Monday, January 16, 2012

Campo Grande, Matto Grosso del Sul, Brazil

You are officially richer than me. Why am I being charged more than locals?

This will be my last post from a country that has just bumped mine off the coveted 6th most loaded nation place. What did I think of this emerging South American powerhouse?
I should start with a confession. I was sort of prejudiced against Brazil from the start. Weirdly, it's the positive cliches that put me off this place. Samba, Carnival, Niemeyer architecture, football and beaches are all things that draw folk to this place. They also happen to be off little interest to yours truly. For me, Samba ia a military parade gone worng . 2 trumpets, 5000 tom-tom drums and what sounds like football chants. Niemeyer buildings look like a bunker specialist got his hands on Gehry blueprints. Football has always bored the crap out of me and the bigger the passion, the bigger my contempt. As for beaches; it's basically just sitting on sand.
The stereotype of the beaches being full of hot chicks wearing tiny bikinis did tweak my interest but is only half true. The bikinis are indeed small but as for the hotness...... Claiming something does not make it so. It remainds of when Brit politicians say that the Met, the NHS or the Parliament is the envy of the world. I can't help feeling they have watched to many Disney movies where a cute munchkin gets his heart's desire if he wishes it strong enough. I do have to give due respect to the chunkier women who still wear less cloth on their body than I do one one foot.

Another problem I have with Brazil is the language. Portuguese has alway been the ugly sister of the Latin languages. In Europe, Portugal is a thin wedge of the Iberian peninsula. In a way their language is nearly cute and amusing, like the way Suriname speaks Dutch. Not so Brazil. It's the biggest and most important country of the continent. It just looks like they are being deliberately awkward. If it was radically different from Spanish I would probably be less annoyed. I feel like I'm learning the piano but every third key is now a clavecin. It's just odd.

Prejudice aside, I could not miss out on Brazil. It's too big and too important. It's a country on the way up and those are often very interesting. The whole 6th biggest econmoy thing got the Daily Mail riled up but I think it's much ado about nothing. A country umpteen times the size of Britain with 4 times the population and resources a-plenty should have a bigger economy. There is also a stunning level of social inequality here. In Rio you can find some of the priciest real estate in the wolrd and areas so bad the army had to be called in to police them. Brazil does not feel like a poor country but a mismanaged one.

I can't claim to know much about Brazilian politics. I am amused by the fact their president, Dilma Roussef knows how to plant a bomb. From what I understand the problem in Brazil is actually excessive democracy. There are too many parties getting elected and some of them are blatantly there just to get cash in exchange for support. Any governemt wishing to pass laws must make a Faustian pact with these clowns regardless of how bent their own party is. That's why even anti-corruption zealots struggle. As far as I know the press is the one area of Brazilian politics that truly works.That might be comforting but I suspect it won't be enough to clean up the body politic.
My initial reaction to seeing the ads for the world cup and the olympics was to think of bread and circuses, except less fun. I have touched upon what I perceive to be an obscene lack of spending priorities. If you have billions to spare and you have a crap education sytem, fix that first ( I have been astonished at the way many Brazilans struggle with basic numbers). I will admit that the world cup does make cultural sense. Footie excellence and Brazil do go together. I supect if you had a referendum asking Brazilans to choose between the World Cup and computers in every classroom, it would be a close thing. Not so sure the Olympics but I loathe them. It's a colossal waste of cash and a pathetic ego trip for politicians. Even if all goes splendidly nothing has been gained. My life does not change one iota because some dude can jump a bit higher than other dudes.

In my opinion Brazil should not host big events but I will admit that Brazilians will want to. This brings me to an uncomfortable question. To what extent are Brazil's problems linked to Brazilians.? Some countries get lucky (Gulf states). Some countries get seriously fucked over (most of Sub-Saharan Africa). Sometimes meeting the people helps you understand why the country does well (Korea, Singapore, Germany) and sometimes not (France). And there are places where you can't help thinking their problems are linked to the way they are (most of the world sees Greece that way now). As for Brazil, I'm not sure. They might look indolent but when they work they put some effort into it. If Brazilians were callous enough to accept bent cops taking bounties for killing street kids in Rio why were people making goody bags for the river folk on the Amazon? Sometimes it seems they are allergic to planning but then again I have just taken a 20 hour bus trip that arrived pretty much on the dot.

To be honest I am speculating for nothing. Brazil's getting richer and money solves many problems. A growing middle class will want their streets safe, their schools decent and their taxes spent on other shit than villas for politicians. Eventually they will join the civilised world where corruption is like polo, a sport for the very rich. They will learn that the briefcase full of cash is very gauche and that true leaders accept a promise of consultancy "work" in exchange for favours. It's a brave new world.

So what's my take on Brazil for the traveller? I don't think I will come here again unless there is a special occasion. It's basically not my scene. That being said you can't tour South America and skip it's biggest and most important country. It does have a lot going for it for the holiday crowd if not for the culture vultures. It has got the best coastal real estate on the continent and is actaully pretty easy to get around in. There's no shortage of partying and the booze is cheap. Brazilian food (excluding Bahian) is boring but most of the cities have alternatives.

There are things that I liked with this place. I love that you can get fesh fruit juice anywhere. The transport is really quite good if you upgrade. I am impressed by the quality of the graffiiti of all things. The tags are crap but the paintings are really good. A notch above the fat letter crap you see in Europe. It's also a decent place to get your South American cliches in. Brazil has a prodigious cultural output. An easy way to test this is to try and think of 5 Brazilian cultural creations. Now try and do that with any other country in South America.

Brazil sort of reminds me of China. I'm glad I've been here but I'm also glad to get out. I'm in Campo Grande now and have been pondering whether to go into the Pantanal or not. Fuck it. It's a swamp and I need a change. Off to Paraguay!

Take care,



Anonymous Anonymous said...

bom post arabin !
salutacao de panama
continue le dream

Friday, May 11, 2012 9:03:00 PM  

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