Six months in –you know it had to happen – Greg falls victim to street crime.

24 June, 2008

Yep we all knew it would eventually happen, unfortunately i never imagined it would happen quite like this…..

You see rather than being violently assaulted by some gun toting maniac, Greg was back in London arranging shipping of the last bits of our belongings over here to Sao Paulo!!!

He was staying near Clapham Common with Carey and Lou (thanks dudes!) when some dodgy crack head swindled him out of his pocket change using the age old trick of asking for change for the phone.

Though he only got away with about five pounds (and Greg feeling more than a little embarrased), the irony of being “robbed” in London after travelling around South America and living in Sao Paulo for six months was certainly pretty funny!

Though the statistical chances of being a victim of crime are definitely higher in Brazil, that’s possibly not the whole story. For example according to Wikipedia (the Brazilian government doesn’t release crime statistics) last year Brazil had 24 murders per 100,000 residents, New Zealand had 1.2 murders per 100,000 people, Australia 1.53 and the UK 2.03. So there is no doubt that there is more crime in Brazil, but i don’t think that its spread as equally across the community in Brazil as it is at home.

In Brazil from what we have picked up from watching TV and in the print media the majority of crime happens in the poorest parts of the country. The slums/favelas that surround most of the cities in Brazil are effectively un-policed, a combination of local gang control, police corruption and a simple lack of police resources means that the poorest people in Brazil have no real recourse to legal protection.

It is interesting to note that New Zealand has one of the highest numbers of reported crimes of any country in the world. Kiwis reported 12,000 crimes per 100,000 people according to the latest statistics on maps of the world coming in third after Iceland and Sweden.

Possibly due to a lack of faith in the police forces of Brazil and the fact that crime statistics are rarely if ever reported one Brazilian professor has created a website allowing people to record details of the crimes they have fallen victim too, you can see these anecdotal crimes here on wiki crimes.

So we are glad to say Greg is now safely back in Sao Paulo!


the inside scoop…

4 March, 2008

Well here goes, my first attempt at blogging… unfortunately I don’t have the literary prowess or humour of my husband, so instead I will stick to the serious stuff.

As you all may have heard by now, Venezuela and Equador have sent troops to the border of Colombia. These news story may not have had too much meaning for me a few months ago, but as we had visited Colombia and Venezuela just a week ago, there was a special significance for us.

My impressions of Colombia and specifically Bogota were very positive. Each person that we spoke to during our visit was optimistic, proud of its government actions in responding to FARC, improving education, and building infrastructure in Bogota. The city was clean, working toward building public transport, improving security, yet there was an overhang of fear generated by what FARC may do. By all accounts, FARC started off 50 years ago as an organisation committed to a socialist agenda, but it appears to have lost its way.

Instead it has become an organisation built on drug money, bombings and kidnaps. A true “terrorist” organisation, as opposed to the oft quoted American definition of “terrorism” which somehow always relates to oil supply. FARC continues to torment the Colombian citizens as they try earnestly to improve their standard of living. Colombia has a democratically elected government that is attempting to stabilise the country. Governments before had taken the softly, softly approach to FARC but to no avail. So this government decided to bravely take the tough stance and eliminate them.

You would think that neighbouring countries may indeed support the efforts of a government in this situation. Alas, this is not the case. It appears Mr Chavez has a wider agenda. To see Caracas as it currently is, is a tragedy. Litter, crime, graffiti, abandoned houses and people struggling without supplies such as milk, sugar, and a currency that deteriorates daily … They have a president who EACH day talks randomly for up to 5 hours live on radio and TV stations. When oil is at its highest ever price, it appears there is no public investment of these monies. Instead, he is only interested in becoming the next Latin American Bolivar. He gives money to Equador, Argentina and other Latin American nations to buy their servitude… and in turn, to serve his own power hungry ambitions.

I truly hope that Colombia has the will power to ignore these taunts from Venezuela and that other Latin American nations do not fall fecklessly to the offerings of Chavez. It is a continent made up of many great nations, with huge potential, I sincerely hope this is not the start of something that can only end in tragedy.

I don’t think were in Texas anymore Toto.. welcome to the big bad city…..

23 January, 2008

All of you know I grew up in New Zealand so being a good kiwi boy I always thought I could tell the difference between a gunshot and a motorbike back firing.. since we have been here I have heard lots of backfires and what I thought was a couple of gunshots but seen nothing.

