We went to Buzios with another couple, and the three girls from Canada who have been staying with us. As I mentioned earlier, the guys drove up after work to join the ladies - we arrived earlier in the day. As I also may have mentioned, we had a bit too much wine before heading out, and when we did, we grabbed a "red van" to take us to centro. Now, in Rio, I have been advised many times not to ever under any circumstances take the marked white vans that tons of people use to get from one Bairro to another (although I know people who swear by them, too). In Buzios, it's apparently ok to take the vans. Give them an inch, they will take a mile, right? So into an UNMARKED red van pile in the 5 girls, enroute to Centro. The driver takes an "interesting" route... before my friend pipes up that maybe this is not the right way to go and maybe we should get out. Soon we are in Centro and pile out. Later that night, one of the five very drunk girls notices her visa is missing. (Ok this time it's not me!) The next day, she calls Visa to cancel her card and realizes that someone has attempted to use it (unsuccessfully) to withdraw cash several times. That evening, the driver of the "Red van" shows up at our Poussada, with the visa, to return it. I should note that he did not pick us up right from our poussada nor did we say where we were staying - so he put some effort into tracking us down. When returning the visa he lingered around as to indicate he would like to be compensated for his "good deed" - which CERTAINLY would have happened had he not tried to use it! He eventually left, but then returned within the hour with a slip of paper with his name and phone number and address in case we wanted to "get in touch" later... weird!
He obviously did not realize we knew that an attempt had been made on the visa, but still!
I would also like to note that he did not "steal" the visa - we do believe that it was mistakenly left in the vehicle, however he did try to compromise it after that...
After struggling to find a decent place to have dinner out in Angra, I was thrilled to see the restaurant selection in Buzios and looked forward to some amazing dinners out... then we got into the wine early and dinner ended up being some late night appetizers (and the guys arrived to five very intoxicated women, one of which they had earlier kept calling to get directions from but she insisted on only responding in what I am assuming was very broken and poor Portugese. Very helpful... Did I mention this may have been me?). Nevertheless, there are a ton of great spots to choose from including Shitake, Sawasadee and a few other restaurants which also have locations in Rio.
Buzios has great nightclubs such as Privelige and Pacha, which makes for some late nights and long recovery times on the beach (big long lunches with sand between your toes, followed by a rest, swim, and an acai helps, we've decided).
I must note the number of men in the clubs - there sure did not seem to be many women around. Also - Privelige's computer system went down the night we were there so no one was able to enter or leave the bar for over an hour. For those not familiar, most bars here work on a card system where you are given a card or piece of paper or receipt upon entering, which you use to purchase drinks, etc. (they swipe your card or punch your ticket or receipt), then you pay on your way out. You don't want to lose your card under any circumstances. You'd think this might create some efficiencies but I have yet to see it... anyway this is the reason for the big mass confusion at the door that night - when the computers shut down everything freezes!
After the bar we found some late night snacks at this crepe place that even has its own DJ...
Buzios feels very safe at night, especially compared to Rio!
One of the highlights for the guys - renting dune buggies and tearing around town on them. They come in every color of the rainbow and are about $R70 per day to rent. The locals must absolutely detest these things, they are loud and everyone drives like madmen. Fun though. A word of warning... if you see a large semi rolling down a hill backwards, ahead of you, look out!!
I am a nervous passenger while ripping around little narrow roads in these types of vehicles in developing countries, long ago my husband and I were tossed off of a scooter in Cuba, and subsequently nearly run over by a passing truck... yet we emerged unscathed to laugh about it immediately afterwards and tell the tale (although my husband HATES it when I tell that one...) But still!
Our first afternoon in Buzios it was just the girls and the weather was not super hot, so we headed downtown for a little bit of shopping. When we asked for directions to walk we were told that Buzios was "not really a shopping place" - we soon wondered where the fellow got that idea? Maybe it was just because it's off season but we were not only impressed by the variety of stores but also by the prices. I found hands down the best biquini shop I have found yet in Brazil there, I hesitate to even put the name on here because it was just that good and I don't want them to raise their ridiculously low prices, but I have had some really amazingly kind emails from blog readers lately so here it is: Azai. The store had a few big bargain bins full of beautiful, good quality biquinis in the range of R$15 - R$30. I am talking the quality of Victoria's Secret type bathing suits. Cheaper than buying even from the vendors on the beach. Beautiful with amazing detail. I bought three - one for a friend back home who wants to make her Bunda Brasileira, and two for myself including a red and white polka dot number and a black low cut one piece that looks like something the Kardashian sisters would wear... it needs accessories to the tune of black heeled sandals, a big necklace and a yacht to do it justice...
Fanatastic store - go!
Other hint - fantastic beach bags for R$10! In pretty much every store...
Further down the strip are many of the same favorite stores you'd find in Leblon/Ipanema, Animale, etc. and there were some fantastic deals on! To be honest we got sidetracked (ok we decided it was too dangerous for the credit cards to continue because of the "success" we had at the first few stores, and ducked into a lounge for a drink...) and did not explore the full strip but rest assured if it rains when you are in Buzios and you like to shop, you will NOT be disappointed.
