Barsilia Trip part 2 – The People of Brasilia

I was going to write more about specific places I visited, but then I realized that reading my story will not be any different from reading the lonely planet. I decided instead to write about a few interesting people I met in Brasilia.

1. The boat entrepreneurs. I have taken quite a few touristic boat rides in my life. They all shared similar characteristics: dingy and falling apart boat from the 1950’s or so, a dirty/smelly captain, announcement system or a cheesy guide telling standard anecdotes. In short, you are there for the view, not for the ride. The boat ride I took in Brasilia was called Barca Brasilia and it was a completely different experience. The process was run by two young and handsome guys (mid to late twenties) that made the whole experience different. They were clearly very entrepreneurial but not very well educated. Throughout the boat ride, they walked around among the guests, asking questions, taking drink orders and offering stories about Brasilia (the stories were very trivial but the effort was definitely worth points). They also passed around books telling about the history of the city. For the entertainment program, they brought a guy who was playing very nice guitar songs to the lights of the disco ball (which was projecting hearts across the room). Young entrepreneurs also used the romantic atmosphere to hit on the female tourists on the boat. Good thinking.

I was very impressed by this whole production, especially when I found out that they have a different event every night (ranging from poetry reading to movie screening) and  almost got convinced to stay in Brasilia and go for all of these events. Almost. I liked these guys and the MBA in me really wanted to help me develop their business but of course I had to stop myself from saying anything.

2. Starving diplomats – one thing that Brasilia has a lot of is public servants and public servant wannabe’s. As far as I understand, being a public servant is the dream of many Brazilians.  Reason being, it’s a very well paid job, and you cannot ever be fired (unless you perform some horrible crime or something along those lines). To enter the public service, you have to start from the bottom of the food chain. There is a public contest, and those who score highest on some relevant test, get the job. So many people dedicate a very long time, around 2-3 years to just study for these tests to be able to get the junior position. One of the most interesting places we visited in Brasilia was the Itamaraty Palace, which houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adjacent to which is a school for diplomats. We had a nice free tour around the palace which was guided by a girl in her twenties. We happened to coincide with a group of Argentinians, and so our tour was in Spanish. It was funny to watch the Brazilian girl struggling to speak in Spanish, and shifting to English every time she didn’t know word. I wanted to help but of course, I didn’t know how to say those words in Spanish. What a confusion. We later on found out that the girl is working there while she is studying to pass the test to enter the diplomatic school. She said the average time is 1-3 years of full time study to pass the test. I found this incredible that a person with a college degree, fluency in various languages, will have to work in a low paying job and study for a test for several years just so that they could start studying again. It’s like one would have to study 2 years full time for the GMAT, in order to get into grad school.  My Brazilian friend saw nothing wrong in this design. I guess it’s also a test of how much you really want this job..

Inside the palace

3. Public servant/bar owner. Apparently one of the most happening places in Brasilia is the O’Rilley Irish Pub. We went there one of the nights and found a 30 something fashionable single scene. The music was really great, and had nothing to do with Ireland but lots to do with dancing. It was a good time. At some point when we decided to take a break, we spotted a table with two free chairs. The third chair was occupied by a handsome man in his early forties, who was sitting by himself, with his leg in cast, suspended over the fourth chair. We started a conversation, and turned out that he works for the ministry of planning. Not a big surprise. I thought it was strange that his was all by himself in his crippled state so of course in my tactful way I asked if he is friends with the owners. It turned out that he himself was owner. It all made sense and we were once again inspired by career options we could consider. Public servant by day, bar owner by night. Almost like Batman.

This whole story didn’t have too much of a point aside from showing that everywhere we go, we have options to meet new a different people, different experiences and different outlook on life. This is why I love travelling so much.

Brasilia – Brazil’s Mini Dubai. Part 1.

This past weekend I visited Brasilia, the capital of Brazil (no, Rio is not the capital, nor is Buenos Aires). It was built in the 1960’s basically in the middle of no where and now is a city of several millions of people. Majority of which are public servants or diplomatic staff. If you want to know more details, wikipedia does a much better job at this..

The most common reaction I received from every Brazilian I told I am going to Brasilia for purposes of tourism, was:”Brasilia?!! Why would you ever want to go there?!”. And to my:”Have you ever been?”, the response was: “No way, it has no beach.. why would I go there??”. Therefore,  I was sure I was going to have a good time in this beach-less city. And I did.

Brasilia is a showcase of Oscar Niemeyer‘s architecture genius. It’s full of compositions of space, art and nature. It really does achieve the vision of making one feel so small against the greatness of the surroundings. I kept thinking in my head about the soviet construction style, all the Utopian books I’ve read (1984, We, Brave New World, etc.) and was not so surprised to find out that Niemeyer was a member of the communist party. The other interesting part of Brasilia that struck me was the stark vividness of urban planning. The city is designed in the shape of an airplane with the plaza of 3 powers (branches of government) in the head of the plane.  There are zones dedicated to specific purposes, and all duplicated. For example: north hotel zone, south hotel zone, north commercial zone, south commercial zone, north hospital zone, south hospital zone. etc. etc. very strange indeed. I felt like I was inside a sim-city game. There is even a north lake and a south lake.

I better go to bed now, but next time, I will write about the interesting people I encountered in Brasilia. Hint: young boat entrepreneurs and a crippled man.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I played an awesome (but evil) April Fool’s joke on my gringo friend from work. Told him I cannot take it anymore and decided to quit as of Monday and leave Brazil. He started freaking out so much, trying to save the situation, to the point that I felt to guilty to keep lying and had to tell him the truth. I cannot be evil for too long.  What pranks did you play?

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