Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

An immigrant’s marriage

Sitting at my dentist’s chair the other day, I listened to the dental hygienist give me her whole life story while I could only go “aww” and “a-huh”. I promised her at the end I would mention her in a post, which she gave me the thumbs up.

She and her husband came to America when they were only 18 and 19, as newlyweds. They are Russian Jews. Neither of them had any money nor any education above high school, and knew very little English. When they arrived, she became pregnant of their first child. They both had odd jobs and decided that to advance in this society, they needed skills and education. Therefore, he worked while she got her dental hygienist license. When she was ready to enter the job market and bring home a better salary, it was his turn to go to school.

They had one more son and prospered. Nowadays, their grown children are successful on their own. As a couple, they have this huge sense of commitment as a family and to each other. They’ve been married for 30 + years now, and wouldn’t have it any other way. What a far cry from other couples out there, where you see so many stories of selfishness and infidelity!

There are many immigrants that have a similar trajetory in America. They fight together and they make it. They don’t even consider divorce because they know they have a good marriage based on companionship, friendship and common goals.

I also happen to know a couple who moved to America about 6 years ago. She is an architect, and he has a degree in Languages. Since she was not authorized to work as an Architect in America, she had to clean houses while she learned English. Her goal is to eventually be able to get a license and return to her profession. Her husband is a delivery man, and they both bring home just enough money to keep them afloat while sharing a small apartment with their two grown children.

The two children learned to work hard and study at the same time. Since you cannot live without a car in America, their 17 year old daughter has her own car payment. No gift from Daddy. The son wants to be a lawyer, and pays his own College bills with his work as a waiter.

Here is what I see when I meet them: a very cohesive and close family. They are happy and have get togethers with friends. They work hard but are always smiling, knowing they have each other. Meanwhile, in the mansion on the other side of town….


May 26, 2010 Posted by | Family, Society | 1 Comment

The Truth About Being a Pilot Flying Internationally

We have a guest post this time, from pilot “Skyway Ramjet”, who is reporting from China.

I’ve been flying international since 1994.  I’ve been to Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Reykjavik, Greenland, flying what’s known as the Blue Spruce Route between Europe and the USA when you are so heavy that you have to offset your payload with fuel, decreasing the fuel in order to carry all the payload.  The only way to do this is to land essentially at the half way point between Europe and the USA, in the blue spruce trees of Reykjavik.  Reikjavik is a charming little town.  Very, very clean and very well maintained.  

Continuing around the world, going east, I’ve spent numerous layovers in Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg, all delightful, clean, safe, great food with tons of history cities (except Luxembourg which is a country, not a city… a small little country that is basically a little kingdom).  London, Brighton Beach along the English Channel, Rome, Paris, Cologne (Germany), Frankfurt, Torino (Italy…where they have the “shroud of Turin”), Madrid.  That’s about all I can think of in Europe.  

Europe, in a nutshell, is enchanting.  There is possibly no better place in the world than sitting in any sidewalk cafe in the springtime in Europe.  Any of the cities.  Surrounded by the ancients.  Your senses are just so cleansed being in such vibrant, historical cities.  My favorite city is Rome, followed by London.  There is no better food in the world than in Italy.  Did you ever read the book, “Eat, Love, Pray”?  The eating part of the book was in Italy.  

Going south is the most magnificiant continent on the planet.  Africa.  Just three cities there have I been to as a pilot:  Nairobi, Dakar (Senegal, where they speak portugese!), and Johannesburg.  Truly a wonder of nature.  The animals are so abundant and so free!  Any continent where you cannot build fences east to west because they aren’t going to last with the animal migrations that are migrating north and south!  Wow!  The animals will destroy your fence in the migration!  They are everywhere!  We used to fly from Johannesburg to Nairobi, north south flying.  When I was the captain on the 747, I would cancel IFR, descend to 1500 AGL (above ground level), and fly 200 miles at that altitude into Nairobi.  Below you are vast plains of herding animals.  Elephants, wildabeast, water buffalo, gazelles, zebra, impalas.  Truly remarkable.  Flights I will never forget.  