We recently spent some time in Buzios. For us, it had a lot more to offer than Angra did (we visited Angra a few months back). Many of our visitors want to do an excursion to one of these destinations when they come to Rio, where they will go will depend on what they are looking for...
Both are very beautiful and have a lot to offer. Both have great resorts, amazing beaches, snorkelling, boating, diving, etc.
Where they differ:
Buzios has shopping, a wide variety of excellent restaurants and nightlife. Buzios has the right type of beaches for activities such as surfing and kitesurfing. Much more developed and busy (even on the "off season!").
Late last week, HSBC released the results of a survey of expatriates (mostly white collar expat types) ranking expat destinations by salaries, longevity of stay, luxuries and accomodation.
The top 4 destinations for expats overall: Singapore, UAE, USA, Belgium, Hong Kong.
Lowest rated: the UK & France.
The richest expats overall came from Brazil, Ireland and Australia. I look forward to additional reports from HSBC which are coming out later this year and focus on expat children ("Overseas Offspring") and the cultural integration of expats. For the complete report, visit HSBC's offshore site...
The CPF (or say pay effie) is a must-have if you are going to spend much time in Rio or make any major purchases. From what I can tell, it's like a Social Insurance Number in Canada (or "Social Security" number in the US). I have one. I was told when I got it that I would never need it. In reality, I need it all the time.
It's interesting to me that in a country where you are told explicitly never to give any information over the phone to anyone, (even so much as your name!) that we are asked for our CPF number constantly - in fact the other day when I was getting a manicure done, they asked me for it so they could put me in the computer system.
I guess the idea behind this is that the government can track the spending of its people because merchants are "required" to get the CPF of the customer whenever there a note fiscal or receipt is given. Obviously this does not happen every single time, but there have been many instances where I have been refused when I have been trying to buy things because I didn't give my CPF. (Things meaning big ticket items like furniture. At first I didn't always have it with me!)
I find this bureaucracy to be ridiculous, considering that I have yet to get an "accurate" head count for how many people live in Rio, let alone Brazil, and so on and so forth. This CPF tracking is an enormous waste of time and resources. A major frustration for foreigners (and I would imagine locals alike).
So if you are moving to Rio, make sure that you get a CPF... and don't be shocked that you might have to give some guy's brother $R50 to get it...
I realize I was a little "behind the times" in reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (I just finished it a few weeks ago). I think there was a reason for it. I identified with so many aspects of this book at this time of my life (there are of course exceptions ie) the divorce part!). Eat, Pray, Love is the second account I've read from an American living in Rome in the past couple of months (As the Romans Do, which every foreigner living abroad should read, was the other one) and there are many similarities to life in Rio.
I related to her struggles and joys of learning a new language, and with the sense of adventure in living in a foreign place, and being frequently alone in that experience a lot (in case you are new to the blog, my husband works a lot!), and the learning that takes place in this situation.
I yearn to relate to the experiences she had at the ashram in India, difficult but freeing. People tell me all the time that I should become a yoga instructor, but I don't feel as though I could do it without spending YEARS in India learning from a master... plus I don't know the first thing about meditation so I would need to work on that first...
Her experiences in Indonesia have the strongest Brazilian connection, however. No spoiler, I promise! However there is a section of the book I want to quote from, which leads me to another point about Brazil... a point in the book where Elizabeth suspects a friend might be taking advantage of her, financially:
"You need to understand the thinking in Bali. It's a way of life here for people to try to get the most money they can out of visitors. It's how everyone survives..."
I cringe at this for two reasons. First of all, I hate to think this could be true... second, I hate the cultural implications under his speech, the whiff of colonial White Man's Burden stuff, the patronizing "this-is-what-all-these-people-are-like" argument. But Felipe isn't a colonist; he's a Brazilian. He explains, "Listen, I grew up poor in South America. You think I don't understand the culture of this type of poverty? "
"What should I do?"
"Don't get angry about it, whatever happens... This is her survival tactic, just accept that. You must not think that she's not a good person,or that she and her kids don't honestly need your help. But you cannot let her take advantage of you. Darling, I've seen it repeated so many times. What happens with Westerners who live here for a long time is that they usually end up falling into one of two camps. Half of them keep playing the tourist... and getting ripped off like crazy. The other half get so frustrated with being ripped off all the time, they start to hate the Balinese."
Since we have been in Brazil, I have witnessed this first hand. My husband and I now refer to it as "the code" and I have seen some Brazilians protect one another (i.e. in providing each other income, via foreigners) to the point of their own detriment.
I would understand this if we were dealing with a third party but I am talking about dealing with people either we employ or the firm my husband works with employs... who I generally expect would have our best interest in mind, but no, stimulating the economy of "Brazil as a whole" seems to be a higher priority than even maintaining personal credibility or arguably even one's own job.
Coming from the land of "it's every man for himself" seeing this unity and love and concern for one's country in action is admirable, yet I see it as "winning the battle and losing the war" - why not make Brazil an easier and less exorbitantly expensive place to do business, lessening barriers to entry such as these would stimulate the economy and eventually everyone would be better off, instead it seems like a big fast-cash-grab... and does nothing to build Brazil's credibility as a decent place to do business.
