Array ( [total] => 20 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5670] => Array ( [iID] => 5670 [tTitle] => What's the competition at the World Summit Award - Redux [tSlug] => whats-the-competition-at-the-world-summit-award-redux [iTime] => 1508796000 [iUpdate] => 1509966904 [tDescription] => Five years after Dérive app was nominated for the World Summit Award, which we eventually wonrepresenting Uganda in Abu Dhabi in early 2013, work of mine was nominated once more for the UN-backed World Summit Award.  Now, The Museum of Yesterday, a mobile app for exploring the hidden history of the old port of Rio de Janeiro, which I developed together with Agencia Publica, was selected to represent Brazil.  As Dérive app, The Museum of Yesterday is nominated in the Culture & Tourism category. In each of the eight categories, five winners will be selected in November, with winners going to Vienna in March for the 'grand finale'. Now, with 13 other submissions, The Museum of Yesterday was put on the shortlist for the grand jury to deliberate over.  Here's my take of the competitive field. + Cultural Infusion’s digital learning suite (Australia): Mobile apps for kids to build a bridge between their own and foreign cultures. Cultural Infusion makes a bunch of apps, with only trial versions available for free. I tried out one, Joko's Pocket Planet (Lite), which is cute, has a few small bugs, and seems to be a reasonable educational environment for younger kids. + HEARonymous (Austria): A mobile app providing (mostly paid) audioguides for museums. Not very original. + The Museum of Yesterday (Brazil): That's us! A compendium of the hidden history of the port of Rio de Janeiro, with a particular focus on it's less savoury past (slavery) and present (corruption), which requires the user to physically explore the port, with his mobile device indicating where to find the individual stories embedded in the app, as well as in reality. + Cardboard Stage (Canada): The platform's name references Google's Cardboard, a simple tool that turns a mobile device into a stereoscopic viewer. The site itself wants to be a platform for 'young artists' to reach a global audience, essentially by hosting 360 (panoramic) videos that can be immersively experienced with Google Cardboard. Sounds nice, except that their blog hasn't been updated in over two years, when they 'officially launched', while they only host the videos of eight artists.  It seems to me their ship has sailed, while also not offering anything quite unique; 360 videos can, after all, be hosted pretty much anywhere. + Luabooks (Colombia): Physical and interactive mobile 'books' for kids, in Spanish. I tried their app CatTron, which is essentially a series of cute kids-book illustrations, allowing for some basic interactions, like swiping and tapping, to generate simple changes to the illustrations themselves. + Virtual Tour inside El Muizz street (Egypt): Apparently designed for Oculus, it's as the name implies, a virtual tour of a historic street in Cairo. The app is only available for Android, but downloading it failed, the app store crashing every time I tried. + Confirmtkt (India): A (decent looking) train and bus ticket booking engine for India. + Forgotten Vilnius (Lithuania): A quite large online collection of old photos and maps of Vilnius. Somewhat interactive, the content seems to have received more attention than the presentation, which feels like it's more representative of web aesthetics from a decade ago. Only in Lithuanian. Travel Compute (Malaysia): 'Big Data' analysis for the travel industry. The creators need to be contacted if you're interested in a demo. + SnapCity (Portugal): A social network focused around physical locations where users can ask questions about their current city and (hopefully) have them answered by other users, who can be tipped, in real money, for their participation. SnapCity only covers half a dozen cities on the Iberian peninsula, which shows the biggest challenge apps like these have to overcome: traction. The interface is functional, but I don't see this taking off. It's just too difficult to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor or Google Local, also meaning that SnapCity is not conceptually groundbreaking. + Inland Sea (Qatar): An iPhone application that's essentially a basic guidebook of the 'inland sea', that is, desert, of Qatar. The app seems to be made with an off-the-shelf guidebook maker and looks more comprehensive than it is; for the many mapped locations, there isn't actually any detailed information available, except for a location and a name.  + Ayubo.lk (Sri Lanka): A (decent looking) accommodation booking engine for Sri Lanka. + The Next Rembrandt (The Netherlands): A super slick and heavily funded project to generate a unique 'Rembrandt' based on analysing existing work and letting the analysis, AI, and (human) analysts do the actual job. This project is stunning, as it should be, with funding and support from ING, Microsoft, TU Delft (my university) and Mauritshuis.  + Gone West (UK): A booking platform that 'removes your carbon footprint as you travel'. This, by planting trees to balance your CO2 output. They finished a successful Kickstarter campaign, collecting a bit over 15000 pounds. The details seem a bit fuzzy, as they claim that a long haul flight booked through them will see them, 'with their own hands' plant 'up to' 15 trees in your name. Less practical, according to their booking engine, a flight I tested their system with supposedly was available for 525 pounds, but ended up being 711 pounds after they forwarded me to the actual booking agent. So, conceptually clever, but needs work, as it doesn't appear to actually operate as a price comparison engine. Short-short list? It seems to me we stand a good chance to make it to Vienna, but, who knows who the actual jury will favour. Of the above list, LuaBooks seems a bit more comprehensive and enjoyable than Cultural Infusion (though that might just be my sense of beauty). The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street and Travel Compute are bit of a dark horse, while Confirmtkt, Cardboard Stage, SnapCity and Ayubo lack innovation or content.  If anything, our app, The Museum of Yesterday, is somewhat similar to Forgotten Vilnius, but is more accessible, for being in both English and Portuguese, while also adding the unique aspect that the user is required to physically explore the subject area, which itself is a unique proposition. Gone West is clever, but can only survive if it actually also works as a good price comparison engine. The Next Rembrandt is a sure-fire finalist. So, here's what I think will be the list of winners:  + The Next Rembrandt + Gone West + Luabooks (or maybe Cultural Infusion) + The Museum of Yesterday That leaves one spot to be filled to make five. I think contenders are The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street, Forgotten Vilnius and Travel Compute. Update (November 2017): We've won! Together with The Next Rembrandt, Luabooks, TravelCompute and SnapCity. Onwards to Vienna! [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 324 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1489 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => -23.5755 [fLongitude] => -46.8554 [tLocation] => The yellow house [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20171024 ) [5667] => Array ( [iID] => 5667 [tTitle] => Who owns the bus you take to work... and is in jail? [tSlug] => who-owns-the-bus-you-take-to-work-and-is-in-jail [iTime] => 1502143200 [iUpdate] => 1516066499 [tDescription] => Hot on the heels on me taking the longest bus ride in the world, is Agencia Publica's endeavour to let you know, if you happen to live in Rio de Janeiro, who owns the bus you take to work every day, and whether they are in jail or not. [iCategory] => 5 [tURL] => http://apublica.org/donosdoonibusrj/ [iViews] => 554 [iClicks] => 81 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1473 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9525 [fLongitude] => -43.1887 [tLocation] => Casa Publica [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Work [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 5 [categories] => Array ( [5] => Array ( [iID] => 5 [tName] => Work [tSlug] => work [tDescription] => Work, shmork! But, yes, one needs to make a living as well. I'm a self employed web developer with extensive experience in 'the south', that is, the developing world. I strongly focus on social applications, or, 'web 2.0'. If you're intrigued, you can check out my CV. My business is called Baba's projects. [iOrder] => 6 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5667 ) [5659] => Array ( [iID] => 5659 [tTitle] => The Museum of Yesterday [tSlug] => the-museum-of-yesterday [iTime] => 1498168800 [iUpdate] => 1516103649 [tDescription] => A while in the making, the Museum of Yesterday, in Portuguese Museu do Ontem, is a mobile app for discovering the history of the old port of Rio de Janeiro, made in close cooperation with Agência Pública. In essence, the app is a collection of, at the moment, about 160 stories, articles, audios and videos related to Rio's old port, the Porto Maravilha, the 'marvellous port'. Some of these stories are illustrated by artist Juliana Russo, who also made hand drawn maps of both the port area as it is now, as well as what it looked like back in 1830. Most of the Portuguese audio was narrated by Anelis Assumpção, a well known Brazilian singer.  