Notes from the TEFL Graveyard

Wistful reflections, petty glories.

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Location: The House of Usher, Brazil

I'm a flailing TEFL teacher who entered the profession over a decade ago to kill some time whilst I tried to find out what I really wanted to do. I like trying to write comedy (I once got to the semi-finals of a BBC Talent competition, ironically writing a sitcom based on TEFL), whilst trying to conquer genetically inherited procrastination... I am now based in Brazil, where I live with my wife and two chins.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Well-meaning folk know that schadenfreude, the taking of delight in others’ misfortune, is neither big nor clever – it is an invention of Germans with low self-esteem who wish to make themselves feel better. But I simply had to share what follows, due to it being the extraordinary masterwork of an apparently pinga-addled mind.

I have recently been asked by a company in São Paulo to give prospective Portuguese-English translators a mark out of ten based on a test they complete and email to the company. Normally their attempts are marred by tell-tale Brazilian mistakes - misuse of prepositions, making adjectives plural, using “of” all the time instead of the possessive apostrophe, etc. (I am exacting, the Judge Dredd of bilinguistics).

Then, one day I received the following. By the end of the first sentence I usually know whether it’s worth continuing, but this chap’s attempt took things to a whole new level. He starts, presumably soberish, making a few errors in the first few lines, then just loses it completely – it turns into the jottings of a madman. It’s the kind of text you might expect to find scrawled on the wall next to the bath in a lunatic asylum, punctuation everywhere but where it should be, the random use of capital letters, the skew-whiff syntax the grammatical equivalent of pissing in the wind.

By the final paragraph he’s clearly cracking open his second bottle of 51, throwing his future into the lap of the gods and inventing his own technical terms (or is “punseazoned” really a word?)

So, here it is. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read it – there’s something deeply tragi-comic about somebody with this level of English seriously expecting to be employed as a translator.

Anyway, bottoms up!

“Prepare to know a company which 33 years have been transforming energy with high quality products. Located, at city of [city], in the northwestern zone´s São Paulo state, the [company name] take an area. Of 14 thousand square meters, being 12 thousand meters already constructed. Has today your name recognized in whole Brazil, in several countries of Latin America, Central America and Africa.

“Graces to constants investments in equipments of last generation, the [company name] is the Leader in the market of Monophasic Transformers Revolving Nuclear and Pilled up, arranging one of the most sophisticated and moderns to process of Production, besides of continuing improving of knowledge of their engineers, Technicians and collaborators to the manufacture of their products and the dedicate Ton and engaging of all team in produce products with quality.

“Like this transformers, the tension regulators, are also knower to the consumer Market like of excellent quality, of simple installation and robust construction, Could be using as much as in the city of substations, in any extremity of an electric distribution system, as much as in a entering substation for an specific Consumer.

“Also can be used utilized in radiation nets or in rings, that provides a system of detection and automatic operation and for the inverse power fluxion, having like Exclusive characteristics: the control with three profiles of independent punseazoned Need power to direct fluxion and one to the direct fluxion”

Friday, 22 February 2008


If there’s one thing Brazilians are outright world leaders at, it’s naming their offspring. There’s little you can do except get down on your knees in rapture and pay homage to the laissez-faire attitude with which they apply themselves to the often predictable act of christening their young.

On my travels I have identified three broad categories of name giving, being: (1) the perverted surname as first name - Washington, Wellington, Nelson, Anderson, etc, (2) the bastardised famous name - Adolpho Hitler de Oliveira, Charles Chaplin Ribeiro, Elvis Presley da Silva, Hericlapiton da Silva, Ludwig van Beethoven Silva, Maicon Jakisson de Oliveira, Marili Monrói, Marlon Brando Benedito da Silva, Sherlock Holmes da Silva, and (3) the totally made up name - Oderfla (read it backwards to discover her father’s name), Vanderju (presumably a combination of Vanderson and Juliana), Fridundino Eulâmpio, Rocambole Simionato (Meatloaf Simoniato) and Letsgo Daqui (yes, that really is “let's go”, with Daqui meaning “from here”).