I by no means intend to paint everyone with one brush. I also realize foreigners everywhere feel this way at times. But when I see this happening in the corporate world in Brazil, it really makes me wonder...
Chris Brogan wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago "Is Your Blog For Rent?" which talks about product placement, etc. on blogs. Apparently he has had incidents of companies sending him products to evaluate and (hopefully) review and write about, for word of mouth exposure.
I can be rented but not bought - I think it would be fun to try things out and if you read my blog, you know I tend to tell it like it is... bring it on!
I don't think it's any coincidence that EVERYTHING in Brazil is sugar coated... or that the food labelling in Brazil does not feature how much sugar the product contains... which is a scary concept!
I found this blog post entitled "10 Steps to Becoming Fluent in a Language in Six Months or Less"...
Deciding whether or not to read it felt a lot like the feeling you have before you step on the scale after Christmas vacation...
So, just as I would jump on the scale on January 2nd, I read the article. I am a sucker for (self) punishment. People who know more than three languages (meaning, most Europeans) intimidate the hell out of me. I admire them. I feel inadequate!
This article was written by a women who casually mentions that in addition to English, she "learned Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese Chinese as a child, picked up French in high school, and have recently became conversant in Spanish as I travel through South America."
I assume she has some great tips.
Here is her list of recommendations in bold, some of her comments in regular type and how I stacked up in italics...
1. Immerse yourself
Yes, if you don't count hanging out with almost exclusively "expats" the entire time I've been in Brazil, I have immersed myself... does the rest of the time count... oh and PS I still watch English TV with Portuguese subtitles... I'm giving myself a check!
2. Forget translating: think like a baby!
...Just start talking, even if it seems like babbling. Resisting the urge to translate everything into your native language can be the single fastest shortcut to fluency... I must say this is far more easy for me when I am ALONE - meaning not with people I know. Although this experience has been good for hacking down that nasty ego, it's still there somewhere...
Half a check...
3. How do you say?
Besides common greetings, the one phrase you should memorize and always have at the ready is the phrase is “How do you say that / what is that called?”
CHECK! Though I don't always remember afterwards...
4. Write it
Ok thanks to my drill sargeant teachers, I actually think I can write in Portuguese better than I can speak or understand it... which would be lovely if I could communicate via msn messenger for the rest of my life, but... (and I don't even have msn messenger, imagine that...)
I should get two checks for this one... I am doing better than I thought...
5. Use cognates and draw links
Ever noticed how some words appear exactly the same across various languages? These are called “cognates.” Unlocking the usage of cognates instantly gives you several hundred more words to your vocabulary. For example, most words ending in “ion” in the Latin languages are the same in English.
This is definitely my strong suit. I will give you one solid example that might help you if you are learning Portuguese...
"Moustache" is "Bigode" in Portuguese. Which sounds kind of like "big orgy" - which reminds me of my favorite orgy loving moustached man, "GUNTHER". As a side note if you do not know who Gunther is, stop reading this right now, quickly run to the washroom and relieve yourself so that you do not pee your pants when watching his video, and click here. This is also related to learning languages because I personally feel that Gunter does not understand the words to his English songs he sings. Listen carefully. How else could he possibly keep a straight face. I would have to say that Tutti Frutti Summer Love is my official fave...
This is Gunther. If you are meeting him for the first time, your life will officially change. You're welcome.
Ok back to Portuguese... I think it is safe to say I demonstrate proficiency in this area...
6. Local TV, movies, music
Watch movies, listen to music, sing songs, and browse newspapers and magazines. It’s fun and helps improve your pronunciation and comprehension.
I have really tried with this one, I watched about a week of Cirandra de Pedra or whatever it's called but then got busy and frankly found it boring. I want to find something I like and am actually entertained by so that I learn. Any suggestions??
Half a check...
7. Non-verbal cues
Beyond words, observe locals when they talk. Be it the Gaelic shrug or a slight tilt of the head, combining body language with a new tongue helps you communicate better.
Check. I grew up in a community with a lot of Italians...
8. Get emotional
Emotive experiences often etch impressions onto our memory. Make full use of embarrassing / funny / angry experiences by linking them to the new language.
9. A world of friends / then going solo.
While inpidual classes can be highly beneficial for unsurpassed attention, group classes with friends can greatly aid learning. Having a friend to practice with helps you get better, and you can also learn from the different mistakes different people make.
I did the group class thing for 2 months and it was very helpful. I need to make more Brazilian friends though! Half a check...
10. Practice at every opportunity before and after you travel.
Do my 5 Portuguese classes before I moved here count? Oh and did I mention I am going home this summer?
No check mark on this one!
TALLY TIME: 8 out of ten.
Which leads me to my number one tip on learning a foreign language: CONFIDENCE is the most important thing. Just try. You will learn the most this way, and people will help you by correcting you (this takes confidence too...)
It's a funny phenomenon, no matter where you go in the world.... tourists wear t-shirts they bought on previous trips. I see tons of obvious tourists in Rio wearing shirts that say one of: "Vancouver... Miami... Hawaii... London... Puerto Vallarta... "
Not being one to buy t-shirts as souvenirs for myself with the name of the place I visited, it's a concept I don't quite get. Do people wear these shirts all the time? Or just while on other vacations...
