segunda-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2015

Improvise And Improve

I consider myself Portuguese. Okay, part Portuguese. If there is one thing we, Portuguese people, like doing when talking to foreigners is to brag about the peculiarities of the Portuguese idiom that cannot be grasped by anyone else other than Portuguese natives. Yes, we have a special word for yearning something or someone (saudade) and that is a common theme in many of our cultural outlets. Yes, we enjoy talking about it as if it's one detail that makes us special to others because apparently melancholy is something to be proud of.

This must be one of the elements that defines a Portuguese person, even one that is only an honorary Portuguese, because I caught myself talking about saudade to outsiders, who ended up looking condescendingly or understanding at me while I talked about ancient Portuguese history and deep feelings that can only be understood by adopting a culture like one's own, and embracing what cannot be seen.

Later in life, I learned that the best way to explain the Portuguese culture is by talking about the culture of improvisation. Portuguese people have a bittersweet feeling towards improvising. It's something we do with great skill. However, it indirectly indicates that we leave things until the last minute and therefore have the ability to use whatever means available to still make whatever needs to happen really happen.

We call it desenrascanço (noun), because we do have to make up special words to define things we do in a special way. Desenrascar (verb) is improvising, Portuguese style. It's similar to winging it, you know? We need glue, but there's none. We use chewed bubble gum. We need a screwdriver, we use a key instead. Those sorts of things. 

I like saying I learned to desenrascar when I went to college. Journalists do have to be able to wing it, as if we all had to deal with worst case scenarios. I never had to deal with things other than the crisis, the sudden lay offs, unemployment, difficult bosses and so on. But improvising, Portuguese style made me better equipped to deal with life in general. That I know because, now, living in Goa, India, there is no other way to go by.

Goa was a Portuguese colony. I sure hope those who keep the Portuguese language alive do remember to explain how we use improvisation to improve at least our world. Saudade is not enough to represent the Portuguese culture anymore. There's so much more to us than feelings.


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