In partnership with GP Brazil and Buffet Colonial, www.gringoes.com is organizing a Brazilian Samba Night on Mar. 29 (to coincide with the Formula 1 weekend in São Paulo). The evening will include a full buffet with a large variety of typical and delicious Brazilian food, a Carnival type band, dancing mulatas, capoeira show, Frevo etc. The location is an old style colonial building in the Moema district (close to Ibirapuera park). The show starts at 7.30pm and will be filmed by British Television channel ITV. Tickets are US$90 (include transport from hotel, food, courtesy drink and show) and can be purchased by clicking the button below.









Here are some more images..

In partnership with GP Brazil and Buffet Colonial, www.gringoes.com is organizing a Brazilian Samba Night on Mar. 29 (to coincide with the Formula 1 weekend in São Paulo). The evening will include a full buffet with a large variety of typical and delicious Brazilian food, a Carnival type band, dancing mulatas, capoeira show, Frevo etc. The location is an old style colonial building in the Moema district (close to Ibirapuera park). The show starts at 7.30pm and will be filmed by British Television channel ITV. Tickets are US$90 (include transport from hotel, food, courtesy drink and show) and can be purchased by clicking the button below.









Here are some more images..

Adilson was three years old when he joined the workforce of volunteers building the community center. Wearing his giant hip high Wellingtons, and a grin that stretched from ear to ear, he seemed to be everywhere on the building site. Sometimes carrying sand to the cement mixer. Sometimes stacking up bricks for the bricklayers. And other times playing in some corner in the sun, with the many children who spent their days making their own fun, as the building would one day be their creche, grew slowly out of the ground. All that was back in 1986. By the time the creche was eventually opened in August 1989, Adilson, if he could have voiced his thoughts, might well have said My life and these walls are one. This creche will be mine forever.” Many times since then, I have thought about this child who made such an impression on everyone at the time. I often wondered what became of him and if I would recognize him if I saw him now.

Those were my thoughts as I passed by the same creche two days ago. And to my surprise, standing in the doorway of her home nearby, was Adilson’s mother. Immediately I put words to my thoughts. “How’s Adilson? It’s been so long since I’ve seen him,” I said. “It will be six months this month,” replied his mother, “since he died.” “What ever happened him?” I asked. “He was assassinated by a bandit named “Carioca.” Three bullets in his head. All because of a debt of R$3.00. It’s a terrible thing to bring a child into the world for him to leave it that way.” And she turned her face away to hide the tears.

This is one of the grimmest aspects of the terrible reality of life in a favela. It’s something that the people who live there face every day of their lives. Often I pass through the alleyways that wind like a labyrinth between wooden houses, I see written on the faces I come across, the word “hell.” And if hell could be defined as a place into which you are locked never again able to get out, then surely this is it.

By some irony of fate, destiny or providence, this is the place I have found myself associated with for almost a quarter of a century now. I’m not trying for a second to suggest that I know what that kind of hell is. Or that hell is all there is to a favela. On the contrary, I’ll never know what it’s like to experience the kind of hell that Adilson’s mother described to me. Or the hell of living on $80 a month. Or the hell of being born condemned to marginality because the color of your skin is the wrong color. Or the hell of rearing children as a single parent because the other one doesn’t “exist,” disappeared, or is in prison. Or the hell of trying to preserve children as young as eight from the drug culture. Or all the other hells that structural injustice and misery condemn so many people in this opulent land to.

On the other hand, of course, I have my own kind of hell. The traps and cul-de-sacs of my own life that are as enslaving as anything one could imagine in a favela. Except that at least I feel I have some access and means to do something about it. Whereas, the people of the favela have none.

So what am I doing here? Pretending to be one of them? Pretending to comfort them and cushion them from their misery? Satisfying and stroking my own ego? On a power trip amid the ruins of humanity where no one can really challenge me? Maybe a bit of all that, to be honest. And perhaps a bit more than all that.

