A key theme of this trip has been the all-you-can-eat buffet. This seems to be the way a lot of Brazilian restaurants work (at least most of the ones we have visited). Since I lack any self-control, I normally steer clear of this type of arrangement, however, it has been difficult to avoid and as such, I often find myself with appetizers, entrée and dessert on my plate simultaneously and I have probably gained 20 pounds in the past 5 days.
Thursday saw the most anticipated company visit of our trip, Globo TV studios. Globo writes, produces and distributes the most popular telenovelas in Brazil (as well as sports, news and other shows). Remarkably, they have an overall household penetration rate of 99%! The Brazilian media market is quite different to the US, with broadcast TV constituting 67% of the market and Pay TV only 5%. The internet is still in its infancy relative to the US (my classmates and I have first-hand experience of this) and is estimated to be on roughly a 10 year time lag. The highlight of the trip was the tour of the production sets, where we were able to mingle with the Brazilian stars (who only Lucas recognized) and goof around pretending to be actors. The outdoor sets were truly remarkable, one was a life size mock-ups of an Amazonian village, including canal, bar and school, which took roughly 3 months to construct. We also got a sneak preview of the set for the new soap opera that is due to start in April, but have been sworn to secrecy!
Our final company meetings were with Petrobras, the part-state-owed energy company and BNDES, the state-owned development bank. Brazil relies heavily on biofuels and hydroelectric power for most of its needs, for example, all cars run on an ethanol-gasoline mix, but in recent years, pre-salt oil reserves have been discovered off the coast. These deposits are more than 6km below the ocean surface and some 300km from the shore and thus require extremely advanced technology to extract, something that Petrobras has invested heavily in developing. The capital investments required are huge, R$104bn (approximately $50bn) in 2013 alone. BNDES was our final visit of the trip, just across the street from Petrobras and interestingly, the bank also provides Petrobras with a great deal of financing.
On Friday we were scheduled to visit an NGO that works within the favelas in Rio to get an understanding of the work they are doing to improve living conditions. However, on Thursday night, gangs within the favela attacked and killed several of the policemen stationed there. Needless to say, we cancelled our visit, but this served as a stark reminder of the social consequences of income inequality. Instead, some people headed to the beach and others to Sugar Loaf Mountain to see the staggering panoramic views of the city. We closed off the week with samba dancing (Professor Martinez has moves!), a trip to see Christ the Redeemer and a churrascuria (surprise surprise, an all-you-can-eat meat restaurant).
Clare Skirrow ’14, Rio de Janiero