All the content of the app is available in both Portuguese, the primary market being Brazil, and English. What sets the app apart is that it's not possible to access the content unless you physically explore Rio's old port. In fact, every piece of content being tied to a physical location in the old port, to access the stories, you have to physically get close to each location. So, you have to explore the port area, in person, to learn about its past. In addition, though the app does put all the stories, and yourself, on a map, you can not zoom or scroll the map, meaning that the visible area is limited by the screen size of your device. Pointers direct you to nearby locations but, mostly, you're on your own, that is, you have to find your own way to unlock Rio's past. The underlying philosophy, of course, is Situationist thought, putting the primary control over the experience with the user. This puts The Museum of Yesterday thoroughly on the same side as Kompl, Dérive app and Sauntering verse. The app was built using Meteor, a framework that makes it easier to deploy mobile solutions to both the Android and iOS platforms. On the downside, Meteor changes often and, particularly for building location-sensitive apps, tends to eat up significant resources, meaning that older devices can struggle with the presentation of content. In fact, though field tests, with users carrying fairly recent mobile devices, went well, a pre release with a group of about half a dozen journalists, some carrying the great grandfathers of today's mobile devices, saw a somewhat less ideal performance come to light, in some cases. Well, in underpowered smartphones. Last minute changes to, in part, address the challenges of lower end phones, resulted in a bit of a tight release schedule, though on the day of our release, a dozen or so newspapers published positive pieces on the app, including one in of the country's largest newspapers, Estadão, with TV interviews coming up, as well.  The app is available for Android and iOS. Several performance issues still need to be addressed, but, depending on your mobile device, this might not be relevant to you. Also, very soon, the app will be extended with the ability to do a virtual tour of the old port of Rio. You'll be able to access a few of the stories, without having to physically in the port. However, to uncover them, you will still have to go for a walk: Every 50 meters walked will give you access to one story. So, get yourself to Rio and try out The Museum of Yesterday to get the full scoop. World Summit Awards The Museum of Yesterday was selected as the Brazilian submission for the World Summit Awards 2017, in the Culture and Tourism category, eventually winning the global competition. [iCategory] => 5 [tURL] => http://apublica.org/museu-do-ontem/ [iViews] => 978 [iClicks] => 107 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1473 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 2 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 3 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => -22.9525 [fLongitude] => -43.1887 [tLocation] => Casa Publica [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 1 [tCategory] => Work [iCategoryFeatured] => 1 [iPrimaryCategory] => 5 [categories] => Array ( [5] => Array ( [iID] => 5 [tName] => Work [tSlug] => work [tDescription] => Work, shmork! But, yes, one needs to make a living as well. I'm a self employed web developer with extensive experience in 'the south', that is, the developing world. I strongly focus on social applications, or, 'web 2.0'. If you're intrigued, you can check out my CV. My business is called Baba's projects. [iOrder] => 6 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 1 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5659 ) [5656] => Array ( [iID] => 5656 [tTitle] => Phoenicians in Brazil [tSlug] => phoenicians-in-brazil [iTime] => 1491084000 [iUpdate] => 1491416152 [tDescription] => There now is no doubt that Vikings visited North America from around the year 1000 onwards. Based on the Sagas of Icelanders, prose narratives which were supposedly based on historical events that would have taken place in and around Iceland in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, historians had speculated about Vikings visiting North America for a long time. However, actual evidence only emerged from the 1960s onwards when, for the first time, a Norse settlement was found and excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, in Canada. Still only speculation is that ancient Romans or Phoenicians, originally from the Levant, the eastern Mediterranean, perhaps also visited the Americas, as much as 2000 years ago, or more. Occasionally suggestive evidence crops up supporting this claim. Artefacts were found off the Canadian coast a few years ago, while a seemingly Roman terracotta head was found in Mexico in the 1930s. The terracotta head, all agree, is pre-Colombian, though it’s of course not obvious how it might have come to Mexico. Here’s an article with photos. Then, entering the realm of much more speculative history, the giant Olmec heads, dating back to at least 900BC, to some historians suggest that black Africans, or Egyptians, visited the Americas in ancient times, while even more fringe suggestions include Chinese and Nordic connections, the latter finding support with everyone’s favourite cross-ocean sailor, Thor Heyerdahl. Meanwhile, circumstantial evidence for Polynesian contact with the Americas in pre-Columbian times has mounted to the extent it’s now nearly undeniable, with evidence of East Asian contact being more shaky, yet not impossible. Suggestions of old world contacts with the Americas keep on cropping up and are tantalisingly suggestive. Scholars Ivan van Sertima and Gaoussou Diawara proposed some 20 years ago that a Malian king crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, supposedly arriving in Pernambuco, with that name, they claimed, possibly having been derived from the Mande name for the rich gold fields that accounted for much of the wealth of the Mali Empire, "Boure Bambouk", though the accepted etymological source is the Tupi para-nã (wide river) + mbuka (hollow or broken), apparantly referring to the coastal reefs. Beyond a doubt, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks all visited the Canaries, as early as 2500 years ago, but their is no archeological indication they also visited the Azores, though it’s possible they did and plausible they could have. In De Mirabilibus Auscultationibus, attributed to Aristotle, the author talks about an island in the Atlantic that appears to represent the Americas and was visited by the Carthaginians (in section 84 in the link above). And, a more exotic reading of Diodorus could also suggest Carthaginians having had access to the Americas. More tangible, Guanabara Bay in Rio has given up a bunch of what appear to be Roman amphora from a shipwreck. One theory suggests these might have come from a Roman vessel being blown off-course, though ending up inside the bay purely by accident seems rather unlikely, if not practically impossible. And then there are the Phoenician inscriptions in the Americas. Austin Whittall, several years ago, collected an excellent list of suggestive evidence of Phoenicians in the Americas and looked at hem with a critical eye. A recurring motif, found across southern South America, is what appears to be the letter yaz in Tifinagh, a writing system for Berber languages. The yaz is also the central symbol of the Berber flag, with the vast majority of present-day Berbers being based in Algeria and Morocco, roughly the lands of the Carthaginians, descendants of the Phoenicians. The yaz symbolizes the "free man", which is the meaning of the Berber word amazigh, the Berbers' own name for themselves. On the