Police and Thieves in the Brazilian Streets

Police and Thieves

Scaring the nation

Police and thieves in the streets
Oh yeah!
Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition

One of my favourite reggae songs is ‘Police and Thieves in the Streets’ originally by Junior Murvin but also covered by The Clash.  I haven’t heard it in ages, but it came up on the shuffle setting of my iPod and,as well as bringing a big smile to my face, it got me thinking about how the song relates to the current situation in Brazil.

There are a lot of genuine grievances that drove people on to the streets in June, and those grievances haven’t gone away.  There are perhaps a number of reasons why the protests lack their earlier ferocity:  political maneuverings; disillusion with the (right-wing?) direction the protests were heading; the end of the Confederations Cup leading to a lack of international focus on Brazil and, some would say, Brazil winning the Confederations Cup.  As we can see with the continuing demonstrations by teachers in Rio, the occupation of the city council offices in Curitiba and the re-emergence of protests against the cost of public transport in Sao Paulo.

Perhaps one of the main reasons why these current protests are not as well supported as previously, though, is the fact that they always seem to descend in violence.

Most of the current protests follow a predictable pattern.  Largely peaceful demonstrations are followed confrontation, usually between the police and the Black Bloc.  There is claim and counter-claim that it was the heavy-handed tactics of the police that instigated to violence and that associations like the Black Bloc are merely protecting demonstrators, or that the police were only reacting to the vandalism of certain protestors.

My natural inclination in all demonstrations is to disbelieve the police and take the side of the underdog.  In this case, though, I believe both and neither at the same time.

While the Black Bloc and other aggressive demonstrators might not be thieves, the effect has been the same as the words of the song.  They are both scaring the nation.

And maybe that is what they want.  The one thing neither the police nor the violent protestors want is a fully functioning, mature and stable democracy.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Or, as Mauricio Savarese from the ever excellent A Brazilian Operating in This Area put it:

“Desde junho encapuzados e policiais estão unidos para atacarem jornalistas. Encapuzados e policiais estão unidos para dizerem que sua violência é fruto de tática. Encapuzados e polciais estão unidos na impunidade. Parabens a encapuzados e policiais. A simbiose entre vocês é comovente. Que todos vocês percam.”

“Since June hooded protestors and police have been united in attacking journalists.  The hoodies and the police have been united in saying that their violence is tactical.  Hoodies and police are united in impunity.  Congratulations to the hoodies and the police.  The symbiosis between you is very moving.  May you both lose.”

Some Excellent Blogs About Brazil

If you are looking for other news and independent views about Brazil you’ll do a lot worse than checking out some of these fantastic blogs.

A Brazilian Operating in this Area

Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog

Bossa Breezes

Lost Sambista

Mark Hillary

Rachel’s Rantings in Rio

Rio Gringa

Rocket Fuelled Babies

Early morning view on November 9, 1967 of Pad ...

Early morning view on November 9, 1967 of Kennedy Space Center, showing Apollo 4 Saturn V prior to launch later that day.(Wikipedia)

It all makes sense now.

I thought it was just power napping that gave him the ability to wake up at 4 in the morning and immediately be running around the room at 100 miles an hour.

And maybe it was just the fact that The Rolling Stones hits a special part of his body so that when we go into his room for a much-needed nap after lunch and he sees his i-Pod he is instantly turned into a Jumping Jack Flash.

The constant banging of his leg, even while relaxing I put down to nervous energy, after all my brother does exactly the same thing.

And I put the seemingly never-ending desire to run around in muddy puddles down to a childhood enthusiasm.  I mean, if I could be arsed I would be splashing around in puddles all day long as well, I ‘d just rather watch him doing it.

But no.  It turns out that this boundless source of energy is in fact rocket fuel.  Rocket fuelled babies, it just has to be true.

How to Piss Off a Brazilian

Brazilian Hulk fan at Confederations Cup

The ref must have turned down a blatant penalty: thewhistle.com

A little while ago I wrote about how we are trying to get our son to say ‘please’ when he asks for things.  It seems to be more important than ever now as he often throws a tantrum at the first opportunity whenever he wants anything, but if we ask him to say please he will usually calm down.

It doesn’t mean that I am being polite when I say ‘please,’ it just means that I had it drilled into me at every opportunity when I was a child.  Most Brazilians, though, don’t have this habit drilled into them and so don’t say ‘por favor’ and if they do then they are usually being very formal.  So when they omit ‘please’ at the end of a request it doesn’t mean they are rude, it just means they seem rude to an English speaker.

