Have you ever heard about the Creativity Gym? It’s a gym, founded by Rafael Ribeiro in collaboration with his friend Filipe Pereira, where with their help people train their creativity skills and creative self-expression. Rafa is from Brazil, but he is living in Lisbon for the last 9 years and calls it home.
“Since I was 22, I was trying to understand the philosophy of people’s life in Brazil and how they managed to live in that confusion with no respect to human beings. And I think that I got to the point when I felt that I couldn’t live there anymore and needed to find a better place for me, but I didn’t know where exactly. I didn’t have special feelings to any specific place in the world. I just wanted to leave Brazil.
I was at the beach in Santos, on the coast of São Paulo, sitting next to my mom. I turn to her and said: “Mom, I want to work outside of Brazil”. Because I couldn’t adapt to the chaotic way of life there and had a fear of my own shadow. She wished me luck, looking a bit sad and happy at the same time.
One month later I received a job offer from a friend. He asked me if I was interested in working in Portugal. I said: “why not?” He sent my CV to that company and in one week they contacted me. It was a Brazilian company with an office in Portugal. After a phone interview they got back to me asking if I could start working the following week. I said that I needed at least two weeks to get ready. So, I quitted my job, prepared all the documents. I called my mom and said: “Do you remember the talk we recently had about leaving Brazil? Come here for the weekend, as then I’m leaving for Portugal and I have no idea when I’m coming back”. So, she came and we had a great party, invited about 90 people to my place. That’s how I decided to move to Portugal.
Indeed, what I decided was to leave Brazil. And I didn’t choose Portugal. I believe that it was Portugal that had chosen me.
The first thing that impressed me in Portugal was.. the moon. I was going down by the Av. Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco heading to the Marquês de Pombal square and there was a huge orange moon above the other end of the avenue. And that was when I felt that I should live here. Like if I had already been here before. Believe me or not, I don’t even know if I myself believe in it, but I had a feeling that I had already lived here or that I needed to come here. Sense of place. It was my second day in Lisbon.
The first day I arrived at 8 am and at 9 am I was already at work. I worked at the Ministry of Justice. I remember that when I arrived, my colleagues were giving me some details about the project and I didn’t understand anything. So, I thought they lied to me saying that we were speaking the same language in Brazil and Portugal. And then I thought: if I say that I don’t understand anything, they will think that I’m stupid and will send me back to Brazil the same day. So, I agreed with everything they told me and then asked to send me all the information in a written form by email. And then I read it and realised that there was just a difference in the intonation and some words, especially the technical words, had a completely different meaning than in the Brazilian version of Portuguese.
For me, Portugal has everything I like in a perfect balance: it has a good climate, great food, nice people. Even though everybody complains about the economic situation, I’m coming from a country where the things are worse. Despite the economic growth in Brazil, there is a vast disparity of income and very high cost of living. It causes a lot of confusion, as you may have a lot of money but you have to spend a lot to feel safe. And it’s getting worse and worse. I never wanted to go back.
Surfing is my great passion. And in Portugal we have one of the best waves in the world and no sharks. Usually, where there are big waves, it’s either extremely cold or extremely dangerous, while in Portugal even for surfing everything is in a perfect balance.
I believe in this country, that’s why I don’t want to leave. If I had to leave for financial reasons or for openness to the things, which I want to do, I would move to London or any of the nordic countries. But I don’t want to, I don’t see myself there. To leave all the things that I love here just for the opportunity to gain more money? I think, it’s not worth it.
Usually, I do things in a very pragmatic way. On the one hand, I love party, happiness and joy, like Brazilians, but, on the other hand, I’m very methodic and organised, and even strict in certain respects, like Dutch. That’s why I’m in the middle of Brazil and Germany: both geographically and culturally. I don’t consider myself Portuguese, but neither do I consider myself Brazilian. Brazil itself is a mix of nations and cultures, so I feel a mixture of nations and cultures in myself, too”.