Where do you see yourself in five years?

I heard this question in several job interviews and I always hated it. I never understood if the purpose was to check how ambitious I was or to know if I was going to ditch the job any time soon. Five years is a long time and I didn`t want to have my life planned so far ahead. So I lied a lot on job interviews.

This seems to be a common thing in lectures and books about achieving success. The general idea is that you set up goals for yourself and if in five years you have achieved them, you`re winning the game of life, man! Congrats!

That`s fine to help you focus and everything, but how boring is that? Doing exactly what you thought you`d do five whole years ago; you are that predictable.

Five-years-ago Susan, at the age of 22 and starting to study journalism, would never, ever have guessed that by 28 she`d be a divorced single mother, published author, living in the UK and working at a nursery, while trying to help children on another continent to get cannabis*. That would have been a crazy thought I`d have probably left out at a job interview. Past Susan didn`t even know Newport Pagnell, the city present Susan lives, existed. And if past Susan had been offered the opportunity to live in this small town on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, she would have said: “no, thank you”.

If you don`t know Newport Pagnell, it`s because you don`t live in the immediate five-mile radio. I ended up here because of my ex-husband but, as you probably figured, we split up. So now I feel a bit out of context. There are very few opportunities for reporters in the area, especially foreign ones with experience on writing about weed. And for someone who lived her entire life in one of the largest cities in the world, Newport Pagnell is pretty much like groundhog day loop. But I`m getting used to it; it`s all a matter of adaptation.

There`s something I learned from Taoism and tattooed on my leg so I wouldn`t forget: be like water. Water is flexible and patient, it blends to the environment. It might at times be stuck on a puddle, but it`ll eventually evaporate and travel again. It won`t be stopped, it will keep moving forward. Water has the power of overcoming all sorts of obstacles, given enough time. So give me time, I`m on my puddle.

The puddle is not necessarily a bad thing either. Newport Pagnell has its charm and I love to learn about its long history. I`ll write more about it another time.

The point is: I found myself a single mother, the government denied me some benefits because I hadn`t lived in the UK long enough, so I figured I`d have to work even though I had a baby and was still breastfeeding. It had to be part-time, local and something I would enjoy. Since the jobs 2016 224I went to college for were not available here I asked myself what I`d like to do, what I`d like to work with, and the answer was right in front of me – more like in my arms, probably crying or poking my eye. Children!

I have experience with kids so I knew what to expect. I might have said at some point in the past I`d never work with children again. But the whole point of this post is that things change, they keep changing. After I`ve had my share of disgusting adults I began to miss the innocent little creatures. Plus: I became a mother, which makes my brain be filled with love-for-children hormones.

So I got a job at the local nursery and I`m enjoying it a lot. Childcare for my son is provided there, so I`m never too far from him; the company is very nice and wants to help me get more qualifications; and I`m now thinking of doing a masters on Childhood and Youth, maybe start writing about it in the future. Things are coming together in ways I would have never expected.

If I had set up strict goals and tried to stick to them no matter what, I might have failed miserably or have been very successful, I`ll never know. I just know things would definitely be different now and that`s a thought that keeps me awake at night sometimes. I know it`s a silly thing to think about, but it`s hard to avoid. Things happened as they did and I chose to adapt, to be flexible, to get comfortable in my puddle instead of hating past Susan`s life choices. I have no idea where five-years-from-now Susan will be; I don`t really want to know. I set my goals weekly, anything beyond that is an exciting mystery.


PS: There`s nothing wrong with setting long term goals, I just think it`s a good idea to be prepared to abandon them when they no longer make sense, or adapt them when life takes you to a different direction.


*Just so there`s no misunderstanding, there`s a context here. I support groups of parents in Brazil who fighting for access to cannabis based medicine for their children, mostly with hard-to-treat epilepsy.