It's not your first pony ride, we get it...
It is very expensive to live in Rio (I may have mentioned this a time or two before...) I am still shocked by how expensive our rent is.
Forbes just published an article on this topic, as Mercer's Worldwide Cost of Living survey was released for 2008. Brazil's growing economy and the real gaining value has created a high demand for housing, particularly high end housing, which has driven up prices, and as you have read previously, decreased selection!
Apparently Rio is still more affordable than New York city but is #4 in terms of the rate at which affordability is declining.
The Mercer survey takes more into consideration than just housing however- including food costs, items, etc. As food is very cheap in Rio, I suspect that it this probably "makes up for" the exorbitant real estate costs a bit in the rankings. The survey considers 143 cities across 6 continents and measures the comparative costs of over 200 items (housing, food, transportation, clothing, household goods, entertainment, etc.)
The Top 5 most expensive cities in the "America's?"
The Top 5 most expensive cities in the world:
Being away for special occasions is one of the toughest part of living abroad.
Today is my mother’s 50th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! I wish I was there with you today…
Unlike her 30th birthday, at which time she felt “old” (and now so do I, being that I remember it quite clearly…) mom meets this occasion with gusto; she is not merely “nifty at fifty” – she is kicking 50’s ass.
How so? Mom is proving it’s never too late to try something new. In her 49th year she added weight lifting and running (!) to her usual, already intense fitness routine of power walking, x-country skiing and daily yoga practice…. Mom you look great and if I hope I look half as good as you do when I turn 50…
She has a wonderful network of friends, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been so touched by her stories of the kindness and generousity they have shown her to commemorate her 50th, Not that I am surprised, she is such a wonderful, generous person herself that of course everyone wants to reciprocate.
Mom faces 50 fearlessly because she says she has never been happier in her life than she is now. The best is yet to come!
Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you have a wonderful day and we will let the birthday celebrations just keep continuing on… I look forward to celebrating with you as soon as I get home to visit. Have fun at the spa this weekend and know that we love you very much.
Most of "The Testament" by John Grisham takes place in Brazil. One of the little gems in the book is the description of the "despachante" - which I now realize we have used several times - here is the description from the book:
"a personal dispatcher, expediter, buyer, or
runner. No official document is obtained in Brazil without waiting in long
lines. A despachante knows the city clerks, the courthouse crowd, the
politicians, and the customs agents. He knows the system and how to grease it
to get things done. The job requires a quick tongue, patience, and a lot of
brass. For a small fee, a despachante will obtain permits and passports or do
your voting, banking, and mailing - the list has no end. No bureaucratic
obstacle is too intimidating. A ‘despachante de aduana’ will assist you with
imports, exports, and transportation involving customs houses. Some of the
services of an honest despachante may seem fraudulent by U.S. standards, but
acceptable by Brazilian standards. The services of an unscrupulous despachante
may seem fraudulent even by Brazilian standards.”
My "Insight of the Day" today was ironically one of my favorite quotes...
"Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them." W. Clement Stone. To sign up for Awareness Strategies Insight of the Day, click here
I love this quote because I think it's so true. And I think we are attracted to people (ie friends) we want to be more like.
Seeing it today made me think about Rio and wonder how it has shaped me and how I have changed over the past few months. It will be interesting to hear the observations of loved ones once I return home. Although it's funny, my favorite song of the moment is Bob Seger: Still the Same... so who know...
Although there are times when I complain about the EFFICIENCY of service here in Brazil, generally speaking there is no shortage of service people ready and willing to try and help you out. Service in restaurants here in Brazil is outstanding.
Case in point... last week I went out for dinner with a friend, to a (fantastic) restaurant I hadn't been to before. We split the cheque and went on our merry way. Last night, my husband and I returned to the same restaurant as I wanted him to try it out as well. The owner came up to me and asked if I had eaten there the previous week, and had my full name, and asked me if I was me (what a weird sentence I know!).... apparently what happened was the restaurant had overcharged me by R$100 the previous week (my husband gave me an eyebrow raise: didn't you notice? I had some espunanche, ok??), without me noticing. But this guy was just sick about it, he felt so bad, you could tell. Anyway I was just shocked that he recognized me - I was wearing my hair a lot differently, so good on him!
It is quite usual to be "remembered" by staff here, which is nice once you get over that it is not creepy, it is just "good service" - something we could use more of back home.
Amongst other questions I regularly field from our friends & family back home: So since you are not working, are you going to have a baby down there? Would it get Brazilian citizenship?
I do understand why they ask. It's sort of logical. But for me, it's a tough one. I love kids, I love babies. I want to have children, but ideally it would not happen for about 2 or 3 more years. Which is also the timeline for leaving Brazil, which means I could then work again, which seems a bit counterproductive: why not just get started now?
Yes, it is tempting for many reasons:
I should never say never (if you have read this blog from the beginning you might notice that I tend to start to change my tune on certain topics as life unfolds...) but there are also a ton of reasons NOT to, such as...
Thankfully, there is no rush and we will get our fill of baby time on our upcoming visit back home with a new niece and various friends welcoming new bundles into our lives this summer (a whopping 10 babies... and all girls so far it seems!) That'll do, that'll do!
