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Why I don’t shop in discount markets

As my position of not buying in discount markets is often taken as radical, I decided to clarify what is it that motivated me to take this decision and, perhaps, approach this subject from a new point of view.

Most of the people I know, I would even say practically all of them, are regular costumers of discount markets. Some have a preference for a specific one, others just go to the closest or the one with the best offers. When the subject comes up, like if I’m planning to cook with a friend and we should go shopping together and I mention I would like to go to another place to get the goods, my comment is hardly ever well received. I’m promptly confronted with arguments like “They have many biological products”, “You can buy only healthy stuff if you like”, “They are only cheaper because they keep it simple, it doesn’t affect the quality of the food” or even the most known one “That’s the only thing I can afford!”. And if you look at things from a personal perspective, these arguments are in fact true, with exception of the last one.

It is a mistake to think I don’t like discount markets because I believe their food is of bad quality. They do sell a lot of shit, but if you’re picky enough, you will make the best out of it, like with everything in life. You also have to do that in normal markets anyway. The first time I’ve been in a discount market was in Brazil, when the Spanish chain “DIA” decided to bring that horrible habit overseas. At first, I thought it was a great idea to get rid of the whole marketing aesthetics and to optimize space in order to lower costs and make products more available to the ones who can’t afford it. It sounded like a simple and democratic idea. Since in Europe this trend is heavily installed, here I could get a better view of the consequences of this change upon society.

In my first months in Germany, I was also buying in discount markets, like everyone I know. It made all the sense for an underpaid student and it didn’t even cross my mind to do otherwise. I can’t say the messy piles of cheap junk food didn’t bother me since I’m a very visual person, but I tried to convince myself it was all part of the game. I also wasn’t very fond of the huge lines and the crankiness of the cashiers, but, you know…it was fucking cheap.

The first time I started reevaluating the whole thing was when I realized the amount of trash I was producing from all my food’s packaging. It was a lot more than I was used to and, although I carefully separated the materials for recycling, I was still aware that the recycling process itself is quite polluting, and that the best we can do is to avoid producing garbage in the first place. Recycling is often used as an excuse for producing endless amounts of trash, and people completely ignore the costs and trouble the whole process brings.

From this point on, things started to get nasty. Every time I went to a discount market, I started to pay attention to all kinds of stuff I was ignoring before. One of them is the clients themselves. They are very often fat and pale, the type of people you would expect to bump into in a line for receiving government’s allowance. Immigrants and people wearing uniforms for minor jobs are also quite common (separatist elite concepts like these are things I am strongly against). They’re usually carrying bags full of industrialized meat, sweets, packed white toast bread and sugary drinks, which is what makes them look fat and pale in the first place. I also noticed these markets tend to have some strange brands that you can only find there. Looking more closely, I could also realize the whole purpose of their existence: quantity wins over quality. This is why I said earlier that I disagree with the argument that it is cheaper to buy in discount markets.

The truth is it isn’t cheaper. Because a half kilo package of yellow tasteless processed cheese costs 99 cents, you take three packages and eat like a pig. If you go to a cheese store, with 2,97 Euros you can buy a small piece of a good quality cheese of your choice. Moreover, you will be supporting a small family business, instead of a blood-sucking international chain that employs people for miserable salaries and triple amount of work and that will treat you like a dog, as a consequence of their unhappiness. So, in the end, you will not only NOT be saving money, but you’ll also be eating more than you need. Let’s not forget the clothes and objects they sell, which are mainly produced in countries that enslaves children and pay a few cents per day to the workers, are most commonly composed by plastic in all its forms (polyester, acrylic, etc) and generally last very little, forcing you to buy more and more of their shit, spending a lot of money and producing more garbage to our already overburdened world.

For me, discount markets represent everything I’m against. They are not ecological, not social, not equalitarian, have no interest on people’s health. The only thing they try to do is to convince you to buy the biggest possible amount of trash so they can keep on getting richer and opening more stores, to keep getting richer and opening more stores…it’s a snowball effect, at the cost of people’s money and health. Since I changed back to buying in smaller local shops, my health has improved and I don’t spend more money than I did before, and I also don’t have to starve. I feel a lot less compelled to buy sugary or salty treats, since they aren’t jumping at my face at every two meters. In local shops, food tends to be fresher and have less industrial additives, and you will almost certainly be greeted and served in a friendly way, and designed to fit your needs.

