Multinational companies who frequently receive foreign executives know that at the end of the day these visitors normally like to go out and discover a little of the city.

However, organizing social outings is not always as easy as it seems. You need to choose the right restaurant or show, and very often there is no guarantee it will be enjoyable. With this in mind Table For Six has come up with a solution to your problem.

With two and a half years experience promoting gastronomic and social events, Table For Six is launching a leisure package with 12 events which companies can offer to visiting executives. The cost is R$780 and the package can be used freely for serveral different visitors. In other words, if you receive three executives during different months, each can use four events from the same package.

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Inspired by a north American club, Table For Six currently has 350 members and expects to double its income in 2004.
The group also plans to offer franchises in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte.

For more information about Table for Six call (011) 3044-3889 or click on the banner below

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Don`t worry it`s not the end of the world. First of all that horrible traffic will disappear, for a few days at least, and you`ll be able to whiz around town to your heart`s content. You will also notice a big difference in the city`s many bars, restaurants and cinemas, which will be a lot less crowded than usual.
If you want to a taste of Carnival, São Paulo, like Rio, has a special purpose-built stadium called the Sambodromo, where you can watch the Carnival parades and floats. There are no street parties though, unlike the northeastern cities of Salvador and Olinda.
The main parades take place on Friday (Feb. 20) and Saturday (Feb. 21), while on Sunday (Feb. 22) the second division groups battle it out for a place in next year`s main group. This year`s champion will do a solo lap of honor on Friday (Feb. 27). The stadium is located on the Marginal Tiete near Barra Funda. For more information and to buy tickets try the site www.carnavalsp.com.br

If you don`t feel like making your way to the Sambodromo, you can always check out one of the many clubs which host Carnaval parties around the city.
One of the principal clubs is the Olympia, which has been presenting Carnaval parties for the past 15 years, for all tastes. This is the place to be to meet the rich and famous, especially if you get into the `Camarote` or VIP area.

Where: Olympia, Rua Cllia 1517. Tel.: (011) 3866-3000

Price: R$ 30 to R$40

When: Feb. 21, 22, 23 and 24 from 23h00.

By Bernard C. Rangel
Quite frankly no, but it`s definetely the best place to celebrate it.
We know that Austrians celebrate gala balls throughout the winter season and the grand ball takes place prior to Ash Wednesday. The Germans also celebrate carnival in their own Germanic fashion. In Italy the Venetians mask themselves in style. The Chinese also celebrate carnival, but they call it lunar year, and so on.
In the Roman Empire it was celebrated at the same time of the year under the auspices of the god Mars, who was responsible for war and renewal. The Jews celebrate Pesach (Passover) in the same time period, and Jesus just so happened to enter into Jerusalem then. It sounds ominous doesn’t it! There seems to be some kind of common conspiracy going on here independent of country or creeds.
Everybody around the world at any period of history seems to like this particular time of the year to celebrate something special. Even the Irish get their boot in the door by showing up with a kidnapped Welshman, Saint Patrick. Cheeky sods!
Well, lets open the book of knowledge a little more and concede that ‘Lucy’, in spite of her 3 million years of age decided to do more than just stand up straight. She decided that she had to have a kitchen with a sink, and she definitely needed help form an easily controlled being that understood her needs. Don’t look at me I’m just the writer.
This is all very plausible, if not the absolute truth. Anyway lets continue on Lucy’s roller coaster. Then masses of people gathered together and formed settlements that turned into civilizations and brought about stargazers encumbered with the task of counting the night-lights in the sky. These geezers (Sumerians) decided to make sense of it all, and realized that there was a repeating pattern or cycle. These events needed to be defined and remembered and voila! The party was invented. These events were very important to register as they were used as reference points for the farmers. So ceremonies and parties became the ‘in thing’. Of course we humans know how to do things in excess, and places like Sodom and Gomorra had to be destroyed, as their on goings were to say the least a touch too spicy.
By now you seem to get the idea. Carnival is a celebration that has its roots in the celebration of the end and starting of a new lunar year cycle. It has to do with the moon equinox and mans dependence on the natural elements to fill his pantry. Historically, the Church in its desperate need to dominate mans mind ruled these already pre-established celebrations by Lucy’s descendants as ‘Pagan Rituals’. Halloween (the harvest celebration) by the way had got the same label. These times of the year must be remembered for what they are. Yes, it is a true New Year event, the end of a lunar year cycle and the start of another. The shedding of one skin and the donning of another, and it can be also be considered as, in the northern hemisphere, a party for those that managed to survive the cold winter (before central heating was invented for the modern cave), and for those ‘down under’, as a celebration for resisting the temptation of the endless row of dental floss bikinis that paraded in front of your nose all summer long.
At the end of the day, we here in the 21st century can look yearningly at Mars, and imagine what it would be like to party there in the coming carnivals. Enjoy and plan the coming year.

