The Help

It was something that struck me as soon as I came to Brazil. In every single home I’ve been to there has been a maid that cooks and cleans. Some of them live with the families they work for, and others have families of their own. The Pastor´s maid, Cecilia, seems to be made of strong stuff. Not only does she work six days a week for the family, on Sundays she gets up at 5am to cook soup and make tapioca (a delicious pancake-like dough that you can fill with all sorts of things), to sell on the beach. Who am I to complain about my workload?

It is so common to have someone working in your home that I am met with disbelief when I tell people that it’s not that common in Sweden or England. “In Sweden only very rich people can afford to have staff working for them. Besides, in my socialistic country it’s considered a little bit strange if you cannot manage your household by yourself.”

Yesterday I saw a bit of a documentary about the lives of Swedish politicians, that was censored (!) in Portugal, but has become viral among Brazilians on the internet. The film shows the (rather small) apartments the politicians are provided with, in which they live in during the week, while working in Stockholm. It follows one politician to the communal kitchen (complete with a “Clean up after yourself!”–sign) and the launderette, where the reporter devoutly announces that THEY CLEAN THEIR OWN CLOTHES! I’ve explained to the people I’ve met here, that no, Swedish politicians are not corrupt (as far as I know anyway), they don’t live in palaces, and they don’t earn millions. As I mentioned in a previous post, there’s been a lot of political intrigue in and around Bragança lately. The former mayor of Augusto Corrêa, ran off with 68 million Reais (about 20 million euros). There seems to be a lot of nepotism going on, and Aurimar claimed that many local politicians cannot even read or write. “Clown politicians!” he huffed, “They´re all open for bribes.”

In some ways Brazil is like Europe fifty or even hundred years ago. Not only the maids, but also the habit of addressing each other with titles. Here it’s very common to call each other Senhor/a, Professor/a (to a teacher), Doutor/a (doctor) etc. I have not been exempt from the rule – my students call me Senhora and Professora, which is rather nice, even though I cannot really get used to it.

Categories: February 2013 | Leave a comment

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