When I worked in the metallurgical factory one of the jobs my colleagues least relished was opening the hundreds of envelopes containing CVs that had arrived by post or had been delivered by hand the previous day. For me, it was the highlight of my morning. I found locally a Kekerosberg Guimarães, a Michael Jackson de Oliveira Pinto and the truly blessed Raylander Ribeiro Vicentini (“R” at the beginning of a Brazilian word sounds like an English “H”, with “ay” sounding like “aye” – thus the couple in question had effectively named their son and heir “Highlander Ribeiro Vicentini”, presumably moments before being relieved of custody of him by the local authorities).

One of the several moments when I got into hot water with my boss was when he told me to call Edmilson Sanchez Carvalho for an interview. I found his CV, called him, he participated in the selection process and was eventually employed. Only then did my boss berate me for calling the wrong man – there were two brothers, Edmilson and Ednilson, and I’d called the latter instead of the former. It proved a wise move by his parents to just change one letter in their names, as we were then obliged to call the correct sibling and employ him too. Quite the visionaries.

One of Show’s friends works in a bank. One day he was talking to a customer about a loan and he couldn’t understand the man’s Christian name. When he asked him to fill out the paperwork, the fog lifted – he was, of course, Waltdisney Novaes (pronounced "Valdiznay").

Here are a few of my other favourites, with a translation where appropriate:

Disney Chaplin Milhomem de Souza

Ernesto Segundo da Família Lima (Ernest Second in the Family Lima)

Chevrolet da Silva Ford

Caius Marcius Africanus

Bispo de Paris (Bishop of Paris)

Barrigudinha Seleida (Tubby Seleida)

Bizarro Assada (Bizarre Roast)

Antônio Querido Fracasso (Anthony Dear Failure)

Aeronauta Barata (Airman Cockroach)

Janeiro Fevereiro de Março Abril (!)

And finally...

José Casou de Calças Curtas (Joseph Married in Short Trousers)

All hail!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


Several people have muttered to me over recent years their regret that it wasn’t the British that colonised this part of the world, presumably because, if they had, there would be a greater emphasis given to tea, scones, cricket, alcohol abuse and the growing of decent lawns/grassed areas. Believe me I’ve offered, but it’s a big country for one man to take on, let alone me.

Whilst I lack legitimate political ambitions, if and when I am invited to form a government I do have some radical ideas to shake up local government and rid the creaking system of the endemic corruption that is sadly de rigeur. My only demand would be that I could call myself “Anti-Corruption Czar”, or something with “Czar” in it at least.

Under the current system, public life is little more than a trough into which the greediest and most self-centred elements of society sprint headlong and thrust their insatiable snouts. As local government is run on a mayoral system, continuity is almost impossible, as each new incumbent wishes to leave their mark, immediately dismantling every existing program, however brilliantly planned and executed, and replacing it with something only 50% baked, at the very most. They also habitually sack all existing staff and bring in their own team, a number of whom are always blood relations. The Mayor’s tone-deaf second cousin who once played accordion in a forró combo becomes Secretary for Culture, whilst a brother-in-law who once tiled a bathroom is unveiled as Director of Public Works, and so on.

One of the most dangerous times to drive around small towns is in the weeks following local elections, as invariably one of the new Mayor’s priorities is to muck about with the local traffic system, reversing the direction of one-way streets and installing bus lanes as if they were experimenting with the possibilities of Sim City for the first time. I’m not sure this is entirely what people voted them in for. Also, the Mayors and all their family members suddenly appear to need a fleet of expensive four-wheel drive pick-ups to cruise around in, presumably to reach the outlying districts of their constituencies where the dirt tracks are precarious, and be able to beat a hasty retreat when revolting residents start challenging them or throwing things.

Corruption assumes that there is something, a “normal” system, that gets corrupted, but malpractice has become so widespread and predictable that the corruption is the system, with sometimes surreal consequences. One such case was the Mayor of Lagoa de Velhos, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, who bought votes in the 2004 elections by giving out free dentures. The inefficiency of the criminal justice system means that, even if perpetrators are shopped to the authorities by political opponents and charged (which is rare, as their accusers are normally just as mired in illegality themselves), seldom do they end up being punished, or even made to return their ill-gotten gains. So, if the threat of punishment isn’t a deterrent, I feel there should be a system that rewards honesty.

Imagine if Mayors were to receive a bonus, let’s say R$ 1 million, at the end of their tenure. This would depend on there being zero corruption among members of their administration during their mandate, and would be payable provided that they fulfilled 100% of the promises made in their election manifesto. This would have the added effect of ensuring that candidates would be rather more down-to-earth than currently in what they promise, and voters would be given a choice between realistic policies and not just idle dreams that never even make it off the back of the envelope where they were jotted down over a glass of pinga. Thus all Mayors would become millionaires for being honest, rather than become millionaires by robbing public funds, and their actions may actually improve the lives of the suffering millions who put their hopes in them.