By Bernard C. Rangel
Fun, fun, fun, hands in the air, overflowing beer, wandering eyes, exposed cleavage, sweaty backs, swaying asses, drunken eyes, generous smiles and lysergic-like colors. And all this in the name of a good time and memories remembered or not.
A well-seasoned gringo in Brazil already knows and appreciates that with Brazil’s continental size there too is a continental size carnival that accompanies it, with a continental size weekend that goes from Friday night right through to Wednesday midday, with the exception of Bahia where it simply continues on throughout the year.
Brazil is known for its Carnival throughout the world, especially the one that take place in Rio de Janeiro. It is majestic, rich, detailed, a marvel of the modern world, and certainly not the Rio we all well know during the other 360 days of the year. For the unaware gringo there is also a carnival in Marahão, in the extreme north of Brazil with painted bulls and much reggae blasting out of the hi-fi speakers; one in the Amazon that takes place in June and is called ‘Boi Bumba’ one in Olinda, Recife where the giant size dolls are paraded around the streets of a cobbled-street town with small marching bands behind each ‘doll block’ one in the neighboring state capital city of Recife which has ‘trios’ and ‘folies’ religiously following behind, along the Avenue of Boa Viagem; there is also the now world famous street carnival of Salvador with its musical two-story sound trucks called ‘trios’ with live bands on the top-open air deck vibrating through the streets of Brazil’s first colonial capital and followed by hallucinating, t-shirt-uniformed, sweating, eye-wide, bobbing ‘folies’ there is a hedonistic carnival in the historical town of discovery, Porto Seguro, Bahia, here you hold onto to your sexuality, your companion, your life, your mind and your hotel address as you may not see it for the duration of the festivities, fantastic, refreshing and very much for the brave; then there is the college-goers carnival in gold towns of Minas Gerais, where the old town houses are over spilling with students, beer, vomit, noise, urine, lost memories, hangovers, lost hymens, and the list goes on much like your reading book list of your first year in University; Brasilia has a carnival that takes place in the private clubs of the city where an emptied out city is haunted by the ghosts of corruption awaiting the coming year to fulfill their yearnings; São Paulo, the financial capital and centrifuge of the economy boasts three very distinct carnivals, one that takes place in the ‘Sambodromo’ from Friday night to Saturday night, this is for the blue collar citizen, then there is the richer club carnival for the wealthier lower middle to upper middle white collars, then there is the beach collar carnival that runs down the ‘Paulista’ coastline from north to south, full of beer driving guzzling ‘folies’ behind wheels who want to worship the sun and forget the past year of office intrigues; there is also the surfers carnival which takes place in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina way down south where beautiful beach bunnies follow their board riding beaus as they neatly slice up the waves in their ‘THC’ imagination; there is also the dry unexciting carnival of Porto Alegre because of its mechanical Germanic imagination, wnderbar!; there is also the alterative carnival for the discerning and adventurous, this is very much up to each ones imagination and can be easily solved by renting out a country house and enjoying each others company; finally for those who absolutely want to avoid hell, the devil, temptation, the succubae, hangovers, the intravenous drip and the like can find their local Evangelist community and follow them to a religious retreat for the duration of carnival.
So you can see there are many faces to the Brazilian Carnival just like its multi-racial community. In short there is a little of something for each one during carnival. Just seek and ye shall find. Happy Carnival!

