I spent the last few days of May and the first few days of June in Brazil. I was NOT there for the World Cup. In fact, I tried very hard to be out of that country before the start of the big event, to avoid the crowds and the connected chaos. This blog entry (and the next one) will explore my experiences in the biggest country in South America.
Right off the top, virtually everything I am going to write is my very subjective opinion and nothing more. I wasn’t in Brazil all that long and did not travel far and wide across that very large country. Still, Brazil was interesting.
In another life, I think I would have been an economist, just so I could understand how the economies of different nations work. Brazil struck me as very 2nd world (as if that category existed in economics terms, which it does not.) By that I mean Brazil is not 3rd world enough to be really poor and under developed, but it is not 1st world either, as in it is also not yet a fully developed economy.
95% of the people were gracious and great, once you get past the stone faced expression they all seemed to be wearing since they live in such a “dangerous” country. If I was younger, I would do a project on what I would call the “fear-industrial “complex. The idea is to explore the massive personal security infrastructure, to explore, for example, all the money the armored car companies and security fence building companies make based on selling the idea that daily life in Brazil is dangerous. The problem is I do not know if Brazil is that unsafe. It rarely felt or looked that way. I have been in Mexico (and a few other countries) where things were really are dangerous. In those places II could see it and feel it . Brazil may be as dangerous, but I wonder.
The language, Portuguese, is a whole other thing. It looks like Spanish and the letters are obviously easy to read, so I tried and occasionally might get close to understanding something. Then a Brazilian would say something and the pronunciation is so different that I was lost! Completely….
The city of Vittoria was our base. It is a newer city with a harbor, industry and a university, where my friend teaches. On the one hand, it is not as uniquely Brazilian as Rio de Janeiro (the only other city we saw) but things functioned pretty well there. Vittoria is the capitol of the smaller state of Espirito Santo on the coast, north of Rio de Janeiro. The beaches and the coastline near the were pretty impressive.
During our brief time in Rio de Janeiro we stayed in Ipanema and visited areas such ad Copacabana beach, the historical center and the Santa Teresa area among other areas. We saw lots of history, some fascinating old and new buildings and LOTS of people (including MANY tourists like us.)
Ipanema beach is quite beautiful with mountains looming in the background. Much of the beach is overrun with beach chair renters, food vendors and rental beach volleyball courts. As a self employed person I am all for free enterprise, but a little restraint could go a long way. A bit of effort would make what is clearly a beautiful beach look a bit less like a shopping mall with sand on the ground. In some ways the way the people in Rio de Janiero appreciate, interact with and use the shore in ways that are reminiscent of the beach culture of my California childhood.
We ate lots of meat, varying from ordinary to exceptional. The beer, something I normally do not drink, was very good, pretty cheap and very cold/refreshing at the end of the many hot days we encountered.
Needless to say, we had a great time. In my next blog entry I will be writing about my experience with photography and photographing in Brazil.