But on Monday I was at home making some lunch when I heard what I just knew was gun shots and they were real close, so I went out to the balcony just in time to see people screaming and running, climbing and scrambling out of the little restaurant about 200 metres down the road from our apartment. As the diners ran one way the cops (all with shotguns or automatic pistols at the ready) ran towards the restaurant. We found out a guy had gone in to hold the place up, and the cops just happened to be following him, so they were ready.

The Cops Arrive – and diners Scatter – click on picture to launch full size snap.
Now I haven’t had any dealing myself with the Brazilian police but I know enough to know they have a bit of a reputation for being shoot first, negotiate second kinda people so I was understandably nervous as I watched the scene unfold, but they formed a solid perimeter around the restaurant and one the cops very bravely walked into the restaurant to help out the remaining diners – well except for the ones that the gunman was now hold hostage in the kitchen that is…

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First cops try to shoot the robber
Needless to say, more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, everyone pulled on their bullet proof vests, loaded their guns and stood in an easy circle around the front of the restaurant, the guy who had been helping people out of the dining area was still in the restaurant presumably talking to the gunman, while his associates climbed and crawled all over the place looking for an angle to get a sight on the gunman.
Now I must say at this point that I have never seen a police shootout/hostage drama before, I love watching cops – and any other reality police crap TV and I love action movies as much as the next man. But when its happening right in front of you, shots have already been exchanged between the cops and robber and the cops are doing their best to get an angle so they can kill the gunman, it really is a sobering experience..
Quite a while passed by and everyone has calmed down, the one guy is still talking to the gunman and everyone else is covering the exits, guns drawn and pointed, but the police seem to have the situation under control, they have even pulled the eager public onlookers back to reasonably safe perimeter.
Suddenly out of nowhere a couple of shots are exchanged, but amazingly everyone remains calm..
Then I hear sounds approaching from the distance, what ever it is, it sounds like an group of V8 Australian touring cars with police sirens then the first of many mat black Chevy bronco type 4x4s scream down the road, tires screaming, engines racing – looking and sounding more like something out of mad max than any police force I have ever seen.

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The cavalry arrive
These guys are from GOE which I figure must be the ‘really heavily armed response unit’. They pull up in a screech of tire smoke (at this point I have to laugh, they are obviously working really hard on their tough guy images), they jump out of their wagons, strap on holsters, helmets, grab machine guns and load ’em, then and this is the good bit, they kinda line up, shake hands, slap each other on the back, light cigarettes, talk on their mobile phones and have a bit of a chit chat (ok maybe they were planning their assault, but they looked very relaxed either way).

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The cavalry have a chat and a smoke
So now the big boys are here the regular police force are pulled back, the cop who has been negotiating is pulled back to hand over to one of the big cheeses from the GOE team, he then sends his guys in, much closer than the regular cops had been – and he just walks in, no vest, no gun, no nothing, just a big beer belly and balls the size of basketballs… he walks in and comes back out again with what I think is a shot policeman, who they rush into one of the waiting ambulances, he then goes straight back in and brings out most of the hostages, a couple of old ladies who had been having lunch, and the guys from the kitchen, the old ladies are given a sit down and a cup of tea, while the kitchen staff are frisked, searched and checked out – presumably they could have been in on it, I am not sure, but I suppose you gotta be safe and sure in these things.
By now the area is surrounded by TV cameras, there is plenty of ambulances, a fire engine, the police chief has arrived, as have half of Sao Paulos residents to watch the scene, all the balconies in our building have people standing on them and all of us are waiting for something to happen.
The negotiator is talking the whole time, and he is slowly working his way further into the kitchen area, unknownst to the gunman, he is closely followed by two blokes dressed as storm troopers with really big machine guns who must just be standing out of sight, then suddenly everyone is running into the building weapons drawn, no shots were fired, I think the guys just realised he wasn’t going to win and then WHAM they rushed him.

