Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This has been a public service announcement**

I have been raving about the beauty of Rio, the rolling hills, the cliffs and water crashing upon its shores and I suppose I have a bit of 'splainin to do about the other side. (Not the favelas. I am itching to write about them but this is more along the lines to anyone who may be reading this saying "Wow Aisha describes Rio as heaven upon earth and I am booking tickets tomorrow!") Well please refer to expression at left. Still smiling as not to scare you (it really is pretty. It really is fun. It really has fantastic mangos) but just gotta discuss a little about the safety thing. I waited till after I returned to write about since loved ones read this blog and I wouldn't want to frighten them while I was still there.

The Theft Thing. Theft and violence is a reality in Rio. Two people in my class had their passports stolen out of their rooms by maids who came in to clean. If you dont have a safe in your place to store your valuables go without the maid service. My American Express Card was stolen but it was sort of my own fault as I left it next to the computer and walked away to get a drink of water. When I turned around it was gone. I found out that its a big business to steal cards and then sell them. Doesnt make a great deal of sense to me because as soon as I realized it was gone I cancelled it. Dont most people do that? Incidentially it was quite funny when talking to AmEx: Amex:"We can overnight you a new card to our office in Rio" Me: no, thats okay just send it to Georgia" AmEx:"No we can send them to Rio!!" Me: No really its okay my husband is coming next week and I dont need the card. AmEx: "Oh that's fabulous we will overnight it to your house and your husband can bring it to you" Hmmmm this all left me wondering, exactly why is Amex sooo eager to get the card back to me. Me thinks I should think about my spending habits! :)

The mugging
. When you're in a city for a week and get your bearings you begin to feel comfortable. You can't forget you are still a tourist. One student was walking back from the internet cafe with groceries not too late in the evening and was followed home and assaulted and suffered a bruised eye and a mild concussion. One thing is that you see other people around and get a false sense of security that you are safe. Most people really wont go out of their way to prevent an assault on another. Especially when you know the one assaulting is likely armed.

The shooting.
last Wednesday a few classmates an my professor went to take a tour of a law firm in Botofogo a ritzy part of Rio with a beautiful beach across the street from the firm. One guy and girl from the program decided to take a few minutes to cross the street to take a picture of the beach. As they stood on the median between the beach and the firm two armed men, one on a bike holding a pistol and one on foot began circling them demanding cell phones. As the students walked away they began firing and one of the bullets went through one of the students ankle clean through. Its one thing to hear about a shooting. Another to see the hole in the ankle that the bullet left and the expression of the person shot... The story made headline news in Brasil and even internationally because the location of the shooting was very unusual. Everyone says these things can happen in Atlanta or any other major city. While I know that is true I cant help but feel a chill at the coicidence at all the "this could happen anywhere" happening dead smack in Rio.

The corrupt cops. So I went out with friends to Lapa which is supposed to have nice restaurants and cafes but upon arriving I quickly saw that it was really just clubs and bars and public drunkneness so me and a friend decided to book it and took a cab back. Alhamdullilah we got back okay but that same night two cabs with four students in each cab were pulled over by police supposedly searching for drugs. They forced them out of their cars and went through their things and physically searched them. They let them go but not before taking $200 from a girls purse. Our professor discussed with us to be careful after the incident because apparently cops have been known to plant drugs. Sometimes the cops need to be feared more because their shady practices can have legal implications on your liberty.

In conclusion Rio is a gorgeous city and it is worth a trip if you were thinking about it. You just have to keep both eyes open and follow common sense and not go to the beach after dark or any place with less people. Just safer. Though to be honest Kashif and I often went to the beach at night but we always made sure there were other people like a group of volleyball or soccer players out and that the area was very well lit. I dont mean to scare anyone but since I'm relayingbmy experiences I should share both the good and bad. Thought I'd get the bad out now.

** As an interesting sidenote I have heard a lot of crime stories that happened to people in Rio. A LOT from everyone to my flight attendant to professors but every last one happened to men. Its interesting because for some reason at least I always thought okay if there's a guy along with the group we'll be safe but they seem to go after men more than women. Proffesor was saying that the culture encourages working for your money. Stealing from a man is like you "earned" it.

33 comments:

koonj said...

is that you? you're so pretty mashaallah

Maleeha said...

looking good gorgeous :) and thanks for sharing! i have this romanticized notions of being a tourist. thanks for the reality check.

Sobia said...

Mashallah, you pretty girl! I'm glad you are back though ha ha...I can't wait to see your pics he he :)

Sohnii said...

