Thursday, September 9, 2010

uhhh "firecrackers". yeah, that's it

I grew up in Sāo Paulo Brasil, one of the largest cities in the world and certainly one of the more violent cities as well. It's home sweet home, but when I was a kid we did hear the odd gunshot out the window at night. Since we lived in a tall building encircled by a fortified compound, I never - er, rarely - felt any personal fear, but the danger wasn't ever too far away.

Meanwhile, Brasil is, as you surely must know, a land where people love to, and know how to, PARTY. Very few lands on this planet can compete with mine in terms of its fun-loving nature. Among other things, this means that on New Years Eve, whenever a key football team scores or wins a game, or on any other festive occasion, firecrackers are set off all over town. Sometimes it sounds like a storm, and sometimes it even sounds like a gunfight, when there are lots of firecrackers of different sizes.

So this is the mental framework with which I am approaching life in a region that is widely famed for being trigger-happy.

Today was the last day of Ramadan and tomorrow starts the 3-day holiday that follows. So as soon as the sun went down, people started shooting their guns. Everyone has told me it's local tradition. They just let out a round into the air, kind of like some folk in Brasil might set off their firecrackers. And really, these guns sounded more like Brasilian firecrackers to me, than like Brasilian guns.

I was sitting outdoors with a dozen other expats as the guns went off, and they started sharing stories of loose bullets with tragic endings. Then they decided we'd better drag the chairs inside so none of us would get hit by a stray bullet (inside the compound, under an awning sheltered by some trees). But I was still straining my ears trying to believe that they actually were guns and not firecrackers.

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