Living in Brazil: Reasons to be Cheerful

Corruption, Brazil, Lavo Jato, Good times

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the troubling changes taking place here in Brazil.  Today, it’s Good Friday, so I thought I’d focus on some of the good things that are happening.  While it is certainly true that there are reasons to be fearful, I am of the opinion that there are even more reasons to be cheerful and that, in a few years, things might just work out all right.

It had to happen

Brazilian politics has been in a terrible state for a long time now.  Despite the introduction of ‘ficha limpa’ (‘clean record’), which sought to allow only people with no criminal past being able to stand for election, there has been no wholesale change.  Indeed, as I quoted yesterday, up to 60% of politicians are currently being investigated for some sort of criminal action.

The system has to change, and the only way it would be changed is from the outside.  Perhaps it has taken so many corruption scandals and so much indignation, coupled with an economic recession, public health scares and lingering resentment over the World Cup and Olympics for Brazil to reach a point of no return.  If it doesn’t change now, it never will.

An interesting development from one of the protests a couple of weeks ago was when a couple of opposition politicians tried to join the protest and were told in no uncertain terms that they were not welcome, that they were as much a part of the problem as the government.  In the past, I have said that the only people worse than the government are those trying to replace them, if other people realise this, then maybe there is hope yet.

In a further, encouraging, development, Wednesday saw the release of a document from Odebrecht, a huge construction company that has just agreed to provide evidence on behalf of the state.  This document included a list of the politicians they had bribed and included names from all across the political spectrum.  My hope is that this helps to reinforce the idea that it is the system which is corrupt, that the system corrupts all those it comes into contact with and it is this system that needs reforming, not the individuals who happen to be in power at the moment.

Strong Institutions

While there are arguments to be had over the limits of judicial power, the fact that the judiciary is able to take a stand is encouraging.  The JP were given increased powers, resources and autonomy early on in Dilma’s first term, and it is exactly these powers that are being used against her and the previous regime.  A strong judiciary, as well as a free press, access to social media and strong social movements should help keep future presidents in check as well as preventing a military takeover.

The end of impunity?

Brazil, prison, end of impunity, protests

Influential people might just end up in a place like this

People are going to jail.  This might not seem such a big deal in other countries, but here in Brazil rich, influential people have, until now, rarely ended up behind bars.  So far, it has been businessmen, but I am fairly certain that in the not-too-distant future some bug name politicians are also going to find themselves doing porridge.

This is something to applaud.  Future politicians and businesspeople are going to have to think twice before they engage in bribes again, or at least make sure there is no evidence of what they are doing so they can’t be caught.

Political discussions

I was in a queue in a supermarket last week for an awfully long time.  This is not news as supermarkets are notorious for taking an age to take you money.  The interesting thing on this occasion, though, was as I finally got to the checkout the cashiers were all talking amongst themselves about politics.  I heard jokes about Lula, updates on what Dilma had just said and looks of derision about Cunha.

When I was out last Friday night, it seemed that no bar room chat could go more than 15 minutes without it coming back to politics.

Most of my classes have, at some point in the last week, been dominated by politics.  I haven’t been the one to bring up the subject for fear of alienating some of my students, but they have all listened to what I had to say and either agreed or respectfully offered a different opinion.

For me, to hear politics being discussed by so many people in so many different contexts can only be encouraging and long may it continue.

A lack of violence

While there have been isolated outbreaks of violence, there hasn’t been any large-scale violence at all.  This reminds me of the way in which Brazil made its transition to democracy from military dictatorship in that there was relatively little violence and bloodshed, especially compared to other countries in Latin America.

Weak Military

There have been a number of calls for the military to step in a take power.  I’m not sure f these calls are just from a vocal minority or are just being publicised by the government to highlight the threat of a coup.  I am not a Brazilian military expert, by any means, but from what I have been told, the military has been so underfunded over the last 20 years that they are now pretty much incapable of staging a coup, never mind running a country that would then be in all kinds of trouble.  There is also no appetite from other countries to support a military coup (yes, I’m looking at you USA).

