Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hometown Pride: Dispatch from Rio

From special correspondent Cassandra Kennedy, on location in Brazil:

All is fab here. I managed to get hammered and make tons of friends within 4 hours of arriving. Gotta love it! The corner bar (site of this initial revelry) just happens to be a little hangout for hookers very late at night when (their) business is slow. Sounds dodgy but they are pretty cool.
They have an ``interesting`` outlook on life as you can imagine. So I just had to pop in and relay this little tidbit - I thought you´d get a kick out of it. I was chatting with this hooker (Esmerelda) and 2 guys - all were from the Brazilian countryside and bitching about how violent it is here and how they´re sick of it in Rio. She pulls her shirt down and shows me this scar on her boob and says it was from getting stabbed during a mugging. Oi! I said it´s really violent where I live, too - in some areas. She asked if I knew where Philadelphia was and I said I lived pretty nearby.
Then she freaked out and was telling the guys in Portuguese ``oh my god - you guys would not believe Philadelphia life. It´s the only place worse than Rio. It´s like crazy shootings and super rough. The cops will just shoot you down, too. Wow! Wow!``

And then after that, it was like I had street cred with them. Too funny. None of them have ever been outside of Brazil but they have certainly heard all about Philly. Just thought you should know and be proud:)

I should say that our time here has not been crazy violent or dangerous - more like paradise! Miss you girls...


Editor's note: Clearly, Ms. Kennedy leads a far more interesting existence than most mortals.

Monday, September 5, 2005

New Orleans

It really is frustrating what's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi.

At work, we usually only deal with international crises, because normally the needs of a domestic crisis and one in a developing country are unique. But now many of our member organizations who normally only deal with international issues, especially refugees, are being called upon for their advice, since most domestic aid outfits don't know how to deal with third-world conditions and massive amounts of displaced people.

I'm at a loss as to how it got so bad. The tsunami affected thirteen countries on two continents, displacing people in rural, poverty-stricken areas with no pre-existing infrastructure, and people were able to be fed, administered to, and sheltered. The United States of America can't get people out of a sports arena. I normally cringe when people make comparisons to crises such as Darfur, but the situation in the Superdome and the New Orleans convention center is dishearteningly similar to that taking place in IDP camps in Sudan. After 9/11, so much money was invested in making sure we were prepared for disasters, and it seems like the only thing that was accomplished was was the creation of an even bigger beuraucracy that made us even more poorly equipped to respond to an emergency.

The worst thing for me is that this was not an unforeseen event. The tsunami caught everyone by surprise. 9/11 caught us unawares. But the idea of a monster hurricane devastating New Orleans was something that had been predicted and studied. It's carelessness and petty politics that have made things as bad as they are, and we should be embarrassed. And with donations being offered from the UN and tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka, I think we may need to be a lot more humble in our foreign relations as well.