A million little pieces.
14th Feb 2012
Brazil Blog 1: Estaçāo Berrini. Desembarque pelo lado esquerda do trem.
To minimize the risk of boring you all, who are already bored enough to have begun reading this, I am not going to give you a minute-for-minute of my time here. Instead, you will discover the types of things I have been doing through my observations about Brazil (mostly Sao Paulo) so far. These impressions are my own and, I expect, my opinions and perceptions will change over time. At least this way we can look back and see how much I’ve “grown”. Or whatever.
For today’s blog (my first and very possibly only – if you look back and see just how many I wrote while I was in Europe i.e. zero) I am going to write about my likes and dislikes in this amazing country.
I am not going to over-analyze myself, but it may be relevant to remember that I am a privileged, educated, left-wing, young Australian female. This description may be somewhat adjective-heavy, but keep in mind that there are these and many more that affect the way I see the world. (It may not be so necessary in this blog, however in future as I start to be exposed to more confronting things, these adjectives may become very apparent). Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way… vamos!!
Things I like about Brazil: Como esta o tempo?
This one is specifically aimed at Sao Paulo (SP). THE WEATHER. It.is.crazy. In summer at least. Brazil has the same seasons as Australia, however instead of winter acting like a typical winter and summer acting like a typical summer, Brazil’s seasons are more like wet and dry. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, summer is wet. And when I say wet, I mean WET. So in reality, this topic falls under both like and dislike columns, and for most would fall solely under dislike, but the true Tasmanian that I am, I actually have a fondness for heavy, out of control, spontaneous rain. And especially rain that never comes unaccompanied by thunder and lightning.
The day is hot, too hot, sunny, sunburny-type sunny, and gives no sign of rain. Then BAM! A thunder storm and the heaviest rain comes out of nowhere and suddenly (within 5 minutes of it starting) you have to turn on every light in the house at 4pm because it is practically pitch-black.
The concrete jungle that is this city smells amazing as the rain falls on the hot cement and the streets become littered with the frantic opening of umbrellas every sensible citizen has tucked away in their bag.
Unfortunately for me, I am neither a citizen, nor sensible. And although I enjoy the storms, I do not often wish to swim in them. Or sit in traffic for twice as long as a normal rush hour because of them – which leads me to my next point: Rush hour.
I’m not so crazy about: Rush Hour in Sao Paulo.
Attention Tasmanias: You do not know what rush hour is. Melbournians: You have the slightest of ideas. Paulistas: sheeeeeeeesh. You know what rush hour is. You know that rush hour lasts for not one hour, nor two, but up to 3 or 4… maybe more if it’s raining!! And this subject is so frustrating to absolutely everyone who has to be involved in it, that I don’t even feel like writing about it anymore. Sitting in a cab for 20 minutes and getting only so far as I can LITERALLY walk in 20 minutes, is not my typical idea of fun. Nor is being abused by angry middle-aged Brazilian men for trying to get OUT of the train when no-one will freaking move, and I’ve already shared skin cells with at least 7 people (and that was just when I was standing still).
So here’s to hoping Porto Alegre’s rush hour is more faithful to its name and is actually restricted to ONE hour, or that I just live within walking distance of… everything.
But I do like: The things you can get for two reais ($R2)!
Doing this in rush hour would be a death wish, however in less busy times on the trains, some people use the opportunity to get down to business. People get on one carriage at the station and walk up and down yelling out the benefits of the products they are selling until people start to reach into their pockets and pull out their 2 real* notes (equivalent to around AU$1). The thing I find interesting is people usually watch the person for the first 2 or 3 laps of the carriage before anyone buys anything, and once one person does, its like an A-OK for everyone else to do so. These people are usually selling chocolate, lollies, water, or more unusual products such as vegetable peelers.
Yep, vegetables peelers. In fact, they peel, the grate, they slice, they make quick little potato gems! All this for just 2 reais. How do I know this? I have watched this man (twice) speak very veryyy quickly demonstrating the abilities of his product in the middle of the carriage with his box of half-chopped/half-grated/half-peeled/half-potato-gemed fruit and vegies! And I have also seen him hitch up his pants and grab another handful of vegie peelers from between his double-layered football socks! But what has a bit of leg sweat got on R$2 vegie peelers?! Nothing apparently, because from what I’ve seen, his business is booming.
At the next stop, the sellers hide their booty and jump onto the next carriage. As the double-layered football socks suggest, this trade isn’t exactly legal. Although I wonder what the police think when they see every second person departing the train eating the same brand of chocolate and reading the instructions on their brand new vegie peelers?
*Brazilian currency: 1 real, 2 reais. Pronounced hey-al (real) and hey-eyes (reais)
I’m not so crazy about: Paying for things I don’t usually pay for.
So, maybe it’s just me, but I thought a mobile phone was called a mobile phone so you could take it different places. And if you can take it different places, why have it attached to one particular city? Calls in this country depend on: your network (fair enough I guess) and your city. If I have a SP phone number, the rates it costs me to call anyone who does not have a SP number, even if they’re from a close-by neighbouring city, are ridiculous. And I’m not even talking about states here (of which Brazil has 27)… I’m talking about cities! Like someone is Hobart has to pay more to call someone in Launceston, and someone in Melbourne has to pay more to talk to someone in Geelong.
This means when I move from SP to Porto Alegre I will have to buy a new sim card and get a new number just to avoid paying inflated fees to speak to someone down the road.
Another thing I hate paying for, especially considering the heat, is water. But we cannot drink from the taps, even in the rich neighbourhoods! Most places have filters, but those that don’t have to rely on bottled water which won’t break the bank but is very frustrating to pay for when it is something that falls from the sky! My friend also told me we have to be careful when buying water from sellers in the street as it is possible they are selling ‘fake water’ which is tap water put in used bottles and re-sealed. So you can choose from either dehydration, or typhoid. Great.
But I do like: Taxes on alcohol? What taxes?
However, these over-expenses are somewhat compensated by most other commodities that are cheaper here than they are back home. And I could not write this without mentioning the immense and astounding differences in alcohol prices… This country is a party-person’s paradise! (Could explain why there are so many teen pregnancies…). A litre bottle of Smirnoff vodka here is around R$18 (approximately AU$10). TEN DOLLARS. TEN. For a LITRE. I even saw a bottle of cachaca the other day for R$6. Cachaca, Brazil’s signature spirit made from sugar-cane, probably stronger than vodka, and the main ingredient of caipririnhas…. For AU$3. Yes, THREE dollars. Three. THREE.
Most of us Aussies can’t even afford one bottle with an hour’s pay…. Here you could buy 7. So, anyone who is planning on becoming an alcoholic in the future, do yourself a favour and move to Brazil.
I’m not so crazy about having to squat over dirty public toilets and putting the paper in a bin rather than flushing it.
But I do like living in an apartment on the 10th floor, watching the city in full swing and its 20million people running around like ants. As well as being able to sleep with the window open, and the city lights at night.
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