quarta-feira, fevereiro 1

Scams, Malandragem and Acceptance, OH MY.

Alright, so everyone knows that Brazil is sketchy. The government is sketchy, education is sketchy, even the weather is sketchy. (See this article from Veja from last week reprinted on this blog... my internet SUCKS so trying to actually find the article on Veja's website just will take too long.)

Well, all things in order, getting internet service is also sketchy.

So, where I live, there is, of course, only ONE telephone company and ONE DSL internet provider.( No cable internet, sorry.) There are some other options such as satellite and 3G but they are expensive and a pain in the butt to set up. Well, now I'm not so sure which is more of a pain in the butt.

The other night while discussing our friend's internet plan, the topic of a "provedor" came up. I thought this meant provider... like the company that provides your internet connection, but no, this is the company that you contract to provide you access to the internet that is provided by another company.


Yes. In Brazil you need to pay your internet fee (usually something like $60-$100 reais/month) to have a DSL line and then you have to contract ANOTHER company to PROVIDE YOU ACCESS to this internet service you ALREADY PAY FOR. This can range from R$3-R$10 depending on the company, if you see ads the whole time, if you want unlimited access to the videocams on Big Brother Brasil....)

I know, right?

I couldn't believe this. It is true malendragem. Welcome to Brazil.

Alright, well we found out that our only internet provider here in Ji-Paraná also has a contract with various companies of this sort and with your first year of internet service it is included, so no harm done, for now. Of course I didn't know why I chose one of the companies, it was the only company name I recognized, and hell, its free, and its required to have access to the internet. (I chose R7.)

Anyhow, after spending an hour on the phone setting up this whole internet deal (and now, to my surprise I finally have my CPF (or Brazilian-style Social Security number) memorized) I thought I had successfully completed this entire fiasco of setting up my internet. I had to get to one of my tutoring sessions and H had to go drink tereré, so we left our housekeeper in control of the house.

When we got home she said the phone was RINGING OFF THE HOOK while we were gone. She got so irritated she unplugged the phone and as soon as I plugged it back in, it rang again. I answered it and I was informed that it was a representative of the telephone company and that they needed to process the final payment of R$60, of course, for my convenience, it would be processed in three easy payments on my credit card, and I was informed that there were no possibilities for discounts or to put it on my telephone bill. I had to pay it NOW or I wouldn´t be able to access the internet.

Okay. Once I added up the following things:

  1. I had been told that I had no more fees to pay when I hung up the phone earlier in the day with the phone company
  2. She insisted that without this payment I would not be able to use my internet
  3. The payment NEEDED to be on a credit card
  4. She just seemed all around PUSHY
  5. I've lived almost one year in Brazil
I decided to ask to speak to her manager. Immediately she said "Okay, well, if we need anything we will call you back, thanks!" and hung up. No more calls since. 

Of course I called back the telephone company, complained, told them that if this ever happens again we will cancel or internet service (which doesn't really scare anyone since there is no competition here...) but I was proud that I was able to handle the situation, in a foreign language, on the telephone. 

Success. Becky managed to avoid being scammed.

What made me sad, and had me upset all day, is that I imagined all of the people who fall victim to this scam. Especially since Brazil is going through a huge technology revolution and many people are getting internet in their homes for the first time, and most Brazilians, even though they live in a country full of scams, they simply don't know how to tell if it is a scam or not, and are terrified of questioning authority. (Thanks, Catholic Church.) Brazilians like to accept their suffering as a necessity and inevitable and I just don't agree with this. (Once again, thanks, Catholic Church.)

In order to illustrate this "acceptance," take a look at what happened in Rio last week. Three buildings fell down due to renovations that were being done WITHOUT A CONTRACTED ENGINEER TO OVERSEE THE RENOVATIONS and people died. See this article from Reuters in English.

Again, WHAT?

Everyone in my husbands family, while we watched the news, talked about how its just something that happens. How you're born with an expiration date and there's nothing you can do about it. That people die because it was time. I just can't accept that it was the "time" for all of those people. There was a man on the news talking about how he was on MSN with his wife who was taking a computer class in the building at the time the buildings fell. He said that she just stopped responding. I have a hard time believing that it was "her time". The people in charge of the renovations were CARELESS and SELF-CONCERNED and didn't follow the correct protocols. If there is anything that we need to learn from this catastrophe, it is not that "it was their time" but that there needs to be efficient oversight, less bureaucracy and less malandragem. Most of the people who died in this tragedy were people who were trying to make a better life for themselves. They were taking computer or English classes AT NIGHT, meaning, they already have jobs during the day and were taking time off of being with their families and friends for a better future. How is it that it was "their time." Lives have been forever altered because of the ignorance of the person who gave the "go ahead" on the construction that ended in what looked like 9/11.

And finally, I was watching what appeared to be an interesting debate about mandatory voting on the Catholic TV station that broadcasts here. It is a national station, I believe, since the production was really well done. Anyhow, during the debate one of the participants expressed how he believed that Christians should avoid at all costs getting involved in Politics because they will be tempted by evil and sin.

Once again, my reaction was WHAT?

In the words of one of my wisest advisers in college, in order to make something better, you have to get your hands dirty and get inside. That is how you make change.

Dr. G, I still agree, and it is one of the reasons that when I start to become disillusioned with all of the madness here in Brazil, I also get re-energized. I'm here to start those conversations, to inspire my students to read the paper, to CRITICIZE AUTHORITY and to ANALYZE INFORMATION. Not to just accept the status quo. I don't think all tragedies happen because "it was time" but I think in many cases it is an opportunity for us to see what is really happening and to make the changes necessary so they STOP HAPPENING. One of my fellow bloggers, and fellow American-Turned-Rondoniense at Titia Amor is the best example of this. She sees a dog suffering in the street and schedules meetings with the school director and local veterinarian to put together a plan to end animal suffering in her small town. She gets on the radio and talks about it and makes entire lesson plans about the subject for her students (as well as tons of other things. See an interesting post about what she's up to here.). That is exactly what Dr. G was talking about, and it is what I am trying to do, as well.

In closing of this blog post, I hate scams. I hate malandragem. These are two things that kill me about Brazil. But what I hate more, is acceptance of the above. It's just not right. Any religion or society that teaches acceptance of these societal ills needs to be reevaluated and updated for the times. Change is coming, I just hope it comes sooner than later.

(PS-I don't mean to denounce Catholicism or Christianity in this article, what I am upset about is the culture that came along with it that has plagued Latin America since colonialization. The form of the religion that was taught here by early Spanish and Portuguese was that it is necessary to suffer and you need to smile and don't ask questions. Unfortunately, it still thrives throughout the entire region.)