Berber flag, the yaz is in red, considered the colour of life. More on that later. Whittall collected several examples of the yaz in the wild, here. The connection is intriguing, but, besides that the yaz also looks like a stylised lizard, this could simply be a false cognate, like that the word for 'dog' in the Mbabaram language is 'dog', even though Mbabaram and English has no connection whatsoever. The one inscription that you can fairly easily check out yourself is in Rio de Janeiro, on the side of the top of one of the mountains on the city’s shore. The mountain, Pedra da Gávea, comes in at almost 850 meters high. Under Brazil’s first emperor, Pedro I, two scientists undertook the first official study of the structure, who pointed out that it was certainly possible the inscription was a chance occurrence, which is the generally accepted theory, today, but that another possibility was that the inscription was man-made, possibly Phoenician. About a century later, in the 1930s, a Brazilian self-made man, Bernardo de Azevedo da Siva Ramos, presented a Phoenician translation: "Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal", which would have referred to actual historical Phoenician rulers Badezir and Jethbaal. Later, an Argentine archeologist actually translated the inscriptions as Nordic runes into "Next to this rock, numerous oak planks for ships are deposited on the beaches of sand". Tantalising, but this seems to me a completely pointless notification in a very hard to reach place. The inscriptions look more runic than Hebrew, a derivative of Phoenician, and if you look at da Silva Ramos' text and translation, it’s rather mind boggling how he managed the translation. A more salient suggestion, proposed more recently, was that the then-emperor might have toyed with the idea of matching Brazil’s past, via an ethnocultural connection, to the old world. But, geologists in 2000, visiting the site, concluded the inscriptions were vertical grooves worn into less resistant parts of the stone. There’s another salient point: Phoenicians would not have called themselves 'Phoenician', as this was the name the Greeks used for them. Phoenicians called themselves Canaanites. The inscription is near the top of the mountain, and, though, under good weather conditions, it’s quite easy to suspect the markings to be artificial in origin, when looking at them from the beach, it’s not too likely to spot them in the first place, as there are few locations from where they are easily seen. Additionally, it’s practically impossible to actually visit the markings themselves; you can get close to them, directly underneath or above them, but you’d have to rappel to actually see them up close. But wait, there's more On the same rock, there’s also a hint of a face distinguishable, close to the potential inscription. But, if man-made, the location is so senseless, and the stylisation so suggestive, there’s, now, no one who does not believe this is an example of pareidolia. Whittal mentions another possible Phoenician inscription on an island in the south of Brazil. But, using Google Maps to check out the island Whittal suggests is the island in question, there does not seem to be a match. He also mentions that Bernardo de Azevedo da Siva Ramos, the person who translated the inscription in Gávea, wrote up two whole volumes with names of Brazilian natural features that would have derived from Semitic originals, supposedly being named by the same visiting Phoenicians. A visit On the weekend, Natalia and I went to visit Mirante das Canoas, a spot up in the mountains hugging the Rio coastline, from which you would have the best view of the inscriptions, though still some 2km away, but with a direct line of sight. We were unlucky, low hanging clouds were providing rain throughout the morning. But later, on the beach, with clear blue skies, we managed to get a good view. The markings definitely look artificial, though similar markings, lower down the same rock, appear wholly natural. Yet, of course, just because these markings might be natural, it’s not proof Phoenicians did not visit the Americas. And, on the opposite side of the same rock, also near the top, there are markings that also hint at them being a man-made inscription. Or the result of the same natural erosion. Epilogue One interesting side note is that Brazil’s name originates from the Brazil tree, which produces a strong red die. The Brazilian tree, a relative of an Asian variant, was known, before Columbus, as lignum brasilium, brazilwood. Phoenicia, the Greek term used to describe the people, possibly derives from ‘land of the purple’, which refers to the unique colour, Tyrian Purple, which Phoenicians sold to the Greek and Roman elites. Tyrian purple was also known as Tyrian Red, thus the first Mediterraneans, or Europeans, to potentially have discovered Brazil, were known for their red paints, red being the colour of life for the Berber people, descendants of peoples living on the north African coast, exactly where the Carthaginians, themselves descendants of Phoenicians, were based in Roman times, whose most important symbol is the yaz, which can be easily found in the south of South America, on the continent where the most prominent country is named after the tree that provides a distinct red colour used in paints. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2697 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1517 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 3 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 11 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9984 [fLongitude] => -43.2848 [tLocation] => Pedra da G├ívea [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20170402 ) [5640] => Array ( [iID] => 5640 [tTitle] => The mom in Brazil [tSlug] => the-mom-in-brazil [iTime] => 1475964000 [iUpdate] => 1477273737 [tDescription] => Unexpected until shortly before her arrival, my mom spent a short week with us in Brazil, checking out both our pads in both Rio and Sao Paulo. Taking it easy in the latter, I tired her by visiting a bunch of tourist sites in Rio. The kind of stuff you have to do when visiting Brazil. Sadly, Christ the Redeemer was mostly enveloped in clouds, but my first time up Sugarloaf mountain was great. Annoyingly, both are unpleasantly expensive, particularly considering Brazilian income levels. On the other hand, the recently reinstated partial run of the tram up Santa Teresa is free. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 855 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1489 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 7 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.5755 [fLongitude] => -46.8554 [tLocation] => The yellow house [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20161009 ) [5636] => Array ( [iID] => 5636 [tTitle] => The Rio Olympics [tSlug] => the-rio-olympics [iTime] => 1471730400 [iUpdate] => 1489792487 [tDescription] => Notwithstanding the doomsayers, the Rio Olympics were quite a success.  Yes, they were way over budget, but Quebec only paid off its Olympic debt 30 years after they hosted the Olympic Summer Games in 1976. Stranger, the head of the IOC claimed that no public funds were used to host the games, which is the kind of bending the truth that breaks it. Or it's just clever book keeping, as money needed to come in from all sides; The state of Rio was bailed out for almost a billion USD just a few weeks before the Olympics, the Brazilian government ponied up a billion for security during the Olympics, though technically as a loan. And money that was supposed to be used for the Paralympics was used for the main games.  Only one Olympian died. Or rather, one Olympian coach, and that was in a car crash. A few had stuff stolen, but the highest profile case turned out to be a fabrication, after gold medallist Lochte spent a drunk night on the town. Reviled as an example of white privilege, perhaps the more poignant response was of the Brazilian police, indicting the swimmerpulling two other swimmers of an airplane as they were leaving the country and barring the two others from leaving the country. Then, one of the swimmers paid close to 11000 USD, either for 'restitution', or to a 'charity'. The BBC has the lawyer of Feigen, who paid, quoted as saying that "the 35000 Reais will be paid to an 'institute'", which, to me, sounds much more like 'white privilege' than anything else in this story. Zika fears were completely overblown, with Slate's prediction of 100 cases not even close to reality. Similarly, fears of the consequences of polluted water have been unfounded. Though only a fraction of the Paralympics tickets have been sold, some 82% of the seats at the Summer Games were filled, though some photos of empty stadiums strongly suggest otherwise. Less than London's 97%, but similar to Sydney's and more than Athens'. But, importantly, tickets started at 40 Reais, some 11 euros. Similar to then cost of a cinema ticket. Rio now has a third, very long, but only with a few stops, metro line, almost mysteriously called Line 4. Line 3, planned for Niteroi, across the bay, has been expected for a while, but is yet to materialise. Line 4 was, and until the end of the Paralympics, is, only open to Olympic ticket holders, who still have to pay dearly to access the speedy connection to the Olympic Park. Crime didn't suddenly disappear. Though some Cariocas feel that the city was safer during the gamesthe numbers suggest that there was actually more violence in Rio during the games.  