Doing a bit of bird with Kevin Mallon

All the health warnings about Rio de Janeiro really do apply.

Back home you’re told to mind your wallet and phone when you’re out in public, not to walk alone at night and to keep an eye out for anyone using a plastic bag to transport electrical goods.

I like to think that I’m pretty vigilant.

I once circumvented around the forecourt of an empty petrol station because I could see a man holding his Staffordshire Bull Terrier on a lead at 2.30 in the morning.

Turned out it was actually just a stack of bin bags next to a taller stack of bin bags – but it stands that I take precautions.

As it happens though, I don’t take enough of them.

On Friday night, in spite of my circumventing abilities, a pickpocket managed to nick my phone.

Waking up hungover and without a phone is not a nice experience, and I headed off to the police station feeling like this was just about the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Since the Olympics ended the city of Rio seems to have settled back into its own rhythm, with the hoards of American and European visitors here for the games an ever thinning minority.

So, sitting in the metro hungover, it arrived at the next station and about 45 rowdy teenagers got on, three of whom piled into the seat next to mine and started a very expressive conversation,

(I’ll stop whinging here in a second) So… sitting there having a shit time, I looked up at the screen they have on the metro that shows the news, and who did I see? Only the director of THG Sports Kevin Mallon.

And that got me to thinking – even though he isn’t the most sympathetic character – doing a bit of bird up in the Bangu Hilton is definitely a lot worse than losing a phone (this was on Friday when it wasn’t clear that he was getting out).

And do you know what else is worse than losing your wallet? A good lot of the stuff people in Rio seem to have to go through everyday.

I’ve was there for less than two weeks, so without claiming any authority on the subject, here are a few observations.

Firstly, my friend Max explained to me that the geography of the city works like this: the south zone is where most of the tourists go and you have Ipanema, Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain… and then you have north of the city, and that part isn’t in the Lonely Planet.

And he wasn’t kidding either, here is the tourist map they had for Olympics:

rio map - 1

And here, courtesy of Google Maps, is the entire area that the city covers:

rio map - 2

Another thing was that I thought that there were a handful of favelas and that – what with all the favela-themed tours and parties that are advertised in the hostels – they were probably mostly pretty safe, with drug dealers still ruling the roost in the worst of them.

But no, there is actually bloody thousands of them, and their unifying feature is that public services like sanitation, electricity and water aren’t extended out to them – although many provide these services within their own communities.

And – this is pretty staggering – the average monthly wage here is around €500, with the minimum being around €300.

Things aren’t that much cheaper here. Granted, you can get a packet of fags for two quid, but meals and and rent work out pretty similar to what you might pay in the UK.

Website Expatistan puts the price of a studio apartment in what it calls a ‘normal area’ at €530, and I got an omelette in a restaurant that wasn’t too flashy earlier on and shelled out around €6.

So yeah, surrounded by those teenagers and sweating bricks from the night before, my phone-less condition seemed considerably less worse – all thanks to Kevin Mallon.

And as it goes, Kevin Mallon is a free man again, and the police report to help claim on my insurance will be landing on Monday – so it’s all good.

(Sorry, no pictures for this entry. As I said, I lost my phone.)

 

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‘Yes, I am aware they’re powerlines…’

I worked on this building site once, and one of the rules was that you had to wear protective goggles at all times.

You only really need protective goggles if something is going to hit your eyes. Like, for examples, if you’re doing something overhead. They’re also a pain because they steam up, and I had to wear them over my normal glasses.

The thing was that the job was based in a health and safety company, and the managers working there had a pesky habit of sticking their heads around the door and making sure everyone was wearing the goggles.

Nobody in Brazil has ever run into this dilemma.

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The main thing that has hit me since leaving Europe is the drop off in health and safety standards.

I find myself thinking ‘he should be wearing a high-vis’ and ‘why are they not using D10 to wipe down the tables?’

I know the whole favela thing is cultural, but a house up near where my dad lived fell into the street. If that happened to one of these, they’d be (excuse my French) completely fucked:

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It is the gringo in me talking here.

I fully admit this definitely says a lot more about how cosy my life has been than lax health and safety standards in non-European countries.

To be fair Brazil isn’t all that bad. Some telephone wires hang low enough that you could walk into them in the street and I was in a taxi today with no seatbelts – but they’re hardly deal breakers.

Casablanca on the other hand – where I had a layover on the way here – was something else. It was like the opening scene in Aladdin (a reference I make because of the similar style of dress and my mild post-colonial bigotry).

The old bit of Casablanca next to the train station is a labyrinth of streets that, although very pretty in their own right, make it a bit tricky for tourists to get about.

I left the hotel I was in at around 7pm to try and get some food and pretty much immediately a man in Arab dress with all his teeth missing came up to me and asked if I would like to get something to eat.

After telling him I don’t eat meat, he weighed this up for a second, decided such a thing was possible, and then collected his coffee from a 10-year-old who seemed to be holding it for him just left of screen.

He went flying off through this really overcrowded, intense market that seemed to still be in full swing even at that time of the night. Struggling to keep up with him, we made it out onto this main street in Casablanca – and it was like Priory Hall had somehow morphed into a Godzilla-esque character and had taken over a Moroccan city.

Boys were flying around on motorbikes with no lights, there was no footpath on parts of a main shopping street with six lanes of traffic, and what appeared to be electrical cables were exposed with no barrier around them where they were doing roadworks.

My internal jobs-worth aside, the fella who took me to get the food was a nice guy and was only looking for €5. And  Morocco’s probably a nice place if you give it a chance.

The name

Hey,

So, I’m going to be in South America for a little while and will be keeping this blog if you want to hear about the sorts of things I’m going to be doing between the hours of 9am and 7pm each day.

The reason this is called the Dog Food Diary is not because I eat dog food, or want to eat dog food. Around three weeks ago I ceased to have a job, and that is starting to get me a bit antsy. I wiser man than me once said: ‘Being unemployed is great… but only for a while. Unless you enjoy sleeping in libraries and eating dog food.’

So there you have it.

I am going to be updating this on Thursdays and Sundays although hopefully a bit more.

Muchisimos isimos élica (not actual Spanish)

Michael