The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

A tale of Brazil

As this blog is about international students’ experiences in Leiden, I was actually gonna write a post about my attempt on  cooking Brazilian feijão (beans) without a pressure cooker. But maybe some next time. Because right now, being Brazilian means something else.

People always ask me why did I leave Brazil, with its beautiful beaches, smiling people, the land of samba, carnaval and soccer to come and study in the Netherlands, with its rough climate and cold winds. And my reply is always the same: here, with much less, you can do so much. Streets are safe, the public transport works and no matter what your budget, you make it work with dignity. Taxes may be high, but you get certain assurances back.

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In Brazil we also pay a lot of taxes, but you can hardly trust it to get back to you. It is so common to to pay for years of private education and pay for a private health insurance because the public system is overcrowded and lacking minimal conditions; pay for public transport that is saturated and unreliable and on top of it all, be in a constant sense of insecurity outside and, in larger cities, even within your house. The public machine is a big white corrupt elephant and for years, people have been apathetic towards politics, nurturing a sense of impotence. We are known for so many stereotypes of happy, smiling people all around the world and sure, there are many reasons to be proud of being Brazilian, but deep down, things are so, so different in reality than magazines and films show.

That’s until now. If you have seen the news lately, what started as a protest on the rise of public transport tariffs in São Paulo has now become a larger movement across major cities, asking for wider changes in the system, tired of corruption, tired of disbelief, just like many other protests around the world.  And the surreal thing is, while you accompany this in the news, it is also broadcasted live in your Facebook timeline by your friends who are there; your Whatsapp won’t stop buzzing with first-hand news, photos and videos. It is real, and even with the distance, it’s feels like you are there too.

I can only fight, demand and hope for better days, even from far away. Hopefully one day, all those things that make the Netherlands a great place to be in will also apply to us. From the far Leiden, I send my respect and regards to all who will not stop believing we can make a difference. A big shout out to all of you.

As a friend of mine has said, “Brazil, I love you, but I have become tired of being a rascal’s wife”.

PS : If you are interested in knowing  more about it, this video gives a good overall picture.

PS1 : If you are still interested in the beans, check out this video (in Portuguese).

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