Continuing east into Dubai, Bombay, Madras (India), New Dehli (India), Bahrain, Cairo, Qatar, Abu Dhabi.  Dubai is very neat.  Hot as hell, but very vibrant.  And rich.  Dubai is at the geographical center between Asia and Europe.  So it is a big air hub of commerce.  And they have really tried to put themselves on the map as a shopping mecca for the elite.  Now, they are bankrupt because they have over extended themselves.  Otherwise, I don’t like the mideast at all.  It’s the one place that you can’t, for example, pull your pilot shit.  Meaning, if you are in uniform in the airport, you can’t bluster your way through anything.  You will get shot.  Also, you are flying over many unfriendly countries (Iran, Iraq), and you pray that you don’t have any mechanical problems while flying over these countries because if you have to land, it’s going to be a hell on earth getting out of there.  The Turks and the Cypreites (Cyrpus), hate each other.  So flying over Ankara and Nicosia, you have to do a radio dance as each refuses to acknowledge the other and get very offended if you even say Ankara on Nicosia’s frequency and visa versa.   Bombay in India in general……how can I say it……I FREAKING HATE India.  There.  That pretty much sums it up.  I cannot even stand to leave the hotel.  Those people are completely nuts and in no way can I think like them nor understand why they do what they do.  Everyone should go to India, ONCE….for the experience.  And more than likely, you will never want to go back.  The place is nuts.  

Continuing east, after flying across the Bay of Bengal, a Godforsaken stretch of open water between India and China, in the Indian Ocean.  Godforsaken because the most huge thunderstorms you’ll ever encounter migrate north to south from the Himalayas and you will fly for 4 hours, strapped in, and being knocked around the sky (mostly at night), like a ragdoll in a washing machine.  The Himalayas are their own weather system and create tremendous turbulence and thunderstorms from the blowoff of the Himalayas going south to the warm moist waters of the Indian Ocean. 

The St Elmo’s fire (you’ll have to google it for the explanation as I still have a lot to write!  It’s basically an electrical charge that builds up on the surface of the airplane due to the friction of the airplane moving through the air…like static electricity….rubbing a balloon and sticking it on the wall, or shuffling your feet on carpet and touching a lightswitch), the St. Elmo’s fire is rampant around the airplane.  Dancing over the windshield in an electric storm until BAAAAMMMM… discharges all at once and blinds you.  I’ve been struck by lightening (not St Elmo’s…but lightening…..which is St Elmo’s times a million) so often over the Bay of Bengal, I’ve lost count.  I’ve seen a blue flame go right between the pilots, right down the center of the cockpit, and rumble its way to the back of the airplane before disappating back to the atmosphere.  You can here it…shushushushushushu….as it works its way to the back of the plane.  Like methodically dropping a dresser the length of the airplane.   I hate flying over the Bay of Bengal.  

Into Asia.  Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpor, Jakarta (Indonesia), Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, Manilla, Macau (more Portugese!!), and the cities of China Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Qingdao.   Asia flying is ok.  It’s not a western culture, so there are HUGE cultural differences.  They don’t think like we do.  But it’s not India, either.  They at least have some level of civility.  Not much.  But at least you can feel like you are in a normal part of the world.  Except Japan.  There, they are EXTREMELY civilized.   Asia is very mysterious.  I would LOVE to get out into the countryside here in China.  To see the REAL China.   The real people that define a country are in the small towns outside the big cities.  

My favorite layover here used to be Hong Kong, before the Chinese took it back from England.  What an unusual city.  An absolute gem.  British gentility plopped into the middle of the asian tropics.  Really a neat place.  I”m going back there this trip.  First time I’ve been back in 12 years.  Back then, I used to hit the ground running.  Catch the MTR to Wan Chai and party all night.  Great bars with great bands.  Surrounded by people from all over the world.  I don’t do that anymore.  Too tired!  

South to Australia and Sydney.  A wonderful city.  And we used to go from Sydney to Hong Kong, flying northwest across that wonderful continent, coasting out at Darwin.  I would have loved to have landed at Darwin.  Fly up the chain of the Phillipine islands (gorgeous), and into Hong Kong.  Sydney is a great city.  

Only city I’ve been to in Russia is Khabarovsk.  Strange place.  Creepy.  Russia is very creepy.  

