The other Brazil
What's your image of Brasilia - the capital of Brazil? My image was based on tourist videos of Carnaval at the travel agents office in downtown Vancouver. It looked like a safe place to have a relaxing escape from the winter drizzle and long Canadian winter nights.
I imagined 5 days of party, salsa-dancing and a little over indulgence while meeting the locals.
When you get their and talk to the local residents you learn about the other Brazil.
After settling in, my hostess told me about her Brazil.
A Brazil with a wide gulf between the rich elite and the poor majority.She went on, the poor earn $50 a week. But they are also very vain. So they will save up for months to buy brand goods. One third of the residents are crowded into the favelas that make up only 3% of the area of the city. Be careful of anything valuable because tourists are a magnet for thieves on the look-out for any kind of branded goods, jewellery or electronics.
My Brazilian hostess warned me the streets are dangerous. Pick a rental car with tinted windows and keep the windows up even if you're melting from the sun. Lock all your valuables in the trunk and strip to your bathing suit before visiting the famous beach..
She added, "Although you are supposed to stop at the Pedestrian Passage when someone is about to cross, this rule can be ignored if it's late at night. Please, try not to run over the pedestrian."
If you're going to hang out. Avoid the open streets and stick to the shopping malls because they're guarded by men with shot-guns. Canadians dress too casual she scolded me. She advised us to dress up or the store staff will simply ignore you.
"Don't be aggressive with the women. Peoples image of Brazil is carnaval, but Brazillian people are quite conservative because of their Catholic roots. Most Brazillian hate the debauchery of carnaval. They just like the 5 days off work."
."We work very hard. It's a very competitive market here - we don't have much free time. The free time I get, I like to dress up and party with friends."
The dry season is roughly from May-June and September-October. It's the best time to visit Brasilia and the neighboouring areas. Humidity levels can fall below 15% so dehydration is a risk. Always carry a bottle of water, and never skip to sip. Temperatures are especially pleasant in the evening. Brasilian like to start the party late and the dawn comes early.
Don't be surprised if your new Brazilian acquaintances show up late - it's the custom.