The World Cup : a good thing for all the wrong reasons.

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Brazil is a contradiction in itself. Anyone who spends a few months in this place quickly discovers how difficult it is, if not impossible, to tie all the confronting ends together. No matter how far one reaches out trying to grasp it, to take it all in, as it were, the country never fully reveals itself. One learns to acquire partial rather than total view of Brazil. That alone and the blind reliance on stubborn facts is what’s often responsible for the distorted perception of our country.

I’m convinced that the true understanding lies in approaching life indirectly. And to understand the complex (dis)order of which Brazil is composed I had no choice but learn to rely on something more than mind alone. I had to look beyond the facts and find what stands behind them. The journey, if you will, is a metaphysical one. It is diving into the depths rather than merely searching on the surface where all superfluous refuse congregates.

But what does it all have to do with the World Cup which kicks off in less than two weeks? I will answer this query in due time. The real question, however, is – is there anything good in the upcoming event for Brazil and its people?  After all, the whole atmosphere surrounding The World Cup and everything that has to do with its preparation can hardly be called laudable.

There is a persistent rumor the World Cup has already cost Brazil as much as the last three World Cups put together (the actual figure to be confirmed), 70 000 Brazilians are being evicted in order to make way for the festivities. There are protests, riots and strikes springing out like mushrooms across the entire country. There are tales of mass level corruption and stupefying incompetence all contributing to the fact that many Brazilians come to view the WC as some sort a joke, and a very expensive one too.

Here we have arrived at a very important point – where corruption and incompetence were expected, the outcry of the public was not. Something unthinkable, something unprecedented is taking place in Brazil. People are protesting against Football Inc. And yet, one simply can’t escape thinking that it is thanks to the World Cup in the first place that our people are opening their eyes and once again reawaking to the disconcerting reality surrounding them. The problem, or at least, what people view as a problem, is pointing to a solution.

However paradoxical there is nothing abnormal in such typically Brazilian stance. This, after all, is the country that due to the centuries of plunder and gross mismanagement has learned to overcome its difficulties in its own unique way. As strange as it may sound, Brazil’s greatest strength, its creativity, is drawn directly from its weakness and perpetual problems; the country develops despite unfavorable circumstances AND, at times, because of them. Calamity can only be considered as such, if one sees no opportunity for self-improvement, if one doesn’t learn a lesson from it. Chinese, in their purely oriental, inscrutable ways had known it all too well from times immemorial. Their word  wēijī, which stands for ‘’crisis’’, is composed of two sino-characters that can represent both “danger” and “opportunity”.

Brazil ‘’thrives’’ in chaos and crisis and has developed a rather awe-inspiring talent for dribbling around the forces discriminating against its people. If one considers, for instance, example of Capoeira and Samba and where those two originally sprang from, knows it to be true. The roots of both take us all the way back to their Afro-Brazilian ancestry and its heritage of slavery.  Football is another supreme example, where 90% of players come from the lowest brackets of Brazilian society; the players, who are millionaires now, but not long ago disfranchised urchins literally indistinguishable from millions of other little boys inconspicuously beginning their professional careers on some dimly lit gravel pitch concealed from the eyes of the world in the labyrinth of favela.

Brazilian proverbial disorder, if it can be called such, is a fertile ground where the country continues to unearth some of its most spectacular talent. Amidst the rot there roses bloom; some of the best characteristics and qualities of Brazilian culture emerge from the soil where few have hoped to find any. This is where some Brazilians come to view the World Cup as ‘’the necessary evil’’ of sorts. There is even a more nuanced argument that good and evil, crisis and opportunity are dependent on one another. It is a fundamental tenet to many religions that evil, while mysterious, may clear the way for good, that men are perfected only in battle, that we live our life in contexts and contrasts, and so perhaps we can argue that only by witnessing, and confronting, our greatest problems we allow the forces of light to shine most bright, that we learn, and improve our character by struggling with the elements conspiring against us.

And in that the World Cup is one qualified success despite the wave of widespread criticism and condemnation we so often hear. Among the important results are:

1) A mild feeling of unity (where previously were none) among the poor and the middle class of Brazilians.

2) Plenty of exposure of the people’s cause, thanks largely to the event and the attention it has drawn of local and international media.

3) A chance to test the country’s ability to manage an event of such magnitude.

4) A slightly improved infrastructure (roads, airports, public transport, security et cetera.)

5) Better salaries for firefighters, waste collectors etc.

6) Thousands are learning English.

7) And finally the inescapable realization that we still have a very long way to go before we can call Brazil ‘’the country of the future’’.

Are these above mentioned, however minute, accomplishments not worthy of our pride and admiration? Are these not the ones we always fight for? However the real achievement of the World Cup lies in the shift of mentality and attitudes of Brazilian people. People have begun to ask themselves, what if we took the huge amount of money and energy used in the preparation of the World Cup and used for more constructive purposes like public health and education?

True, the event has exposed the extend of Brazilian fallibilities, like pandemic corruption and incompetence, but are these more powerful than Brazilian genius, creativity, courage and unity? I guess, we will know the answer in due time. The World Cup may have shown some of our weaknesses, but it also helped us believe that there are still heights we are yet to discover. And even though the games will last only a month, the attitude and the change it represents could have a long-lasting repercussions.

 

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Brazilian futebol ! It’s marvelous !

PAST

Brazilian football is very dear to me. Not only because – whether you like it or not – it is and has been for the last half a century, the country’s official ID by which the rest of the world, or at least the bigger part of it, recognizes and, yes, loves this country. Not only because of glory and the big-league titles, impressive records and gilded labels the national team has won in its rich and illustrious history. Not because I am a football fiend myself and have been an admirer of Brazilian squad for twenty eight years now. But it IS through this sport that I was initially introduced to this country and, therefore, it is football that should be viewed as a chief culprit responsible why I presently find myself up to my neck in the marvelous Latin American bagunça.

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if reading books alters lives, I could not think of a better example. This book might have played decisive role in mine

In 1986, when I was 12, the book named ‘’Pele, Garrincha, Football’’ was given to me by my father. I still have the book. It had been written by a Soviet journalist Igor Fesunenko, and published in Moscow by SovietPress, in 1969, just in time for the upcoming 1970 World Cup in Mexico (which btw Brazil won, and did so in a most spectacular fashion)  Igor, who at the time worked in Brazil as a political observer, loved football and in his free time, using his journalist credentials, he befriended the likes of Nilton Santos,  João Saldanha, Garrincha, Feola, Pele and other players and coaches who worked and were affiliated with football then. The fruition of this friendship, as well as an enormous research combined with countless interviews and conversations the reporter compiled together while studying football as a social phenomenon, was this book.

