From Brazil, with love.

From the comfort of a sofa and a screen, I have ‘traveled’ the world over, ‘discovering’ corners of the world that would leave many a great explorer of centuries gone by green with envy. Satisfying as it may be knowing the geography, history and culture of a region in Nepal or a city in Bolivia, the yearning to feel the experience in actuality never escapes an armchair traveler. I recently got the opportunity to get this monkey off my back when a trip to Brazil with my friends materialized. It’s true what they say about travel being an eye opener and the trip to South America was quite an enriching experience. Among the many observations, the following stood out:

  1. Being away from home makes you appreciate your roots – The default outward looking mentality of appreciating anything foreign and exotic makes someone not fully appreciate their own. We have seen it with the post-humorous discussions of Wangari Maathai’s life. A foray outside our borders sharpens our ability to observe another culture, enabling us to apply that level of perception and appreciation to our own roots. This got us to understand how big Kenyan athletes are in the worlds eyes. Every time you told a Brazilian you are from Kenya, they asked you about running or whether you are there for a marathon. As far as ambassadors go, you can’t beat that. The same way we associate Brazilians with football is how the world associates us with running. No offence to our East African neighbors but I’m certain we would have been given a puzzling look if for instance we stated our nationality as Ugandan or Tanzanian. Nor would a Brazilian know anything about Moldova, Oman, maybe even Euro countries like Latvia, Montenegro and such. But they know about Kenya. Which gives you a rush of nationalistic pride. It’s incredible to think that I had to be 20,000km from home to realize how much of a big deal our runners are and the extent to which they have put our country on the world map.
  2. Travel challenges you to get you out of your comfort zone – In many ways, our lives are a set of routines repeated ad infinitum and the measure of success and personal achievement becomes equally limited. As long as our bank accounts are regularly replenished or our transcripts favorably graded, most will feel contented without further introspection or an urge to self-improve. Chatting with an uneducated hawker or a Brazilian hooker in English when their native language is Portuguese leaves you red-faced and feeling quite limited as a person. Knowing a foreign language became a goal of ours as we left Brazil, if not for anything to get rid of that bugging feeling of inadequacy and foster that common bond of humanity.
  3. Brazilians love their football- Yes, everyone knows that Brazil is a football mad country but you don’t realize the extent to which the game permeates every aspect of their society till you set foot in the country. From floodlit mini-pitches in the city center where tournaments go on way past midnight to the beach pitches, football facilities are everywhere. And they are not afraid to nail their colors to the mast as almost all shops will have a flag of the team the owner supports. A waiter will politely tell you the jersey you are wearing is ‘shit’ if he supports a rival team. The height of their passion was evident when you see a group of friends playing beach football at Copacabana at 3:30 am. At the stadium, football attendance isn’t limited to the lower class and a section of the middle class male population as happens locally; from chain smoking old men to incredibly beautiful and scantily clad ladies, the crowd was as diverse as it could get. (For the football fans, you will be surprised to find out that Mane Garrincha and not Pele is regarded as the best player of all time).

    For the love of the game. Brazilian drummer chica leading the chants at Fluminense vs Avai match, Egenhao stadium.

  4. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness – In a world where stereotypes are taken for facts, getting to see people in their natural setting and interacting with them changes how you see them. Yes there was that white woman who clutched her bag tighter upon seeing you but that was an exception rather than the norm. At the end of the day, all human beings are essentially that; humans. People are curious to know your story, where you come from, how people live where you come from as they warmly welcome you to their country. The fears you had about a certain place quickly dissipates as you realize the innate friendliness of people. As Maya Angelou put it, travel is the one hope we have to recognize “that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die.” And just like that, the artificial divisions we put upon ourselves goes away. Essentially, we are all just people trying to get the best out of life.
  5. Brazil is no 3rd world country – The perception among most people is that Brazil is a third world country when it’s anything but. Rio is Brazil’s second largest city and the standards set there are extraordinarily high. From ethanol-fueled cars, to elaborate subway systems, exemplary public amenities to general public hygiene, Rio reeks of a highly developed city. As per Mercer’s city rankings of cost of living for expatriate employees, Rio de Janeiro ranks 12th among the most expensive cities in the world in 2011 ahead of London, Paris, Milan, and New York City. Rio also has expensive hotel rates with the daily rate of its five star hotels the second most expensive in the world after New York City. With these rates set to increase during major events, those planning to attend the 2014 world cup best save up quite some amount if the trip is to become a reality.
  6. 6.The beauty of Art- If done in a coordinated way between the artists and authority, street art adds real beauty to a city.  Words don’t do justice to art so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
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Categories: Best of Panoramicdon, Photography, Travel | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “From Brazil, with love.

