By Ricky Skelton
March 31, 2008

I watched a staggering television interview with President Lula the other night which left me worrying, in layman’s terms, about Brazil’s strong economy. With the credit crunch in the USA still squeezing the housing market and much more, Brazil’s Finance Minister smugly announced to a press conference the other week that Brazil wasn’t likely to catch a cold from the pneumonia-laden sneezes of other countries far away. He doesn’t seem to realise how fast sneezes come out. With Brazilians being made redundant from manufacturing companies due to lack of exports, including one home-security company that sold alarms to US households, I think Brazil already has the sniffles but hasn’t yet noticed. With the Dollar dropping so drastically against the Real in the last year or so, Brazil’s exports have become more expensive, with China picking up the slack as it has been doing with other countries for the last decade. Even traditional Brazilian industries such as the shoe manufacturers are losing out in this globalisation. If the strongest economy in the world is struggling and they import only the cheapest goods, Brazil loses its exports to the country that will soon be the strongest economy, and has less money coming in from abroad. Very simple layman’s economics, no?

Apparently not, if you listen to the President of Brazil. The interviewer asked him about Brazil’s strong economy and whether that was down to his government. Lula claimed a lot of the credit for his party and also for the fiscal policies of previous presidents. The next inevitable question was about his preparations for a downturn if Brazil catches a cold from the fallout of the US crisis. Policitians are a strange breed and always like to be seen as in control. For this reason, during interviews and questioning, most will be primed on the likely questions and the possible answers that they can give to reassure the watching public that they are prepared for every eventuality, even if it is a blatant lie. Lula seemed taken by surprise and not a little angry with this question. He replied that they had no plans in place for this because it wasn’t going to happen. The next question was about his Plan B in case it did. I’m not sure he understood fully or just doesn’t have a grasp of contingency measures, as he said that he didn’t work with plans so if he had no Plan A, how can he have a Plan B? The expression on the face of the interviewer told me that she’d expected to be told about a back-up plan, and for his audience not to worry, even if he didn’t reveal any details.

Reassured?

I’m sure that at the very least we can take this as an honest reply and that the President’s government is hoping that by staying clear of the United States and sticking their heads in the sand ostrich-style, the country can avoid the circulating flu. Easy. With such detailed forward planning and with R$200M to fall back on in the government’s coffers, you can rest easy in the knowledge that Brazil will continue to grow until it is proud to have the kind of stable first-world economy of which it has always dreamed. For this, we can all be grateful to President Lula.

Pass the tissues somebody please, I feel all emotional. Or maybe it’s just a sneeze or two coming on.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

By Carol Prentiss
March 18, 2008

Living in Brazil means having to make adjustments. Adjusting attitude, ways of doing things, and lifestyle. I certainly didn’t come here to be the ugly American”. But I can tell you that learning to be Brazilian is no easy project. My friend Ana, who is Brazilian, even finds it difficult at times. Dealing with the government and government services can be very frustrating. I suppose a lot has to do with still being new at the democratic process. Being part of the evolutionary process is certainly a new thing for me. I don’t know if you think about it, but I was born into a fairly completed process. Right now, I have to admit, the USA is at some kind of cross roads and even the ones “in the know” are having a hard time predicting which way the country is going to go. Most everyone seems to think it all hinges on this coming presidential election. From my chair I don’t necessarily see that as the deciding factor. The deciding factor will be that elusive “silent majority”. A silent majority that needs to enter the debate. However, American politics is another story for another day. Coming here from a country where “Fast” is the operative word to a country that is much more relaxed means an attitude adjustment. This is what I consider “relaxed”. Local business men at a Kiosk on the beach promenade on a break for an afternoon cappuccino. Lunch breaks are usually two hours long, from noon until 2 pm. The Post Office on the promenade is closed from 11am to 2pm. Most Brazilians eat their main meal at noon. Two hour lunch breaks then make sense. There are many kiosks on the beach which are open from 9 or 10 until midnight or longer and some of them have live music during the afternoon.

There are other slight adjustments I had to make. For instance, entering the shower for the first time I was confronted with a cord leading from the shower head and plugged into an electrical outlet! Are you kidding me? Intelligent people have to know that electricity and water together is not a good thing. I stepped back out of the shower, put my clothes back on and found my friends in the kitchen. Uh, is there another shower that I can use? The obvious question in unison, “Why?”. I explained my aversion to having my shower “plugged in”. Ana assured me that all showers are plugged in. Well, that may be, but not where I come from! I tried sponge baths for a day or two, I was determined I was not going to set foot in a shower with electricity in it. But, as you can imagine hot humid sweat producing weather overpowered a simple little sponge bath. It was time to face that shower. I admit the whole time I was undressing in front of that shower, God was hearing my pleas for safekeeping. Well, obviously I survived. I rarely take a shower using even warm water here in Fortaleza. I’m not sure there is such a thing as cold Water here. The best description is “Tepid”. There are only 3 apartments on each floor of our building, which I really like. The hallway from the elevator to our apartment is actually a balcony. We rarely close our door, nor do our neighbors. Our apartment is just to the left of the painting standing against the wall. Haven’t figured our how to hang it yet, since we can’t put a nail in the wall. Gosh, how does one live without nails in the wall to hang things on?

With all it’s charm and beauty there is, of course, the poverty side of life here in Brasil. There are those unfortunate who beg for money, or the cigarette you are smoking or the rest of an ice cream cone you are eating. We sometimes do give money. But more often, we’ll take a kid to a kiosk and buy him a hamburger and fries and a drink. Sometimes on the way from the beach we stop at McDonalds for cheeseburgers and fries. We usually save the fries for the kid up the street to our building, who washes cars by the curb from a small bucket, having to carry water from a distance. He is so appreciative and every so often we’ll add a cheeseburger for him. It’s not uncommon to step over a person sleeping on a piece of cardboard if we go to the supermarket later in the evening. As the cities in Brasil grow and becomes more metropolitan it is my prayer that more will be offered for the poor, especially a school system which does not discriminate against the poor because it is so costly to send a child to school.

Carol lives in Fortaleza and is a watercolor artist. She writes about life in Brazil at her blog, http://carolprentiss.blogspot.com/, which also features paintings and selected photos of her “little corner”.

Can’t make this up