If you have any comments on this article, or would like to submit a similar piece on life in Brazil, please send to copydesk@www.gringoes.com

By David Straker
From the fishing community of Piranhas where Lampião (bandit or Robin Hood) was betrayed, to the river mouth; from the land of the Carrancas (Gargoyle) to the last passenger boats. The following recounts details of the author’s four day trip down
the San Francisco river in Sergipe (from Caninde to the Foz).

This short journey down the last section of the San Francisco River in the Northeast of Brazil, where it forms the border between the states of Sergipe and Alagoas, lasted 4 days beginning at the last dam – the Xingo and finishing on the Atlantic coast.
The new town of Caninde de San Francisco, was built back from the banks of the river that overlooked its original location due to the construction of the Xingó hydroelectric dam in 1997. Caninde is the name of a blue and yellow Macaw found in Brazil. Originally only 150 houses, when it was a sleepy fishing outpost, but since the construction of the Dam it has grown tremendously and seems incredibly modern sitting in the middle of the Sertão – the name given to the arid interior of Northeastern Brazil. Other residential districts grew up with the dam along the top of the high cliffs of the river to accommodate all the construction workers, although more so on the Alagoas side looking down on the small fishing village of Piranhas, so named because of the piranha fish in the tributary where the village was founded.

The Xingó Park Hotel that is situated just one km from the center of Caninde de San Francisco commands a wonderful view of the San Francisco River from just below the Xingó dam where six of the turbines installed are operating and supply power to around 25% of the Northeast region. There are housings for four more turbines but as yet have not been installed as they are waiting for an increase in demand and more importantly for São Pedro (popularly considered the patron Saint of the weather) to provide more water, something the dam may never see. Also the hotel overlooks the tiny beach where the old Caninde de San Francisco lay before being moved up the banks of the river and away from the construction site; remains of the canteen, that used to feed some of the 10,000 dam workers, are still visible just after the little beach that now houses a bar and sunshades awaiting the population of the new town to come down at the weekends.
Half a lgua (1 lgua = 5.5 kilometers) down river and on the opposite bank in the state of Alagoas is the village of Piranhas, our starting point.

Piranhas is a small fishing town on the banks of the San Francisco river. It houses the museum that is dominated by the story of the infamous bandits Lampião & Maria Bonita and their gang. The village itself is very picturesque and has two small homely inns with a third one being built. The museum is housed in the old railway station built by the British in front of which is the tower that used to house the clock that could be seen from all parts of the village but with the ending of the railways the clock went too. Along with the museum comes one of the last members of the village, Sr. Josias, who was involved in the capture and death of Lampião, his men and Maria Bonita his wife. We met Sr. Josias on the date of his 83rd birthday with a telegram from the mayor congratulating him to prove it. He had been a member of the police unit that captured and killed Lampião and his gang. He describes carrying the heads of the gang by the hair. The whole gang had been beheaded at the hideout where they were ambushed in the middle of the Sertão. Arriving in Piranhas the heads were laid out and photographed on the steps of the town hall as proof of the capture and death of this bandit that had been terrorizing the Northeast for many years. Sr. Josias said that the heads were exhibited in all the small towns of the region until they came to rest in a museum in Bahia where they remained for four decades before they were finally buried.

Lampião came from a farming family but changed to banditry after members of his family were assassinated by the large landowners of the region.
His band of Cangaceiros (Outlaws), as they were called, attacked towns and farms to rob them. They also raped, mutilated and killed those that reacted or helped the police. Lampião lived like this for 20 years hiding in the caatinga” (brushwood forest) until his betrayal and death in 1938. Since his death he became a popular hero and many tales have been told of him including a book written by his granddaughter. There are museums with special sections relating to him and his band.

The story of the cactus
There are basically four types of cactus in the area of Sergipe’s sertão. The ‘palma forrageira’ is the only one used as a crop for fodder for cattle and other domestic farm animals such as sheep or goat as a complement to their diet especially in times of drought.

The other three cactuses are Mandacaru, Xique-xique and Facheiro. The latter of which is used to hunt rolinhas (a small dove) at night. The ‘facheiro’ has a combustible substance in its ‘fingers’ and this is lighted giving it the appearance of a chandelier of many candles. The Sertanejos (the inhabitants of this arid interior region) used this to hypnotize the birds with the light at night and they were then easily caught by hand; a practice that has now been made illegal by Ibama (Brazil’s environmental agency). The rolinhas were sold as a nourishing appetizer but are now becoming extinct.