What I would like to be about is something different. Seeing ministry among them as the possibility of awakening in them, the power of their own “ministry.” There is so much richness among them. Their compassion, their vitality, their amazing resistance in the face of so much oppression and death. Their legendary and irresistible hospitality. Their sharing of the bread of life. Their sense of triumph over adversity revealed in their capacity to celebrate in dance, song and festa. It is hard to be among them and not feel indebted, immensely. Without any false romanticism of “the poor can do no wrong” variety.

And that is what I feel. Immensely indebted. The favelas have been a school where I have learned some lessons in what is ultimately important. Namely, friendship, the precedence of the heart over the head, simplicity, listening, and maybe above all, belonging. A sense of place, roots and community. Values that the globalised mania that now besets the world, is set on destroying.

Some practical expressions of all this potential have emerged down the years. Projects with children in the arts and crafts, theater, music dance, pottery, painting, literacy, capoeira, judo, information technology, circus, kindergarten, youth groups, groups of reflection on politics, religion, Bible studies, culture, history, economy, housing, employment, alternative medicine, waste recycling, cooperative housing projects, drugs awareness schemes, sewage projects, women’s groups and black consciousness groups.

In all of this, the main aim has been empowerment. Handing over. Becoming dispensable. Moving out of the center stage. Learning that joy is in being rather than possessing. Not an easy lesson. But, if one is lucky to have teachers like I have had, some lessons at least, can be learned. To the benefit of all.

This article originally appeared in The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies. Patrick Clarke is an Irish priest who has lived in São Paulo since 1977 and founded the Cultural Center of Vila Prudente while working for the Movement for the Defense of the Shanty Towns.

If you have any suggestions or comments on this article, or if you would like to offer help or support to the Cultural Center of Vila Prudente please contact us.

