22 April 2014

Brazil Is Not For Beginners

From time to time I receive messages from people through the contact form on this blog who, enchanted with Brazil, are looking to move here. Businesses large and small are eyeing this enormous emerging market as well. That's all very nice, but I have the same word of warning for both starry-eyed individuals and profit-seeking companies:

"Brazil is not for beginners." - Tom Jobim, Brazilian Musician

Several years ago I set up a few Google Alerts around keywords involving Brazil. For the first couple of years I only received a trickle of mostly irrelevant links via email. As Brazil's economy heated up and the World Cup and 2016 Olympics have drawn nearer the trickle has become a flood. I received a few long emails per day now from Google Alerts, listing out numerous articles about various aspects of life and business in Brazil. Freelance journalists now located in Brazil are contributing to this increasing torrent of news.

The world is talking about Brazil. Some are criticizing the delays involved in the major infrastructure projects for the World Cup and Olympics, citing the nation's history of failed projects (there were some truly significant projects in the past that should be remembered, such as the building of Brasília to be the nation's capital). While many are turning bearish on the economy, others continue glowingly bullish. As for me, I prefer to avoid the extremes of pessimism and optimism and simply admit that Brazil is a challenging place to live and work, but one that can be incredibly rewarding as well.

I continue to be more than happy to answer questions from those considering a personal move to Brazil. Simply reach out to me through the contact form and I'll assist as best I can. 

I am also pleased to provide assistance to businesses looking to enter the Brazilian market. As a PMP certified project manager with extensive experience in the tech industry (see my About page) I know my way around web development. I speak fluent Portuguese and have a fundamental grasp of how to navigate Brazil's red tape. Contact me and let's see how I can help. If I don't have the particular solution you need, I can at the very least point you in the right direction to move ahead.

See Also:

21 April 2014

Escape from Brazil

Question: How difficult is Brazil? 
Answer: If it were a test, the answer key would only get 70%.

Back in 1997 I made my first trip to Brazil. I spent two months in Campinas and Riberão Preto, cities in the state of São Paulo, learning Portuguese and becoming acquainted with the culture. It was an amazing, life-altering experience. After that, all I wanted to do was move to Brazil after graduating from the university. What youthful naiveté.

In 2001 this dream finally became a reality. I married a beautiful Brazilian woman and settled down to teaching English and starting a family. It didn't take long for the dream to go bad. I wouldn't call it a nightmare, but it was no picnic.

When I moved to Brazil that time I arrived on a tourist visa. I had all my documents ready to submit to the Federal Police to switch status from tourist to resident. There was just one problem. Brazilian bureaucracy isn't that simple. It took nearly three years for my paperwork to be processed. During that time I was unable to obtain most of the documents I needed to carry out the simplest actions. I couldn't sign rental agreements or have a bank account in my name. We had to do all of that in my wife's name.

Then there's the money situation. Had I not been receiving some support from American churches to do mission work, we would not have lasted 3 years in Brazil. Before I moved to this country my wife's family told me I could make a decent salary teaching English. Not so. For over a year I hardly worked 20 hours a week, and I was paid by the hour. Now, in 2014, the pay has only increased by R$2.00 an hour. In other words, almost no difference at all.

This time around we tried building up savings. My wife moved to Brazil ahead of me with the kids and we sacrificed a year so I could fund our transition. I'm now a digital project manager who has worked with Wired.com and Scholastic. I'm certified PMP and ITIL-f. Yet, none of this seems to matter. I find myself teaching English and handling (a very interesting) project for an Australian tech company, but so far no Brazilian company has called me in for an interview.

I know that I'd have much better chances for full-time employment in my field in São Paulo, Rio or Belo Horizonte, but I'd really rather not live in any of those places. Uberlândia's a pretty decent city. Not too big, too crowded or too crime-ridden. The weather is beautiful, the food is good and the people are generally easy to get along with.

The urge to "escape" from Brazil comes up every so often. Faced with perplexing red tape, sky-high taxes and poor job prospects, New York starts looking pretty good. Yet, I stay. For now.

The same can't be said for many.