A bunch of families were thrown out of their houses, though I feel that, after South Africa mostly got away with it in 2010, and Brazil thought they could in 2014, word has gotten out, meaning that the sizeable coverage on displacements is justified, but perhaps reporting on something that is not as bad as it's been with previous and similar events. But, what was it like? Rio has always been popular with foreigners. No one visits Sao Paulo, everyone goes to Rio. During the games, it was just a tad worse. We attended four events.  An early game of basketball between Brazil and Lithuania, with an unpleasant amount of booing from the Brazilian fans, but a rather spectacular game, where Lithuania beat the Brazilians to pulp in the first half, only for Brazil to almost win the game during the second half. Then there was a weightlifting final, where we saw two world records being broken, and the Armenian champion dislocate his elbow, which looked much, much worse, than it seems to have been.  This was followed up by a very entertaining table tennis quarter finals.  We closed with some rather dull kayaking and canoeing. Here, as a spectator, you only have a good view of a very narrow band of the 'track', in our case the area around the 200m mark, for some of the heats the starting position of the participants. But, then, to see who's ahead when they're not right in front of you, requires checking out the large screen, which you just as easily can do at home. We also attended the legendary Holland Heineken House. Which was a thorough disappointment. Painfully expensive, in an upper-middle-class suburb of Rio, both the suburb and the House a nest of upper-class privilege.  But, we did get to see Douwe Bob, live, the Dutch singer at this year's Eurovision. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1271 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1490 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9762 [fLongitude] => -43.3946 [tLocation] => Barra Olympic Park [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20160821 ) [5632] => Array ( [iID] => 5632 [tTitle] => Not the Rio Olympics [tSlug] => not-the-rio-olympics [iTime] => 1470348000 [iUpdate] => 1470519253 [tDescription] => A meme that's doing the rounds is to call this year's summer olympics in Rio the 'games of exclusion', or 'jogos da exclusao'. This, because of the families that were removed from what became the venues for both the Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup. Together with Agencia Publica, I worked on a project collecting 100 stories of displaced families. If anything, the world seems much more aware, now, of the darker underbelly of mega sports events, though with Rio's actions not being different, perhaps even better, than what happened in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Even, the Olympic organizers tried to make a point of keeping tickets available for Brazilians at low prices. Expensive tickets do exist, but it's still possible, now, to buy discounted tickets, basically for students, teachers and the elderly, for as little as 20 Reais, currently about 6 euros, while regular priced tickets start at 40 Reais. Yet, other types of exclusion also applied. Were the Russians going to be allowed to participate or not? Were tourists actually going to come or not, out of fear of contracting zika? But, thank Niantic and Nintendo, only two days before the opening of the games, for releasing Pokemon Go in Brazil. At least now the athletes don't have to worry bout being excluded from playing this location-based game on and around what probably is the most beautiful city beach in the world. (Also, if you're interested in an alternative location-based game, try Kompl.) The opening ceremony of the games, though no match for Beijing's in 2008, was received well. Performed at the Maracana stadium, just hours before, one of two of the day's demonstrations went on only a few blocks away. Here, the atmosphere was somewhat tense, but turnout was low, where it felt that as much as half the participants were accredited media. The second demonstration happened earlier, on Copacabana. Where the Maracana demonstration was against the Olympics, the Copacabana one was against Temer, Brazil's acting president, and the coup-through-legal-means he and his staged earlier this year. The Intercept put turnout at 15000, but I thought it noticeably less. But, here, the crowd was mellow, and included a bunch of trade union representatives who, in a way, combined a day at the beach with a passionate denouncing of the president and his actions. If you're on the fence as to whether Temer deserves the negative criticism, be aware that he has been barred from running for public office for eight years, for violating campaign finance laws. However, he was not barred from holding public office, with the presidency being handed to him to due Dilma's dismissal. At the opening ceremony, Temer was one of the bigwigs speaking to the crowds. They should have used the same anti-booing technology used at Eurovision, as an easily noticeable vocal dislike erupted from the stands for the duration of his speech. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1204 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1289 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 15 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9875 [fLongitude] => -43.2007 [tLocation] => Posto 9 [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20160805 ) [5630] => Array ( [iID] => 5630 [tTitle] => 100 stories [tSlug] => 100-stories [iTime] => 1468965600 [iUpdate] => 1516070018 [tDescription] => A hundred stories of Cariocas, citizens of Rio de Janeiro, relocated for the Olympics or the World Cup, collected in a rich media experience available in both Portuguese and English. Conceptualisation by Olga Lucía Lozano, design by Lorena Parra with implementation by myself, under the fine supervision of Natalia Viana of Agência Pública. 100 stories won the 38º Prêmio Jornalístico Vladimir Herzog de Anistia e Direitos Humanos, in 2016 and was nominated for the Gabriel García Márquez award in the 'Innovation' category in 2017. 100 stories also was a finalist for the Brazilian Prêmio Petrobras de Jornalismo. [iCategory] => 5 [tURL] => [iViews] => 934 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1489 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.5755 [fLongitude] => -46.8554 [tLocation] => The yellow house [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Work [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 5 [categories] => Array ( [5] => Array ( [iID] => 5 [tName] => Work [tSlug] => work [tDescription] => Work, shmork! But, yes, one needs to make a living as well. I'm a self employed web developer with extensive experience in 'the south', that is, the developing world. I strongly focus on social applications, or, 'web 2.0'. If you're intrigued, you can check out my CV. My business is called Baba's projects. [iOrder] => 6 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5630 ) [5628] => Array ( [iID] => 5628 [tTitle] => Of beaches and prisons [tSlug] => of-beaches-and-prisons [iTime] => 1464472800 [iUpdate] => 1464896962 [tDescription] => Brazil, like most catholic countries, celebrates Corpus Christi, that is, the belief that blood and body of Christ are truly and really present in the Eucharist. On the day of the celebration, often, there’s a procession of altar bread and wine, displayed in a monstrance, which often looks like a solar disc on a pedestal. We bumped in to one such procession while we took the opportunity of the associated long weekend by heading out to Ilha Grande, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Brazil. On the coast, roughly halfway between Rio and Sao Paulo. Now, nearing winter, the