Thursday, December 20, 2007

For Guppy

The blog has fallen into a bit of disrepair, as it does biannualy (I never can remember is biannually twice a year or once every two years? In this case, I mean every finals week). Finals would have been a cakewalk this year except I went to the Grand Canyon with the fam and friends and then had the pagentry of graduation followed by the pain and pro-ness of cyclocross national championships. I took a day off then began packing to move. I spent my 24th birthday waking up early, packing and driving.

Guppy is getting tired of my politics... so I thought I'd acquiece to his request and post about Brazil. It is difficult for me to write about Brazil without commenting the political or social differences, so I'll try and keep that to a minimum.

One of the most important characteristics about Brazil is the cost of labour (stay with me Gup). Because labor is so cheap, most tasks are done by hand. It's cheaper to hire two guys for three weeks to lays a block of mosaiced sidewalk than it is to rent machinery to make the sidewalk in a day or two. This leads to a few things.
-Most everything is built by hand
-Many repairs are made by unqualified generic labor
-There is a general state of brokenness that abounds due to issues with quality.
Don't let the last one sound bad. I suppose it could be, but it's not always. There was a hole in in the street in front of my apartment... it looked like a manhole belonged there, but the unqualified labour just kept paving over it with more asphalt. All would go well for a few days then the asphalt would just fall through the hole... A couple of times I noticed it would break a pipe below and water would come gushing out. In the 6 months I was there I think the hole was covered 15% of the time and probably repaired 4 times. It spent the majority of the time as a bottomless wheel gobbler prompting cones in the middle of the street to warn oncoming traffic. In this case, brokenness is bad.
Most of the sidewalks in my neighborhood were built by hand. Many were crudely mixed and formed concrete or groutless tiles; however, many of the sidewalks were made by hand placing golf ball sized rocks together in whatever arrangement their natural shape would lend them. Sometimes the sidewalks took one color, sometimes the workers created patterns (if they had more than one color of rocks). In any case, many of the sidewalks are nothing less than mosaics that are kilmoeters long. Because of shoddy workmanship, these sidewalks were always in disrepair. It's as if the beginning of the sidewalk was being torn up by normal use just as the end was being finished. Even in my short 6 months, I saw sidewalks evolving. What was a wave pattern when I arrived, may have beeen a sun pattern when I left. Solid colors turned into more exciting stripes, and vice-versa. Now brokenness is good.

Only the rich (read "white")can afford cars, and most delivery boys are not rich. Much is delivered, and most of that is done on bike. I'm not talking about legal documents and such. If you have legal documents to deliver, you probably have a car. If you need water (since the tap is not potable), your 5 gallon jugs will come via bike. Water is distributed to the city of 4 million via a few flat bed trucks that carry jugs to centralized distribution points, then by bikes equipped to carry 4, 5 gallon jugs at a time (water 8lbs/ gallon times 5 gallons times 4 pounds = 160 pounds of cargo... roughly).

My favorite were the guys that brought you new propan tanks. You rarely saw more than two tanks at a time on a bike, but those guys ride real slow and have a little piece of metal attached to a string used to make a chime with the tank. They always ring the "bell" as if it will stop a car from hitting them and turning their wares into a display that puts a Ford Pinto to shame.

Mind you these bikes are on the road during the day... when recreational or sport cyclists say it is too dangerous to ride because you will be hit by a car or bus. These nightime warriors prefer to deal with the problems of criminals that rob cyclists of their bikes in a nightly routine that goes something like this:
1. Rob a guy on a bike (done by knifepoint or gunpoint at a stoplight. On foot or with two guys sharing a bike staying with a victim on his own bike... a fellow cyclist one said to me, "be careful of two men on one bike after dark... that quickly becomes two men on two bikes, and you walking home")
2. Use the bike to steal a motorcycle (also at stoplights or by cutting them off on little used roads or bridges)
3. Use the motorcycle to steal a car (using similar methods)
4. Clean car out of anything valuable and dump it somewhere in the city.

Thanks again to Dr. John Bowders for sending me to Brazil. Hats off.

An aside. We all know O Fortuna from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. Sam has been learning Latin so we checked out the lyrics. I was afraid they'd ruin the power of the song. They only intensified it. There is also a certain power that comes from the Ecclesiastic proununciation in Latin (what you hear in church, not Latin America... or Rome). It reminds me of angry Italian. I wonder what Mussolini's speeches sound like.


Anonymous Mom said...

Now that was an interesting blog. Thank you, Guppy, whoever you are.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous guppy said...

yes it was.

Haha brady I don't disagree with your politics, it just dull when you talk politics because i hear it all the time on the news.

3:04 PM  

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