While visiting the Lampião museum in Piranhas we were introduced to Osman, a fisherman of four generations in the village and now with nine grandchildren. He agreed to be our pilot for this first stretch down the San Francisco River in one of his two aluminium boats. The name of this boat is Morena – Brunette.

His other boat had been rented to the company preparing a new dam further down river and they had asked for this one too but he kindly delayed the rental until he had taken us to Pão de Acar – the next reasonably sized village down river (a rental such as ours didn’t come every day). It was a two-hour trip zigzagging between the rocks and the eddy currents and small whirlpools in the river. Osman complained about the lack of fish since the building of the hydroelectric dams up the river (Paulo Afonso in Bahia and Xingo, just above Piranhas. Now, with the control of the flow of water, the sediments are not brought in with the rain in the rainy season and with the sediments came the nourishment for the fish and so today the fish neither grow nor breed due to the lack of muddy waters in which to spawn their eggs. Consequently the population of fish has dropped drastically. As a small compensation, the waters are much clearer and in many places one can clearly see the bottom of the river as one zooms along skirting the rocks, which lie in wait just below the surface for the inexperienced boatman.

Our first stop was in the small hamlet of Entre Montes to see the handicrafts and specifically the embroidery. Apart from the little shop it was a very sleepy place without much character.

Half an hour on we came to the tiny fishing village of Barra do Ferro or Ilha do Ferro (Island of Iron) so-called as there is an island in the middle of the river facing the village. Many years ago in the days of Osman’s grandparents this island was a scene of one of the worst disasters on the river when over 200 people were drowned. Iron parts of the vessel may still be seen when there is a drop in the water level. As the story goes: the vessel was caught in a storm and the captain tied up at the island for protection but as the storm got worse the vessel overturned and sank causing the great loss of life, which would have been avoided if instead of tying up at the island, he had beached his vessel on the shores of the village itself. One ‘boy’ who was of a rich family was reported to have cried out that his father (the mayor of a town downstream) wouldn’t let him die as they were wealthy but the river Gods didn’t want his money and he drowned along with the commoners.

Barra do Ferro has some unique embroidery, which is sold in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and was set up by an NGO. The special type of embroidery has been named “good night”, the same name of the flowers that grow abundantly around this small fishing community.

Another half hour brought us to the sight of the new dam and hydroelectric plant that is to be built, and where our boat would be in a day or two, only half a lgua before Pão de Acar, which is where Osman was to leave us. The dam will bring calmer and deeper waters from this point back to Piranhas, Osman’s hometown, but without causing flooding to any of the fishing villages along the way since the barrage itself will not be so high.

Arriving in Pão de Acar we were nearly immediately accosted by a boatman, who was more than willing to offer his services to take us further down river, for a handsome fee. So having contracted him, he directed us to a surprisingly modern and very clean family inn where we spent the short night, having agreed to be up and ready to go at four in the morning.
The winds up the Velho Chico have helped many a sail upriver but they can be a damper on an old fishing boat trying to get downriver, as we were soon to find out. The winds tend to pickup in the afternoon, the reason for our early departure, and get stronger as one gets closer to the sea and the constant winds of the northeastern coast of Brazil. The roof of the ‘Yacht Club’, a rather generous name, at Pão de Acar was once removed by the winds.

Although the small town had a very pleasant main street with large trees giving a heavy shade so cool compared to the blazing sun of the Northeast sertão, the place to have a cool beer was on the San Francisco river banks which in fact are separated from the water by a large expanse of sandy beach – ideal for football. The town radio had speakers hanging strategically from lampposts and street corners blaring out the local music and calling one to Dona Maria’s “stall restaurant” for homemade food. The best in the town. And it was. On inquiring what was on the menu for that day Maria started with the accompaniments:- Cuscus, rice, farofa (and when you look at her waiting for the main dish she would pause and)….chicken. It was delicious and at the same time entertaining to watch Maria and her semi deaf husband alternately reducing or increasing the TV volume with the remote control.

