Monday, October 28, 2013

The dilemma of raising children in Brazil

Write on the board the word MORALS
They stole the chalk, teacher!

I'm a little behind, but this article was circulating Facebook a while back:

Now I can't say I've "studied" the article, nor that my quick scan of it has allowed me to fully understand the depth of the issue.  But I can say that I think I get the main idea, which is that Brazilian parents face a significant challenge while trying to raise their children.  Parents want to (and have the responsibility to) teach their children values, but they are doing so within a country where the "Lei de Gerson" (take advantage of everything and everyone whenever you can).  Essentially, those of us living in Brazil know that you really have to be looking out for number one here, because it really is a dog-eat-dog world.  The expectation is that others will take advantage of you.  They will take your son's stuffed animal one minute after it falls out of his bedroom window (true story, unfortunately).  Salespeople will over charge you for inferior products.  Those trying to buy a car will try to falsify documents (hence, the elaborate laws around verification and the existence of Cartorios).   They will throw trash in front of your apartment.  Elected officials steal money without shame.  Now, I realize that I'm speaking in generalizations, and there are exceptions, and there are many, many Brazilian citizens who are making the hard choices to be think of others before thinking of themselves.  But the article interviews parents who are afraid that if they teach their children morals, if they teach their children to obey laws, to follow the rules, to be honest, that their children will fall behind.  Parents fear that their children will be taken advantage of if they don't learn how to operate within the reality of the society.  So which is better, to uphold a higher morality, or to teach your children to be shrewd and successful within a culture of corruption?

As a foreigner with children, and as a teacher working in a school, I find this a particularly interesting challenge, and a cultural issue.  I'm not trying to make a value judgement here (I could, but I will avoid).  But I think that we face a difficult situation.  I want my children to grow up to be honest, responsible citizens who care for those around them.  And yet, we live in a culture where we are daily faced with a multitude of examples of dishonesty, irresponsibility, and a total lack of respect for others. How do I reconcile this?

And apparently the "levar vantagem" (take advantage of) came from this:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Museums: CCBB Belo Horizonte and Escher at Palacio das Artes

My husband and I had the chance to see the exhibit ELLES:  Mulheres artistas na coleção do Centro Pompidou (ELLES:  Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris).  It was the opening exhibit for the new Banco do Brasil Centro Cultural in Belo Horizonte.  The museum itself is nice; the Banco do Brasil updated one of the old, historic buildings in the Praça Liberdade.  But the structure seemed a little cold and basic to me.  Nothing spectacular.  I don't want to be a downer, because they did remodel it, and it is nice.  It's just not super nice.

But the exhibit was AMAZING!  The exhibit started in Paris, and then went to Seattle, and was here in Belo Horizonte.  The exhibit "tells" the story of modern/contemporary art through the work of women artists.  My favorite pieces were by Suzanne Valadon, Guerrilla Girls, and Frida Kahlo.  The Kahlo was very small, but it was humbling to stand before a work by an artist that I admire so deeply.  The exhibit is over now, but it would be worth it to keep an eye on upcoming exhibitions.  Check it out here.

Dora and Sebastian 

The other exhibit that we visited is at the Palacio das Artes, called "A Magia de Escher" or "The Magic of Escher."  It is still showing until November 17th, and if you have a chance, you should check it out. It's a great compilation of works by M.C. Escher, very kid friendly, and very interactive.  And there are several parts that you are allowed, even encouraged to take pictures.  My math-loving kids loved the tessellations, optical illusions, and different perspectives.

I'll also mention that the newly remodeled Cine Theatro Brasil recently opened in downtown Belo Horizonte.  I haven't been yet, but it looks very nice.  I also just read that they are showing "Guerra e Paz" ("War and Peace") by Brazilian Artist Candido Portinari.  It is the last time it will be shown in Brazil before heading to Paris and then to return to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, where the piece is permanently displayed.

Some great things are happening in the arts in Belo Horizonte!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Van Dyke Mango

The sacalão had a new variety of mango.  It was advertised as the "Vemdek" (if I remember correctly) but it's actually a Van Dyke.  It was grown in Florida (most likely a descendent of the Haden).  It isn't very fibrous, so it's not very stringy, which is a plus.  The flavor is very sweet, and it doesn't have much of a bite or tangy flavor, which in my opinion, is a minus.  Not bad, but not great.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013


This is a sad post.  I've been thinking about how to write this for over a month, and I'm still at a loss.

