Things We Take For Granted

I have spent multiple days and many hours at the hands of other people; waiting for them to help me get on the right bus, waiting for them to pick me up, waiting for them to take me to the building I need to go to so that I can wait on more people to fill out the paper work I need to be a functioning human in my new role.  I am continuously amazed at two things:

  1. The people here are genuinely helpful and patient. Back home, we often find ourselves in an atmosphere where everyone is so involved with their own lives that they don’t have time or energy to help their neighbor, let alone someone they barely know.  I know that is a huge generalization and I have come across many helpful people across the United States, but almost every time I need to fill out paperwork and find myself confused or in a new location, I feel the same way — like I am a hassle.   Whether it be the man who pointed us directions to the bus, the man who helped us set up our internet with the University (after 4 days of failed attempts and multiple phone calls and frustrations), or the lovely women and men who knew we were arriving and have made all the arrangements and given us their time to take us around and help us set up, I find that as much as I should feel like a burden, in Brazil, I don’t.  It feels good to be helpful, it feels good to be helped, I can only hope that people get the chance to not feel like a burden more often so that they in turn will have the patience to help someone who is utterly confused and frustrated.
  2. Everything moves at its own pace and has its own place. It should only take 5 minutes, 60 minutes later…  Sometimes I find myself annoyed that it takes so long to get from point A to point B here.  Without internet the last couple of days and no cellphone, I’ve found myself eager to fix all the little things and annoyed when I can’t.  Communication and the independence of technology and the map of the world at my fingers have been a bigger part of my life than I ever imagined, and without the ability to communicate with others and look things up in Brazil, I’m at the mercy of specific people and time.  The same goes for the bureaucratic process that is the university/housing/immigrant registration paperwork.  I am at the complete mercy of people that know the system, and this is frustrating because sometimes you have to go to seven places to solve one problem.  You need to go to the copy store to get a copy of your passport.  Then, you need to go to the bank to take out some money (but you have to return tomorrow because you can’t take out too much in one day), so that you can go to the post office or another bank to pay a bill.  With the receipt from that bill, and the picture that you went downtown to get taken, you have to go to the Federal Police to register.  Of course, you can’t forget the paperwork that you already did at a building or two on the university’s campus and the paperwork from the Brazilian Consulate that came with your Visa.  Each of these stops seems to take an excruciatingly painful amount of time and each bus/walk/car ride in between seems to take even longer.  I think this is because in the U.S. we are accustomed to a life where everything runs on business hours, where everything is in one place or nearby.  When these things aren’t as easy as we expect them to be, we get frustrated and complain.  If you can’t find it at Target, the grocery store, or an ATM, then you find it on Amazon.  When you are faced with the reality of services being few and dispersed, you begin to realize how nice those small differences were.  Never mind the language barrier when trying to explain a specific situation.  Nevertheless, there is some beauty in not having things show up at my doorstep, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of kind people and to see the city that will be home for the next long while.