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September 12, 2014
The Right to Return to The Land of Sad Oranges
September 29, 2014

Notes from My Trip to Watch The World Cup in Brazil 2014

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These notes were written on my iPhone as I was waiting for my flights or on long bus trips, please ignore the typos.

Global Talent:
I have a childish habit of shooting small rocks on the surface of the sea to make it skip. This is called “Quicar” in the Northeast of Brazil. Who thought Brazilian kids share the same childish habits across the globe!

Soccer – Samba – Sex
The Brasilians are much more than the tripple S: Soccer, Samba and Sex. The level of awareness among the youth regarding the social and polítical challenges facing Brazil is astonishing. They thoroughly follow the international news and even discuss the smallest details of the syrian conflict! They have their own abbreviation for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant)!

In Brasil, the social inequality is a matter of fact and people seem comfortable with the status quo. It was mostly obvious when I was in Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo – the business hub of the biggest city in Latin America. Homeless people were sleeping on the corners while CEO’s used helicopters for transport.

A conversation with the woman who did my Baiano hairstyle:
She: your friend (Malek) looks more Brasilian than you do.
Me: how come?
She: He is black, smiles at all times, and knows all about football!
Me: yea, I think He is the real one

F*** You Tom Cruise:
“Blend in, dress down and be like the local people of Salvador” is the real Mission Impossible even for a person like me. “Se foda Tom Cruise!”

Gringos & Critical Thinking:
Critisizing the government, the social systems and the local customs is an enjoyable conversation for the Brasilians. NEVER get Carried away and participate in this conversation. The patriotism of Brazilians is intense when a “Gringo” criticizes something cultural or national.

A Conversa no Taxi:
The second easiest conversation to start with a brasilian is the one about the regional accents “os sotaques brasileiros”. Apart from the Paulistas, everyone thinks the accent of Minas Gerais is the nicest. In Sao Paulo, people think português was created in Sampa – they even mock the accent of those from the interior part of their own state. Oh, of course the easiest conversation is the Copa Do Mundo!

When someone picks on my accent in portuguese, my response is always ready. Ask a Brasilian to say KitKat (it becomes kitchKach) or Hotmail (Hochimao), Ketchup (Katchoopi) or whatsapp (wattyzappi). By far, “Picnic” becomes the sexiest word in português as PickyNicky.

The discrimination in Brasil is hugely criticized but widely accepted. A young couple who practice law explained to me that in their class of 400 law students, there were 2 “Áfro-descendentes”. What was more interesting is knowing that generally women get paid less than men. They describe this as “machismo” which means Brasil favours men over women and does not offer them equality.

The Stereotype of 100 million Soccer player and 100 million female dancer is as misleading as the romantic image of melting pot of Brasilian races. “Infelizmente” while the poor can be multi-racial, the rich is mainly whiter.

More Pickpocketing Than Las Ramblas:
Finally, I found a place that can compete with Barcelona as the world capital of pickpocketing. It is the narrow alleys of Pelourinho in the Historical Center of Salvador de Bahia. After the games, many little Baiano kids roam the overcrowded alleys where “Personal Space” is an unknown concept. The easiest preys are always those light skinned euorpean tourists carrying 50% of their households in their pockets.

If you think the football fans in Lebanon are offensive, you definitely did not attend a live Match in Brasil. The referee, the players even Dilma gets the most Creative offenses for example: “Hey juiz vai tomar no **”

Hamra vs. São Paulo:
Living in Beirut and hanging out in Hamra exposed me to a weird race of Human Beings. Since I can’t fully describe their hypocracy, I will borrow Ali Dirany’s expression “The Freedom Fighters of Starbucks”. They are those who wanted to liberate Palestine by an unshaved beard and a Birkenstock. Funny enough that the only person who better described those species was a brasilian journalist in a crônicle titled “Meio intellectual, Meio de esquerda” Which literally means “Half Intellectual, Half Leftist”

You know who is friendlier, warmer and more generous than the Brasilians? It is those Brasilians who migrated a century ago from the Bikaa Valley of Lebanon. Don’t Believe me? Meet someone from the Smidi family!

Comida Libanesa:
The Lebanese people should kill any Brasilian claiming cooking “Comida Lebanesa” in Brasil! Tabbouleh looks reddish, Babaghannouj and Hummos are alike, and the sweets have nothing to do with the Middle East – let alone Lebanon!

