Thursday, July 4, 2013

PAP and then Rio

$67 + frequent flyer miles and I get to see my oldest daughter again!  How magic is that?  A year after their wedding and with one more year of research to go, both she and her husband are quite settled in a "favella" ( slum)  in Rio de Janeiro; both are fluent in Portuguese, both have made lots of friends while advancing in their individual research for their PhDs.
As we visit Rio, I am struck with not so much the differences but the similarities between Brasil and Haiti. Yes, of course Brasil is a much much larger country, has a booming economy and Rio is blessed with the most amazing setting and gorgeous beaches.  So what is it that is similar? Is it the tropical vegetation, fruits or food (rice and beans are a main staple in both countries). May be....  but last night I witnessed a woman hoisting her baby in what can only be called a box fitted to the vending stand where she and her husband sell coconut juices and cheap beer off the famous beach of Copacabana across from the great buildings and fancy hotels. Poverty is very present and that is where the similarities strike. Brasil is a BRIC country and Haiti is among the poorest, yet poverty looks the same. Houses in Haiti are shabbily constructed of cement blocks and here it is 2x6 red bricks that are stacked one on top of the other to make the wall of a house in the same precarious way. In the favella where Stephanie and Peter live, there is open sewer, trash, children running barefeet but here in broad daylight,  a drug dealer with a pistol in his right hand is swaying with the loud rap music while waiting for customers. Poverty has no color, no latitude and the constrasts are shocking.
What is edifying and heart warming is that in both countries I have the incredible priviledge of benefitting from the kindness, generosity, delicate attention and warmth of the "poor"!