Why Tourists Should NOT Attend The 2016 Olympics

Some life updates. After a long time living abroad, I am going back to Brazil! It’s a good feeling, but is it the right time to go back??? Is it the time for anyone to go to Brazil at all?

As we all know, it’s an olympic year and, this year, it’s in Brazil. I, for one, don’t think the country deserves it for several reasons, but they are too long to list, with some historical motives. So, today, I will just list a few present events that should be enough for most people to avoid travelling to the country.

  1. Uncontrollable dengue fever outbreaks
  2. At this stage, even if you are not from a tropical country, you’ve heard of dengue fever, thanks to Brazil! I am 30 years of age and, coincidentally, this is year marks the 30th yearly outbreak of dengue fever in a row! The government promises that the mosquito will be eradicated before the olympics, but how can one make such a promise? It might sound like conspiracy theory, but I grew up watching Brazil’s most powerful broadcasting company. They have been known to work in favour of the government. When I was a child, Dengue was a character in a children’s TV programme. My generation only found out what dengue really was (and how dangerous it was) when we were teenagers!

    This guy was the character Dengue, in “Xou da Xuxa” (look it up if you don’t believe me!):

  3. The Zika and Chikungunya Viruses
  4. As well as the known Dengue virus, there are “new” viruses in Brazil to worry about: The Zika and Chikungunya viruses. Even though these are not new viruses, they are new to Brazil and they are believed to have been introduced to Brazil during the Confederation’s Cup. All three diseases are transmitted by the same mosquito: aedes aegypti. The latter two can be asymptomatic in both men and women, but as most of you know, it can be dangerous to pregnant women. The Brazilian government says that no link has been made between microcephaly and the Zika virus, therefore it is safe. The WHO says otherwise.

  5. The H1N1 is back!
  6. Remember swine flu? Well, it’s back, bigger and stronger and has killed more than 80 people in Brazil in the first three months of the year. Read here. No new vaccine has been developed to fight the new strain of the virus, so, better pray not to catch it!

  7. The melting economy
  8. Thinking that economic crisis means cheaper prices? Think again! Rio is as expensive as ever! The collapsing economy has forced local business to hike up the prices pre and during olympics as a last fast buck before they close down shop. I just returned from Brazil and I could feel the absurd prices in other regions of the country, so, if you think it’s the right time to go, based on economy only, you are sadly mistaken!

  9. The brink of political collapse
  10. If you’d like to understand better what’s happening in the country at the moment, I would be more than happy to write a post about it, but I will summarise it for now. Brazil is in the brink of political meltdown, with everyone in the top of the pyramid involved in some kind of corruption scheme. The president is about to be impeached, former president being given government jobs to gain some kind of immunity, the head of the house of deputies, who put forward the impeachment process, have been found with million of Brazilian public money in accounts in Switzerland, the president of the Brazilian senate involved in dozen of corruption scandals……….. just to name a few. It’s an interesting time to be in Brazil to see all of this going down, but in times like this, anything can happen and you can be caught in very violent revolts between fanatics, pro- and anti-government. Be careful! The biggest problem is that if the president is out, these people, including the vice-president, much of the same! So, it seems that the country is on the beginning of a long and arduous struggle for survival.

I am going back to Brazil to work. I am Brazilian and have family in Brazil and often question myself: “Why the hell am I going back?”. If you are a tourist, save your precious money and go somewhere else! I bet you will have a better time and be safe from the horrible moment the country is going through. Better safe than sorry!

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Couchsurfing… a Long Overdue Post Of Frustration…

If my profile gets deleted, you guys can be witness to their censorship! And my BeWelcome profile is available on the sidebar of my blog. I really hope BW won’t disappoint me the same way CS did.

I was part of couchsurfing since I started university in 2005. My initial profile was deleted in 2006, together with other thousands (server crash or something). For a while, I stayed away, just sharing my floor and couch with friends and friends of friends, kind of having my own couchsurfing through my connections. I came back in 2009, didn’t remain active and made a new profile in 2011. Since then, I have organized events, sang praises about the community, hosted several people in my house, showed the places I have lived (and not lived) to strangers I couldn’t host. It’s been great.

Since the very beginning, I have donated quite a bit of money to the place and gained the “pioneer” badge… donated money to a community that, at the time, was non-profit and had no intention of making money out of it. Well, who needs hotels when you can have the kindness of some amazing people?

When I rejoined in 2011, as usual, I got that nice welcome email, showing how great the community was etc. And it indeed was a great community. Soon after, I got another email, saying that couchsurfing was no longer non-profit, but it didn’t mean it was for-profit. Quite a heart-warming email from the co-founder.

Here is a copy of the main point of the email that still shocks me:

“….

Just because we’re not a non-profit doesn’t mean we’re actually “for” profit. CouchSurfing is not for sale, and money is not our goal. We recognize that the community is what makes this movement real and supporting it is what our organization is here for. Everyone on our staff is a CouchSurfing member, and we want to keep it that way.

…”

Well, fair enough… since thousands of us donated money, I am ok with no one capitalizing from our donations.

Again, not soon after this email was sent, this time with no email sent to members, CS became a for-profit company.

In my view, this is what happened:

  1. While still a non-profit, they accepted donations, both through money and goodwill of people, and managed to build quite a big operation;
  2. The non-profit, which was built with donation money and marketing done with its thousands of ambassadors/users who dedicated their time to organize events etc, became full-on for-profit and got massive injections of capital from venture capitalists;
  3. They ruined the website and absolutely destroyed community.

Ever since these changes happened, CS has been accused of censorship (don’t you mention BeWelcome in their website, otherwise you will have your account deleted!), amongst several other things.

I am still part of the community… but bringing my business elsewhere. I don’t think it is fair for a company to capitalize on the kindness of others. Take your favourite charity: Would you be ok if, after years of service, it got privatized and made a fortune?

Beer Economics Review: Amazon Beer Stout Açaí

I am not sure if this is a good idea, but I will publish a quick beer review worth of notice.

My girlfriend, who travels a lot, gave me several beers from local breweries from different parts of Brazil, which is great! Yesterday, we decided to drink it and, my God, what a tasty beer!

I am no beer connoisseur, but I can appreciate a good beer. And I guess it would have won the title of best beer in Brazil! It is quite subtle, coffee-y taste with not much taste of Açaí, still with a relatively high alcohol content. I wouldn’t expect the extremely hot city of Belem to have been able to produce high quality stout, of all beers, but they did the job! If you know anything about brewing, fermenting at constant, relatively low temperature is crucial, as temperature fluctuation can damage the overall body and taste of the beer. Belem do Para is the largest Brazilian city near the Equator with temperatures averaging around 28C throughout the year. It’s located at the Amazon River Delta and, adding all these factors up, it makes it one of the most humid cities on Earth. All these factors make Belem a nightmare for brewers (and for people to cope with the heat too).

Controlling the brewing temperature must cost the brewery a small fortune on heat belts, AC units etc. Also, everything (except the Açaí and water) must be imported, since the city’s climate is unfavourable for the growth of any of the raw products necessary to produce the simplest beers. All of this is reflected in the price. A 330ml bottle can cost you up to £5. These prices are also not compatible with the means of the average Brazilian, so you can only find it for sale in speciality shops and fancy restaurant, which is a pity.

With a GDP per capita of £3809 (£317/month), and 75% of the population living below that line, most of the population won’t be able to afford one single bottle of this lovely beer.

Well, that’s free capitalism for you! A city, which in my opinion, overcame all the difficulties of brewing a quality product, managed to produce something unique, but only for a selected few.

Now that I have calmed down, I can conclude. It’s a very good beer.