Porto Alegre like all the world´s cities is a ragbag of the great and the dire. I love living here quite like I love Lemmy from Motorhead, warts´n´all, but there´s room for improvement. Much smaller than London it offers many things we Londoners don’t have and we can learn from the way of life here as no doubt Alegrenses learn from our gross and gourdy metropolis. Obviously the first thing that should change in Brazil is the huge gulf between rich and poor which leads to crime and destitution the world over, but apart from that here is my list of things I think PoA could do with and without…
Curry: If an Alegrense says they like spicy food they´re telling black lies, there isn´t one good Indian restaurant in the whole town. Not one. Where are the nosebleed vindaloos? Can I even get an authentic chicken tikka masala? Visitors, bring your own gram masala and colman´s mustard with you. See also branston pickle and cheddar cheese!
Bus timetables – Bus shelters, half-pipes of corrugated iron, line the streets but you learn more about jesus and strip joints than you do the times and destinations of the sadly characterless buses. Import those retro buses from Argentina, they´re far more exotic, and put up timetables.
Cycle lanes – When I first arrived here in 2011, a manifestation by cyclists for better facilities and safer roads made world headlines when a maniac plowed into it with his car. Fortunately no one was killed. Since then there still aren´t cycle paths on the road and motorists are as selfish as ever. Why not go green and replace the lane slaloming taxis with rickshaws or make them solar powered with max speeds of 20mph?
Monkeys – I don´t get why anyone would be proud that Porto Alegre doesn´t have monkeys and think us foreigners ignorant or rude for expecting them. Since when was having cute little monkeys a bad thing? The mata atlantica used to belong to them, species like the blond capuchins are all endangered now so reintroduce them, it´s not like you don´t have enough trees.
More saliva – I love sharing a chimarrão with strangers but why not share ice lollies and cutlery as well?
Others: sound time-keeping, cheaper dvds and snow at Christmas
Things PoA can do without:
Giselle Bundchen – If you blindfolded a newcomer to Brazil and took them from Salgado Filho airport to the centro historico, the shock of so many ugly people would make them think they´d entered the twilight zone by mistake. Porto Alegre has more than its fair share of beautiful women, enticing us ugly expats to your shores, but be honest, you have a plethora of different people of all shapes and sizes and too much body consciousness to sustain them. Be proud of everyone not just the size zeros and vacuous supermodels.
The Beatles and ACDC – Okay, they´re great, I get it. But while universidade sertanejo and Brazilian funk deservedly take the flak, the gaucho mobsession with these two bands is chatissimo (really boring). Putting your baby in an ACDC t-shirt makes ACDC less cool and makes you a moron.
This building –
Maniac Taxi Drivers: If you want to feel like a princess here, take a taxi. Within minutes of hurtling down the road you will feel like Princess Diana. The fast lane in Brazil is whatever lane your taxi happens to be in.
Others: rip-off internet shops, stripclub flyers all over the pavement (use blue tack) and the facebook page for estrangeiros/foreigners in Porto Alegre which is oddly unfriendly and snooty.
But what can we Londoners take from Porto Alegre?... I will blog about that soon!