Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art, Hoodlums, and Children

Loving the show

The kiddos and I went on a mini adventure today. In actuality, it wasn't a real adventure at all but did come with a lesson. 

You see, today is Corpus Cristi and thus a holiday in a very Catholic country of Brazil. Since the boys were off school but Mr. Rant still had to work, I decided to take them to CCBB (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil). It's an awesome place, is free to get in, and is only a metro ride and short walk away from home. 

Of course, that short walk was in a deserted downtown and a half empty metro. Combine that with my oldest's loud English speaking and you have yourself a bit of a concern. 

There I was, on the metro with my curious 4 yr old asking 3 billion questions and everyone staring. This didn't bother me too much but I decided to have a little chat with him about a new rule. New rule, when it's just him, his little brother, and Mommy in downtown Rio de Janeiro we speak in Portuguese. He was not stoked on it but went along anyway.

Well, he went along for about 2.5 minutes until he forgot or stopped caring or something. And this really isn't a big deal but we were at a spot between CCBB and the metro that was empty except for a few less than desirable potential conversation buddies. 

That was when we started to get checked out, and not in the sexually harassing way. For the first time in a long time, I felt vulnerable. There I was on my own with two little boys and at a point in the road where there was no one to see if anyone decided that I was a good mark. While giving up my purse isn't a huge deal by any means, I would prefer for my kids not to experience that less than secure feeling. 

I shushed the boys while scooping up my little one and pulling my oldest to walk faster. The looks I was receiving from one special male loiterer were less than comforting. That became double when he stopped another non-gentleman to discuss me and my child. Awesome.

But I could see workmen up ahead working on a building. Once I got near them I'd be fine. And I did and we were. I did, however, have to explain to my ever observant 4 yr old why the men were looking at us funny and if they were bad guys. Fun stuff. 

However, once we entered into the wonderful world of somewhat interactive art, all was forgotten. Although we did get a taxi home. 


  1. I hear you!! My 5 year old (loud talker) REFUSES to speak in Portuguese to me and when I start "shhhhing" him he get's upset and starts asking "BUT WHY?". He also likes to pretend he doesn't understand or speak Portuguese when he's with me which drives me insane because when he's with his father or his vovo's he only speaks in Portuguese. We've had serious conversations about this and while he still refuses to communicate with me in Portuguese, he does now understand that when Mommy says don't speak in English right now (don't speak at all)'s because there could be bad people around. I hate having to explain this to him, to show him this reality, and that I know he must pick up on how nervous I can feel, but to keep us safe, I must. Not that I take him to dangerous places, but sometimes you get just a bad vibe and your instincts tell you to get the hell away and mostly NOT stick out...just like what you described. urgh

  2. should really be difficult for foreigners because everyone knows that just realize that is gringo, that the bad guys try to''take advantage''of the situation

  3. you have just as much trouble shushing me when I'm there

  4. The taxi was very smart of you, I do the same when I am alone in a less desirable area of New York or Sao Paulo at night and there is no one around. The extra few bucks spent on the taxi are well worth it.


  5. this Rio experience made me sad..

  6. Scary. :( Luckily, my boys only speak Spanish so that's never been a problem for us here.

  7. Nerve-wracking and unsettling! Must have been terribly disturbing to feel that vulnerable, especially with your two precious little ones.

    Coincidentally, I was planning to hit Sa'ara tomorrow morning but was quickly advised (aka ordered!) by hubby not to because Centro would still likely be deserted and therefore not the wisest choice of destinations for me. And now, after reading your post, I'm all the more convinced that hubby is right!

    Bummed to hear you had to go through a scare like that but very relieved that you and the boys emerged unscathed (at least physically that is!)

    --Jean (PS. I'm not trying to be sneaky by choosing "anonymous," I just didn't understand the new signing in process for blogger and opening up an account? My bad Portuguese once again prevents me from understanding what's going on)

  8. "And this really isn't a big deal but we were at a spot between CCBB and the metro that was empty except for a few less than desirable potential conversation buddies".

    I think it is important when arriving at a place to notice the upkeep and if it isn't good to be extra careful and if posssible stop and try to find a different path.

    Btw I took that article to a neighborhood council in Brazil. There was a small praça which contained a playground but there was a problem with littering, occasional drinking and antisocial behavior. The praça was not kept up at all. Anyway after initial maintanance, both in the praça and it's imediate perimeter, plus establishing cleanup once a day along with a no drinking and no loitering policy and eforcing it not 2 weeks passed by until families were returning to the place with their kids. The atmosphere completely changed. The trouble makers just moved elsewhere. It was as if they did not feel comfortable there.

  9. I read about NY and the subway/graffiti in a book called the tipping point. The system makes total sense.

    And Rio is kind of stretched to its limit with this need. Lots to clean up

  10. I used to work with the downtown homeless population. It really throws then off if you walk up to someone who's giving you the creeper eye and ask for some random person..."Hey, I'm looking for Raphael who used to hang out here...I heard he was out of jail and I wanted to invite him to church again...blahblah..."

    Though I don't think I'd try it out with toddlers in tow!

  11. Jenna, that is brilliant! Ditto on the not doing it with kids but I will remember that tip