Brazil overtakes UK economy

Once I read this heading at the BBC news website my first thought was: big deal! UK is still a far more fair place to live. Unemployment there sucks, so what? You get government help if you can`t find a job. In Brazil that’s not possible because people might just stop working since the government help would be probably better than the “almost-slave” jobs a lot of them have. What do I mean by that? I mean working 10 hours or more for about US$ 200 a month (which is not much in Brazil, believe me!). The minimum salary in Brazil is a monthly wage which doesn`t clearly specify how many hours you have to work every day to get it.
Anyways, the unemployment aid is one of the reasons why UK is in trouble, isn`t it? The less jobs, the more unemployed people, the more money spent on them. Besides that, there are always those people that just don`t want to work.
So the Brazilian government had this brilliant idea, right: to give money to poor families so that they would be middle class and the then President would be known as a hero who took so many people out of poverty. Well, of course none of this money came out of his pocket. He took it from the actual middle class, which is poorer now so that the poor could get richer. It works quite well, it became the party`s strongest electoral weapon.
What happened then was that the middle class had to work more to keep their lifestyles, while lower classes just stopped working. I saw this happen so many times, women counting how many children they needed to have in order to stop working. One of my friends` maid had her first child, so went on maternity leave. As soon as she got back to work she got pregnant again and quit. She figured 2 children would be enough.
The number of “informal employment”, or non-registered jobs, also increased. This way you can get paid by the government and have a normal salary. Who pays for that? Honest workers who declare incomes and pay taxes.
So where is all this money that makes Brazil richer than UK? High society has it, of course. Politicians, business men, rich families have it. To add to the disparities list, 3 neighbor states, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are responsible for more than 50% of the country`s GDP. More than 30% is only in the state of São Paulo and 10% only in the city of São Paulo. That means most places in Brazil, which is a huge country (fifth largest) are not as economically advanced as the country claims to be. The people considered wealthy in São Paulo (the city) represent less than 20% of its population. It`s a pretty ridiculous number compared to the population of the entire country.
So why should we be proud? A huge country overtaking the economy of a little island, which still has a way better social reality? What`s the point of living in a rich country and having a heck of a life? What`s the point of such an awesome rank in the world`s biggest economies if the population has to deal with violence, bad hospitals, bad roads, heavy taxes and embarrassing corruption? Brazil has an enormous potential. If well administrated it could be self-sufficient. If well administrated it wouldn`t be so affected by the global crisis that decreases its growth. If something isn`t done soon, while the situation is favorable, Brazil will be risking to miss the chance to become a real super-power. People should start protesting for the right reasons!

The Elderly Issue

Brazilian people are paying a bigger percentage of their income in taxes than many countries of the EU. It is calculated that a Brazilian must work an average of 148 days a year just to pay taxes. It doesn`t sound very fair if we compare Brazil with the social reality of the countries that collect as much taxes from its citizens. In fact it isn`t. There are series of problems to be solved in the country, and to do so, politicians would raise taxes rather than change the tributary system which is draining our money. One of the main issues to be solved is the elderly.

Brazil is still a young country, a little less than 10% of the population is over 65 years old. If we compare it to the UK, Germany or Spain, which pay about the same percentage in taxes (an average of about 36% of the population income), we know where a great part of these taxes are going, since a much bigger slice of their population at a retirement age. In Brazil, though, there is a deficit of 44,5 billion Reais just in retirement money. Last year, the government had to destine 90 billion Reais to retirement. Does it sound fair? Well, it would if 47 billion of this amount wasn`t just for the public service retired, which respond for only 1 million people, while the private sector retired, which are 27 million people, generated a deficit of 42,9 billion. That means the public sector`s benefits are 32 times bigger than the private sector.

So if you work for the government you might get paid an average of 5.600 Reais a month in your retirement. If you don’t, well, then you will have to be satisfied with a monthly average of 722 reais. In order to hide the monstrous contrast, the government stopped publishing the public sector worker`s data every month. This information only comes out annually, now, when the government send the congress the following year`s budget.

The problem will only increase the next few years, since the elderly percentage is expected to grow to 40% of the population until 2030. That means less active workers, less taxes, bigger deficit. A huge change must occur in order to keep the situation under control. If the government doesn`t start choosing wisely how to use our money, it might cause a social crisis very soon. The new president elected, Dilma Roussef, denied the necessity of a change on the tributary system and believes the deficit in the economy can be solved by the economy growth. Could it be that simple? That`s what Brazilian population is about to find out.

Rick the Ping-Pong Star

Enzo wasn`t very excited as he walked up the stairs to the 5th floor of Modulo high school. He knew what he was about to confront.  He had been going from class to class all morning, recruiting kids to the school`s Olympics. Everything was going well so far, but now it was time for the “problematic” class, to quote the principal, to be asked to take part on one of the most important events of the school. If he could simply ignore that class he would, but he had to make sure every class would get the chance to participate.

