It’s all very Hollywood in Belo Horizonte

My wife once said to me, there is no need to rent out DVD’s, that there’s enough action on the streets of Brazil to keep you enthralled.  “É mesmo”, really, I said. She mentioned this just after I stepped off the plane, after having made a rather big decision to leave my job, friends, family, city, country, and continent (all for love of course). It probably wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say at that time.  And as we drove away, I remember looking back at the airport with puppy eyes, clawing at the window. It was too late, there was no going back, and she had already locked the doors.

One year after that delightful welcome to Brazil. I had reason to doubt my beloved. My wife like all of you ‘Beloirinas’ uses her car to go the corner shop, and thus does not see what is ‘really’ going on here in Bh. I do. I choose to walk everywhere, because in my eyes, it’s a way to keep fit, and get to know that city, (and deus meu, the culture of car use here in Belo is simply disgusting, one less car can make a difference).  I swear it’s nothing to do with not being able to drive, or having no money to buy a car. I swear. People, I’m from the 1st world, don’t fool yourselves. Anyway, my point is that I see on a daily basis, through my meandering walks / hill climbs, the veins and arteries that form the capital of Minas Gerais.

Belo Horizonte is a conservative city, we go to the gym, we eat our pão de queijo, our beans and rice, watch football, visit Mercado Central, and finish off the day’s events with a Brahma or 10. All very ordinary. It can’t be compared to the ‘lively’ streets of Rio de Janeiro for example, where there, it’s just like watching all the ‘Die Hard’ and the ‘Mad Max’ movies together, back to back, and non-stop. For god’s sake, there, they shoot helicopters down for breakfast t. Here in BH, the most exciting thing that happens is when Cruzero football team wins a match (and that doesn’t happen a lot!). Well, today children, I was proved very wrong. At the early hour of 10pm, there was a bomb disposal unit on Prudente Morais!

I was going from class to class, and on a Friday, this entails a walk from Anchieta to São Bento, from there to Lourdes, and then back to Anchieta. I choose to do this. Save the environment and all that. Heading towards Lourdes, I noticed that the roads seemed kind of empty. This alone is cause for concern as every single person in BH has a car for themselves, and therefore empty roads mean something is amiss. I then came upon the reason for this phenomenon. The first thing I seen was police tape blocking off the 2 sides of the street, controlling the new border was a tall police officer with a very large gun. “Very Rambo”, I thought to myself. Well, in fairness, I wasn’t going to shout it at him was I?

I am from Dublin, and so seeing guns on show like this, would mean you’re a watching a movie. Here I’ve seen a police car, driving formula 1 style, with 8 coppers inside. One of the them had in his hand a machinegun-like weapon hanging out off the window!. But actually the weirdest thing about it wasn’t the gun, but the fact they were driving a Fiat Mille….I didn’t know whether to laugh or shit myself . In fairness when you have 8 police officers squeezed in to a Mille like a pack of sardines, I suppose the best place for such a weapon is probably outside of the car.

Anyways, there were police everywhere, and traffic had been closed off for a km radius it seemed (you see folks, if I was driving, I would have missed this!). Everyone had stopped to look at the goings on, mobile cameras were out, and there was plenty of “nossa senhora”, “que e isso gente?”, e “que que foi?” going on, which in Dublin lingo roughly translates to “Jaysus, what’s the story here lads?”.

Now, if you have seen the oscar winning movie “Hurt locker”, you will remember the guy whose job it was to disarm the explosives. Well there beside a police fan, on Prudente Morais, BH, was one of these guys wearing the same huge suit. Well, either that, or he was dressed up as Robbie the Robot from “Lost in Space”. He had just been suited up and was presently walking Robbie the Robot style-like towards a small park like area!

Gente, I …was….in…..shocke, shocke!.  I backed away and like a girl, immediately rang my wife and told her the gossip. She quickly told everyone in the office. All very ‘Sex in the City’ like. The thing is I can’t even prove it to you, as I was so amazed at what was going on 50 feet in front of me, that I didn’t take a photo. Well, to be fair, I didn’t really have time to be hanging around. The multitude of shouting policemen were ushering me on.

I arrived at my students office, and before he opened his gob I quickly told him what I had just witnessed. He like me, was flabbergasted. Never before had he heard of such goings on in Belo. He then proceeded to tell me (by interrupting me as this particular student always does..cheek!) that only last week, he was driving on a main street at 8am, and flying through the air toward his windscreen came a rather large brick. He had to swerve to avoid it. It had been thrown from the overhead pass by some kids from the near-by favela. Well, if he had used public transport, this wouldn’t have happened, I thought to myself.  According to a local there, the idea is, after you pull over and while you sit there having a nervous breakdown about being nearly killed, the little feckers come and rob you. We use to have this problem in Ireland, but they were only small stones, not large rocks, and there they were just doing it for fun. Here they do it to rob you!, much more inventive.

So there you go girls and boys, it seems my wife was right, your really don’t need to go to the cinema or waste money on copied DVD’s.  Terrorist activity and the roman sport of rock catapulting has come to BH. What’s the moral of the story?, leave your cars at home, you’re missing all the action, and it might just save your life!.

4 Responses to “It’s all very Hollywood in Belo Horizonte”
  1. karine smith says:

    Your blog is pretty good !

    I’m the way around…a brazilian…married to an irishman…living in Dublin…


  2. Rodrigo says:

    Man… LOL on your text!!!! Specially at the ” 8 police officers squeezed in to a Mille like a pack of sardines”… so so so funny!
    But, I don’t if this is a good or a bad thing, there in Belo Horizonte (my hometown, actually) you get the lightest “hollywood feeling” of all big brazilian cities. I live in Rio de Janeiro for about 6 years, and see some police guys with their guns outside the car is very common, unfortunately. Actually, if you see the police guys, and not the drug dealers, you can say you have fortune. OK, it’s not every single day…. I don’t want to scare you!!! But it’s not rare, this is true, and for sure it’s certainly too much different from what you had in Dublin.
    Well, despite everything above… Come to visit Rio, it’s a wonderfull city, it’s landscapes are quite nice, it really worth the trip. And, then, come back to the best “big” city in Brazil, Belo Horizonte, and keep enjoying the bars, fresh air and, specially, the people. I can guarantee that “Belzonte” is the best among the biggest cities in Brazil.
    See ya!

  3. karine smith says:

    I just found out your blog last night…and I’m a Brazilian girl (with pearls) married to an irishman…living in Dublin…

    I love your blog…

    Kepping up with the good work here!


  4. Carol says:

    I had discovered your blog by Beca’s indication and I laught a lot here!! =)

    Are you an english teacher? If yes please email me

    My husband and I need to get some classes before to go to NY (to do an intensive english course there) in November! And we want a native english teacher to help us.

    Thanks a lot.

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