island is pleasantly quiet, with the majority of tourists being foreigners, who don’t have the luxury of heading out to Ilha Grande whenever they feel like it, or only when it’s nice and hot. And, yes, though daily temperatures easily rose above 25 degrees, I once or twice felt it a good idea to wear a sweater, at night. But, then, being too lazy to get up and get one, and still feeling quite comfortable drinking a cold beer, overlooking the bay in front the island's main, only, town, meant that what constitutes 'cold' is rather relative. Ilha Grande also has a more notorious side to it. For almost a century, the island was closed to the public, first because it housed a leper colony, and then, until 1994, a high-security prison, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in Brazil. Now, tranquility is king, but some two dozen people were killed as recently as 6 years ago due to a mudslide after heavy rains. But, times were much tougher, particularly between the late 1960 until the prison closed. After the 1964 coup, political prisoners were also being sent to Cândido Mendes, the prison, which, after they started to collaborate with the more regular, and typically more violent, inmates, resulted in the creation of perhaps Brazil’s deadliest crime syndicate, the Red Phalanx, or Falange Vermelha. Perhaps originally coming from a political ideology, the group changed its name to Comando Vermelho in the early 1980s and now primarily engages in arms and drug trafficking, active in roughly the northern half of the South American continent. Conditions in the prison deteriorated, with the Comando Vermelho in control. In 1993, just a year before it closed, photographer Andre Cypriano spent several months documenting the daily life of those stuck in this Brazilian version of displeasure. Upon closing, residents of the island were shattered, the prison and its network being their sole income. But, quickly reinventing themselves and the island, realising the tropical appeal of tourism on their abandoned island, things turned around quickly. The prison has been torn down, the outer walls all that still stand, but one former prisoner, Julio de Almeida, who once managed to escape but was sent back after four years in Rio, ended up staying on the island for over 50 years. He still lives close to the prison, where we accidentally bumped into the man. We found our way to Dois Rios, the little cluster of houses next to the former prison, by bike. The 9 kilometres or so from the island’s main settlement belies how tough the climb actually is. The reward, besides gawking at the little settlement, is a gorgeous and almost empty beach. A popular trek is the hike to Lopes Mendes, a beach some two hours away by foot, through the jungle. But, so popular, if with gorgeous blue water, that, even now in late autumn, it felt a bit like being on the beach in Copacabana or Leme. On the trek to Lopes Mendes, the second most common tourists, after foreigners, were Paulistas, Brazilians living in Sao Paulo. All of them easily recognisable by their clothes and behaviour. But, in Vila do Abraão, the main village of the island, it was also easy to spot the lower middle class Cariocas, people from Rio, many of them having taken the slow, but cheap, municipal bus from Rio, saving almost two thirds on the price of the faster, intercity bus. We traveled with them on the way back to Rio, passing the distant Carioca communities, now filled with those forcibly displaced to make room for the upcoming Olympics. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20160529 ) [5617] => Array ( [iID] => 5617 [tTitle] => Carnival in Rio [tSlug] => carnival-in-rio [iTime] => 1454886000 [iUpdate] => 1474035807 [tDescription] => Natalia is preparing for setting up Casa Publica, the Rio-based branch of Agencia Publica, which will focus on events surrounding the upcoming Rio Olympics. We took the opportunity to enjoy the beaches and carnaval. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1644 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1467 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462228398 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 41 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.8967 [fLongitude] => -43.181 [tLocation] => Praca Maua [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20160208 ) [5565] => Array ( [iID] => 5565 [tTitle] => Food, hippos and the hills of Medellin [tSlug] => food-hippos-and-the-hills-of-medellin [iTime] => 1422486000 [iUpdate] => 1422486000 [tDescription] => A more than passing resemblance exists between the layouts of the cities of Medellin and La Paz. Both, sprawling cities surrounded by mountains, edged by slums accessible by cable cars. But, Medellin has lost virtually all its colonial architecture and feels much more affluent. It's also one of the few cities on the continent and the only one in Colombia that has a metro. Or, sky train, mostly, which also brings up similarities with some south East Asian cities, the level of development appearing comparable. And, this is somewhat reinforced by the Asiatic ethnic features of some of the Colombians. Medellin aspires to greatness and claims to be built on seven hills. Also interesting is that the region, Paisaland, was originally primarily occupied by two groups. One of Basque origin, the other Jews. Years of mixing has eradicated those origins. Medellin's metropolitan cathedral is a huge church made of brick. Apparently, it's one of the largest brick churches in the world. (The biggest is in Gdansk.) For the 2008 edition of the Lonely Planet, a lazy author only called around for info on updating the guide and ended up being misinformed, listing the church as the largest in the world. Downtown Medellin gives off a feel of reclaimed inner city, similar to Johannesburg, say, or perhaps also São Paolo. But, this is hardly surprising as, specifically after the killing of Pablo Escobar and the subsequent Uribe presidency, Colombia in general and Medellin in particular, completely turned their safety and security records around. In Medellin, in part, this was done by refurbishing large parts of the city's favelas, as well as connecting them to a city wide public transport grid. Medellin pioneered the concept of using cable cars for public transport to connect the slums on the city's crowded mountain sides. With that also came the creation and maintenance of public spaces and the initiation of public cultural centers, within the favelas. People living in houses that had to make way for providing this connectivity were relocated by the state with the objective of not disturbing the social cohesion of the groups involved. Personal drug use, including cocaine, was decriminalized. The concepts, after proving successful, were copied by a myriad of other cities with similar problems, most notably Rio de Janeiro. And, taking one of the cable cars in to the favelas, with the now well maintained roads, the functional and usable public spaces, it's hard not to notice the apparent mellowness now dominating the favelas, though, it also appears, the slums as I saw them in Rio tend to be significantly poorer. The favela I stayed in, for three weeks in Rio, saw multiple daily military police patrols, with shots being fired nearly every day. But, also in Medellin, not everything is as it seems. There's a lovely park on the outskirts of town. One of the cable cars that goes into one of the favelas connects to another cable car that's outside of the regular public transport system. The long ride takes you to the middle of the huge park where in a large service area a host of well trained staff try to make you feel comfortable. Several free daily tours take you around the area, with a mandatory guide, and mounted police follow you around. A butterfly farm is nearby and I asked how long the walk would be. "Oh, you can't walk there! You have to take the free bus." "Why can't I walk?" "Well, it's not safe." "Safe? Why is it not safe?" "Well, there are many people that will try to hurt you." With which she was mimicking a stabbing motion. Close to Medellin, 40 to 50 hippos are said to roam around in the wild as a consequence of two of them breaking out of Pablo Escobar's private zoo. Two foods worth eating are chocolate with cheese, and a sugary caramel-like substance called melocha. The latter is prepared like dough, around pegs tied to a pole (say a telephone pole) on the street. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1219 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1392 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462238196 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 18 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 6.2653 [fLongitude] => -75.5615 [tLocation] => Cementerio San Pedro [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150129 ) [5543] => Array ( [iID] => 5543 [tTitle] => Weekend in Paraty [tSlug] => weekend-in-paraty [iTime] => 1410127200 [iUpdate] => 1410127200 [tDescription] => Paraty rose to importance in the beginning of the 18th century, after the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais, the Brazilian province north of Sao Paulo and Rio. The mined gold was shipped to Portugal from Paraty and fuelled the economic boom of the very pretty colonial town, now very popular with both foreign and Brazilian tourists. The town only revived its economic prospects in the 1970s, when, at last, a paved road connected Paraty with Sao Paulo. Now, the town and area are more known as a source of cachaca, the Brazilian liquor essential to every Brazlian's favorite drink: caipirinha, as well as for its great beaches and very decent cuisine. Paraty has become something of an artists' colony. We spent a weekend on Jabaquara beach, next door to Paraty, to celebrate my successful completion of yet another revolution around the sun. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5985 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1362 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461963728 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.2062 [fLongitude] => -44.7178 [tLocation] => Jabaquara beach [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140908 ) [5536] => Array ( [iID] => 5536 [tTitle] => A return to Brazil [tSlug] => a-return-to-brazil [iTime] => 1405029600 [iUpdate] => 1405029600 [tDescription] => Not unpleasant, Rio Branco feels like a trading town, not unlike one of the remote South African cities in Mpumalanga or one of the Capes. The climate is comparable, the people look similar, the town's architecture, functional, low level constructions, could be either here or there. Rio Branco is, as far as Brazil goes, in the back end of nowhere. Only one of the continents capitals, Montevideo, is further away from Rio Branco than Rio de Janeiro is, and then only by a few kilometers. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3953 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1358 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462179935 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -9.97267 [fLongitude] => -67.8099 [tLocation] => Plaza Placido de Castro [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140711 ) [5495] => Array ( [iID] => 5495 [tTitle] => Pragmatic and utilitarian [tSlug] => pragmatic-and-utilitarian [iTime] => 1396134000 [iUpdate] => 1396134000 [tDescription] => São Paulo is a pragmatic utilitarian city. More Rotterdam than Rio. Less architecturally interesting, but big on nightlife and the party scene. And expenses. But it's also a generally pleasant city and, definitely, less intimidating than Rio, the city's neighbor some six hours to the east. Large parts of the city sport lots and lots of high quality graffiti, the most and more interesting in the suburb Vila Madalena which, with its hilly streets and many boutique restaurants and cafés feels like more than a hint of San Francisco. The suburb of Liberdade is home to a large group of Japanese Brazilians while in the city park, the few museums are almost outdone by the hordes of skaters showing off their skills under the canopied walkway designed by, who else, Oscar Niemeyer. Nevertheless, São Paulo is often called 'The Beast' for it being sprawling and overwhelming. With no less than 20 million people in its metropolitan area, it's the largest city on the Southern Hemisphere as well as in the Americas. Yet, I thought it surprisingly manageable. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2948 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1301 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461722581 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 20 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.5837 [fLongitude] => -46.6606 [tLocation] => Ibirapuera Park [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140330 ) [5490] => Array ( [iID] => 5490 [tTitle] => Rio transport [tSlug] => rio-transport [iTime] => 1393974000 [iUpdate] => 1393974000 [tDescription] => After several false starts, I managed, after a week, to sign up with Bike Rio, the shared biking system of the city. Not serving the favelas, I first had to take a metro and walk for a while, before I could hook up with a bike at one of the 60 or so stations across southern Rio. It's cool that signing up is not limited to just Cariocas, even if the process is buggy. A bit more annoying is that the accompanying app leaves a lot to be desired. And there are simply not enough bikes and stations to go around. Even on a weekday, it's common having to wait around at a station for a bike to be returned. And signing bikes back in doesn't always work as expected, meaning you might end up with an unexpected extra charge on your credit card. Generally speaking, public transport in Rio is quite slow, crowded, but also pervasive, either government run, or informal. It's difficult to not be able to get from virtually anywhere to virtually anywhere else virtually any time of the day. During carnival, the metro runs 24/7, except on the last night. I ended up stuck, downtown, 30 minutes after the last metro had left. Me and a whole bunch of both tourists and locals. With some 20 kilometers between myself and my bed, I tried the bus network to get home, and failed. The bus network, though frequent and everywhere, is also Byzantine. There does not appear to be a canonical source of information as to which busses go where, and no one seems to have meaningful information on any but the smallest number of routes. Add to that that busses appear to both display their origin and their destination, alternating between the two on electronic displays behind their front window, it becomes quite the hassle to figure out how to get anywhere. The best source seems to be google maps, which fairly accurately gives you public transport routing information, though doesn't always seem to be correct and also seems to leave out the metro when building connections. Still, they must have gotten their data from somewhere. Every Brazilian and every resident has a CPF number, akin to a social security number. In some Brazilian states, a seller can request the CPF of he buyer at every transaction, though this typically only occurs with larger transactions. Related, when booking internal flights or long distance busses online, a CPF is required as well, though not when buying a ticket in person. Then, when boarding my first long distance bus, I was asked for my passport, even though my ticket was not in my name. Why? 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140305 ) [5489] => Array ( [iID] => 5489 [tTitle] => Blocos and carnival [tSlug] => blocos-and-carnival [iTime] => 1393714800 [iUpdate] => 1393714800 [tDescription] => The big party for carnival, in downtown Rio, is quite expensive to watch and attend, from stands overlooking the parade and floats but is the one popular with tourists. Though it's here that the big samba schools show off their moves and inspiration, Cariocas go apeshit, for weeks in advance, at blocos, somewhat informal street parties, if informal means that huge trucks with banks of speakers, called 'trio electronico', blasting everyone's favourite tunes can actually be informal. In the run up to carnival, there are days with many dozens of blocos all over town. Before the celebrations in the Sambodromo, the parade ground designed by Oscar Niemeyer, specifically for the yearly carnival, making my way to the far side of town, the part where the pretty people live, I was ready to attend the bi-weekly Rio hash. No one showed, except for the hare, who had gotten lost setting the trail and came in 30 minutes late. So, instead of running, we went to a bloco, where I learned of what probably is now my favourite local drink, batidas, consisting of vodka, condensed milk and your fruit juice or lemonade of choice. The limao and coconut flavoured ones are deadly. Literally. The hare, in announcing the hash, had added that Oswaldo, at Bar do Oswaldo, was going to run along if he could pull himself away from managing the bar. Knowing Oswaldo must then be a hasher, I asked staff if Oswaldo was in. He wasn't. The hare later told me that Oswaldo had been dead for 10 years. Bar do Oswaldo is famous for its feijoada and samba. Feijoada, originally a slave's dish, are the leftover pork bits, cooked together with