This is not a banana tree leaf, madam, but my Brazilian passport, I thought (out loud?).
“Pardon me?” – asked the border officer in the Passport Control cabin at the Stuttgart airport, as if she had just read my mind.
“It’s nothing!” – I answered, feeling my cheeks burning with shame for having to go through another interrogation, while the line was tripling behind me.
To speed the process, I decided to fire away my answers to the questions before they were even asked: “I’ve come as a tourist for two weeks this time, I speak German, I am not a night club stripper, I will not lodge under a bridge and yes, I possess a credit card. Since I did not come directly from the jungle, I do not need the yellow fever vaccine. Brazil is exporting not only bananas, oranges and coffee; and as incredible as it might seem, it is an industrialized country.”
I swallowed saliva, took a deep breath, and then I continued: “I am married, I have a son, and I did not meet my husband in any doubtful circumstances. I live a decent life, I listen to operas and watch horror movies. I love spicy food and coconut milk. I can’t bear people smelling bad, and…”
“RETURN TICKET!” – said the officer abruptly in a firm, high tone – loud enough not only for me, but also for everyone else around.
I should admit that I was so frantic, that I forgot for a few seconds what I was doing here.
“TICKET!” – insisted the officer.
I smiled sheepishly and gave her the ticket. In exchange, I received a stamp on a new page on my dark green passport.
“Why do they always have to stamp a new page? Why can’t they reuse a page with a stamp of another country? ” – I wondered on my way to claim my baggage.
Minutes later, passing through the green channel designed for Nothing to Declare people, I remembered those times when I used to arrive in Europe from Brazil loaded with all kinds of pills, powders and herbs: guaraná, curau, fubá, mixing flour (to eat with feijoada), cheese bread, carqueja tea and candy.
Always when I was asked to open my luggage, I did not know if I simply laughed or if I roared with laughter to the officers’ face of disbelief while they tried to decipher each plastic bag filled with strange items.
“They come directly from the jungle. Before returning to his tribe in canoe, an Indian climbed up the tree where I live to personally deliver me these goods.”
The officers looked at me as if I was from another planet. Meanwhile, they found a bottle of cachaça Pitú wrapped carefully in silk stockings. The border officers smiled proudly, because they already knew this liquor far too well.
“You can pass!”
Not being able to change anything in this world, I have now to accept this reality without showing any sign of displeasure. I must accept that perception of Brazilians in the world is somewhat diminishing – be it in Europe, Africa or Asia. No matter how they are excited with our soccer, dance our samba, listen to our bossanova, read our literature, drink our cachaça, dream of our landscape, and acknowledge our progress.
To live freely and in peace, I swallow a lot of clichés, but time and again, when I hear some stupid comments directed to Brazilians, I feel obliged to defend my image and my honour. However, I cannot help thinking that everything would be much easier if we, Brazilians, were taken more seriously.
But until this day arrives – if it does – perhaps I might record a CD titled “This is not a banana tree leaf”. Perhaps it will spare me from future interrogations by the border officers, who, by the way, are anything but original.