On the whole, taking yesterday’s reasons to be fearful and today’s reasons to be cheerful into consideration, I am genuinely optimistic about the future path of Brazil.  There are potential roadblocks and dead ends that we could take, however, it couldn’t continue as it has been over the last few years.  As this video makes clear, Brazil’s government is falling aprt…and it’s good news?

 

Living in Brazil: Reasons to be fearful

Reasons to be fearful

It isn’t much fun being in Brazil at the moment.  In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot going on in Brazil right now that would be enough to make a good man turn bad: Zika virus, recession, crap football team, an Olympics nobody really cares about…

On top of all this, we have the lava jato (car wash) corruption scandal.  Now, after living in Brazil for a while, you start to become a bit inured to corruption scandals as they seem come around as regular as a .  But this one has turned out to be a bid different.  It’s been a corruption scandal with bells on.

It is a long story and, if you would like to know more about the details, you could start with a good infographic showing the participants from the New York Times, read a basic background description from The Guardian, or have a laugh with John Oliver.

Living here with the drip drip, and occasional gush, of stories surrounding the scandal, it can at times seem a bit of a scary place.  A lot of the time, these fears are of what might happen based on what we have already seen:

The Numbers

Corrutpion, Brazil, Lavo Jato, Car wash, Scandal

Corrupt Legislation by Vedder Highsmith

As well as quite a few businessmen either in prison or facing charges, there are now about 50 of these politicians now  under investigation.

And that is just one scandal.  All in all, according to The New York Times, 60% of  are accused of various crimes from electoral fraud to murder.

The Lavo Jato enquiry has found that some $3.5bn has been involved in various kick backs and bribes.  Who knows how much more has been missed or is involved in other schemes.

These are just some of the numbers involved and are truly shocking and force people to think that all the politicians are only in it for themselves and there is nothing that can be done.

Update: While writing this, a document has been released from Odebrecht, a construction company heavily implicated in the scandal which has just done a deal to allow its executives to turn state witness.  This document lists the politicians who they have bribed in the past, so this number of 50 is already out of date and is now much higher.

The Protests

There has always been a certain amount of hatred of the governing PT (Workers’ Party) and these corruption scandals have given everyone with an axe to grind the perfect reason to protest.  And protest they have, with millions coming on to the streets to call for the impeachment of President Dilma, the arrest of former president Lula and for the whole corrupt gang of the PT to be thrown in prison.

The rhetoric from the anti-government quarter has been strident, but recently it has been matched by pr0-government supporters.  Red and black are shouting at yellow and nobody is listening.  And the protests look as if they are going to continue, be even more vocal and even more polarised.

The Colours

Yellow has become the colour of choice of the protestors angry at the current government.  Yellow is, of course, in the national flag and is the colour of the national football team.  Many of te street protests of have been a sea of yellow with original Nike football shirts very prominent.

Corruption, protests, Brazil, car wash, scandal lavo jato

Anti-government protests in Sao Paulo (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

Before a recent protest there were posts on Facebook that people should avoid wearing red, as this is the colour of PT and the left, and they should also avoid black as this is the colour of the anarchists or the Black Block.

There were some reports of people being attacked by protestors because they were wearing the wrong colours, although the vast majority of people have been peaceful.

The Violence

So far, there have been only sporadic incidents of violence at the protests.  There are many people predicting that levels of violence will increase if Lula is charged or if Dilma is impeached.  Who knows what will happen?  It is, however, a genuine fear that the rhetoric used by both sides is only going to increase the propensity for serious violence further down the road.

The Judiciary

Sergio Moro is the judge who has taken the lead in prosecuting those involved in the lavo jato case.  Depending on your point of view, he is either the caped crusader coming to save Brazil in its hour of need, or an example of how judges are using their power to corrupt the political system and engineer a coup.

The Military

And in the background there is the looming shadow of the military.  It is not too long since we had a military regime here and the genuine fear from a lot of people is that we might be heading back that way.  This is not helped by photos of people holding banner at protests calling for a military to kick out the corrupt politicians.  Of course, there was never any corruption under the military government at all.  Or at least, we never heard about it.

It all seems pretty bleak at the moment.  But of course there are two sides to every story, so tomorrow I’ll be looking at some reasons to be cheerful.

 

I’m back!

After a long time away, I'm back to continue blogging about Brazil, Curitiba and bilingual families

Last July, I decided to take a break for a few weeks from blogging while I got some work done and caught up on my real life instead of my virtual one.  I managed to get some work done, but then more and more came in and real life really is fun.  This meant that a few weeks turned into a few months which became 9 whole months.

In all that time I was still thinking about blog posts I could write, but never actually sitting down and writing them.  I kep putting off my comeback post until recently I realised that I would either just have to write something or give up on the whole idea completely.  I enjoyed my time blogging so much I decided that I would just have to make the time to get back into it.  And so here I am.

I’m aiming to write something roughly once a week, but we’ll see how that goes.  I’m going to continue writing about bringing up a bilingual son, life in Curitiba and generally about Brazil.  I have this idea in the back of my head to re-design the whole blog, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, for now, it’s just good to be writing again.  I hope to keep it up for a while and stop just thinking about it.

 

Running in Curitiba: Starting Again

Running injury in Curitiba, Brazil

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far way… I used to run for an athletics club.  I wasn’t ever any good, but I did like the idea of being the next Seb Coe or Steve Cram.

Then I found the joys and delights in beer, clubs and countless other things that don’t lend themselves to athletic prowess and running, along with other sports, became a passive activity, to be enjoyed from the sofa with a remote control in one hand a cold one in the other.

Those days of sofa sport have finally caught up with me and now I am in need of getting back into shape.  Sports like football demand some level of talent, which I never had.  They also mean playing with teammates and the thought of letting other people down through my lack of skills and fitness really puts me off taking them up again.

So I returned to running.

I started running a few months ago and everything was going well.  I had signed up for a half marathon and I was following a plan designed to avoid injury and get me to the end of the course in under 2.5 hours.  I had new running shoes and my family bought me some running gear for Christmas.

And then my knee went.  Whenever I planted my foot I had a sharp pain in my right knee.  As a typical man brought up in a working class household, I tried to ignore the pain, hoping it would go away on its own.

It didn’t.

I had to see a doctor and he told me I had hyper-extension.  The solution was physiotherapy to build up the muscles in my thigh.

After a month of this I have finally got back on the road and I am running again.  I did a 2.75km run and it nearly killed me.  But in a good way.  I am bursting to go for another run, but I am determined to take my time and build it up slowly.  The one thing I don’t want to do is push it too much and ruin my knee, or something else, and spend another few months on the sofa.

Over the next few months I plan to occasionally write about my running exploits and how they fit into a life as a dad and being in Brazil.

And by the way, if anyone else is on Runkeeper and would like to laugh at/with me and my progress, feel free to send a request to my account under the name of Stephen Greene in Curitiba, Brazil.

Image Credit

Exit to the Light by Rupert Ganzer (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Bilingual Child: Little Daddy

Bilingual Child, Brazil, English, Portuguese

Brazil may be a huge country, but Brazilians love making everyone and everything in it as small as possible.  One thing I noticed early on when learning Portuguese was the prevalence of the suffix –inho or –inha.  They use it on the end of words to form the diminutive, and they use it all the time.

This means that a ‘coffee’ (café) becomes ‘cafezinho’, ‘grande’ (big) can be ‘a little bit big’ (grandinho), and ‘never’ (nunca) can be ‘never, ever’ when it is used as ‘nuncinha‘. 

Even the word little itself ‘pequeno’ can be made even littler by saying ‘pequeninho’.

However, a small t-shirt (camisa) is not a camisnha because camisinha means condom.