It was a spectacularly written account: captivating, gripping, fascinating- every page of it. And as it eventually turned out, it was accurate too. Years later, when I landed in Rio myself, I had a chance to talk to Brazilians, the ones who were really there, who witnessed the events of late sixties – early seventies, and who confirmed everything the Russian journalist wrote in his book.

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Garrincha perhaps epitomized Brazilian spirit unlike any other player: flamboyant, undisciplined, simple, inimitable, brilliant.

My, oh, my, the things he spoke of! The foreign words I’d never heard of before: Favela, Maracana, Arquibancada, Botafogo, Macumba, Flamengo… They all had that extravagant air of flamboyance and festivity about them. MA-RA-CA-NA! PA-CA-EMBU! To my Russian ears it sounded like a deep resonating thunder of the heartbeat of a surdo drum. And the quirky (nick)names of their players: Pele, Vava, Garrincha, Didi, Gilmar… It all seemed a bit out of this world to a young boy raised by a very different standards of a communist society. That it was somewhere a country where a sport could be treated with such boundless love and fanatical loyalty, where players were lavishly overindulged in every way possible and worshiped with nearly religious devotion bordering on maniacal obsession was a thing that went beyond my limits of logic.

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3 autographs of the World Champions 1962 : Amarildo, Carlos Castilho,and Nilton Santos.

The book spoke of ingenious players, first true iconoclasts of football, who with what must have felt like diabolical skill and ability, broke every established, rigid [European] canon of the game, revitalizing it and bringing to it Latin American zest and flair. It relived the glory of the first World Cup victory in 1958, and repeated success in 1962 and what it meant for the entire country. There was a chapter about the ‘’dirty laundry’’ of Brazilian football association and its perpetual enemies: corruption, wastefulness, chaos and shameless exploitation of players – problems that persisted into our times. (Ed Note : Truth be told, conditions of players have improved somewhat since 1960s. These days some humorless churl from Flamengo FC with neatly coiffed hair and less than 10% of talent and skill Garrincha possessed in his prime, makes more dough a month than Mane used to make per year then) Most unprecedented, however, was the writer’s depiction of football, not as a mere entertainment, a trifle for people to indulge in on Sundays or Wednesdays, but as a deep-seated social phenomenon, as infinite and uncontestable as the Holy Catholic Church itself, as a source of national pride and identity, as a channel through which infinite resourcefulness and beautiful spirit of Brazilian people expresses itself. I could not get enough of it. I was forever smitten and yearned to know more… (Ed note. Be careful what you wish for. lol)

PRESENT

More than fifty years have gone since that memorable summer evening in Stockholm when canarinhos had lifted its first World Cup (first South Americans to win the title on European soil) Many things have changed since in Brazil and the rest of the world. Some have remained the same however. Brazilian team still continues to enchant the football world with its seemingly never-ending talent and formidable strength. They have won another four championships becoming the only national team to win the coveted trophy unprecedented five (!!!) times thus pronouncing itself as (arguably) the greatest football team of all times. Well… Now it is all but a tale to be told to the new generation of young Brazilians.

So where do Pentacampeões stand today? After all, this World Cup is a very special one for Brazil. Primarily because it takes place on its own soil and tensions are guaranteed to run high, anything but a victory will be considered a disaster, an utter shame, a ghastly blotch on the country’s good name and reputation. This, however, is nothing new. Brazil has always expected (and exacted) nothing less but gold, it is, perhaps, the only country I know which greets runners up with no small amount of contemptuous leer and sneer. Second place? Sorry, guys – not good enough! And god forbids losing to France or Argentine, or Uruguay… Or anyone else for that matter.

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Maracana 2003. The stadium that is no more. Plurality of refreshments, street BBQ and general chaos.

But that’s just a tiny proverbial tip of the enormous iceberg of troubles threatening to sink the leaky boat of Seleção commandeered this year by the world champion, none other than venerable comrade Luiz Felipe Scolari. There are murky political undercurrents running through the whole thing as well. Once again Brazil finds itself thrown in yet another social upheaval. Once again people are fed up with their useless, overpaid politicians who seem to treat people they swore to serve as their own furniture to sit on. People are tired of everything being awry and half-assed, with everyone feeling as if their masters cheated them out of their chance for better life and future.

The initial euphoria of being chosen as a host of 20th World Cup has evaporated once the country announced the elephantine bill it has to pay for the privilege to run with the pack of snooty Northern high rollers. That doubled with Brazilian infamous inefficiency and corruption and one gets a pretty good idea to what tune the public coffers will ring to when the World Cup is finally over. People are beginning to ask themselves, what good is there in building sparkling, brand new, ‘’FIFA Standard’’/‘’padrão FIFA’’ as some call it, stadiums when the bigger part of our public schools and hospitals are a such lamentable mess ? Should the World Cup even be on the list of our priorities? Don’t we have better things to tend to? These are all good questions. And just. They are, sadly, also overdue. It’s too late now, amigos. The tournament is a few short days away and Brazil has no alternative but to deliver. The World Cup is going to happen come hell or high water, public protests or whatnot.

And in this inclement atmosphere of public disillusionment and hostility our players are preparing to face their own, no less hostile, adversaries. Little surprise it is that it should become a matter of the highest national interests that Verde-Amarela must not fail. (Personally, I think, it will. We’ll address this in due time) Brazil craves champion laurels not just for the sake of title itself, but because a smidgen of superiority it gives people and a smug sense of pride at being better than the rest of the world (even in something as trivial as football) has never failed to provide a temporary antidote to the dismal reality of everyday. Whether the national team can actually win the World Cup is another question altogether and has become the subject of widespread argument and disagreement.

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In my opinion it is highly unlikely Brazil wins this year’s competition. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being applied on the squad from every direction possible. Players know too well of responsibility that lies on their shoulders and the shoulders of their coaches. The team is young, perhaps, recklessly young, inexperienced and therefore much more likely to hoist itself on its own flaws and deficiencies. This Seleção lacks unity, stability and a clear cut strategy. It is not impossible, however, in one month to improve the team, especially considering the amount of talent Felipão has at his disposal, but truth be told, at the moment as we speak, Brazilian defense seems solid, yet, vulnerable, the midfield leaves a lot to be desired and I let’s say nothing of our attack. Just the fact that the coaches are considering Fred as one of their better choices for the position of a forward speaks a lot for itself. And Neymar whom Brazucas consider their trump card, well… Neymar is just a kid with exceptional skills. He is talented, true, but a buffoon he remains nonetheless. I just don’t see him as Brazil’s savior. Not this year at least. May be, the next World Cup, who knows?

