Monday, November 8, 2010

Culture, Society & Politics, but I Ain't no Fala Back Girl

Okay, the title is a little odd, right? "Fala" means speak. I had to learn that so I could tell people that "Fala nao Portuguese" (I don't speaka da language). Surprisingly, though, because of the many socio-political similarities between Brasil and the U.S., because God is the same up north as He is down south, and because music unites everybody, language is a minor point. Still, I want to learn Portuguese because it sounds cool (and it would make it easier for the next trip!).

We've talked politics (go figure) quite a bit in the short time that we've been here, and we've also learned quite a bit about Brasilian society, particularly in the southern region. One thing I've noticed in the few countries that I've learned about, namely the U.S., Italy, Vietnam, and Korea, is that there is basic north-south contentiousness. Brasil is no different, except that they don't have racial prejudice because of their population diversity from the beginning. That's a hard concept to accept, isn't it?

Mario, a southerner, says that the northerners are uneducated, poor, and lazy; that each generation stays in a pattern of poverty because, in their view, 1) that's the way it has always been and always will be for them, and 2) why change when the government provides enough with which to get by? Does this sound familiar?

The recent presidential election was an interesting one. The woman who won was promoted heavily by the outgoing president, who promised more of the same government programs and handouts. She had no higher education or valid work experience. She won because of the northern vote. You may say, "The northerners can't be that bad--at least they voted!" Well, here in Brasil, voting is mandatory. If you don't vote, they penalize you with a fine. For the U.S., I'd suggest that we penalize ignorant voters with fines!

Ironically, the underdog candidate was a woman from the north who pulled herself up by the bootstraps, who pursued an education with much difficulty and who worked hard to eventually become a fairly conservative state senator. She just didn't have the experience or the big push from the outgoing leftist party. Mario actually voted for yet another candidate who had conservative views and much more experience in government. He and Lucianne were disappointed in the election because they know that Socialism is a failed system. Mario pointed out that France is a mess, as is China who seems to want Communism for control and Capitalism for the wealth. It went unsaid that America is a mess for some of the same reasons....The running joke here now is that you don't have to be educated or to have done much to become president. Does THAT sound familiar?

Brasilians sleep later and stay up later than we do in the States. Our friends go to bed around midnight to 1 a.m. and rise at around 8 or 9 a.m. No meals are skipped here! Fruit and bread, sweet pastries, juice, soda, and coffee are offered in the morning. Lunch (lanch) is a big meal, often what we would normally eat for dinner: chicken, rice, steak, churrasco, salad, etc. Yesterday, Lucianne prepared a wonderful baked salmon with melted cheese along with rice and salad. We ate that at around 3 p.m. At 11 p.m., we stopped in at Blues & Burgers, a hamburger joint owned by a Texan named Gil. The food was good and Gil was quite hospitable. Then we went home to watch a video of our performance with a band at Mario's church--this was accompanied by ice cream and a super sweet strawberry dessert that Lucianne also made.

Saturday night was pizza night with home-made tuna and cheese, and three- cheese pizzas. The dessert that night is worth a special mention: Chocolate pizza. This she made with regular old mozzarella and milk chocolate. I highly recommend it, probably for any meal!

I mentioned that we played with a band at church. Mario telephoned his drummer and bassist buddies and Robin, Mario, and I had the opportunity to play two praise and worship songs, Let it Rise
and Shout to the Lord
. We only practiced Let it Rise twice just before the service, but it turned out great and the congregation loved it. Mario's pastor/older brother gave a good sermon and we were welcomed by just about everyone as we stood at the door, shook hands, and wished them "bom noite" (good night). Their church service is much like our contemporary one, but it is held at night. More services are held on Sunday evening than on sunday morning--quite the opposite in the U.S. They have the ubiquitous projection system and screen, sound system with sound man, an offering, sermon, welcome time, and even announcements (something I wish we wouldn't do during services). Paranagua has about fifty churches that are open at night. As we drove home, we saw many churches where the people spilled out onto the streets! Though evident, Baptist is not the largest denomination. Catholicism, Presbyterian and Lutheran are the largest denominations.

We met Mario's mom, Mariquinha, who is 91 and a cancer survivor. She's a sweet little woman with a big smile. Hard of hearing, people have to get close to her and talk very loudly. She went through chemotherapy, is regaining her hair, and is in pretty good health now. Uncle Jose is going to be 100 in January. He is pastor emeritus at a baptist church and became a pastor because of the Lord working through American missionaries who visited him 70+ years ago. He's alert and in good health. We also met the winner of the fastest talker award: Mario's sister, Sorah. She was fascinated that we caught our own crabs to eat, but that's because crab harvesting here is way different. It involves digging through mud and actually working for them. I'm so glad that our crabs in the U.S. come to us!

Soon, we'll be on to Foz do Iguacu...

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