Having lived and worked already over 3 weeks in Brazil (times goes so fast!), I am still trying to understand the Brazilian life and people! This is a country of deep contrasts: wealthy and poor, beautiful and ugly, open and close, musical and silent!
Wealthy and poor
Brazil is booming at the moment! You might have read in the news that Brazil has become the sixth-biggest economy in the world. This is visible everywhere – huge construction sites and shopping malls are everywhere, roads are full of luxurious cars and Brazilians love the latest technology gadgets and designer accessories. At the same time just next to rich neighbourhoods, you suddenly see the poorer side of the society. Sometimes poorer favelas are hidden in between high rich towers. Change is so sudden that only a bad smell of sewage wakes one up from the paradise. Despite a huge improvement brought for the poorest by Lula’s governments, there are still millions of Brazilians who live on nothing hence violence (assaults usually happen late at night in dangerous areas but also tourists and wealthy people are targeted). This is quite hard to comprehend – I was invited last Saturday to a wealthier area of Recife for a BBQ by the pool. Then I still couldn’t forget the pictures of the catadores house and other poor people I saw while driving around with Mark.
Beautiful and ugly
Last weekend I was invited to visit a beautiful beach an hour away from Recife – called Porto de Galinhas. While driving there, we took class A dual carriage way (new and shiny better than majority of motorways in the UK). A few minutes later, the surface changed to a bumpy and dusty road with no road signs (I could never imagine driving in Brazil – it’s crazy and sometimes dangerous! Crossing streets isn’t fun either – there are many serious road accidents hence it’s important to check 5 times before crossing!) and litter all over the place. We then arrived to the beach – it was amazing! It felt like in a paradise: palms, sand, reef and the sun! We drove a bit further to see the surfers’ paradise. To get there we passed a poor area again smelly with garbage on the side of the road.
Many places also have double meanings: pretty and ugly. In Salvador the most beautiful hill with a view on colourful colonial houses actually has been an area where slaves where gathered for a sale.
In Olinda the most colourful market full of local craft and tourists also has been a salves market area. And Porto de Galinhas (Chickens Port) takes its name from chickens market that were a cover for slaves market.
Open and close
Brazilians are as welcoming as I expected. I love the fact how easily everybody chats away and is really welcoming. Within days of starting my work at my agency here, majority of my colleagues chatted to me (using: Portuguese, French and English and smiling ;). I danced in the middle of the office too.
Getting to know people is so easy (especially that I continuously made a foul of myself by speaking as much Portuguese as I can and making lots of grammatical mistakes and demanding ad hoc grammar lessons 😉 I also never had so many random chats – like yesterday when I was trying to swim and this Paulista (guy from Sao Paulo) decided to tell me his entire life story (of course in Portuguese) in the middle of the ocean being really happy about that fact that he’s quarter Polish!
But many Brazilians are closed for the poverty too. I am not so surprised as it is easier not to see the poor. Many richer people don’t leave their wealthy areas and hence don’t really know about problems around them. Apparently, boom of the high towers that are here everywhere was linked with violence. Therefore more wealthy parts of the society ‘closed’ themselves inside secure towers with steel gates and security cameras.
Musical and silent
I spent a weekend in Bahia – a region south of Pernambuco. Capoeira, samba and all other music was everywhere on the streets! Here in Pernambuco there are lots of artists and musicians too. While travelling yesterday I listened to famous artists and rappers only from here Northeast. I also listened to random samba and drums rehearsals in the middle of the street in Olinda and Salvador! At the same time, while walking around you suddenly pass scarily silent roads – usually tiny and narrow. This is a sign – don’t go there unless you are local. Luckily I am perfectly safe and I haven’t witnessed anything dangerous – touch wood!