This text isn’t calling people for a massive discount market boycott. No way. I’m actually glad they exist. As the pre-Socratic philosophers would argue about if they were alive: the old man in the vegetable stand wouldn’t treat me so well and his tomatoes wouldn’t taste so good if there wasn’t bad food served by sour people in the first place, simply because I wouldn’t have anything to compare it to. Furthermore, I believe all kinds of stuff should exist, to allow us to make our own choices. My only advice is that you analyze real facts before making such decisions, instead of just picking some arguments that sustains the result you want and leaving all the others behind. That’s how religion works, but we can leave this for another post 😉

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Love is Anarchy

In Brazil, as well as all other American and Latin influenced countries, matters of love and relationship are treated in a very conservative way, and the list of taboos is as huge as it can be. Those who were around me during my 6-years relationship were very critical and had a hard time understanding “how we could live like that”. My friends used to find it incredible that I didn’t know where my boyfriend was or what he was doing all the time, and just couldn’t accept the fact that he was free to look at other girls when I was around.

I have a different understanding of love. I see no sense in controlling a 30 something year-old man so that no other woman ever crosses his mind. I mean, is that even possible? Even if I do control his every step, if I make a scandal every time he checks out a girl, if I make it very clear I’m the only woman he should ever want…will it work? Well, I don’t think so. Attraction doesn’t seem to be controllable, at least not from a third person. Therefore, I wouldn’t waste my time or energy trying to fight a natural and spontaneous feeling, also because it’s not necessarily followed by an action. Besides, being free has always made him feel very comfortable in the relationship, so the desire of having someone else also tended to be smaller, and he also didn’t want to lose such a cool girlfriend 😉

Western societies are still, very unfortunately, strongly under Christian influence, and in matters of love, things couldn’t be different. We don’t have the right to be free without being judged, and we learn from our parents to judge others too. There is a strict script to be followed and one shouldn’t walk out of the line, under the threat of losing the loved one. Relationships became a symbol of oppression and things like having your own space or keeping secrets are distant dreams. Some find a way of meeting friends once a week and should be grateful for that already.

Marriages are feared and avoided, and love is losing its place to a controlled, boring system, that apparently, no one can run away from. Passion seems to be a privilege for beginnings of relationships and only remains on the minds as a nostalgic memory, giving place to responsibilities and routine. Living in Germany, I’ve came across very modern concepts of liberty and equality, mentality shared by practically all northern European countries. On the other hand, conservative Bavarians still strongly apply the sharing of male and female roles, such as we do in Brazil. This separation of roles is limiting our creativity, eliminating the challenge of doing new things and transforming us in cold robots. We stop being lovers to become providers, planners, organizers.

I’m a Love-Anarchist. When I love someone, I want this person to cross the line, break the rules, explore the unknown. As Anarchy is the lack of control and not of respect or morality, it is still important that a couple has a good communication and can understand each other’s intentions, so that no one gets hurt in the process of being happy. You need a good, clear communication in order to set your own limits, since Free Love has no limits. Here you can decide if you will be a faithful monogamous couple, a love triangle, a group or wherever your imagination and your libido take you. To be a love-anarchist you should throw your prejudice away and open your mind to the unknown.

Love with your body, mind and soul. Close your eyes and let the music of your heart-beats guide you to the best of the experiences. Allow the smell of excitement to inebriate your senses and clear your mind from the rest of the world. Enjoy the wonderful art of cuddling and listen to the deep breath, while your toes curl up and warm each other’s feet. Cook and enjoy Art together, dance, laugh, swim and sleep, and as soon as your partner wants to be alone, don’t be sad. Kiss goodbye and come back later. Love should be good and make you happy, and when it’s not, there’s something wrong. It’s supposed to be spontaneous, and not an every-weekend-fixed-appointment. It’s supposed to bring you flowers, not problems. Because, you know, when you’re in love, even problems smell like flowers.

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Go on a cruise!

Those who read my blog have already noticed I’m never writing about stuff that are currently going on in the world. But the tragedy of Costa Concordia’s sinking has deeply affected me, so I decided to write about it.

I grew up in Santos, Brazil (city that houses the biggest port in Latin America), and have lived in front of the sea since I can remember. The coming and going of container and cruiseships are for me one of my childhood most lively memories, as you can imagine by the picture below, taken from my bedroom window.

Since my mother and my sister started working on cruiseships, my attachment got higher and higher. Now we could all see their ships coming back home, hours before it reached the shore, and listen to the incredible, and sometimes awful, stories on board.

One of these days, I saw the picture of the giant sinking “C” at the front page of a german newspaper and decided to read more about it. There were numerous accounts of people that have survived the tragedy, explaining how chaotich the rescue missions where and that the crew was trying to make things seems like they weren’t so serious. Afterwards, the writer talks about the fact that, what was known as a luxury line, was now offering cruises for surprisingly low prices, and whether this may have affected the security systems of the company.

