Brazil – Belo Horizonte
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”Bil Keane
It was close to midnight and I remember resting comfortably in my hotel bed, staring out the window at the new high rise a block away. It was all steel and glass and towering over the tropical hilly landscape below it. The building was a beacon of lights, music coming out of every opening, and people streaming in and out. The “winter” night was a warm balmy one but there was a refreshing breeze pouring through the window and floating the curtains. I felt no loss at not being at the party, just being in this place was enough of a lift to realize, I was at peace. It was as if I was on a boat at sea, close enough to land to hear and see all the busyness going about but left alone to enjoy my isolation.
Brazil fills you with a type of lachrymose energy at the sheer awe and beauty of the world. A collective of millions breathing, moving, and prattling in densely packed cities flowing all around you but not suffocating. Not like New York, where everything is on top of you all at once. The experience here is like being in the water, a school of fish creating a cyclone of swimming bodies around your floating one, but none of it touching you at the same time. A wonderful cacophony of sounds, smells, colors, and vistas.
This opportunity to explore the multicultural giant came out of another workshop at a client site; I appreciate how lucky I am. I had never been to South America before this trip. Before this chance, all I knew about Brazil came from media. Brazil, I knew was the home of Pele and Ronaldo and all of the football greats that have followed them. It was also the home of Carnival, beautiful mountains topped with towering religious sculptures overlooking a sprawling and complex city, and a rain forest that dwarfed whole countries in size.
This work adventure took us to Belo Horizonte. The main city in the state of Minas Gerais. This region forms a triangle of cities with Rio and Sao Paolo, both short flights away. It is a hilly and more arid region, where European conquistadors pillaged gold and other raw materials to build their empires.
Belo is an undulating terrain of steep gradient assents in cars whose engines and brakes are stretched to limits. The tops of these climbs giving way to expansive panoramas of more of the same mountains and hill tops. Some of the distant summits reflecting the warm sun back from rooftops of well appointed homes, starting at the base and zig zagging to the top.
* Add sketch below of Brazil Flag, Soccer Ball, and Christ the Redeemer *
Brazil and more specifically, Belo, is not without its problems. Crime, poverty, and strife exist here, like anywhere else. I heard many stories of the political, financial, and personal struggles from my hosts of what the life can be like. What grabbed me most, was that even the regrettable topics could not fully wipe away that every optomistic Brazilian smile that abates everything said.
I could not imagine that a business trip like this, would imbue me with a mental imagery that vividly discerns the ocean between individualistic and collectivist societies. The painful ache of accepting the bitterness of the resulting language that illustrates these differences. Highlighted by watching a melting pot of people that when even disagreeing with each other, consider one another family, and that their way means lifting and supporting everyone.
As a visitor, it is easy to let the beauty belie the social issues. You never get deep into the problems, because you are only here for a short while. That brevity of time in a place so mysteriously beautiful will make you think you could move here, and be enveloped in the quiet and gentle press of a province that is not your own. Even then, Belo is the kind of place where you can buy enter a bar and have a drink with strangers at ease; because everyone knows that we are all there to have fun and not pose.
On the easiest of days, when there no to do lists or people to see. When a long walk in no particular direction leads you to some new discovery. When thee right breeze catches your skin and the sky is clear and bright. On those days, I hear Joao Gilberto playing in my ear and visions of very peaceful and welcoming people enter my mind. On those days, everything is Trem Bom!