FUTURE

It is no surprise that I’ve elected to say a few words about the future only in the end of this post. After all, every end is the beginning of something new, is it not? Having said that, I also realize the impossibility of foreseeing how the things will turn out in the end. Will Brazil, the country, be vastly improved in a long run if it is denied its gold this year? And if unthinkable should happen and Brazil is defeated, will the country finally realize that, perhaps, the time has come at last to direct its efforts and energy towards other, far more vital aspects of people’s lives – like good education, decent health system, public safety, incorruptible justice, good social services and government we can all be proud of? That’s the question I really would like to know answer to. But no matter what happens in June and whichever team snatches the World Cup this year, I fondly wish Brazil the best of luck in every endeavor it undertakes – be it a football game or other, far more serious enterprises of this immensely rich and stunningly beautiful country.

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TO READ OR NOT TO READ.

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

”Yes, my dear sir. If you care about your digestion, my advice is – don’t talk about bolshevism or medicine at table. And, God forbid – never read Soviet newspapers before dinner.’ ‘M’mm . . . But there are no other newspapers.’ ‘In that case don’t read any at all. Do you know I once made thirty tests in my clinic. And what do you think? The patients who never read newspapers felt excellent. Those whom I specially made read PRAVDA all lost weight.” ― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Heart of a Dog.

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Brazilians are prone to complaining about what in their eyes is perceived as a viciously lopsided portrayal of their country by foreign media – an accusation not entirely groundless, I must add. With Brazil being the epicenter of the world’s attention due to a couple of the biggest sport events – 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games – it is hardly surprising the interest this country represents for international community and its news agencies.

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True, half of the coverage Brazil receives on the eve of the World Cup is fiercely condemnatory and scarcely can be considered favorable. That is understandable, however, for anyone, who is even remotely acquainted with Brazil and its general state of affairs, knows too well, that there is other, obscure side of Brazilian reality, the side which Brazukas would rather not to talk about – at least not in the presence of foreigners.

That, however, represents only half of the problem. The real trouble lies in not so much how the world sees Brazil, but rather, how Brazil views itself. And this is where the disconcerting picture begins to emerge. In my opinion Brazilian media is a wholesomely rotten thing doing a great disservice to this country and its people. To read any Rio de Janeiro paper is to wallow in a puddle of filth and tragedy, crime and despair, and never-ending tales of human viciousness; it serves its perverted purpose as an inelegant monument to everything cruel, stupid and corrupt in human spirit.

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If one were to take seriously everything that Carioca hacks have to say about life in Rio, one would think that an average RJ citizens gets mugged immediately upon waking up, his pockets picked while he takes the shower from which he emerges joyously to the frenetic beat of Samba drums, all the while dodging bullets from your constitutional favela vs police shootout. On his way to work he is robbed (at gunpoint) again inside the (burning) city bus, then later snatched by corrupt cops (or politicians) on the way back home, tortured, and, finally,after paying a hefty bribe, get brutally murdered just in time for climbing into his bed. Next day he wakes up and repeats the whole process ad nauseam.

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This, of course, is a travesty and but one way to look at our troubled marriage with the local media. But as there is no smoke without fire, there is no circus without its loyal admirers. Cheap spectacle, after all, has never failed to draw the lovers of extravaganza. A couple of years ago there was a letter published in RioNews titled ”Media acts as a Mirror”, in it  the author dared to expose, what Hunter Thompson called ‘’the bog of stagnant mediocrity’’ and why a field as potentially vital as journalism should find itself in such a lamentable position.

Here is a small bit from that letter –  ‘’The answer, as well as the blame lies not only with the journalism itself, but rather in the dormant if not suicidal complacency of the larger part of Brazilian public, which can be blamed almost entirely on inadequate facilities of information and education, for which, sadly, the press is also responsible. Mass media only acts as a mirror, as a reflection of whats going on in public´s collective mind. The weird truth that there are many publishers and editors out there who are well aware that the public taste is far stranger and more twisted than the square world of editors and journalists. All of which makes journalism a sort of echo of public´s voice.’’ ‘’…and thus forever and ever we are caught in the vicious circle where public thought corrupts the press and the press corrupts the public thought.’’

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And so we have reached the pith and substance of this inflated malarkey. As unsettling as it may sound, the reason behind the everlasting success and popularity of the Globo media empire (it’s the biggest media network in the world outside the United States) is that it caters to the tastes of a frivolous society, addicted to sensationalism, gossip and sex lives of others. Sadly, all this blood and crime, corruption and illegality brought no story of any genuine public importance. And, if its true that Brazil needs a genuinely free, independent and responsible press, then it is equally true that our country needs free, independent and responsible citizens just as much. The alternative, Im afraid, is a culture of mediocrity, corruption and superficiality, all the way down.

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Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici

” My father was a writer. You would’ve liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”

I will be brutally honest with you guys – I’m a liar. It’s the story of my entire life really, my own private cross to bear. It began long time ago when I was a kid. My parents, in their unceremonious, forceful Soviet way had beaten into me to always tell the truth. And ever since that time the heavy burden has been laid on me to be honest, even when I lie – especially when I lie.

‘’Truth’’, according to Mark Twain, ‘’is stranger than fiction’’ and what I am about to tell you is undoubtedly so strange, so outlandish, so damnably alien and fictitious that when I first heard it from one of my students, my puny gringo mind refused to accept it as the truth. However, I will leave it to you, reader, to put as they say ‘’two and two together’’ and decide for yourself what in this story is fiction and what is not.

As I have already told you I earn my daily crust of bread as a teacher and interpreter of English language. The very nature of this profession brings me in contact with people from all walks of life: lawyers, entrepreneurs, corporate employees, public servants, military personnel, and even local celebrities who I’ve had the privilege to work with while plying this honorable trade.

My students, without exception are all spectacular, admirable bunch of individuals. All with their own bag of different, fascinating stories, their own private concerns, sorrows and joys. That is why I don’t think it’s neither appropriate nor ethical for me to reveal their identities in this post, after all, we, teachers just like physicians should be sworn to secrecy and for good reasons. That is why the names of the people as well as their professions will remain untold here. That is why I will have to lie in order to tell you the truth.