As a political thinker, I’m no Karl Marx - but I flatter myself that I'm no Groucho, either.

As a political thinker, am I Groucho or Karl? Or Harpo? How would you wipe out corruption, without involving sympathetic elements of the armed forces?

Thursday, 14 February 2008


I discovered during this experience that interpreting roughly subscribes to the 80-20 rule, ie 80% of the work is performed in 20% of the time, and vice-versa. This, coupled with Erich’s undoubted charisma and the Brazilian workers’ tendency to constantly seek his attention and/or approval led to my idle time being filled with some fairly strange translating services. One mechanic wanted me to make it crystal clear to the bemused foreigners that he seldom wore underpants, whilst another, latterly known as bekloppt, unashamedly confessed that he occasionally wet his bed in drunken irreverence, but only, he later qualified, on special occasions celebrated with almighty benders, such as Christmas, New Year, Carnaval, Easter, Labour Day, Independence Day, birthdays, barbecues, christenings, weddings, football derbies, etc. Despite making absolutely plain that he didn’t drink every day, each morning he’d arrive a little more bedraggled and give a rough estimate as to how many cans of beer he’d quaffed the previous night, which not infrequently involved the use of the fingers of both hands.

Until Erich arrived and started playing the crowd with consummate ease, the days were filled with periods of total inactivity. I lost count of how many laps of the neighbouring Lamination Department I completed, or how many times I stood by a machine watching rolls of aluminium foil being produced before my very eyes. The occasional fire and accompanying release of a couple of tonnes of CO2 would add interest to proceedings.

A roll grinding mill takes precision to absurd lengths, making for slow progress that does one’s head in after a while. After concreting in the machine base, the feisty Mattias started going along the length of it from point to point with spirit levels measuring fractions of a millimetre, loosening or tightening bolts to raise or lower the eight-tonne structure a couple of microns. Of course each time he adjusted one, it threw the others out, and he’d reach the end then head back again. He carried out this procedure for three whole days. A tarpaulin had to be hastily erected to stop the wind from entering the building, as even a sudden gust could distort the readings on the spirit levels and invoke a Wagnerian response from Herr Mattias. After a time I couldn’t bear to watch any more - I wanted to howl like a wolf or something.

Mattias and Erich left in mid-December to spend Christmas at home, the former never to return, after which the third of the triumvirate of alemães, Markus the machine operator, touched down in early January, with Erich returning with him. The new boy was affable yet assertive, as I discovered when he had me on the blower to Iberia almost hourly to try to recover his lost luggage. Fair play to him, I’d be uncomfortable wearing the same T-shirt and underwear combination to work for five days without respite.

Erich had promised to bring a T-shirt for bekloppt, and duly presented him with a green garment with the word “FREAK” printed in large capital letters on the front. After discreetly checking with me that this word didn’t mean “gay”, he happily stowed it away in his bag where nobody could steal it. When Erich offered to send a postcard from Germany to anybody who wanted one when he got home, work stopped due to the sheer demand – mechanics descended scaffolding at a perilous pace to make sure they got their names and addresses on the list. There was something vaguely tragic about watching grown men queuing up for such meagre fare.

Markus was eminently likeable, but seemed to be undergoing a mid-life crisis, despite only being in his early thirties. The trigger seemed to be the voluptuous sirens that haunted the hotel bar at night, offering to relieve him of a few Euros in return for some dusky practices. Each day he appeared more and more preoccupied, ready to cave into temptation, but torn by having a wife and kids back home. One of the more proactive courtesans even managed to phone him at work one day, though how she got his number remains a mystery.

The testing of the machine was almost as draining as the spirit level business had been. It takes around 30 minutes to grind a roll, then it’s necessary to make minute adjustments and set the whole process going again. Intermittently Markus would wail out loud at the pure tediousness of how he was spending his life. “Don’t tell the operators this, but grinding rolls is a bloody stupid job,” he stated with admirable candour. “The curves they are grinding on these rolls are so small, you can’t even see them with the naked eye,” he continued, “a human hair is around 30 microns wide. Here we’re dealing in 8 or 9 microns.” I began to see why he was dreaming his life away.

