Cidade de Deus. Busted.

Sunday February 11, 2007

Going back to the UK, via Spain, tomorrow. Normally at about this time in my vacation I start to plan the next visit to Brazil and this time is no different….8th April.

I was waiting for a friend at a bar the other day, a bit pished, and started talking to these two girls in the way that you do in this part of the world. They asked me where I was from and I began My Usual Routine. My Usual Routine is the most deplorable, cynical and yet highly-effective tactic ever deployed by a man in trying to sleep with a woman. It’s deplorable and cynical because I say the same thing everytime. I do this because a) it’s very effective…actually incredible effective and b) I don’t know how to say very many words in Portuguese. It goes a little something like this: (written in a very weird mix of Spanish and Portuguese, coz I don’t really know how to write Portuguese)

Her: de donde eres? Americano? (where are you from?  America?)

Me: Eu? Soi carioco (me? I’m from Rio)

Her (laughing): Carioco??? No parece Carioco (From Rio? You don’t look like you’re from Rio)

Me: Sim, Rio. Soi Carioco. De la Favela (Yep, Rio. I’m from Rio. From the Favela (the ghetto))

Her (now really laughing): La Favela? Cual Favela? (The Favela? Which Favela?)

Me (with best earnest face): El Cidade de Deus.  Sim.  Es muito perigroso (The City of God.  Yep.  It’s very dangerous)

The City of God is Rio’s most dangerous and therefore most famous Favela. Brought to international fame by the conveniently-titled and super-fantastic film ‘City of God’)

And it goes on a bit like this for about 30 minutes or until I get bored or, more frequently, they call the police. It’s funny coz here’s a man who is very obviously a middle-class, plump gringo, pretending to be from one of the toughest urban areas in the world.

Anyway….N arrives and we go eat. The next day I was walking with N again along Avenida Atlantica, the enormous beachfront street, when the two girls I was chatting with the day before see me from the other side and start shouting ‘Oi! Cidade de deus!!! Cidade de deus!’. I look at them with a puzzled face, trying to purvey a ‘who are you and why are you saying that to me?’ expression, whilst N is looking at me with a ‘are you still using that stupid line?’ expression.

Rio is obviously a dangerous city, but when I’m on vacation I try to ignore the stories of the crime here because it could paralyse you through fear. But one particular story has hit the headlines recently that I couldn’t avoid. It’s an horrific story of a car-jacking gone wrong. A family, stopped at a red light, were held-up by two gungmen and ordered to leave the car. The youngest child, 7, couldn’t get out in time and the gunmen drove away with him hanging from the back door…for 4 miles. Read the story here, but be warned it’s pretty gruesome.. It’s not a very good article but I can’t find any other articles in English on it, which is surprising coz it’s a massive story here. If you know anyone that works for the UK newspapers please pass this story on coz it’s worth covering and it seems to have stunned Brazil, comparable to the Jamie Bulger case in Britain 14 years ago.

Changing the subject: you’d be stunned at the exposure British chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey get here. Their programmes, ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’ and ‘The F Word’, get daily runs in decent slots on high profile channels. It got me thinking as to how important television can be in raising a country’s profile internationally coz if you think about it, other than the royal family and football, there’d be very little coverage of the UK in this part of the world.

In the light of Italian football’s recent crisis, here’s an interesting article on why the US, the most violent developed country in the world, doesn’t have a problem with crowd violence at sporting events.

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