect English, but with an obvious Brazilian accent.

After getting everything I wanted to buy, and as I was putting all the items on the counter to check out, I asked the guy (in Portuguese, of course) if they no longer sold a certain brand of guaraná that I particularly like but couldn’t find in the store. In Portuguese, he reluctantly said, “no,” and later asked me, “you’re not Brazilian, are you?”

Now that was a bit startling! I had just spoken Portuguese with him. Why would he ask me that? I replied, in Portuguese, “sure, I’m Brazilian; I’m gaúcho.” (Gaúcho: a person born in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state or, quite simply, the best state in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro? Bahia? São Paulo? Nah. Just another common misconception I’m helping to deconstruct here. Ok, I admit it: we gaúchos might be just a bit parochial. But that’s only because we really are the best there is in Brazil. And we never lie.)

The guy finished adding up the prices and told me how much it was. “Thirty-one, twenty cents [or however much it actually was].” In English! Then I was completely startled. I had spoken Portuguese with him and told him I was Brazilian after he had put it into question. Oh, come on—drop the English, dude! It got even worse, though, when he didn’t help me to bag the groceries. That’s not how it works—neither in Brazil nor around here—and I started to feel awkward and unwelcome. At that point, I just wanted to leave as soon as I could show my passport to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer standing at the sidewalk just outside the store—sorry, I got carried away again.

On my way back home, I kept thinking—why would he act as if he didn’t believe I was Brazilian? Granted, there’s always the possibility that he was simply a weird person, but I had the impression he might have thought that I was an American trying to pass as a Brazilian, just because I don’t look stereotypically Brazilian (whatever that means). If he was really Brazilian, as I assumed he was, he should know better. I shouldn’t need to explain to him that there are blond, white Brazilians. Well, there are at least a few of us. And most of the few of us don’t live in tree houses anymore.

Not that I really care that the guy behind the counter in the Brazilian grocery store in Queens might think I’m not Brazilian. I have stockpiled guaraná and pão de queijo for the rest of my time here in New York. That conclusively proves that I am.

How to feed the world?

My friend Justin posted on his blog (it’s here and it’s good, but you have to be a VIP to read it) a link to a video he successfully guilted me into watching. Well, truth be told, he simply “highly encouraged” his readers to watch it and kindly reminded everyone that, although he wouldn’t be able to find out who watched it and who didn’t, Jesus would know. And in the end he said “please.” That pretty much did the job for me. How could I not watch it and not link it here? I thought I was no longer vulnerable to that kind of emotional blackmail, but—surprise—I am.

It’s a down-to-earth while thought-provoking video on unequal food distribution around the world. Just like me, you might feel uncomfortable remembering (or realizing) that not everyone out there has access to a nourishing meal—but it’s a bit comforting to remember (or to realize) that you can actually do something about it, by using your money wisely and thereby incentivizing changes for the better.

But I’ll say no more about the video. I don’t mean to guilt you into watching it. I’ll just say that, if I were you, I’d watch it. 😉 How to feed the world?

(Incidentally, it fits very neatly in a blog with an accent—the narrator in the video, too, has an accent: a British one.)

New Yorker for a year

New blog, first post. First-time things tend to be difficult. There’s no precedent to follow, and you inevitably have to give some context. How deep do you have to go in your account of the context? And how far back? Between Genesis 1:1 and the most recent past, there’s a continuum of reference points available for contextualization purposes. For wordy and indecisive people—like me—the need for contextualization makes first-time things even more difficult. But I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible.

You might find that this first post has a bit of a deceiving title once you find out what the blog is (not) supposed to be about. And you may well be right, but I wanted this title for a reason. I’ll get there, starting with two basic contextualizing points:

  1. The post title is not an announcement that I’ll spend the next year in New York (in fact, I’m sure that I won’t); rather, it’s an assertion that today I have completed one year living in New York.
  2. The post title is not an indication that the post itself or future posts in this blog will be about my New York experiences over the past year. They won’t, for at least two reasons: (1) there already are comprehensive reports on those experiences in plain Brazilian Portuguese, and (2) I’m saving the effort of retelling personal stories for my memoirs (which I’ll probably never write, anyway).

Writing is one of my greatest passions, and during the past year in New York I often felt an urge to practice written English in a more informal setting and to make my writing subject to public scrutiny. (Feel free to criticize, by the way—it will make the experience way more useful and fun for me and everyone else.) I couldn’t use my then-only blog to satisfy that urge. Blog do Guri has always been a Portuguese-only space, and it should so remain, mostly because of its audience, but also because of my own need to have a Portuguese-only space.

Only recently I’ve realized I needed to create a parallel English-only space, and I’ve decided to use my first anniversary as a New Yorker as the launch date for my new blog. It’s a significant date for me. I mentioned earlier that this wouldn’t be about my first year as a New Yorker, but let me just point out that the status of a “New Yorker for a year” is not something you win by chance, like a lottery. Standing under these big, inspiring lights for an entire year is a privilege you’ve gotta earn. I’m not sure I can say I’ve made it here—and hence will make it anywhere!—but I sure can say I’ve earned it. I’ve become “just another New Yorker with an accent.”

Today, as I commemorate this status I’ve held for 4% of my life (!), I’m setting aside my reluctance to have a blog in a foreign language that I had always thought I’d never feel free to play with. And with the authority of just another New Yorker with an accent, I’m starting a blog with an accent. I don’t mean a blóg. You know what I mean.