The philosophy teacher didn`t mind at all Enzo`s interruption. He was barely interrupting anything; the students were doing anything but paying attention to the lesson. It took a while for them to notice Enzo standing there, and some struggle from the teacher to get their attention to him. When everybody quieted down, he started:

–          Good morning, everybody! As you all know, every year, we have the school`s Olympics and I`m here to know which of you will represent your class in each sport. – he heard some boring sighs – Well let`s make this quick, shall we? When I say the name of the sport you`d like to compete just raise your hand, ok?

Two or three of the 36 students gave a sign to be listening, so he continued:

–          Volleyball; – he looked over his clip board, no answer – Soccer; – a few boys raised their hands, barely enough to make a team – Basketball; Dodge ball; Race; – he kept listing the many sports with no answer at all from the students and was already putting his papers away when he finally said – Ping pong.


He wouldn`t realize someone had volunteered if it wasn`t for the student`s cheering screams coming from all over the class. He turned around to see Rick, the class`s pet, with one hand up, looking straight at him. Enzo couldn`t tell if that was some kind of joke, or if he was just going to ask the teacher a question, as he often did, or if Rick actually wanted to play ping pong. Well, if it was any of the first options, it soon became the third. The students were cheering so loud, yelling Rick`s name and making a party out of the situation; that made Rick feel so wanted that he couldn’t say no to ping pong.

The rest of the students were as puzzled as Enzo. Rick wasn`t sportive at all and the general opinion was that he was a very awkward kid. First of all he was bald, with a little hair on the sides of his head, which is pretty weird for a 17-year-old. He wore glasses, the kind of glasses that if any person with a perfect vision looks through he would probably see micro-organisms. Besides his strange look, it was also a little difficult to keep a conversation with Rick, he had some trouble expressing himself and he could only talk very slowly. He was also known by his frequent questions. Every time he raised his finger the class would listen to the next unnecessary question and the teacher`s obvious answer.

Despite all that he was now the ping pong star. Maybe that was a talent that nobody knew about and would now be revealed so Rick would upgrade from the class`s pet to the class`s champion. At least that was what Rick expected right before his first game. He was afraid to go down the stairs to where the ping pong table was. A massive group of students, not only from his class but from the rest of the school, was waiting for him to play, cheering with such a fervor he had never seen before. Everybody was screaming his name; there was even organized cheering. One girl would shout: “I want to hear an R!” and all the rest: “R!” Every time they finished spelling RICK they would jump and sing, repeating his name over and over. Nobody cared when he lost the game. The party continued in the class room and the next games until the end of the Olympics. At some point there was a huge sign with Rick`s picture in the class room, and he`s name was everywhere in the school.

None of the students knows exactly why Rick was such a success on their last high school year. They could be just making fun of him or maybe it was just a reason to have a good time. But at the end Rick became an icon, a hero, and nobody in his class will ever forget him.

These are Rick`s Youtube videos:

Rick`s Game

Rick Before the Game



It`s 10 o’clock and you are already on your PJs, watching American Idol with your mom, when you get a call from your friend, letting you know that she`s coming over because her boyfriend (affair? lover? friend with benefits?) is going out and offering a ride. She arrives 30 minutes later, announcing that she`s going to use your shower and dryer because she didn`t have time to get her hair ready. She asks for a towel and tells you to call a couple of friends to see what`s on tonight. You then find out your friends are at the bar around the corner and, after one hour of washing, drying, changing and making up, you and your friend go meet the group at the bar. When you get there you notice the bar is closing, because your friends are the only people that are still there. So you drink the rest of the beer and get in someone`s car to the next destiny. The four cars are parked in a gas station so you can get some more beer and the girls can use the bathroom. You spend 40 minutes doing that. Someone calls one of your friends from another bar nearby and that becomes the next destiny. You get in someone else`s car this time. After a few turns around the block you find a parking spot and the bar. You get a little more beer, vodka, and other weird drinks. Someone gets annoyed by the lack of music in this bar, so half the group walks to a Samba house down the street. There, one of the couples has a fight because the guy got too drunk and started to act stupid. They leave the place and you find out you don`t have a ride home anymore. It`s only you, the friend that had been with you from the beginning and her ex-(actual? only on holidays?) boyfriend. You enjoy the Samba and a couple more beers before you decide to leave the place. Outside you find the fighting couple discussing still; the girl is crying and complaining that she can`t find her cell-phone. Everybody tries to call her mobile and gets to the conclusion that she must`ve dropped it in the car. They fight all the way to the car and leave, while you and the two remaining friends realize it`s already 5 and you`re starving. So you walk 6 blocks to a Burger restaurant and have your meal. Before your friends finish their sandwiches you are already sleeping on your chair. The waiter wakes you up to hand you a napkin with the phone number of the pink shirted guy on the other side of the room. Judging by the color of his shirt you decide is not even worth to say you`re not interested. You leave the napkin on your dirty plate and head out to get a cab. Finally home, you and your sister, who just arrived 10 minutes earlier, watch the sunrise from the balcony and go to bed.


