By Rogerio Jelmayer
Once a week in the São Paulo neighborhood of Bexiga contagious drum beating and the hypnotic allure of dancing ‘mulatas’ wipes out the drone of nearby traffic. We decided to go check out the workings of the Vai-Vai samba school in the lead up to Carnaval.

Vai-Vai, one of Brazil’s largest and most respected samba groups, draws multitudes to Bexiga each week, including all races and colors, ‘mauricinhos’ and ‘patricinhas’, name given to rich kids in São Paulo, crowds from the suburbs as well as the odd gringo.

Most of those who come to enjoy a few hours of electrifying samba each week, however, have little knowledge of the infrastructure and organization, which lies behind Carnaval, one of the world’s largest cultural events.

In an exclusive interview with, Vai-Vai director Jose Manoel Pinto (J.M.P) tells us a little about the day-to-day running of a samba school.

Gringoes – How do you prepare for Carnaval?

J. M. P. – Samba groups usually only take a week off after Carnaval, before starting to prepare for the following year. The first step is to have a meeting to decide on the theme of the music. Once that it settled the costumes and floats are designed with the theme in mind.

Gringoes – How are the days leading up to Carnaval?

J. M. P. – The final 30 days are very difficult. We have to be very careful with organizing and making sure everything is ready on time, costumes, floats, dancers. It’s very tiring work.

Gringoes – Is there a large rivalry between the different samba groups?

J. M. P. – Yes, there is a lot of rivalry. For example, there are even spies who visit other groups during the year to see how they are preparing and to check out the quality of their costumes and floats.

Gringoes – Who are Vai-Vai’s main rivals?

J.M.P. – Currently our main rivals are Rosas de Ouro, Camisa Verde e Branco, Gavies da Fiel and X-9 Paulistana.

Gringoes – How was Vai – Vai formed?

J.M.P. – There was a football team back in the 1930s in the Bexiga neighborhood of São Paulo called Cai-Cai. During Carnaval they decided to take part in the Carnaval and the samba group was born.

Vai-Vai was officially formed in 1974, when it started competing in Carnaval parades.

Gringoes – How long have you been with Vai – Vai?

J.M.P. – It has been 25 years. It all started back in the 70s when I bought a caf in the region. I began to make friends in the group and they invited me to take part. As I always liked samba it wasn’t difficult for me to get addicted.

Gringoes – How much does it cost to prepare a samba group for Carnaval?

J.M.P – It costs around R$ 1,2 million a year.

Gringoes – How many people work for the group?

J.M.P. – Around 1,000 people, including needle workers, electricians, painters and artists. But most of these do not work all year round. They usually start in October and work full steam until February.

Gringoes – What do you need to do to become a member of Vai-Vai and take part in the parade?

J.M.P. – To take part in the parade you need to buy a costumes. You don’t have to be a member to join the parade.

To be a member you need to fill out some forms and pay a monthly fee of R$10. This gives you the right to take part in practice nights for free as well as attend parties at the weekend.

Gringoes – How many people will Vai-Vai have in the parade this year?

J.M.P. – 5,500 participants.

Gringoes – Is there a difference between Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo?

J.M.P. – Carnaval in São Paulo is every bit as good as that in Rio, as usually they have the same people organizing both.

The main difference is in relation to assistance from the government. In Rio the government gives incentives to Carnaval as it helps tourism, where as here in São Paulo there is no government aid.

Gringoes – What are the main components of a samba group?

J.M.P. – I would say there are two main elements to a group. The ‘Carnavelesco’ who writes the tune that drives the parade. He is the heart and soul of the group. The second is the drum section, which decides the rhythm of the group. This is the engine, which drives the group.

Gringoes – How are the groups judged during the parade?

J.M.P. – The groups give the judges a summary of what they intend to do and the ideas they want to get across to the public. The judge will analyze if they succeed in their objective and will also look at the quality of the costumes, rhythm, floats, timing etc.

Gringoes – How does it feel to win Carnaval?

J.M.P. – It is a tremendous joy…a great thrill knowing you have been rewarded for all your hard work during the year.

You usually know if you are going to be champions when you are will feel the vibrations from the other participants and the audience.

Gringoes – And when you lose?

J.M.P. – It’s horrible. The group is a bit lost for a few weeks. Nobody turns up for practice, everyone is sad and when people do meet up there are a lot of accusations and blame throwing and theories why we lost. That soon fades though and then it’s back to work as usual and optimism for the coming year.

Vai-Vai were Carnaval champions four times in row, from 1998-2001. The group came in 5th last year and in 2002.