South America was Rio, Sao Paulo, Campinas, Buenos Aires (great city), Lima, Santa Cruz (Bolivia), La Paz, Carracas, Bogota, Guayaquil (Ecquador), Quito (Ecquador), and into Central America Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and so on.   South America flying was the best.  Good food, lots of fun, and north/south flying.  No time zone changes.  They really kill you over the time.  It’s a western culture, although as we know, there are cultural differences.  But at least you are not a fish out of water completely like asia, or worse, India (I hate india!).  Certain parts of South America can be dangerous.  But it’s fun as hell.  I would have loved to have gone to Santiago.  But never made it there.  I would have loved to go to Medellin and Cali in Columbia.  Specifically Medellin.  Supposed to be absolutely gorgeous.   So that’s the world tour.  

What do I see sitting here in Qingdao (pronounced ching-dow)?  Modern, vibrant, clean city along the coast of the south china sea.  I see a bunch of chinese, who were 10 years ago on bicycles, and have no rules on the road.  Yes, I’m used to this in so many parts of the world.  But these people are very funny with their cars.  Constantly honking, cutting everyone off.  Zero judgement.  Yet, the cars are in pretty good shape!  Funny. What they are is like kids that got a new toy.  Cars.  They drive them like they used to ride their bikes with everything all helter skelter.  Its comical.     Not like driving in Cairo in absolute insanity where you are fearing for your life.  Paris and Rome will scare the hell out of you, too.  But the best way to put it with here in Qingdao, as I said, is that they are all like kids that got a new toy at christmas.  

I wish I could write long, expansive passages of sitting in the hotel bar in Istanbul and the exotic dark haired girl approaching you.  Leaving the bar together to go out on the town drinking and dancing.  Falling into bed in a baloconied room with doors swept open and crisp white curtains fluttering in the breeze while muslim chantings going on over the loud speaker in the town below, calling people to prayer 5 times a day, surrounded by turkish spires.  Wake up on the morning and have some Aladdin boy serve you strong coffee on the balcony, watching the sun come up with little kisses, longing glances wrapped in plush white robes, knowing that your time together will be ending shortly.  

It’s not like that.  You are working.  And you are tired.  You don’t go out into the nightlife.  Sure, years ago in Hong Kong, I did.  And I aged…burning the candle at both ends.   So you think, ok, tourism!  Yes, you can do that.  And some do.  One thing a few guys did in Lima, if you had a 3 day layover, was go to that magical mountain top in Peru, Machu Picchu.  But these places take time and money.  You’ve got to have enough time, and you’ve got to have the money.  Which means you are taking money away from your family.  The trip to Machu Picchu cost about $500.00 with the airfair, trainride from Coscous, and hotel stay overnight.  But it was supposed to be magical.    

To go into the countryside here in China, would take about 300 bucks.  If i do that, then I am taking money away from the family.   If you are single, no kids, then international life is a complete blast.  You will party your face off.  You might die young, but you’ll have a blast doing it!  Many of the young, single no kids, international pilots are barely home.  They fly their work trips, get friends around the world, finish their trip, and go right back.  They go backpacking across the Himalayas, Central America, meet tribes in Vietnam.  You name it, there are guys doing it.  Surfing safaris around the world.  Humanitarian efforts around the world.  There are many pilots around the world that do it all….if they have the time resources (no family), and the money resources.  

The hotel bars are not like the hollywood movies where they are vibrant and smoke filled with classy people dotting the bar landscape and the booths dimly lit while some band plays.  The last time I was in the hotel bar was about two months ago with my colleague.   I was having dirty martinis, and he was having rum and cokes.  My drink at least had culture!!!  We were in the bar in Shenzhen.  The JW Marriott that we stay at in Shenzhen is VERY nice.  Very nice indeed.  One of the most plush hotels I’ve ever stayed at.  You can google it.    Anyway, we were the only ones in the bar.  Which is typical for hotel bars.  