When I wrote that post it got me thinking about some of the things that I have done in Brazil that might have seemed rude to a Brazilian, without me necessarily meaning to be.

Kill rude

In any culture (Wikipedia)

Asking ‘Why?’

I have this irrational desire for everything to be rational.  This means that if I have to do something I need to know why I am doing it.  And this is a big problem in a country like Brazil which excels in producing needless bureaucracy.  When I am face to face with a somebody who asks me for my mother’s maiden name just so I can get into a bar I ask them why they want it.  It usually isn’t that person’s fault because he or she has been told to ask for the information, but I still ask them.  The person now being interrogated usually mumbles something to this effect and asks the question again.  Sometimes I give in and just tell them, but mostly I give them a look of disdain and roll my eyes and mutter under my breath before giving them the information.

And then they will probably ask me for my social security number, ID number, home and mobile numbers, blood group and what I got for my 3rd birthday.

You can imagine that my mood does not improve.

More than one person has told me that it is very embarrassing to be with me when I get like this and that I shouldn’t be so rude to people who are only doing their job.

You can imagine that my mood does not improve any further.

Being Direct

I sometimes find it very difficult to read a sentence in a book or certain magazines in Portuguese.  It’s not because my Portuguese is so bad, but because Portuguese sentences can go on and on and on with sub-clause followed by sub-clause.  By the time I get half way through a sentence I have probably forgotten how it started.

It is not just in their writings that Brazilians take a while to get to the point, but also in life.  My conversations with people tend to be short and to the point.  There is some information that you have and I want to find out, I’ll say hello, how are you and then ask you the question, using ‘please’ of course.  Once I have that information I will say ‘thank you’ and ‘good bye’ and then leave.

I have sometimes fleetingly wondered what effect this has and if people think I am rude or not, but by that point I have normally left the building and am on to my next short-lived conversation.

I swear I never said a word to piss off this Brazilian goat.

Sense of Humour

When I first starting dating the woman who is now Mrs. Head of the Heard we had two big cultural problems we had to overcome.  I got very frustrated at her attitude towards time and she got quite very angry more than a couple of times at my jokes and sense of humour.

I don’t really remember jokes so I rarely tell them, but I do have a very dry, caustic sense of humour.  What is worse is that if I find something funny I am likely to let out a bark of laughter or snigger about it.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time the thing I am giggling at is not supposed to be funny at all, which is actually quite funny in itself and leads to more suppressed chuckling from yours truly.

Angry Birds

Coming up next week, Curitiba: The home of the original Angry Birds (Wikipedia)

Talking about Brazil

Nobody particularly likes foreigners coming into their country and roundly criticising everything they see.  Yet, at the same time, it often takes an outsider to see things that local people can’t.  Recently the Economist printed an article that looked at some of the problems Brazil faces, as well as the successes the country has achieved and continues to improve.  To hear some people rail against the article you would think Brazil had just been accused of the worst crimes against humanity and that every single Brazilian was responsible for it.

When I have been out and about I have been asked what I think about Brazil and, even if I offer my honest views as constructively as possible there will usually be somebody who takes offence on a big scale.  I have now learned to temper what I say because it just isn’t worth the arguments.


I am an atheist, but that is as much as I am going to say at the moment because this is almost guaranteed to offend someone.

Why Can’t I Get Just One Kiss?


Kisses (shorty76)

I can remember the time when I decided I was no longer going to kiss my parents.  I was still in junior school, which means the oldest I could have been was 11, but I had this idea that only little boys kissed their parents and I was no longer a little boy.

As an adult I am not anti-public displays of affection.  I have no problem kissing or hugging my wife or holding her hand in public.  I am not the most open, though, when it comes to showing my feelings.  I am very good at hiding whatever it is that is going on deep inside of me so that it is often impossible for others to know if I am ecstatic, deeply depressed or just plain ambivalent.  I have been told I have the same expressions for all these moods and more.

Before our son was born my wife sometimes panicked that I wouldn’t show emotion towards my son.  She was afraid that I wouldn’t kiss him or hug him.  Part of me was offended by this idea of me, of course I was going to kiss him, just so long as he wanted me to.  But then I wouldn’t show I was offended because, well, that would mean showing emotion.

eskimo kisses

Eskimo kisses (McBeth)

When Mr. T was born I didn’t kiss him straight away.  This was not down to some hyper-male repressed emotions thing, but a rational fear.  Of all the things I would like to pass on to my son: my stunning good looks, sky-high IQ, great sense of humour, support for The Blues and my modesty, there was one thing I absolutely did not want to pass on to him: my cold sores.