This little suffix be used to mean something is actually small but not exclusively so.  It can also be used to show familiarity, friendliness or that something is just so damned cute.

The basic rule is that you add –inho to masculine words and –inha to feminine words.  However, if the word ends in the letter ‘z’, or vowel other than ‘a’ or ‘or’ then we have wither –zinho or –zinha, depending on the gender of the word.

English uses the diminutive a lot less than Portuguese.  Footballers and children are fond of adding a ‘y’ to the end of names to sound familiar, so that you will hear them referring to their teammates as ‘Scholesy’ and ‘Giggsy’.  In terms of more formal English, we have imported the suffix -ette from French so that we get words like ‘kitchenette’ and ‘cigarette’.

There are also different varieties of English around the world that have their own diminutive forms, like my dad shows his Irish roots by adding -een to the end of various words, for example, ‘Would you like a cuppeen of tea?’ is a common expression in our house.

In general, though, we don’t have a common diminutive form, and when we do use it we are nothing like as proficient as Portuguese speakers for employing it.

An advert for Coke in Ecuador makes fun of the Brazilian predilection for diminutives

Diminutives in Action

Mr T has picked up on this in his Portuguese and is enjoying playing with words and liberally adding –inho to them.  He was begging me to let him watch Batman the other day and, because we have a rule that he can only watch at night the answer was no.  But he is nothing if not persistent and so asked if we could watch Batmanzinho, or just a little batman.

Mr T couldn’t tell you the rule about when to say –inho or –zinho, but he has shown us that he is aware of it.  He did this when playing with the English word ‘daddy’.  First of all he called me ‘daddyinho’, but he knew this was wrong almost as soon as it came out of his mouth.  A few seconds later he repeated himself, but this time said ‘daddyzinho’.

I liked this because it shows he is being creative with his language, playing with it to get new words and meanings.  He also did it with a look on his face to suggest he knew what he was doing was a joke at my expense and that he also knew that he shouldn’t really be doing this in English.

The only downside is that I am little daddy and not big daddy.  But at least my name isn’t Shirley.

More on diminutives in Portuguese

Portuguese Language Blog

Portuguêse é Massa (Portuguese for Foreigners)

 

Image

Big Daddy by Paul Townsend CC BY-NC 2.0

Living in Brazil: Lovers’ Day

Lovers' Day and LGBT community in Brazil

Here in Brazil, June 12th is the equivalent of February 14th in the UK.  Back home we have St. Valentine’s Day where everybody in a relationship is guilted into spending a fair whack of their money on flowers, chocolates cards and dinner.  A couple of the details in Brazil are different (there is no culture of giving cards for any reason) but the general result of spending far too much money is basically the same.  And instead of naming the day after a saint, it is simply call Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day).

My wife and I made a deal a long time ago that we are in the UK we would only celebrate the Brazilian Lovers’ Day in June, and when we were in Brazil we would only celebrate the British Valentine’s Day in February.  This has the very pleasant result of easily getting  a table in a restaurant and not getting quite so fleeced with expensive and tacky chocolates.

This year, though, is going to be different.  This year I have decided to buy my wife some smelly stuff from the chain of shops called Boticário.

I have not discovered some deeply hidden romantic side, nor have I become the last of the big spenders.  Instead, I am responding to an advert that the company has been running here in Brazil and has caused quite a stir.

I usually go out of my way to try to not respond to adverts.  I know that I probably do, subconsciously, but when I am aware of an advert trying to fool me into buying something my stubborn streak shows up and refuses to let me.  But this advert is different.

It’s a 30-second advert, and the first 15 seconds are your standard glossy fare that you might exect from a perfume shop.  We see a various people preparing for a date with a wrapped bottle of what we assume to be perfume carefully placed in the shot.  The way the opening scene is edited seems to pair up each couple so that they are all heterosexual couples of similar ages and backgrounds.

