Found in Translation

I open the door of the tiny apartment and find myself surprised by a breath of fresh air, a cooling relief in a summer that has proven far hotter than this Brazilian escapee would have expected on her escape route… from the warmth of the tropics, at least, let alone the bureaucracy and all the other stuff.

I suspect that with its pleasant temperatures and its changing colors tending to orange, autumn will become my favorite season in the Northern hemisphere, that is, in case an unexpected allergy to nature fails to make itself manifest.

Back from the “gym” — a little refrigerated room with two treadmills, a weightlifting machine and a huge television screen here at our apartment complex, which has provided me the exciting opportunity to run again after years of sedentary lifestyle — I announce the energizing news:

“Alan! It’s only 75º outside, it’s really cool!

“Really? I doubt it,” he said, rushing to his beloved Google to check it out.

“It’s 84º,” he corrects me, sounding satisfied, with the intrinsic mischievous tone of those who cultivate a certainty of knowing everything, of being always right.

Were it the opposite and he’d be complaining that I correct him for insignificant details (in this case, 9 degrees, equivalent to only 5 in that other unit of temperature), that I always say “no” to everything. Have it your way, dear! What matters is, the days of 95ºF (35ºC, for that matter) appear to be going away.

They will not be missed.

Ah, you got it: After living in the United States for 10 months, I hope to have at least developed a new sense of meteorology, in which my body understands the temperature in Fahrenheit without having to stop and convert all the time. It feels hot. It feels cold. That’s it.

“No fun left for those who convert,” taught me a friend who travels frequently (a Brazilian, of course). She is absolutely right.

The truth is, I’ve been realizing that I won’t be able to keep for much longer this schizophrenic routine of living in two countries at once (although the way things are going, a different arrangement might be possible, if you know what I mean: to be working here while living out there would be quite lucrative). Since we sold our house, for example, exactly one year ago, the Brazilian currency in which I still make a living has been devalued 50 percent. That’s right, 50%!

If, on the one hand, we managed to avoid losing the same percentage of the value of our assets, stably and calmly waiting in the bank for the construction of our new home (who knows when), on the other hand my hourly rate as a publisher had suffered a considerable blow. Which is disheartening, to say the least — no change in sight (I mean, in the Brazilian way of life).

Anyway, let’s move on.

After ten months of life in America I’m still unable to feel fully present; in a bad comparison, it’s more or less the way I faced the sudden loss of my father, back when I was twenty: I never accepted it, but got used to it bit by bit. Except now, of course, this slow and gradual adaptation has nothing tragic or painful to it, because although being marked by moments of difficulty, it’s actually a giant step forward — toward stability, a greater balance, with some hope of becoming someday an easier and more enjoyable existence. With an extra guarantee, since Alan has discovered that, in accordance to the current Social Security system in the United States, I’m entitled to half of his retirement, just because we’re married. Imagine that!

Oh, I apologize. I can assure you that my intention with this chronicle was just to be funny, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Not to mention the fear of sharing such positive things, giving “bad vibes” a chance, imagine if someone reads it and decides to change the law because of this (a Brazilian paranoia, of course).

Anyway, the week was marked by a stunning contrast between the Brazilian and American business practices, something that to this day I had only imagined, or heard of.

Having devoted a good part of my present vacation to translating my next book (this very one, which includes this chronicle) into English, I was finally able to acquire a certain sense of security in expressing myself in this language, though not yet writing, but rather “translating,” with the obvious exception of my comments in The New York Times. It’s not worth mentioning that Alan eagerly grabs every opportunity to criticize my “useless” intentions to be published in English. He told me, for example, that not a soul would be interested in my last week’s chronicle — perhaps because he failed to understand the voodoo metaphor, something that we, Brazilians, do quite routinely. Between you and me, we know that for him my writing is a pure waste of time, no matter the language —something quite common, from what I could ascertain, among old happy couples in which one of the partners is a writer. So be it.

Therefore, I decided that it was time to formalize my publishing company KBR on American soil; moreover, to identify potential local opportunities for the battered Brazilian soul, mine and that of other authors. And so I did.

People! The whole thing took me 15 minutes, everything online! And less than 12 hours later I received my South Carolina LLC registration by email. The cost? A mere $100 — okay, yielding to the temptation of converting, it’s not such a little amount, but for the local standards, pardon my expression, it’s peanuts. Of course, it was all pretty much facilitated by my (increasingly fixed) address in South Carolina, where there is no requirement for an anachronistic “commercial location,” if there ever was such a thing (in local parlance some refer to it as “brick and mortar”); it is enough to present a “registered agent with a local address,” which, I discovered in the process, could be myself. It does not get simpler than this.

And as all of that I have accomplished during my so fervently awaited “vacation,” ending this weekend — what, already? — I will make this chronicle shorter; anyway, I only wrote it not to miss the amazing achievement recently obtained. With the proper support of Brazilian generosity, I hope to be soon treading new and wider paths, not to mention “a lot safer,” both as an author and a publisher, since the grants for disseminating our literature abroad is limited to foreign publishers. Which, starting today, in a certain way, is a perfect description of my present state, oba.

Long live KBR-US!

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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