First of all, although never having been on a sinking ship myself, I find it hard to imagine that more than 4.000 people can walk calmly to the rescue boats, as they are told to. I also can’t imagine this ever having happened before. In my imaginative head, it can only be a caotich situation. The crew is trained to contain chaos in such situations, so that the operations can flow as programmed and more people can be saved, so no wonder if they aren’t running around the ship and yelling “WE’RE GONNA DIE!”.

I don’t want to be disrespectful to the families who lost their loved ones to this tragedy, and I’m sure security specialists would find this comment extremely stupid, but I find incredible that only six people died (this number may get higher in the next days). Why would security specialists find this stupid? Because all the security systems in a ship are made for saving everybody, there should be no deaths. Besides, a ship can take hours to sink, leaving enough time for all the rescue operations to be completed. Well, at least that’s the theory. In practice, we should consider the human factors, those that no security system can prevent. The heavy sleeper that wakes up too late, the woman on the shower, that with the movement of the ship hits her head and becomes uncounscios, the drunk guy that didn’t take it seriously, the people in panic that couldn’t react fast enough, families looking for their relatives and we can’t forget those people who go back to grab their valuable belongings. I know it sounds stupid, but there’s always someone who does that. If the crew would have abandoned the ship before helping the passangers like the captain did, I’m sure there would have been hundreds, or even thousands, of deaths.

If you’ve ever been in a ship, you know that every single human being on board has to go through a safety drill right after embarking, before the ship leaves the port. In this drill, people learn how to react in such situations and how to get to their lifeboats from wherever they are (yes, everyone has a specific lifeboat, which you can find by a number on your bedroom key). Once again, this is just theory. In practice, people find the drill boring and hardly ever pay attention to it, not to mention the ones who are making jokes all the time and making the crew’s work very hard. It’s like in the airplane, when the flight attendant is showing the security proceedure and half of the people are sleeping. The other half is reading or listening to music. Well, that I can understand, I mean, what are the chances of surviving an airplane crash anyway?

With family and friends working on board, I’ve already listened to a bunch of scary stories. When people criticize the captain of Concordia for taking too long to turn on the alarms, I kept remembering those stories, and wondering what would have happened if the captains of all ships around the world always activated the alarms and evacuated the ships every time there was a hole and water coming inside. Plus all the other problems that can happen, and they do, everyday. Whether he was irresponsible or not by taking so long, it’s not for me to judge. This requires a lot of investigation and knowledge that I don’t have. The only thing I can do is to call him an asshole for having abandoned the ship, but I’m also not doing that. First of all, because I’m not really sure if he was an asshole of he just completely panicked, for being the person who could better understand the gravity of the situation. Besides, I’m also not sure whether he could have saved one of those lives if he’d stayed on board for longer, and I think there are enough people to judge him, so I’ll leave the dirty work for them.

Now, that the security of the ships have been affected by the low prices of the cruises…this doesn’t seem realistic to me. The fact that luxury items are becoming more accessible is not an isolated case of Costa, but a world phenomenon. Globalization, democratization, capitalism, growth of 3rd world countries, crisis in the world’s leading economies and many other factors are responsible for this tendency, and it doesn’t seems like it’s going to stop anytime soon. And frankly, I don’t think the cruise companies are losing money because of this, quite the opposite. Instead of having 2 or 3 luxury lines, they now have dozens of them.

I’ve always worried about the safety of my loved ones on board, but at the moment, I’m quite relaxed. I’m sure there’s a safety paranoia going on in all ships around the world, stuff being double-checked and precaution on its highest possible levels. We might be stupid sometimes, but we do learn with our – and also from other people’s – mistakes. So let’s pray that this horrible tragedy with Costa Concordia will serve as an example so that this never happens again.

Cruises are now probably safer and cheaper than ever. If I were you, I would book mine.

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No pain, no gain

How would you enjoy pleasure

If you never felt pain?

If you never lose

How can you enjoy gain?

 

How could you appreciate beauty

If you didn’t know ugliness?

How could you enjoy the company of your love

If you’ve never experienced loneliness?

 

How would you feel the sun on your cheeks

If you’ve never perished on a rainy day?

How could you ever feel free

If you have never been locked away?

 

The noisy neighbor from upstairs

That with his music gives you a headache

Is the same that lends you an egg

When you are baking a chocolate cake

 

The family that makes fun of you

And sometimes acts like they’re mad

Is the same that warms up your milk

And hugs you when you’re sad

 

The wind that messes up your hair

And makes you look like a cartoon

Is the same that cools you down

On a hot and sunny afternoon

 

That sometimes things are hard

This shouldn’t make you sad

Life may not always be good

But it’s certainly not always bad

 

Life’s secret is in it’s balance

Unpredictable like the sea

Don’t expect to guess what’s coming

Or disappointed you will be!

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