Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sports bloopers. Brazil are still stuttering in their World Cup qualifying campaign - drawing 0-0 with Bolivia in Rio which is not on really. I was so bored I literally nodded off during the first half. For once, I can be proud to be a football fan of England after their 4-1 drubbing of Croatia last night... Other sports bloopers this week come from my students in their tests this week. Complete this sentence - "The person in charge of a football team is a c_______". Answers ranged from captain and coach (both correct) to the more surreal cheat (possible I suppose!) and champion (also possible). Or, "If you do a lot of exercise you will g___ f____". Get fit was the answer we wanted here, but one guy imaginately put great footballer whilst another put got fallen which is just a bit bizarre. Lastly, for the question "Mexican food is sometimes hot and s______" most students responded with the correct word spicey but one guy wrote strange. Well, if in his opinion Mexican food is strange, he deserves a mark.

Street Evangelism. On Saturday Rachel and I and the kids joined our little church group for a spot of street evangelism around the Ponta Negra tourist area. Now, street evangelism can be undertaken by Christians in ways ranging from the frankly bizarre to the downright offensive, so both Rachel and I were a little trepitious about what we were getting ourselves into. Brazilian Protestants, in part due to the freshness of relatively recent revivals and also because of a desire to distinguish themselves from traditional Catholics, have sometimes drawn hard battle lines between themselves and mainstream society. There`s nothing wrong with that - in fact, to an extent it`s quite biblical - but it can mean Christians can come across as mean-spiritied rather than loving. My fears were not wholly allayed when the pastor rang me on Friday to ask for my and Rachel`s shirt sizes - the idea being that all involved would have matching uniforms. I pictured a ragbag bunch of guitar-playing, bibles-poised-for-bashing, sandal-wearing, fixed-smile-sporting believers dressed to the hilt in lemon shell suits descending as one on unsuspecting tourists or joggers or coconut water vendors. In the end, and as is almost always the case with me where my fears are never fully realised, the whole thing passed without a fuss. It was quite fun and I`d do it again. Our shirts were very tasteful, we simply politely approached people to hand out flyers and spoke further with them if they were interested and had the time. In the end, we ended up at the quiet end of the beach away from the tourists, prostitutes, tarrot readers and had a sing-a-long and ate hot dogs. It was a good time - a time to bond as a group - and an important first step in publically displaying our faith in appropriate ways. I even felt a niggling feeling we could have done more - next time, let`s get up the busy end of the beach!

Adoption and Social Responsibility. Rachel and I are not considering adoption - at least, not yet - but Rachel saw an event publicised recently as a fundraiser for an organisation which works with orphans and sponsoring children and placing children for adoption. Generally, it is said that in terms of philanthropy and charity work Great Britain is far ahead of many countries in the world. This is due to our many years of wealth, our rich history of social action and mission work and also a sense of guilt following our carving up the world through our Empires. On the other hand, South Americans, to generalise massively, are focused on survival and aiding the family interest. Negatively, this exposes itself as corruption - the underming of communal values and laws or common goods for all and the neglect or marginalisation of the alien and the poor. Positively, it means an unswering commitment to the relationships of all generations within families - something lacking in contemporary Britain, in my opinion. Brazilians, however, of all South Americans (at least according to my friend Roberto from Chile`s MA) have the lowest levels of trust for each other outside the family. In other words, there`s no way I`m leaving a key with my neighbour when I`m away for the weekend because I don`t know if they`ll let themselves in and walk away with my DVD player. Even if I offered them my key, they would refuse it on the grounds that they may be accused by me even if they didn`t steal anything... you can see, I think, how this is different to the UK (although maybe this is changing for the worst back at home too!).

Knowing all this, Rachel and I weren`t sure what to expect when we rolled up last Sunday evening. Fundraisers are not so common here and we were expecting a low key affair. Not at all! The place the group rented was huge and was packed with well-to-do families emptying out their pockets for a good cause. It was a superbly run operation with clowns, presentations, slide-shows, oodles of cute children running about etc. We were really taken aback. Maybe, the next generation of wealthy Brazilians - of which there are many in Natal -are catching onto social responsibility. That, and Brazilians unswerving estimation (almost idolisation) of children, resulted, in this case, in an exhuberent outpouring of generosity.

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