Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rio uniting the world at the Olympics

OK, OK, I know... I'm getting a little excited about all this Olympic fever stuff.

Let me just share a link to the official presentation by Brazil in Copenhagen pitching for the games. (Click on the Rio Presentation slide.) It is a bit long for some, but very inspiring - and in English, and it is clear about how the politicians plan to pull this whole thing off. (Believe it or not.)

The two main themes, it seemed to me, are "Rio is Ready" given the recent economic strength and growth -- and "The Olympics will inspire the youth of Rio, Brazil, and all of South America, creating a significant leap forward in development for everyone."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Will Rio host the 2016 Olympics?

Rio and much of Brazil has its figurative fingers crossed as we approach October 2nd. That's the day the International Olympic Committee will vote to decide who between Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

There has been a pretty visible campaign throughout Rio to boost personal pride and enthusiasm amongst residents to be the host city. Check here for a recent article in the New York Times about President Lula's efforts to secure the games. The official Rio-as-candidate-city website is here.

I love this video spot promoting Rio. How cool would that be to have the Olympics in Rio?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fresh fish lunch!

I’ve been on a diet for the past few weeks (like I’ve done a hundred times before – sigh). Once again I’m avoiding bread, cheese, red meat and all things sweet.


As a consequence I’ve been eating a ton of shrimp and fish.

Zozó, bless her heart, has been a great cheerleader. Today she insisted on making a fish stew. She sent me out to buy a pretty fish and fresh tomatoes and green herbs.

Lunch was a dream. Including an irresistible piraõ. (Cooked in my favorite stone pot!)

Health insurance reform?

Did I mention that Luiz's cancer care here in Brazil is 100% free? Even his transportation to and from appointments? Oh yeah, I think I mentioned that...

And in the US? Oh yeah, not so much...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flor de Luiz bridal photo shoot

Flor de Luiz is back in the news. This time it is a bridal photo shoot at the scenic Itacuatiara beach. Images will be appearing in the October issue of Festejar magazine.

One of Luiz’s photographer contacts contacted him and asked if he would design a bridal bouquet for a shoot with a young bride at the beach.

Luiz had fun fantasizing about bouquet designs and then hammered out decisions while at the flower market.

Never to disappoint – Luiz delivered a stunning bouquet.

Always a great side benefit of flower gigs is the extra blooms in arrangements throughout our house.

It IS about race

"Let me say this clearly so there are no misunderstandings: some of the protests against President Obama are howls of rage at the fact that we have an African-American head of state. I'm sick of all the code words used when this subject comes up, so be assured that I am saying exactly what I mean. Oh, and in response to the inevitable complaints that I am playing the race card—race isn't a political parlor game. It is a powerful fault line in a nation that bears the scars of slavery, a civil war, Jim Crow, a mind-numbing number of assassinations, and too many riots to count. It is naive and disingenuous to say otherwise."

It is long past time to be speaking in code. Check out this crystal clear commentary in the September 28th edition of Newsweek. Thank you Raina Kelley.

In addition, how about this quote from Cornel West regarding former president Jimmy Carter on this topic: "President Carter has a crucial point to make. I think the important thing is, is that we recognize that white supremacy, race, is one factor among others. Obama was right when—President Obama was right when he said there’s an anti-government attitude. That’s true for any president, no matter what color. It becomes entangled with deeply xenophobic and racist sensibilities that we saw on the placards in the recent Washington, DC protest. So you’ve got race, you’ve got class, you’ve got resentment, even cultural resentment in terms of working people vis-à-vis elites. Obama is associated with Columbia, Harvard Law and so forth. All of these factors come together."

Hear more from Dr. West at this interview on Democracy Now.

This stuff gets me going...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Political hopelessness among my students

At one of the schools where I teach English my students are adolescents. I teach two English language instruction courses twice a week as well as 6 conversation classes per week. My students range from about 13 – 17 years of age.

Trying to come up with new and interesting conversation topics week after week is a challenge. How many times can I ask the students to talk about their favorite movies or which foods they like best? So, you know me, I tend to leverage daily political events in the news or to get students to think about social issues in general that may be controversial – that is to say, those about which every student probably has an opinion (and thus might be encouraged to make several sentences in English to express that opinion).

We have explored poverty (the students are decidedly middle- to upper-middle class), historical and present-day racism, the education system, how one obtains gainful employment (that is to say – do you have the necessary personal connections?), national politics, political corruption, hopes for the future and police brutality – among other topics.

The students are rarely without an energized opinion.

I’m afraid I must report that most kids, on most (political) topics, on most occasions express complete hopelessness that things are going to improve anytime soon. Especially in regards to the endemic nature of political corruption, no one thinks there is a way out.

This drives me crazy. I ask them: “What if you were elected Mayor of Niteroí? Would you then be corrupt or would you do the right thing? Can we not elect politicians that want to do the right thing? Maybe someone in this room should run for Mayor!”

There seems to be little fire in the eyes of the students to confront the suffocating reality of political corruption in Brazil (and the subsequent painful hardships and inequalities that result there from). They are focused on studying hard, learning English, scoring high on the college entrance exam, and then furthering their efforts to obtain a fine professional position that will keep them above the impoverished economic reality in which most Brazilians struggle.

Perhaps their parents have done well to keep them focused on their best option. But I have other ideas. I’m going to crack this nut. Somewhere among the students is the next Mayor. At least one among them is a social worker with a political fire in her belly.

I’m taking it upon myself to try and figure out how to engage the students in a way that pierces through their hopelessness. They are teaching me about the Brazilian mindset (and long-term real life experience) that simply ignores politicians. But I would like to ignite a real conversation that tries to create the possibility of an alternative view.

Call me naïve. Call me crazy. I know. But what better way to deal with the mundanity of teaching English to rich kids? I’ll keep you posted. Oh - and you Brazilians reading this - please offer your insights as to with whom I can hook up with and how I can get this job done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brazil's economic indicators prettier than the US's

My daily Google Alert for Brazil news turned up an article this morning: "Brazil Emerges From Recession, Led by Domestic Demand." Pretty good news overall. I got to wondering how the situation in Brazil matches up with that in the United States these days. So I tracked down a few comparative figures.

My understanding of economics is very thin at best, but I tried to match apples to apples. Perhaps I have it all wrong, but it looks like we may have switched countries at a pretty good time (except for that hatchet job to our US securities investments!)

Take a look.


Economy expanded 1.9% over last quarter
Gross Domestic Product fell 1.9% from a year ago
Six straight months of job growth
Unemployment rate: 8% in July
International Trade Surplus: $20 Billion (through August)
Economy predicted to end 2009 with 0.0% growth for the year.

United States

Economy shrunk 0.6% over last quarter
Gross Domestic Product fell 6.9% from one year ago.
Six straight months of job losses (longer, actually)
Unemployment rate: 9.7% in September
International Trade Deficit: $32 Billion (through July)
Economy predicted to end 2009 with 2.8% contraction for the year.

Make no mistake about it, life is very tough in Brazil for most people and wages are rediculously low (with consumer goods rediculously expensive!) We knew that coming in. But I have been amazed at how little we have felt any affect of the international economic turmoil over the past year (again, except for those darn stock values, which are actually rebounding pretty well.)

Things are looking up! (Fingers crossed.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Call me a romantic

Special thanks to my dear friend Tim Miller in San Francisco for turning me on to this video. Google Matt Alber for more details.