Tuesday, 19 October 2004

The Price of Meat

I was reminded last night that Brazillians are not rich in quite an unexpected way. It can be very easy to forget you are in a country with a huge number of poor people here. Everything is clean and works well. For instance, all the places I have been to have streets cleaner than London and generally in as good a state of repair; cars are relatively new; etc. Even the favelas, the shanty towns, are not significantly worse than some parts of London or Manchester and definitely luxurious compared to South African or Indian shanty towns. All in all, you'd be forgiven to sometimes forget you are in a country that doesn't have the same standard of living as Europe. So, last night, I was having a nice meal at the terrace of a small restaurant that involved some very nice pieces of beef at the usual cheap price by European standards. That restaurant was also doing take away and three girls walked in to order some food. They got their food and left but on the way out they walked past my table and made a comment that I did not understand. Seeing my blank look, one of them insisted and I eventually understood that she had said something about how nice the meat I had looked and how she'd like to be able to afford meat. She then asked if she could have a piece because I had a lot of it. Indeed, it was one of those meals that I ended up being unable to finish so I gave her some. The look on her face when she ran away with it was quite telling!

After a few beers to wash the meal down, I went for a walk and ended up finding a night club, one that I remembered was mentionned in the Belo Horizonte guide in the hotel. I went in; and realised it was one of those places where the customers are all male and you can buy your date for the night. This wasn't what I was looking for so I made a quick exit after a couple of (expensive) beers. However, it was quite interesting to see the other side of the wealth coin: well off local lads and foreigners in the process of spending a few hundred pounds on drinks and girls. Back at the hotel, I did check that the place I had just been to was indeed mentionned in the "night club" list. And then, I read the small print that said that "night clubs" as described in the guide were places where the girls were professionals but you had other alternative, see "live music" and "places to dance" sections. That will teach me: when in a foreign country, never assume a word you use at home will have the same meaning, especially when used in translated text.

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