Being asked few times if I wanted to buy marijuana makes me wonder if it is the lack of sleep in my eyes or just the hairstyle!

Confidence or Coincindence:
Just saying: on the day of the match of the Seleção, the entire city wears “Camiseta Amarela” (the famous Brasilian jersey). I find it ironic that the fattest people always choose Neymar on their T-shirts.

Bucket List:
Owning a “pausada” ( the brasilian style of Bed&Breakfast) is now on my list of things to do! It gives that unbeatable feeling of living (more like serving) happy people (tourists) and learning about their worlds and cultures!

No way!:
Getting back a forgotten pouch in a Brasilian taxi will forever be an unforgetable experience! Nothing much was there other than a wallet, passport, credit card and a smart phone!

Someone loved the Arabic language to the level he wanted to Know how to say “Estou chapado para caramba!” Clearly I was hanging out with a nice crowd!

Cara, eu gosto de você:
I can’t express how much I dislilke the expression “Mano” which is a synonym for “bro”. I really loved “Cara” much more!

You want to see Diversity, come to São Paulo! Bars and cafés did not fit more people in Rua Augusta while the main library Livraria Cultura was overcrowded with intellectual youth taking advantage of the discount season!

English Pessimism:
I met a hardcore English fan (BTW He is a Westham United fan), who showed me the real meaning of pessimism. He sold his ticket for the 3rd game of England before the World Cup began! (To explain for those whose understanding of football equals my understanding hocky: in the World Cup, a team gets disqualified if they lose any two matches in the first round. England lost its two first games!)

Happened in Bahia:
Salesman: it is really good, it is for 10 reais
Me: a bit expensive, don’t you think
Salesman: I am originally Lebanese, I will never cheat you!
Malek and I: Ummmm

Domestic Flights in Brasil are unpredictable sometimes… My two stops flight to Fortaleza was made a direct one! Yuppiiii!

Código Moral:
The moral code of people is written in a unique way in Brasil. That rivalry of Politeness vs. Poverty does not exist. Those kids who offer a seat on the beach, the guy selling água de coco or those who invite you to buy from their Shop are all Well manerred. They are not only gentle in their way but also polite when they get a rejection. In return Brasilian customers are sensitive and sincere in expressing what they want. I reflect on the annoying staff in Downtown Beirut who pull you by the arm to enter their restaurant and give you that look when you say “No, Thanks”

Nothing is more sad than knowing that the Land of The Amazon hás extreme dryness and lack of plantation in the Northeast causing multiple challenges for a big portion of the population!

A cheap tourist coming from the Land of Petrol:
I know I am not the most generous shopper but São Paulo is damn expensive! Buying a bottle of water is seriously a luxury! (costs 1$ almost) this comes from someone who lives in the desert of Arabia!

Social Media Fever:
In Brazil everyone wants to be your friend – in real life and on social media. I dropped a coin in a hat of a street singer in of the corners of “Paulista” and listened to his amazing MPB’s. When He took a break we chatted for two minutes and as usual, he thanked me & gave a sincere “Abraço” and then asked if he can add me on Facebook!

Heart Touching:
No scene was more heart touching more than that of the many Brasilians gathering on one of the street corners in salvador watching the european fans in their cheerful colors and strange chants for their teams. The “Favela” or chanty town was 100 meter from the entrance of 900 million dollar stadium of Fonte Nova. Many of them wanted to see the games but could not afford it, Well at least they saw the smile on the faces of the blonde tourists and then went back to Work.

Cultural Ambassador:
During the World cup everyone is an ambassador. No Job is harder than being an ambassador for the Arab culture. A lot of damage is already done and Recovery might be harder than we think. A woman asked me to take a foto for her and after a quick chat her 15 year old son came with a brasilian smile on his face. That smile disappeared the moment his mom told him that I am an Arab. He literally left me and told his mom to follow him. I then knew that her Lebanese ex-boyfriend (his dad) left her the moment he knew about her pregnancy and disappeared 15 years ago. Recover that!

The pausada in Salvador
It was small but Clean and New. Like always, the staff – Dono da pausada – was amazingly hospitable. They offered us an upgrade and washed our clothes – Lost some items but “tudo bem”! Their accent was tough but their friendliness was contageous. Roberto was more than a friend, his wife and son made the place more like a home.