beans, like a stew,and served with rice and manioc flower. The origin of these street parties seems a bit hazy. One person told me that ten years ago, these blocos barely existed, implying that they're something of a reaction to the extortionist prices of the main carnival celebrations where, in addition, you can only be a spectator, as opposed to a participant. However, someone else claimed that the big parade is actually the culmination of a long history of blocos. On my first Sunday, I was set to attend a huge bloco, but last minute we refrained from doing so, the Brazilians amongst us, related to my hostel, not feeling comfortable with the huge crowds and, what they felt, were aggressive undertones. Instead, we ended up at a tiny nearby bloco where, in stead of the earlier projected 100000 people, we were part of a group of perhaps 500. Quite a bit of fun, but, more interestingly, also a surprising ethnic break from both our earlier choice and the ethnic makeup of the favela I'm staying in. Here, all participants where of obvious European stock and, indeed, also mostly good looking. Almost annoyingly so. But, the main event, if pricey, is worth attending. Tickets go for as little as 42 USD, though do go up to over 2000 USD. My ticket was on the low end, though not on the big night, but was one of the best seats in the house. I was seated right next to the parades, so close that I could physically touch the participants. During the main event, different samba schools compete with each other for having the best floats and overall show. Typically, a show consists of four elaborate floats, with as many as 40 different 'waves' of participants, dressed in outlandish outfits. The whole show, for each school, embodies a particular theme, which can be something more straightforward like 'mysteries', or something more abstract like 'the history of Lapa' (a district in Rio). Only one school takes to the field at a time, being given 45 minutes to move through the parade grounds. The minor schools compete early on, on the first two days, fighting for a place in the group of top schools, which fight to 'win' carnival on the last day. The biggest challenge with the main parades is that they start around 9pm and can last until 7am the next morning. Synchronicity Later, in Lencois, I spent a day on a tour with, amongst others, a German-Hungarian couple, also on holiday in Brazil. Through an aunt living in Rio, they had managed to get a costume and be part of one of the parades in the Sambadrome, on the same night I attended. Turned out I actually shot a picture of one of them. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3952 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1291 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462185690 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 1 [iImages] => 150 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9098 [fLongitude] => -43.1971 [tLocation] => Sambodromo [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [10] => Array ( [iID] => 10 [tName] => Photography [tSlug] => photography [tDescription] => All my photos worth looking at reside on Flickr. Check out what Flickr thinks are my more interesting products and notice that most of them are of a sexual nature.

Also check out my blog listing the world's photomarathons. [iOrder] => 4 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => thumbnailed [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 0 ) [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140302 ) [5488] => Array ( [iID] => 5488 [tTitle] => On top of the world [tSlug] => on-top-of-the-world [iTime] => 1393023600 [iUpdate] => 1393023600 [tDescription] => Voted one of the modern wonders of the world in 2007, Rio's star attraction is the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Built in the early 1930s, Christ looks out over Rio from atop a 715 meter high boulder and is visible from much of the city. And, because the statue faces sunrise, you have to get there early if you want the best photos. Obviously worth the visit, more for the views than the statue, I suspect that it's Brazil's more recent emerging from the world's nether regions into the global consciousness that resulted in Christo Redentor's elevated status. Though the geology is slightly different, the overall experience is remarkably similar to looking down on Cape Town from atop the Tafelberg. But it's not like the two are really geologically similar. When South America and Africa were joined at the hip. What is now Rio was roughly tied to where you now find the border between Angola and Namibia. Not built for even moderate streams of tourists, it pays to buy your tickets in advance, online. I had to wait nearly two hours, upon arrival, for the first available spot up the mountain in the furnicular. At the statue it's very crowded, the smell of sunscreen is pervasive and every tourist is trying to get the same photo. Hands outstretched, in a copy of the redeemer, but with a smile on their face, as opposed to Christ's solemn expression. But, perhaps, the statue's implication is a bit more ambiguous. From atop Corcovado, it's easy to spot the favelas, the slums, on the city's steep hillsides. Only recently starting to be more properly incorporated in the city's economic infrastructure, perhaps Christ is actually just welcoming everyone into the new Brazil. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2701 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1290 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462169043 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 31 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9516 [fLongitude] => -43.2111 [tLocation] => Christo Redentor [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140222 ) [5487] => Array ( [iID] => 5487 [tTitle] => Brazilian dress sense, and lack of it [tSlug] => brazilian-dress-sense-and-lack-of-it [iTime] => 1392850800 [iUpdate] => 1392850800 [tDescription] => It might be a prerogative of the favela I'm staying in, but it appears that the fabled beauty and dress sense of brazilians is limited to bare chested men and overweight, scantily clad women with big asses. Any time during the day. The national snack seems to be fried dough with sugar or cheese. Or both. Even though there are plenty of public spaces with fitness equipment, both readily used and in good shape, the fried snacks seem to have the upper hand. It does appear that, specifically the women, dress better, that is, show more skin in more flashy outfits, in the evenings, but that's not at all necessarily a good thing. And, tattoos, virtually everyone sports tattoos. Women seem to have a knack for putting an image on their backs, near a shoulder with, I suspect, the name of their kid. But that's just one type of tattoo or many. And some are completely covered. The situation is a bit better in the south of the city. The further south you go, Cariocas, inhabitants of Rio, look and dress better. This goes on until you reach the far south, the legendary beach of Ipanema, where the objective appears to be for each to outshine everyone else's beauty, where you go to see and be seen. The whole southern area feels like a slightly-off Mediterranean tourist destination. Multi story carbon copy apartment buildings (but Art Deco!) with somewhat run down, reasonably authentic and terribly popular restaurants and bars on the ground floor. And, at least a few of these restaurants are properly authentic, Garota de Ipanema, where Jobim and Vinícius composed the Bossa Nova classic The Girl from Ipanema. In fact, outside of the favelas, the city mostly feels decidedly European. Whether it's the Art Deco, occasional art nouveau and neoclassical, or the ethnic makeup of the city's inhabitants, it's not easy to internalize the fact that Europe is many thousands of kilometers away. Also limited to the favelas is the regular sound of fireworks. Not really used much to celebrate joyous occassions, they're deployed by drug dealers and runners to communicate with each other under the noses of the UPP, the Police Pacification Units, who constantly, heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, patrol the streets of the slums that are lucky enough, or not, to have been included in the new Brazil. But, sometimes, the fireworks are really gunshots. Here, in the run up to Carnaval and the prolonged celebration of Brazil being part of the BRICS, and going through a prolonged economic rise, the general mood appears to be decidedly positive, if perhaps also somewhat guarded. Though the latter might be more related to the underlying currents of violence than anything else. But it's the evangelical