and lookie... today is six years since i rocked up in this largely mosquito-free city. i moved here because i am just not up to living in fear of skeeters, and after what just happened in brazil, i'll be staying on. yuppers.
03 February 2011
so i guess it's finally time to write a few of these posts that really need to be written. they've been bouncing around my head for MONTHS and yet, they've never made it to the small screen. i'd even considered just youtubing it, but given that at the moment i'm having fun with bell's palsy, that's not really an option. [i can't talk clearly right now due to the right side of my face being frozen.]
so i spent nearly a month in brazil. i have to leave or renew my visitor's permit every 90 days, and brazil was my choice for some reason. sadly, it was the middle of high season -- my south african permit expired 28 december -- but that's okay. i did have fun for new year's in rio [where on copacabana beach my friend said it was chilly in the breeze at 22 degrees C].
now i've always had a love-hate relationship with latin america. i can speak a couple of my preferred languages without being looked at like i'm a moron [i'm quite sure i'm one of the few black spanish-speakers in south africa not attached to the cuban embassy], but being black -- in the what you see definition, not the american "one drop makes you black" definition -- is bad news. it's something like a lot of american blacks experience in europe -- you are cool because you're *american* not because you're black. you lose a lot of cool points in many quarters from hanging out with black locals, especially if they're tricked out in hip-hop gear. [especially in the eyes of the police] some people i know seem to be completely incapable of accepting this particular point of view [being treated "better than a local" because they're american], but after a long conversation with one of my friends whose parents [correctly, it turned out] thought their children would have a better chance at life as coloureds in 1970s south africa than as morenos escuros in 1970s brazil, i've just decided to drop the whole issue with anyone who didn't spend significant amounts of their childhood in BOTH latin america and southern africa. the only people who will "get it" ... yes, it's a small selection of people, i know.
now, i was tempted to go on this trip to close the empty hole in my flightmemory.com map -- i've got north atlantic crossings, i've got central atlantic crossings [though i'm missing the DKR-SID-FOR link on TACV], and but i was really missing the southern atlantic crossing. there are only two regular flights besides the TACV one, both of them on SAA. JNB to GRU, and JNB to EZE. that's it. and yet, they're not as overpriced as i feared they would be [read: as is the rest of africa].
on the plane to sao paulo i had a really interesting conversation with the other person in my row. she was an older lady. lightskinned with straight hair. i saw from her carry-on that she had started her journey in maputo. my mental self said "that's interesting, most people in moz that look like her would be dressed a bit more expensively." but i didn't say much to her for the first half of the flight. [it's a 10 hour flight] near the end of the flight, though, she asked me for a pen, and then i started to talk to her. i had seen a friend of hers who had come up to chat earlier, and from their accents i could determine they were brazilian and not african. in our discussion, she verified that she was indeed brazilian, but four of her sons lived in mozambique. she showed me pictures of them -- all of them my complexion. the next statement was something which has dogged me ever since: lula has started to do right by us for finally letting us have education, but the businessmen isn't letting us into their world in any meaningful fashion.
there was NO ambiguity in what she meant by "us".
i heard the same thing over and over again during my time i was in rio. and i met lots of people who, like the old lady, had relatives working in lusophone africa because they couldn't find work in brazil. i even met a few people who had clearly done their homework and were working on their english to be able to bring their degrees and skills to south africa, which is ridiculously starved of black talent due to an education system which continues to be crap. [honestly, if you're black and you have a degree in maths or science from any country except zimbabwe, you can pretty much just rock up and write your own employment contract. even most graduates from zimbabwe can do that, provided that they don't want to teach. that's how bad the state of south african education is.]
i had to stay in rio for ten extra days. the reason? i lost my new yellow fever card [i'd lost the old one in new york on labor day weekend]. i'm on the schedule of people who aren't allowed to get the shot, and so i had to bob and weave to get my exception out of the way. it was worth it, tho, i met some cool and interesting people in that interim.
between that and some random stuff that happened to me there, i'm very much happy to have moved to south africa -- including having picked up dengue fever despite all efforts to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which meant i missed some really good parties. the good thing about dengue is that all i have to do is keep hydrated and take the really good painkillers my doc gave me. [tramacet. oh. em. gee.]
that said, i am a bit peeved that i didn't make a financial investment in brazil six or seven years ago -- even at a flat rate of return in reais, i would have doubled my money just one the exchange rate. that sort of hurts. this is why i'm going to make some serious cash in south africa before i go back to brazil to do some investment.
i'll stop here now. i've got a lot to do, and oh em gee tunisia and egypt have gone off the hizzy. wow.