segunda-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2009

Carnaval in Brazil and the unaware traveller.

I have frequently been asked , by friends, to write about life here in Brazil, with especial attention to the dangers and pitfalls for the over trusting traveller or Western holiday maker.
I am not sure that I am the most suitable person to write on this subject,or whether there is a sufficient audience for this, on my Blog.
Now Summer and Carnaval has arrived, lots of travellers will descend on Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, it is possibly an opportune moment to ponder the request.
It is true, I have been unfortunate to have encountered certain types of bad intentioned people, here in Bahia. I have been held at gun point in the street and held hostage, at gun point, but it is also a problem for native Brazilians. Graca, born in Manaus, North Brazil, lived many years in Belo Horizonte, Middle Brazil, then more than 20 years in Salvador, Bahia, North East coast of Brazil and further , knows Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro( having had time living in both; she now has moved to Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais ,near Belo Horizonte) gas experienced firtst hand the type of prejudice that I constantly encounter. Tthe other students , as well as the professors on the course that she has undertaken ( a professional course for restoration of art), have constantly made fun and crude comments about the Northern Brazilian ; such as those typically made by the English for those Indians deciding to live in England. Comments such that the Indian did not know how to use a toilet; in Ouro Preto the students have said , in front of Graca, that in Bahia they used there crash helmet as a toilet !!! this is joking with a prejudice in mind.
I have encountered much the same type of prejudice for foreigners, here in Bahia. The difference here is that the foreigner with his/her trudting nature, is seen as being stupid/gullible. Most weeks there is a case of Brazilians also being taken in by con merchants, it is the nature here, they look after themselves first and foremost, there is very little respect for others. This fact is a prime concern for travellers in what ever city of the world. The country side is generally less pressured and less consumerism and having more respect of travellers.
My unfortunate experiences have really followed my nature,in that I do not like conflict, try not to ask others for help, do not wish to impose my opinions on others yet not taking kindly to others imposing their will on myself, often respect others opinion over mine and generally prefer to be on my own. I expect others to give me respect and consideration, when in reality most do not have any interest in my wishes or life. Here the Brazilian manner, when he/she walks or drives, is to be in front of others. I now see this as the problem of bad/lack of education that shows itself in there loudness or confrontational manner, this is possibly worse here in Brazil, the country is comparatively new and wealth is only just starting to feed through the system. Education here is appalling, there is virtually no reasonable health plan for any one who is below the middle class salary, it is not surprising that so many people wish to get work with the government since they give a pension and health care, many young folks try to show that they deserve respect by what they can buy or steal, or what they can physically do in dance and driving.
Now getting back to travellers and the care they should take, whilst in Brazil. Can I first say that it is not a general problem in Brazil but localised to areas that have more tourists.
First and foremost are the reasons people have for travelling and their expectations on arrival in another country. I am most likely to travel alone and to areas that are not policed, I even live in an area that is practically without police, so it is natural to expect that I am likely to encounter problems, my good luck is that I have survived when others have ended in the mortuary, so I guess I have some knowledge embedded there that keeps me from real danger. In the centre of Salvador there is the old town, loved by tourist guides and TV adverts, picturesque but full of drugs, prostitution and exploitation sexual, yet an area that as history and not to be missed. So when arriving in such a place it is worth remembering that the lone traveller is a target for sellers, guides and pimps. if you are wanting to walk on your own it is best to do this mainly during day light hours and with some information from the tourist office. At night time try to keep to areas that are policed or avoid areas that have only bars. Brazil has so many laws that it cannot possibly enforce them, so be aware that everyone ignores the law, even the police see all that is not legal but do not enforce the law. In reality the police do not have facilities or man power to apprehend the thousands of street traders that flounce the trading standards or to arrest all the men that are having sex with under age children. Life is basic and that is due to the economy and government ineptitude and thieving of the national coffers. When the common man sees that the government rob and buy what they want, they in turn see that it is a free for all and do the same, to a much lesser degree. Any where in the world it is natural for the traveller to not show or flaunt his wealth, not to carry with you more money than you can easily use in the day( seperate money into smaller wallets so that you never show that you have with you a great deal of cash and also carry smaller denominations of change)and remember that when you are using a cash machine, take note of whom may be standing near you, help with withdrawal of cash is only appropriate from a member of staff at the bank. Remember the war time cry of ‘walls have hears’, when you are discussing plans for your day or evening, do not always take a new friendship as a loyal and true friendship, all friendships that have value are generally made over long periods of time so the person that tells you that he is your brother or sister, after only 2 minutes of conversation, or wishes to help you with everything with no intention of you paying for their help, is in fact most likely to be a robber or con merchant, so be aware, especially if you do not speak the language.