Recently, Mikkel Jensen, a reporter from Denmark who came to Brazil to cover the World Cup, decided to pack it in and head home. He recounts his reasons why in the Facebook post I've included below. It's in Portuguese, but the gist of it seems to be that Brazil's corrupt officials are using foreign journalists to promote the country while at the same time steamrolling over citizens. The injustice seemed to be too much for him, and Mikkel thought it best to leave rather than be used.

I don't blame Mikkel, but I also don't agree with him.

There's much good to be found in Brazil, and if a clear-eyed reporter sees fraud and injustice, then the best thing he or she can do is report on it. Without people standing up and telling the truth, nothing will ever change. The powerless street kids he talks about need people who will hear them and share their stories. If money is being stolen from government coffers, it needs to be known. If NGOs are shutting down under pressure, let's find out why.

Again, I don't blame Mikkel for leaving. I might follow him out the exit if my situation doesn't improve within the year. This just increases my respect for those who come, stay and make a go of it. Click here for a list of freelance reporters who aren't giving up on Brazil.

See Also:
Early Reflections on My Move to Brazil
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Uberlândia: Digital City?

20 April 2014

Coming Soon to Brazil: Sunday Assembly

It began in London and has been spreading like wildfire around the globe. Erroneously referred to as an "atheist church," this church-like gathering is this-life-affirming and upbeat without supernaturalism. Now, Sunday Assembly is coming to Brazil.

According to what I've been hearing, there's a handful of people in São Paulo that's been meeting to plan for a big launch. No dates have been circulated publicly, but it may well take place on September 28th, in order to coincide with the launch of around 100 assemblies worldwide. While I'm not sure if only one launch model is to be accepted among the various assemblies, I do know that the style being encouraged currently is called "Launching Large" and has been adopted from evangelical church planting methodology.

As I mentioned above, Sunday Assembly is non-theistic rather than theistic or atheistic in outlook. As point #3 on the main about page puts it, Sunday Assembly "[h]as no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do." Although this could be well-understood and welcome in Rio, São Paulo and other commercial and political centers in Brazil, in smaller cities it might not be clear to the general public. Brazilians tend to be very religious (and diversely so), so the concept of a Sunday gathering without a god might be a stretch. Then again, I could be completely wrong. Certainly many of the young people throughout the country could be attracted to more humanistic, this-worldly message.

As of this post I only know of a Facebook fan page for Sunday Assembly in Brazil. Whenever the Twitter profile and possibly a standalone site is available, I'll certainly blog about it here.

Interesting days ahead for Sunday Assembly and for Brazil.

See Also:

19 April 2014

Good Friday Passion Play

Easter is an interesting holiday to experience in Brazil. While in the United States it's an occasion for infrequent church-attenders to dust off their Sunday best and mothers to doll up their daughters in pastel dresses and adorable hats to pay a visit to a local church, in Brazil it's a long weekend to be used as a chance to get out of town. People hit the beach or, not having one nearby, fill the resorts or head to an acreage in the country. Churches often have retreats for men, women and families during this weekend that begins Thursday evening and ends the following Monday evening. If you're stuck in the city for one reason or the other, you can enjoy a fish dinner with the family (which we did this year) and hit the local passion play (which my family also did).

Passion Plays in Brazil differ from their counterpart in the United States. Under Protestant influence they don't dwell too long on details of the road to the cross, typically focusing on the unjust condemnation of Jesus, then the cross and finally the triumphant resurrection. In Brazil they tend to follow the "Stations of the Cross" and do not typically end in resurrection, as that is reserved for Easter celebration. The legend of Saint Veronica and her veil was also included, as that's considered a historical fact according to Roman Catholic teaching.

If someday you're going to be in Brazil during the Easter season, I recommend a Passion Play. The production might not be terribly fancy, but it's a genuine cultural experience representative of the Catholic tradition in which this country has been steeped since the arrival of the Portuguese on this continent.

Check out the video below for a glimpse of what I saw last night, and click here for photos. This Passion Play was put on by Catedral de Santa Terezinha.

See Also: 
Encenação da Paixão de Cristo, Ação litúrgica e Via Sacra reúnem fiéis na Tubal Vilela (Jornal Correio)