Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
SEP 2006: New friendships after the trip to Salvador, and general election campaigns .
(Click here for the complete overview of ‘A Foreigner in Brazil 2006’)
September, the first spring month in Brazil, started with the graduation of Carol, my travel companion during the trip to Salvador. I had met her and more forty students last July. New friendships were started, and these friendships matured and still exist. For example, Washington, who is working in the same lab where I had stayed, is one of my best friends. He often had helped me when I was in need of his favor, when I had to move again. In turn, I had provided him of travel information, when he was about to travel. I have accompanied Washington during two travels, when he had to enter a test for a company or an institution, a so-called concursos. Anyone who is applying for a job position of the government or some major companies, have to pass such a concurso. The questions are partly about general knowledge and partly about job-specific knowledge. These concursos are held in weekends, and it is not uncommon to enter such concursos in other cities, or even in other states.
Back to Carol. She had studied Pedagogy at a private university, called Newton Paiva. Studying at such a private university is expensive, the student and the family must be able to afford large sums of monthly payments. The graduation ceremony, therefore, was quite an expensive happening, too. A lot of money and efforts were invested, in order to create an unforgettable happening for the candidates. As usual at the start of such a ceremony, the Brazilian anthem was sung. A singer was hired, and she was the leading singer, while everyone in the room was singing, too. And indeed, the lyrics of the anthem, not too easy to remember, appeared to be remembered by every Brazilian. The candidates wore black robes, and a black hat. A brightly colored ribbon was fasted around their waist. light yellow, light blue, pink, depending on the faculty. For me, it was quite peculiar to witness the male candidates with a pink ribbon around their waist..
The graduation ceremony lasted more than two hours. The students pledged jointly their professional oath, and had their speeches for the family, friends, and the professors. One by one, in alphabetical order, the candidates were called to receive their certificate. A professional photographer took the shots of the professor with the candidate. No formal shots, but spontaneous poses of professors and students embracing each other. The end of the ceremony was marked by the release of tons of confetti, and by a joint throw of the hats in the air, by the candidates. Carol had invited me to join her private party after the ceremony, and she wanted me to take pictures of that party. Carol had set up a large video screen, on which my videos of the Salvador travel were displayed. That night, I met more friends, and also these friendships still exist.
In October, general elections were held in Brazil. Brazilians were obliged to vote. One vote for the state congressman, one vote for the federal congressman, one vote for the senator, one vote for the governor, and one vote for the president. President Lula, a former union leader, who had worked as a machinist and was put in jail for some time during the dictatorial era, finally had managed to win the presidential elections in 2002, after having lost three consecutive elections before. At the time of the elections in 2006, Lula had become very popular. It was to be expected that Lula would be re-elected, and beat the far from charismatic opponent, Geraldo Alckmin. The state of Minas Gerais, of which Belo Horizonte is the capital, would get a new governor. The strongest candidate was Aécio Neves, grandson of Tancredo Neves, who was elected the first civil president after the dictatorial era. Tancredo became very ill after his election and died, shortly before his installment as president.
It was virtually impossible to avoid the impact of the election campaigns in September. Many giant billboards showed the broadly smiling candidates. Party flags were waved enthusiastically by hired students and volunteers. I received many leaflets, on which a photograph and the political message of the candidates were printed. Many walls were painted with the (first) names of the candidates and their corresponding election numbers. Each party possesses a unique number, and each candidate has a unique number, with the party number taking part of it. Presidential and governor candidates have a 2-digit number, senators have a 3-digit number, federal congressmen a 4-digit number, and state congressmen have a 5-digit number. One may imagine that voters may easily become confused with these numbers. Fortunately for the voters, it is allowed to carry a small note with the numbers written on it, when they go for the voting machine. Indeed, electronic voting in Brazil….
I had another bus travel at the end of September. I made this travel alone, at day. A relatively short travel of less than nine hours. When there are no significant traffic jams in the mega city of São Paulo. Dayane had invited me to spend some days at her parent’s house, as she has asked me to help her planning her first travel to Europe. She knew that I have experiences with travel in Europe. I joined her to her office, and I entered the internet, and started to search possibilities of hotels, bus travels, flights, and train travels. I planned some cheap flights with a budget airline, an interesting train travel through Tuscany, where she was about to visit Assisi on the feast day of St. Francis. The annual procession was about to take place that day. Then she was about to travel through France, and fly to the United Kingdom, to visit friends there. I had to surf through a large amount of web pages, in a great number of languages. Dayane was very happy with the results of my internet work. While she started her travel later that night, with the flight to Lisbon, I traveled back, by bus, to Belo Horizonte.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom.