24 March, 2013

The Key to Losing

They say "quitters never win."  Well, ain't that the truth.

You can't really lose a half-marathon.  You can win, sure.  Anyone who has ever crossed the finish line first can attest to that.  But you can't lose at running 21K.  You show up and finish or you don't.

You can lose your keys.

At some point just after km 3, a fellow racer tapped my shoulder and said something about dropping things.  I quickly assessed my being - ipod (check), timing chip on shoe (check), water bottles in belt (check, check), apartment key in back pocket (oh, crap).

Thus began the next fifteen minutes of retracing my steps, like a salmon against the flow of runners, eyes on the ground, asking each race official, "Perdi minha chave; você sabe algo disso?" (Loosely translated to: My dumb ass didn't zip the back pocket to my shorts and my key came flying out; have you seen it?)

I think Bruno Mars was telling me something...
On my second lap of the area where the key was mostly likely to have been lost, the third race monitor I spoke with approached me with the missing door-opening implement.  By that point the slower of the 10K racers were passing by.  Relieved, I thanked the guy and he wished me a boa prova.  "Agora, não vale a pena," I replied (It's not worth it now).

Fortunately, the course essentially wrapped around the neighborhood where I live, so I removed my conspicuous race number and walked home.  On the way I thought about how grateful I was that the gentleman in the race tapped my shoulder to let me know I dropped the key.  Obrigado, Sir!  This sentiment was short-lived, however, when I thought about the fact that this was a key.  Not a few coins, or a water bottle.  This is something people need to get into important life things, like cars and houses and safes.

So I call bullshit, Sir.  Had I been running behind someone and they unknowingly dropped a key, I would pick it up.  This was km 3, after all.  You have not hit your wall; your brain is still functional for logical thinking.  A considerate person picks that shit up.  I'm just saying.

I'm not passing the blame here - I should have triple-check the zipper on the pocket - I'm just disappointed.  It was a good three kilometers, though...

Race Swagg
What amounts to the most expensive bottle of sunscreen ever.

20 March, 2013

Who Run The World?

Living in a Latin American country it is impossible to not be exposed to and form an opinion towards the phenomenon of machismo.  Whether its men standing on a street corner whistling/hissing as a woman passes by, ignoring their every presence or the many real pre-conceived ideas of what Latin American women "should" do, it is impossible to ignore.

On Monday, March 18th, Barnard College hosted its fifth annual symposium on the topic of women and their roles in changing and empowering other women in their respective corners of the world.  After previously holding similar events in China, Dubai, India, and South Africa, the symposium was brought for the first time to the Americas, and to São Paulo, arguably one of the largest financial and cultural centers of the western hemisphere.

"Women Changing Brazil"
I accompanied a small delegation of students on behalf of my school's social justice club to the one-day event, composed of panels on various topics such as the arts, science/academia, and business.  Speakers included Kátia Lund, the director of the Oscar-nominated "Cidade de Deus" (City of God); Duilia de Mello, a Brazilian NASA astronomer; Adriana Machado, the CEO of GE Brazil; and Maria Cristina Frias, a columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha.  Brazil's Minister for Womens' Affairs, Eleonora Menicucci, was even on hand to give the keynote address.

With film director Kátia Lund (center) and my friend
and colleague Jocelyn following the "artists" panel.
While the panelists and discussions were interesting, it became evident quickly that the same recipe for addressing womens' issues in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East could not be applied to Brazil - or, to a larger extent, Latin America.  While the panelists, by and large, were from upper-middle class to wealthy backgrounds, and predominately white, they all still maintained, after repeated probing from the various moderators, that they did not feel they faced any significant amount of discrimination because of their gender.  (Answers like this tend to cause hiccups in a conference discussing oppression of women and their subsequent empowerment.)

One moderator - the President of Barnard College, Debora Spar - made the observation that the president of Brazil is a woman, as are over 30% of the elected officials, then asked, "What is Brazil doing right?"  While this question wasn't ever really answered, many of the panelists, especially the scientists and business leaders, maintained that the idea that women can not do certain things or be good at certain things - math, for example - is not something they heard or encountered until they ended up in the US for one reason or another.

The issue of machismo was brushed up against but never dwelled upon for more than a passing moment, as were other issues such as social class and racial perceptions.  By the end of the three panels, I feel it became clear that the arrow had hit slightly off-center of the cultural target.  There are issues that women face in Brazil, however, they are not the same glass-ceiling issues faced by women in other parts of the globe.  They are coupled with other factors; oppression in Latin America is not a woman's problem, though it does play a role, it is not the whole story.

12 March, 2013

Growing Accustomed

They say it takes about six or seven months living in a new place - foreign or domestic - before you begin to feel as if you've found a niche.  While I wouldn't go that far, I would say there have been some major affirmations making it easier to call Campinas home:

  • First and foremost, the barista at Starbucks greeted me by name without me having to give it.  She actually turned to her co-worker and her what to write on my café americano com leite.  Full disclosure: she had her write "Sergio" but in my mind it still counts!
  • My confidence in Portuguese is growing.  Recently the buses upped their rates from R$3 (roughly US$1.50) to the inanely obnoxious, pocket scrounging R$3.30.  One afternoon on the way home from work I paid with a R$5 bill and the attendant, after inexplicably rolling his eyes, gave me R$0.70 in change.  With a full bus watching I kindly pointed out his "error."  Jerk.  Also, hey six months of Portuguese being useful!
  • The annual saga that is the school science fair is over, and successfully, nonetheless!  Somehow, all 46 of the projects under my "guidance" came to fruition.  Be it noted: this is not the baking soda and vinegar volcano of your youth's science fair.  This is a months-long process, culminating in a formal - yes, little sixth grader, you must dress up - judges' interview and professional poster display. This year was also the 30th Anniversary of the fair's existence and the evening awards ceremony held the day after the judging reflected that.  I am proud to say, in the Middle School category, I had seventh graders win the first place individual prize, the first and second place team prizes, and the Hyundai-sponsored Innovation Award.  Honestly, though the students who won did most of the work themselves and were very self-driven; at best I was a glorified editor.
Top: Sign welcoming guests to the 30th Annual Science Fair!
Middle: One of the eventual winners discusses her project with a judge.
Bottom: The gymnasium transformed.

02 March, 2013

Street Food

Every Saturday a few blocks of a street in my neighborhood, Rua Maria Monteiro, gets blocked off and filled with vendors selling all sorts of produce and other goods, reminiscent of a Farmer's Market.  I try and go a couple times a month but sometimes Saturday mornings are for sleeping and hammocking with a cup of coffee rather than venturing into the civilized world.  Still, I've been meaning to play with my camera, and I decided today was the day: