What Brazil’s 2016 New Year’s resolutions should be

Reform

Political reform

Brazil needs an urgent political reform. We’ve been going through a political crisis in our system for quite a while. Now, it is hard to tell, if we take a look at the Congress, who’s government and who’s oposition. Our President may or may not undergo an impeachment process, as it is completely impossible to determine what the future holds, especially with this Congress.

Meanwhile, the Operation Car Wash goes on and we do not know whose name is going to appear on our news headlines.

So, with those 2015’s political problems and all those we had before, we could seriously use a complete transformation in our political system. It’d be amazing if we could redistribute power and make parties more meaningful, because now it seems to the population that there are no ideas to follow, only interests. It’d be wonderful to see our democracy shine, without corruption taking away our energy. It’d be great if we could have real political discussions, not vague comment section debates that lead nowhere.

It’s not going to happen, I know. 2016 will bring the struggles we are afraid to face. Guess that’s what it’ll take to grow up.

Economic reform

It’s what we were supposed to have done in 2015, but we couldn’t just do it completely due to all of political mess. Brazil will have rising inflation, with our Real losing its value, our GDP declining and debt increasing, and naturally, taxes will go up as we seem to not cut down our expenses.

We need a serious economic reform, starting with changes in the social security system (focusing on the age of retirement and regulations on pensions), going all the way to getting more productive administrations in public institutions etc. Basicly changing our cultural system regarding money, reponsability, security, productivity.

Reform in Education

Our education system really needs some changes if we mean to grow and play the world game for sure in the future. From preschool to university, we need to change what skills we want our population to master and how we’ll do that in the most efficient and equal way. We need to find a way to teach not only Portuguese, but how to be a good citizen. Not only Math, but how to respect others who are different from yourself. Not only Geography, but how to deal with money, what taxes are and how to do them. Not only PE, but what it means to be and stay healthy for real. We need our teachers and our students to be more engaged in the learning process. We need educators to believe in education. We need the country to believe in education. 

Reform in the Health System

I am thankful that Brazil has a public health system, where theoretically anyone could receive proper care and get better with their health. Theoretically. Because in real life, that’s not what really happens. The system lacks many resources, especially in a economic crisis scenario. It cannot stay this way. We need more money, more professionals working, better administrations. 

In the private sector, we need cheaper health insurances. 

Reform in Transportation

If there’s something that ruins mostly everyone’s moods is the transport system. If you live in a big city in Brazil, you’ve probably been stuck on a traffic jam for a few hours, and you’re lucky if you were in the inside of your car when that happened. I have lost count of how many hours I have lost in traffic jams. It’s just absurd. 

We could use better transport system, with more subway, bus and train lines so that everyone can go to work and come back safely and rapidly. 

Reform in Security

Without a doubt, this is one of our major issues, and it causes so much trauma and pain in the population. We need to be safer. We need to be able to go anywhere we want without worry. It’s a big part of being a citizen, of enjoying and engaging with our cities, with our societies.

We could do so much better, Brazil. We can do so much better. I just hope it doesn’t take us ten, twenty years to see that.

To all of my readers, Happy New Year and may 2016 be a great year for all of you!

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How to get a country back on track?

How to get a country back on track?

Although I hardly think Brazil was actually on track before, now things are going out of hand, out of what I thought would happen.

2015’s been a hard year for all of us.

Our economy’s in trouble and it’ll probably still be a year from now. Growth disappeared from our landscape and has yet to show signs of return. It could be a lot better, let me tell you, if our politians had a little sense of respect for the country. Important reforms have become Congress battles in which the fight for more power has turned friends in foes, and foes into friends, and no one knows what are opposition and government now. If before we already had a blurred vision of what the ideology of each party was, now we can have no clue. There are no rules anymore.

Meanwhile, the population, without having a safe voice to listen to, suffer from the rising prices and political scandals on a daily basis. There have been protests pro and against the government and pro and against some congress people, all mixed up, everyone talking and no one listening.