  1. Aishaaaa

    I can confidently say i have been to Brazil…through this post of course. I love the art, and the fact that they go crazy over Kenya thanks to our athletes. I guess you went you saw you conquered!

  2. Thanks Aisha. Good to know the writing is expressive enough. The art was majestic, creativity isn’t stifled there as it is here. Sure we have great artists waiting to be discovered if we let them express their talent, just like our athletes. Food for thought for the over-zealous City Council.

  3. Lynesther

    i love the intrigue in the writing…kinda like that book u dont want to put down…….

  4. There is football and art yes! that speaks to a passionate people. not sexually passionate but passionate with life. A people having a love affair with life. As for the no 3rd world country- a developed city or two does not speak to the absence of poverty. did you visit the Favelas? I fear you made the classic tourist mistake, the kind who come to Kenya go to maasai Mara and hotel lodges and speak of the country as flourishing and beautiful. It is not the whole story. Just because south Africa has Johannesburg and Pretoria does not mean it doesn’t have Soweto!

    • Gacheri, indeed they are a passionate people full of life. That Rio is a tourist city probably adds to the joie de vivre. For the development (or lack thereof), yes we were at a favela and I’d say its the equivalent of California in Nairobi, with tarmacked roads, electricity and running water. There is poverty but not to the extent we witness here. As I indicated earlier, the level of infrastructure, the 24 hour nature of the economy, the existence of a minimum wage and a system of social welfare all point to a developed country.

  5. Ali Swaleh

    Well written considering the fact that you were taught english by ochipapaa! 😀 must have been the trip of a lifetime! I got so excited and jealous till for a moment I thought that I had also gone for the trip coz it was so hard to believe that someone I know won a trip to brazil!! Wow! Anyway congrats on ur trip n ur article. Very impressive piece.

    • Haha Ali, Ochipapa was a damn good teacher 😛 (FYI, English was my highest score). Don’t worry I represented all of you there, truly a memorable trip. Thanks for the kind words bro.

  6. Noldo

    It has taken u fifiteen days for u to write this. U have put it so exquistely. I feel like iwas there!oh wait….I was

    • Arnoldinhoooo, nao comprende Inglesia por favor. It took me fifiteeen days to put my thoughts on a screen. The trip wouldn’t be the same without Euginho for sure. God willing a return trip is a must. Check out Al Jazeera some Carioca took a photo of Cristo Redentor with lightning in the background. Epic photo.

  7. when i saw senna i knew i wanted to go. now i need to go there. welcome back

  8. I love the way you wrote this! Sounds like you are having the time of your life! (what were you doing talking to a brazilian hooker hehehe?)

    • Gracias Sitho. Sadly, the trip had to end. Back home now. Oh indeed I had the time of my life.The sheer distance and ease of reach relative to medieval exploration puts the advance of technology in perspective. The hooker thing…hmmmm…well..ehmm..you learn about a city best from the taxi drivers and hookers. Tidbits of info not readily available from your tour guide. Plus its only fair to hear out a stunning lady of the night when she approaches you in a club, with a seductive tone of Latinized English. Being a gentleman and all 😉

  9. Wow Don,If there is one group that deserved this trip,then it had to be Royal Magyars.You guys are attentive to details and this is truly a masterpiece.There’s so much I’ve learned just by checking this blog.Big Up.

    • Erico man, shukran. Hopefully you will also cease to be an armchair traveler soon and get to expirience the real deal. Hard work pays for sure, your pay day is coming brother.

  10. Maiko Ramires

    How come no mentions of statues. :p. A return trip is uo in my agenda.

    • Haha, Maiko you and your statues. Was going through your pics yesterday and saw no street art yet countless statues. Art is relative I guess 😛 We have to go back for sure.