Parties are essential in Brazil. They’re not an add-on, something that happens on birthdays and weddings, they are the basic building block of society.
My Brazilian wife Jaqueline told me that in her office they had a party last month just because someone had bought a refrigerator, the logic being that a refrigerator keeps things cold, like beer, so fill it with beer then drink the beer.
Obvious, spontaneous, and fun.
Last weekend we drove 300 kms up to Recife for a party, in a torrential downpour, dodging mudslides, potholes, and avoiding a terrible accident by seconds.
Her family all have defective eyesight, so I drive. I like driving.
Driving for me is a meditative activity. I can switch off from the physical and mental concentration needed by most mere mortals and dream.
Everywhere except here, of course.
Our car has 5 seats. The kids didn’t want to come, so Jackie invited her parents and the voluptuous daughter of one of her lawyer friends.
Charming and talented though the young lady may be, she has a voice like a chainsaw, and had a sniffling cold too. Jackie’s father talks. All the time. When he’s not talking, he whistles tunelessly. Her mother, thankfully, is a silent person, but she has the habit of saying one sentence every time there’s a break in the conversation.
A ‘break’ meaning when there’s is silence for more than a nano-second. These interjections keep the ball rolling, rather like a good panel discussion chairman.
Everyone has mobile phones, which ring constantly. Jackie can converse with me in English, talk on the phone to a second person in Portuguese, translate the few snippets of chat that I am interested in back into English, together with my replies, which no-one understands, and converse to the other car passengers on separate topics, simultaneously.
I thought I had schizophrenic tendencies but I now feel rather limited.
Interruption is an art, not a social gaffe, rather like in France.
I’m sure one of the reasons I’ve not learned much Portuguese is because I’ve never heard a complete sentence.
And I forgot to mention that the radio is always on, tuned to a talk show, naturally. Each house has a TV in every room tuned to soap operas, with the volume turned up to 11.
Every bar has a TV, permanently tuned to a football match. There’s a TV above the queue at the bank, at the travel agency, at the hairdresser’s. There’s probably even one in the morgue.
Anyway.
We arrived in Recife at lunchtime. Again, as in France, lunch is a religion. You can’t ‘….not have lunch’ or ‘..fancy a light snack’.
Beans, fried meat, rice, mashed potato, spaghetti. Not a vegetable in sight.
A ‘salad’ means tinned mushrooms, tinned sweetcorn, tinned carrots, sprinkled over grubby lettuce leaves, smothered in oil, with
huge chunks of green tomatoes and maybe a raw onion.
A party in my experience happens on a birthday, or a wedding. I loathe parties. I can’t see the point of getting drunk with strangers on ghastly hooch and gassy beer, or even God forbid Brazilian wine, unless it’s before, during and after a football game or a rock concert, and I’ve rather grown out of those.
I’m also never sure what to wear at these shindigs. I was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts, which seemed sensible apparel, as black doesn’t reveal dribbled beer stains.
Jackie was fully kitted out in low-cut blouse, skintight Armani trousers, and enough
perfume to sink a battleship.
Whose party is it?” I asked.
Silence.
“What do you mean, ‘whose party is it?’ It’s a party.”
“Well ..why are we here? What’s the reason?”
Silence.
“Who is paying for it?”
“Ah…I see what you mean. A lawyer. It’s his 40th birthday”
“Is that a reason to invite 300 people?”
“Of course. It’s quite normal to have a little family party on your 40th birthday. Didn’t you have one?”
“Er …no, I think I was working”
“Didn’t you even invite your family?”
“How could I? I was in Germany on a business trip.”
“Well what about your friends and colleagues?”
“I never thought of it, to be honest, and anyway, the last thing I want at a party is people I know watching me make a fool of myself and talking shop.”
Silence.
Not for the first time, I felt I’d missed out on a large chunk of life before coming to Brazil.
