I came to the United States for five things: first, to get some perspective on the many problems I faced in Brazil that only distance can provide; two, to recover, train with my coach and prepare for a very selective elite competition, RUM (Raw Unity Meets); three, to be with “my tribe”, be with my friends, judge and help at the USPA/IPL meets and have a good time and four, to put my head back in place. The fifth is: to go back stronger, smarter, better tooled and ready to kick ass.
I finally got here on October the 13th. The period since I came back from RUM (Raw Unity Meets) 8, in February 2015, to October was a sequence of small, medium size and large scale catastrophes. Some of them were just fortuitous. Others were un(or under)diagnosed health conditions: I am good at providing my doctors with weird illnesses. But most were related to feature of the Brazilian culture which really don’t agree with me.
I will broadly cover each of them, but the important element here is that here is a dilemma: I have built my business and my professional project in a country where the cultural components make me miserable. In other words, the focus of my energy investment is in Brazil, but I dislike the country because of such cultural components. In this first part, let’s go through these features, so deeply ingrained in Brazilian culture as to become a structural part of it.
- Trust, committment, reliability: these concepts are alien to Brazilian culture. Ironically, I am anal about all three, to the point that my therapist has pointed out that we need to work on flexibility with me. In his words, my expectation about people’s behavior is not only unrealistic: it is not human. Let’s start with institutions. During the last six months I was contacted and hired – but without a contract, that kept being pushed and pushed – by a company called Mamut Strong. In spite of a poor educational background, they were pretty clever in pushing the button of the “ethical commitment to the sport”, one that is probably bright purple in me (everybody keeps pushing it). So I provided service to them at no cost and they went on with a plan to create a line of equipment with my name, always postponing my supervision of the items. I re-wrote 1/3 of their website, which contained bad technical mistakes, I provided content and around 50 hours or more of consultancy via skype. The owner slept over at my house and used my services full time at one occasion. Not only I wasn’t paid (not a cent), but recently I have been threatened because I posted the case on the internet. Well, for all I care, they can go on and sue me: I have e-mail proof of all I did. However, that indicates another feature of Brazilian culture: intimidation of unmarried women, no matter how strong they behave. Consider this case: it is sexist to the level of dumb. There is not a chance that I will be intimidated by their threats. But it is part of the Brazilian culture to try and intimidate women, even if you owe them… let’s see… about US$4,000.00. They were not the only ones. I hired a company and two free lance professionals to fix issues at one of my websites. NONE (not one of them) delivered the service, kept the money and never refunded me. According to my lawyer, they are small time crooks, have no money and it is cheaper to let go. Consider the myriad of e-mails exchanged, the time consumed at elaborating them, service time, etc: yes, it was a very unproductive semester in this respect and I dealt with at least 5 corporate delinquents.
- Taking advantage of others at all costs. Of course the relationship with the companies set the stage. But so called friends became re-qualified as unreliable, at best, after a few textbook examples of parasitic behavior. Some of them were just kicked out of my life. At one occasion, while I was severely injured, I offered my house for lodging a group of lifters and meet organizers from Rio de Janeiro. They were warned that I would not tolerate disorder, mess, unclean environment, as once before a group of them had misbehaved. I offered my house in a charitable act. Since they planned at having much more of my collaboration, they played the victim and got me to lend my car for a short period, while they solved some issues. I woke up and found my house in a state of complete chaos. I couldn’t walk through the house – random items, suitcases, backpacks, dirty laundry all scattered over the floor – and was prisoner to my bedroom and office. I texted them, who wrote back basically ignoring me with a fake apology and decided to have fun with my car: they went places, bought stuff and came back late at night. Never actually apologized. Behind my back, they claimed I was overreacting but, laughing, they said it was always like that and I would forget their misdeeds soon. Many bad things had already happened up to then, but after that, I would say that my trust in anyone born in Brazil is at the best relative, low in a very strict scale. It was this weekend in hell that destroyed my competitive chances for the year. In Brazil, taking advantage of others is considered not only acceptable, but it is encouraged. There’s a pet name for that: “jeitinho brasileiro” (the ‘little’ Brazilian way).
- The anti-meritocratic component. This is a thread that runs through all Brazilian social life. My first encounter with this was at the University, where a large part of the professors (the lazy ones) reacted strongly when the public scientific data platform (including everybody’s curriculum) was released. This semester I dealt with anti-meritocratic behaviors in all aspects of life. I found out that one of my co-workers (now ex-co-worker) had faked his graduate school registration (at the doctoral level). Most of my co-workers minimized their work input to a point that I had to purge my coaches’ team from them. But the scariest part was watching the anti-meritocratic perspective shape itself into a movement, lead by the left wing parties and associations (“liberals”, for my American readers). In sports medicine, nutrition, physiotherapy, coaching, etc, there are “certifications”, workshops and events all over the country taught by charlatans. So here I stand, working my ass out to build a continued education program based on high standards in the middle of a “Carnaval” culture: it is all just for show. At the wrap up part of each of my courses, I listened to anguished coaches asking me if we would ever have a chance of providing any serious service to people needing it. I had a hard time answering them.
There was a gestalt moment when I looked around and all I could see was this. These features define Brazil (plus the insane amount of bureaucracy).
That causes stress. Stress causes and feeds back into other conditions, especially hormonal ones. By April and May I was being poked and tested everywhere to check for weird things such as chronic fatigue disorder or some other improbably illness. I had lost 60% of my hair. For a woman, that’s terrifying at the least. It was finally a hormone balance issue: of all things, I lacked testosterone and also estrogen. Once they were replaced, in a matter of hours all symptoms subsided. In a month, there was much more young hair than old in my head, which still is a pain in the ass to manage.
But another consequence of the condition above was a severe impairment to heal injuries. Two small injuries – one at the adductor and one at the rectus abdominalis – that I have 5 weeks to heal and were almost imperceptible suddenly ripped open like a zipper: from the pubic bone, with partial tendon disinsertion, to mid-thigh, through the left adductor and from the pubic bone, also with partial tendon disinsertion, to the navel, through the rectus abdominalis. It happened on July the 2nd. I was officially out of full power competition for the year 2015. After a while (with tickets bought), it became clear that recovery was so compromised, given the permanent stress, that even the single lift bench press was out of question.
To make things worse, I have idiopathic heat intolerance. After much research and discussing the matter with scholars from Tel-Aviv, I had to admit this is a genetic trait and cannot be “cured”. The weather is getting warmer and October had its first heat wave.
Hang on, the saga is not over yet. Follow it here.