In Brazil cold sores are called herpes because they are essentially the same virus and believe you me, it is almost as embarrassing to get a cold sore as it is to have the other version of herpes.

I have read that the main way to pass on herpes or cold sores or whatever you want to call them is when an adult kisses a baby.  I was determined not to let this happen and so for the first few weeks I gave him Eskimo kisses instead of the more traditional kisses.  I am half convinced that the first word he learnt was ‘Eskimo’ as daddy came in for another nose rub.

Over time I grew less paranoid about passing on my dreaded disease.  If I felt a tingle in my lips then I wouldn’t kiss him, but thankfully since he was born I haven’t had an outbreak of cold sores so it hasn’t been an issue.

Until last week.

I had a terrible Tuesday.  I woke up at about 2 am with an ache in my back.  Try as I might I couldn’t get back to sleep.  A couple of hours later I had an ache in every muscle and joint in my body.  When I eventually got up I was tired to the bone, more that could be explained just by a lack of sleep.

Lips Sketch 1

Pucker up (Kit Keat)

I cancelled all of my classes and got ready to spend the day on the sofa watching repeats of The Sopranos (I have decided to watch all 5 seasons in one go).  Unfortunately at 3pm a big storm hit and knocked out all the electricity for a few hours, so I had nothing to do except lie on the sofa feeling sorry for myself.

Fortunately it was just a 24 hour thing and so the next day, while I was still a bit stiff in my muscles, I was essentially fine.  I went back to classes and life resumed as normal.  On the Saturday I felt a tingle in my lips and rushed to find my Zovirax which normally does the trick.  By Sunday I had cold sores all over my bottom lip and I was constantly applying more and more cream to fight it off.

It was painful.  It was embarrassing.  It was at times difficult to eat.  But the worst part was that I couldn’t kiss my son.  he isn’t the most affectionate of children, but he does like the occasional kiss and cuddle.  But when he came to me for a kiss, I was too afraid to even give him a nose rub.  It hurt, and not on a physical level but deep down inside me.

After about a week the sores had all but disappeared, but i I was still worried about kissing him properly.  I resumed the Eskimo kisses, but it wasn’t enough.

He has just gone to bed now and my mouth feels fine.  I think tomorrow I am going to give him a great big kiss.  Assuming he lets me, of course.

Violent Femmes – Add It Up: it contains the lyric ‘Why can’t I get just one kiss?’  This is one of my all time favourite songs.

Or maybe this is a better version.  I just don’t know.

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How the Monkey Became a Trickster: A Brazilian fairy tale

Goldgelbe Löwenäffchen (Leontopithecus rosalia...

The Golden Lion Tamarin: The best guitar player in the garden (Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago there was a wild and wonderful garden with all the animals you can imagine and all the trees and plants you couldn’t believe.  The trees and plants offered every kind of fruit, of every kind of colour of every kind of size and every kind of taste.  One tree had luscious little lilac  Lilly Pillies while the plant next to it had gorgeous golden Grand Granadilla and yet another tree had juicy Jaboticaba.

The animals in this garden were free to eat whatever fruit they wanted whenever they wished so long as they followed two very important rules.  The first rule said that upon approaching the tree they had to bow down low and address it like this “O Jaboticaba tree, o Jaboticaba tree, please give me a taste of your fruit!”

The other rule was that they could eat the fruit, but they had to leave enough left on the tree for other passing animals and so that it looked beautiful and could provide seeds for future trees.  So long as the animals followed these two rules they could do as they pleased.

In the middle of the garden was the most impressive tree you have ever seen in your life, or the most impressive tree you could ever hop to see.  It was tall and wide with branches flowing out from the trunk and leaves of every colour under the sun.  It was always heavy with the most beautiful orange fruit that tempted animals from near and far.  But no animal had ever eaten the fruit because no animal could remember its name.

In a tiny wooden house on the edge of the garden lived an old and wise woman.  This woman knew all the names of all the trees and plants as well as the names of all the animals in the garden.  The animals often asked her the name of the impressive tree with beautiful orange fruit so that they could try it, but by the time they had travelled from the old and wise woman’s house to the centre of the garden they always forgot its name, because it had a long and most difficult name to remember.

