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Final Dispatch: End in Pizza

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In previous dispatches by Juan Pablo Villalobos, the alien ambassador to Brazil took a taxi ride after a few cachaças, discovered the truth about Lionel Messi and offered advice on how to survive life in Brazil. His final dispatch is here.

Dispatch 000,6: END IN PIZZA

Now I am in São Paulo with its cars, its very-big-enormous buildings, its avenues, its cars, its highways, its cars, its crowds . . . It is a state-of-the-art urban nightmare! Add the name of São Paulo to our Horribly Beautiful Things to See on Earth Manual, together with Bogotá and Mexico City!

São Paulo is like a gigantic collage made of immigration flows: the descendents of Italians, Germans, Spanish, Japanese or Portuguese. And also the internal immigration flows: from Bahia, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Recife and so on . . . All of them coexist here under the nickname of paulistanos. To be an authentic paulistano you have to:

1) Believe that getting a good job is more important than breathing, eating or sleeping.

2) Believe that having a schizophrenic identity is a necessary component of being cosmopolitan.

I made a visual and olfactory recognition of the city with our Brazilian human helper, through Paulista Avenue, Bexiga (the Italian neighbourhood), Jardins (rich people), Vila Madalena (cool people), Liberdade (the Japanese neighbourhood), Morumbí (more rich people), Pompeia (more cool people) . . . It was strange that Zé Mané became mute while we crossed some parts of the city.

– Zé, who lives here?

– People, just people.

– Let’s take a look.

– Oh, forget it, you don’t want to see that.

Guys, this is what happens when you are a foreigner in Brazil: the humans here want to show you just one or two of the multiple faces of their country. And when I try to understand things by myself it seems that I am always wrong.

– It is amazing that São Paulo has so many tourists.

– Tourists?

– Yeah, look, there are hotels in every corner.

– Those are motels, not hotels, there is a huge difference.

– Motels are cheaper?

– They are not for tourists, they’re for the local people, for paulistanos, you know, for having fun.

– I don’t understand.

– Oh, God, you Welsh people are so cold . . .

I also saw lots of gigantic walls with alarms and security guys.

– Wow, Zé, there are many prisons!

– Those are not prisons, they are condominiums for rich people. Or at least that is what rich people think. They are like holiday parks: gigantic walled spaces with swimming pools, gyms, game rooms and shopping centres.

Then, at 17:30, guess what happened? Obvious: the traffic ceased! We were at Marginal Tietê Avenue. An acid drizzle began to fall from permanently gray São Paulo sky. I look at the clouds of pollution and smelled the fragrance of Tietê river. I activated the Safety Enviroment Tester. It was exactly like the Green Planet before evacuation, remember?

– Oh, dear . . .

– What?

– Life here will soon be impossible . . .

– Don’t worry, meu, paulistanos will find a way.

– Really?

– Yeah, they will mutate.

But we have to be in São Paulo, no matter the environmental risk, because this is where things happens. If we want to do business we have to be in São Paulo.

Ok, guys, here you go, the bad news: remember the possible business with our Messi-neutralizer for the 2014 Earth time football World Cup? Well . . . our former partner, Double Bastard Plutonian Nathraichean, stole the neutralizer!

– He is a malandro!, Zé Mane said to me.

(I told Zé that Welsh and Scottish have some unresolved issues and that Nathraichean had run away with important documents.)

– What is a malandro!?

– It’s like a picaroon, like a rascal, like a scallywag . . . but it seems that your Scottish friend spent so much time in Brazil that he is already a malandro. He is acting with malandro’s star strategy: the malandragem! You are getting in very big trouble!

Zé Mané explained me that malandragem always has to find the easiest and fastest way of getting something. No matter how. No matter if it is illegal. No matter if you cheat, or if you extort or corrupt. Do you guys realize? Double Bastard Plutonians are malandros! They controlled our Beloved Planet during ages with malandragem!

– Help me, Zé!

– You will have to find a way.

– But how, Zé, how!?

– The little way! You will have to find the little way! The only way to beat a malandro is by finding the little way!

– The little way!?

– Yeah, the Brazilian jeitinho!

The little way, or jeitinho, is a strategy to deal with Brazilian problems and Brazilian difficult situations. As Brazilian reality is pretty weird you need creativity, improvisation and intuition (just that!), so you can break the rules, take advantage and get things done.

– Oh, Zé, that seems very difficult for a foreigner . . .

– You better find the little way . . . otherwise . . .

– What!?

– You better go home.

What I did to start the little way was to call one of our secret business contacts at the Brazilian Football Federation and ask for Double Bastard Nathraichean whereabouts. Zé Mané helped me and the little way became:

1) A dinner in a fancy restaurant, very expensive! (send more money!)

2) A very looooooong conversation about football, female humans and music with lots of jokes.

3) The promise of some amazing business contacts (I don’t know what Zé was talking about)

4) Two airplane tickets to Miami.

5) Lots of beers and shots of cachaça.

At the end of the night we had the location of Double Bastard Nathraichean (a hotel in Jardins!) and we went immediately. He was not surprised to see us and he started to explain that we don’t have to worry, that the business will take time, that he will respect our commission, etc.

– Your Scottish is almost a Brazilian . . . It will end in Pizza, Zé Mané told me.

– But we already dined, I am not hungry.

– It is an expression.

– And what does it mean?

– It means nothing will happen and everybody will be happy.

– Really?

– Yeah, that is one of our master strategies.

So, we dined again: Pizza. ■

Photo by Rob_Rob2001.

The print edition of The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists will be available from 8 November. You can pre-order here or subscribe to receive it before it reaches bookshops.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos is published by And Other Stories.

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