We arrived at the party location, a new 35-story tower block overlooking a filthy canal on one side and Sport’s football ground on the other.
A dead goat was floating down the canal and workmen were drilling foundations for a new stand.
A band had set up, 6 chaps with good equipment. ‘Good equipment” meaning extremely loud amplifiers.
They turned out to be lawyers and dentists from back in Maceió, who play at parties held by other lawyers and dentists.
Keep it all in the family. The rationale being that as all musicians are incorrigible lechers, it’s best to know the bass guitarist personally, then he can’t or won’t seduce your sister, as your sister is married to the drummer’s cousin, who is trying to get a contract to fix your family’s teeth.
Some other parties I’ve been to have degenerated into dangerous fights when the singer has been found copulating behind the mixing table with the hosts’ girlfriend.
This one went off smoothly in the lechery stakes, but then again by the time we left I was unable to focus, or even walk, to tell the truth, so I don’t know for sure what went on.
The tower block has a party space on the ground floor the size of an average ballroom, with a barbecue unit, a bar, a pool nearby, and armed security guards to keep out the riff-raff.
There were a dozen tables with white tablecloths, on which a nutritionists’ nightmare had been laid out; trays of shrimps in batter, meatballs, bacalhau, olives, peanuts, unbearably sweet chocolates.
A team of liveried servants brought iced Johnny Walker and beer for the men, sweet white wine for the ladies.
Several lawyers were clearly drunk as skunks already. The band started up. I couldn’t hear a thing above the white noise.
Everyone else continued chatting into their mobile phones, their only concession to the decibel increase being to put one hand over the other ear like an English folk-singer, or lean a little closer.
No wonder people end up in the bushes.
We introduced ourselves to the host, who greeted me as a long-lost soulmate.
I vaguely recognised him from another shindig. Or maybe a day on the beach. Or a football match. Somewhere in the tiny world of elite Nordestino society.
He was wearing a T-shirt on which photographs of his parents had been printed.
“What a super idea”, I said, “Are your parents here today?”
“No” he replied. “My father was murdered by three street youths in a fight when I was 18, and my mother has cancer. Only my close family could make it today. ”
He beckoned towards a table stretching off into the distance at which his ‘close family’ sat.
After this complete failure of an opening conversational gambit, or gaffe, I decided the only way to survive the ear-splitting nightmare was to get stuck into Scotland’s national product, served, as in Scotland, with a beer on the side.
A chap with a horribly pockmarked face and a spectacular beer gut began the conversation.
“What is an Englishman doing here?” he said in heavily-accented Portuguese.
“Eh?”
“You….here…..why?”
“Yer what pal?” I repeated, desperately trying to read his lips.
Jackie put down her mobile. She knows I’m uncomfortable at these social gatherings until I meet someone who knows something about music, or politics, or computers, to name but three topics I find mildly interesting.
I normally end up being harangued by someone who keeps getting lost at Disneyland and has decided to buy some English lessons, but until then I’m a lost sheep, or maybe a lost bullock would be fairer.
A large, clumsy and ostentatiously foreign bullock, apt to say and do the wrong thing at all times. I had and never have the intention of letting her down, but sometimes it all becomes too much for me and I end up accusing a priest of genocide, or a politician of necrophilia.
The last party we’d been to I’d mentioned casually to a charming chap that you couldn’t trust a Brazilian politician to sit the right way on a lavatory, only to be introduced to him later as the Governor’s brother.
I really do try.
“He wants to know why you are in Brasil?” she mouthed.
“Because I love parties” I said, grinning inanely.
“And beautiful women..” I added, foolishly. She kicked me under the table.
“What does he do?’ I yelled.
“No need to shout” she snapped back, “I can hear you perfectly well”
The guitarist launched into an excruciatingly loud solo. A waiter dropped a full tray of full glasses.