But then in the last 15 seconds, we see that we have been fooled, that our expectations have been played upon, because we have a young lesbian couple, a middle-aged gay couple and the expected heterosexual couple.  We see hugs, which is nothing unusual here in Brazil no matter what the sex of the individuals might be, but there is also at least one sultry look to leave th viewer in no doubt as to the intentions of those involved.

I must admit I was shocked to see such an advert here in Brazil.  While great advances have been made by the LGBT community, there is still a lot of resistance to them in society.  This is partly down to the power and wealth of the evangelical churches here who are not afraid to throw their considerable resources behind anything that might smack of letting people do what they want in their own bedrooms.  As well as this, there is the old-fashioned macho culture and fear of homosexuality that still hasn’t disappeared.

I was shocked, then, because this is a potentially risky message from Boticário.  Yes, they will make money from people who are part of the LGBT community and people like myself who support a society free from all forms of discrimination.  But they also run the risk of being denounced from the pulpits and soapboxes by some very loud and opinionated preachers and politicians.

So that is why I am going to buy my wife something for this Lovers’ Day, and it is going to be some perfume from Boticário, to support this message and to show that there is a return for companies that interested in doing what is right no matter what their risks might be.

And who knows, maybe next year they’ll have somebody in their adverts who isn’t completely white.

 

Image Credits

Valentines Chocolates by Stewart Butterfield  – CC BY 2.0

Heart Bokeh 2 by Lee Ann L. – CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Living in Curitiba: The Goldilocks City

Living in Curitiba: The Weather

The people from Curitiba, Curitibanos, are like most people I have met in that they love to complain about the weather.  They are fond of lamenting the fact that there can be 4 seasons in each day because you must have clothes to cater for each of the seasons.  In the summer, half of the locals continually moan about the insufferable heat, and in the winter the other half just bang on about how cold they are.

The last couple of weeks have seen an upswing in these grumblings as the weather has changed from a pleasant Indian summer into a wet and cold autumn.  Not that I am complaining, though.

The Goldilocks City

I have written before about how the bi-polar weather here in Curitiba can be a problem when you have small kids, and this is mainly because the infrastructure in homes means it is often colder indoors than it is outdoors.

However, as far as the actual weather is concerned, I have come to the conclusion that Curitiba is blessed with what must be close to being the best weather in the world.

You see, when it’s hot it is rarely too hot.  I have lived in both Rio de Janeiro and Taipei and in both of those cities it can regularly hit 40, and then stay there for months.  In Curitiba if it gets to 35 it is unusual.  As well as needing less air conditioning, this has the advantage of keeping dengue away (for now).

And when it is cold, it is rarely too cold.  It can get down to zero for a few days, but never the -20 with snow from November to Easter that I experienced when I lived in Poland for a year.  The advantage of this is that you can wear something other than shorts every day of the week.

And ok, it can be grey and overcast a lot.  But not like London.  I spent one winter in London when I didn’t see the sun for about 4 months.  This was because I went to work on the underground in the morning and when I came home it was already dark.  On the weekends it was either wet, cloudy or I was in bed recovering from a particularly hard night.

When it is cloudy in London, it can be cloudy for months on end.  When it is hot in Rio, or freezing in Poland, it will be like that for a long time.  In Curitiba, in the midst of a freezing and wet winter, we can have the odd beautiful, warm day.  And when it’s been over 30 for a couple of weeks there is a good chance that the next few days will be wet and only in the 20’s.

We don’t get hurricanes or twisters.  We don’t have earthquakes or volcanoes.  We live far enough away from the sea, and high enough up the mountains to not be worried about Tsunamis or the rising seas due to global warming.

We get the odd storm which can result in some floods and sometimes a landslide, but nothing like other parts of Brazil.  The storms we get are proper storms with rain lashing down, bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.  Powerful, invigorating and amazing.

And so Curitiba is the Goldilocks city because it is never too hot and never too cold.  In fact, it is usually just about right.

Images

Goldilocks by Vlolscraper CC BY-NC 2.0

Old, modern and organic in Curitiba by Radamés Manasso CC BY-NC-SA 2.0