Saturday, July 16, 2016

Opposites in Harmony

Many people who have visited Brazil speak of this welcoming nature of the population and the amazing food and the busy streets. These are all very true observations, but they all lack something even truer – the many contradictions within the culture. Every Brazilian I’ve met has spoken of the lax nature of everyone and how little is achieved in the workplace, but I’ve personally experienced how hard an entire workplace works just to welcome a foreign stranger. The people in my lab speak of coming into work late, but also quietly stay late to obtain better scientific results. They joke around and laugh often, while simultaneously editing their articles to send in later that afternoon.
Outside of the lab, you’d never expect your coworkers who stayed up late reading more into their respective fields to have such smiling and carefree attitudes or to invite you to every park and bar and event to get to know you better. I remember working on my own one day and a coworker walked up to me and confessed with a very upset face that he hadn’t put forth any effort to welcome me to Brazil….except, he and every other member in my lab has consistently invited me and my roommates out to different places every weekend since my arrival.
Another comforting surprise that I face daily in São Paulo includes the immense amount of greenery and effort put towards nature in the most populous city in the entire southern hemisphere; skyscrapers and office buildings commonly have plants growing up their steep slopes, either through intention or just by nature governing its own path. Residential areas use various plants that are either tall and/or thorny as crime deterrents (our own house has roses lining the path to our house), and sidewalks are never alone with their tree friends breaking up the monotonous grey cement.
These contradictions exist outside the lab and throughout the entire country: everyone eats fast and walks slow, speaks quietly but laughs loudly, the houses are cold without heaters but warm with love and color; the list could go on for an eternity. It’s no wonder, then, that my small and trivial problems are overshadowed by the large and dominating culture surrounding me in this wonderful city of São Paulo.

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