Bye-bye, Brazil

I know, the title of this story sounds truly bad with the ship sinking as it is, it looks like I’m gloating, happy to have escaped in time, but, people, I assure you it’s nothing of that sort.

Taken by surprise, I discovered that, whether I liked it or not, 12 months after having my passport stamped on my way-out, which will come to pass in exactly six days, voilà, if I didn’t come back I would lose the resident status in Brazil. I was even looking for a small apartment in Petropolis in order to keep a local point, preserve my national identity… When the law ran me over, I mean, I tripped in the law I have ignored so far due to my lack of experience, having never stayed away from “home” for more than a year at a time.

Yes, my friends, my mother advised me a long time ago to go live abroad. For Fred, a now-deceased friend who liked me for real (I miss you, dear), I could only be happy if I married a foreigner, it was the only way of satisfying my intellect, my high degree of cultural sophistication (I’m kidding, right, but also truthful, enough of false humility). Fred did not live to see me happy with the most idealized foreign husband… on the third attempt, ouch, I was just warned by a friend… Shoo, depression! “Focus on the good,” said she, who left Brazil shortly after I did and went through days of trouble until she could find the “joy of exile.” “We had the best of luck!”

Back to mommy, who was remarkably double-faced by the way, encouraging me to move out and at the same time proving that I could not leave. Actually, while she was alive, I felt somehow attached to the country, to a daughter’s loving obligations, you name it.

Then life suffered a course correction, as it always happens if we wait long enough, and I was free to go. Alan was longing for his children, while enjoying his easy life in a tropical paradise, among toucans, hummingbirds, frogs and monkeys (I’m talking about animals, okay, in case you have any doubt about “toucans” being the symbol of the opposite party, or “frog” the Portuguese equivalent to “crow,” or “monkey” meaning a suspicious business). It took me some time, but I convinced him that we should go; until that moment, as I have written so many times, aiming simply at my partner’s well-being, and why not say it, to share with somebody else the burden of approaching old age, his and mine.

But while our house was for sale, inexplicably, I had this growing feeling, a sort of undefined malaise that increased every day without an accurate diagnosis, something my grandmother, in her crippled Yiddish, would call a “nishguit” — “nothing good.” At that time (February 2013 more or less), I swear, nothing indicated that we would face this comprehensive downfall. As I never cherished the PT party, all I saw clearly on the horizon was the possibility of voting against it in the upcoming elections, since I had no appreciation for the president’s style. It seemed to be all there was in the conscious mind, but not in that mysterious instance I’m not even sure exists, usually called “intuition,” if you know what I mean.

While we waited to sell our house, elections were approaching; and the nishguit increasing. When we finally sold it, we were packed and ready to go in less than two months, catapulted out of our paradise — we did not know, but it would be lost anyway in a matter of days. On the eve of the second round (forgive me, dear friends, I did not vote, therefore collaborating with the status quo), we were cruising the skies toward the unknown, unknown to me, of course. Alan being an American not only made the decision easier, but also favored my future residence status, which is always a challenge for immigrants.

Now I must confess that not even in my dreams, I mean, in my darkest nightmares, I imagined that Brazil would come to the point where it is today. As described by so many inspired chroniclers of our everyday drama, our much-sacrificed generation has endured so many misfortunes it should now be immune, but Brazil does not let go easily. We passed unharmed through the dungeons of the dictatorship, the currency bankruptcies, the Gardens of Babylon (another sad memory of corruption, back in 1992). There was no obstacle to defeat us in our “heroic” trajectory as the “vanguard” of Brazilian entrepreneurship.

Things were different then. Today I feel old, worn-out, dispirited… more desperate at every collapse imposed upon us by this country called Brazil. Even from afar, I suffer for my friends, for the family I left behind, for my own Brazilian identity so deeply ingrained that there’s not “storage life” left to get rid of this whole mess.

Alan tried to comfort me, reminding me of the suffering of our ancestors, so often forced to emigrate to preserve not only the hope of a better life, but life itself, leaving behind in their mandatory exile everything and everyone they have ever known. You don’t even need to go that far, just watch the news to check the painful waves of migrants in Europe today.

Of course, on the one hand, this kind of comparison denotes a certain lack of respect for the pain of others, since in Brazil we have never suffered any real prejudice, just the pressure of the real falling — pardon the pun, I could not resist, an urge to soften the plot a bit. What pushed us out was not the threat of racist extermination that suffocated the Jews in Nazi Germany, for example, or the Shiites or Sunnis in Syria today, I don’t know, sorry for my confusion (Alan simplifies, saying they are all Christians), but a mere economic exhaustion, nothing more.

On the other hand, when I hear my friend Caetano’s description of how Brazilians are walking the streets in miserable commiseration, when I read editorials dumping hopelessness all over the place, when a friend tells me that “the crisis caught me, like millions of others, because of these shameless thieves”… (Yes, while I’m writing, my friends keep messaging me on Skype, Facebook and the like, and I add it to the story.) When this friend of mine, an important businessman, always so calm and wise, starts yelling on the phone, saying that “he will not cooperate with this bunch of crooks,” and that the finance minister (with lower case, please) “is nothing but an idiot,” I notice that Brazil is in a deeper hole.

Again, pardon the comparison, but while in Nazi Germany the government found a scapegoat, exploring it as abjectly as possible to increase the self-esteem of its ruined “native” population (I’m not suggesting anything, for the love of God), thus eliminating six million citizens, in Brazil the government makes the entire population hostage, destroying the hopes of more than 200 million.

In our case, fortunately, moral conscience has not (yet) reached a final collapse; our fundamental human principles still keep intact, different from countries dominated by terrorism and other hateful isms. Though substantial, our woes are solely financial, perhaps temporary. We still are, to some extent, the Country of Carnival, an affable people, the consumer’s dream of summer tourists (which, oddly enough, don’t know the half of it). And to maintain this minimum, nearly unraveled thread of hope, to preserve to some degree the joy and happiness we all deserve, I see only one solution: to eliminate as soon as possible this scum that denigrates us, stains our reputation and steals the future — not just ours, but that of our children and grandchildren.

I hope that you, Brazilians who never left, with your moral strength, which is all we can wish you from here, find a quick solution to our problems before they grow even more serious, because nobody really knows how far our despair can take us. The human shadow, it never hurts to remember, is despicable, and knows no bounds. Things can always get worse, and if we do nothing, nobody knows where and when this fall will stop. Impeachment now!

Dear friends, I must apologize for my harsh positions. Consider it just the chronicler’s disposition, okay?


About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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