My contract ended around a week before Markus was due to leave. Having promised to join him for a farewell beer in his hotel, I phoned him several times, but he never returned my calls. I often wonder if he ever went back to Germany.

Now playing: Jet - Are you Gonna Be My Girl
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 11 February 2008


One morning I entered the building to see a disorderly scrum of workers surrounding Mattias, with middle-aged mechanics breaking into a trot to join the melee. Fearing the worst, I suspected one of the young German's pithier one-liners had been seized upon and he was now about to feel the full force of a monkey wrench raised in anger. (Incidentally, a monkey wrench in Brazilian is called a chave inglesa, an “English wrench”, which I find acutely derogatory).

I needn’t have worried – it was merely free gift time. Rummaging through his knapsack, Mattias had found various items of tat from his company – cheap plastic ballpoint pens with the company logo on, a couple of rulers and various boxes of matches. They were no ordinary matches, however - they were long matches in a silver cardboard cylinder, which were designed to be struck on the bottom of the tube, not down the side. They became the most coveted item on offer, so much so that a tubby electrician would make a B line for me every day, exchange a rapid morning handshake and demand, with a stony straight face, “What about the matches?” He wasn’t satisfied until I’d asked Mattias, again, if there were any left. I could tell the negative answers crushed him, as if proof that the universe was against him. Once he nodded to indicate a lanky beanpole of a mechanic, all buck teeth and hard hat, who was sitting on a packing box, taking a match out of his cylinder and examining it. “He doesn’t even smoke!” the tubby one spat bitterly, “I do! I smoke! A packet a day sometimes!”

Then, after around six weeks, Erich the electrician arrived on a flight from Frankfurt. He had a characteristic that, in my experience, is not often associated with those of Teutonic descent, at least not in a healthy, non-destructive way – he had charisma. His presence had an interesting effect on Mattias, who dropped any attempt at being a fun-loving Latino and lapsed back into being stark raving German. Almost immediately his guttural tirades increased both in frequency and intensity, and the number of in-jokes in his mother tongue he shared with Erich multiplied exponentially. I even overheard him say to one of the few Brazilians who understood a little English, “I’m not liking England and I’m not liking English people.” I somehow found it in me to rise above his comments, despite his grammatical rashness.

Erich was a class act. He was in his early twenties and had both long blonde hair combed back into a pony tail and a pleasingly dry sense of humour. His work involved traveling to any country with an aluminium industry and doing the electrical installation of the machines, mainly, it seemed, in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Western Europe. He had some excellent tales to tell. In Russia, he was constantly plied with drink by his vodka-drenched hosts, even on the work site, and spent the whole six weeks plastered, miraculously without any gruesome industrial accidents to latterly wake him screaming at night. China was the source of many a memorable jape. Once, he reported, on his first day in a factory, he stored his hard hat in his locker and went to say goodbye to his co-workers. Reaching the other side of the machine, he shook hands with a Chinaman already wearing said hard hat – he could tell it was his as it had the name Erich emblazoned across the front. Another time he was disappointed to find somebody had defecated behind his recently-installed control cabinet – toilet facilities are regarded as an unnecessary luxury on Chinese work sites, apparently.

One day Erich asked me to show him the electricity substation. After finding out where it was, I escorted him there and once he saw it, he was satisfied. In China once they had kept promising daily for about two months that he could connect the electricity supply to the machine the next day, only to invariably cancel the arrangement without explanation. Resolving to get to the bottom of the matter, Erich had followed the cable through the factory grounds and out into the middle of a wood where he found the cable simply stopped – there was nothing connected to the end of it.

Erich was a master of winning over the local workforce. Disposing of the usual small-talk, “In Germany we are eating 80% pork”, or, God forbid, making inane conversation about football, he used two artifices guaranteed to have the gathered electricians virtually carrying him shoulder-high from the area in delight - mimed references to beer/getting drunk and carefully chosen knob gags. No sooner had he pretended to attach 440-volt power cables to a hapless mechanic’s genitalia or invited an electrician to place his length on the table top so that he could take a swipe at it with an oversized sickle spanner than he had his audience eating out of the palm of his hand. It was a lesson for all of us who seek to promote global harmony.


