The exile has its own flag

A couple of days ago while I surfed in Kibe’s blog I read this sentence above, an excerpt of a song from a Somalian rapper based in Canada. Then, I decided to take this opportunity to reflect a little about the condition of foreigners here in the United States.

Obviously I am not an exile, at least not in the classical meaning of the word, but a guy who by his own initiative decided to venture far for a while from his country. I always experienced a feeling of strangeness in Brazil, but not for the same reasons that I perceive here. There, my feeling of strangeness was more connected with the fact of being black in a certain process of social mobility that included, at the same time, the loss of a place of origin and the uncertainty of being accepted in a particular place of arrival.

The difference between my position as “foreigner” in Brazil and my position of foreigner in the United States is that over there I was inserted in the sociability of the ordinary people, able to anticipate the rules and subvert them or ratify them as soon as the situation demanded or allowed. Here I am abroad, previous to the existence of a reflexivity and without fully sharing the social norms.

I live under my skin what Simmel theorized about the ambiguity of the condition of foreigners, as being those who move between the indifference and the involvement. That is, I am both part of the sociability of this place and the opposite of that same sociability.

Almost everyone assumes as a first impression that I'm American, but only until the moment that it becomes clear, either through the accent, the gestures, and the way of walking that I'm not. It is interesting to note how this possibility of "passing" and the condition of traveler organize my interactions in the U.S. I don’t need to live the dilemmas of assimilation versus maintenance of identities that the permanent residents living, but, on the other hand, I cannot escape from them. Once more, as Simmel suggests, I live the condition of a foreigner more from the point of view of a certain positivity and creativity than from the point of view of being transferred to a different culture.

Although my foreign eyes ensure me more objectivity they also put me in front of a sphinx to be deciphered. When I look for both sides of the sociability (the side I share and the side I don’t) I feel myself increasingly near to the flag of the exile, in a kind of psychoanalytic axiom, since I only belong where I don’t belong, and even if I decipher the sphinx she will devour me.

Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don't know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death if their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.
(James Baldwin, Giovanni`s Room)

How to know if you're really in San Francisco

1. You take a bus and are shocked that two people are carrying on a conversation in English.
2. Someone says TENDERLOIN and you don't think of steak.
3. You never bother looking at the MUNI line schedule because you know the drivers have never seen it.
4. A really great parking space can move you to tears.
5. You know that anyone wearing shorts in July must be visiting from Ohio.
6. You assume every company offers domestic partner benefits.
7. Your boss runs in "The Bay to Breakers"....and it's not the first time you have seen him/her nude.
8. You are thinking of taking an adult class but you can't decide between yoga, aroma therapy, conversational mandarin, or a building your own website class.
9. You haven't been to Fisherman's Wharf since the first month you moved to San Francisco, and you couldn't figure out how to drive to Coit Tower if your life depended on it.
10. You were born somewhere else.
11. Left is right and right is wrong.
12. Your monthly house payments exceed your annual income.
13. You dive under a desk whenever a large truck goes by.
14. You can't find your other earring because your son is wearing it.
15. Your family tree contains "significant others."
16. Your cat has its own psychiatrist.
17. Smoking in your office is not optional.
18. You pack shorts and a T-shirt for skiing in the snow, and a sweater and a wetsuit for the beach.
19. Rainstorms or thunder are the lead story for the local news.
20. A person enters the bus in full leather regalia and crotchless chaps. You don't even notice.
21. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.
22. You give a "thumbs up" gesture to a car with a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker--and you mean it.
23. When you drive under an underpass, for one moment you think "earthquake."
24. You realize the only Republicans you know are your aunt and uncle in Texas.
25. You realize there are far more rainbow flags in the city than California state flags.
26. You go to your office manager's baby shower and the parents are named Judy and Becky.
27. Your church elects a new bishop who abandoned his family and two young daughters to fulfill his sexual urges with another man.

(withdrawal from the facebook).


If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

Travel Companion

Elizabeth Bishop is one of my favorite poets ever. Her concise written, made with a few, simple, and almost crude words have the ability of let me amazed.

Her poems are the remedy for my moments of academic written. Was reading her book of letters, between one and another chapter of my dissertation, that I could finish my master degree. When I read "Rare and Commonplace Flowers", book that tells the love story lived between Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares I discovered the beauties of living in Rio de Janeiro. Now, in San Francisco, I found a book with her complete poems that I want to read as a Christian who reads the Bible. For those who didn’t know Elizabeth Bishop I transcribe below my favorite poem from her.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

About Politics and Sexuality

“I am not a candidate. I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate”. This was the first of many phrases that touched me last Saturday while I watched Milk (a movie directed by Gus Van Sant) here at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

The movie, starred by Sean Pean, is about the true story of Harvey Milk, a neighborhood activist elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and murdered, along with the city’s mayor, George Moscone, by a former supervisor named Dan White in 1978. Milk was the first politician openly gay elected in the country. His election and activism had a profound impact on national politics, and his rich afterlife in American culture has affirmed his status as pioneer and martyr.