“I am……man of house” bellowed Mr Acne.
“Ah….man of house….you are constructor!” I said triumphantly.
My first Portuguese word of the day.
I was feeling nicely liquid, approaching that wonderful but short moment when brain and mouth work together, fortified but unimpeded by alcohol.
“He’s a real estate agent”, said Jackie, interrupting a call.
“You are …vendedor do casas!!” This was getting good.
“Si si…..” Mistaking my two words of Portuguese for fluency, and revealing a mouth full of half-chewed shrimps, he launched into a three-minute high-speed rap about his latest projects, clearly mistaking me for a rich gringo awash with dollars, in the market for a penthouse on the seafront.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him my last credit card has just been cancelled and I’m within a week of selling coconuts on the
beach to survive.
I settled back into the familiar routine. Jackie listened patiently as he repeated the sales spiel. I ordered more beer.
“He’s a musician, too” I heard her tell him.
My heart sank. I can twang a few tunes when relaxed with friends, but for me music, like driving, is a personal activity, not something to share.
I could see this all going horribly wrong.
“He’s going to play later”, she announced, grinning at me wickedly.
“I most certainly am not”, I said, attempting to sound man-of -the-house.
“He knows rock and roll muito bem” she added,
“You know..Chick Barry”
I gazed upwards. I’m not religious, but at that point I’d willingly have gone to any church and lit a million candles if it meant not playing out of tune rock and roll to a bunch of legless lawyers and their wives, backed by part-time musicians, brought up as they are on 11/8 or 19/14 or whatever it is.
Rhythm is as natural to a Brazilian as riding a bike to a Dutchman, but they have no real idea of the fundamentals of rock and roll.
Ringo wouldn’t last 5 minutes onstage here as he only knows 4/4.
The band stopped for a break.
“Sure you can play,” she whispered, “all you need is a little motivation”
I signaled to my pet waiter for some more motivation.
The afternoon wore on. Presents were presented, the cake cut, the waiters scurried about with increasing urgency.
The party area was rapidly degenerating from order into disorder.
A fat lady in tight trousers got up to sing. A beautiful old black lady sang a spiritual. Two other ladies recited a poem. Swimming in hooch, I began to feel that I could indeed belt out some Chick Barry.
The guitarist beckoned “…and now…the star of the show….all the way from….”
“I haven’t got a pick to play the guitar with”, I bleated, rather pathetically.
A pick appeared. Nothing for it. The show must go on.
I lurched towards the stage, dragging a tablecloth behind me and tripping over a spaghetti of cables, thus disconnecting the keyboard player from the rest of the evening’s performance.
At least Jackie couldn’t volunteer me to play Hey Jude.
“Chick Barry”, said the singer, uncertainly.
“Yeah” I sneered, trying to look mean.
“Johnny B. Goode. In A. Turn it up.”
“I don’t know that. You sing”.
And he went off for a pee.
Brazilians have funny ways of stringing their guitars, often because they can’t afford replacement strings, so they string whatever they can get their hands on where needed.
They all know how to use A strings where there should be a D string, for example.
This guitar was no exception, it had rusty barbed wire on the bottom end and razor-blades at the top.
In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought, hoping desperately that no-one had brought a video camera, and if they had they were too drunk to get it in focus.
I whacked the razor wire passionately with the pick, hitting most of the right notes.
“…..Deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans…..” I bellowed into
the microphone. The drummer kicked in, nearly on the beat.
The bass player got it right first time, and we were off.
The lawyers went wild. Beer glasses flew everywhere, even the grannies and kids started dancing.
The waiters stared. Twenty years of catering and they’d never seen a large drunk gringo howling.
“Strewth,” I thought.
This is good fun.
It was, too.
I can’t remember what happened after that.
I’ve decided I like parties.

