The Unique Culture of Brazil.


Words & Photos by Ruth Economy - @rutheconomy

My name is Ruth Economy. I’m from the American Midwest, but am currently based in Perth, Australia. In Perth, I serve as a full-time volunteer in the media department of Youth With A Mission. I turned 19 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and celebrated by visiting Copacabana beach. I remember the white sand melted like sugar beneath the crash and foam of the waves along the shoreline. This was the first time I had been an ocean away from my family for a considerable period. I felt both old and young.

Brazilians, I learned, are loving, passionate, embracing people whose generosity flows from the wealth of their hearts. I remember being welcomed to several of the locals’ houses. They put out anything and everything that they had; cakes, cookies, lollies, fruit… it was their joy to offer the best out of what little they possessed. True poverty, I realized, was not what we lack in our wallets, but what we lack in our hearts. These people were rich.

The relaxed culture does not anxiously hang on the edge of a clock’s ticking hand. A sharp contrast to my westerner’s “five minutes early is on time” view. Time seemed to be measured by relationships, rather than appointments. I first learned this value when I had been invited to a Brazilian barbeque hosted by a church. Though I had arrived at the appointed time, it would be hours before the food would be ready. In my impatience and hunger, frustration grew until I realized that these hours were intentioned to be filled with communing and hanging out. Eating food wasn’t about food, it was about fellowship.

Despite being in an unfamiliar place, I found comfort in many small, unexpected ways. Home was in a steaming cup of tea, with my reflection sloshing back at me. The strongest of black coffees on a bright, clear morning. Home was found in layers of clothing on a cold, fragile day. In deep conversation or fits of shared laughter with friends. Home was the warm activity in my heart when familiarity stung.

Music has always served as a connecting factor for me, no matter where I am. I get lost in the memories and attachments that songs provoke, my mind withdrawing to another place in time. I love hearing music that I know playing in an unexpected context. Like when I was walking around Rio with my friend, I caught a Rolling Stones song blaring from a car radio. This odd clash of familiarity in an unfamiliar place brought such strange contentment.

No matter where we go, I think our hearts long to connect with that sense of home, whatever that looks like. We long to find that place of rest. Though this can be gratifying, don’t avoid the discomfort of the unknown, but rather, embrace it. Learn the culture, meet the people, try the food. Create memories.

As you’re sleeping in strange accommodations, holding on for dear life in swerving taxis, bargaining in markets with people who don’t speak your language, struggling to get wi-fi, eating exotic foods, meeting new people, and walking on roads less travelled, allow yourself to discover that place of rest, in whatever small way that you can. But more than that, do not negate a heart of gratitude for wherever you are.  


For the dreamer - For the adventurer