I want to go see the Great Wall of China on a Beijing layover.  But in the plane I fly, we don’t go to Beijing!!!  Booohoo!.  I would love to go to Tienamin Square.  And I will do those things eventually.   But in the meantime, the truth of being a pilot is that you are mostly very tired.  Flying long nights and flying each night to exhaustion.  The BEST thing you can do for yourself on the road, and I know this even though I don’t do it, is workout at the gym.  Workout, eat well, and rest.  That’s what you should be doing.  Yeah, you have some time to socialize with your captain or f/o or f/a’s.  But for the most part, you are by yourself.  Occassionally, you will hook up with someone that you are working with and things just click and you spend all your time together.  Because all of us out here flying internationally, have been doing it for years.  We are hardened.  We are not like WOW!!!!  SINGAPORE!!!!  Lets HIT IT!!   It’s not like that.  Land in Singapore, yeah, after some years, it’s like landing in Des Moines, Iowa.  Not sooooo humdrum as that.  But you get used to things.  You know what i mean? 

Singapore is now my favorite layover here in asia, by the way.  A fantastic, modern, clean city.  With great food.  GREAT FOOD.   One thing I like to do here in China is get massages.  No, not erotic massages.  Real massages by real Chinese.  The professional masseuse women have hands like a vice.  Very strong.  They are about 30 dollars for 1.5 hours.  And they really work you over.   The one thing I can’t figure out is the foot massage.  I had one yesterday.  They are 10 bucks for 70 minutes.  And they hurt like hell.  It’s the second one I did.  I did one in Singapore about 6 months ago and swore never again.    So much so that I came back to the hotel and googled, “Why do chinese foot massages hurt so much?”.  And believe me, they hurt like you can’t imagine!  It’s funny.  And you sit there in agony, saying, ok, this is good.  Pain is good.  Meanwhile, he/she is digging their fingers into the bottom of your foot, getting right to those nerves, until you feel white hot pain and start sweating, and yelp OUCH!  lol….they love it.    But it’s supposed to be very healthy.  Go figure.   

Being a pilot sounds glorious and sexxxy and alluring and adventure filled.  And it can be….if you are single, no kids, have the time to do what you want, and have the money to do what you want.  THEN…its the lifestyle you are thinking!  there are thousands of us.  Keep in mind, please, that I am a dime a dozen in my world.  There are thousands of us doing this every day across the world.  We think in terms of lat/long.  With just a big grid thrown over the earth.  Just by the lat/long of a place, we can get close to where it is on the earth.  You just deal with it all the time.   But to stress….every night there are thousands of us working this worldwide grid. 

I’m nothing special.  I know in your world it might sound pretty neat….and I realize that it is if it’s not your line of work.  I just wouldn’t want to come across on your blog as like something out of this world.  I’m not.  And I know so so so so SO many guys that really do great things for people around the world.  I’m nothing compared to them.  And I feel that writing about this and that is almost a disservice to those that are real global warriors making a difference.    I can and will offer my experiences.  But I do it knowing that to many of my colleagues, comparing myself to what they do on their days off, by virtue of being a pilot, I’m nothing. I don’t care where I am in the world.  I can play the 7 degrees of separation with any pilot from any country, and within 7 moves, find a common acquaintance.  It’s really a very small world for us.

May 21, 2010 Posted by | Travel | 4 Comments

Seven reasons SATC and RHONY are successful

“Sex and the City” and “The Real Housewives of New York City” have gained popularity to the point that many people recognize these acronyms. Both shows, one based on fictitious characters and the other based on real characters in probably fictitious or scripted situations, center themselves on the lives of quasi-middle aged women who are friends or socialize together. Both shows have been an enormous success. Why is that?

I suppose there are a few reasons:

1) The women in these shows look great for their age. They wear designer duds and have great figures. Every woman their age in America would love to look exactly like them, and most don’t.

2) Every woman has a different personality. Women usually identify themselves with one of them or see bits and pieces of their personality on each one of them.

3) Women love tales of love and sex and conversations about relationships, which these shows have an abundance of.

4) Many of these women go through bad experiences with men and through bad break ups, which most women can relate to.

5) Both of these shows are in NYC, a city considered a “playgound for adults”.  A housewife from small town America can daydream for a whole hour about walking the streets of Manhattan in her 4 inch stilletos, looking sophisticated and worldly . For that short period of time, they live vicariously through these glamorous women.