She walked through that same street she walks every day. The same houses, same trees, same lights, she paid no attention to them, it was all the same. She worked two blocks from the main avenue, and lived about 6 blocks away on the other side.  When she gets to the main avenue, she thought, she would check her balance at the bank. She didn`t notice the man walking to the opposite direction, wearing jeans and striped shirt. Every time she noticed someone suspicious walking towards her, she would cross the street and pretend being interested on something on the other side. She was terrified of muggers. And who would have guessed that this middle-class looking man would be about to rob her? He approached her next to a tree, showed the knife in his pocket, and demanded for her purse.

–          Oh my God! – her heart beating as fast as it can – Please, my kid`s medicine is in it. Look, I`ll give you my money…

–          Ok! Ok! Just give me your wallet. – He thought for a second and decided he needed to sound more frightening – And your mobile, pass me the mobile!

–          OK, here! – terrified, she took the huge cell phone out of her purse, making it look a lot lighter. The artifact was probably several years old.

–          And that`s all you have? – he asked while he took the 50 bucks out of her wallet.

–          Yes, yes, it is! I swear!

–          Right.

It`s hard to tell if it was because of Josiane`s expression of fear, or because of the giant dinosaur cell phone, or  because of the kid`s medicine, but  something  on the crime scene touched Vanderlei`s heart. He was already looking to the sides to see if there was anyone watching them and run away when he turned back to Josiane, scaring her out again, and started to explain himself.

–          Look, I`m sorry…

Josiane`s eyes were wide open, but she was less scared now and more curious.

–          I am ill, you know, I got AIDS. The medicines are so expensive and I end up in the hospital every week, I had no other way out. I hope you understand.

–          But… – she was getting emotional – Have you looked for help? You know, government help? There are some projects that help people in your conditions.

–          It`s all bullshit! They help a couple of people and say they are doing their part, throw commercials on TV and make all that noise, all lies! You see, Ma`m… I`m sorry, what`s your name?

–          It`s Bruna – she didn`t think long to answer, than realized he had her wallet with her ID in it – Josiane, I`m sorry, it`s the habit.

–          I understand, we can`t trust people now a days.

Jo was feeling comfortable already.

–          Yeah, especially when they rob you!  – she laughed, he joined her.

–          How rude of me! Taking your wallet with all your documents, it`s so much work to get new ones and you`ve got kids to take care of. Here, take it back.

He took the money and gave her back her wallet.

–          Oh, wow! Thank you!

–          You can have this back too.

He gave her back her mobile. He didn`t notice her expression of dislike, the phone was covered by insurance.

–          Well – said Jo – can you walk me to the main avenue then? It`s only one block ahead.

He stared at her, suspicious.

–          Oh, no! – she hurried to explain herself – I won`t even go to the police, I just want to avoid any more trouble. It`s getting dark now, what if someone else try to mug me and I don`t have any money left? What would they do to me? Would you believe me if I said: hey, sorry, I don`t have any money, some other mugger took it 5 minutes ago, maybe he`s a friend of yours. He would stab me for the disrespect.

Vanderlei laughed, but took a step back.

–          Sorry Josiane, I hope you understand. I also have a son, we are waiting for the exams. Let`s hope he doesn`t have the virus.

–          Oh, yeah, let`s hope so. Good luck! And Good luck on your treatment.

–          Thank you.

They walked away, like 2 old friends that met on the street.

As soon as Jo got home she started to tell her sister what happened.

–          Jesus, Jo! You got robbed?