For more information on Vai-Vai check out their website at 0 Comments/by

By Monica Trentini
Are you considering moving to Brazil? Have you thought about visiting Brazil? We are leaving after 6 years and I am heart broken. Yes, Brazil has a high crime rate. Yes, the pollution is terrible. Yes, there are children begging on the streets and people living in shanties. All this is true and terrible, but one thing you will find in Brazil and in very few other places is corny – love.

The people in Brazil are naturally loving. It is commonplace for a Brazilian to walk up to a child and smile and talk to them. They even ask to pick babies up. At restaurants, stores and beauty salons, Brazilians faun over children. They are not concerned with social status. They are not afraid to approach people. You will find Brazilians to be overly positive and interested in helping.

Brazilians take their children everywhere. You will find children at restaurants late at night. Adults are invited to children’s birthday parties. I highly recommend having children here if you can. Most people here have hired help, and the help becomes part of the family. They truly love the children, and you can, too, since you don’t have to worry about getting dinner ready or making the beds. How much time is spent arguing with a spouse over these things? Having help makes everything run smoother, even your marriage.

Brazilians have a great custom which is an instant ice breaker. They kiss everybody hello and good-bye. Their kisses are not air kisses and they are not pretentious. In different regions, the number of kisses changes. In Minas Gerais, people normally give two kisses, unless you are not married. In that case, you get three para casar” (to get married). In Rio de Janeiro, everyone gets two. In São Paulo, one is the norm, but since it is so mixed, people sometimes give two, but more often than not, if you expect two, you’ll be left stranded with that last kiss. In the south, people kiss three times. Men even kiss each other sometimes, but generally a big hug is in order in most states.

Another great tradition is at the end of a phone call. Everyone gets a hug or a kiss at the end. Brazilians may seem rude at the beginning, calling to ask you who you are, but they always sign off with a hug or a kiss.

With so much love going around, there is one thing I do not personally recommend and that is Honeymooning here. I have seen too many American women perplexed by their surroundings at a beach in Ipanema, for example. Did you see those women in the ads for Brazil or for the Carnival? They have perfect bodies and perfect tans and they really exist. Unless you feel up to being their competition, stay away.

Did you come here and fall in love with one of these ladies or gentlemen? Beware. Along with love comes jealousy. Brazilian men and women are very territorial. Once you are committed, you really are.
They expect to be an integral part of your life. They have big loving families. They are not independent. They do not go out alone. They do not accept others getting too close to you, and they don’t understand “space,” so make sure you are sure this is what you want before moving into a relationship with a Brazilian.

This said, Brazilians are very happy. They smile a lot. They want others to be happy, too. If they work for you, they work hard and try their best. If you are coming to Brazil, get ready for a love affair – with the Brazilian people!

Remember Valentine’s Day is February 14th. Surprise your valentine by sending him or her a Valentine Pizza Cookie. You choose the message. Send them a box of conversation heart chocolate chip cookies! Spread the love! Call Monica at 3739-2599 or 8111-5920 or write to order yours today. State-side orders accepted. Free delivery within greater São Paulo area.

By Rogerio Jelmayer
Making international money transfers has become more difficult in recent years as Central Banks and financial institutions implement tighter rules and regulations to combat money laundering terrorist funding in the aftermath of September 11.

In Brazil the situation is even more complicated give the already high level of bureaucracy embedded in the system, as evident for anyone who has tried opening a bank account here.

Black market money dealers, known as ‘Doleiros’, are also now in short supply following a crack down by the new Brazilian administration last year in to corruption and money laundering.

While illegal, doleiros had been tolerated in the past and were a useful contact for expats wishing to change foreign denominated checks and for transferring money out of the country without going through the usual red tape at the official bank channels.

The few doleiros that are left are reluctant to take on new clients and are charging higher commissions for their services.

Brazil`s Central Bank has also adopted more stringent rules for international money transfers in recent years. Foreigners wishing to send money to Brazil first need to open a bank account here. In order to do this you will need a CPF number (the equivalent of a social security number) and some banks also require an RNE (identification number) or passport.

The money will always be converted to local currency in order to enter you account in Brazil. Only foreigners in transit or Brazilians resident abroad can receive foreign currency.

The average cost for this type of transaction is 1%, but this varies from bank to bank. The exchange rate will depend on the amount being transferred and also on the purpose of the transfer. You will probably also need to provide some documents proving the origin of the funds. It is always best to consult your bank (in Brazil) regarding fees and documents required before attempting to transfer money. This will avoid delays.