And to tell you the story properly, I must first rewind the clock and travel back in time. 10th of September 2012, Chatuba, Rio de Janeiro. The tiny, quiet, poverty-stricken, suburban community wakes up to the unsettling realization that something monstrously sinister had taken place in their midst. The bodies of 6 teenagers were found who had been mercilessly slaughtered two nights before; murdered for no apparent reason at all. 6 lives were brutally snuffed out before they even hardly began. 6 families forever ruined and left with nothing but gnawing questions – who could have done such a heinous monstrosity? And most importantly why?

Violence is a daily affair in Rio de Janeiro. It has become the other, unofficial but, no less notorious postcard of our city. It happens so often no one even notices its presence anymore. We all have grown used to it, it has all become familiar to us: the screaming, blood-drenched headlines, burning buses, police vs drug traffic shootouts, explosions, homicides, kidnappings, rapes, robberies… Rio is a bloody mess. And yet, nobody has the courage to arrest himself for a second and ask, ‘’Why?’’… ‘’Why is it so?’’ The answer, of course, is all too obvious. It is so because there is someone out there who profits from this unholy mess. In this putrid, rotten, stinking pile of manure there are bits of tasty peanuts to be found. And the pigs are eager to have their spoils. Something, of course, must be done about it. And I hope one day something will be done. Otherwise this sick circus will go on forever. There is no way out of this mess…

But Chatuba… I am forgetting about Chatuba… One of the strangest things that could not escape an astute observer was the velocity and the precision with which the press ‘’identified’’ the culprit – the local drug dealers. Even before the smoke cleared, even before police investigators could get to the scene, the reporters were busy naming the people responsible for perpetrating this crime. What could have been more obvious, right? The year 2012 was the one when the state’s pacification of favela/slums program (UPP) was marching triumphant. Little by little the traffickers were retreating and surrendering the territory long regarded as drug militia strongholds. Rio de Janeiro’s biggest shanty Rocinha as well as Copacabana’s Pavão-Pavãozinho, Tijuca’s ubber-violent Borel and mighty Formiga and numerous others were taken without as much as a single gunshot fired. The year before that Police and Military forces had sieged and successfully invaded Complexo de Alemao in one of the biggest conjoined operations up-to-date. The traffic was broken, on the run, humiliated… Rio once again breathed a sigh of relief.

And then that ‘’bomb’’ in Chatuba! But why? Why anger the government beast? Why intimidate and provoke the state forces; the forces which had made abundantly clear that there would be hell to pay if traffic refused to toe the mark?  What were the dealers to gain from killing 6 innocent kids in such barbaric fashion; the kids who had no connection with the drug traffic whatsoever? And if gangsters stood nothing to gain then who would?

Some say it was merely the demonstration of traffic’s power. Others believe there was somebody else hand involved.* I guess we will never find answers to these questions. A few months after the massacre the head of Chatuba’s traffic was murdered, allegedly by his own partners in crime; dead men tell no tales. Another sad chapter in the long history of Rio de Janeiro was closed. Or was it?

The truth is we all would like to believe that bad guys make no part of our society. But that is a lie. Society is all of us; maniacs, psychopaths, addicts, degenerates, madmen, criminals and other undesirables (and even PunkyMonk) are nothing more than logical extension of the greater whole. Society is profoundly sick, we simply reap what we sow. It is we who make it, not God, not Capitalism, not ists or isms, not  this or that, call it by any name you like. The evil is in us-and the good too. But as the old bard said – ‘’the good is oft interred with our bones.’’

But what’s that? I hear the sound of revelry approaching. The Carnival is upon us. And I am sure my faint quacking will be drowned in the insane din of bateria drums and all will be forgotten. Brazil has a short memory, after all life is short too; and the main guy upstairs keeps rolling his dice. And THAT is the god damn truth ! So go on, off with you, you rascals! Eat, drink, love, make merry, and most importantly LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

 

*I think it was Hunter Thompson who said that it was not difficult to write the truth but it was nearly impossible to find people who will read this truth. The following lines are dedicated to those who might read them.

Long have I deliberated with myself if I should add that asterisk as half of what I am about to tell had been put together from the conversations of people living in Chatuba and the other half is nothing more but a hypothesis. However, be that as it may, both the police investigation and the media had displayed a certain lopsidedness in how they covered the ‘’Massacre of Chatuba’’ or how they wished it should be seen by the public.

One very curious detail, which almost no newsman dared to report, was that the territory or the park, as some call it, where the murders took place belongs to Brazilian military. There is the garrison stationed nearby with a commanding officer and circa 150 soldiers under his command. Is it possible they knew nothing about active traffic cell located right in their backyard, so to speak? Unsurprisingly, that is exactly what they all say. Both the captain and his company denied any knowledge of the traffickers in their midst. That’s funny though. Every single person in Chatuba knew with the precision of GPS where the bandits could be found but, our glorious servicemen located only a few hundred meters away had all suddenly come down with the severe case of myopia and hypomnesia. Very strange indeed.

Another, no less bizarre detail which was reported is that the kids murdered were mistaken for the drug dealers from the rival gang and as a result tortured and killed. Well, that is also hard to swallow. The traffickers were from the same neighborhood and they knew very well people in Chatuba. It is possible to believe they could have mistaken one boy for an enemy, but six… Six is a bit much. Plus, anyone who has an inkling of how relation between the traffic and community works knows that it is highly unlikely for bandits to kill 6 innocent kids – it angers people and draws unnecessary attention of the law enforcement. Unless, of course, somebody wanted that attention. But who? And why?

Well, it is impossible to say ‘’who’’ but I can perhaps make an attempt to explain ‘’why’’. To do that, first, I’d like to ask you a question – who do you think is in charge of the drug trade in Brazil? You don’t suppose it’s those illiterate, emaciated, flip flop wearing young men whom at times we refer to as ‘’organized crime’’. These destitute, poor souls who continually terrorize Rio and our imagination are merely vendors, salespeople, small fry if you like. They are in charge of nothing, much less they could organize anything. They are only necessary because someone has to deliver ”goods” to the consumer. Favela sells, keeps its share, but the large chunk of spoils disappears some place up. That is another reason why we never see a rich drug dealer from a favela. That is why almost none of them live into their forties. And as long as everyone tows the line and do what is asked of them, nothing happens. But, when one of the parties breaks their agreement or gets greedy, we instantly see shootouts, burning busses, police invasions, death. And then, almost immediately, another drug dealer is ready to take the vacant spot and the whole sick circus is repeated ad nauseum.

So, the question remains, could it be that traffic in Chatuba had stopped following orders and needed to be removed? Is it possible that someone else killed 6 kids and framed the goons? Sounds a bit surreal, does it not? And yet, after living everywhere I’ve lived and seeing everything I’ve seen – what is surreal? I only hope that one day the truth will be uncovered and six unknown kids will finally rest in peace.

