After my last blog went out I completed a pretty hefty milestone – the end of September saw me complete 3 years since I bade farewell to sunny Tyneside. As we all know, 3 is a magic number so it felt like a major landmark in my life had passed. I’m not really certain who reads these jottings of mine but I would imagine that there’ll be people reading who either live abroad themselves or have friends or family who do and I’d like to share with you what it can be like living in a foreign country.
Living abroad isn’t actually as amazing as you may think it would be. I mean, I live in Rio de Janeiro so you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d wake up every morning jumping out to live life to the full and to enjoy the weather and culture of my new home with a smile slapped across my dish 24/7 [Youth Speak]. But that isn’t really the case. The clue is in the title: I’m LIVING here, not visiting. And life, if you haven’t worked it out yet, is a struggle. Whether you’re living in Rio or Rotherham you have to work, pay bills, survive… Doing this at home is made easier by having your support system near at hand. Mams are there to give you hugs, Dads are there to have a pint with and to talk sense into you, sisters and brothers are there to not really understand what you’re feeling, but to listen with a sympathetic ear anyway. And your mates are always there to take the piss out of you. You haven’t got this support system when you’re away from home.
Of course it is true that the world is smaller today than it was 10 years ago. Today we have email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and even mad blogs on gobshite footy fanzine sites to communicate with those we love and miss, but I have found myself caught in a Catch-22 in the past.
Let me explain. They say that moving home is the most stressful thing you can do in your life. I’d imagine that moving country, therefore, trumps moving house. When I moved to Rio back in 2010 my Portuguese was nigh-on non-existent so I knew I’d be struggling to find gainful employment. To that end I trained as an English teacher before leaving Newcastle. That meant two massive changes in my life: moving country AND changing profession. Of course I needed a 3rd major life changing event because, as already discussed, 3 is a magic number. In all honesty, I needed a 3rd ‘life-changer’ like I needed a 3rd armpit (just to continue with the theme of 3), but, the third I did get – and what a third it was. We landed in Rio with my wife expecting a Geordie/Carioca half-breed. It goes without saying that he’s a veritable bundle of joy and he makes me prouder with each passing day, but, as with all children, his arrival brought its own unique set of financial, physical and emotional strains.
Obviously, with so many changes hitting us at once we found adapting to Rio difficult, even my wife found moving home hard. Being honest, those first 2 and a half years were probably the hardest of my life to date and it is fair to say that I suffered some form of depression during the lowest points. If it wasn’t for our son and our stubborn dedication to each other, (and a Hell of a lot of love), it is questionable whether my wife and I would still be together today. When you’re away from home and you need to talk to someone you should call home, but when you’re depressed you can’t! You feel guilty about calling someone just to tell them how crap you’re feeling. You think that all they really want to hear is how hot and great Rio is and what the beaches are like and you think that by not telling them that then a) you’re letting them down and b) you’re admitting that you’ve failed. All nonsense, of course – your family and friends want, no, need, to know how you are.
But that was my Catch-22. I needed to speak to my family and friends but I couldn’t bring myself to.
I also found myself immersing myself in all things UK – only watching BBC news, watching Question Time every week on the iPlayer, reading British papers for 2 hours every day. Even agreeing to write this blog last year was an excuse to further remove myself from my life here. This is a massive symptom of escapism, and by indulging in it I was unable to really appreciate what I had here and it really just held me back.
As well as these emotional, or mental, strains, my body also had a hard time of it. The first few times I caught a flu here it knocked me for six – it turns out my immune system had no idea how to deal with the new, foreign strain of the bug I’d been infected by. Then there’s the climate. Brazil is a humid, tropical country which brings its own health problems. An English friend of mine complains that he’s never been 100% fit since living here, and although I’m not that bad, I know what he means. Even when we’re in the relatively dry summer months, our reliance on air conditioning does us no good – your body is constantly trying to deal with radical temperature changes, from 40˚C on the street down to 20˚C in your home. I know, I know, poor me, right? But it does take its toll.
Thankfully, I’ve turned a corner. I sought professional help at the start of the year, which is still a bit of a taboo back home but being in therapy is a very normal for Cariocas so it helps me feel like bit more of a local. I still have lots to work on, but at least I’m back on track, loving Rio, enjoying life, happy at work and studying like a bugger.
As we say here in TF Towers – I’m keepin’ on keepin’ on, and it’s great to feel that the future really is bright. Obviously it’s not orange, but yellow, green and blue!
Sorry if you found that a bit depressing but I thought it was a good time to give you an insight into some of the difficulties that we ex-pats experience. Mind, isn’t it funny how to Brits everyone else who looks for work in a different country is an immigrant, be when we do it we’re ‘ex-pats’? Very ‘Daily Mail’ that, innit?
I’d had a chat with old AP before I drafted this blog so he knew you’d be needing something to cheer yourself up with, hence yesterday’s performance in Cardiff – no need to thank me!
Even by wor mental standards this season is proving topsy-turvy. I tweeted on Friday that I wasn’t looking forward to the game and then they go and serve up a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes. The performance is up there with Villa away, and before the doom-mongers remind us it’s only Villa and Cardiff, lets remember that we have equalled last season’s number of away wins already, which is 2 more than many predicted we’d win pre-season.
There’s still a long way to go, and the season is definitely not going to get any easier, and for that reason alone every win (especially away from home) should be celebrated and savoured.
I won’t go into it too much, we all know where we’re lacking and what’s what, but I will say, thank fuck for Remy… If he wasn’t on fire I have no idea where our goals would come from – Cisse looks like he’d struggle to hit the Gallowgate at the moment, let alone the goal in front of it.
Oh – and a quick word on Pards. Although I’ve never been in the anti-Pardew camp, the last 4-5 weeks have seen me gravitating more towards their line of thinking, having seen or heard very little from him to give me confidence of our team in his hands. However, I think he got a couple of big calls spot on in the last 6 days. Having rightly dragged Ben Arfa off at Everton on Monday, to then leave him out of the starting 11 yesterday was the right thing to do. HBA has been our outstanding player to date, but by dropping him, I hope he got the much needed message to pull his head out of his arse. Cabaye has come back into the fold looking as sharp as he ever has for us, lets see Hatem respond just as positively.
Good news/bad news time.
Today (Sunday) sees o clássico (the derby) between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama – both teams are in the mire so it’s a veritable 6 pointer, while Fluminense take on this season’s dark horses, Atlético Paranaense.
If you’ve been reading these ramblings regularly, you’ll maybe know that I’m not exactly endeared to Brazil’s (largely pointless) State Championships. Not only have my views been reflected by the brilliant Tim Vickery in his BBC Sport blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/24328415) but I read with joy that as from 2015 the Carioca Championship will be reduced from 16 to 14 teams. If we can reduce that by 14 more we’d be making progress.
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