By Monica Trentini
This article is the third of a three part series on cleaning tips in Brazil. This edition focuses on cleaning in the bathroom and living areas.
A very overzealous reader of my articles is to thank for most of the following hints on cleaning in Brazil. Thanks, Terry!
A very overzealous reader of my articles is to thank for most of the following hints on cleaning in Brazil. Thanks, Terry! She wrote her ideas in Portuguese, so if you would like a copy of this for your household help, just write me. See contact information for both of us at the end of this article.

In the Bathroom

For a fresh smelling bathroom: Bom Ar, either lavender or ocean scented is Terry’s recommendation. Another helpful hint: To clean mirrors and glass, Terry uses a few sprays of Bom Ar, which she wipes off with toilet paper. Practical, functional and leaves the room smelling nice. Otherwise, Vidrex works well with a piece of newspaper.

Mildew – as Dow Chemical bubbles are not available, how about elbow grease and toothpaste on an old toothbrush? Tira Limo” is for mildew and soap scum. We use X-14 at our house.

Toilet Cleanser: Pato purific with cloro, or the Lysol brand toilet cleanser, or Harpic Verde. If you don’t have small children at home, I have heard some people leave their brushes soaking in heavy ceramic containers right in the bathrooms, ready for use and always clean.

In the Living Areas

Polishing Furniture
For wooden furniture -óleo de peroba lquido, or cera de carnaba (which is harder to find). Use a small amount about once a month when the wood starts to look dried out. Excessive use leaves a ‘gooey film’. In between, use good quality furniture polish. We buy Poliflor.

Cleaning Leather Furniture: damp cloth dipped in alcohol (the hard to find non-gel kind).
DO NOT soak leather and let air-dry. Be careful when buying alcohol. Sometimes it is scented. I prefer the regular kinds. Look for the word traditional on the bottle for the basic.

Upholstery: There’s a cleanser called Karpex. We use it for bi-weekly carpet cleaning. Not worth a grain of salt for heavy stains.

Parquet Floors and Tile– Since I have small children and not much time to wait for floors to dry, we have been using a new product by Veja. It is called Veja Uso Direto Secagem Rapida. It stands out since the bottles are a different shape than most. People tend to have sinteco now a days, which they clean with Optimum, same with kitchen tiles. Cera Lquida Parquetina, vermelha, works for those Spanish type tiles AND for terracotta vases.

Terry also used to use Cera incolor, em pasta, with an enceradeira on their black granite, but whoever waxes floors anymore? Those beautiful hardwood floors w/o sinteco only exist in ranches and the North of Br, I think – for those, elbow grease….and cera em pasta with a flanelinha (rag), not a job for us!

If you are interested in using highly concentrated cleansers, these can be bought cheaply at any store where they sell produtos quimicos. Ask for detergente concentrado. Many stores in Liberdade also carry real American detergents. You can also buy AMWAY products here in Brazil, if you do not mind paying in prices pegged to the dollar. These have their benefits, since they are high quality, organic products which you can find worldwide. Make purchases through

And.Don’t forget to clean and talk to your plants. A damp cloth and a soothing voice will do. Any language.

Everything in São Paulo gets dusty. It is a constant battle keeping up with the pollution around here, so don’t give up, and hire someone to do it all for you. That’s the best advice I can offer.

Monica Trentini writes for, and The Flash magazine of the
International Newcomer’s Club of São Paulo. She was
raised in Brazil. She currently has a cookie
business, providing fresh home-made cookies and frozen
dough to customers in Greater São Paulo. She also
makes and delivers large cookies, cupcakes and
brownies for birthdays at home or at school. Call her
for more information! 11-3739-2599 or write

H. ‘Terry’ Crispin
Translators and Conference Interpreters
Telefax: 3079-7046 SP

See Part I of Cleaning in Brazil

See Part II of Cleaning in Brazil

By Monica Trentini
Brazilian bakeries are known as padarias. Most padarias have Portuguese roots and produce the famous pãozinho which has yet to be re-created successfully in the US. Padarias bake and sell pãozinhos throughout the day – fresh ones should be available by the basketful almost every 20 minutes. Some even wait so they can walk out of the padaria with a warm bag of pãozinhos, and rightfully so! There is nothing quite like a fresh pãozinho eaten with your eggs and caf con leche in the morning or with butter and honey in the afternoon or early evening when you want a little something to tide you over.

Don’t throw those cold, even stale pãozinhos away! Cut into rounds, they make great toast or French toast, and cubed, crumbled or grated, bread crumbs. In a pinch, I went to my padaria on Thanksgiving, and was given a big bag of stale bread for stuffing! They wouldn’t even charge me.*

They aren’t charging for the nice hot out of the oven stuff either. The government has fixed the price of the pãozinho so it is accessible to everyone, making it the cheapest thing you can buy at the padaria (about 30 centavos – 10 cents each). Padarias do not make any money on the pãozinhos, hence the latest trend: padarias have diversified and started selling many other things.

