Last nite in Rio watching the Vasco game (away to Cruzeiro last year’s champions of  O Brasileirão) in the BiCopa. I was supposed to be ending it in a swanky restaurant but as expected things went a bit Pete Tong when Yorkshire Bank  blocked my debit card. The funny thing was this was quite predictable in that I had overstayed in my hotel by a week; I had pre-empted this by paying the Caxambu (R$770) on Monday when Manuel was on. To cut a long story short I needed to call the Uk to unblock the card … as the (Banco do Brasil) ATM simply responded invalid card after several attempts to draw cash. However in Brazil unblocking is never easy; Yorkshire Bank’s website proffers an 0800 and another phone from abroad number … neither work from dialling DDI from the Hotel line. Manuel suggested an Africa card which allows international calls from an  Orelho… you get 50 mins for R$10 (if you have any money to buy one in the first place). Luckily (as it turns out I was brassic), Chris my friend had given me an Africa card as a random act of kindness. I eventually managed to find the card in my luggage, having discarded it a nice but unnecessary present. Even with the card we were up against it; firstly it’s a scratch card … you have to access the  number with the tactile skill of a IED bomb disposer. One slip and you blitz the number. I then remember dialling the code, which gives  a random number não encontrada message in Portuguese. On the card you have a choice of three numbers before you enter the UK number preceded by 00 … confused? For the anal amateur Typographists amongst you the phone numbers on the card are about 10pt with equally unreadable legends of about point 8pt size..

Luckily Manuel figured all this out by trial and error and got the phone ringing in Yorkshire Bank. As usual I was put in the infamous queue via the ubiquitous menus,  followed by a myriad of inane security checks.  Their explanation : It turns out that because they detected a swipe (non-pin) transaction from Brazil the card had been blocked (notwithstanding I had to put my pin in to access the ATM). My daily limit for cash in Brazil turned out to be £81 extracted with a 3% charge rate i.e it actually costs me £85.48 (£2.50 charge) not alot but weekly this adds  £7-10 a week for simply drawing cash. Anyway they restored my card in the end without any note of contrition, apology or explanation for the abyss Yorkshire Bank’s dumb blocking software had plunged me into i.e. penniless in a foreign country. 

Aquarelas do Brasil

So what are my conclusions about my chosen country? Well here are my rather critical penneth worth or personal thoughts albeit framed through a rather privileged and disconnected Afro-Caribbean-European prism, but also on 23 years travelling to Rio, if not a certain amount of amor e sympathia.

1) Brazil is a beautiful continent at war with itself as the various Governments have steadfastly refused to tackle its colonial deficits i.e.slavery.

2) Brazilian creativity is pathological though this often leads to sloppy reinvention which can be foolhardy dangerous and scarring.

3.) Some Brazilian women are ugly (not that many I must admit).

4) The educational deficit is very apparent; many annoying habits, ticks and slavish attitudes.

5) Despite its racial incoherence & social inequality, Brazil retains a very homogeneous, tolerant and ultimately happy people, acutely conscious of their ancestral legacy.

6) Disfiguring levels of inequality and organisation which maintains its third world status despite its massive innovative  economy; There is only one Brazilian brand.

7) Palsied public infrastructure where the rich get richer & the poor buy mobile phones & plasmas from the palatial shopping malls housed in front of gated Americana Condominia. 

8) Negative attitudes to tourists and disabled; envious in general with a special vitriol retained for Os Gringoes in particular.

9) When they’re good they’re very good when they’re bad its pathetic.

10) Lovely sense of self-deprecation allied in a bi-polar super macho egotism.

The lesson of Brazil’s diverse racial mix is that there are many viable ways to crack a nut. In contrast our education systems emphasise a one size fit,  monoclonal solutions, whilst ignoring the inevitable limitations of these models. At their best Brazilians display a vast imagination, and aesthetic creativity. At their worst there is a rampant egotism and inability to question the status quo. This ability to question is an important part of any education & democratic systems and has lead to European systems of social reform that are light years ahead of contemporary Brazilian Society. We all enjoy basking in a comfort zone, but without the willingness to step outside of these zones, progress is unacceptable and life itself is reduced; the fate of the disabled in Rio is a good example of this. In my years of travelling to Brazil whilst I still admire the racial acceptance, the economic progress of the average Brazilian remains buried in the satanic plantations of the last few centuries.

Then there’s the yoga which often manifests my previous musings (… based on a sample size of … two?)

Yoga (ioga)
  1. Slow Slow Slow (Lente, lente, lente): surprisingly  there is a conspicuous absence of Vinyasa; fewer poses in a session are held for double the time. So rather than going for power, you are forced to relax into the pose; this undoubtedly leads to improved flexibility. Also as salutation plays no part, the session is unpredictable and hence more interesting. Strength and relaxation prevail over power.
  2. Classical Hatha: little re-invention : uses the main poses with minimal salutation/flow. Lots of breathing and eye work all done very slowly with minimal fuss. As a result, I felt less strain on my calf and hamstrings, whilst my hip opened a little more. The poses are milder than UK and hence less injury-prone, for example I never was asked to do a full body twist; totally un-Brazilian.
  3. Breath: Brazilian yoga is far more holistic … sessions exercise every body part (head, hands, feet, shoulders, neck) and incorporates specific breath exercises, use of visualisation (my Portuguese only extended to the word mare– sea) and chanting on the Om. Consequently I felt an increase in flexibility as I learned how to relax and breathe into poses rather than continually hitting the power button.
  4. Positivity: along with the breath narrative & visualisation, the session is liberally spread with messages of positivity about our own lives/situation … my basic Portuguese notwithstanding.
  5. Unashamedly white middle-class female; I was the only black in the class; hence very expensive.
  6. Eschews yoga mats: I think the gym didn’t really get Yoga but anyway mats are twice the price of the UK.
  7. `Someone dun farted in the class .. n it wuzn’t mah blak ass:)

I finally visited Afrografiteiras; Afro-Brazilian women’s group exhibition at the Galeria Rio Scenarium

Galeria Scenarium Rio De Janeiro Rua do Lavrado

Galeria Scenarium : Afrografiteiras :

I also missed my plane but that’s annuva story.
Fortunately or not this isn’t the end I will publish another article on Joao de Pessoa (Vi)  and another on Rio (Viii).

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