Sunday, February 12, 2006

Happy New Year!

Okay, I need to say a belated Happy New Year to all my readers! Since I got back from Brazil, January 7, I have been busy working on a fundraiser March 4 in St. Louis. And finishing work at the church, starting new consulting at Peabody Energy, and planning a wedding in Brazil. Not to mention the realities of daily life, and trying to maintain a long distance relationship. It is challenging.

Anyway, I had hoped to write some relevant comments here, but have not felt I had much to write that fit the purpose of this blog. Hopefully, when our Mexico and Brazil projects start later this year, I will have things to say, as I will be interacting regularly in cross cultural settings. But right now I am not.

I will say I had a great time in Brazil. I love Varginha even more now that I have had time to just be there with no major agenda, wander around, get to know the place. It is fun just to walk around there. And, for me, the ambience is so different from Rio or even Belo Horizonte that it is almost startling.

I make no secret of the fact that despite the fact I am engaged to a carioca, I don't like Rio. For one thing, I don't find myself as overwhelmed by its beauty as a lot of people talk about. To me it is an older, not very clean city that is crowded, and frankly uncomfortable. You always feel like a target in Rio, if you are a white foreigner at least, and I hate that. There are some amazing buildings and museums and parks and other points of interest. The restaurants are great too. But overall, I just prefer other cities in Brazil.

Take Belo Horizonte for example, I love Belo Horizonte, and while I know people who have been robbed there, I have never personally felt uncomfortable there. You have to take care with your camera in Centro (downtown) and there are some places that one should not go except in groups, but this is just common reality for most cities, even in the U.S. Belo is beautiful, surrounded by mountains and hills. It is not as crowded. And it has plenty to see and do as well.

I also adore Goiania, though I have known people who were victims of crime there as well. But Goiania is very European in feel. And it is well developed, not as crowded, and fun to visit. It does not have as many tourist sites but it has plenty to do, in my opinion, and is near enough you can also visit Brasilia and a famous Brazilian healer, if you are into that.

However, my preference overall, despite the fact that I live in a large city right now (St. Louis) and have been living in big cities since I left Salina, KS (population 48,000) for college in 1987, is smaller places in Brazil like Varginha, Ouro Preto, Mariana. They are so amazingly charming that despite their lack of some things cities provide, I think one would relish daily life there, even if one needed to escape to larger cities once or twice a month on weekends. The architecture, the charming handcrafted goods, the great food, the charming hospitality are all wonderful, plus the bonus that you get to experience a taste of what life is like for far more Brazilians than live in big cities.

Anyway, I am sure many Brazilians will not like my comments on Rio, but I am just being honest, and frankly, even a lot of Brazilians think many of their countrymen think too highly of it. So there it is. Brazil is just a difficult place in some ways for white foreigners especially because while the country has many things we find common in the West and decent infrastructure in most cities, the poverty and crime and far bigger problems than anything most of us have ever encountered in our regular life at home. So the emotional reaction to that combined with the reality that you are a target and could be robbed on the street in plain view of other people is usually a rude awakening and makes it hard to fully enjoy the experience.

Anyway, I will write more later. I promise to have more positive insights next time.

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