If you enjoy going to the beach on the Litoral Norte of São Paulo, you know what I mean. If you go into a padaria on the way, you can grocery shop. You can find everything short of a picanha there. Of course, the prices are higher, and they have an interesting way of selling you your condiments – first, you have to ask the man behind the counter for them. Next, he bags everything and hands you the bags with a hand-written slip listing all your groceries and cold cuts. Then, you proceed to the cash register, where you hand the guy in the box your slip and pay for that and anything you happened to pick up throughout the store, including the paddle ball set he has sitting in the window of his cubicle, or miniature rhino, if you happened to be so crazy as to bring your 3 year old shopping. The line could be long, so take advantage of Brazilian laws and go to the front if you are elderly, carrying a child or pregnant.

Even if you decide to stay put in São Paulo, you can still choose to spend your money at the closest padaria. On Sundays, my padaria roasts chickens and ribs outside, and they sell out. (Frango Assado e Costelas) If I think ahead, I can order a chicken pie or a palmito pie (heart of palm) from the padaria on Friday and have it for our Sunday lunch. I had a party and ordered small breads and bread sticks from the padaria by the kilo. They also make cold cut trays and meter sandwiches for parties. (Tabua de Frios e Sanduiche de Metro)

Many Brazilians are opting to eat breakfast at the padaria. It is the hangout for young executives in the morning, so if you are looking, you might want to try meeting the man of your dreams over a cup of coffee and a nice hot pãozinho! Ask people in your neighborhood or at your workplace about the padarias. If you find a good one, you will be almost as happy as you would finding that certain someone.

*Another great hint is that some padarias will bake your turkey or pernil for you! Their ovens are on all day, so why not make a little extra money? If you would like yours baked for the holidays, make sure to talk to the people at the padaria in advance!

School parties? I’ve got you covered. I can make your birthday boy or girl cupcakes or a pizza cookie to celebrate. Choose your theme! I can also make big cookie lembrancinhas for classmates to take home and enjoy. Themes under my belt: Power Rangers, Barbie, Tweenies, Bob the Builder, Thomas, Elmo, Bay Blades… I deliver! Call Monica at 3739-2599 or 8111-5920 or write and kiss your worries goodbye!

By Monica Trentini
Brazilians are partiers at heart. They really have mastered the art of enjoying themselves. They spend hours talking and laughing at restaurants. They unite everyone they know to celebrate their own birthday. They spend massive amounts of money on their child’s first birthday party and so on. Many Brazilian children have lavish parties throughout their young lives, always including adults in the mix. Children’s parties start out with games and move on to the cocktail hour and dinner and all night long after the birthday girl or boy nods off to sleep, and their guests have left (soon after the cake has been cut.)

Rich Brazilians continue this spectacle up to their wedding day, and the festivities are grand. A friend of mine says the way rich people in São Paulo celebrate is to get married at the church on Avenida Brasil, Nossa Senhora do Brasil, and on to Leopoldo for the reception. White roses everywhere the eye can see, and an open tap on the Veuve Cliquot (expensive champagne) for 500 people were a few examples of the extravagances.

I have attended a few more modest weddings. One that stands out in my mind was around the time of the world cup. The wedding was held in a town in Minas notorious for manufacturing fireworks. Brazil won that day, and it seemed that the whole town was celebrating the marriage. What good planning on the part of the bride and groom!

Another wedding I attended was more of a production. It was in Rio de Janeiro, at the Clube Naval. We had to take a short ferry ride to the place where the ceremony was to be. I looked around and was surprised by the outfits. People were dressed in sequins and very tight and revealing clothing. The bride came across on the ferry and walked down the isle with the groom. They had clouds of dry ice around them on the way down the aisle, and the music was You’ve Got a Friend.” I definitely walked away from that wedding with a smile on my face.

There is a street in São Paulo called São Caetano, also known as Rua das Noivas, or “Bride Street.” It is near the centro, and all you see are stores with wedding gowns and other things to buy or rent for your wedding. This is where many middle to low-income brides shop. Parking is free for brides, but it is a worthwhile sightseeing stop for anyone.

Given the cost of a wedding, many Brazilians do not have a church ceremony or a reception. After seven years, a couple who is living together (and often share children with little or no concern to “legality or morality”) are married in the eyes of the law.
Couples who are interested in being married can easily do so at a “cartório.” All couples must register their wedding at a cartório for their vows to take effect immediately.

Brazilian church weddings are usually quite short. When I was a child, my mother took me to a wedding. We arrived a little early (maybe an hour) and took our seats. After a few minutes, we were surprised to notice the wedding was starting! We looked carefully
at the bride and did not recognize her. Two or three weddings later, we did. During these weddings, my mother had to prop my little brother up while he slept in his little suit, and the crowd shifted.

Brazilians do not RSVP. People who get married and have receptions have the very ornate invitations hand delivered to the guests. Often, more guests are invited to the church than to the reception. The receptions are almost always buffet style, or they
have passed hors d’ouvres called “salgadinhos” or little salties, given the fact that the celebrants have no idea of the numbers, but most of the guests come. Brazilians love a party. Along with the traditional wedding cake, several hundreds of bon-bons are available for consumption. As a parting gift, the guests (who often bring other guests) receive “bem-casados” which are similar to an alfajor, but without the chocolate covering. Basically, they are two shortbread cookies with a doce de leite filling.
“Bem-casado” means “well-wed”. Parties continue into the night, with or without the couple. The bride’s maids are called madrinhas and the groomsmen, padrinhos, and
the responsibility is financial as well as spiritual. Although they do not have to buy new outfits for the occasion (they are only requested to wear a certain color, if that), they are expected to give the couple lavish gifts and are often awarded part of the expense
of the party.

If you have been invited to a wedding, Brazilians are just starting to understand the concept of registering. Ask if the noivos have a “lista de casamento.” When you purchase the gift, ask about the “prazo de troca” or time to exchange. Exchanging is also a new concept here, but it is getting easier!

Here are some gift ideas: I found this list on the internet.

Sugestes de presentes para ch-de-cozinha – Gift Suggestions for Bridal Showers
Abridor de garrafas – Bottle Opener
Assadeiras – Baking Dishes
Bacias de plsticos – Plastic Containers
Baldes – Buckets
Balana – Scale
Batedor de ovos – Egg Beater
Carrinho de feira – Feira Basket
Cesto de pes – Bread Basket
Coador de ch – Tea Strainer
Cobre bolo – Cake Cover
Cobre frios – Cheese Cover
Colher de pau – Wooden Spoon
Cortador de ovos – Egg Cutter
Cortador de frios – Cheese Cutter
Descanso de travessa – Hot Pad
Descascador de legumes – Vegetable Peeler
Escorredor de arroz – Rice Strainer
Escorredor de loua – Dish Drainer
Escorredor de macarrão – Spaguetti Strainer
Espanador – Duster
Esptula para frios – Cheese Cutter
Espremedor de alho – Garlic Press
Espremedor de frutas – Orange Juicer
Facas diversas – Knives
Formas para forno – Baking Trays
Frigideira – Frying Pan
Funil – Funnel
Garrafa trmica – Thermos
Jogo de pirex – Glass Serving Dishes
Lixeira – Trash Can
Luvas para fogão – Hot Pads
Martelo de carne – Meat Hammer
P de lixo – Dust Pan
Peneiras – Sifters
Potes diversos – Pots
Porta-sabão – Soap Holder
Porta-talheres – Silverware Holder
Porta-temperos – Spice Rack
Ralador de queijos – Cheese Grater
Rodo – Squeegie
Rolo de massa – Rolling Pin
Saca-rolhas – Cork Screw
Tbua de carne – Cutting Board for Meat
Tbua de frios – Cutting Board for Cold Cuts
Talheres diversos – Silverware
Tesoura de cozinha – Kitchen Scissors
Vassoura – Broom
Sugestes de presentes para ch-de-bar – I’m Guessing “Groom Showers…”
Abridor de garrafas – Bottle Opener
Balde de gelo – Ice Bucket
Coador – strainer
Diversos tipos de copos para bebidas – many types of glasses for drinks
Coqueteleira – Cocktail Maker
Dosador de bebidas – Measuring Utensil for Drinks
Espremedor de limão – Lemon Squeezer
Faca de serra – Serrated Knife
Garfinhos para aperitivo – Small Forks for Appetizers
Pimenteira – Pepper Shaker
Pina de gelo – Ice Tongs
Porta-copos – Coasters
Saleiro – Salt Shaker
Tbua de queijos – Cheese Board

When it comes to buying actual wedding gifts, the sky is the limit. Many Brazilian parents give their children an apartment as a wedding gift. As to what you should get them, your guess is as good as mine.

If you are looking for a “gringo-style” Christmas present, cookies will be a hit with your friends and family, teachers and co-workers. There are all kinds of lovely packages available. State-side orders accepted. Call or write Cookie Dough To-Go to place your order today!
Tel.: 3739-2599 or 8111-5920. Delivery is free within São Paulo.