02 Feb 2009

At Sea, En Route to Brazil; Cruise Day 7

We have three days at sea on the way to Fortaleza, our first stop in Brazil. So many on-board activities to choose from today, we didn’t even know where to start.
There must have been 25 scheduled activities today (to say nothing of reading a book by the pool). Here is what we did.
South America Overview - Like many Americans, Allyn and I are much more knowledgeable about Europe than South America. As such, we heard a lecture by Terry Breen: an Overview of South America. I have heard her  speak on several other cruises. Terry seems to know everything, and knows how to present it best. I wish I had more teachers like her while I was at school.
Here are a few highlights of what we learned:
·     Brazil: Alone, it is bigger than the contiguous 48 states, and has a population of about 200 Million. Believing Brazilians all have the same culture and philosophy, is as naïve as thinking that urban New Yorkers are the same as Alabamians, or Indiana farmers.

·     ALL of their cars run on ethanol, and they have plenty more fuel to export. But, the U.S. levies artificially high taxes to stop this option from being economically viable in here.

·     88% of South America continent is geographically east of our East Coast.

·     There are 19 countries in South America, and they each have their own culture. It is much like European countries which differ from themselves.

Looking at a map South America, it resembles ours. They both have many of the same resources as North America does. Yet there were three major differences which have historically impacted development there, even today.
·     We were colonized by the English, who (in spite of their monarchy) had a parliamentary system, and a  Protestant background. Both of these strongly contrast with the Spanish and Portuguese cultures of political and religious absolute rule.

·     Trade in the U.S. was based on free-trade policies, instead of mercantilism . Translated: in S.A. they believed there was a fixed amount of wealth sent back to Europe or exported, but things were not imported. One way street. This wealth outflow has sustained a low standard of living for many.

·     Finally, whereas the English encountered a number of Native Americans (who were not treated fairly), our Southern neighbors encountered a population of about 25 million indigenous people. This cultural blend still impacts them today.

Inter-terrestrial Aliens – Next up was an astronomer speaking about foreign life possibilities. Turned out he was speaking about science fiction and nothing based on fact. We left after five minutes.

Mexican Pool Barbecue Lunch - Love Mexican food; love barbecues; love eating.
Leonardo da Vinci Lecture – He was great. The lecture was great. I fell asleep. Ended up back at our cabin to nap, canceling the balance of the afternoon. So much for tea time and trivial pursuit.
Super Bowl – I emailed in my wagers. There was a big party onboard, but we watched the game in our cabin. As of yesterday, I didn’t even know who was playing. My son, the sports expert, gave me five good props to bet on. I won one.