The near future is completely unpredicable.

I guess it is part of growing up. We are such a young democracy, and sometimes it gets easy to forget that, that I believe we still have some difficulties in organising our ideas and put them into movement. We still, as people, do not discuss economic policies with mature arguments, or even mention foreign policies, which are incredibly important and oblivious to the common Brazilian person.

It is time to grow up indeed.

However, we could’ve been doing it in an easier, safer way. Too bad.

Carnaval’s coming! Let’s celebrate!!!

Yes, you read right, I wrote Carnaval, not Carnival. I’m talking about Brazil’s greatest festival, so I thought I could use a little Portuguese. Sorry.

Yeah, it’s coming up, and though it’s a week away, Brazilians are already celebrating. In Rio, for instance, there are more than 100 Blocos de Carnaval ready to parade this weekend. Okay, let me explain what Blocos are: a planned gathering of people in the streets (whoever wants to join is welcome), usually with a theme, who go out to ‘parade’. Some blocos have bands that play songs according to the theme. Most of them play samba or marchinhas de carnaval, but there are those who play rock’n’roll, axé etc. Oh, and most people go to blocos using costumes.

So, starting now, there’ll be blocos filling up Brazil’s streets until the end of the next week. Sounds like a lot of fun, right? Yeah, kinda. We’ll have some old and new problems.

Old ones: the big amount of trash and dirt people leave after parties; a high amount of alcohol (and, unfortunately, other stuff as well) comsumed, which sometimes leads to fights, health problems and many other bad situations. New ones: high inflation (making people spend less); drought (especially in southeast).

Well, street parties aren’t the only fun source in Brazilian carnaval. For people who dislike parties (like myself), there’ll be the greatest show of all: watching the Schools of Samba parade.

Oh, it’s such a magical time!! I really mean it. Schools of Samba are organizations, usually representing their neighborhood, which compete against one another. They make a parade presenting a theme (enredo) and I have to say I’ve learnt a lot watching those parades.

Here’s a clip (not the actual parade) of Unidos da Tijuca, last year’s winner, whose theme was Ayrton Senna, a former Formula One racing driver who died many years ago.

And I may be wrong, but I think their theme this year is Switzerland.

If you would like to learn more about Brazilian culture or you like samba, I totally recommend watching the Schools of Samba. I believe it is broadcasted worldwide.

Other famous carnaval parties are Salvador’s, capital of Brazil’s state of Bahia, in northeast region. There, we can find Trios Eletricos, massive trucks whose top is occupied by Axé singers singing and dancing. The truck slowly moves around and tons of people go after it, singing and dancing along.

So, what’s carnival like in your countries? Let me know in the comments section 😀

Three Minutes to Midnight

Well, that’s what Doomsday Clock says, at least. On January 22, we got the news from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: we’re closer to the end of our civilization. Main reason? Climate Change.

I don’t know about other countries, but here in Brazil we’ve been discussing it for a long time. I remember I used to write a lot about it in High School (I am interested in Environmental Sciences), we would read about climate change all over the news. Our country, a while ago, was really concerned about deforestation and other misuse of resources. We talked and talked and talked, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

I’m not sure what exactly happened, if we just closed our eyes to that as our economy got a bit stronger (the old fashioned and absurd thought that economic growth and environmental care do not work together) or whatever, but the thing is that now we’re facing a bit of “Doomsday”. One of our most abundant resources is lacking: potable water.

Yes, we’re running out of potable water (at least some of our states are). It seems crazy to think that, as Brazil has always been known for its rich, diverse environment that included lots and lots of liters of water. What’s going on? What led to this?

It’s summer here and in January it was always costumary to, and forgive me for using this expression, “rain like crazy”, so it would fill our reservoirs, which’d provide potable water for the rest of the year. But this year, it just isn’t raining. In fact, it’s been the hottest and driest January since 1917.

It is also harming our electric energy production, as usually most of our energy supply comes from hydroelectricity. Now, we’ve been using other (and more expensive) sources to get by, which harms our economy as well.