–          Yeah, he had a knife and took my money!

–          You must call the police! – but Jo already had her phone in hands.

–          I have a more important call to make… Hello! Yeah, I`d like to cancel my cell phone`s insurance. You want to know why? I`ll tell you why! Because the mugger gave it back, that`s why!

Credit Card


I was already pissed off when I answered the phone. I finally had some time to take an afternoon nap before I went back to work, but the phone had to ring right when I closed my eyes.

–          Hello.

–          Hello, can I talk to Susan Barbosa, please?

–          Speaking.

–          Hi, Senhora Susan, my name is Cesar. I must tell you that, for your own security, this call is going to be recorded. Is that ok, Senhora Susan?

–          Yeah.

–           I`m calling in name of Itaú bank, to let you know that we are going to be sending you a brand new credit card and it is going to be arriving at your home in 15 days. Is that ok, Senhora Susan?

I didn`t know if I should be angry by the “Senhora Susan” – which in Portuguese sounds like he`s talking to an old lady, – by the frequent “going to”, by the fact he made me get up for that, by the fact he talked to me as if I had difficulty understanding him (like an old lady) or by the annoying argument I knew I was about to have with poor Cesar. But it is not his fault, really, so I continued.

–          So the card is going to get here and I`ll have to pay its fee.

–          No, Senhora Susan, we are sending it for free.

–          But there are fees every month, right? As any credit card.

–          That`s right, Senhora Susan, it`s only 4,50 a month.

–          Well, I don`t want it.

–          It`s all right, Senhora Susan. We are going to be sending the card, that is going to be arriving in 15 days, and if you choose not to use it, you don`t have to. For the card to work, you need to call us and unblock it. If you don`t do that, we won`t charge you.

–          Don`t I have to cancel it? I heard of many cases like that, you send the card and the person just ignores it or throw it away, and then by the end of the month the bill arrives.

–          That is not going to happen, Senhora Susan, if you don`t unblock the card, there is no charge.

–          So I don`t have to call and cancel, do I?

–          No, senhora Susan, you don`t.

–          Are you sure about that? What`s your name again?

–          It`s Cesar.

–          Are you sure about that, Cesar? Isn`t this call being recorded?

–          Yes, Senhora, I am sure. And yes, the call is being recorded.

–          So you guarantee there won`t be any charges, no headaches over canceling cards I didn`t ask for…

–          Don`t worry, Senhora Susan.

–          Ok.

After all that talk about cards, I thought our conversation was over. He was just a messenger after all, he needed to communicate the card was being sent and that was actually nice. But I was wrong.

–          Ok, Senhora Susan. Can I confirm your home address, please?

–          What?

–          I need to confirm your home address to send you the credit card.

He was a seller after all.

–          So you haven`t sent it yet? How do you even have my address? I don`t have an account in this bank and I never requested a credit card.

He wouldn`t give up now, he was halfway through.

–          Senhora Susan, do you still live on Tonelorio street?

I was so relieved, he got my address wrong. I actually lived on Toneleiros, but I would never let him know that.

–          No, that`s not where I live. And why would you send me a card if I just told you I won`t use it?

–          It`s just a trial, Senhora Susan, have I mentioned the advantages of this card? Do you know about the miles program?

–          Yes, I do! It`s the same with every freaking credit card of any freaking bank! I`m not stupid, Cesar, I know how a credit card works! I know the advantages, and I also know the disadvantages! And based on my knowledge I refuse your offer. Is that ok, Senhor Cesar?

–          But, Senh…

–          Don`t send me the card! This call is being recorded! I hope you don`t send anything against my will, Cesar, that could cost you your job!

–          No, Senhora Susan, listen, if you would just give me a chance…

–          I don`t want any credit card, I`m happy with mine, are we clear?

–          Yes.

–          Thank you, have a nice day.


There was no one home when Melissa got there around six. She was glad, this way no one would see her red eyes and ask why she had been crying. She was tired of being treated as a kid while everyone around her looked way more childish. The sixteen-year-old had spent all the way home wondering why all those things were happening to her, trying to find a solution for all of those problems, trying to find someone to blame. But there was no conclusion. She needed a distraction, so she opened her closet, packed with all sort of things not only hers but her brother and sister`s, and started to look for a book. She pulled the box she kept the old books she liked and something fell right by her feet: a bag of balloons.

