A few more observations to share:
– Crime: I was walking around exploring the city on a Saturday afternoon when I ran into a group of three dodgy people. I saw that there was a girl with them and thought that all would be fine but soon realized that was not the case. One of the guys asked me the time and I tried to say something in broken French. Then he knew I wasn’t Brazilian and thus grabbed my watch to see the time. Luckily, they let me go without harm and without taking anything but this experience exposed me to the possible dangers of Brazil. When I asked my Brazilian friends if inequality was the main reason for the crime problem here, they emphatically said claro (for sure). It is great that Brazil has been witnessing such impressive growth but there are clearly many people not benefiting or participating in this process. “Inclusive growth” is meant to address this. Anyways, I guess my upcoming trip to Rio should be interesting and I hope that I can use my street smarts to avoid provoking trouble!
– Reading: Another great opportunity that my summer internship has provided me with is the chance to do more reading. I already managed to finish Development as Freedom by Amaryta Sen. In short, a great book that is already influencing the way I see the work of international development. I highly recommend this book. I am also finished reading The Kite Runner. A great book – even better than the movie, which I rate highly. I rarely read fiction and that is a real shame. There is actually so much we can learn and gain from reading fiction – in fact sometimes much more that we learn from academic journals or books! We can obviously learn from the content of the stories but can also learn from the beautiful style of writing. My writing is improving (after 3 writing courses at LBJ) but I still have much room for improvement – as you can gather from the writing in this blog!
– Touristy Stuff: I went out around town with Cecilia (the Brasilian intern who I share a house with) and her mom. We went to the feira (market) and walked around. I later went back by myself and had a fun time exploring all the various Brazilian food stuffs. Then we went to the TV tower and got to see Brasilia from atop. After that, we went to an exhibition on Islamic art. Almost half of the things were from Iran and it nice to see Brazilian exposure to “my part of the world”. Finally, we went to an upscale part of the city that had a beautiful pier along the lake. Just this past weekend, I got a chance to go to the famous Cathedral here but I have still yet to tour the Foreign Affairs Palace or the Congress building.
– Really? You learn new things everyday and one of these days I learned that Brazil and Australia both have compulsory voting! I like to think of myself as quite well informed but I had no idea that there was compulsory voting anywhere – let alone in Australia. I am still not sure what to think of this but my first thought is that this is not a good policy. What do you think? Does it help to increase political involvement or is it an infringement of freedom and mockery of democracy?
– Citizen of the World?: I went to a party hosted by one of our office colleagues at her house. It was nice to see some other expats living in Brasilia and to hear their experiences. There was an intriguing Costa Rican couple there. The husband had worked for the UN for over twenty years and he was curious to hear how I felt about constantly moving. I told him that although it was difficult, I feel it has greatly enriched my life. His children have also been through a similar experience and he also thought that the moving was more beneficial than harmful. Still, my experience in Brazil is humbling. I realize that despite having had the privilege of living in (and visiting) so many places, I am still ignorant of the great diversity in the world. Despite feeling like a citizen of the world and a nomad, I still feel my Iranian heritage. So I got in touch with the Iranian embassy here and went there on a Thursday night for some special prayer we do. The Embassy was crazy big = 20 acres! Apparently, the Brazilian government provided each country with 20 acres for free (except Russia, China, and the US which got 40 acres). It was nice to see fellow Iranians and speak Farsi. I was just at the Iranian Embassy this past Saturday for a celebration and it was great to get a chance to talk to the kids here who are roughly my age. I was particularly struck by one kid who asked me that with all my traveling have I never questioned my own religious beliefs and thought about adopting another religion. I answered him honestly: my travels have exposed me to different religious but I am still fairly ignorant of the details of world religions. Yet, I feel happy with my current religion and believe that it has served me well to keep me grounded despite all the changes in social as well as physical environment.
Next time I will try to share more work related details…