Check out this great little presentation on plastic bags and why they are so terrible for the environment...
To Brazilianize this post, I must say that despite the absolutely criminal amount of packaging on everything we buy in North America, the situation seems even worse in Brazil. Packaging galore! Most of the time in grocery stores, groceries are double bagged (whether they need to be or not!)...
Yesterday one of the girls who is staying with us was out for a run on Ipanema & Leblon beach and saw a big red truck with a bunch of people standing around a group of people rescuing what appeared to her to be a black duck. Turns out it was more likely a penguin... as you can see in this photo, the baby penguins do sort of look like ducks.
Apparently more than 400 young penguins, have recently washed up on the beaches of Rio. Reportedly the birds get swept up in fast-moving currents off Antarctica and Patagonia, and this year is the worst year for it on record, with more dead penguins than ever. Why? Some say it's overfishing - which results in the penguins having to swim further out for food and then get trapped in currents. Some blame pollution. Others blame weather patterns. Global warming...
The penguins who made it are being treated at the Niteroi zoo,
On a slightly unrelated note, back home the bears are also demonstrating some odd behaviour - they are out & about in places they normally would not be this time of year. It seems as though changing weather patterns are affecting animals everywhere these days...
My husband travelled to the US this week for work and boy did I miss him! He was only gone for 3 nights and 2 days but it felt like a long time. I even have visitors here to keep me company and I still really missed him. Which is weird for me because we used to be apart for long periods of time (4 months once!) - several weeks on several different occasions and though we missed each other it was not like this!
I guess we have just become much more dependent on one another and closer over the past few months. One of our "shortcomings" as a couple before was that we were independent almost to a fault, so perhaps in the long run this will teach us balance.
Moving to a foreign country with only your spouse is stressful, and so above all else I am grateful that this is the feeling I have rather than "He is driving me crazyyyyyyy!"
A while back I posted about how I look out my window into a beauty shop where waxes regularly occur with blinds open. And how violated it makes me feel. Thank god I have curtains now that I can close. But still, WTF? And what is wrong with these patrons that they are a-okay with this? I literally made eye contact with a guy getting his butt crack waxed one day and he gave me a double eyebrow raise... nice.
That's it, today I decided to start taking photos... here is a lady getting a bikini wax... nice. Yes, unfortunately I CAN see more than what shows in this photo from my place, but I thought I would spare you. This blog is only rated about PG-13 I've decided, and I'd like to keep it that way.
The last piece of furniture on my list is arriving today!!! Which means I don't have to sit at home anymore waiting for furniture deliveries! (And I can post some before & after photos of my apartment for you too...)
I will however still have to sit at home once more for the locksmith - last time he was here for 7 hours to install 3 locks... and that is another blog post yet to come...
The low - crotched pant... it's a look I'm not sporting but I've certainly seen it a lot. The crotch of the pant just sort of ... hangs... it's different.
Ok so I watched about 4 episodes last night and found it to be well done, the physical humor is very funny (dancing around, etc.) but I must say that they speak so fast that it is hard to follow! And there are not any subtitles, we were hoping to read along in Portuguese to make it easier. Help! Does anyone know of a website where I can find either a transcript of each episode or even a brief synopsis of each one. I figure it would be best to watch each episode "cold" then read the synopsis/transcript to catch some of what I missed, and then watch it again...
I'm also a bit confused by the premise of some of the episodes - do these people pretend to cheat on each other? Or do they cheat on each other? Are they making fun of cheating on one another? Is it an open relationship? Between the language barrier and then potentially some cultural ones as well, I am having a bit of trouble following. But it is definitely entertaining!
One of the most common questions I get from friends & family back home: "So how many pairs of shoes have you bought down there?" They know me well...
As I may have mentioned, last year when I came to Brazil I may have bought um, well, a lot of shoes...
What some people in fact called "an excessive" amount of shoes. My husband called it a once in a lifetime shopping spree. I called it the best day EVER.
The pink, very Carrie Bradshaw pair is to go with a fabulous dress that I plan to wear to a wedding this summer when I go home.
I can't believe the response on the TV/Novella post - thank you all so much for your recommendations and insight, I am sure that many people will benefit from this info. Before I moved here I tried to find info on Brazilian tv and novellas to help me learn the language but could not find much. The DVDs of TV series' can be purchased at Livraria da Travessa, they have quite a wide selection.
You would think that I would have completely exhausted this topic by now, but no, I have more to say...
Two more things that are different about the stores here (in addition to all the others I have already identified in previous posts):
1) The carts. At most stores there are options of a metal cart like at home (though they seem to be smaller here) or this plastic thing which you attach the baskets to yourself. Here is a photo of the second option:
Oh and a lot of the carts have a roll of baggies attached so that you have your very own roll of baggies for produce. How innovative...
2) This should be brought to North America!!!!!!!!! SCALES IN GROCERY AND DRUG STORES... And I am not talking about scales for the produce, folks... yes I regularly weigh myself at the grocery and drug store. It is quite an effective way to control what you buy, I must say...
