Went out on my bike today. (I could not get any pliers and had to make do with a huge wrench to tighten the last bolts on my bike. I think there may be a market here for good, old-fashioned adjustable American pliers.) Didn’t go far, just around the neighborhood. None of the streets have names, the whole city is laid out by letters and numbers, like our house is in Q9, I think. And all the neighborhoods are identical in layout with the houses often being of the same style. Stalinists designed Brasilia and it shows. But our house has a privileged site, on top of a hill and surrounded by mostly vacant plots behind hedges. A spot of paradise, as long as the karaoke singers eventually tire out. Anyway, finished the morning exercise with a dip in the pool....
Made some domestic decisions this week. Changed the domestics hours a bit to allow our cook to go home at nights. At work, trying to move forward on a few things and dealing with others. Had a nice lunch at home with the Assistant Secretary for the Americas. Knew him in DC. Brazilians value people who seem to like them and who listen as well as talk. I think I meet those qualifications. Members of my staff have reminded me that we are not here to be anybody’s friend but to represent US interests. I think we can try to do both.
July 25: It was a good week.... I continued my stately pace of contacts with the host government and diplomatic colleagues while dealing with various bureaucratic matters within the Mission and vis-à-vis Washington. Seem to be making headway. It is a humbling experience representing the preeminent First World power in a country like Brazil that combines potential greatness with a huge complexity of problems associated with underdevelopment. Brazil is a lot like us, continental in size, and with an intelligent and diverse population with a sense of the future. But it does not have the advantages that we have, especially in that it – unlike us – does not print the world’s gold standard (i.e. the dollar) and that it started about 100 years later than we did in opening it’s economy and developing its capacity to compete in the global economy. To put it in other words, America is the most advanced capitalist society on earth. Brazil wants to be. Thus to represent the U.S. and its interests here is always to come face-to-face with a less advantaged version of yourself.
August 1: My first full month here has gone okay. I seem to have gotten ahead of the issues I knew I’d have to deal with. Washington sent me a cable this week congratulating me on our reporting. Sort of to make up for some initial doubts in some quarters perhaps. But it is a big job ... the secret is not to feel you need to know – and certainly do not – everything, you also need to wonder about what you don’t know but can still get you. Had a good meeting with the anti-drug czar and a pleasant and useful lunch with the number three from Itamaraty. The staff seems pleased so far with the change. The old leadership appears to be an easy act to follow but newness alone will wear off at some point and I’ll have to make it on my own. But I do believe that listening is something done so little that I may be able to get considerable more mileage from doing just that.