At the beginning, Harvey Milk was just a guy wanting to open a photo store at Castro Street, the center of a decadent neighborhood of the city that time. Milk was discouraged to open his store there, but started to realize that he was able to resist the threats and became one of the few leaders of a movement that, in little time, turned Castro into the epicenter in the struggle for the civil rights of homosexuals.

The main fight captained by Milk was against the preposition 6, proposed by Senator John Briggs, whose intention were the expulsion of gay teachers from the public schools in the United States. Milk played an important role to defeat the proposal and was strengthened in the political landscape of California then.

The greatest achievement of the film, in my view, is the ability to present clearly and convincingly what is the central objective of all of us that are militant and / or work with social movements, that is, the ability of to demonstrate that is impossible to think in process of democratization of the society without the inclusion of the minorities discriminated against.

Despite a degree of sobriety and distances from the characters that the movie portrays, it’s evident that we are talking about a militant perspective. It is clear the importance of the collective actions to lead us into the social changes and to the self-determination.

Thus, for all of us that, currently, are proud of our relative freedom, here in San Francisco or anywhere else in the world, we are in debt to figures such as Milk, who gave up their egoism looking for the guarantee of social rights that they themselves did not had the opportunity to enjoy fully.

Another strong point of the film is its ability to not be a dated work, completely closed in the moment portrayed. The trajectory of a movement that emerged 30 years ago is unfinished, since there are many barriers to overcome until the point where, perhaps, political and sexual themes are no longer interconnected.


A Gateway to Hell

Think about 4 foreign guys looking desperately for an apartment in the Mission District, a guy named Quincy Johnson (or would Halmos?), a girl named April Brown, add someone called Joseph Atsus, an architect and sociopath, vois lá, you have a story that could only happen in San Francisco. So, I‘m still homeless.


Who am I?

"Cats don't have names", it said.

"No?", said Coraline.

"No," said the cat. "Now, you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names."


Today I start my work on this blog, which has no claim, except to work as (mis) information for those who are interested in to know how my life is going in the coolest city of the United States. So, join us and enjoy your time here!

Well, today turned a week that I'm living in San Francisco, and looking for apartments and / or rooms for rent, I have faced in almost 90% of the ads available on Craiglist with the damn 420 (pronounce it FourTwenty) friendly.

At first I didn’t pay attention on this expression and completely disregarded the 420 friendly expression when I saw it in front of me. However, a few days ago I decided to ask: What hell is 420? And ... well, I discovered that 420 is both a police code and a slang for nothing less than Marijuana.

Therefore, its not very difficult to reach the conclusion on how common is the use of marijuana in SanFran. Considering its past hippie (whose culture is still present in neighborhoods such as Haight) and a constant aroma of insurgence in the air, this city is the paradise for a 420 friendly.

You can see people smoking in the streets in almost all hours of the day, and in some districts is also very easy to find the product being sold on the street (just get up the corners of the blocks of the Mission St and at Market St next to the Civic Center to demonstrate what I'm saying).

Oh, and the cops? This is also another interesting point of SanFran, it seems that the police are not really interested in this subject, because many times I have seen people smoking next to them and they don't even notice. Well, San Francisco really seems to be a unique city! See you in the next chapter.



During this week I started to think in writing my blog in English and in Portuguese. I know that most of my friends are Brazilians but I also have good foreign friends that I would like to share some experiences that I post here. Then, below I listed some reasons that led me to translate my posts to English in this blog:

- Allows everyone who speaks English to know about how I tell my experiences living here in San Francisco.
- Makes it possible for people I’m related to (from conferences, travel, work) to follow what I might have to say.
- Allows me to connect with the people that might be interested in the same issues.
- Makes sense when I have to comment a post by another English-speaking blogger.
- Allows me to improve my English, since I’m an English learner and must to practice a lot (So, feel free to report me some grammar mistakes I make from now on, I’ll really appreciate it).

I feel that I write in English because I want to connect with other people with whom I like to share opinions or ideas. The same people with whom I want to maintain an ongoing conversation. These are the conversations that really make me look ahead, challenge me and make me learn more each day.