Golden Lion Tamarin

The Golden Lion Tamarin and his family all know the song (Wikipedia)

One day they monkey thought up a cunning plan.  Perhaps you have never heard this, but the monkey is the most talented of musicians.  He can play the guitar or the whistle or the fiddle, and he has the most wondrous voice in the garden.  So the monkey decided to ask the old and wise woman the name of the tree.  Right there and then the monkey sat down with his guitar and wrote a song all about the tree and its name.  He them went walking through the garden singing his song quietly to himself so that none of the other animals would hear him.

When he arrived at the tree he looked around to make sure nobody was listening and then bowed and said the long difficult name twice and asked for the fruit making sure to say “please.”  The monkey then scampered up into the tree and was in raptures at the beautiful orange fruit with the sumptuous smell.  “Surely,” the monkey thought to himself, “there has never been a better looking nor better smelling fruit in the whole garden!”  With that he took a big bite of the beautiful orange fruit with the sumptuous smell.  And what a face he made!  The beautiful orange fruit with the sumptuous smell tasted bitter and sour and had a the nastiest taste ever.  It was thoroughly disgusting!

The monkey never forgot the name of the tree, nor his little song that he had made up about the tree.  He also never forget how bad the fruit tasted and he never ate the fruit again.  He took great pleasure, though, in tricking the other animals in the forest into taking a bit of the fruit, just so he could see the looks on their faces.

And that is how the monkey became a trickster.

Related Articles

You can find a slightly different version of this fairy tale at Fairy Tales and Folklore.  You can also hear a recording of this different version on youtube below.

This is part of a project from Kid World Citizen to share Fairy Tales from around the world based on the idea of ‘Trickster’.  


The First Lie

Screenshot of Pinocchio from the trailer for t...

It’s as plain as the nose on your face (Wikipedia)

A few weeks back we spent most of the day visiting doctors because Mr. T woke up with a dodgy leg.  It was quite frightening because as far as we were aware he hadn’t banged it or dislocated it or anything.  Nevertheless, when he got out of bed he put his weight on his leg and immediately fell to the ground and started complaining that it ‘doi’ or ‘hurt’.

To cut a long story short, it wasn’t a serious problem and after a couple of days he was back to his old self: running up and down corridors and bombing around parks chasing birds.

Last week we went to the park as we often do when it isn’t pissing down.  We usually go by bus because Mr. T is obsessed with them, and that means I put him in my shoulders to walk to the bus stop and from the bus stop to the park.  When we got through the entrance of the park I put him on the grass expecting him to run off in search of a tractor or a pigeon as he normally does.

This time he just stood there for a minute.  He asked to be picked up again but I told him he should go and look for a tractor or some water.  He then pointed at his knee and said ‘doi doi’ and my heart skipped a beat.  Was his leg hurting again?  Should I get him straight back to the doctor?

But then I realised he had been running around in the flat with a football, so his leg couldn’t have been hurting him that much.  I decided to carry him to the grass where there is a patch of mud that he often likes to play in.  He wasn’t too sure, but he started to mess around in the loose earth, and so I walked to the next one and encouraged him to follow me.  He started to walk tenderly towards me when a jogger cam past on the path.  Mr. T saw the jogger and started to run himself.

Relief.  There was no pain in his leg.  It must have been something very slight, perhaps his shoe was on strange from sitting on my shoulders.  I thought nothing of it as we walked and ran around the park hunting tractors, playing with cold water and feeding the fish.

When it was time to head back to the bus Mr. T stopped again and asked to be carried.  I wanted him to walk until the park gates and then I would carry him to the bus stop and so I asked him to walk.  He looked at his knee and said ‘doi doi’.

I was astounded.  His knee obviously wasn’t hurting him because we had spent over an hour messing around.  He wanted to be carried but I had refuse, twice.  And each time I had refused he had complained about a sore knee to try to get me to do as he wanted.

PEGI white bad language tag

What I wanted to call him (Wikipedia)

The conniving, manipulative, lying little…

…and yet, at the same time, I was impressed.  He was trying to manipulate his environment to the way he wanted it to be.  He knew that when he had legitimately complained about having a bad leg I had carried him everywhere, so he experimented with trying it again.

And after all, it would be impossible to exist in human society without lying occasionally.  Right?

Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to reward him for his first experiment with telling porkie pies, so I told him I wouldn’t carry him and that he should walk with me and then I walked off.  He stood there for a bit, but eventually decided he wasn’t going to win and so ambled along after me as if nothing had happened.