6) Female friendships have been more celebrated since women’s lib. Women desire having a group of friends they can share things with. In the past, women would have girlfriends from school and once married, their contact with other women would be limited to other couples. Nowadays, it is ok for married women to have their own friends and do things with them.

7) Gossip. Men and women alike love gossip. Gossip is a bestselling commodity in America, and these shows are full of it!

8) For many women, it gives them hope that their lives, one day, may be full of parties, fashion shows, handsome men and limo rides.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Being a woman | Leave a comment

The 15th birthday party tradition

Different cultures have different traditions.  When Jewish children turn 13, they may have a Bar Mitzvah (for boys) or Bat Mitzvah (for girls). Depending on the family’s resources, it can be a lavish celebration in luxury hotels, with gourmet food and a hired band.

In the Latin cultures, a girl’s 15th birthday is an excuse for a big celebration. Some families spend enormous amounts of money to “introduce her to society”. Unfortunately, it’s not really about the teenager. Many times wealthy parents just want to show off to their friends and family how much money they have. That’s specially true of the “nouveau riche”.

When I turned 15, I was living in Brazil and I knew I did not want a lavish party.  I was skeptical of the whole idea of being introduced to society. At the age of 15, I was still a kid. I was told that the 15 birthday was important since girls could start officially dating. I wasn’t prepared to date anyone seriously, which at my age I felt was utterly ridiculous. My job was to study, get good grades, have friends and obey my parents. I wasn’t wiling to be introduced to society nor I wanted to have a serious boyfriend who I would date exclusively and marry a few years later.

Several decades later, the 15th birthday tradition seems sexist and backwards as ever. It’s from a time when women were married off to desirable men at a very young age. It’s from a time when women had few options in life other than get married and have babies. It comes from a position of class and privilege since girls from poor families could not be properly introduced to “society”.

The tradition still exists among the more traditional families in Brazil and Mexico (called the Quincañera), as well as other South American countries. In the US, the closest thing to this tradition are the debutante balls in NYC and  the sweet 16th birthday party for girls. However, the Sweet 16th it is not meant to be an “introduction to society” as much as a landmark of a girl becoming a woman, and debutante balls are really demode..  I imagine there may be some families that  throw lavish parties for 16 year olds, but I think they are very rare.

More important  is to give girls tools to become adults. To teach them empowerment, to help them discover their strengths and talents and guide them into a career where they can be useful to society and be happy. Teach them about safe sex, nutrition, health and personal safety. Leave the ball gowns for when they really become a woman.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Being a woman, Difference between cultures | 2 Comments

Women hitting on men

We surely are past the feminist movement, and there’s little that women cannot do anymore. Women can be fighter jet pilots, fight wars and fix engines. Notwithstanding the old fashioned Catholic church and its medieval practice of only allowing men to be priests, there is practically nothing a woman cannot do.

But when it comes to dating, we hear a lot of advice, specially from the “Rules” advocates, that we should let men take the initiative. “Don’t hit on the guy, let him come to you”. “Don’t call him first”. “Don’t invite him out”. “If a man wants you he will follow you to the end of the earth”. Other notions along those lines are heard among single women

The other day though, my “”single and looking”  friend told me: “why can’t we hit on a man”? She told me she knew happily married couples where the woman had taken the initiative because the guys they liked were…shy.

Yes, some men are scared of approaching strange women, and that doesn’t mean they will devalue them if the woman is the one who show interest first.  They won’t lose interest quickly because it was the woman’s idea to start the romance, unless they were not that into them to start with!

If a man likes a woman’s personality, ideas and is also attracted to her physically, the fact the woman approached him first should not make him less interested. Don’t be fooled: men are also vain. They love compliments as much as women do. If you talk to a guy who has a nice smile, what stops you from telling him so?

That notion, based on the sociobiological fact that men like a challenge and like to the the pursuer, does not mean that a long and stable relationship cannot evolve when you both know each other better.

With that in mind, it should be ok to approach a single man (no married men please!) in a party, art gallery, sports event, park, conference or even a bar. Give him your number if you like his demeanor, the way he looks, his sense of humor, attitude and ideas. That is, if he doesn’t try to get your number before you or him leave.

If he doesn’t call you, he’s not interested, and you have nothing to lose. You started it, right? But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to follow up. It takes two to tango.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Psychology, Relationships | 1 Comment

Leave Fido outside!

