Monday, November 15, 2010

Danger in Rio

Danger in Rio is a fact of life. It happens just like dog poop on the street and samba music.  It's a big enough topic that both Daily Life in Rio and Becoming Brazilian have both discussed it, along with numerous others I'm sure.

So what are we scared of? I can't speak for all of you but I have my Rio de Janeiro fears.

I am afraid of getting carjacked by gun point.  When I drive, I'm usually alone with both my kids. How would I get them both out of the car in time enough to not piss off the crazy guy with the gun??  What if he drove off with one or both of my kids?  I find no way around this fear.  I drive where I'm familiar. I leave space to turn around, when possible. I keep the windows up and the door locked.  Short of a bullet proof car, which I'm not willing to pay the R$50,000 I don't have to buy one, what can you do?

My other fear is a random gun fight while on the street.  It's not that common but can happen.  I do have contingency plans. Yes, I'm that bad. I would run into a building with my boys and take cover.  That or roll with them under a car.  Yeah, I'm paranoid sometimes. It happens when you have little ones!  It's like two pieces of my soul cruising the streets.  I worry.  

The next is even more ridiculous but not at the same time. I'm from the states where fire drills are done everywhere!  The firemen used to bring a fake house to the school, fill it with smoke, and train us kids how to get out correctly.  Annually!  Imagine the shock of the head of my oldest's first daycare when I asked them their plan in case of fire. They had like 200 kids smooshed into a three story house!  Fire hazard much!  Her answer, get them out. I just looked at her, dumbfounded, until I realized that was it.

People, it wasn't just the school. I think the same way about buildings. Where are the alarms? I brought alarms from the US when I was pregnant with my first. I was like super safety lady.  My husband's thing is that the buildings are made of concrete, it won't burn down the whole thing.  This did not make me feel better.  But my alarms were taken down the first time the maid fried some chicken.  There just is no way to do it.  It's like hanging an alarm above a camp fire in the woods, just doesn't work.

So what did I do? I dealt with it until it was absorbed like cheap baby oil on my kid's toosh.  What can you do? I live here and every place has their flaws.  You can't head out on the street in bullet proof vests with fire extinguishers in your pocket. In an ideal world, I'd become a ninja.  I've thought about it but it's just not in the cards. I'm already 30 and really not that flexible. I think my face kick would hit them in the jugular... could work though.  I would love to be able to Alias someone's ass! Not only would it be effective, my ass would look great after all the training!

What fears do you guys have in your cities? 


  1. As a newcomer mom to Rio I'm confused on the danger issue.

    For some reason I feel that going around town with my 2 year old buys me a "buffer" so to speak since I've been told many times that Brazilians adore children. I therefore have it in my head (perhaps stupidly) that I am less prone to being victimized because I'm with a small child.

    Am I being ignorant and stupid?

  2. A really well written article, pointing out that all places have their flaws, with time we cope but there is something huge happening to us when we become parents...Paranoia, perhaps, but our kids are not only our soul "walking the streets" but an innocent and more beautiful version, so much more fragile.
    Fear is mainly in out heads....

  3. Be cautious but don't live in fear.

  4. I'm with Anita. From the very first time I came to Brazil, some 11 years ago, my MIL has been spoon feeding us horror stories about everything from your cell phone being ripped out of your hand on the street to criminals with telescopes watching you punch your PIN into an ATM, to having your teeny tiny gold chain ripped from your neck. Sigh.

    Back in the day there were daily sensational violence-only television "news" shows on the TV. Folks used to say: blood driped from the television.

    In my experience (knock wood) the fear outstrips the reality. Looking at the stats - almost half the gun deaths are caused by the police. If you are not buying or selling drugs you are pretty much out of the line of fire (with horrible exceptions, of course).

    But of course, I am cautious and realistic. I did have my wallet and cell phone stolen once on Copacabana Beach (during the Olympics celebration crowd crush). But then a very nice security guy took a bus for 90 minutes to return my found wallet to me - all things intact except the little bit of cash I had.

    I try not to buy the hype - while taking reasonable precautions.

  5. In Glasgow, the biggest fear I think anyone has is violence - the level of knife crime where I grew up would absolutely horrify you and it's common to see young guys get on the subway, bus or train with a scar running the length of their head from temple to chin. There's a serious issue with heroin addiction and alcohol too, so the city centre on a Saturday night can sometimes be interesting. For all of that though it remains one of the friendliest places in the world, with some of the funniest people you will ever meet. I live in NZ now, with gorgeous unspoiled beaches and dramatic mountains, but I know in a year I'll be heading back to where I keep my wits about me and actually laugh hard a lot.

  6. I'd be the same as you and have the 'role under the car' type plans too. Better safe than sorry.
    And I to would LOVE to be able to ALIAS someone's ass!