A few days before I left for Mexico I spent an evening at home, de-stressing in front of the television after a challenging week. The show detailed the difficulty an American faced when the Mexican police arrested her husband. After two days her husband’s bodyguard finally determined where he was being held, and the wife went to the police station to find him. There she had to take numbers and wait in lines all day, to be told alternately that the computers weren’t working or that she was on the wrong floor. This was not what I needed to see right before I left to work in Guadalajara.
Three days ago I suffered a minor misadventure that brought to the forefront the following thought-provoking and previously rhetorical question: If you had to be stuck in an elevator with one person, who would you choose?
But of course you don’t get to choose. I got to share a few square feet with an Argentine mom while suspended somewhere around the 6th floor in a building last updated during the Nixon administration.
In a country larger than the continental United States, and in many ways almost as diverse, there is one common thread that ties all true Brazilians together: The ability to “dar um jeito.”
“Dar um jeito” translates to something along the lines of “find a way” in the sense of finding a shortcut or just a way to get something done. The more Brazilian you are, the better you can “find a way,” and in Rio de Janeiro in particular the “jeito” is a way of life.
The most popular pastime of anyone with credentials of any sort is “pin trading.” Credentialed officials, athletes and their entourage arrive with bucketloads pins featuring their country's flag or organization's logo and trade them for other country’s pins. Even if you can’t hold a conversation, you can trade pins and be friends.
Every once in a while I wake up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. in the middle of a terrible nightmare that goes something like this: I’m in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s a Sunday. Argentina and Brazil are playing in the final America´s Cup in Venezuela so the city is more than a little on edge.
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