Those that wish to help you with the language and stay at your side, can also use it to their later advantage or pass you on for others to rob. It is better to arrive with a degree of knowledge and certainly a reasonable grasp of Portuguese, although for the traveller that may be making a three week trip to Brazil and may not return for two years, will not feel the need to learn more than the basics; basics do help when talking to the police, for example ( remember too, in Brazil there is a tourist police force, its for your help and they wish to create a good impression)
There is the British consulate, here in Salvador( near the Marcado Modelo) although I have found very little advice from them and difficulty in finding him/her at the office; sharing as they do, an office and secretary with a transport company. I was only ever asked by the consul for my address and telephone number of nearest of kin because he was worried that my life style and area that I lived would inevitably lead to me being killed and he would need my full details to arrange for my folks in the UK to get my body before it was interned here.
The time I was assault and held hostage for 5 hours in my house( by what I assume was friends and family of my ex Brazilian wife) I went to the police, gave full statement and heard no more, however when my neighbour was assaulted ( she to is a foreigner but knows the Portuguese consular and prime minister of Portugal) they discovered that it was the same people that had assaulted me, they quickly arrested a couple of folks and the others cleared Salvador for a time, then the police patrolled in front of her house for a few months. I think I could easily be shot and not make it to the papers let alone national TV, so thankfully for my mother nothing more as happened and she as passed on to another world so will not have the worry( I never did tell my mother of my assault and she only became aware of problems in Brazil when I divorced here.
There have been several examples of men travelling to Brazil for relationships, often started on the internet ( I do not see any problem with the internet as long as you are well aware of what you may find at the other end, not every one is honest even when they are two streets away, or, from my own experience, when they live with you as your wife) from Europe and United States, never to make it past the first day, drugged and killed for a few credit cards and a handful of dollars.
I am content with my life here in Brazil but am always careful of not letting my guard slip to much, I am well aware that I am conspicuous by my skin and my life style, what ever I may say as regards my lack of money, everyone thinks that a foreigner is well off, I had to explain to my captors that I had no money and the idea of ransom was out, no one alive would pay 5 reais for my release, when they wanted my credit cards I explained they where Scottish and that no one accepted Scottish currency, when they wanted me to go to a bank and take money out of my account, I said I needed to go inside the bank to do this and explain why I wanted the withdrawal, finally they found my Banco da Brasil debit card and that was when I gave them a number for a cash withdrawal from the machine at the super market. For this they had beaten me, poured lighter fuel over my legs and burnt them, stubbed cigarettes out on my feet and ankles and held a gun in my mouth. I had decided from the start that I did not wish to give them anything and that I would be shot any way, but I do not reckon it is the best response, I did however, keep talking to them ( I was tied up and blind folded) and simply kept asking them what their mother and grand mother thought about this lack of morals and treatment of older folks !!!!!!
Thankfully I am here to write this but do consider myself very lucky.
Please travel with the best of intentions with affection for those that yo meet, it is more likely to save your skin if people like you.

Mas atenção: estas câmeras só vão transmitir o carnaval ao vivo durante a data oficial do carnaval de Salvador que é do dia 31 de janeiro ao dia 5 de fevereiro (data de encerramento oficial do carnaval).

Essas são as datas oficiais que nunca são respeitadas, o carnaval já está rolando solto na Bahia faz dias e olha que ainda estamos no começo do ano. Previsão para acabar? Só Deus sabe.

Aqui está o link para as câmeras com "Carnaval ao vivo" de Salvador - Bahia.

As câmeras vão transmitir ao vivo dos principais circuitos de rua do carnaval de Salvador:

- Circuito Dodô na Barra-Olinda;

- Circuito Osmar no Campo Grande;

- Circuito Batatinha no Centro Histórico de Salvador;

- Carnaval de Bairro com os desfiles dos blocos nos bairros;

- Transmissão ao vivo pela TVE de Salvador.

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