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.

Time traveling

If there’s one thing that inhabits my thoughts whenever I daydream is time travel. In all of its forms, of course.

Time traveling isn’t just about one of the greatest challenges to the Laws of Physics. Well, I believe it can be even simpler than that, given the fact that we almost don’t experience “present” as our senses can only process things that have happened at least, I don’t know, a few femtoseconds before. But let’s not go that far. Even with our simple notion of past, we have to agree that past events are crucial to our present and future. Therefore, we are always looking at the past. So, we are always time-traveling.

But sometimes, there are parts of our past we’d rather not look at. We’d rather forget their existence. In my experience, we may do that, but there’ll always be a time this past returns somehow. It’s happening to me now.

I’ve got a Reunion to go. I’ll meet some of my High School classmates – the ones I considered friends. And I’m scared.

I’m scared because that time was one of the hardest for me. I hid from everyone my true self, my thoughts, emotions, because I was terrified. What if they found out? What would they think of me? I was trying to be a girly girl, trying to fit in. I felt terrible. Will meeting them bring back all these feelings?

I’m scared because I’ve changed. Both mentally and physicly. They will obviously notice the latest. Will I have to explain these changes? And if so, how will I do it? How can I do it? How will they react?

The true point is that, for me, it’s like my today self meeting their past selves. ‘Cause maybe, for me, they haven’t changed. I’ve only felt time go by in my own life, I know little about theirs.

I guess I should try not to think of it this way.

I should force myself to believe they have changed as well. That their past selves are as much gone as my sorrow. That we’ve all grown. Yes, we’ve all grown. And I must be true to myself. Always.

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?

A Letter To My Possible Future Girlfriend

Hello,

I want to start here apologizing for being so cold. Ok, kind of cold. I want to apologize for talking too much about various subjects without stopping, and maybe not letting you say things yourself. It’s just that… this has never happened to me.

This flirting, dating thing. It’s never happened, I swear. Yeah, I know I may be a little old to say it, but this is the naked truth. I used to be a very complicated person in the past, I’m not going to detail those things right now, but this is… way too new to me.

I get a bit nervous when I’m around you, but I know you freak out when you’re near me. What is this so much special thing you saw in me that makes you feel this way? Is it the way I look? My behavior? I don’t know.

In fact, I have absolutely no idea of why you fell in love with me, as you yourself said it, so fast. I mean, it was really fast… Even though I’m aware of the fact that I have no experience in relationships in general, I’m pretty sure this is the fastest I’ve seen someone fall for another. And this is a bit… how can I put it?… scary to me. I confess I’m little lost.

It’s not that I don’t like you, I do, really do. For real. But it’s just too much for me to hear you say you’ve fallen in love with me… I don’t know… We’ve had only a few dates so far. Things are going nice, at least they were…

Please, don’t think of me as a jerk who doesn’t care about your feelings! I do care! That’s why I’m getting the courage to, the next time I see you, tell you we perhaps should continue to take things slow. See, I’m still learning, I’m still on the first steps. We have time to get to know each other better, to bond. Let’s not rush things, ok?

Well, I’m here wondering if you’ll understand…


Hello, dear readers!

I’ve been away for a few days because I had many tests these past weeks. I’m planning on posting the last texts I wrote for Writing 101 and some posts about  my views on Brazilian politics.

See you soon,

Maria.