Nosso céu tem mais estrelas:
In Jericoacoara everyone is happy! Music, seafood, cheerful tourists, people watching the sunset from an enourmous sand dune while others surf, and a lot of “Stuff”. It is a paradise for the surfers and those who like to be free and happy. How can they be unhappy while sitting in a hammock Inside their living room. In Jeri, the sky hás more stars and life hás more love.

Micro Airport:
The smallest AirPort I ever visited is the One in Aracaju in the Northeast of Brasil. We walked from the plane to transfer área and a small Wifi router can cover the entire AirPort.

O Nordeste Lindo:
In the Northeast of Brazil, people are very religious – in their own way of course. They express their appreciation of christianity in various ways. Attending a “Festa Junina” was an informing experience Where the Nordestinas wear their nicely printed shirts and the hay hats of the farming community of the interior. They dance the Forro and celebrate with the traditional food. In a colorful animated way kids compete, teenagers flirt and the elderlies smile and remember their old good days.

A Beleza Brasileira:
Brazilian women are comfortable with their own beauty. Their imperfections are embraced by Brazilian men and their curves are appreciated. Since beauty is defined differently in each culture, Brasilians do not demenor body hair on woman like in many other cultures. An interesting observations is that beautiful Brazilian women adore being blonde – sometimes it reaches the level of obsession.

Generally, the Brazilians from Lebanese origins – And to a Lesser level from Syria as Well – have a very positive reputation when it comes to their business skills. They are generally well off and assume significant roles in the commercial and public life. On the other hand, many of them are extra cautious with spending to the level that their name “Turcos” became a synonm for being stingy!

Like any other nation, when Brazilians speak in English they use their own style. A simple example would be the continuous repetition of the word “Like”. My own explanation for this case is the frequent use of “Tipo” in the informal of Brazilian português. !

The Assumed Lebanese Superiority:
The Brazilians have a rivalry with Argentinians that goês beyond football. The whole Argentinian nation thinks it is superior due to stronger ties with their European invadors – Something very common with the unjustified feeling of superiority the Lebanese have towards other neighbouring Árabs.

Jogo Bonito:
Playing soccer against a Brazilian squad was an interesting experience. They were fat and slow with some young roadrunners. We defeated some and been defeated by others. While Technical skills were no different their polite and friendly attitude was an impressive differentiator.

Inferiority Complex
Some people call it The “White-Man” syndrome where blonde light skinned people from the first world are regarded as superior. In the Arab World this can be easily spotted especially in the corporate world of the GCC. Interestingly, Brasilians suffer from the same syndrome – maybe to a lesser degree. An Italian architect is hired to sell my cousin’s design through her seal of european quality. She is young and lacks the required experience but her accent and looks are sufficient to satisfy the inferiority complex of some pertencious Brasilians.

I did not know that people can be so indifferent until I met some cabin crews saying “obrigada”!

Alpha Vile:
An interesting visit to Alpha Vile – a classy part of São Paulo – changed my perspective on life standard in the largest city of Latin América. In Alpha Vile the elite of the society lives – musicians, artists and wealthy business men. There, kids leave their bikes outdoor and housewives walk their dogs twice a day. On one of the corners I met my first lemonade seller girl ever – typical of an American immitating community. Houses – not apartments – are nicely designed to embrace the shine of the Brasilian sun.

Rua Augusta:
In Rua Augusta people are dramatically diversified. Hippies walk alongside of intellectuals. While gay boys are kissing, lesbians are romantically wandering the streets hand in hand with their significant others. Bars are filled with Tattooed and pierced youth. Houses are tiny and shared apartments are the mood of living. In augusta, people design their own realities, ones that revolves around career plans and others around self explorations.

What is the worst that could happen:
What a wonderful feeling when your bus breaks down 45 minutes through your six hours trip. In the Middle of nowhere and at an early Hour of a rainy morning. Someone picks us up in groups to the next stop.

Unlucky Passenger:
You can get unlucky with your seat on a plane, but to be seated next to a mom and her 4 kids might be too much – especially if she spills coffee on you! Yes I am an unfriendly guy who thinks he deserves better than a coffee-spilling passenger! Who cares, at the end I landed in the beautiful city of Fortaleza!

Um tempo inesquecível com meu pai, Malek, Cemi, Familia Smidi e muitas pessoas interessantes
We did not win the Cup, but we left with unforgettable memories!We did not win the Cup, but we left with unforgettable memories!

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