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  • "Você tem saudades do Brasil?"

    It's my first day back in São Paulo, and my colleagues are asking if I missed Brazil. My visa allowed only 6 months per calendar year, so after a couple 6 month stints in Brazil, I spent the second half of 1999 in Australia, and then returned.

    The word saudade doesn't translate well into English. Several people described it to me, and apparently it's similar to the Greek word for nostalgia. In the Season 1 finale of Mad Men, Don Draper's character explains: "In Greek, nostalgia literally means 'the pain from an old wound'. It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."

    This word fit my situation better than anyone could guess.

    Before I visited Brazil the first time, I'd broken off my engagement to a girl whom I still loved, but whom I could not trust. It was a long, rocky relationship, one that had to end after a familiar betrayal, but that didn't mean I'd fallen out of love.

    Brazil was quite the remedy. I got away from everything that reminded me of her, and came to know many good-natured people who liked to sing and dance. On weekends we went to the beach, ate barbeque, and drank caipirinhas. I dated beautiful women I would not have had the nerve to ask out if I had met them in the United States.

    After landing in Sydney, I found myself wandering the city with an English woman who was just getting her Australian citizenship. We weren't physically intimate, but she developed a crush on me.

    She introduced me to The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony". When I left, her eyes welled with tears, and she cried softly on my shoulder.

    It was a relief to be in Brazil again.

    But it'd be inappropriate to say any of this. So, with more of a grimace than I intended, I simply nodded.

    "Eu sinto saudades." Yes, I feel nostalgic.
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