17 July 2011

And lest we forget

Brazil is making headlines.....paying off international debt early, hosting the 2014 World Cup, hosting the 2016 Olympics. Brazil is known for it's party atmosphere (Carneval in Rio anyone?), Capirina's, amazing nature and tropical paradise. This positive image paints in ones mind the idea of a perfect country. But Brazil is also known for it's high crime and poverty. Seeing the extreme poverty, I feel the need to make sure that my corner of the world remembers.
Travel is about experience. Some experiences will light up your life, explode your senses and blow your mind. Others are a big shock yo your system, the face of reality.
I only experienced a small part of Brazil, the city of Maceió, the capital of the state of Alagoas. Located on the coast, it's a tropical paradise. The beaches are picture perfect. The area where I was, was near the beaches. This is the area that attracts tourists and thus it is the area of affluence and prosper. It's beautiful, fairly safe and the people who live here can basically say: I live where you go for vacation.
The houses in Brazil are different than those in America. (note: my generalization of Brazil is only referring to this area and I do not claim to know anything about other parts of Brazil.) they tend to be one story, but even if they are two-storied, they are more squat and flat. EVERY house (no matter the neighborhood) has a gate and bars on the windows. Some are surrounded by high fences, some of the fences even have glass or electric wire on top. The houses are generally close together, appearing to share side walls. From the front they look smaller because they are long rather than wide. They are painted many colors and often the gates and par have a design.
My friend Daniel P. lives in the well-to-do section of Maceió. His house is one of the rare two-storied ones that is a bit wide as well. He has a high fence with glass and electrified wire. His house is gorgeous. Inside is open and airy, decorated nicely. He is very fortunate.
We went to visit a friend of his. The area that this friend lives in was a poorer section of town. The houses were smaller and closer together. The paint was a bit faded and the area was a bit shabby. It did not feel dangerous, just obviously poorer. They were a bit further from the ocean. Visiting his friend we went into his house, the front door opened directly into the living room. There was a hall to the back of the house. I saw no more. The walls were bare, the furniture a bit shabby, but the friend and his family were warm and welcoming. This is an area where some poverty is evident but not extreme either. The people are most likely (basing this on the 2 that I met) hard working, proud of their house and it shows.
Going a bit further and further from the ocean we drove into a very poor area of town. Daniel teaches a Spanish class in a community education center once a week. It's a course for enrichment and his students range from about 10 to 70 years. This area broke my heart. The poverty here is extreme. The houses are even smaller and in a state of disrepair. Driving past, looking in the windows, I could see a lot of the houses did not appear to have much furniture, maybe just folding chairs. Many of the curtains were bedsheets. A lack of furniture is not what made me so sad. It was the environment around these houses. Trash and pools of dirty water were everywhere. Many kids of all ages were running around without shoes or supervision. The paint was peeling and there was a lot of graffiti. Again there were gates on everything. I observed at more than one store that the store was gated with the employee on the inside. The customers did not come into the store, instead they passed money and products through the gate. People stood around, watching the police who were watching them. It was as if they were all waiting for something to happen.
The most extreme poverty I saw was a Falavel (like a shanty town). I only saw this from the highway and not close up, but the houses appeared to be constructed of scrap metal, cardboard etc. It was so far from the ocean i wondered if it's inhabitants have been able to see it. I've never been to India, but this reminded me of photos of India that I have seen.
Poverty does not make people bad, nor do I think that tourists should expect that everything will be the same as at home. Poverty exists in every country, just in some it is stronger than others.
As you celebrate the beauty of Brazil, don't forget to help those in need.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Maceió, Brazil

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