Sunday, 10 February 2008


My belated congratulations to São Paulo's Vai Vai (Go Go) and Rio's Beija Flor (Humming Bird) samba schools for their respective victories in this year's Carnaval.

Sadly, I didn't see either performance in its entirety due to the late hour of their parades, but I did see snippets - pretty sambistas, pretty colours, drill-square-style drumming, etc, etc.

Personally I thought Viradouro might win in Rio, due to their impressive float with skiers and snowboarders going down an artificial ski slope, but it seems the judges preferred sumptuousness over innovation this year. And why not?

I remained indoors for the festivities, keeping my footwear dry as a bone.

Now playing: Alçeu Valença - La Belle de Jour
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 9 February 2008


I was last made redundant almost a year ago to the day, this time because my three-month contract had slowly petered out. I had been taken on by an industrial installation company to provide services as an English-Portuguese interpreter for three German technicians (a delightfully Brazilian roundabout arrangement), a mechanic, an electrician and a machine operator, during the installation of a roll grinding mill for an aluminium company. It was money for old rope, despite the obvious challenges.

I must say that, unlike several of my contemporaries, I have never had a particular problem in dealing with Germans. Except perhaps for the clinically insistent Bavarian dental surgeon who demanded daily that I do a Business English class on the language of dentistry. Explaining for hopefully the last time that this wouldn’t be exactly fair on the other nine members of the class, and that he should seek private one-to-one classes for a subject area so specific, he’d then commandeered a surprisingly sour Dutch secretary to lend weight to his nagging, and presumably to take minutes of our discussions for any future claim for a refund, psychological trauma, etc. Eventually we reached a fragile compromise in which the two of them were invited to make lists of the subject areas they wished to cover, from which I would then select those I considered appropriate for the entire class. By their last day at the school, I’d covered everything they’d asked for except deontological ethics and shorthand. “So, Hans, have you enjoyed the course?” I enquired at the end of our last lesson together, seeking to bury the hatchet after of our tense, not to mention overlong, standoff. “I’ve learned a little,” he muttered sarcastically, pushing past me out of the room and leaving me counting slowly to zehn whilst suppressing the urge to bury a hatchet in the back of his head.

I started in the factory about a week before the first German mechanic arrived. The Brazilian technician who was supervising the installation didn’t exactly exude enthusiasm for the prospect of working with the foreigners. “The Germans are, of course, idiots,” he informed me, becoming noticeably bilious, “they’re arrogant, they’re condescending, they look down on us.” I suspected a bit of a history behind his vehemence, and it unfolded as he continued with rising agitation, “I said to him, ‘You come here, to MY country and start telling ME that everything’s crap! I’M allowed to say that, because I live here, but I don’t take that from ANYBODY!’” We were both shaking by this point, me due to the hilarity of his gone-ballistic narrative.

As it turned out, Mattias was a lot younger and more laid back than we expected. He wasn’t exactly warm, but he took the constant attempts by the Brazilian workers to entertain him in good spirit, at least whilst the installation was progressing problem-free. He even managed a few, slightly awkward air guitar solos to express his pleasure at the smoothness with which matters were unfolding.

One thing I’ve noticed about many Brazilians, which is great for foreigners, but at the same time saddening, is that they regard people from other countries, particularly so-called First World nations, as superior beings. Watching the mechanics and electricians around the Germans was like watching needy offspring trying to please a stern father, all competing for attention, all desperate to be accepted. Perhaps this is why so many dream of living abroad, particularly in the US, rather than try to stick around and make something of themselves at home. It’s a sad indictment of a vibrant culture that’s lost its way, and in which people have lost faith, one that can only look to other nations with envious eyes and make mournful attempts to copy them. Only Carnaval and music have any real Brazilian identity to them.

As the installation continued, Mattias began to let his fun-loving mask slip a little, until, by week 5 or so, he was screaming in High German at bewildered mechanics wondering if he wasn’t warning them of an impending electrical shock or gas explosion. It was probably lucky they couldn’t understand his salty commentary on their work practices. The Brazilian electricians’ supervisor told me of a middle-aged German engineer on another job who had failed to hide a profound loathing of the local workers made available to him by the company that hired him. Eventually totally losing it, he’d called one of them an idiot in German, and although there hadn’t been an interpreter on hand to clarify his ejaculation, the mechanic had understood only to well. When he’d woken up in hospital a couple of days later, the confused German was informed that he’d suffered a severe concussion after receiving blunt force trauma to the back of his cranium caused by being struck with a length of metal piping. Brazilian mechanics are on very low salaries, and have little to lose. The German engineer headed straight from the hospital to the airport, without saying his goodbyes at the work site.


