A short ‘vacation’ in Brazil – at midterm

Tomaz Farina Escoteguy, Staff Writer

The midterms were practically knocking on my door when my cellphone popped with a notification from my dad: “You are coming back to Brazil this Friday” (of course it was not exactly like that, since it was in Portuguese, but my old man allowed me to translate it freely). Well, that was definitely something unusual even to me, a Brazilian who is used to our national disfunctions.

And just like that, I had to go from Madison, Wisconsin, the most north I’ve ever been in my life, to my little country city of Passo Fundo, which is located in the extreme south of Brazil.

It seemed unreal that I would have to let go of the student life I was finally getting used to, to the relaxed and lazy one I was living before coming to the U.S. Even though I would only be there for a week, I knew it would be enough to make me want to stay there and not come back.

But, well, I had to go and so I did. Not because I was missing my friends and family like crazy – that would be a good enough reason to go back, but that was not it, at least this time – but because I had to resolve my military situation in my country.

Most may not know it, but showing up for military service in Brazil is mandatory for all men who are 18 years old.

Actually, if you are living abroad and start your application with Brazil’s embassy – in my case it would be the one in Chicago – you can end it there. Of course, I would still have to take a bus to Chicago to swear my loyalty to the blue, green, yellow and white colors of the Brazilian flag, but it would be better than taking one plane to Sao Paulo, then another one to Porto Alegre, Brazil’s South Capital, and finally one bus to my city.

If reading it seems annoying, imagine doing it and, then, doing it again five days after it to come back. But, it had to be done; since I started my admission process back in my country, I had to finish there.

No one knows about this underground law, OK? If I didn’t show up, I would be in “debt” with the Army and basically be illegally in the U.S. from Brazil’s government perspective. 

Also, I wouldn’t be able to usufruct all the uses of my Brazilian Passport until I showed up for my military service. An International Student with his passport not fully working doesn’t seem nice, right?

But, it wasn’t that horrifying. Although we (Brazil as a nation) are in the middle of an economical and political crisis – something I will not get into details here because it deserves its own report – breathing the tropical air renewed my energy.

Even better, after my situation was resolved, I had some time to see and stay with my family and friends, eat actual good food – I just cannot cook – and speak Portuguese because, oh boy, I missed it. It was, truth be told, refreshing.

I am not sure which is the biggest lesson from this craziness. Would it be that you should know some of your country’s international politics? Probably. Or that little things like a Brazilian typical plate “arroz e feijão” (rice and beans) or some time spent with your family matter more than you even have acknowledged? Also correct.

To be honest, I am not sure, but next time I meet with everyone and everything back there, I will let them know how much they truly mean to me, and I do believe that this is the most important thing.