Sailing vessels with two or even three sails so common in the past and now almost extinct (we saw two of the three along the whole stretch of river we traveled) would ply their way up and down the river. They would bring salt from the windy coastlines up into the semi arid regions of the North East hinterland and take back cotton, charcoal (now forbidden by Brazil’s environmental agency) and other products scraped out of the drought ridden northeastern sertão.

Sr Pedro, who was to accompany us down river from Pão de Aucar to Propri, was the ripe old age of 78 and the grandfather of our captain for this section of the trip. Sr Pedro had spent his life on the river and now was retired and lived in Penedo, four lguas beyond Propri. He had come to Pão de Aucar to visit his relatives only the day before but jumped at the chance to get back on his river, on which he had not been for 2 years, and overcome his homesickness for his Velho Chico (The nickname for the river – literally Old Frisco). At the small fishing villages he was known by all and some were even surprise to see that he was still alive, not having seen him for many years. He still had one tooth. He had navigated the San Francisco River for more years than he could remember and had spent 8 years on one vessel alone. Sailing up river they would bring rice, salt and other market goods bringing back charcoal and products from the arid sertão. From Pão de Aucar to Penedo (downstream) would take two days and one night and the return trip would be four days. At the height of activity on the river they would be over 200 of these two sailed sailing vessels plying the waters.

Today with little river trade and not much visible farming along the banks in this inhospitable arid ‘sertão’ region of the Northeast we were very surprised to encounter several MST camps – Movement of landless agricultural workers, who protest throughout Brazil by camping on and invading unproductive farms. The sertão is very arid and unproductive unless much investment and irrigation are applied. Further south towards the coast we saw kilometers and kilometers of fruit farming (lemons, coconuts and passion fruits among others), but this was a well-financed agribusiness, so MST seemed a bit out of place here.

Today the river is easier to navigate since the dams have raised the water level, which remains fairly constant unlike the past when the rains or the droughts in the interior would drastically alter the navigability of the river, especially up river from Pão de Aucar where there are many rocks and sand bars and navigation can be extremely difficult. Not infrequently would one of these sailing boats hit a sandbank but would usually be able to get off without too much difficulty.

We stopped at Ilha do Ouro (Island of Gold), which is a place a lot of people go at the weekends to visit the San Francisco River, to swim, to drink its waters and eat fish. The guidebooks say Ilha do Ouro is a tourist place for eco-tourism but the tourism is still very much in its infancy here and along most of the San Francisco River. Most of Velho Chico’s visitors are locals that also include people from Aracaju (2 hours away or less) and Maceio; and the festive season’s visitors come from slightly further afield such as Salvador but the hordes from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais states haven’t arrived yet. The most important festival of the region on the river is “Bom Jesus dos Navegantes” (Navigators’ Good Jesus) which goes on for a week and takes place in the summer month of January in the towns along the river with each town having its own week so really it lasts the whole month. Today there are fireworks, boat races with one, two or three sailed ‘canoes’ and of course a Boat Procession carrying the patron Saint “Bom Jesus dos Navegantes” of the river at the head.

Arriving at Propri and escaping from the motorbike taxis, we made our way to a small inn, in a beautiful colonial house, just off the main dock street and opposite the house that the Emperor Pedro II had stayed at. It was here in this town, one of the more important on the river, since the main road BR 101 which runs all the way up the Brazilian coast passes through, that I discovered the British equivalent of all-day breakfasts. Here one can have ‘Caf Nordestino’ at breakfast or at dinner, not quite all-day but still excellent and here as in other places we were not disappointed. The Pan American restaurant provided an excellent but excellent ‘Caf’ for two for two dollars or R$6,00 with a choice of lamb, beef, chicken or pork. The lamb was good although not as good as a lamb I had in Aracaju, which was better than anything I had had in New Zealand!

The last passenger boat service on the Velho Chico: Propri to Penedo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays run by two companies that take it in turns to run the service, which takes about three hours going down river and four hours on the return and costs just R$4. Of course we wanted to go on Friday. We hired the Princesa Rosa one of the two vessels on this last line that says it carries 55 passengers and two-crew. The bus is R$1,20 and takes less than an hour. Soon there will be no passenger service on the river but there remain many tourist opportunities for these boatmen and their otherwise dying trade.