 

 

 


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Teaching English in Rio or how I learned to stop worrying and became a malandro*.

 

” I don’t know how to teach. I’m a professor.” – Hubert Farnsworth/Futurama.

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Trust me, I am a teacher.

The public opinion about teaching English in Brazil isn’t too favorable. As a matter of fact, teaching in general is held at a very low esteem. Its widely underrated, underprivileged, underappreciated, underpaid and very often buried deeply underground like a corpse of some unwanted, distant, poor relative no one ever wanted to do anything with. And yet, contrary to everything we hear about it, I, personally, have made a nice living out of it for no less than 11 years. Teaching might not be the easiest of modes of existence but, if one knows how to do it properly it can be quite enjoyable. Here’s some of the ‘’discoveries’’ I’ve made along the way while serving in the glorious capacity of a tutor.

LUCK FAVORS THE PREPARED.

This truth seems to be self-evident, and yet so many get burned here by neglecting the proper, prior preparation naively supposing that speaking the language is sufficient enough to carry them safely through, right ? WRONG!  ‘’Proper preparation’’ includes a very solid or, at least, decent knowledge of the language (grammar, vocabulary, syntax, semantics and all that gibberish). Second, you will need all the info you can get your hands on about the place itself (in our case Rio) and the intricacies of the job market here. For this you will need a good internet connection. There is the whole plethora of sites, blogs, Facebook pages dedicated to the subject where you can glean this info. Third, procure goods books written by experienced teachers on language teaching, alternatively you can also get some books with ready to use material/exercises/lessons. Once you arrive in Rio seek out your local gringo teachers, drag them to the nearest drinking establishment, buy them a beer and ask everything you need to know about the ropes. Class observations will stand you in a good stead too.

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Teacher’s best friends.

SWAG.

It is highly unlikely you will grow stinking rich from teaching, even if you happen to run your own English school. The pay isn’t too bad, BUT, and that’s imperative, one has to work for oneself. There are only two good benefits when it comes to working for a course and that is acquiring experience and meeting new students. (then …………. those students that it is a matter of mutual interest to take the odious, life-sucking parasite-the course owner-out of the picture. NB don’t get all mushy over this issue. Remember, the owner is there to exploit you and your labor, therefore it is your primer duty, nay the responsibility to everything just and decent to beat him/her at their own game)

It is not uncommon these days to charge 70-100$ Reals for an hour of private 1-1 tutoring. In a language school teacher receives less than half of it (25-40R$) Prices and fees may vary depending on the type of lessons requested, their urgency and/or importance, duration and frequency, and last but not the least, social position of a student ( and why the hell not ? Zona Sul and Barra could and should pay a little bit more)

When you are your own slave and master, the fees are entirely at your own discretion. I, for instance, charge no less than 50$R and sometimes as high as 110$R. It seems almost laughable now but, in not-so-distant 2002 I was ploughing for mere 8 reals per hour at Wise UP school where I enjoyed a few months of beneficial, albeit somewhat painful experience. My first private lesson I sold for 15R$. That was 12 years ago, today it is a different story.

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ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE.

And all the men and women merely players, this particular aspect of teaching attracts me tremendously. At least this is how I’ve come to view this profession. And if ”genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration’’ is true, then a private teacher in Rio must be thirty percent teacher and seventy percent actor. And not only the actor but, sometimes an adviser, a mentor, a sympathetic listener, a psychologist, a friend, and, on rare occasions, a lover. But you ARE a teacher above everything, yes, and don’t fool yourself by thinking you can act same way and say same things in the front of, let’s say, a lawyer and graphic designer, head of department and his junior employee. Having said this, I must add that teacher-student relation in general is pretty much like all relations in Rio de Janeiro, that is to say they are very often enveloped in the light air of amiable informality and mutual cordiality.

PERKS.

There are many but, they depend entirely on the quality of your work and effort. One hand washes the other that sort of thing. Those who taught Cariocas at their homes know how receptive and open these people can be. And, if teacher does everything in his/her power to assure their students’ success in English language acquisition, students will spare no effort and/or expense to come to their instructor succor.My lawyer students, for instance, have provided me with legal assistance in everything from divorce issues to immigration. Doctors have taken care of my health; shop owners have given me clothes; IT guys have fixed my computers, and all this for a very little or no charge at all. In 2009 one student asked me to accompany him on his trip to Canada, he paid for my tickets and covered most of the expenses. They also helped me rent my apartment AND signed fiador aka guarantor papers. Ive been gifted a Japanese made mountain bike, ACER laptop (brand new), washing machine, furniture, the list could go on and on. This Christmas I received IPhone 4 as a present. Well, I guess, I’ve made my point abundantly clear. Only God know where I would be if it wasn’t for my students. I love them to death and forever grateful for all the life’s lessons they taught me.

THE END ?

So what is there to say in the conclusion? I can only hope that everything above written should give you a fairly accurate idea what you will be dealing with should you chose this thorny profession. If there is anything else you’d like to know, feel free to contact me and I will do everything in my power to help you out. And should you ever give in to the gnawing doubts (like so many Brazilian teachers do) and begin questioning importance of your efforts, Id like to quote the words of Jacque Barzun – ‘’To be sure, there is an age-old prejudice against teaching… Even a politician stands higher, because power in the street seems less of a mockery than power in the classroom. But then we speak of Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, and ‘’other great teachers of humanity,’’ the atmosphere somehow changes and the politician’s power begins to look shrunken and mean’’. Thank you and God bless you all.

 

* ’’ The malandro is a recurring figure in Brazilian popular lore and has an ambiguous status. Officially he is censured as a swindler and cheat, preying on the innocent, trusting, and gullible. But he – and the malandro is almost always a he – is also a subject of sneaking admiration in samba lyrics, folk tales, books, and films, admired for his guile and his ability to think on his feet and deftly dribble around barriers and obstacles. In some quarters, especially certain neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, which other Brazilians regard as the malandro’s natural habitat, malandragem, the name given to the battery of strategies that the malandro employs, is even regarded as a kind of art form.’’ – Larry Rother  from his book ‘’Brazil on the Rise’’

** Im well aware of inherent irony of many mistakes a careful reader might detect in this post and my being an English teacher. In my defense I must say that everything above was written in a pure, vodka-flavored frenzy in the ungodly pre-dawn hours ;) HIC ! Cheers

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The benefits of beer in 2nd language acquisition can not be overstated. Its been known to enhance fluency and eloquence (side effects : somewhat crippled accuracy/involuntary repetition)Surely a must in teacher’s arsenal.