churches and lotto stores that draw the biggest crowds, anywhere in town. Signs of a still struggling economy. In the Zona Sul, sitting in a cafe, a girl quickly walked past, leaving a small piece of paper on my table with a few roasted nuts on them. Leaving them for what they were, she came back a few minutes later to sell me more of them in a small packet rolled up like an elongated finger. She had been giving out free samples. A note on ethnicity Brazil, and I suppose the big cities in particular, is a surprising cultural and ethnic hodgepodge. Besides the mix of indigenous, Portuguese and black, there is also a large amount of other nations represented in the ethnic makeup of the country. Having been called the most influential Brazilian politician of the 20th century, Getúlio Vargas was also the country's longest serving president, first as dictator, then elected, president for a total of 18 years until his suicide in 1954. Vargas is a typical Hungarian name and, it turns out, Brazil has a population of some 100.000 ethnic Hungarians, although some estimates put it at double that. But, 100.000 is peanuts. German Brazilians make up a grand total of some 12 million, on a population of about 190 million. Not too far behind an estimated 15 million black Brazilians. And Brazil has the largest contingent of Japanese outside of Japan, totalling some 1.5 million. Their immigration was fuelled by the abolishment of slavery in Brazil in 1850 and the end of feudalism in Japan, both resulting in a need for cheap labor and a way out of poverty. A lot of Italians also immigrated around the same time as the Japanese started coming in, and for similar reasons. Their numbers are now at around 4 million. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5247 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1289 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462128830 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9875 [fLongitude] => -43.2007 [tLocation] => Posto 9 [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140220 ) [5486] => Array ( [iID] => 5486 [tTitle] => Buckle up, we're going to Ipanema [tSlug] => buckle-up-were-going-to-ipanema [iTime] => 1392678000 [iUpdate] => 1392678000 [tDescription] => Lonely Planet mentions that the area I'm staying in, Complexo de Alemão, has been recently pacified by Rio's Police Pacification Units, notoriously violent before then. Part of that pacification process was the recent installment of a cable car, with the intention of unlocking access for its inhabitants to the rest of Rio, by connecting it with a nearby transport hub. The cable car is very underutilized, operating at perhaps some 25% capacity and, with Rio's current plan of increasing transport fees, is feeling the pinch of the demonstrations by the Free Fare movement, who advocate not even for a price stabilization, but a complete annihilation of any charge for public transport in Rio. Rio has the fascinating distinction of having been the only city outside Europe to have once been the capital of a European country. Of Portugal, after Napoleon invaded the Iberian peninsula and the royal family relocated to Brazil. And, even after Brazil became independent in 1822, it remained a monarchy for some 60 years, before becoming a republic. With an 8 hour layover in Doha, Qatar Airways was kind enough to provide a reasonably fancy suite in the local Mövenpick. The flight to São Paolo, at nearly 15 hours the longest I've ever taken, while the plane would even continue to Buenos Aires, was surprisingly filled with East Asians. My first impression was them being Chinese, but Brazil, surprise, has the largest contingent of Japanese outside of Japan. There were also a few Portuguese speakers to be found in Doha and on my flight. And, again, the language reminded me of someone trying to speak Spanish with a mouthful of cotton balls. I suppose it shows that Portugal's distance from Rome and its location as a crossroads, more so, it seems, than Romania, has resulted in Portuguese being the most bastardized version of Latin. As a result, I struggle to understand someone speaking Portuguese, though, that said, reading the language is mostly doable. Brazil, like Argentina, had large economic growth in the first half of the 20th century, after a coffee boom saw the city's population rise to an astounding 800 thousand by the year 1900. As a result, the best parts of Carioca (Rio) architecture are constructs by, amongst others, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeijer, as well as an impressive array of Art Deco architecture, including Rio's landmark feature, the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The architectural boom culminated in the creation, from the ground up, of Brasilia, to which Rio lost its status as capital in 1960. Culturally, it appears that Rio is still the city to beat in Brazil. Even though São Paolo is more of a beast, and the largest city in the Americas, Rio, for one, was the cradle of three of Brazil's most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. Of course, Ipanema beach is perhaps the most popular stretch of sand in the country. Getting to my hostel in Rio was a challenge. I had booked through airbnb, but the actual place I booked wasn't available, and I was given alternative space. However, I also wasn't given clear directions on getting there, while the area, at least until recently and probably still in part, was and is known for its drugs related violence. I got my taxi voucher at the airport, but when, in the taxi, I told the driver which area I wanted to go to, he completely freaked out, in Portuguese, and refused to take me. Another taxi driver intervened and, after a good five minutes, we agreed that the area I needed to go to was ok enough for the driver to take me. Except, I didn't know the exact address. And the phone number I had, turned out to be incorrect. So, I was stuck in a potentially dangerous favela, in a taxi, with no idea where to go, at 9:30 in the evening, with a taxi driver who was much more stressed than relaxed. Eventually, it did all work out. I had he address of the place I had originally booked. A motorbike taxi got us there, where the son of the owner, with marginal English, drove me to the hostel I was to stay at. Where, in turn, no staff was present to take me in, one of the other guests showing me around, giving me bedding and whatnot. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2290 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1288 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462156242 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 9 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.8615 [fLongitude] => -43.2743 [tLocation] => Barraco55 [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140218 ) [5485] => Array ( [iID] => 5485 [tTitle] => I suppose this means farewell [tSlug] => i-suppose-this-means-farewell [iTime] => 1392591600 [iUpdate] => 1392591600 [tDescription] => Leaving Uganda permanently, awaiting the start of my planned Chinese course later this year, my first plan was to head over to Mumbai, rent an apartment for a few months and, then, explore the subcontinent. Not so. The Indian foreign ministry has changed their visa application procedures across the board, and though at least at some high commissions, anyone can get a visa for India, the Indian high commission in Uganda (currently?) only hands out visas to Ugandans and foreign residents who’ve been legal residents for at least a year. I was told I had to go to The Hague to get my visa. (Which doesn’t appear to be true, as the Indian high commission in Dar es Salaam appears to accept visa applications from non-residents.) Applying for an Indian visa in Dar would about double my cost for getting to India. Annoyed, I looked around for alternatives, which isn’t too easy, as Entebbe isn’t exactly on the budget airlines network. I considered Istanbul, a lovely city, but really wanted to avoid Europe, and settled on South America. Surprisingly, flying from Entebbe, whether it's to Europe, India or South America, appears cheaper than from most neighbouring airports. Not cheap, just cheaper. So, hello Rio. At last, we will meet. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2777 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1285 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462035945 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 12 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 0.04409 [fLongitude] => 32.4411 [tLocation] => Airport [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140217 ) ) ) Keyword: Rio de Janeiro :: BabakFakhamzadeh.com