'What my lonely curtains say about Brazil's economy'
Yet there is one challenge that has left me utterly defeated, and brought members of my family to near tears: Getting a pair of curtains hung in our living room.
OK, it's not exactly life-or-death. But our utter inability to find a carpenter or handyman does say a lot about the historic changes rippling through Brazil's economy - and it may also shed light on other topics, from President Dilma Rousseff's popularity to a recent crime wave in Sao Paulo.
As many people know, Brazil, the No. 1 Latin American economy, enjoyed an economic boom during the past decade. Thanks to prudent policies that brought long-elusive stability to the financial system, and strong demand for its commodities in places like China, Brazil finally shed its reputation as a perennial underperformer.
The boom was particularly notable because it benefited poorer Brazilians the most, allowing some 30 million people - or about 15 percent of the population - to join the middle class.
Many of them were maids, carpenters and others who were used to scratching out a living doing odd jobs. But with Brazil's newfound upward mobility, and unemployment at an all-time low of 4.6 percent, many of those people now have other options - and it turns out virtually anything is better than helping some dumb gringo hang
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