 

 

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A movable feast.

”That which does not kill us makes us stronger” - Friedrich Nietzsche.

In June 1941, when Nazi Germany, foolishly on their part, however, fortunately for the rest of the world, invaded the presently defunct USSR, it quickly dawned on the hapless Germans in what ungodly mess they got themselves in. It was probably there and then, many miles away from their homeland and Bavarian beer, deep in the frozen, hostile, impenetrable terrain, surrounded by less than receptive Red Army, a little pithy German dictum was born–‘’What is good for a Russian is death for a German.’’ People are still at odds as to what exactly German soldiers were referring to. Some venture a guess that what they were really talking about was Russian vodka and anyone who has witnessed Eastern European drinking capabilities will confirm that such a guess is not entirely devoid of sound judgment.

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Traditional Bahia acaraje served at Feira Hippie Ipanema. Hitler obviously invaded the wrong country.

Today when I see the modern day tourists who come to our city I’m infallibly reminded of the WW2 bon mot. In the first world hell, a visit to Latin America is still often viewed as nothing less than perilous venture. A simple stroll from your hotel to the nearest beach is sure to be bestrewn with every horror imaginable. Everything and everybody conspires against clueless visitor. Everything is the source of constant concern and consternation. Where to eat? What to eat? Is the water safe to drink? What about malaria? Do I need to take shots? Will I be shot? So on and so forth.

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Pastelaria on Rua Barata Ribeiro and Figuiredo Magalhaes/Dishes at 11-18 $ Reals

But fear not, my fellow gringo! Fortunately this is where local expatriates, who have survived and continue to survive Brazilian ‘’savagery’’, come to your rescue to assuage your worries and pacify your mind. No need to haul your own drinking water, sandwiches and toilet paper from your country. Instead bring hard currency, a decent medical insurance, a pair of bermuda shorts, good sense of humor and most importantly plenty of sun lotion, because whereas local gangsters are known to show mercy to their victims from time to time, Brazilian sun will give you none. And even though long expired Wehrmacht heroes might have had a point, their bitter adage would be dismissed as pure nonsense in RJ. In Rio the motto should be – WHAT IS GOOD FOR A BRAZILIAN IS GOOD FOR A GRINGO.

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Street Soup in Botafogo.Good for the soul, good for the wallet.

One of the bigger issues a tourist is faced with is where to find good quality, affordable food. Over the years I have grown to be somewhat of an expert in the extensive field of cheap, yet, comestible grub. Truth be known, the reason it had to be so, stems from the the inescapable fact that I’m a bit of an oddity in the eyes of my Brazilian brothers, occupying  lonely position on the lowest rang of the great hierarchy of expatriates, position Brazookas don’t even pretend to understand , and that is of a poor gringo. No large sums of money in the bank, no credit cards, no wealthy relatives, no property, no decent job with monthly salary… No worries. I am, what they call, a member of newly fledging Brazilian lower-middle class. Class C. But even a poor middle class man must eat sometimes and hunting a good, inexpensive meal has become a sort of hobby, nay obsession for me.

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Unlike their North American brothers in arms who subsist entirely on the unhealthy diet of doughnuts and watery coffee, Brazilian coppers prefer to frequent street hot-dog joints.

Fortunately, there are many good food establishments catering to all tastes and wallets to choose from in Rio. Im expressly interested in those where I can commandeer a decent spread in the vicinity of 20 Reals without putting my life in any serious danger. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rio’s Pastelarias! Pastelaria is the Brazilian answer to the mega-chain fast food joint. These diners of sorts can be found all over Rio de Janeiro and many are owned by Chinese immigrants. Beside traditional pastels (chicken, meat, cheese) coxinhas, hot dogs, sandwiches  etc  etc one can get a proper meal consisting of grilled chicken breast or filet mignon, or fish fillet, or pork chop, all dishes are served with generous portion of fries, beans, rice and farofa for a ridiculously laughable price of 12-18 Reals/6-10 US$. There are also decent chicken, meat, shrimp and vegetable yakisobas going at the same cost. I personally am not aware of any other place on our planet where one can get such a feast for a few miserly coins.

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Rice, beans, salad, molho da moqueca, french fries and fish… all for 12 Reals at Praça da Bandeira. Top!

For those looking for a slightly healthier choice there are Zona Sul supermarkets. Many, if not all, are equipped with their own dining areas where they serve freshly made salads, sandwiches, soups, pizzas, pastas and what’s more, one can purchase and consume supermarket’s wine and/or beer without paying exorbitant restaurant prices. Zona Sul is always clean and the service is friendly and almost always efficient.

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Zona Sul Supermarket. Ham,sun dried tomato and mossarela di bufala salad/baguette/Dona Dominga wine – 32 Reals.

And If you happen to possess a more adventurous spirit I recommend street food, a truly best friend of a pauper and savior of a stranded traveler. In every direction you cast ur look there is either a Hot Dog/Burger stand, or a soup cart, or a grill on fire. There is always something being fried, roasted, steamed, boiled, grilled. Prices of the fastreet food vary depending on a neighborhood, quality and consequently popularity of the place and can go from as low as 3.5 Real to 8 Reals.

There are street BBQs or ‘’Cat BBQ : Churrasquinho do Gato as Cariocas jocularly call them going on on many a corner. It seems nearly impossible for someone to die of malnourishment as food in Rio can be found everywhere: boiled corn, tapioca pancakes, also known as beiju, Bahian acaraje, churros or Spanish doughnuts as some call them, pastels, popcorn are all served on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. And if you see a group of Brazilians gathered around a smoking grill devouring with gasto street delicacies, you can be fairly certain this food is safe to eat.

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churrasquinho do gato :) hasn’t killed anyone yet (reliable source told us)

It was Paris which Hemingway called ‘’a movable feast’’ nearly a hundred years ago. Things change in a century though. These days, it seems, ”a movable feast” has moved to Rio.

PS Should you require more info regarding culinary activity in Rio de Janeiro, pls, visit eatrio.net, an excellent blog of Tom Le Mesurier.

 

 

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On the edge of Tijuca Forest.

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One of many mountain creeks in Floresta da Fijuca.

Hey Up, folks.  First, Id like to apologize for neglecting my primer blogger duty and staying away from writing altogether in these past two weeks. There was a ‘’good’’, or better call it,’’ unpleasant ‘’ reason that kept my nose pressed firmly to the ground and drew me further apart from my alter ago. But, today of all days, I don’t wish to dwell on anything ’’unpleasant’’; the hallow season of hope is upon us, the end heralds another beginning. The year 2013 expires in a few hours as the new one is about to burst in on us. Happy New Year, guys ! Feliz Ano Novo ! Lots of merriment and prosperity to all of you and all your loved ones.

