Yesterday (oops took me a few weeks to publish this since writing it!) I became the proud owner of a fresh stamp in my passport giving me another 3 months as a ‘tourist’ in this crazy town. That means I must have been here 3 months already!! Time really does fly when you’re having fun and adventures trying to make a new place where you know just one person and can’t speak the language, your home!
It’s been a roller coaster of a ride. Ever since I first arrived at the ashram my life has been sped up, on fast forward, with learnings coming thick and fast. Some feel like a gentle tap on the shoulder and a point in the right direction, some of them feel like the branch of a tree unexpectedly slapping me in the face and some feel like I’m standing on top of a train going full speed towards a tunnel…..arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
These are the hardest lessons for us to learn, because more often than not, they reveal something ugly about ourselves, that we didn’t want to see or have to deal with… and that’s why they’re the best lessons of all and why we look back and are thankful for the whole experience, because we grow and become better people as a result.
What a place to be learning in?! Sao Paulo, Brazil, South America!!! Where the people have samba in their souls, passion running through their veins, fun in their hearts and a smile on their faces. (Yes, that is a sweeping generalisation, not everybody smiles, not everybody likes samba, but I can only draw distinctions that define this culture differently to that of England, India and Thailand for example.)
This too is a land of extremes… only in India before have I seen such disparity between the rich and the poor. Yes Britain is a richer country and whilst we still have our own poverty problems, we certainly don’t have richness to this degree or standard of living. There isn’t such a gap between being comfortable and poor and even between comfortable and rich. In England you would have to be seriously rich to have a live in maid, more than one house or a driver. Yet here that is the middle middle class and up, let’s not even go there with the upper class……!
I don’t know what the official poverty line here is, but with an average working class porter, bus driver, shop assistant etc earning about 800 reias (c. £285) to support his entire family on… I would imagine a huge percentage of Brazil’s population to be scraping through life. This mentality permeates the entire country in the mentality of Brazilians and ‘The Brazilian Way’ of doing something. This scratching out of a living as people, as a nation and as a continent manifests itself in the way you are always looking for an opportunity and the loopholes to problem solve the impossible and find a way of making something possible.
There’s a lot to learn in this attitude, for one, whilst Brazilians like to do something in the easiest way possible, they are not lazy, they just like to take the time to enjoy themselves whilst they’re doing it, otherwise, what’s the point, they don’t see the point in over complicating something! The other is to make the most of what you’ve got and to always believe that you can do more and be more. In fact come of their most used verbs are Jogar – to play and Poder – to can/may.
An illustration of this might be the Brazilian buffet… here there are basically 3 ways to eat out.
1) Al la carte, you choose something of a standard menu individually and pay for it
2) By Kilo, choose your items from the selection on the buffet and pay per kilo
3) The Buffet, load your plate up as many times as you want, with as much as you want and pay one price….
This is no bad ingredients, poor quality, badly cooked, greasy, MSG laden, all you can eat for £5 China town affair; this is like a breakfast buffet at a really fancy hotel… everywhere! And, whilst the national might be associated with rice and beans, they’re as much into their meat as the traditional meat and two veg Brit and quite surprisingly there are scores of vegetarian and vegan buffets where the food far exceeds even the quality of the nicest vegetarian restaurants in London.
A Brazilian approach to the buffet, is to go with a very empty stomach, try a little bit of everything on the first round, have another plateful of your favourites on the second round, choose one or two favourites on the third round and then finish it up by doing the same with the desserts. Money isn’t so easy to come by in Brazil, however you’ve got it, you’ve been a bit creative in acquiring it so you’re equally creative in spending it and you want to get your money’s worth!
Apply this attitude to life. It’s not so easy to come by what we have but everything possible is on offer to us! Try everything! Keep going back for more! Have more of what makes us happy!
This might be a bit of a shock to the Brits, (I’m sorry it’s true we’re a nation who place individual worth on how much we’ve endured/suffered) but life doesn’t have to be difficult, hard or miserable. Change your attitude towards it and you change your experience of it. If life throws you a curve ball, you say, ok, not what I expected but I’m going to make the most of it and get on with it. I’m not going to use this to exact sympathy and (twisted) respect from people. I’m not going to define myself with this suffering.
It’s my tastes that doesn’t like this particular dish and straight after I finish it (because we do not waste food/experiences, oh no!) I can go back to the buffet of life and choose something else and try again. Once I’ve finished eating this dish I don’t like, I don’t keep going on about how horrible it is, my mouth forgets the taste and all I remember for the future is that I don’t like that particular flavour and next time I avoid it. I don’t keep eating it to make myself suffer or so I can complain about something. I eat something delicious so I can say how wonderful it is!
There’s always something new to try on the buffet of life and you always get to choose. If one day there’s nothing you particularly like you still fill your plate and you remain grateful for being given food to fill your stomach or experiences to fill your heart and help you understand your mind.