In many Brazilian homes, a dog is a necessity.  Burglaries in major cities are common, and a dog can alert residents of anyone who approaches the house. Bigger dogs not only bark but also attack strangers that try to force their way through gates and fences, which the majority of Brazilian houses have.

In the United States, whilst some people may see a dog as a security tool, they are more often seen as companions. And there lies the difference in how dogs live with their owners in both countries: in Brazil, dogs live outside in the yard, and not inside the house (unless they are small dogs like pekinese, cocker spaniels and chiwauwas).  In America, many people have big dogs, such as labradors, collies and bulldogs, living with them inside the house and even sleeping on their beds. That is something I would not like, maybe because I wasn’t raised with dogs. We only had birds in our house 🙂

I remember going to a party a few years ago in a house where there was this big labrador. The guests were huddled around a low table in the living room where several wineglasses stood. The host’s big dog walked around the table and between our legs and over our feet while we had to constantly watch for the dog’s tail not to knock down those crystal glasses. I was annoyed by it, but the dog’s owner did not notice our discomfort.

Is that’s a cultural difference or just a preference? I am not sure, because if I were to have a dog, I can imagine the extra work and expense I would have. Now that I am an empty nester, do I want one more kid, even if it’s a “kid” that can stay home alone? I don’t think so. Anyway, having big dogs inside one’s living quarters is not something usual in Brazil. Dogs, like maids, stay out of the family space….Anyhow, for me, the doghouse is not only for husbands, but for Fido too 🙂

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures | Leave a comment

Don’t sit on their table!

There is a funny cultural difference between Americans and Brazilians: if you are in a busy food court in a shopping mall, a fast food restaurant or a coffee shop in Brazil and you see a vacant seat at someone’s table, do not ask permission to sit with them. They will look at you surprised, and even if they tell you it’s ok, they won’t be too happy. They feel it is an invasion of their privacy. In their minds that table belongs to them!

Interesting, since Americans are all for privacy and Brazilians like to be gregarious. A similar situation has to do with office space. In America, someone’s desk or office is considered the company’s property, not personal property. Anyone in the company can come and sit at your desk or use your computer (unless there is a security issues involved). In Brazil, your office or desk are off limits to anyone else.

Maybe things are changing. Mall food courts are sometimes very busy and you need to sit anywhere just so you can eat. I am sure Brazilians now won’t object. Obviously, if you are going to a nice restaurant, that would be very innapropriate, not only in Brazil but in any other country in the world.

Another difference: when you arrive in a restaurant in Brazil, you can pretty much choose any table you want. You just go and sit and wait for your server. In America you usually check in with the hostess who then takes you to a vacant table. Many times that table is not of your liking.  These little differences are interesting, but things are changing in both countries-nothing is set in stone anymore.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 1 Comment

Funerals in Brazil vs. the US

There is a difference between the way funerals are held in Brazil and in the United States. In Brazil, funerals are very, very sad events.  Brazilians are a lot more drama filled, and funerals are an example of that. It is common to see the family members of the deceased crying and weeping near the casket. They are usually held in church quarters before the burial. Burials happen no longer than 2 days after someone’s death, most often the very next day (one reason is the hot weather). People come, pay their respects to the dead person, say their condolescences to the widow, widower or children of the deceased, chit chat a little, pray and leave.  Everybody speaks in hushed voices.  Everybody makes a very sad face.  There is no food or drinks. It is a not a social event but an obligation towards the family of someone you knew.

American funerals are different.  There is a sense of sadness and loss in the air, but people socialize and talk normally. There is more of a sense of celebration of the dead person’s life through shared memories rather than a sense of tragedy.  There is food and networking . I wouldn’t call it a party, but it certainly seems like a social event. 

One particular experience was very interesting for me: I once attended the funeral of a man who had lost his 20-something son. This young man had killed himself because of a break up with his girlfriend. Anyone can imagine that losing your child through suicide must be even harder to accept, since it is self inflicted.