...are definitely nowhere near one another in most cases in life. (Ok ok Whole Foods in Sonoma is an exception) However, I found one very happy place containing my true 'happy place' and a shopping cart yesterday, how odd... a folder on my husband's computer yesterday that got me pretty worked up. No, no, it's not what you are thinking.....
Worked up as in emotional, in a good way.
I found this folder of photos taken on his blackberry (I guess they automatically upload to a different spot on his computer which is why I hadn't seen them before). So I got the treat of seeing photos from a bunch of random things over our last year, taken at spontaneous moments when a "real" camera was not available (and somehow the blackberry always was... what does this tell you about my life/husband?).
But I loved them. Reminded me of the "good old film days" when you would find a roll of film - had no idea what was on it - take it for processing and be in for a big, fun surprise.
What were these photos of? Things like:
Thanks to the help of blog reader Corinne, (thanks Corinne!) I have selected a novela to watch for my Portuguese practice, especially while visiting Canada this summer, and hopefully to all around entertain me.
I have selected Os Normais, both because it sounds interesting and because I found it today. I will let you know how this improves my Portuguese repertoire...
I also plan to see the film Era uma vez in the next couple of weeks as I have guests from Canada who went to see another movie while here and saw previews for it and want to go to it even though they don't understand Portuguese. So we're going...
Before moving to Rio some Brazilians warned me: Don't get hooked on a telenovela! (Brazilian soap opera). But since moving here many people have advised me that I SHOULD, because it would help with my language skills. Ok seemed like a good idea.
So a few weeks ago I decided to throw myself headfirst into it. I started watching Ciranda de Pedra, printed out the synopsis of episodes so that I could translate/work on my reading skills.
I tried to make it work. I tried to be home at 6 every night. I tried to find it interesting. Yeah it didn't really work...
I think the problem is that I would not watch the show if it were in English. So I am now looking for a show that remotely resembles a show I would watch in English. Any suggestions? It would also be good if it was on DVD, then I could watch it on my own schedule...
Regular readers will remember that a couple months ago I started trying out all of the chocolate boutiques I could, looking for that perfect chocolate fix. A discriminating chocolate consumer with limited ability to test them all out (I have a nut allergy), I just didn't find what I was looking for and kind of even gave up. Yes, I tried Cacao Show, I didn't care for it (although they have a wide variety and cute presentation). I found most Brazilian chocolate to be very waxy in texture...
Then my husband was feeling guilty one night (for having to go away on business) and surprised me with a box of Les Amants. Available at Garcia & Rodriguez (Ataulfo de Paiva 1251, Leblon). This officially has changed my view of Brazilian chocolate, try this and you will not be disappointed!
I had several people promise to send the name of their "guy" - only one did! Then there was the matter of finding a dispenser for less than $R200. I just didn't want to pay that. (Leroy Merlin has a few different models for about $R30).
But once I found the "right" guy, (and he actually picked up his phone - something that hadn't been happening for a full WEEK)... the water was here in less than an hour. Oh, Brazil...
I must comment on how amazing the weather has been the past two weeks... sunny warm mild beach weather in the daytime, cools off a bit at night (to about 18 degrees). Just loving it! Especially for "winter".... yes I'm Canadian, any winter above zero sounds good to me. But this is seriously amazing!
The best part about having company is rediscovering all the little things that make living here so different than being back home.
Lately I have come across a number of blogs of travellers sharing their Rio experiences, I thought I'd share some with you. Check them out!
O Gringo No Brasil writes about a beautiful hike in the Tijuca Forest (which I recently visited). Beautiful photos as well. Other entries on his blog include one about the "lighthearted" Brasilian people, and partying in Lapa.
Dudado writes about Rio and how he (I am assuming? Sorry if I am wrong!) "cannot imagine living a normal life (i.e. working)" here. He continues by saying that "The only imaginable lifestyle is to wake up around 11 am, by noon to roll out chairs on the beach and kill the afternoon playing fresco ball and butt-watching. By 4 pm it is time for an early evening caipirinhas or somewhat waterish local beers. After a disco nap one can get ready for a fancy dinner in Ipanema and the night out in the city till the morning. Other six days of the week repeat the Rio cycle."
I like it! It is also evident that Dudado was hanging around Posto 9 in Ipanema (where all the
gold diggers "beautiful people" hang out, near the Cesar Park), as he says: " Young, rich
and beautiful kids at Post 9 could be photographed straight into the
fashion magazines. I am convinced that there are no overweight people
in Rio. More than that - cariocas (that's how Rio residents call
themselves) are all in great shape! Also, apparently cellulite is not
in Brazilian genes or it magically disappears under the Brazilian sun.
Yes, Brazilians are HOT to a point of disbelief. What do they eat? What
do they do to get this Green gods' perfect bodies??"
Katrina D. writes on the blog "Weird Vegetables" and is here writing about her yoga class: "which was like no other kind of yoga I've ever done and involved Bollywood-type dancing and heavy nasal breathing meant to induce snot rockets--I kid you not, the instructor handed me some Kleenex to hold in front of my nose before we got started...." and what seems to be a bit of an obsession with weird vegetables... you've come to the right place Katrina! She loves the markets here and she captures the essence of the Brazilian market beautifully, really cracked me up, she loves: "their mix of chaos and OCD produce layout. You can have all sorts of rinds flying through the air, old ladies running you over with their rolling carts, lime-and-garlic vendors tugging at your elbow, and just as you're about to lose it, a pristine pyramid of fruits and vegetables reminds you that there nevertheless remains an underlying force of order in the universe."