Ayesha!
That was scary! lol, not ur pic, u are cute!
the rio safety scene is scary. glad u made it thru enjoying the vacations and all. cheers!

Huda said...

You know, I think it's a good thing you didn't post all that before if your parents read your blog. That's some scary stuff!

Aisha said...

Koonj aw thanks :) Thats me at the end of an EIGHT hour tour of Rio. That smile is one attempting it but utterly exhausted for a full out grin :)

Maleeha yeah a lot of people in Rio did. You just see the good and pretty as a tourist. It helped me that I also saw the rougher parts as part of my program.. 1/3 of the population lives in slums... the effects of that often show up in crime bred by desperation.

Sobia yes that's next! I cant wait to do the slideshow thing you did.

Sohnii thanks :) btw Sohnii I can never access your site anymore?

Huda yes it was hard to refrain particularly on the day that it happened but I knew if I wrote about "Today my Am Ex was stolen.. Today my classmate got shot.." my parents wouldnt sleep a wink.

Zehra! said...

good to know that you are back safely, aisha. sorry, i haven't commented much lately but i have been reading all your interesting posts and envying you at the same time. :) plus, koonj is right; you are very pretty, mashallah.

Tee said...

I love the photo :) It's always nice to see your pretty face :)

Thanks for sharing the not so happy side of Rio. I think that it's important as a travel writer to give potential visitors all relevant information.

Some very scary stuff. I'm glad that your negative experiences were kept to a minimum. Amex's response was quite funny (and typical of a credit card company!) Boy, do they ever bend over backwards to get you a new card but if you ask them if you can pay just one day late they are nearly inflexible.

mezba said...

Wow.. the shooting thing on ankle is scary. I guess I did get used to the threat of being in an unsafe place when visiting back home in desiland but atleast you know the language.

We were supposed to go somewhere for vacation next year. Brazil is definitely out now. Europe it will be I guess.

wayfarer said...

Wow, that's some scary stuff! I'm glad nothing bad happened to you though. Why do cops plant drugs? Just to mess with someone? What do they get out of it? Very strange! Glad you are home. Can't wait to see you!

Aisha said...

Zehra thank you! :) I clicked on your profile but you dont have a blog?

Tee, aww thanks :) Yeah their eagerness to send me a new card threw me off. First I was like wow they are so nice to their customers. Then I said... waaaait a minute! lol

Mezba I dont mean to scare you off from all of Brasil. We went to Paratay and Buzios and other places outside of Rio and we were walking around at 1 in the morning without fear. Rio is a big city. Its like New York City or any other big city. I think that considering there were 75 of us on the trip we stuck out so were more likely targets. I would hate that anyone would read this and not visit Brasil because it is absolutely stunning and like I said it changed me. I would hate to turn anyone off because Rio happens to be violent. Most of the violence btw can be avoided by using common sense and not swinging cameras or other things.

Wayfarer I dont know why cops plant drugs! I plan to do some research on it b/c it just can't be simply b/c they get kicks out of it. (I HOPE). My folks are coming into town today and Monday I start work but hopefully one weekend soon we can all meet.

Anonymous said...

sounds scary. I am glad you are okay.

Amani said...

"Stealing from a man is like you 'earned' it." I had to laugh at that one. I wonder if it has something to do with a respect for women thing...

Zehra! said...

yes, i don't have a blog. *sniff sniff* the only reason why i created an account was so that i could comment on other people's blogs. maybe, it's about time i start one of my own.

Enyur said...

Mash'allah nice pic!! Is your hair naturally wavey? And thanks for sharing the 'other' side of Brazil. That kind of reminds me of Pakistan. When I went to live there for two years. Not far from our home, this one woman was walking to the market wearing HEAVY gold bangles (you know how desi gold is!) anyway, these two guys on a motorbike sped up to her and literally chopped off her arm in broad daylight, just to get the bangles off!!! I was so scared of walking by that area after that!

I guess when you know you'll most likely get away with the crime, you have no fear. Most of these low life's will go for the middle class people because they know the 'corrupt' police does not have time to listen to them. Whereas if they go after the 'upper class', they'll get booked.

I'm so glad I'm here in North America. I mean scary things happen here as well, but at least you know there's justice right?

Anyway, glad to hear you're safe!

Aisha said...

Anon thanks :)

Enyur my hair is naturally wavy but this picture is taken after a very long tiring day around a lot of mist which unstraightened my carefully ironed out hair. That is absolutely horrifying the story of the bangles. You are right it makes you grateful to live in North America. Canada from what I hear is very safe. Am I right

Amani, I dont know. I guess the sexist notion that he won it from the man fair and square. Though if one is armed and one isn't I dont see how its fair and square. But who is to rationalize with them.