I arrived with my partner and we saw lots of people mingling.  Several servers were walking around with plates of good appetizers.  Some people were talking animatedly and even laughing.  The most shocking for me was to see the father of the deceased young man talking calmly and even smiling, as if he were in a cocktail party. I asked myself: is he on Prozac? Xanax?  A lot of it? I am sure this is not usual, and I believe that every family and every funeral experience in America must be different.

Anyway, as my first funeral in America, I was a bit shocked.  I wouldn’t say which behavior is better or worse. I must say that the American funerals may be easier to bear, because we do need to accept death as part of life, and we must let go gracefully.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Society | 3 Comments

The Real Housewives of NYC: wannabe teenagers

If you have watched the Bravo Series “The Real Housewives of NYC”   you know what I am trying to say: middle aged women are nowadays going through a second adolescence.  Remember Edwina Monson, the character played by Jennifer Saunders in  “Absolutely Fabulous”, the very funny British show from the 80’s? Precisely the same behavior.  Female Peter Pans.  What makes these over 40 women behave like that? Fear of aging? Fear of dying?

It is undeniable that access to cosmetics and procedures that delay aging, such as botox, fillers, lipos and lifts have changed the way most  middle aged women look.  I remember some tidbits about what was considered age appropriate when I was a child growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s. Teenagers were not supposed to wear grown up clothes or make up, while women over 40 were not supposed to show too much skin or wear anything too tight or colorful. Hair below your shoulders after 40? A no no.  

Grandmas looked like grandmas: long dresses with small flowery print, salt and pepper conservatively styled hair, flats, little pearl necklaces.  Women from poor backgrounds looked even older, from sun exposure working the fields, lack of moisturizer and very hard lives. They could look 80 when they were only 50.

How times have changed. Forty and fifty somethings now dress exactly like their 17 year old daughters. Miniskirts? Check. Knee high boots? Check. Plunging necklines? Check.  Long and flowy hair? Check. No one is surprised anymore to see a woman past her prime wearing a short dress with heels if her body is relatively well kept.  

Obviously, with more and more women making their own money and being more successful, they can afford to look more like a 20 year old vixen than grandma.  Unfortunately, along with looking hot and young, middle aged women also are behaving like their daughters.  The Real Housewives of NYC party like youngsters, talk like teenagers and fight just like high school girls.  Watching them is like watching a freak show.  Very entertaining, utterly ridiculous and you end up feeling embarrassed for them.  Do they realize how ridiculous they seem? Probably not, since they are all laughing all the way to the bank.  After all, in this day and age of reality TV and parents pimping their children, apparently anything  is worth having more cash in the bank.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Being a woman, Lifestyle, Society | Leave a comment

Not everyone should attend College

Brazilians usually aspire to attend College. Federal Universities are free, which is attractive for those who do not have the means to pay for a private school. However, to win a vacancy in a chosen field of study, one must pass a very difficult university entrance exam, where thousands of students compete for the same spot. That usually means that middle and upper middle class students, whose parents were capable of paying for the best private elementary, middle and high schools, often have an advantage. Kids who attended public schools often have to work their way to a private College, earning their degrees at night and therefore not having the same results.  The notion that everyone needs a College degree however, is based on the perceived status that a College degree gives you. In the United States, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and carpenters have more respect from society. They still are looked down as “working class” folks, but their skills are more valued and their compensation is sometimes comparable or even higher than their white collar fellowmen. In Brazil unfortunately, these professions are underpaid and get little respect.

In reality, not everyone has the need or the skills necessary to go to College. Some people are more practical than academic. They don’t like to read, but they like to fix things, build things, make things. Some people have exceptional interpersonal skills, and do well working with people. A 4 year College degree is a huge investment, both financial and timewise. You need to focus on your studies and read and write a lot. You develop your analytical thinking and you deepen your understanding of the world, but some people do not have the interest or the capacity to dedicate themselves to so much theory.

There are many professions out there than can provide a good living and are useful to society. These skills are very much needed. Usually many local Colleges provide certificates and Associate’s degrees which teach these professions. Optometrists, dental hygienists, mechanics, computer professionals, etc. These trades should be considered for those who don’t want to make the commitment a 4 year undergraduate degree requires, and want to have a useful and stable profession. Coincidentally, the Huffingtonpost had an article on it today:

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Society, Workplace | Leave a comment