Tenho um sonho.

November 25, 2010 at 7:13 pm (Uncategorized)

It may sound childish, but I love starting a countdown: less than 3 months ’til my trip to Brazil!  I can’t think about anything else.  I wake up and listen to samba, reggae and bossa nova, Gil and Jobim… I read my Brazil travel books (Lonely Planet, Fodor’s) and make notes on my trip planner journal online (for each city!).  I meet up with a Brazilian friend (one who has been very patient and kind) once a week to practice my Portuguese, and when I have some time to spare before work, I attempt to read the BBC Brasil news website (in Portuguese). I am so incredibly in love with this country and everything about it – the music, the food, the beaches, rainforest, and wetlands, the culture, and of course: the people. 

 I have been dreaming about this since I was 17 years old.  I can’t wait to sink my toes into the sand at Barra da Lagoa, to get lost in the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo, to be romanced by Rio, to samba in Salvador, and to see the Encontro das Aguas in the Amazon.  I realized while discussing this trip with my boyfriend (who will meet me in Rio) that I truly believe that I will be in Brazil for some of the best times the country has ever seen: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics are approaching, and everyone seems to be preparing early.  We can be part of the anticipation!   He agreed with me when I said with certainty that we will be travelling at such a perfect time, and I have proclaimed to everyone who will listen that I couldn’t be more excited. 

I was quite upset when, upon checking the BBC News website today, I saw this:People walk past a vehicle set on fire during riots at Jacarezinho slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  

That doesn’t look like the Rio I’ve been dreaming of… how could this happen in such a beautiful city?

Of course, Rio has it’s problems. EVERY city has it’s problems.  But things are changing every day in cities like Rio.  Aren’t they?

What happened?  Uncle BBC says: “Police in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have deployed armoured vehicles in a shanty town as they continue operations to stem a wave of violence….Clashes in Rio since the weekend have left at least 30 people dead….Drug gangs have been burning vehicles and opening fire in an attempt to halt police operations aimed at pacifying the favelas, officials say.”

The violence is believed to have been ordered by imprisoned gang members in retaliation for the police presence in the favelas, which was an attempt to gain security and control in these areas. Many of the drug dealers who had been forced out of their homes and neighbourhoods have taken up residence in Vila Cruzeiro, where a special operations police force and military police are ready for action, with armed vehicles and lots o’ guns.

It’s difficult for Canadians to understand this.  Sure, we had some rioting at the G20 summits.  But it’s still not quite the same… and to put it simply: I don’t understand how a country that has moved forward so much in such a short time can leave so many people behind… I don’t know if I will ever really understand.  All I know is that even though I am Canadian, I haven’t even been to Brazil just yet, and it’s still heartbreaking to see a headline such as this one.  What’s most frustrating and sad is that (according to telegraph.co.uk), approximately 1/3 of the people of Rio (pop. 6 million) live in slums (of which there are over 1,000). 

I can’t explain why I feel so close to Brazil. I met a young couple from Porto Alegre in my bar a few months ago, and they asked me why I wanted to go to Brazil so badly.  I was so overwhelmed by the question, and would have had trouble explaining my many answers in Portuguese anyway, so all I could say was “Não posso explicar porque!”  I had no idea how to explain it.  It’s like when you hear so many good things for so long about a person you have never met… and when you finally meet him or her, you’ve had such good thoughts and feelings about him/her (and love them just a little bit already) that you run up to this stranger, embrace them, kiss their cheeks and say “Finally! I have been waiting so long to be your friend! Thank God you don’t have to be a stranger anymore!”  I think that’s it.  I have been waiting a very long time to meet a beloved, soon-to-be-friend. 

That being said, I hate seeing my friends get hurt.  I hope that there will continue to be economic and social progress made in Brazil, so that the world can see this country for how great it really is… not for the terrifying images they saw in television years ago.  As Sam Cooke said: Change is gonna come.

Rio at dusk, viewed from the top of the Sugar Loaf Cable car.

 (more info and photos on bbc.co.uk, end photo from www.lonelyplanet.com)

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