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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student


A common experience

SAO PAULO, Brazil - There are several things, it seems, that a majority of the Brazilians I have met all possess: a television, a pair of Havaianas (a particular brand of flip-flops) and, when it comes to adolescent Brazilians, an Orkut account.
None of this really seemed that surprising or different to me, perhaps because United States citizens also seem to like television (with a few differences from Brazilians in programming preferences), flip-flops (though they may be Old Navy brand and not Havaianas) and social networking sites (even if they are Facebook or MySpace, and not Orkut).

However, there is one thing that most of the Brazilians I have met all seem to have that I found somewhat shocking and quite different from, at least, my U.S. experience: a robbery story.

I suppose that given the high degree of economic inequality in Brazil, the attention the favelas of Brazil have attracted and the warnings those of us traveling to South America received during our IU study-abroad orientation about the likelihood of one of us getting stolen from while here, I shouldn’t have been that surprised by the number of times Brazilian friends have casually mentioned having been robbed.

Indeed, I’ve heard robbery stories of all kinds – stories about attempted robberies
(most successful, some not) taking place on buses, personal cars or on the street; stories about attempted robberies with one unarmed robber, one armed robber or multiple armed robbers; and stories about attempted robberies that have taken place in houses, in relatively deserted downtown streets or in bustling residential areas.

Yet, the stories I hear continue to shock me.

Perhaps, though, it’s neither the content nor the ubiquity of the stories that I find most surprising, but the casual tone with which they are often told.

Obviously, no one feels neutral about being robbed, and obviously many Brazilians are afraid of being robbed.

At the same time, though, the high rate of robbery in many areas of the country seems to have made robbery seem like something much more common than it is considered in the United States.

When a couple of friends and I were robbed at the entrance of a restaurant in Salvador, Bahia, earlier this year we went immediately to the nearest police station to report the robbery.

The men working at the station were generally friendly, but they didn’t seem surprised, apologetic or sympathetic about the situation.

Regardless of the casual tone with which people talk of robberies, however, I’ve never ceased to get the impression that being robbed is one common experience Brazilians would rather not share.

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