Copyright Peter Beresford 2001

In the summer of 2000 I left for the now customary backpacking trip throughout Europe. Having had an absolutely terrible time in Paris I quickly took off for Barcelona where my story all begins. On the ten-hour train ride it takes to get to Barcelona from Paris I met some very nice and sincere people. I think it has to do with the fact you can be yourself that there really is nothing to hide when you are traveling. Well I was lucky and meet lots of them including Juliana and Miguel. A twenty something couple doing the same as I was. We, as well as our other friends we made on the train ride enjoyed the next couple of days together in Barcelona. But all good things must come to an end and while I was headed for the Greek Islands they were on their way to northern Italy. Juliana and I stayed in touch during the year and I found out in April of 2001 she was going to come and visit me in Canada that July with her sister Gabriela.
June 30th 2001 I went to pick both of them up at Dorval airport here in Montreal. Now I am sure I don’t need to explain to anybody how beautiful Brazilian women are, which will make this next line easy to understand. I was awestruck by how pretty Juliana’s sister was (so was Juli but I meet her with Miguel and always considered her taken) as soon as they came across those sliding doors at the airport. To make this part of the story short they were supposed to stay in Montreal for 4 – 5 days and then head out to visit the rest of Canada. Well, three weeks later Juliana was on her way to Vancouver to visit another one of her friends and Gabriela and I were planning a little trip to go and visit Niagra Falls. We totally hit it off. I felt like I had this abundance of energy the whole time she was with me. But once again it had to end and Gabriela had to catch a flight back to Brazil. Lots of tears fell that day and lots of promises were made. One of them being I would go to Rio as soon as possible.
So December 11th 2001 I was on my way to be with the one who I had emailed everyday for four months and spoke to on a regular basis over the phone and MSN messenger. I was on my way to Rio de Janeiro to see the one I had fallen for.
You see where I come from Rio is known for its incredible beaches and very small bikinis. I had never been to South America before and was a little nervous. The flight was incredibly long and painful and finally 21 hours after leaving Montreal I had arrived in Brazil. I broke out in an instantaneous sweat having worn my boots and big sweater because were I left from you needed it or else you froze. This time it was my turn to come
through those sliding doors at GIG. I got to wrap my arms around my baby right away. After all those long months had gone by I still felt the exact same way about her but after seeing her again, as corny as it sounds, I knew I was in love. We left the airport taking the yellow line to Barra, which is where we stayed. I quickly got into my shorts and t-shirt and we were on our way to Barra Beach to sip on some coconut water. Life was great it was the middle of December and I knew all my friends were freezing back home while I was on a beach watching the sunset in my Havaianhas.
After a much needed sleep I woke up the next morning to an intense sun. Almost to much for a gringo like me to handle. I got ready for my first whole day on the beach. I went with Juliana because Gabi had to work. She’s a dentist and has her own practice in Copacabana, which makes it hard to take a lot of time off. Being Canadian, you could almost compare my skin color to Casper the friendly ghost, and I wanted to catch up to all these tanned
cariocas and refused to put sunscreen on for the first hour and a half. Big, big mistake! That afternoon before even leaving the beach I had blisters on my feet and could barely walk because of all the sun! I got home and Gabi walked in to see me in pain and said she would not let me go to the beach without her again! I laughed and knew I had learnt my lesson the hard way. Never Under Estimate The Power Of The Sun During Brazilian Summer!
The next day I finally got to meet the parents. Roberto and Wilma, two of the most generous people I have had the pleasure of meeting. We went for supper at this amazing Brazilian steak house and had a really nice evening! I got along with them just fine and consider them good friends. I spent the next couple of weeks doing the tourist trap stuff, which has to be done the first time you go to Rio. Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf, copacabana beach and my favorite POSTO 9 at Ipanema Beach. I couldn’t believe the amount of people all young and having fun. I also got to check out some of Rio’s nightlife including Nuth, Guapo Loco and I think I spent every Tuesday at Afro Rio.
I had a great time and felt like king but the city of Rio is very busy and packed. So we decided to take a little road trip to Buzios. Once again I didn’t know what to expect. After the two-hour drive it took us to get there Gabi woke me up (I needed some sleep since I was still suffering a bit from the jet lag.) and I opened my eyes to one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Great beaches, the most romantic restaurants, (Chez Brigitte is definitely recommended) very cozy villas. Gabriela and I took it easy for the weekend walking all around Buzios and spending a day on a secluded beach called praia Brava.
I loved every moment there. It was just Gabi and me. No cell phone, no TV, nothing except for the both of us and this beautiful place. We spent a lot of talking trying to figure out why two people who love each other so much would have to spend so much time apart. It was difficult knowing that I only had a couple of weeks left before I head back to Canada and all its coldness. I had lived so many of those perfect moments people some people look for forever. They just kept coming too. New Years at Marimbas on Copacabana beach, the suppers at the lagoon or even the quiet nights at home sitting in the hammock on the balcony.
It’s now March 19th 2002 and Gabriela and I still speak on a daily basis. I haven’t giving up and neither has she. I checked out some of the Universities around here hoping I would convince her into going back to school. I also really wouldn’t mind going to Rio for a while but I am into computer networking and hardware configuration and from what I know that
market is saturated over there and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t know where to begin to look. So that’s where we are, still very much in love and looking for a way to be together.