We moved into our apartment in the Gutierrez neighborhood a little over a year ago.  Within a week of moving here, we started to notice Cristina.  She lived on our street, and she was....well, she was a character.  A very unique and eccentric person.  Some might say crazy.  But a wonderful Brazilian woman with a large and lovable personality.  She had 4 Dalmatians.  She liked to walk them without their leashes, and they were hyper and ran like crazy.  She yelled at them.  She wore biking clothes most of the time, as in spandex biking shorts, gloves, shoes with toe clips, and a bike helmet.  Sometimes she rode a bike. Most of the time she didn't.  Cristina talked to herself.  Everyone knew her.  She was friendly, and liked to talk to the children.  She didn't know that my Portuguese was limited, and most often I didn't understand what she was talking about.  I just smiled and nodded.  

On August 16th, she was out walking, like she usually did.  She was crossing Avenida Francisco Sá at the end of our street, and was hit by a car.  She refused help, even though she had been injured.  She returned to her apartment by herself, and passed away.  

There are so many things wrong about this.  There is a TOTAL disregard for pedestrians in this city. Cars do not stop.  Crosswalks are totally disregarded.  I know this is not the case in all of Brazil, but for some reason in Belo Horizonte pedestrians seem to have no rights.  Last year at Christmas, there was a big sign in our neighborhood that essentially read, "For Christmas, be kind and respect traffic laws." The city started a campaign about 6 months ago to raise awareness and to encourage drivers to respect traffic laws.  I did see an article (can't find it now) talking about the INCREASE in injuries and deaths during the campaign (not saying that the campaign was causing it, but that the campaign wasn't really working).  As a person that cares about the condition of our planet and a concerned citizen, I love walking and try to walk as much as possible.  We moved to Gutierrez so we wouldn't have to drive so much.  My husband uses public transportation to get to work.  The children complain all the time, but we are trying to show environmental responsibility and to take care of our bodies by exercising.  

But I am afraid.  I have become much MUCH more concerned about crossing the street.  I don't trust any drivers.  I know that pedestrians do foolish things at times, but the ones with the power here are the drivers.  I really REALLY don't understand what drivers are thinking speeding up when they see a mother and two children in a crosswalk.  I don't understand why 20 cars speed by when I'm attempting to cross a busy intersection without a light.  I don't understand why cars run through red lights, or when motorcycles start entering the intersection before the light has changed to green.  From my perspective, it just seems like drivers don't care, and they are willing to put other people at risk for their own desires. And I don't understand how someone could hit a pedestrian, and allow her to walk away, when it is clear that she is not well.   There is too much of an attitude that "everyone does it" and too much cutting of corners and disregarding common sense.  Honestly, I think what needs to happen is fines and stricter laws.  Before the Lei Seca, it was common to see people driving down our streets holding a beer.  But now motorists know that if they are caught with even a trace of alcohol in their system, there will be serious consequences, and drinking and driving has decreased.  The only way to really change behavior is to create stricter laws, and then to ENFORCE them.  But it seems like pedestrian deaths are not important enough to Belo Horizonte for this to happen.  In the meanwhile, I am going to stop at crosswalks for pedestrians.  I am going to yield to walkers.  And I'm going to educate my children, and any one else who will listen. 

Sinto falta Cristina.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

an efficient morning

About to head to work, but had to brag to the world my readers about convenience in Brazil!  Yes, there are days when things come together efficiently!  This morning I was able to accomplish the following before 8:20 am

1.  Wake up, shower, get ready, make vitaminas for the children, eat breakfast.
2.  Respond to some emails.
3.  Go to the bank to get cash.
4.  Go to the grocery to get food and a few surprises for Dia das Crianças  (children's day, October 12th!)
5.  Go to the drugstore to pick up some things.
6.  Go to the corner hardware store to get a new chuveiro (shower head)

Now the husband is changing the shower head!  Hooray!