Posts Tagged ‘Zika’

Don’t believe the Zika hype

Author: Robin Browne

After the Rio Olympics, what’s the first thing you think of when you think of Brazil? I bet it’s the Zika virus.

If you believe the media reports, you’d think there are swarms of Zika laden mosquitos roaming the streets of Rio looking for pregnant women to feast on. And if you’re not a pregnant woman you’d still be nervous.

Well, what if I told you that no one has screens on their windows in Rio? Oh, and there are no mosquitos now anyway because it’s  winter. And, even if it was summer, there’s almost no chance of getting Zika in the city…

Well, that’s what our Brazilian contacts in Rio are telling us (two independent contacts).

Could this be part of the reason why study after study shows people trust “people like them” more than the media? And why the mainstream media continues to struggle? (Maybe if they stop blaming the Internet and return to the good old days of reporting actual facts, people might give them another try).

Now I’m starting to question the other big stories coming out of Brazil via mainstream media, like the shitty water story. This literally means “water full of shit” because Rio pumps its raw sewage into the water like many places do. However, on this one, one of our contacts confirmed that the bay next to where we’re staying in a part of Rio called Flamengo, is one of the places mentioned in the shitty water stories and he says, “You don’t want that water to even touch your skin.”

So, it seems the media got that one right.

It’s said that travel is one of the best forms of education. I agree and that’s part of the reason I’m taking my family to the Rio Olympics.

However, travel brings with it risks that most classroom education does not: the chance of personal injury. This is especially true in Rio. From the Zika virus to violent daytime muggings (see “Security”) to advanced cyber crime, there are many ways to get hurt in Rio – physically or financially. Add to this, the fact that an African American contact from Brooklyn, now living in Rio, says the treatment and status of blacks in Brazil is worse than in the US, and you’ve got a place where we’ll have to watch our black behinds.

So what does all this have to do with social ed? Well, it turns out that doing what we normally do when we travel internationally – putting our phones in Airplane mode the whole trip to avoid unintentional roaming fees – won’t work in Brazil. Here’s why:

Communicating

Wazup Whatsapp? We’ve been told the best way to communicate in Rio is with the super popular, free instant messaging app, Whatsapp. We’ve already been using it to get invaluable intel from our contacts there in text, photo, audio and video form.

Desculpa. Nós não falam Português! We don’t speak Portuguese and most Brazilians don’t speak English (in fact, 3/4 of Brazilians are functionally illiterate according to our Rio contact). However, there will be no little phrase book with dog eared pages for us. We’ll use Google Translate! We’ll type in our question then show the translation on our phone to the person we’re asking – or play them the audio if they can’t read. (We’ll have to be as discreet as possible with this as showing our phones off in public is likely to attract banditos).

Travel

Ubertouristos – We’re staying a little ways outside Rio because it’s cheaper – and we thought: no problem, we’ll just rent a car. Well, it is a problem. Our contact strongly advised against it saying that, in all the years he’s been in Rio, he’s rented a car twice – and they were two of the most stressful things he has ever done in his life. He told us to use Uber instead. So, Uber it is, right from when we arrive.

Accommodation

To Air is Human – We’ll be using Airb&b for the first time and our phones will be the main way we connect with our hosts, whether it’s with Whatsapp, the Airb&b app, or just regular old email and phone calls.

So, I have one more thing to add to our Brazil “To Buy” list: cell phone covers that make our phones look as ugly as possible.