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Hard to know where to start. I don’t know where it will finish. I’m due to get married in 2 hours. I’m not sure where, or by whom. All I know is to whom and why.
I’m not allowed to say anywhere, in any language, but the real reason for getting married now, rather than at any other date, is that once we’re married I can get a residence permit, and once I’ve got said permit I’ll be entitled to some sort of magic number, with this number I’ll be able to order (but not pay for) a phone, with a phone I can jump the queue and make an appointment with a bank manager, who will in turn, if he feels like it, permit me to open various bank accounts, from which I can pay, over and under counters, assorted bureaucrats, who will let me start a company, phone companies to let me have a phone, internet companies who will permit me to operate online, and into which account or accounts, new customers, namely
the bank itself, who will pay, theoretically, large sums of money, for I’ve managed to sell them a huge number of Financial English courses that haven’t been written yet, using software that doesn’t work yet, to be implemented on computers that haven’t been released yet, to be taught by a teacher I haven’t found yet.
And of course I love Jaqueline dearly. The marriage building is a modern monstrosity, one of Prince Charles’s carbuncles. Apparently the concrete shell of the building was designed as a state hospital, but in the mysterious manner of things the money went walkies and it’s now yet another courtroom, a haven for overweight paunchy lawyers, who all walk about talking into mobile phones. Fans hiss and whirr. Old ladies occupy every bench, Each office has a counter, on which lean anxious women. Only women; this is a divorce and marriage court , after all. No man anywhere in the world is going to get a good deal in a marriage or divorce court except the fatso lawyers. No point a man even turning up. Jackie’s friend Ana has been roped in to help. A wonderfully kind and generous person, she owns a lucrative Mitsubishi franchise, and apparently knows ‘the judge’. Or ‘a judge’. I’m not sure what a judge has to do with anything. In England vicars handle marriages. His role has not been made clear to me. Nor do I understand why a Public Prosecutor is involved. My Dutch divorce settlement of 8 years ago in Utrecht has been translated into Portuguese. Much tut-tutting whenever it is read by an interested party:
She did that!!!’ “You can do this in Europe!!”. Ana’s role so far has been to help us jump the queue, which as an Englishman goes against the grain, but there’s a limit to patience. I was so embarrassed at this blatant cronyism in one office I sat outside on a bench. Jackie and Ana, assuming I was following them dog-like, jumped the queue through a door with no handles, leaving me outside. More tut-tutting as the innocent gringo is led through the office the long way round, through the sweaty divorcees , to the inner airco sanctuary.
The judge can’t be too high in the tree, his office is pathetic. No pictures, one desk, awful chairs, and a table stacked 25 deep with piles of manila folders. Ana and Jackie bring out photo albums. The judge does the same. I give up any further attempt to understand what’s going on, and open my “The Future is Online and it’s Here Now!!” computer magazine and try without
success to relate the magazine’s content to where I actually am. The judge is evidently an old friend of Ana, maybe even family, but as here ‘family’ includes one’s sister’s husband’s cousin’s uncle, I have no way of finding out. He inspects my folder of translated European documentation. I’ve brought an English birth certificate, a certificate of good behaviour from the Dutch
Police, a ream of Dutch divorce agreements, or rather disagreements, an old French driving licence I no longer need, a one-week introduction to TEFL certificate from Hilderstone College in good old Planet Thanet in England that I judged to have the most impressive logo and seal. All this has been translated and assembled and covered with official seals and stamps for me by a multi-lingual Brazilian journalist in Utrecht by the name of Jos Carlos Pineapple.
I kid you not. Very helpful chap if you’re ever in Europe and need paperwork dealt with. The judge inspects and approves everything. Jackie and Ana get up, motioning me to follow. I feel like an old boxer who talks funny and can’t cope on his
own. We all shake hands and make our farewells for the regulation 20 minutes, and return to the car park. Apparently the paperwork is fine, but another judge is on his way over to approve, but he’s been held up by the day of protests.
Ana needs to get back to her garage to sell a car to a rich sugarcane mill owner. Jackie needs to go to work to make sure she can take off 2 weeks, without warning, to come to Europe with me tomorrow on a surprise honeymoon.
I need to find out if I still employ anyone. We arrived at the matrimonial eyesore building on the dot of between 1 and
2. No entry bribes were required other than to stop the barefoot boys ‘guarding’ the car from wrecking it. Yesterday’s national ‘day of protest’ meant that most people had gone to the beach and stayed there, but there were still a few obese lawyers on the phone, disconsolate divorcees and their mothers hanging around, and a gaggle of military police smoking. Ana
led the way. Senhor Carlos, the canny old lawyer politician who says he’s interested in investing in my software business, had put a tie on. My system operator Juninho, looking more like Mr Bean than ever, had shaved, but not put a tie on. It was at least 95 in the shade outside. I’d been cajoled into wearing a new charcoal suit and a smart new black T-shirt. Jackie’s kids had washed their hair and put on their cleanest jeans. Jackie herself had bought a new dress, mustard yellow with embroidered flowers, under which I suspect she was wearing nothing, as befits a Brazilian bride.