Sarah and Phil of World Nomads, "It's a long way from Whitley Bay" write about what sounds like a great weekend in the city.
Blogger Jacqui Walls writes about her visit to Rocinha: "It showed how the favelas and their residents contributed to the soul of the city, the spirit of ´Carnival´ and makes it such a big attraction for people from all over the world."
For tips on how to save money when travelling to Rio (it's expensive, kids!), check out this post by Tmassey20.
A Blogger called "The Key Influencer" also writes about spending time in Brazil, specifically Rio & Sao Paulo. comparing SP to "Manhattan times five" and my stomping ground... "LeBlon was part Beverly Hills, part South Beach and alive with commerce." On the favelas: "It is not uncommon to see 12 year olds marching around with rifles and grenades protecting the favelas." The sum of the visit? "Getting to know and then leaving Brazil was like making friends with someone you feel like you have known your entire life. It is a country that I know I will be back to visit, do business within and bring my family to explore and get to know better. If you have not been, take a trip and make sure you see it all….."
I love hearing about the experiences of others. Check out some of these blogs for more!
This was the "Letter of the Day" in the Winnipeg Sun last week -
DON'T BREAK AN ANKLE, 'FANS'
Regarding the Portuguese soccer fans, no sooner has their team been eliminated from a tournament and they find another team to cheer for, and find an excuse as to why to cheer for them.
For the soccer World Cup they cheer for Brazil. Why? Because Portugal colonized the country! Brazilians don't cheer for Portugal teams, that is for sure. And I guess if you use that Portuguese logic, then the Italians, French, English and Germans can cheer for the nations and colonies they founded.
Although I highly doubt that Englishmen would cheer for Canada in a World Cup, or that the French would support Quebec in anything. For the Euro 2008 tournament, the Portuguese switched allegiances to Spain. One Portuguese fan was quoted as claiming the Spanish players were simply "cousins" to the Portuguese. I would doubt that real Spanish fans would cheer for Portugal.
I love the Portuguese as people and have
many as friends, and Portugal is a beautiful country, but the
Portuguese' lack of faith in their soccer team is legendary and
You would never see fans of any other country switch teams they way they do.
The fans that follow their teams through qualifying and truly bleed their nation's colours could never fly another flag or sing a bandwagon national anthem.
I must insert a small comment on this... my German friend was watching the Germany-Portugal game at our gym (of course this is a couple weeks ago now!) and felt a lot of "love" when her team won (hoots, hollers, the whole nine yards from the Brazilians...) This guy Anthony is right about one thing - there's no way the Brazilians would cheer for Portugal...
Two interesting articles this week about Brazil - one from Reuters about Brazil's emerging middle class. According to the article, the income of the poorest 10 percent of Brazil's people grew by about 9 percent per year between 2001 and 2006, compared with 2 to 4 percent for richer people. Although Brazil still has some of the worst inequality in the world between the rich and the poor, this is rapidly changing. Tens of millions are moving out of danger of hunger - which also means sales are up for items such as consumer electronics, appliances and cars. However, the article also addresses those left behind.
The second article focuses on Recife, and its boom - condo developments, easy credit, etc. What's less obvious:
- Wooden and tin shacks teeter over open sewers and fetid rivers.
- Public schools struggle to prepare workers for the growing economy.
- Hundreds of slums breed dengue mosquitoes and Brazil's highest murder rate.
"Brazil leaves a lasting impression of a nation that has one foot striding confidently toward the global stage, yet the other mired in the Third World. Its ability to make the leap will depend on how it addresses its glaring social inequalities, many Brazilians believe."
The G8 summit - a meeting of the world's leaders of the "G8" countries - the United States, Japan, Russia, Germany, France,
Britain, Canada and Italy - get together to talk about the world economy, environmental concerns, African development
and other issues - was held this week in Japan. The G8 is made up of what were once the world's most powerful nations... now the world's most powerful nations are more likely those plus what is called the "plus five" -- China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. Analysts say that in the past few years, a global power shift has been seen in that the G8 have had to rely more and more on emerging developing countries to solve world
crises, and these countries were included in meetings on the last day of the G8, as they have been for the past few years. Analysts say this reflects the growing economic weight of these countries - the UN says that the BRIC countries alone accounted for more than 50% growth in terms of purchasing power of currencies in the past 5 yrs.
It has been speculated widely that Brazil, India & China will be asked to join the G8... which I guess would make it the G11? The prospect of Brazil joining the G8 has even been called an election issue - John McCain thinks it's a good idea apparently...
Brazil's contribution to this year's G8? Lula delivered a presentation on the importance of use of biofuels in the fight against global warming - a hot topic to say the least.
Everyone knows about the beautiful views from Corcovado and Sugar Loaf, but I think this is just as spectacular (and closer to the ocean), also less crowded and not at all commercial.
