Saturday, 3 December 2011


One year ago, I spent one month in Brazil. My uncle moved there 13 years ago and had told me so many times how much he loves it there that I finally saved the money to go and find out about this new preferred home of his.
As it turned out, it could not have been more different from what I am used to in Europe. And although we lived in Salvador, which is a minor big city at the east cost of the country, the lack of every day comfort as well as the cultural differences were immediately palpable.
My uncle is a very intelligent man and has a thirst for knowledge I have never encountered before. If it was not for his never-ending curiosity, most of the things I know now, would have escaped my notice. Since it was one month full of impressions, which kept changing and evolving from day to day, I cannot begin to tell them all. However, I will try to come up with a few to maybe create a glimpse of what this country was like for me. So here are a few shreds:
The main problem in Brazil is, as many people already know, the lack of education. Teachers in this country are paid very badly. Children hardly spend more than a couple of hours per week at school and many have to help out at home which leaves them with no time to go at all. This contrast between the educated and the uneducated creates an almost impossible situation for social change. Politicians can tell the people of the lower class whatever they want and they will believe it.
This sounds harsh, but just listen to this: When the decision had to be made, whether or not to set back and forth the clock every six month in order to save energy, a huge part of Brazil’s population was strictly against it. Why? Because they believed that ‘time’ was given to us by God and hence we are in no position to change ‘his right time’. I think, this pretty well illustrates what a lack of education can lead to.
Of course, these people are the ones to be exploited in their jobs all their life. As a result, they don’t even have enough money to rent a place, let alone buy a house. But, there is a very interesting and striking solution to this problem –well, if you want to call THIS a solution.
People just collect wood and other material that is remotely suitable for building something and then they go to an empty place in the city (say, next to a highway or close to the sea) and there they build something you cannot even call a cabin out of plastic, stones, wood, paper and whatever they can get their hands on. The ground they build it on does not actually belong to them, but as long as the officials don’t chase them away, they will “live” there.
The wealthy people don’t even mind this. It does not make them uncomfortable to see this misery next to their yacht club. They actually feel better when comparing themselves to these poor people. Of course this is not true for each and every one of them, but it accounts for the majority.
Well, needless to say that the food in this country is great and the weather is fantastic as well as the landscape, but I was not able to appreciate these advantages while confronted with such poverty and injustice. Of course, everyone else can have a totally different impression of Brazil, but this is mine and I wanted to share it with you.

If you look closely, you can actually see how poorly these houses are built and almost on top of each other to make the most of this space. Needless to say that no car can go there, but also needless to say that these people cannot afford a car.

A tiny bit of greenery you might once have called rain forest...

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