Lets Roll…

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Job Done – robber is lead away to paddy wagon.
So about two hours later, there it was, case closed, one cop injured, no one killed, a relatively good result I would have to say – the restaurant was even reopened for dinner that night…
As you can imagine having heard all of the horror stories about violence in the streets in Brazil, this was a very, very sobering experience for me, but we have discussed this with lots of Brazilian residents and all of them were as shocked as we were, none of them had ever seen a robbery happen, let alone a police shoot out or a hostage drama, so I can happily report that isn’t a common occurrence, it was big news in SP that day, in fact the GOE leader came back to the spot about four hours later with a couple of TV crews for interviews and a bit of a re-enactment – that must have been quality TV!!
But I think that’s enough reality police stuff for me for a while, I think I will just watch the ‘Are you being served?’ repeats from now on….
Take care – we are!

One week into our Brazilian experience!

19 January, 2008

I know its kind of clichéd, but it’s hard to believe we have been here a week already…

Let me try and give you an idea of what our set up is like now we are settled in.

Our little apartment is already beginning to feel like home, we live in a suburb called Itaim – from what we can gather its kind of like Sao Paulo’s Chelsea, it’s quite a posh suburb and is chock a block with restaurants, bars and night clubs – which is great.

We have a high street only about 100 metres from our front door with the usual array of supermarkets, banks, coffee shops and restaurants. But because its a posh suburb it also has a lots of shoe and handbag shops, a dog hairdresser and a dedicated BBQ shop (Gregs favourite shop of course)!

We are about 500 metres from Sao Paulos biggest park – its great it has an 8km running loop around it which i am sure we will get to know very well and is always full of families picnicking and 100s of people running…

Itaim is about 10k from the centre of the city, from what we can gather no one really goes into the centre of town – its not the business centre, and its not the shopping centre, they have slowly drifted away from the centre, maybe because of the reputation for crime that the city centre has gathered. Caths workmates have advised her that we are not ‘experienced’ enough to hang out in the centre of town yet – which makes it somehow kind of more appealing!

Here is a link to a map showing our place and the park – the centre of town is further north,+Moema,+S%C3%A3o+Paulo,+04512-001,+Brazil&ie=UTF8&ll=-23.596377,-46.667497&spn=0.037282,0.080338&z=14&om=0

Though in some ways the suburb feels like any other nice suburb, it still really different to anywhere we have lived before, among the nice houses and apartment buildings there are still lots of empty blocks with assorted rubbish piled in them and the foot paths and roads are all in need of some love and attention. All of the fences around the buildings have either two foot of razor wire on top of them, or five or six strands of electric fencing….. Despite that – or maybe because of that, the suburb is famous for being one of the safest in Sao Paulo, which is great, and there are always lots of people around – more so in the evenings as the locals flock to the bars and restaurants which are all around us. We have already made friends with the guys at one of the closest bars – its a kind of a weird mix of fresh fruit juice and cocktail bar and restaurant, its a nice place to sit on a warm evening – so i think we may be spending a fair bit of time there in the future.

Our apartment is really nice, unfortunately our dreams of a two bedroom apartment fell quickly by the way side when we found out the rent would be more than our London rent, so we have opted instead for a one bedroom place, when we got here we discovered one bedroom here is the same as a studio apartment, so we now have a very funky studio apartment with a large balcony.

Fortunately its air conditioned, has a big bathroom (with spa bath), separate kitchen, separate laundry (wooo hooo –thats real luxury for us after living in London) and nice polished wooden floors and funky furniture. Its really nice and we have already spread our stuff all over it, some differences to an apartment back home are that we only have a cold tap in the kitchen (not sure what the story is there, we are waiting for someone to explain) and the powerpoints have different power outputs in them (some are 220v, some only 160v) but apart from that its all pretty standard stuff.

Our apartment building has two swimming pools – one lap pool on the ground floor, and one for relaxing in on the roof. It also has a gym which is great, a restaurant and two bars (we are still not sure if they ever open though – could be dangerous if they do)!!!

So i hope that gives an idea of our new home. We are about to head out for dinner on Saturday night, another new experience is that no one goes out for dinner till 10pm, so i think it could be quite a late night coming up!

Hope all is well with all of you

Missing you all loads

G & C

nearly a week in – settling into normal life

17 January, 2008

hey folks,

just a quick note today with some observations on life in Sao Paulo.

firstly i noticed this story on one of the expat websites for Brazil, it appears we have moved here at just the right time, aparently SP celebrated its first 24 hour stretch without a single murder – i reckon thats pretty good for a city of 20,000,000 inhabitants!

heres the full story for those who are interested:

Right – back to setting up the house – does anyone know the portuguese phrase for ‘can you unlock my SIM card’?

Over and out