George was always off at 6, he hated it. It was the worst time to be headed home, when the traffic at least doubles the time of his journey. In rainy days that time would double once more. He wasn`t feeling lucky anyway on that day, but he cursed the heavens when the rain started and he got stuck on Paulista Avenue. He tried to turn on the radio but then remembered it wasn`t there, he had been robbed on the weekend. He couldn`t help but go through all of his problems. His life didn`t seem to be as meaningful as it had seemed before, his family didn`t seem to be a dream that came true but the root of his problems. Even the thought of his wife, that he loved for 6 years of marriage, didn`t seem to quite please him. He wanted to run away from all that but he knew he couldn`t, he had responsibilities. He hated the responsibilities he got for himself.

It was just a bag of colorful balloons, but it inspired Melissa in such a way that she couldn`t let it pass. She opened the bag and started blowing the balloons. There were pink, blue, white, yellow, green and orange ones, they looked so pretty together, so cheerful. She simply kept blowing them until the bag was empty, the apartment completely filled with them and her lips dry and pale. She looked around and enjoyed the sight of all those colorful things spread all over the floor. But she wasn`t quite satisfied. She got a black marker and started to draw a smiley face on one of them.  She was about to start drawing a heart on the next one when her mom arrived, looking a little confused with all that mess.

When George finally got home, as ironic as it could be, the rain stopped. His wife was having trouble with the three-year-old and trying to feed the baby. The older kid was yelling, complaining of something he wanted. The baby was crying and spiting the food off. George didn`t even get the chance to say hi, for his wife was demanding for help, telling him tons of things to do and asking if he had brought any milk. He had forgotten about the milk. It didn`t take long for the arguing to start and soon both adults were yelling and both kids were crying. George couldn`t stand that anymore, leaving the kids to his wife, he went out to the front porch to get some fresh air.

Melissa said hi to her mom but got back to what she was doing. It took her a few seconds to notice how her mom was just standing there, looking at her with a surprised expression, without even letting go of her shoulder bag. Melissa reached another marker and offered her. They were now both doing all sorts of cute drawings on the balloons, writing some kind words and even some funny ones too. They were laughing and having such a great time, it seemed right to spread that to other people. They took the balloons out on the balcony and started letting them go with the wind, from the 15th floor of the building. It took them a while to go back inside; they watched the balloons flying away until the last one of them was out of sight.

Even though he was trying to quit, George lit a cigarette. He had been wandering in front of the house for a few minutes when he saw, coming from a high level of a near building, a bunch of balloons flouting and dancing in the air. It was a pretty sight, he thought. There were pink, blue, white, yellow, green and orange balloons flying over that middle class district. He watched as some of them came to his direction. George tossed his cigarette in time to grab an orange balloon with a smiley carrot drawn on it. He laughed at the nonsense. But something on that senseless orange balloon brought him up. He got back inside with it, his wife had almost completely calmed the baby down, but his son was still wining. As soon as he saw the balloon on his father`s hand, the kid completely forgot what he was wining about and went out to the yard to play with it. The house was suddenly back to normal. George kissed his wife and went to the kitchen to help her get dinner ready.

Airport Security

I was trying to put my shoes back on – and jacket, and hairclip, and all the things that once were in my pockets – when I was called by security.

–          Is this your backpack ma`am? – the chubby, middle aged English man asked.

–          Yes – I answered, a little concerned with the time of my flight – is there a problem?

–          No, ma`am, I just need to check an item. Can you open it for me, please?

–          Sure – I said, as I opened it – what is it exactly? – I started to take item by item from the stuffed backpack.

–          It looks like a star, and it seems to be metallic.

That was when it hit me. I completely forgot to put that in the big bag I had checked-in. I nervously took the object out of the bag.

–          Wow! What is this, ma`am? Can I take a look?

–          Sure, it`s just decorative, you see. I`ll put it on my wall.

–          Are you sure? Well, can you wait here for a second? I`ll be right back.

I sat down as the man took the object to an officer. The man looked very surprised as he studied the metallic object I had brought with me in my carry-on bag. He looked even more surprised when the security guard pointed at me. He looked back at the object and back at me a couple of times before he walked towards me.

–          Is this yours? – he asked, a bit smiley.

–          Yes… I mean, it was a present.

–          A present? From who?

–          A boyfriend.