Now playing: XTC - The Ballad Of Peter Pumkinhead
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Last night was the fourth and final night of Carnaval parades, and all the colours, feathers and samba beats were beginning to merge into one. Retiring to my quarters, I switched on the TV, which happened to be tuned to the only terrestrial channel that treats people like human beings rather than just mindless consumers, TV Cultura. A strange looking American was being interviewed, so I stuck around to see who it was. There followed an hour of the fascinating and deliciously controversial opinions of Patch Adams MD that render the eponymous film starring Good Morning Vietnam veteran, Robin Williams, a superficial joke.

For those who don’t know him, Patch Adams is a trained doctor famous for dressing up as a clown and entering hospitals and refugee camps to care for the sick. His philosophy is that health care should not only be focused on “cure” (which, he points out, can never be guaranteed before a treatment begins), but on “care”, which can be given 100% of the time. This is an oversimplification, as, in the best traditions of the Shakespearean wise clown, there is much more to the baggy-trousered pioneer than just a handlebar mustache and a Hawaiian fashion sense.

To paraphrase everything he said would require another blog, so I’ll just mention a few personal highlights. When Adams was a medical student, he observed that those doctors charged with teaching them delighted in conveying their power by humiliating their students whenever they made a mistake, striking fear into their very hearts. Adams couldn’t understand how people allowed this to happen, why everybody just kowtowed, so he started retaliating – whenever a doctor indulged in such practices, he’d snap, “Wow, that was a great put-down, Doctor, you really humiliated that girl! I hope I can grow up to be a big, strong Doctor like you someday!” I’d love to have seen their reaction.

I identified a lot with this. When I worked for a big company here in Brazil, it was the closest I’ve ever come to living under a dictatorship – little by little the boundaries of what I considered acceptable began to shift, and I began to accept situations that I’d never before have stood for, all for fear of losing my job. The first rule was that of obedience. If it’s fashionable now to “think outside the box”, there it was obligatory to think yourself inside a box, stay there and shut up. Weekly meetings with our boss weren’t a constructive exchange of opinions, but a draining, uncomfortable waste of time. He’d arrive scowling like he’d finally decided to execute us all, then would grill each one of us in turn. The more ambitious would make desperate, pathos-filled attempts to be efficient and have all the answers, but I’d just refuse to play the game and sit there like the foreign equivalent of the village idiot, only being monosyllabic when spoken to. Indeed, it was one of these more ambitious colleagues who engineered my downfall, when he apparently thought it essential that some ungracious comments I’d made about our boss in a fit of frustration be passed on to him. Poetic justice was done a couple of months later, however, when he himself was fired after proving incapable of coping with the extra workload he’d created for himself.

Adams railed against just about everything – TV, and how it lacks examples of kindness and loving behaviour, journalism, and how it’s merely in service to power, capitalism, with its incessant creation of dissatisfaction and destructive egotism, as if looking after our own narrow interests really is in our best interests, deforestation, how sports are utterly meaningless and yet we are persuaded to spend our free time watching “millionaires play with a ball”, rather than do something creative or productive to help others… According to him, 90% of Americans never think – it’s become so alien a concept that they have to tag the words “critical” or “positive” onto the front so people can grasp it. “All thinking is critical!” he bellowed. After traveling along São Paulo’s Avenida Paulista, described by one of his hosts as “Brazil’s Wall Street”, he cried, “It’s garbage! There’s nothing Brazilian here! It’s like any other financial street in the world, the same skyscrapers, the same conference rooms full of rich people getting richer and not caring about the rest of the world! Is this something to be proud of?”

One comment he made really hit the right note on the head. Why, he asked, are there people still starving here in Brazil? When you ask people round for dinner, do you start eating before everybody’s been served? Of course not - you wouldn’t think of it (or at least, women wouldn’t – men sometimes do). So why do people do it on a national scale? Why isn’t everybody working to make sure everybody’s fed before sitting down to serve themselves?

With an estimated 36 million Brazilians living under the poverty line (that's the equivalent of around three quarters of the entire population of England), it’s food for thought, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Now playing: The Flaming Lips - Free Radicals
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