Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fanfare, Brazilian Style, to Elect a Mayor

On Sunday, October 28, several cities in Brazil held elections for mayor.  While in the United States (US), voter turn-out for any public office outside the office of the presidency receives very little news coverage or participation, this is not the case in Brazil. However, contrary to the US, in Brazil voting is compulsory.  For the past two months I have watched the process unfold leading up to the culmination of “the day,” that is, Election Day. 

 I want to first start with an apology, because the picture accompanying this blog doesn’t fully capture it all.  In Brazil, the election for mayor is done in two steps.  In the first step, which I call the “weeding- out” step, there is an election held for every candidate that wants to be considered for the Office of Mayor.   In this step, the prospective candidates are narrowed down to the two receiving the most votes.  Approximately one month after the weeding-out step, there is a second election held to determine which one of the top two candidates will be mayor.

The first thing I noticed was the television coverage.  On most, if not all, the public television stations regularly scheduled programming was interrupted to allow for a dedicated hour of pre-election propaganda.  During this time, each candidate is given an opportunity to present information pertinent to his or her candidacy and to give their candidate number, which is used when the voters select their candidate of choice.  I was told that when the voter goes into the voting booth, the person first enters the candidate’s number, then the candidate’s picture and name appears, at that time the candidate can confirm that the number corresponds with the intended candidate.

The second thing I noticed was that the local advertisement for the weeding-out is different than for the second election.  In the first election, the advertisement is similar to what we see in the United States (US), such as placards in yards.  However, there are two exceptions.  I don’t recall seeing in the US billboards all over the city and people handing out tracks (small pieces of paper with a picture of the candidate and his or her number on it).  In the US, even bumper stickers are reserved for presidential candidates. 
Finally, I noticed that after the first election was over and the race had been narrowed down to two candidates, the election fanfare was heightened to a new level.  It became typical to see candidate supporters waiving large banners on the high trafficked streets.  Typically, they were in groups of fours or eights, divided to cover each side of the street.  Tracks and high quality leaflets were distributed regularly at strategic times of the day when the city center was full of foot traffic.  The most exciting thing that I saw on the Saturday preceding the Sunday Election Day was two parades, one for each candidate, in the city center. 

In the final analysis, it is my belief that the compulsory nature of voting in Brazil makes it necessary to give the people sufficient information which leads to the hope that they will be able to choose the candidate that will better serve the city.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Barcelona and Gaudi

Wow! I was finally able to go to Barcelona this past week for the first time and I will say that it is spectacular. I have always been in love with Barcelona so this was so exciting to be able to go. The one aspect that first sold me on Spain seven years ago was the architecture of Antonio Gaudi and all of his works are featured in Barcelona. He is a genius architect and has created some of the most original sites that I have ever seen. His most famous work is La Sagrada Familia. It is a basilica that has been under construction for 100 years and is expected to be completed in 2024. It is more beautiful that I could have imagined. It is huge and can be seen from a lot of places around the city. My favorite part about it was that it is positioned so that the sun makes the colors of the stain glass windows flood the interior and it looks almost as if they installed artificial lighting.
I also went to Parc Guell. It is at a peak in the city so you can see everything which was pretty cool but it was raining to I didn't get the best view. It is a giant park that just seems to have no end. It is very beautiful and there are so many different areas of the park that look nothing like each other which I really enjoyed. They also have a museum of Gaudi's house that you can go into.
The last place I got to visit of his works was La Pedrera. This was a really cool place! It is known for it's unique rooftop. It was originally built for a family who wanted a whole floor as their own apartment but wanted to make an entire building for other people to rent out.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Greetings from Russia! Wow. I hope this is going to post the way I want it to post. I have been engaging in a pretty epic battle with technology since my arrival here. My computer has been broken since almost the first day I got here, so I'm reading all the Blogger instructions in Russian. This has been a great semester so far. I'm really enjoying living with my host family and wanted to dedicate a few blog posts to talking about each member of my very interesting family.

I live with three women from three different generations. All of them were born and raised in St. Petersburg. Babushka, or Grandmother, is 85 years old. She is very active, kind and grandmotherly. Right now, I'm actually home sick and she has been taking excellent care of me. In her working life she was an radio engineer. She has a picture of herself with the first cosmonaut in space. How cool is that? We have many conversations about a variety of interesting topics. Her favorite thing to talk about is life in the Soviet Union. I very much enjoy these conversations. It also really puts into perspective what this nation of people has gone through over a course of a lifetime. I can't imagine experiencing such radical changes over the course of a lifetime. Yet, she perseveres. It makes me really think about how amazing humanity is at adapting to different circumstances.

That's all for now.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strasbourg, France

This past week I took a short trip to Strasbourg, France with my boyfriend. We took the train about four hours north of Lyon to visit the city and go to a Radiohead concert Tuesday night at the Zenith Arena.
The concert was amazing and it seemed to be a sold-out show! Wednesday we spent the day touring around the city. Strasbourg lies on the German border and the city really looks like a mixture of French and German culture. We walked through some markets after visiting the cathedral and after lunch we took the tram to see the European Parliament. I really enjoyed Strasbourg and I can't wait to visit other cities in France.