Zehra well if you ever decide to start one please let me know so I can read :)

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry but i can't even read this blog entry because i'm so struck by the fact that desi girls are so beautiful. (i'm a desi girl too, so maybe i'm complimenting both of us!) thank you god for the great genes!

Sohnii said...

HUh :O really?

www.runwildnfree.blogspot.com

or try it thru www.anonymouse.org

Amanda said...

Aisha - glad you are back! I have enjoyed reading about Rio. It was particularly interesting to hear about the crime. My BF (now fiance, yay!:)) might have to travel for South America for work. I had been thinking about going with him, at least to visit. He has heard a lot about the crime, but hearing it from you makes it seem more real. If I do end up going down there I will definitely want to talk to you first.

Mia said...

Sounds like a day in The Bronx. I kid, I kid! I'm glad that you are home safe and sound and I am sure AmEx is throwing their own fiesta as well. So let me ask you if some one had told you about this in advance would you still have gone?

Aisha said...

Anon, haha :) I think there is beauty in all races but yes desis are pretty too :)

Sohnii, thanksi'll bookmark that! :)

Amanda you should definetly go! but yeah just be careful like you would even in downtown ATL. (CONGRATS on getting ENGAGED!!! that's fantastic! We all should get together before classes start)

Mia, lol, you know whats funny, the proff kept saying "this is just as dangerous as NYC.." lol.. hm that should make us feel better? Yeah lol, AmEx kind of made me think twice about using them. Go figure. You raise a very very good question Mia. I have pondered whether I'd go again too and to be quite honest if i'd heard all this before I went i would not have gone, BUT I am SOOOOO incredibly grateful that it didnit happen before and that I went. I feel I would have missed out on something great if I hadn't.

mystic-soul said...

aisha - left you an email

Raheel said...

lolz!! the cellphone stealing thing is so common in Karachi. Everywhere you see bikers who have pistols in their hands and rob the cellphones off people. Some do it for money and some for mere thrill.

Chic Mommy said...

you're really pretty! sorry about what happened to you, but think of it as a sadqa. At least you arrived home in one piece unharmed. I get robbed in Pakistan each and every time by the servants. The servants think because we're from America we have wads of cash and won't notice a few things missing. One servant even went so far as to steal my salwar kameez and wear it the next day to mop the floors, she was a dumb thief.

Aisha said...

Mystic, got it

Raheel, really?!! I guess some things are universal. How sad though :(

Chic, did you confront her when she wore it in front of you?!?! Did she think you owned SO many you wouldn't notice. WOW.

momyblogR said...

What a young, natural beauty you are. Great picture.

It's amazing a place that is filled with such beautiful things is also filled with so much sadness.

I'm glad you came away from your experience unharmed. How great of you to not post these things until your return for the sake of your loved ones.

Although there was the danger factor, just listening to the bits you've shared, it sounds like you have gained so much by going.

Chic Mommy said...

Actually Aisha, I felt bad for her but told my Khala the maid is wearing my clothes, what should I do, should I just let her have the suit? My khala said absolutely not and fired her, but I let the maid keep the suit. I don't want to sound like a snob, but I just didn't want it back after she had worn it. it just felt icky.

the servants there don't steal from the owners of the home, but sometimes they do steal from guests (not all, only a few). they don't realize I'm one of those people who packs light for trips to Pakistan because anything more and I will lose track of what I brought with me, but I always know exactly how much cash I spend each day and what clothes I brought. Now we buypass cash altogether and use Amex Traveler's Checks. I take it in denominations of $50 so I don't cash too many rupees at once. and if those get stolen, I don't owe a dime. Amex replaces them for free. You live and learn.

ASH said...

As soon as you leave the US you learn that the safety net that this society affords you does not exist in other places. You become so used to it that you assume it is always there.

Incidents like this happened in Africa when I was there as well. I even saw a man killed right in front of me (something I don't talk about much). It can be exciting knowing that you are experiencing life completely raw.....but it can be scary if you aren't paying attention.

Baji said...

Wow, that is scary. Yes violence happens everywhere, but this was just too much in such a short period of time. Welcome Home! Great pic, too!

say what? said...

lol @ AMEX :D

AH!! Third world countries!!

Rio seems like South African cities. Anything left outside will be stolen so fast, you will have to think for a minute if you forgot to bring it with you.

phew!

say what? said...

Hey, you left a comment on my blog about fat people. What worries you have about that :D you are pretty :D :P

Zak said...

isn't botofoga a dance?

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