The women's teams are playing today (Thursday) at 8 our time (7 T.O. time). BTW I am not sure why I put all these "Canadense" references in my blog, I just realized that just 6% of my readership is Canadian... anyhoo...
How could I forget to mention this!?
Remember the crazy balloon priest who went missing back in April? Here is my original post on the topic. Don't get me started on the misuse of resources aka his attempted rescue...
In case you missed it, this priest went missing over the ocean while trying to raise money for a "spiritual rest stop for truckers" by setting a record for flying using hundreds of helium filled balloons. I guess the old record - which I assume still stands - was for 19 hours of flight time.
I know what you are thinking: however could this brilliant plan have possibly have gone wrong?
Petrobras workers on a tugboat found what everyone is pretty sure is his body about 100 km out to sea last weekend.
The big news in the Brazilian business world today - some major arrests - among those arrested: prominent banker Daniel Dantas of Opportunity Financial Group, the former Mayor of Sao Paulo - Celso Pitta, and investor Naji Nahas.
These arrest were in connection with a government related bribery scandal back in 2005.
A word on doing business in Brazil...
I like to skirt around it a lot, but to be honest there are a lot of things that are still dodgy and not talked about. Like corruption. Like paying bribes to get things in and out of ports. Like paying some guy's brother R$50 to get your CPF for you. Like the term "custo Brasil" which just means it will cost you dearly here... Like having a Despachante to do your dirty work for you... oh come on even I've done it (and didn't even know it...)
There are also a ton of inefficiencies, ridiculously high taxes (which no one seems to understand), bureaucracies, and the list goes on. I realize it is always "who you know" in the business world wherever you are, but that doesn't even begin to cover it here. Check out this article on why young people should NOT move to Brazil to work. It can be tough. Doing business in Brazil is no picnic. I guess this is why none of us ever see our husbands...
The more people I talk to who are working down here, the more agree on one thing - although in the international media there are many references to Brazil being the next big superpower, there is a long road ahead, meaning massive changes will need to be made before that can happen. Makes you wonder if the people who wrote it have ever been to Brazil...or spoken with anyone who has worked here.
That said, I am pleased to hear of these arrests. It lends Brazil credibility as a place to do business, and gives me hope for the future. I'd say" "Wow leave it to a developing country to have problems like this," but we have stuff like this in Canada too! Sans the arrests in a lot of cases... (not that going to jail in Canada is all that rough, and besides even if you commit murder they won't leave you in there for long (but this is another post, yes, another post...)
Normally I like to stick to the business news (and today there was some HUGE business news but I need to learn more before writing about it... ) but I was compelled to write about a few mainstream news items today. Let's start with the tough and move on to the interesting then good news. I will comment on business news shortly...
On Sunday night in Tijuca - in the North Zone of Rio, the police mistook a car carrying a family including a nine month old and three year old for the vehicle of some suspects. They shot up to 20 bullets at the car (depending on reports), the three year old was shot 3 times and unfortunately died. If anything positive can come of this horrible tragedy, let it be that awareness of the brutality of Rio's police increases, and something is done about it going forward. The police involved are being investigated. Read more in English or in Portuguese.
This reminded me a bit of the movie City of God... Interesting article about Severino Silva, a leading Rio de Janeiro photojournalist working on the front lines of the drug wars. Interesting tidbits: most media outlets now require staff reporting on gang warfare to wear bulletproof vests when operating in and around favelas. Rio's military police just began offering a course for photographers on the front lines. Recently a conflict-zone safety course was given to 11 Brazilian journalists.
In the movie City of God, the drug traffickers are depicted as enjoying being featured in the media, and apparently in the 80's in Rio, that was also the case. Drug traffickers even hosted impromptu press conferences in the favelas. This is apparently no longer the case, and now most journalists are considered (one of the many) enemies of traffickers. Which makes the work they do even more dangerous...
Click here for a sample of the photos he has shot for O Dia - warning some are very graphic.
Matthew McConaughey and his Brazilian girlfriend Camilla Alves welcomed a baby boy to planet earth this week. Relevance of course to the blog is the Brazilian girlfriend.
With company from Canada here, I feel a little like a tourist some days. I suppose even life long Cariocas must even feel this way, this city is so vast there is always something new to explore.
Some quotes on travelling:
St. Augustine :
"The world is a book and those who don't travel only read one page."
Mark Twain :
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Cesare Pavese :
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
Martin Buber :
"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
And finally, to motivate me on days where learning Portuguese is daunting...
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe :
"Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own."
Great article in this Atlanta paper about how women can feel traveling to Rio.
"Almost instantly, the captivating beauty of Rio's beaches washes away your inhibitions and self-doubt. When the tide recedes, what is left are joy and security that can't be clouded by graying hair or pockets of cellulite. When you see white-haired women with body parts that have become lengthened and leathery rocking bandeau tops and barely there bottoms, you want to give a shout out to their poise and self-assurance."
This apparently comes from a trio of women who "Calculated the time that had passed since we'd worn bikinis. Total: More than 45 years" and proceeded to invest in Brazilian bikinis and strut up and down the beach in them.
I love this!
And can totally relate... I still can't believe some of the beach wear I am comfortably sporting these days...