The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

RANDOM NOMAD: Megan Farrell, American Expat in São Paulo, Brazil

Place of birth: Chicago, Illinois USA
Geographical history: USA (Chicago, Illinois; West Palm Beach, Florida; Ventura, California; Washington, DC): 1969 – 2002; Spain (Barcelona): 2001; USA (Princeton, New Jersey; New York, New York): 2002-10; Brazil (São Paulo): 2010 – present.
Passport: USA — my daughter, however, has three: USA, Brazil & Germany.
Current occupation: Aspiring novelist and screenplay writer, business school lecturer, and former research director at a Wall Street firm.
Cyberspace coordinates: Born Again Brazilian (blog) and @BornAgainBrazil (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to explore the world and always had it in my head that I would live in other countries. I think it was because I used to read a lot as a kid, stories about other places, some of my favorites being James and the Giant Peach and The Little Prince. I also loved Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s Little House series. By the time I reached adulthood, I was open to opportunities to travel and explore new cities as a local.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced since making your home in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.
Wandering lost, in the rain, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, after a boy on a bike tried to wrestle my iPhone out of my hands. I’d grabbed it out of his hands, but he still hung around yelling something at me and trying to get the phone. It seemed incredible to me this was happening because although it was raining, it was broad daylight and I was on a street where there was a row of little shops. So after putting a bit of distance between us, I stopped and started screaming like a horror movie starlet and pointing at him. People came out of their shops and of course he got scared — I think mostly because he thought I was crazy. I’d never before experienced anything so bold.

Your blog is called Born Again Brazilian. I imagine you’ve also had many moments when you feel more at home in Brazil than you do in the USA. When have you felt least displaced?
While sitting on the beach of Leblon, in Rio de Janeiro, viewing the ocean. On a beautiful day, it absolutely makes you feel as though all is right with the world and you are exactly where you are meant to be.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of your adopted countries into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
No need for a suitcase as what I’d most like to bring with me to The Displaced Nation is a couple of intangible items:
From Brazil: Jeitinho or jeito, the ability to get in, out and/or around something despite a law, a regulation, a contract, physics or gravity.
From Barcelona: The recipe for survival possessed by local shops, which seem to close and open at random times — and when you enter, the owners or employees often act as though you are completely putting them out by wanting to buy something. It’s hilarious and curious at the same time.

Food is close to the heart of all Displaced Nation citizens. We would therefore like to invite you to make a meal for us. What will you offer?
I can offer a choice of two classic menus:
1) Brazilian (São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro)
Appetizer: Bolinho de bacalhau (codfish cakes), served with Original cerveja (beer)
Main: Feijoada (traditional bean stew with beef and pork), served with caipirinhas (Brazilian national cocktail, made with rum, sugar and lime)
Dessert: Mouse de maracujá (passion fruit mousse)
2) Spanish (Barcelona)
Appetizer: Assorted pinchos (bar snacks eaten with toothpicks), served with cider
Main: Paella Valenciana (Valencian paella), served with a nice Spanish white wine
Dessert: Flan (crème caramel)

What’s your pleasure?

You may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
Tudo bem! When you greet someone in Brazil, you say tudo bem instead of hello, but you use it like a question: “Tudo bem?” (All is well?) And you might respond with tudo bem (all is well) or tudo otimo (all is great) or simply tudo (all). Brazilians must use this greeting countless times a day. What I love about tudo bem is that it represents how familiar and personal the Brazilian culture is. A stranger in the elevator will greet you by asking if all is right in the world for you. That is totally Brazilian.

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, The Displaced Nation has been delving into the topic of finding love abroad. I understand you have a Brazilian husband. Where and how did the pair of you meet, and was it love at first sight?
I met my husband while we were getting our MBAs at Georgetown University (in Washington, DC). The first time I met him, I thought he was pretty stern — little did I know he had just arrived to the country the day before and wasn’t so comfortable with his English. I kind of wrote him off as one of the machismo Latin guys that didn’t like to work closely in a business setting with women. But after the final exams of our first semester, we wound up at the same party. I actually attempted to hook him up with my friend — he is tall and she is tall — but it turned out he was more interested in me. After I saw a few of his dance moves…it was love at second sight!