  11. caliph

    impressive piece,i have done my fair share of ‘armchair’ tourism but now am inspired to do it,hippy style. oh I really love that cristo redentor ‘ bonge’ la statue! overlooking the sea,I saw that image on al- jazeera where the photographer talks about how he waited for that perfect moment ….if that ain’t passion u dunno what is. again nice piece.

    • Gracias mi amigo. I knew you would relate to the piece. I remember telling the guys about the photographer who took one of Eiffel tower being ‘struck’ by lightning and thought of doing something similar for the Redeemer. Takes many years though and the other day I’m watching Al Jazeera and viola, a lightning Redeemer pic.

    • Was chatting with some Brit who facilitated the trip and he was telling us how backpacking packages are available in UK. He travelled for months on a budget from Asia to Oz, NZ, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Central America, US and back to UK. Six flights, long train and bus rides and staying in hostels. How I wish we had such here.

  12. caliph

    The attention to detail is something to appreciate the football stadiums the diversity of the fan & the passion.post more pictures man.The contrasting image you ve painted is very visible.

  13. Raz___TARI.

    You stated some true facts about stepping out of your comfort zone mate glad you enjoyed your trip to Rio. Love the colourful street arts and did you say football played @3am?? thats amazing must visit Rio Inshaallah one day.

    • Haso, ajab man. Guys were playing a tournament kind of, small posts in pitches in the middle of the CBD. Fenced pitches so the balls don’t go to the streets with floodlights and mini terraces for fans. And guess what, there were people watching. The 3am one was among a group of six guys by the beach. Beaches got floodlights too. Felt like that globe trekker guy 😀

  14. Guantai

    Dude, Brazil must have been quite something else! Great read bro.

  15. Still very jealous!!!!! :-p love it when you write! You always take a different angle. You could have just narrated your time there but you chose instead, to share what you brought back fundamentally. love it! I love point number 4. perfectly worded!!! The intro too was quite enthralling 🙂 and YOU WERE IN BRASIL!!!!!! frickety frick!!!

    • Muchos gracias Oshin. You know me, different styles. If people moved from where they were born more often, maybe the world would be a better place. Necessary luxury I say. Still surreal thinking I was walking in a South American city.

  16. ali

    I give credit where credit due, nicely done.

  17. Fi

    I thought that I was jealous when you kept going on about how much fun you had…. now i just want to slap you because I’m extremely envious.You have actually put the picture of Brazil in my head and for a moment i felt i was there with you especially in point 2 where you tried to talk to a hooker but it just wasn’t working! I agree Knowing a foreign language can come in handy. its so depressing trying to communicate with someone who gives you a blank stare.stupendous writing! Looking forward to read more.

    • Fi, its actually fun ‘talking’ to someone when you don’t understand each other. You struggle trying to communicate and its so much more rewarding when you finally get your point across after a struggle. Thanks for the kind words, more blog posts up soon hopefully. Cheers 😀

  18. sule

    Aslm,first of all let me apologies for my loud silence,then proceed to compliment this brilliant piece of writing and appreciate the intellectual prowess of the blogger who is a new wave among the generation Y and who are changing the face of Africa as we know it.This post is a bit pesrsonal to me for obvious resons,yes,being away from home definitely opens your eyes to the Incredible things that Kenya has to offer,for instance Sudan has a very facisinating tea drinking culture where people sit out in open air and wind away at the days events with the tea imported from Kenya,Here Kenyans are known and respected for tea,Nairobi,Mombasa and as elloquent speakres of English.
    Travelling get you out of your comfort zone,broaden your interllectuall expanses,life changing expireince and so much that helps build a dynamic personality in an individual.
    Brazil.is a place to be.Well written,informative and juicy.

    • Thanks Sule. Unique insight you offer into the Sudanese culture, sure you are enjoying seeing as you are a tea addict. Our grasp of English is admittedly superior to our neighbors though we still have some way to go in keeping up with Zambians. Thanks for the kind words and positive feedback bro

  19. Great read! I wrote something about our Kenyan athletes too http://joeytales.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/proud-to-be-kenyan/

    They are most def a source of pride!

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