Sunday, March 11, 2012

Working it out

I got pretty irritated this week.  My husband said that I should just let it go.  And I've tried, and I have become less annoyed.  But I'm hoping that writing about it will be some additional therapy.  So bear with me as I try to work this out.

In my last post, I wrote about how good our experience has been in Brazil.  It's not been without difficulty or frustration, but we've been able to figure how to "do life" and make a place for ourselves in a foreign country.  I try to use this blog as a place to focus on the positive, and remind myself that we are actually doing what I'd dreamed about doing.  And in my opinion, we've done a pretty good job at it.  We have friends.  We can usually communicate what we need in Portuguese.  We can get around, pay our bills, make phone calls, resolve problems, and plan parties. 

And what irritated me was that I had a conversation with someone who made me question my ability to do these things.  And the funny thing is that this person had been an expat as well.  I met this person about 6 months ago, and I should have seen the warning signs back then.  They were obsessively asking me questions about my neighborhood, schools, teachers, and philosophy on teaching music.  Don't get my wrong; this person has a great heart, seems like a great parent, and is trying to figure out what the best options are for their family.  Our paths crossed again, and we found out that we had a similar problem that needed resolving.  He offered to help me, but unfortunately, the info he had didn't help me.  I finally got things figured out, so I contacted him and shared with him the good news and suggested that perhaps this might be a good option for him.  And then, he started with the obsessive questions again.  And of course, there were some questions I couldn't answer.  He was really surprised that I would consider my solution to be a valid if I hadn't answered all these questions.  I could start to feel myself getting angry and defensive.  What I had done was use my resources to the best of my ability to find a solution that seemed the wisest based on my situation.  I had tried to use the information that he had given me to solve things, but websites didn't work, people didn't answer phones and my phone Portuguese is still pretty remedial.  But I had to figure something out.  And I did.  But they way that this person asked questions made me feel like I was dumb and that I had made an irrational decision.  And coming from another person with experience living abroad, it stung. 

The truth of the matter is that I still don't know how many important things "work" in Brazil.  I was not born and raised here, and I am still limited in being able to communicate.  And sometimes I don't do things right.  I don't pay at the right counter.  I don't get the school supplies in time.  I don't understand that Beatrice has not been held back at school (oops, that was a big boo-boo that we made).  I don't understand that I should save every receipt.  I don't know that you are supposed to open the door for a guest when they leave so that they will come back.  I don't know that you aren't supposed to give children cold water to drink.  And I don't know about laws, regulations, and procedures.  I know that Brazil has many systems in place to protect people, and for the most part they work.  Things happen.  People are protected.  The way this happens is foreign to me and mind bogglingly complex.  So, it is tempting at times to feel like Brazil is in chaos.  As an outsider, it just looks messy.  I did not break any laws with my solution, and I did not put anyone at risk.  But this person that I spoke to made me feel like I had taken an uncalculated risk, I should know better.  And I started to question myself, my decisions, and I started worrying.

In my opinion, worrying is not helpful but in fact self-destructive.  The reality is that life is dangerous and full of risks.  We get sick.  We get hurt.  We love people, and they don't love us back.  We try to do things to protect ourselves (and we should), but you can't manage and control everything.  As an expat parent, there are SO MANY more things you can worry about.  I could make a HUGE list of things that I've worried about.  But there has to be a point where you extend some trust, when you let it go.  It's a challenge.  But I have calculated the risks, and I ultimately think that we are coming out ahead. 

I probably shouldn't have let this get to me.  And my husband says that what I wrote isn't clear because I didn't give all the details for the situation.  But, it has helped to write it out.  And I'm going to move on:  we're driving to Sabará today with some friends to use a Peixe Urbano (like Groupon in the states) coupon at a "resort!" 


  1. Although you haven't shared any details, your account of the events seems pretty reasonable. Yes, being an expat is hard, being an expat parent, doubly so. You did your research and made your decision. If you are happy with it, that's all that matters. If you're not, or have new information that changes things, you can change your mind. What does any of it matter to this other person? He might make a different decision anyway, one that's better for him. Someone needs to let it go, but I'm not sure it's you.

  2. all you can do is your best with what you have. There will ALWAYS be people who question and have a "better" way. Please don't let it get to you.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I talked to another Brazilian friend today who lived in the States for 6 years. She gave me another perspective. This person has lived overseas for a LONG time, and things have changed a lot in Brazil. Back when this person was living in Brazil, it would have been more likely to encounter theft, corruption and lying. Things were more dangerous than they are now, and so Brazilians were much more suspicious. It's possible that he is still operating under this assumption, and living in fear. My friend today said that if I feel okay with my decision, then I shouldn't let anyone elses fear get me down. So I'm feeling better.

  4. YOU do your best and your best is your best...that is simple. It may not be someone else's best but how unkind and hurtful that someone else would share that your best was not, in their opinion!, the bestest!!!! Skip "the friend" and go with your gut feeling...matter of fact, it might be best to SKIP THE FIEND from now on.

  5. I like the thoughts from your friend who suggests that things have changed (a lot - and for the better) over the past ten years in Brazil. Luiz lived in the States for 24 years. When we returned to live here it drove me CRAZY how he was stuck on 24 year old assumptions about life in Brazil. He is slowly getting current -- but I have had to drag him into the present. Time after time his assumptions are proved antiquated. It is taking him some time to get used to present day living in Brazil.

    Hang in there. Trust yourself.

  6. I can just imagine what you are going through. Congratulations for having the courage to navigate through a country that is really different from the US with kids. You seem pretty strong to me with handling all the challenges that go along with it.

  7. Shelley, it seems that you do the best you can for you and your family and you're doing a very fantastic job! I don't know all of the details but what I can tell you is that first of all, try to either cut off all communications or limit ties with this person. It sounds like a toxic person and we've all had situations in life where people (either intentionally or unintentionally) are very toxic and bring us down.
    I get a lot of flack for wanting to move to Brazil from people very close to me (i.e. family). My parents lived in Brazil in another decade (the 70s) during military dictatorship and they are stuck on assumptions that are more than 35 years old. I have somewhat kept my plans a secret until the right moment but they know and I get a lot of passive aggressive criticism.
    Do what you think is right in your heart. Keep doing what you're doing and everything will be OK. You tried to help someone out and it didn't work. As much as that person's words sting, brush it aside and keep on keepin' on or whatever that expression is :-) Like I told you and your husband, you guys are doing a fantastic job with your kids, etc. I am scared out of my mind as to what awaits me in the next couple of years!!! You're certainly an inspiration and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
    P.S. Like I told you before, I noticed that Brazil has changed positively in the last 3 years. I am happy about this :-)

  8. Shelley, screw him! If anyone is going to push you down they are not worth your time. You made the effort to call and give him potentially useful information and he turned it around on you and made you upset. I'm sorry but that is not ok.

    You are doing a great job! His negativity has nothing to do with you but with how he is feeling inadequate. :)

  9. Thanks again for the comments! I had a difficult couple of weeks (for reasons unrelated to this post), but it's helpful to come here and feel the love. You guys are great!

  10. Hooray for bloggy therapy! :-)