Never read your own press. I've heard celebrities claim that this is the best advice they were ever given. Despite not being at all famous or an important person whatsoever, I am still starting to think that maybe that is good advice for me too!
When I first started my blog, I decided right away not to tell any of our friends down here in Brasil about it. First off, because it is a journal of my experiences, I wanted to be able to write freely about the things I see and do and my reactions to them. Secondly, while I may try to be funny and my target audience (family and friends back home) will get it, sometimes my sense of humor is strange, my sarcasm is sometimes hard to pick up (especially in written form and when it isn't in your first language - speaking from my own experience here!), and if you know me well, then you know I write like I talk and it all makes more sense. Anyway, it just seemed better if I knew my Brasilian friends weren't reading my blog!
Since I started this thing, it has picked up a lot more readers than I ever imagined would be interested in reading about what I have to say. And there have been a good number of Brasilians living both here and abroad that started to follow my posts. At first, I was really concerned that I would be offensive with my "gringa" observations, but I have received some really helpful advice and insight from my Brasilian readers. And while they don't always share my same sentiments on all issues, I feel like most of them are at least respectful of the fact that this is my personal journal of my personal experiences! (You know, that I happen to publish openly and freely on the world wide web . . . but that's really beside the point!)
I noticed on my stat counter this weekend that I was getting more traffic from Brasilian IP addresses in the last few days. I found out that one website was linking over to my site, and I was curious how my blog address ended up there. I clicked the link and realized my thoughts and blog were a topic of controversy on a Latin American forum. (I also was slightly freaked out to see pictures of my apartment pasted up there, but I've since pretty much gotten over that part.) As I read what people were saying, I started feeling a little bit like a middle school girl who overhears her friends discussing what they love/what they hate about her. While the whole thing started off very positive by someone simply sharing something they had read about an American's first impression of apartments here, there was an equal amount of annoyance with a foreigner's criticism. Sort of a "hey if you don't like it, go home!" attitude.
I have never been too much of one to worry about what people think. Besides the basics of abiding by proper etiquette and good southern-belle protocol, I have always sort of enjoyed just doing my thing and not worrying about whether or not everyone likes it. But as I started reading (first off I was amazed at how literate I became in Portuguese when I really wanted to read it), I have to admit that my little feelings were a smidgen hurt. Comments like (just roughly translated here, not word-for-word) "they should leave and stop taking advantage of our country" and "if they want an American lifestyle, why are living in Brasil?" and "they need to learn to adapt to the culture they are living in" and "all she does is highlight and pick on our poor roads and favelas" and "why is it that she can't see that there are advantages to living here too" sort of stung a little to someone who thinks she is appreciative of the local culture, the chance to learn a new language, and the welcoming arms of the Brasilian people who have embraced her and her husband from the first day they stepped on Brasilian soil! Granted, the people who seemed to have taken the time to read through more than just one entry on my blog really stepped up in my defense, but it is always the negative stuff that sticks with you, right?
I felt like some of my comments were taken out of context, like when I talked about how tiny the apartments in our price range were in the Belvedere neighborhood (didn't they see where I was so excited to find Lourdes, the older part of town where we ended up living that had lovely spacious apartments?) Or when I wrote about how expensive some things quite common to American lifestyle were here in Belo Horizonte (didn't they see that was for comparison's sake only and didn't they notice the numerous times I've bragged about the super inexpensive manicures and fresh fruits?) I really like living here . . . don't I convey that in my writing even when I am frustrated with the police or saddened by the poverty or shocked at the cost of cars? Wouldn't a Brasilian have some culture shock moments the first time they went to the grocery store in the US and realized that 1 single lime would cost more than entire pound of limes here in Brasil!?!
And then I got over myself and said (just in my head, not out loud, I don't talk to myself normally), "Hey, they are entitled to their opinion! Just put on your big girl panties and get over it!" But then I had one of the thoughts that I have so very often as a foreigner living in a new country: if the situation were reversed and I was reading the comments a foreigner made about living in the United States, what would my reaction be? Isn't the usual American attitude something along the lines of: What, you don't like our country? Well, please don't let us stop you from going on back home! I like to think that I would have read a foreigner's account of adjusting to the US and been able to understand their frustrations and appreciate the differences they point out. But I can't really be sure of what my thoughts would have been before living in this current situation.
Living abroad changes you, changes your perspectives, and changes the way you think. (I mean, already I am thinking it is perfectly acceptable to wear bikinis in public that are better suited for a twelve year old. HA!) But seriously, I don't think there is any other experience that opens your mind more than this. Really, coming here was the best decision of my life (besides marrying my hubby, maybe!)
If you read Portuguese and you want to read what others had to say (because there is nothing wrong with reading someone else's press, right?) check it out by clicking here. I am first eluded to in post #10.