sábado, novembro 19

Applications currently being accepted for the position of Hero

So today in class I started a discussion about Heros. You know, people who do incredible things. At first one of my students explained there are no such things as heros. That's just in the movies, she said. However, as the conversation moved towards defining hero as a person who has been able to make big changes in the world and help a lot of people.

Somewhere along the line Teachers as heros was being discussed and then of course the topic of how teachers are undervalued in Brazil. (Reminder: in applying for jobs I was actually offered the incredible salary of R$5.00/hour to teach English to small children 5-10 years old in a private school. Double reminder: I have a Master's degree.) This then turned to the conversation about how large amounts of money are lost between the federal government and the schools due to corruption, which lead to the sharing of a recent news story that I was still unaware of.

One third of the Federal State Representatives, or deputados, in Rondonia were imprisoned yesterday, along with about 30 other government officials on corruption charges. What makes this story even more depressing is that they were stealing money from the STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH! Also, they weren't just stealing fractions of pennies like they tried to do in the movie Office Space (even that didn't go over as planned) they were stealing huge sums of money. It is estimated that the total that was funneled away from providing GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE SERVICES is more than R$120 million (about US$70 million).

This all reminds me of how last week I went to the health clinic, posto de saúde, with a friend of mine who had stepped on a nail to get a tetanus vaccine. After waiting about an hour, she was told that she had to go to the Municipal Hospital (for a free shot) or stop by a pharmacy to pay for one, about R$50 since they were out. We went to the hospital, waited another hour only to find out that their normal supply was also out. Luckily since my husband ran into a friend of his (who is in charge of stocking the medications at the hospital... and obviously not on top of his job) he liberated the use of the emergency tetanus shot for my friend. Well, after spending about a half hour LOOKING for said emergency tetanus shot it was announced that the emergency tetanus shot was also out of stock. So, of course, we had to go to a pharmacy for her to get the shot, then of course since it was the day before a holiday, the only certified person to administer the tetanus shot was on vacation, so we decided to just try the posto de saúde in the small town where we were going to spend our holiday and hope they had a shot on hand. I wonder if these vaccinations were overlooked due to the missing R$120 million?

Anyhow, after discussing this story, we were stuck in the circle of problems that faces Brazil that looked like the following. (maybe I should have used Word instead of Paint... anyways...)

The education system is bad due to corruption (funneling of funds to personal accounts, for example) and the government continues to be corrupt because there is a lack of oversight by the people. The people remain uneducated on how to vote because 1) they are poor and are more worried about having rice and beans tomorrow than the new credit card interest policies, 2) because of the poor education system that limits individual productivity and lastly 2) because of corrupt political and economic system that is historically based on patronage and clientism.

A law student in my class summed it up when she said, "The masses just aren't educated enough to know how to find out what rights they have and even less educated to know how to use those rights." She has a point. 

There are countless articles on how "poverty" has dropped drastically since the insane expansion of programs like Bolsa Familia, the topic of my Master's thesis and this article from the New York Times and this study by the IFPRI, but I still don't buy it. These types of programs, although they help to resolve immediate poverty (read: lack of cash to buy food) they have been overtly used as a pawn in the political sphere, which is the topic of this study written by two different research institutes in Brazil, one of which is the IBGE, the government statistics organization. However, with poverty such a pressing issue in every corner of Brazil (both rural and urban) what is the answer? If effective educational reform is made difficult by corrupt governors and the government assistance programs tend to just help keep people buoying between starvation and just getting by, what is the caminho certo to take? My students said they don't know what the answer is because every time corrupt officials are kicked out, such as what happened this week in Rondonia, just more will come and fill the vacancies. My soon-to-be-lawyer student says THIS is where education fails. The people aren't educated enough to know who to vote for... and are attracted by fancy Bolsa this Bolsa that programs. This is confounded by the fact that the vote is mandatory by ALL citizens in Brazil (and abroad for that matter). (Read: Vote-Buying) This argument of hers, I solidly agree with.

Is this new generation going to be the generation of change? Are these teens capable of changing a legacy of patronage, corruption and abuse of power? Or will they fall victim to the same trappings of political power? They are at least making some noise (see BBC article).

I think Brazil needs a hero. And this time, superpowers are required to apply.

quinta-feira, novembro 17

New Friends!

So, although these past few weeks have been rough for me, we've passed the 6 month mark since I have moved to Ji-Paraná, I was delighted by a package from my grandmother containing books, Reese Cups and  what else? ORGANIC FAIR TRADE CHAI TEA! It's the small things in life that make all the difference and my grandmother's packages always seem to arrive in tune with when my PMS is just starting to get out of control. Always!

Anyhow, the subject of this post is also the inspiration for this new post today. New Friends! Over the last few days I have been searching a website called gringoes.com, a site for foreigners who are living in Brazil) and managed to find ONE post about Rondonia. I quickly messaged the girl who had posted about her upcoming move to a city not too far from me and consequently I have made two new friends! The girl I sent the message to is on her way to Brazil within the next few months and she shared a website with me of a fellow American who is in Rondonia, a bit further away, but regardless, it made me overjoyed. I quickly went to her website (http://sixdegreessouthlatitude.blogspot.com/) left her a message and not even an hour later, I received a phone call from the other American currently lost in the Amazon, Jessica! We spent almost an hour on the phone talking about our lives, how they have changed since we moved here, our husbands, dealing with buracracy, working, teaching English and her new school which, although was set to open up on Monday, due to the national holiday, was moved to tomorrow. I have a feeling Rondonia's first American Social Club is starting to take root! ;)

I spent the morning planning out my next career moves and if all goes well, by the end of the month I may have some interesting news to share! Just stay tuned!

On another note, Rondonia is situated just close enough to the equator that we really don't experience much difference in weather except for the rain. There's the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season was almost unbearable at points due to all the dust in the air and the heat that never ended. I was so excited when the first few rains fell and have been announcing that I am excited for the rainy season to kick into full gear. However, little did I think this through. Mosquitos multiply in the rainy season. I've already started lighting up mosquito coils at night and am getting ready to order some Skin-so-Soft from one of my friends who is an Avon distributor. (My vovó swears that the body oil is the best bug repellant on the market!) One of the best things about the rainy season is how the landscape changes from dry to clean, crisp and green. This weekend I will take my camera along as I head off to our friend's farm to take some pictures of what I consider the most beautiful hills and mountains I have seen in Brazil. I need to do some more research on the geology of Rondonia because around her farm there are tons and TONS of big rocks. Just random huge rocks in the middle of nowhere. I'm extremely intrigued and now I want to know what type of geological past this region experienced to know why those rocks are there! If anyone knows of any books or websites, send them along!

That's all for now as it is already midnight. I went for a run tonight and am exhausted. Tomorrow I'm joining a gym. (Mind you, I have been saying this for over a week now...) I need to get some type of structure into my unstructured life and with the end of the school year not too far away (2 weeks!) I'm going to need something to entertain me!!!

Boa noite!