And this is just the begining, folks.

Time has come we stop denying and start taking environmental care seriously if we want to survive. Nature isn’t kidding and consequences are extremely dangerous to life as we know it.

Brazil’s growth problem and how to (start to) fix it

2015 is going to be a hard year for Brazil. With 2014 GDP growth near zero, our economy will struggle to get back on its feet. During the last few days, new offices took place in our states and the federal government (second turn of our president, Dilma Rousseff), and governors have already announced cut in states’ expenses, going from 20% to 35, 40%.

What can be done to make Brazil grow again?

Well, I’m not an economist, not even close. But I know that Brazil’s growth in the last decade was due to a series of fortunate events, inside and outside our country, and these fortunate events helped, somehow, hide our major problems. We were doing well, everyone was happy, so no one paid attention.

Now, to make Brazil grow, in my humble opinion, we need to face these problems and fight them as hard as we can. I’m referring to two things: low productivity and corruption. And both of them are related to the one big problem: education.

So, to those of two who aren’t familiar with Brazil’s educational system, let’s take a quick glimpse.

The best feature of it is, for sure, our Universities and Colleges, especially public Universities and Colleges. Most of our best Universities are public and free. That is to say that we don’t have to pay a lot of money and get doubts in order to get a good education (and private Universities aren’t as expensive as the ones we observe worldwide). Ok, it is not all democratic yet, there are a lot of problems, but avoids many other economic problems, so that’s great. And there’s good quality research going on, technology being produced.

The real challenge is in our preschools, primary schools and secondary schools. For instance, data released by NGO Todos pela Educação (in portuguese)  showed that only 9.3% of students on High School senior year learned what they were supposed to have learned in Maths in 2013. This pattern appears  in all other grades as well. This is due to a whole approach to early education.

It needs to change.

I am convinced that the main reason our productivity levels are low is the bad quality of early education. If students don’t learn what they’re supposed to learn in the right time, they’ll carry difficulties with them all along, making it much harder to get Professional training and even to get a undergraduate diploma at the University.

I believe corruption is directly related to this issue as well. If our schools (and families) taught ethics (or at least taught it right), maybe we wouldn’t have so many corruption scandals every year, we wouldn’t have it anywhere in our society.

Maybe.

I wonder if this year we’ll get all courage we have to fight these enemies. Brazil deserves to grow sustainably and for real.

Holidays in a Brazilian Household

Holidays are absolutely everywhere, from the huge Christmas tree in the middle of Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon to the big Menorah placed in front of Copacabana beach. We love this season just as much as everyone else. What’s different, then?

First of all, the heat.

Summer has just come to us here in the south, even though it’s been hot for some time. There’s no snow during Brazilian Christmas and Hanukkah (to be honest, I have never even seen snow in my life. What’s that like?). It rains sometimes (A LOT), temperature goes up to 35, 40°C (95°F, 104°F).

Second of all, I don’t know about all brazilian families, but among the ones I know very few eat Turkey. We’d rather eat chicken during our Christmas meal. (Oh, and just so you know, I don’t know anyone who celebrates Thanksgiving here).

Well, I’m not familiar with New Year’s celebration in other countries, but I’ll try to describe what it is like here:

Everyone stays up late, we (in my family, but I think others do the same) usually eat around 10pm, 10:30pm a meal that includes rice and beans (our favorite basic food, you’ll find it in every brazilian household), farofa (I LOVE IT), meat (it can be beef or fish or pork), vinagrete etc. Some people like to eat things they think will bring good luck to them, like lentil.

Then, whoever is near the beach usually goes there to see the Firework show (and thank God I don’t spend New Year’s by the beach, ’cause I dislike Fireworks strongly). Copacabana beach’s firework show is one of the most famous around the world, I think.

Oh, and we call New Year’s celebration “Réveillon”, which is not a Portuguese word (and now, thinking about it, I’ve no ideia of why we use it).

So… what is this season like in your country?