Brazil can breathe a great sigh of relief. Disaster has been averted. Despite the predictions that Rio de Janeiro was unprepared and with many expecting the Olympic Games to be an embarrassment, Rio 2016 has just about delivered. Sure, it was a little rough around the edges, with some accommodation not quite up to scratch and a few visitors finding themselves the victims of petty crime. But that raw, fresh Olympic experience was the main reason for bringing the games to South America: to give a continent of sport-loving people access to the world’s biggest sporting event.
Once an important mining hub, now a relic of Portuguese colonialism, the city of Ouro Preto is nestled proudly between mountains in what was once known as the ‘Vila Rica’. This gorgeous town, famed for it’s quaint cobbled streets and Baroque architecture, went from being the centre of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th century to a small town that relies mainly on tourism. Meaning ‘Black Gold’, Ouro Preto was the state capital of Minas Gerais until 1897, before industrialisation and development saw Belo Horizonte take over.
The World Cup is well and truly over. Brazil is once again shrouded in South American mystery, no more than a country of stereotypes that the World Cup has only enhanced. Despite countless protests brought about by high government spending on the tournament, it would seem that Brazil’s beaches, carnaval culture and football-crazy inhabitants still capture our imagination. Although, on second thoughts, that last one has taken a bit of a beating. Losing 7-1 is bad at the best of times, but in a World Cup semi final, at home, for a nation that unhesitatingly proclaims itself as the greatest of all time, it is an unimaginable embarrassment; the ultimate humiliation.
Latin America has a bad reputation for violence. Many people consider Brazil a dangerous place. But I wonder whether this label is just. Is Brazil as violent and dangerous as people say?
One question that seems to come up every time I go anywhere in the world is: ‘did you feel safe there?’ It can be difficult to answer because it is often when you let your guard down that bad things can happen. Even the world’s ‘safest’ cities have their dangerous spots, where any number of things can go wrong. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but it is true. That said, there are a few places that I have felt a little uneasy and I suppose that Rio de Janeiro would make it on this list.
There’s no denying that my degree is unusual. The combination of languages is a strange one, which usually evokes a surprised or confused reaction. Of the languages offered at Bristol, I couldn’t have chosen two that contrast more. Russian, with its Slavic roots, aspectual verb pairs and approximately 57 different words meaning ‘to go’, has very few similarities with Portuguese, a plethora of subjunctive constructions and complex tenses.