The main events over the weekend for me were going to the birthday party of the son of one of my students, and seeing a woman get robbed (well an attempt anyway) while I was jogging. Lets start with the birthday party.
My student´s son turned 8 years old, so he rented a farm from a friend and took a group of 8 kids and some adults out there for some birthday activities. I found out that Brazilians play the same kinds of kid games that we play in the US at birthday parties. The boys had a sack race, a race where you hold a spoon in your mouth that has an egg in it, and another race where you have to put on oversized clothes over your clothes and then run back so that the next guy on your team can also run down and put on clothes, etc. They did have one activity that I have not seen as an official "game" in the US which was to throw a plate full of whipped cream at another kid´s face. Then they all jumped into the pool. The farm also had some horses which the kids, and some adults (including me!) rode. I think that the horses were the favorite activity. I got to hang out with the adults, drink chocolate liquor and listen to kid music play in a loop on the sound system. I think I heard the theme songs to "Powerangers" and "Scooby Doo" about 4 times. I was glad I went though...it was fun to get out of the city and hang out on a farm.
On Saturday Vilma and I were running on the road that goes along the beach. I am trying to start running at least 4 days per week as I have gained some weight since stopping capoeira. It´s all that feijoada! Anyway, it was about 7:30AM and I was just cruising along looking at the ocean and trying not to think about how out of shape I am, when I saw a woman ahead of me suddenly get thrown to the ground by this guy. They kind of struggled and then she got up and kept running at the same pace she was running before. My first thought (how dumb is this one!) was that the guy was someone she knew who was mad at her about something. Sometimes I am so naive! Anyway, Vilma got a good look at the guys who did it and so we stopped at the police post a little ways up the road. The woman who was robbed was there, and explained that the guy was trying to pull a gold chain off her neck, but was unsuccessful. We told the cop what we saw and gave a description of the guys, and then proceeded to see how little the cops here care and how ineffective the police force really is.
There was ONE police officer at the post without access to a car, and he said he could not leave his post. He called one of the 2 cars that are supposed to work the area and they were a good 15 minute drive away. The other car was not working due to brake problems. He really didn´t seem to care at all and then went on to complain about how the police force is in the same situation as the health and education systems in Brazil (which is basically saying that it is useless). We finally decided that enough was enough and just took off, spending the next 15 or so minutes complaining about how lame it is that with all the people running along that walkway, that the police can´t do anything to make sure it is safe. Vilma made the comment that if it is like this in a richer area (where we live and were running is a middle-upper middle class neighborhood), then imagine what it is like in a poor neighborhood!
I have been rather intimidated by the outward appearance of the police here. They are a part of the military, so look like soldiers, complete with machine guns. Most Brazilians seem to view them all as being corrupt and not to be trusted. Another student told me a story about once he got lost in Rio, saw a cop and went over to ask directions. The cop told him to hand over his wallet and cell phone! Imagine being robbed by a cop!!! Anyway, despite all the stories, I have up until now still kept the faith that if I get into some kind of trouble, that the police will help me. Now I am not so sure...