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the view that comes with the window :)

The subject of this post, as strange as it may sound, is a window. Or rather that which is outside of it. When I had my first glimpse of that view , I knew right there and then I had to rent that window and the apartment that came with it.

The prevailing opinion in Rio is that life in general is somewhat sweeter and better experienced in the South Zone of our city. Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana, Larangeras, Humaita, Santa-Teresa, JB have all been given their fair share of praise and recognition as being the main hub of RJ fun zone. This is, however, a rather unfair observation. Fun and adventure can be found in any direction one choses to go. There is still a virtually uncountable number of places (to tailor any taste and perversion) that remain less popular, but, by no means, less diverting, and many, if not all, are well worth of being acquainted with.

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this is what I have to wake up to every single day :)

Consider my current home : Tijuca. It just so happens that I live on the other side of Morro de Borel. Yes, the notorious, infamously violent favela of the North Zone, which sits right on the edge of the tropical forest. Luckily, the only violence Ive seen was the fight at the local bar next to my home. The brawl, which btw, I had started in the first place.(snigger) But we are not here to discuss the relative safety of Rio de Janeiro boroughs , one is equally unsafe anywhere, trust me. The topic, as I mentioned before, is the view I adore so. The view that welcomes me every day and reminds me that life despite all its ups and downs is still worth living .

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The green side of Morro de Borel

7 years ago I settled down at the foot of The Tijuca National Park, the biggest urban forest in the world. I never really understood why Cariocas get in such terrible funk when a foreigner commits the horrible blunder of mentioning ‘’living in the forest’’ or ‘’monkeys’’, God forbids. Never bothered me though that ‘’monkey business’’. I consider my quiet living in the forest to be nothing short of a blessing. These woods are a part of the greater Atlantic Forest, which invoked paradisiacal visions of heaven on earth in the first explorers more than 500 years ago and those who followed them after. Anyone who has seen it immediately knows why this place was and still is considered to be a paradise.

If I had to choose, this would be a no-brainer.  A real jungle or a concrete one ? No more need of ‘’The Sounds of the Tropical Forest’’ tapes. Who would be content with the counterfeit when the real thing is at my beck and call ? I take the pious, gentle whisper of the woods, the chirping and warbling of birds in the early hour any time over the jabber of the sleepless city, the muffled roar of engines, steady hiss and boom of its frenetic heart . Here, on the edge of the brilliant sea of green, I might yet know peace. Amen.

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the new day is dawning over Tijuca

Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year one and all from good people of Tijuca.

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66 reasons why we should not judge

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”Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone”

One shrewd dude from Bethlehem said that over 2000 years ago. Later some very bad people nailed him to the cross for his freewheeling statements. Unfortunate story that, however, this one isn’t about the man, nor is it exactly about the message the enlightened master was trying to impart to the foolish mob, the message, which sadly even after two millenia still falls on dead ears. This story is about the notorious ”66 top reasons I hate living in Brazil”, the post that originally appeared in Feb 2013 on Gringos.com website subsequently leading to a full on row amongst bitter detractors and those who valiantly attempted to defend Brazil. And that’s where the story should have ended. But it was only beginning to hit the momentum.

In April ”top reasons” got even more infamy as the post was mentioned in Huffingtonpost.com in ”No HP Sauce, Endless Red Tape : Would You Want to Live in Brazil ?”, the article written by one Mark Hillary. The subject was also broached recently by Rachel in her blog Rachel’s Rantings in Rio. The reaction it caused was akin to an explosion of MK-84 warhead. Mud and filth flew in all directions followed by warm, quiet curses and some loud and foul ones too, at once covering the author of the ”reasons” in shame and sticky manure of people’s loathing and condemnation.

But who is this mysterious person who dared to disturb our peace by penning such blasphemy ? Who is this scurvy dog that stirred the hornets nest ? And what was it that set him off in a such rabid fashion and forced him to break into high-pitched chattering whine ? Truth be told, we’ll never know. Nor are we ever likely to discover his identity . And while most are lining up to throw their share of rotten tomatoes at the guy no one knows anything about, Id like to make U-turn from the crowd and try to defend the poor sap instead.

First, allow me to throw some light on what both Mark and Rachel got wrong. It WAS NOT one person who wrote 66 reasons but a number of people who did it over a period of time. Here is what I found on Gringo.com and I quote, ” This list started on Amplicate.com that started out as a guy listing his Top 20 reasons for hating living here. The list has since mushroomed with additional reasons being added by other commentators. Most of this stuff I find hysterical, or at least it lets me know I’m not completely crazy for thinking the thoughts I do. Here are all 66 so far, feel free to add your own and continue the thread.” So, it turns out it was not one but a bunch of guys. Glad we’ve got that sorted out.

Second, he (and we can only assume its a he) goes on, “Of course I’m generalizing and exceptions abound, but after living in Brazil for 3 years…”, he admits what he is about to say is nothing but a generalization. Note the period of time – 3 years – a relatively inadequate span in life of a novice immigrant to form the sound judgment and attitude towards the new country he is living in, especially if this country is as diverse and mind-boggling as Brazil happens to be .

I remember my first 2-3 years in Brazil when my new life had barely begun. Day after day without money, without friends, without language, at times on an empty belly I walked the streets of Rio in anguish and despair questioning my decision to leave the comfortable life I led in Canada. Haven’t we all been there ? Haven’t we, at one point or other, thrashed Brazil for this and that ?  Now 12 years later it all seems rather foolish, but it didn’t seem so trivial then.

In the end I would like to say that in one thing I agree with Mark and Rachel unconditionally – whining and bitching are of no use here. It is good to remember that Brazil meditates on both profane and divine. What our mystery man in question needs is a little time, patience and help – not our judgment – to see and understand that his initial impression might be deceiving. We all need to be reminded of that from time to time. After all, Gentileza gera Gentileza, does it not ? Who knows, may be there is no mystery man and it is only us and our own awry reflection we are staring at ;)

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“How far that little candle throws its beams ! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

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”Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” – J.R.R.Tolkien.