–          Ha! – he seemed to contain his laugh.

–          It`s decorative, I`m supposed to put it on my wall.

–          Really? – he paused for a second, not believing my excuse – Do you know martial arts, miss? – I couldn`t help but smile, he smiled back – you know you can`t be taking a ninja star to an airplane, don’t you?

–          Yes, I do… It was supposed to be in my other bag. But, seriously, it was a present, look at the center – he read the words that said: “I`m with you, soul mate”.

–          I understand, miss, but you can`t be walking around with sharp stuff in this country.

–          I understand, mate – I instantly regretted using the word “mate” with my American accent, it sounded like I was mocking – but look at me, do you think I`m going to attack anybody with this?

He actually looked at me from top to bottom: a skinny girl in my twenties, wearing jeans, Uggs and a Zara top, carrying a converse bag, a cute backpack full of little stuffed animals hanging from it and carrying a stuffed panda bear in my hands. I couldn`t look like I represented that much of a threat for international security. He was convinced of my innocence, but now he had to convince his superiors. He walked away and talked a good ten minutes on the radio. He came back with a grave expression.

–          Listen, I received orders to arrest you.

–          What? – My heart nearly stopped at that moment, my brain was already working on finding a way out when the English police officer smiled.

–          But I told them it wouldn`t make any sense, it was a present and you are not a threat. It was pretty close, huh?

I wanted to hug the man in relief, but that wouldn`t be appropriate so I just thanked him. We talked about martial arts for a few minutes while I grabbed all of my stuff.

–          You get to keep my star, don`t you? – I asked, missing it already.

–          I can`t let you in with this.

–          Well, take good care of it.

–          Have great flight, miss.


If you like big cities, São Paulo is a great place to live. Loads of things to do, awesome nightlife, expositions, parties, crazy people everywhere and art is all over the city. But as one of the biggest cities in the world, Sao Paulo has its problems too. One of them, that is probably among the most serious ones, is the crime. Although crime could happen anywhere, in a huge city with millions of people living together, it tends to happen more often. Robbery is no exception. Last time I read news about it, they announced that something around 80.000 cases of robbery, of all kinds, happen per semester in the city. Statistically thinking, if you are part of the 18 million “paulistanos” who spent most part of their lives in the city, you`re more likely to be killed by lightning than die without ever being robbed. So if you are not part of that statistic yet, you should be worried!
That`s how I used to feel every time someone got robbed, worried. If you ever get robbed in Sao Paulo and tell anyone about it, you will notice how the group of people around you will raise, as they each tell their own exciting robbery stories. It felt strange every time they looked at me expecting a story and I simply had nothing to tell. I was the lucky one. But everyone knew, and I knew it well myself, that sooner or later I`d either get robbed or struck by lightning. All I had left was the expectation: when is it going to happen?
When the time came I was well prepared. It was 3 in the afternoon, the sun was shining. I was on my way to work, pretty distracted, and didn`t realize how deserted that street was. I felt someone walking past me, so I looked only in time to hear him say: “I just want your wallet and your cell-phone”. At this point you feel like someone just punched your stomach, but I remained calm. I noticed the second man behind me and evaluated my chances. The street was completely empty. For some reason not even cars were passing by. So I decided there was no point on running or screaming. I always planned what I would do if I saw myself in that situation, but I never actually thought I would put it in practice. I realized then, that plan B was on. I would have a lot of trouble substituting all the documents and cards I had in my wallet, so I announced to have medicine in my wallet, and asked if I could give them just the money. The guy in front of me seemed to hesitate as I calmly negotiated with my robbers. The other one behind me simply said: “Yeah, let her keep the medicine, we`ll take the money”. The other one agreed, as I took 12 bucks out of my wallet. “That`s all I have”, I said, while one of them tried to reach for my phone in my purse. “Ok”, one of them said, “here, keep two”, and he handed me 2 Reais back. I didn`t know what to say, so I said “thank you”, realizing the other one had not only found my phone, but also my Ipod. They disappeared behind some trees, telling me to keep walking.
After stopping at a cafeteria to call the mobile company to block my stolen phone, I got to work with that “I can`t believe it finally happened” expression on my face and told my story to my co-workers. Someone bought me a pastry and a soda, and we were soon telling each other our stories. It almost felt like a celebration, I had finally become statistically normal.