Thanks to Gisele, many people have an image of Brazilian women as very attractive. Is that also true of the men, and do they make good husbands?
First, my husband is not your typical Brazilian man. He spent a great deal of his childhood in Germany with his grandparents and has his behavior has been heavily influenced by his German father. Typical Brazilian men see the roles of men and women as clearly defined channels. From what I’ve seen and heard from my Brazilian and American friends married to Brazilians, the menfolk rarely if ever help out with household chores or issues, as they feel that is the woman’s role — even if she is working a full-time job! However, for the most part, Brazilian men are very charming, complimentary and romantic. They see themselves as Prince Charming, and if that is what a woman is looking for, a Brazilian man is a good catch.

You said you fantasized about traveling to other lands from the time you were a child. How about marrying someone from another land?
I never thought much about it, but before my husband, I only dated All-American guys, so I think it came as a surprise to my parents. However, when my now husband asked me to marry him, I knew that my life would never be boring, and always full of adventure. And I was right!

Now that Valentine’s is over, The Displaced Nation is moving on to look at expat and travel films, in time for the Oscars. Do you have a favorite film(s) in this “genre”? I see you’re interesting in screenplay writing, which makes me doubly curious.
I think the first movies that inspired travel for me were Cocktail with Tom Cruise (he finds love while working in a bar in Jamaica) and Only You with Marisa Tomei (she follows the man she thinks will be her true love to Italy). When I was a bit older, I was definitely was drawn to seeing the world by a beautifully filmed, but wildly depressing, New Zealand-Australian-British film by Jane Campion titled An Angel At My Table. It’s based on Janet Frame‘s autobiographical series about growing up in New Zealand, leaving and returning.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Megan Farrell into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Megan — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, who is discovering that Valentine’s Day in the US is quite different from the UK version — a fact that doesn’t come naturally to her three-year-old son. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

img: Megan Farrell poses at the nature center in Parque Estadual do Pico do Itacolomi, which is outside Ouro Preto, Minas Gerias (July 2011).

16 responses to “RANDOM NOMAD: Megan Farrell, American Expat in São Paulo, Brazil

  1. Jana February 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Yay! Her blog is excellent and she would be a great addition to your concept!

  2. Suzann February 15, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Yes to Megan!

  3. Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane February 16, 2012 at 3:46 am

    Yes. Megan, you can be my friend; I’d love to chat with you over a cafezinho. Enjoyed reading about your life and share some of your sentiments.

    • bornagainbrazilian February 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I love your blog! Can’t wait to read more about your adventures. I just got to the jail part, hope it ended well.
      Next time you are in Brazil or I am in Uganda – let’s definitely grab a cafezinho! Thanks for the vote.

  4. Camden Luxford February 16, 2012 at 7:08 am

    The beach ALWAYS makes me feel everything is right with the world. As do pinchos. Definite yay.

  5. ML Awanohara February 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I don’t know, guys, I don’t know… Megan is proposing bringing corruption into The Displaced Nation — isn’t that what jeitinho really is? Along with a rather curious concept of running a business that she observed in Spain, where stores open and close on a whim and treat customers like nuisances. Do we really want that? (Seems a rather odd thing for a certified MBA to be carrying around in her metaphysical suitcase!)

    Still, assuming Megan can make a mean caipirinha — I do like that drink! — I guess I’ll vote yay. Plus I figure it may be helpful to have an aspiring screenplay writer on board, chronicling our displaced activities. There’s got to be a film in this somewhere! 😉

    • bornagainbrazilian February 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      I can make a variety of caipirinhas! (see I like how you make voting decisions, a woman after my own heart. I’m also happy to document the antics of this group. You’re probably right, there is a movie in all this!
      Jeitinho isn’t about corruption, it’s about the Brazilian charm and tenacity (which I’m sure is used when corrupting as well…)
      Thanks for your vote!

  6. Alex February 21, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Hmm, this is a hard one. But my vote is yay, just marginally.

    Just kidding BABs, you know I love you. OF COURSE YAY!

  7. bornagainbrazilian April 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Just as a follow up, I’ve recently published an ebook about my experiences:ão-Paulo-ebook/dp/B00C5UM628

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