Is this our first lie?  He is two years and two months.  Is this early to be lying?  Or is it not really a lie, just an attempt to manipulate me to do what he wants?  If you have any answers, please leave them in the comments below.

My Little Part of Curitiba

I live in the city of Curitiba in the state of Paraná in the south of Brazil.  It is a relatively prosperous city and also quite organised.  In the last 30 years the city has expanded at a phenomenal rate which initially saw the city expanding geographically.  In recent years it has reached the limits of this expansion and so more and more new high-rise buildings are going up in the centre of the city, often at the expense of old, traditional buildings.

These photos have been put together as part of the Mulitcultural Kids Blog project called ‘Your Neighbourhood Around the World.’

A View from the Balcony

Paraná Football Club stadium and Mercado Municipal in Curitiba.

Paraná Football Club stadium and Mercado Municipal in Curitiba.

I live on the 19th floor of a building at the edge of the city centre.  This photo looks out to the front and left of my building where you can see in the background the football ground for Paraná FC.  This is the third biggest team in the city and for the last few years they have been languishing in the second division.  At the moment they are in 4th place and hoping to win promotion back to the top league.

Just in front of the football stadium you can see the coach station which is currently undergoing a refurbishment which will hopefully be ready in time for the world cup.

In the foreground you can Mercado Municipal, or the City Market.  This is the best place to go for fresh fruit and vegetables.  Also, if you want some special ingredients or a really good bottle of wine you’ll find it here.  It started out as a small market in the white building on the left but has since expanded to take up much of the block.  Earlier in the year they opened to latest extension which you can see as the glass fronted building to the left.

Building Site in Curitiba, Brazil.

Building Site in Curitiba, Brazil.

In recent years Curitiba has resembled a building site as the country has experienced a boom.  This photo looks straight out of the front of our flat and you can see what will be the tallest building in Curitiba when it is finished some time in 2015.  It is difficult to see, but just behind this building is the football stadium for Atlético Paranaense where they will be holding games for the World Cup, assuming it is finished in time.

Looking Down on Curitiba

Looking Down on Curitiba

And this is the view straight down from our balcony.  You can see a play area with a football pitch and basket ball court as well as the other buildings.


Serra do Mar, Curitiba

Serra do Mar, Curitiba

This is the view from our building.  You can see another building going up as well as the mountains in the background.  They are partially hidden by the clouds but when the sun is out they are pretty amazing.  Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve seen them for the last 10 days due to the cloud cover.  On the other side of these mountains is the beach, so most Curitibanos know them very well.

A Very Long Road

Rua Viscond de Guarapuava, Curitiba

Rua Visconde de Guarapuava, Curitiba

Apart from a few neighbourhoods, Curitiba is based on a grid system.  This is one of the main roads in the city and is usually jammed with traffic.


This is my son’s pre-school.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but they inside it is pretty cool.  This is a common feature of buildings in Curitiba in that they often look quite bland from the street, but once inside they come alive.

A pre-school in Curitiba

A pre-school in Curitiba

Play Areas

A play area in Curitba

A play area in Curitiba

We have lots of parks in Curitiba, but very little in the way of swings and slides and other stuff you usually get in parks for kids.  This is a little space near my flat that has a public football pitch/basketball court.


Parana Pine

Parana Pine

Curitiba is famous for its pine trees, known as the Araucaria or Paraná Pine.  These trees are at the back of my flat and to be honest they aren’t very good specimens.  When you get a proper old tree they are very impressive.

A Traditional Building

An older building in Curitiba

An older building in Curitiba

In this photo you can see an older, more traditional style of house.  Most of them have now disappeared to be replaced with high-rise buildings.  The graffiti on the walls next to the house is in front of vacant land.  I have the feeling that pretty soon the vacant land and this old house will be built on.

Public Transport

A dedicated road just for big orange busses in Curitiba

A dedicated road just for big orange busses in Curitiba

A big orange Curitibano bus

A big orange Curitibano bus

Meet any Curitibano and it won’t take long for them to tell you about their transport system.  Apparently they invented the bi-articulated bus, and although I can’t find any evidence for that they certainly have a very extensive system of dedicated roads just for busses and emergency transport.

The Market

This is the market that was in the photo from my balcony, but this time from street level.  You can see the old part and the new part more clearly here.

Mercado Municipal, Curitiba, from street level

Mercado Municipal, Curitiba, from street level