Meet Melina Cardinal, a young woman from Quebec city, Canada. She came to Rio about 3 months ago to volunteer as a teacher in a favela. After brief stint working at a school, Melina decided to go a step further and take her lessons to where destitute people can usually be found – on the streets of our city. On week days she can be seen in the front of Santander Bank on Avenida da Gomes Freire at 1pm giving lessons to street residents, the ones interested that is. Here I must make a pause and say that this is all that I know of Melina.  My info at this moment is sketchy at best. The first time Ive heard of her was from a friend, who in his turn, has heard it from another geezer. I did manage, however, to gleen some bits of the Internet and Facebook.

Here is what Ive been able to find in the murky dungeons of the world wide matrix. In Melina’s own words, ”I started to work as an English teacher for a lady who owns a school in one of Rio’s most violent favelas. I felt it was not enough because I could see street people of my age or of my sister’s or brother’s age everyday sleeping on the streets of my neighborhood. I  got to know a group of them and I decided to teach them English, on the street, right where they sleep. Now, I want this project to grow a little bigger. I would love to be able to offer my students a healthy snack every time they come to a class. Also, I would love my project to become “a street school” where they could have class 3 times a week learning English, Portuguese and Mathematics. I would also like to organize a christmas for them and offering them a good meal and a gift.”

And even though Melina tell us very little about herself, one thing is certain beyond any reasonable doubt – she is a very good, courageous human being, brave enough to face world’s ignorance, apathy and skepticism, trying to offer whatever assistance she is capable of to those who have been marginalized and neglected by our society. As unbelievable as it may sound, there are many incredulous people wondering about practical side of her endeavor. Melina has been dealt her share of ridicule, taunting and pessimism coming from less than optimistic cats. Failing to see the end she is pursuing, some have questioned her motives, validity and/or applicability of her work. It is that ever illusive why  which escapes people.

In her defense (not that she needs it) Id like to say that unlike evil, good doesnt seek any particular end. Good is both the means and the end in itself. There is no reason necessary to do good except for its own sake and as the counterbalance to villainy. Never question an honorable deed for it is impossible to know in advance how far it will go and what changes it might bring about. As ever wise Gandalf professed, ”Even the very wise can not see all ends” – and who am I to argue with him ?

In the closing, its only left to me to thank Melina for being a great person and for doing what many would like to be doing. I wish her all the happiness and success in the future. I truly hope she makes Rio de Janeiro her home. This city (and the world in general) could certainly use more people like her.

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Its good to be a Carioca.

“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” – HST

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”Le Bresil n’est pas um pays serieux”, French General allegedly raved in a burst of irritation five decades ago when Brazil and France found themselves locked in a dispute over fishing rights in coastal waters of what would be written in history as ”The Lobster War” of 1962. History, however, isn’t clear if Charles de Gaulle was serious himself when he said that or if he did actually utter the infamous offhand remark at all. But what IS known that the phrase Brazil is not a serious country incorporated so deeply in the minds of Brazilians and the rest of the world that it has passed into Brazilian political folklore as a sort of permanent catchphrase. Even today when someones sees Brazilians behaving in what is perceived as an absurd or frivolous manner – the ”not serious country” criticism is revived.

But lets leave the French to their crotchety devices and instead return to the country that provoked this bitter outburst and more specifically to the people who populate Brazil, AND more specifically to my beloved, happy-go-lucky Cariocas, the jolly denizens of Rio de Janeiro. Of course, there is no one dimensional way of looking at Cariocas and their seeming absence of seriousness, their ingrained flexibility and boundless tolerance, their dexterity at dribbling around obstacles, socially excepted norms and conventions but its simply impossible to not notice their notorious easy-going nature, the nature for which the city was elected as ”the friendliest city in the world” by New Scientist in 2003.

Needless to say, there are people out there who would disagree and point out that those characteristics co-exist with others, far less attractive ones that have long generated conflict and complaints among both Brazilians and foreigners alike, and they would be right, of course, because contrary to the popular image of Rio, Cariocas aint exactly angels (we will get to the less attractive side of RJ in due time) Today Im inviting you to suspend our instinctive desire to judge and forget for a moment everything negative we so often hear about Rio de Janeiro and instead view their legendary love of the frivolous as not necessarily a bad thing. [Just for the record, this has not been written to condemn or condone comportment of others. It is but a private opinion. I will leave it to the readers to draw their own conclussions]

Rio welcomes everyone and asks no questions. Its not accident that Cariocas regard themselves as the cordial people and value cordiality as both a personal and national trait. And while the French might have invented the term joie de vivre, it is Cariocas who have perfected that art. They live with gasto and a kind of sunny optimism, able to appreciate the beauty in small things, firmly convinced that the universe is essentially benign entity. As the popular saying goes : ”Everything is going to be all right in the end, and if everything isnt yet all right, that’s because we havent reached the end.”

It was mentioned before that Cariocas have built a remarkably tolerant society, which most likely can be owed to its unique mixture of European, African, Asian and indigenous values and practices, which in its turn recognizes that human beings are inwardly flawed and makes allowances for their imperfections. It emphasizes forgiveness, redemption, generosity and seeking common ground. Their frailties are human frailties and they wear them jauntily, tauntingly, flauntingly, like the colors of their favorite football clubs. Cariocas might lack seriousness but they make no bones about it which endears Rio visitors even more to them. As obvious as it is, what is the purpose of life, if not to live ? And to live means to be aware, acutely aware and to embrace everything that may come our way : good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and evil, laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, life and death… Who can deny such a spirit in a world of apathy, mediocrity and social repression ?

Ah, that Anglo-Saxon ideal of probity and morality. ”That pressure to be perfect. To perform, to behave, to turn up on time, to live within your means, to earn more, to be liked, to be successful… to be constantly flogged by self-imposed restrictions – its all a bit much, isnt it ? Sooner or later – if you are to avoid becoming a repressed bag of nerves – everyone must cross the line.” No one understands this concept better than Cariocas. This is more of a strength, than a weakness. Anyone who has visited Rio and seen how easily its people break into song and dance, experienced their friendliness and approachability, their concern and curiosity for strangers eventually will surrender to the city that moves, laughs and lives as if today was all there is. This is the city that  still retains something that the more ”serious” countries have lost, may be even forever.

 

PS  There is very little out there we can call our own. Not even our glorious ideas are entirely ours, are they ? Are we ever alone ? There is a whole amalgam of influences, inspirations, teachers, friends, books, experiences that goes into shaping of an individual. This post would not have been possible without help and encouragement received from the following people and things : Hunter S Thompson, Larry Rohter, Ruy Castro, Henry Miller, John Malathronas, David Piper, Punk,Viz Magazine, Stoli Vodka, His Royal Majesty Frango Assado, and, last but not least, our eternally beloved city of Rio de Janeiro. 

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