Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Finances and Ficantes

Thanks to Nicole for providing yet ANOTHER amazing picture 

Warning: the theme from most of my conversations this week seems to be finances and ficantes. This post does not pertain to Martial Arts but gives some perspectives on why I spend so much of my time in the gym as opposed to dealing with all of the bulls*%^$ outside of the it!

On finances:
Brazilian work their ass off and get paid very little, while everything in Brazil generally costs 3 times more than its actual price (mainly due to taxes).

And then you wonder why everyone from teachers to the police are protesting the World Cup. An event that will make billions of dollars while using over 32 thousand unpaid Brazilian volunteers.

The topic of overworked, underpaid Brazilians was brought up to me for the first time from at 16 year old kid that lives in my community. He is 16 years old and has been working for over 3 years. Currently, he is trying to save the money to build his own room (our equivalent of a studio apartment). Why would a 16 year old be trying to buy his own place you may ask? Because he is 1 of 11 children, and therefore, was never afforded the luxury of a childhood. He didn’t even get to finish high school. Instead he learned to hustle from a young age, selling chairs and umbrellas on the beach and then moving on to gardening. His average income is about R250 a week (50R per day), which breaks down to be about $125 ($25 per day).

 (Note: rent for a room in the favela will run you around R500 a month)

The problem is that the prices of everything keep going up, especially with the arrival of the World Cup. Bus prices went up 50 cents in the past 9 months (the first 25 cent increase resulted in a protest that gained international attention), metro prices have gone up 30 cents, sugar, bananas, eggs… It’s all going up little by little, but in the end it all adds up, especially for the lower classes. This is what this kid explained to me as we walked up through the community. Not the kind of thing you expect to hear from a 16 year old…

This year hospitals have a budget cut of R216 million, nearly 
5% of their annual budget

So like I said before, Brazilians work their asses off from a young age and get paid very little. This idea was brought up again by another guy from the community on my way home the other night. This particular guy speaks English, trains Jiu Jitsu when he can, works at a nice restaurant, and sells weed occasionally on the side to supplement his income. I’m not sure how much money he makes, but working at a restaurant is a pretty decent job when you consider the alternative of selling chairs or drinks on the beach or hauling loads of building material around the favela (just to be clear favela always implies a lot of hills and steps and working on the beach… well have you ever tried walking around in sand for 8 hours? It sucks).

He works 6 days a week with one Saturday off a month. If you think about it, that’s a lot of work and barely any time off, and it still doesn’t cover the bills. So he sells weed. Now he doesn’t sell weed because he wants to, he sells it because it’s profitable. Profitable is important when prices in Brazil are skyrocketing the closer and closer we get to June and the eminent World Cup. What you can buy in the communities, you can sell to gringos on the street for 4x what it’s worth, making it a very tempting endeavor.

(Note: This is essentially what politicians do in Brazil, due to taxes and other political nonsense, it is literally cheaper to pay someone to fly to the US and buy you a PlayStation 4 and bring it back than it is to buy it here in Brazil).

Actual price + Import taxes + distrubution costs= R4,000
US $1,810 
(Note:you can buy a play4 for $344 on amazon)

BUT, despite the profitability of a small side hustle, you run a high risk, especially if you’re black (those were his words not mine). The last time he got caught by the police, he was taken to the Aropoador (a popular tourist spot on the beach) and beat with clubs for 10 minutes. So, maybe selling drugs isn’t the best way to get food on the table, but it is definitely a viable option for a large portion of under-educated people living with little to no resources in favelas.

Education is also another problem with Brazil, thus the massive amount of teacher lead protests in the last year. Schools in Brazil run for only 4-5 hours a day and that’s only when they actually have classes. Between holidays like Christmas and the carnival and then other added distractions like the protests and World Cup (game days will be holidays in cities were the game is held), kids get very little education in public schools. The kids that live with me, for example, have missed at least 6 random days of school so far this month, not including the random scheduled holidays (we recently celebrated a saint that slays dragons….)

So, if you work your ass off and you don’t get paid, what is a Brazilian to do?
Find a ficante of course.

On ficantes:
Part 1: Seriously kid?
Ficante comes from the verb ficar, which means to stay or remain in Portuguese. A ficante is a person that you stay with, not to be confused with a girlfriend or a boyfriend, this person is just to hang around no strings attached, a friend with benefits if you will. Take said 16 year old. He has a girlfriend and a ficante, however, that didn’t deter him from trying to go out with me as well! Apparently, he saw me with my jiu jitsu teacher, so he decided that the best way to talk to me was to go train (Smart kid. Training is pretty much the only way to talk to me since it’s all I do). After bumming a cigarette off one of his ficantes that we passed on the street, he got right to the point and asked me straight off if he had a chance with me. The answer was no, especially when I found out he was only 16, but that didn’t stop him. The persistence that Brazilian men put into sleeping with women is astounding!

Rejection didn’t make him any less talkative. He spent a good 15 minutes explaining to me how he has some 23 year old, among others, that showers him clothes, cigarettes, and other odds and ends.  He tells her straight up he doesn’t want anything with her except to hang out occasionally, and apparently, they are fine with that. So, these women buy him stuff, and he in return is able to save money to put towards getting his own place. Instead of selling weed, he makes ends meet by… well I guess he is pretty much sleeping around isn’t he? He has a somewhat justifiable excuse for his whoreish actions I guess.

On ficantes:
Part 2: Gastoso V Gostoso
Now the idea of the gastoso V gosotos delves a little further into the complexities of the Brazilian relationship, dividing the idea of the ficante into two subgroups. The first, the gastoso, comes from the verb “gastar” which means to spend. Now you can spend a lot of things, like time and energy, but in this case, we are referring to the spending of large quantities of money. The gastoso is a person(s) that one acquires for things like getting your hair and nails did; someone that pays the bills and puts food on the table. Moving on. Gostoso comes from the verb “gostar” or “to like”. Literally translated it means “tasty”. Figuratively translated… well you see where I’m going with that right? Right. In the previous case of the 16 year old he was in search of a gastosa in order to gain a little bit of financial security, but that economics can’t be the only reason that people seek out relationships, thus the gostosos.

Take for example a charming Casanova that I trained with that also used to hit on me. He apparently really liked me but would never actually talk to me in person (which is weird). His main line of attack via Facebook because, seriously, nothing is more romantic than love via social media. The problem with that was that one look through his pictures made it evident that he was living with his child and baby’s mama. And it wasn’t really his baby’s mama, it was his current girlfriend… who lived with him. So, he would send me messages about hooking up and I would just be looking at his girlfriend and him in his profile picture and laughing my ass off to myself at home.  At the time I thought he was crazy, but now thanks to the wisdom laid down on my from this 16 year old, I now know that he was just hunting for a ficante (tipo gostoso) to supplement his love life.

Residents of Jacarezinho protest the World Cup

So to summarize:
If you’re looking to make a living in Brazil, you are probably screwed.

If you’re planning on coming to the World Cup in Brazil, you are probably screwed.

If you’re looking for love in Brazil, you are DEFEINITLY screwed.

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