Thursday, December 19, 2013

Walled city - São Paulo

My parents arrived yesterday to spend a warm six weeks here in Brazil. They live in Chicago most of the time, though they travel quite a bit. It's been a couple of years since they have visited and they are definitely some of my favorite visitors. They are thoughtful, interested and easy guests--I truly enjoy their entire time here.

Of course they are two of the most avid readers of my blog. Mostly complimentary, they will also tell me where they think I can do better or write better. My dad sent me a long email a couple of months ago about topics that he would find of interest. It will take me a while to get through them all.

One of the best things about guests is getting to see Brazil through Their Eyes. While some of life here strikes me as different or funny or wonderful or sad, it strikes them even more how different it is from the country they left two days ago. 

One of the wonders that I sometimes forget is the São Paulo wall. The São Paulo residence wall. In the photo above you can see my dad walking by the enormous wall built by my next-door neighbor. Not content with the stone part which is more than 10 feet tall, he extended on top to at least 25 feet tall. It's a little hard to gauge in this photo, as my dad is walking slightly uphill.

Walls are everywhere and around everything. Around each house, around many neighborhoods. It is a walled city. Good fences make good neighbors, says Robert Frost, but in this case the walls are simply to keep city life and city crime out. It's a terrible way to have to grow up, if you ask me. No need to compare with prior generations or another part of the world--no child should have to grow up surrounded by such walls. 

I attended a talk some months ago by an urbanist who claimed that crime worsened in places where there were no public spaces in each city block. With no place to sit and contemplate, and to be a neighbor (sharing a bench, or kicking a ball), there is no interaction, no trust and no neighborhood. It was an interesting argument and one I need to research more.

Tomorrow I leave the high walls for a few days at the beach, where there are no walls. Yes, another sandy Christmas. I will continue to post while away, but I'm guessing things will get a little later in the day. Bye bye, walled city.

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