Dressed in White

I grew up in a country (the US) where everyone tries so desperately hard to be "politically correct".  What does that mean anyways?  To portray an image of equality despite race, income, or social status?  The truth is, this equality.. it doesn't exist.  Whether we want to admit it or not, to one degree or another every country has it.  A sense of hierarchy.  It differs from one place to the next, that thing at the top of the totem pole that everyone else longs to have or to be.  Bestowed through gender, bloodline, wealth, fame, or so many other avenues, there is always that "respect of persons" that comes from our own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to someone else's station.  Think about it.  Why do we dress up for certain people and not for others?  We change our clothes, our attitudes, even the way we talk depending on who we are with and where we are at.  Have you ever been "put in your place", or done so to someone else?  Hierarchy, order, station, status, place, calling, rank, position, standing, grade, class.. they exist in our homes, in our schools, at work, at church, even in our social groups.  And you know what?  I don't believe, when handled appropriately, that it's completely a bad thing!  Without the presence or sense of something greater than ourselves, we would feel no desire to progress, we would have no accountability for our failures and shortcomings.

Hierarchy is most easily noticed when comparing extremes. In the States, where there is an "upper, middle, and lower class" (and virtually everything in between), it isn't as easily recognized. However, here in Brasil, the "middle class" is just now starting to develop, but still has an incredibly LOOONG way to go!  We may reside in a bubble within Sao Paulo, but don't be deceived.. within walking distance there are what is known as "Favela's", massive slum-like places made of brick, tin, and any other scavenged materials that may have been found.  Each day, hoards of people walk from the Favela's (the more fortunate ones ride the buses), and head to the more financially affluent areas to work for their wages.
I desperately want to get some good pictures to capture the reality of some of these places, but sadly drive by shots are about all I have for now.  The comparison is humbling.
Culture is truly a fascinating thing.  A certain lyrics come to mind (courtesy of Disney): "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you.  But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew!"  How much I have learned in such a short period of time!  We have been in Brasil for just past 3 months now, and I am just as fascinated today as I was the moment I stepped off the plane by some of the cultural norms here that differ from the ones I grew up with. 

The first week we arrived I packed up the kids and headed to the park in an attempt to meet some fellow moms and make new friends.  I arrived at the park wearing a casual white pant suit and heels and immediately every eye was on me.  As I looked around at all the women I realized something - EVERYONE was wearing all white!  Later on it was explained to me.. All those women with children were the "babas" (aka the nannies), and all white is their uniform.  Well, no wonder they stared!  Who is this crazy new woman bringing her own kids to the park and wearing all white?!  Personally I think all white looks crisp and classy.  However, I wear it very scarcely and only if I'm feeling daring due to the fact that I have 4 kids who just LOOOVE to wipe whatever gets on them or comes out of them on whatever limb of mine is most accessible.  So naturally, my first reaction was "White?!  How stressful!  One little grimy hand and her outfit is shot for the day!  What about gray, or mud brown??"  Well, white shows everything.  A woman can't pretend to be clean if she's wearing white.  Either she is, or she isn't!  Most families have multiple white outfits available for their baba throughout the day to change into in case they get soiled.

I have truly come to admire so many of these women.  I watch them tend to these children, while their own are under the care of another, even cheaper hand.  They dote on these children, they love these children, they raise these children.  I recently finished the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett which was referred to me by a respected family friend of ours and helped open my eyes even further on the matter.
It is so easy to judge cultures that are different from your own. It shocked me to learn that while I thought the living conditions inhumane, the state education systems lacking, and the dispersement of wealth absurd, that there are those here who think that our lives (Americans) are the sad ones... an over willingness to leave family behind in pursuit of wealth, never happy or satisfied with current situation, and having an abundance of arrogance, greed, and gluttony. What a fascinating thing culture is! What it all boils down to is this: There is NO perfect culture in the world today. There are things each country excels in above others, things we can learn from one another if we would only be willing to open our eyes and be slow to judge. I hope that through the opportunities I am given to see cultures different from the one I originally knew, that I can change and adopt practices and values into our family that would help create our own "perfect culture", while remembering that what may be perfect for me, may not be so much for you!

So today, my hat is off to Brasil. The land of some of the happiest, most content, and hardworking people I have ever encountered. Willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their loved ones, and never uttering a word of complaint. If I can be half the woman so many of "the least of these" are, I say, I've made out quite well!


  1. Wow. So well-said! I really couldn't add anything to this. Great work.

  2. Great post. And great photos. I always think it's unfair to say one culture is better than another. They are all different, and we are the lucky ones who get to experience more than just the one we were born into.

  3. you can not imagine how beautiful were his words, you seem to be a great woman! I hope that Brazil can you have a good feeling and that you enjoy living here

  4. Loved your post, I have always said you have a way with words and should write a book. I stand by those words and will be first in line to buy your first publication! Wonderful..

  5. Thanks guys :) It's amazing isn't it? Everyone thinks they know best.. if you take away the way things are done you'll realize all of our values are mostly the same!

  6. "there are those here who think that our lives (Americans) are the sad ones"

    Yes, this has been my experience as well.

    I remember a conversation with my husband about how in the U.S. an adult child - particularly a man - who lives with their parents is often looked down on like he's a "mama's boy" or not responsible enough to live on his own... in the U.S. young adults are pretty much expected to get their own place.

    He was shocked. He thought it sounded ridiculous, cold, and completely unloving to expect an adult child to "leave the nest" - whereas we Americans tend to see leaving one's parents' house as a positive step, a sign of independence, and necessary for "personal space."

    My husband is 35 and lived with his parents until we got married this year - but I had to be careful in how I explained that to relatives in the States, since they would tend not to see that as a good thing!

  7. That is sooo true brasilicana! I was talking with my embregada today about it as well.. Here, you have working fathers and most often non-working mothers who have full time nannies to care for their kids. In the States this would be seen as unloving, for how could anyone possibily leave their child all day with someone else if they didn't "have to"?? But here, people see me with my 4 kids and judge me as unloving.. because if I TRULY loved my kids I would pay for a baba (or 2!) to come and care for them and make them happy all day long. It is so intriguing! I play with my kids- swing them around, tickle them like crazy, etc. and our embregada has to diffuse rumors about the crazy abusive American mother who doesn't have a baba, takes her kids to the park and lets them play and go on the swings or down the slides ALONE (HUGE taboo here apparently), while she reads a book on the bench nearby!.. lol

  8. Another excellent post! It's amazing how clearly (or not so clearly at times) we see ourselves while looking at the lives of others. Good for you to use this opportunity to grow and expand your own world. Love you forever!!

  9. I couldn't help but think about the color white I thought about the Temple about the service that is rendered there. Service..."When we are in the service of our fellow men we are only in the service of our God." Serving, loving, caring, teaching, and sacrificing for other peoples most priceless possession their children. What a noble position of respect that "should" be given. White, those who wear that color are people we should pattern our own lives after. Isn't is interesting the "things" we place value on. Thank you for such an excellent thought provoking post.

  10. Well said! Thank you for your comments :)