By Craig Parker
A Newcomer Flies to São Paulo
Sometimes, in the most personal of moments, comes a most profound understanding.
My wife Denise and I were flying the redeye flight from Houston, Texas to São Paulo, Brazil. Denise would start work as a middle school counselor at a local PreK-12 school. There, in the deep, dark recesses of jetliner coach, a new era was about to begin.
As the Boeing 767 hurtled down the runway and lifted gently into the sky, I searched for some insightful thought to express my innermost feelings. I am become death, destroyer of worlds” came to mind, but it seemed too dark, too atomic bomb. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” was too holy. Inspired by my euphoria, I took flight on the following line:
“Finally, we’re on our way.”
This was not an original idea. As a state worker from Washington State, I possess only six original thoughts – a figure slightly less than the number of corrupt officials in President Lula’s cabinet.
The quoted line was spoken by the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Through years of battling the U.S. Congress over isolationist policy, skirting Neutrality Act legislation, and educating the American public on the increasing threat of foreign hegemony, FDR successfully navigated the shoals of political disaster. On November 8, 1942, American military forces invaded Morocco on the North African coast. Upon hearing the news, FDR’s rejoinder acknowledged that the United States had entered the European theatre of World War II.
Now, for some students in Brazil, there may be days when life at school seems like a world war. It is our job to keep these instances to an absolute minimum. With an expert administration, dedicated support staff, and first-rate teachers, many schools in Brazil are well-poised to provide an excellent education while embracing the value of diversity and virtue of cultural awareness.
Yet, as we disembarked after our all-night flight from Houston to São Paulo, we newcomers were hardly well-poised for anything – except maybe a nap. And we were culturally aware of even less – other than how lucky we were to be here.
The school staff graciously met this motley group of newcomers at the airport and gave us our first cafezinho – and since then, est tudo bem (It’s all good). For we are now in São Paulo, Brazil: the land of hugs and kisses. A place where people walk and cemeteries remind. Where smiles are as commonplace as bumps in the road and the city stretches all ways. Always.
Where the young men look longingly at girls captured in close quarters on the Metro. The message of their silent, egotistical stare is all-too clear: “Don’t you see me? I see you. Don’t you love me? I love me.”
Ride the roller-coaster bus ride on your way downtown, where Praca Da S offers majestic promise to the faithful. Walk the General Carneiro, where smugglers sell suspect Nike shoes for only ten-minute intervals. Eat lunch along the Avenida Paulista and laugh at the measured futility of wax paper napkins.
São Paulo is where dreams find expression in sublime bakery morsels called sonhos. Where the city stretches forever and adorns the wintry night like a bejeweled necklace. Where we kiss on one cheek and the food pyramid features lots of meat, limes, and deep-frying. São Paulo, a city that calls to you as a whispered promise.
Let us begin. Let us begin today. Each morning. Each morning we say.
“Enfim, estamos a caminho.”
Finally, we’re on our way.
Craig Parker lives in São Paulo. He is married, is learning the language, and is the author of “Football’s Blackest Hole”–a book on the Oakland Raiders.“