We were ushered into an ante-chamber. 8 chairs, a formica table, some storage boxes in the corner. Airco at full blast. Several secretaries fussed with folders. A judge appeared, we all sat down, various folders were passed around, other than that, nothing. I toyed with the ring. Senhor Carlos started the conversation. He was annoyed with the landless
peasants who were occupying the square downtown outside his office. Ana agreed with him. “70% of the landless aren’t landless at all’ she said.
“They join the movement only to jump the land purchase queue”. Very sensible, I thought in silence. I’ve been very careful not to learn to speak Portuguese, not out of laziness, well not much, anyway, more from a fear of embarrassing my wife and her family. I try never to speak in public, but I can read the paper and understand Jo Soares and the Sunday night TV news summary, and most conversations. This aloof attitude means only English or French or Dutch or German speakers are able to talk to me. The rest need to go through Jaqueline, her kids, or my trusty system operator. This way I can’t breach protocol and make the kind of social gaffes I tend to make elsewhere. Nixon survived for years like this. My sympathies are almost entirely with the dispossessed landless peasants, who seem to live in appalling mediaeval squalor, but it’s not a viewpoint shared by the Nordestinho elite among whom I mingle, who after all were doing me a good turn by turning up for the marriage.
Apparently another judge who the previous day had been delayed by protests had now had a car crash, and was attempting to get to the courtroom in a taxi, which had in turn had a flat tyre. Everyone in the room flipped out their mobile phones.
The conversation moved on to TV game shows and the deplorable spread of pornography, the landless peasants quickly forgotten. The previous evening decorum had been breached, and on prime time evening TV, a naked lady had been shown inhaling a cigarette, well er not with her mouth, if you get my drift. Jackie’s son Desinho said he’s seen it too.
Much tut-tutting between the adults. ‘Scandalous misuse of television’, ‘appalling, perverse….’. Of course all of them had seen the show, which competes with two other channels to present the most disgusting, really disgusting items.
The conversation was severely straining my Portuguese. I’d come to get married, but as far as I could make out, the wedding party were discussing, among other subjects, how they’d seen shows involving cats having sex with rabbits, and two boys torturing a rare Amazonian frog with a home-made electric frog-prodder.
“What about the wedding ceremony?”, I whispered to Jaqueline.
“Soon….soon….another 20 minutes…..” she replied.
Juninho and I slunk off to look for something to drink.
The coffee bar outside the courtrooom was empty. We ordered drinks from a tiny lady whose head hardly reached the counter. Cups appeared over the edge, wizened black fingers clicked, Juninho handed over some grubby currency, and the hand disappeared. Jackie’s younger sister appeared, looking magnificent in a new hairdo and a smart new full-length polyester dress. “Hunting for rich lawyers,” muttered Juninho. The kids had joined us, bored with the courtroom, where the adults had
inevitably moved on to that Brazilian conversational staple, ‘mutual acquaintances who’ve died recently in car crashes’.
Juninho kindly bought everyone some sugary products. At last, the delayed judge arrived. Another very old, very small, very black wizened man, with white hair, wearing an electric blue suit, clutching a giant register of marriages almost as big as himself.
Juninho, who as a Paulista regards Nordestinhos as primitive barbarians, ushered me back towards the courtroom. I was getting nervous.”Can’t I have a quick drink to calm my nerves?” I asked him. “No”, he said, firmly. “Your wife-to-be will kill me if I deliver you smelling of cheap whisky”, which, after the poppy exchange in the car, I conceded was likely.
By now the crowd outside the courtroom had increased to a small horde of peasants, their families, their lawyers, secretaries, judge’s assistants, everyone in uncomfortable acrylic clothing. Most of the assembled throng awaiting matrimony were upcountry peasants who had never seen a gringo.
Someone wearing shoes is rare enough.
“It’s not quite queue-jumping,” I rationalised to myself. ‘They really do
want me to go first.’
Being tall and blue-eyed, I know what it must have felt like to be Queztcoalatl, who arrived on the shores of Yucatan a thousand years ago and was promptly turned into a living deity. Probably a Viking who’d lost his sextant, but his memory and no doubt his genes linger on. Crowds part when I’m on the move, as they must have done for him. In 5 years here I’ve only
ever seen half a dozen or so fellow blue-eyed gringos, who are as fascinating to Nordestinhos as Amazonian tribespeople with dinner plates for lips are to Europeans, and one getting married is …well I reckoned we might get on local TV game-show that evening as an oddball item, although I didn’t want to be prodded or have sex with an animal.
We’d now been an hour and a half in the courtroom.
The much-delayed wizened judge, having copied all our details into his giant ledger, stood up, I think.
We all stood up.
Cameras appeared. A mobile phone rang. I could hear two secretaries in the nearby office arguing about which printer driver to use. One of the kids knocked over a pile of storage boxes. Another judge appeared. Senhor Carlos tapped out his pipe.
I realised everyone was looking at me.We went through the ‘do you take this woman..’ routine..
‘Si” I said, confidently.
‘Si’ said Jaqueline.
And that was it.
Married.”

Brazil’s Banking Association Febraban has decided to maintain the current restricted operating hours, of 6am to 10pm, for São Paulo’s ATMs. The city’s ATMs were expected to return to a normal 24hr. schedule on Mar. 11, following the end of the country’s energy rationing program last week. Febraban decided, however, that in light of the increased number of kidnappings and robberies associated with late night ATM withdrawals, that it would be best to maintain the current restricted operating hours for the time being.