I love traveling and I have been fortunate enough to do some of it. I’m also a complete geography/history nerd who lives reading about random happenings in other countries. Hence, I occasionally post about a place in the world where I want to spend a decent amount of time. This is the second one.
Why do did I not say live or vacation? Well, because I don’t really want to do either of those things. I’m enjoying my life and don’t really feel the urge to leave everything I’ve ever known and start over in another county. On the other hand, it seems very difficult to get a feel for a place when you just pass through for a few days. This is especially true when it’s a foreign country where talking about. Therefore, the cities featured here will be locales where I would like to spend say summer or a few months, learn to appreciate the culture by finding all the hidden gem restaurants and local attractions, and generally get to know the rhythms of life in a different corner of the world.
Furthermore, I believe learning about new cultures has potentially powerful spiritual payoff. All people and cultures are both good and evil. There are some aspects of all cultures which are wrong and need to change. But all people are also “God-breathed” and thus all cultures reflect that origin with some goodness from which others can learn. So after discussing what attracts me to each place, I want to point out an aspect of that place I perceive is a piece of the image of God there others perhaps are missing and thus can learn from. The only caveat is I am only discussing places I have never been, thus I may not know what I’m talking about. That being said, enjoy!
My pick this time is. . .
Brazil is a little different from my other two picks in that I have actually been there. I was privileged, back in 2001, to travel to the northern city of Belo Horizonte with a team to assist building a school, play sports and hang out with students at local schools, and do some sight seeing. It is a country of stunning beauty and oozing with love for life. There is little not to love about this country. The food, a largely vegetable and legume based diet, is delicious, healthy and fresh. The history rich and full of fiery revolutionaries like ours (though unlike us norteamericanos Brazil has not been to war in 200 years). And of course sports. While the “beautiful game” may have been born in England, is there any question it was and is perfected in the steamy cauldron of Brazilian passion?
But why Curitiba and not one of the seven larger Brazilian cities? For one, Curitiba is a leader in using green technology and urban planning to better lives. That combined with Brazilian culture and passion for life is a compelling combination.
The city was born in the 1700’s as a marketplace for cattle herders and merchants. It grew steadily if sleepily over the next 150 years as European immigrants, largely from Eastern European countries, poured into the area. Everything begin to change in the 1960’s when the city began to implement its urban planning vision. The population skyrocketed to over 1 million and today boasts around 2.4 million in the metro area.
Here a just a few of the city’s unique initiatives involving transportation and planning:
- There are separate traffice lanes for the “bus rapid system” and passengers pay only one price no matter how far they travel.
- The major thoroughfares are carefully laid out in a star pattern to keep traffic from congesting. Several areas are also closed to traffic at all. That’s right, pedistrians only. Wouldn’t it be nice to sometimes be able to enjoy a spring day in your neighborhood without getting trampled by a 4 ton SUV backing out just to pick up the mail? Or maybe bike to the local Walgreen’s without ending up in a ditch covered with plastic bottles and cigarette butts? Are communities with fewer cars not healthier and more conducive to small business, friendship, and civic participation? Curitiba sure thinks so. The United Nations agrees. Curitiba was recommended by UNESCO as a model for city reconstruction in Afghanistan.
The city has more than 400 square miles of parks and forests.
Curitiba has in place a “green exchange program” where residents from nearby shantytowns unreachable for garage trucks can bring in bags of garbage and in return receive food and bus tickets. Children can additionally receive school supplies and access to various cultural events.
What is the result of all this careful planning? A 30% reduction in auto traffic since 1974 and 99% of residents citing their happiness when asked about living in the city.
Not too shabby.
Yea…I guess we need to find of the 1% who is unhappy. Between the multiple street festivals, nearby coastline, delicious food, cheap education, and high quality of life due to fewer cars it’s hard to come up with anything, but I’ll let you know when I get back.