The three-hour trip down river to Penedo was enlivened by the friendly and talkative crew of Captain Jos consisting of his son, Rodrigo and assistant, Z, who both surprised us with their level of education and general knowledge. The captain, however with many less teeth than his son, was more difficult to understand but knew his river and had managed to keep his business going in spite of the coming of tarmac and buses.

Shortly after leaving Propri we passed the fishing community of Sade (Health), so named as it is said no one ever gets sick and no one dies there. It is also a beach for the local population at the weekends and there are many stands side by side offering their cold beers and a variety of dishes with fish, plucked from the very river the eaters are swimming in. Including pitu – large river prawns. The prawns are captured in wicker traps, laid by the fishermen in the evenings with rice husks as bait and the traps are collected in the early hours. Usually, one can see where their traps are as there is a fisherman standing guard.

The bridge carries the BR 101 main road from the south of Brazil all the way up the coast to the north as well as a train line, which is the cause of may accidents especially when wet with cars loosing control in the tracks and ending up in the water.

The Indian Myth of the Gargoyle (Carranca)
In search of the famous gargoyles of the San Francisco River while in Penedo, we found ourselves in the atelier of Raimundo Vieira (a blue eyed Indian – half Indian and half white), who was one of the two artists in the town who sculptured San Franciscan Carrancas as they are called here. His atelier was of course on the outskirts of town up hill and we of course walked there in the midday sun traditional to Englishmen. On arrival we discovered that he had no Carrancas in stock but he was very keen to tell us of the origin of these artifacts. His family had originally come from Bahia state, which is further up river than where we had started from. Many moons ago an Indian tribe, in what is now the state of Bahia, found itself at war with an unknown enemy. The chief had sent out an expedition in a canoe to hunt for game with two fierce warriors as a lookout at the front of the canoe. The canoe never returned. The chief, not so easily beaten, decided to send out a second canoe but this time with four warriors as a lookout at the front and after some days the canoe returned, empty with no one in it. When the chief wanted to send out a third expedition the witch doctor, who was in those days losing his powers with the tribe, was skeptical and asked the chief who was this enemy and what did the enemy look like and how was he going to fight this unknown enemy. The chief couldn’t answer and so the witch doctor told him to place the ugliest man of the tribe at the head of the canoe, which he did. And this time the boat returned with plenty of game for the whole tribe. The witch doctor then explained that a terrible snake, the symbol of evil spirits that live along the river, on seeing that ugly Indian was afraid “He is even uglier than I”, said the snake and let the Indians fish and hunt in peace. From that time on a gargoyle – the Carrancas of the Velho Chico – was placed at the front of their boats to warden of evil spirits.

Our Indian Raimundo was keen to tell us how he came to be here so far from his origins back up river in the state of Bahia, and how his great-grandparents had been expelled from their tribe way in the interior of the sertão. As was the custom in those days his great-grandparents had been chosen for each other when they were still children and were to be married at the young age of 14 or 15. But they precipitated the ceremony and when it was discovered that his great-grand mother was pregnant, the pair were expelled from the tribe. After they had left, their tribe was attacked by white men and against his wife’s wishes Raimundo’s great grandfather returned to help fight them but was killed in the battle. And so his great-grandmother over the years made her way across the Sertão (semi arid desert of the region), where alone she gave birth to Raimundo’s grandmother and eventually came to the vicinity of Penedo. The new family became one of the first Indians to enter into white man’s society in this region.

In Penedo, there is an excellent restaurant that clings to the walls of an old fort, built by the Portuguese and destroyed by the Dutch, who were later defeated. The fort commands a view upriver from the town to prepare for any attack coming down. Magnificent drawings and antique military items adorn the internal walls of the restaurant as the other side remains open to the upstream view, through the coconut palms.

From Penedo to the mouth of Velho Chico
Once a week, on Mondays, there is a boat from Penedo down to Piaabuu, which means a big palm tree, in Alagoas to take people to the market there and it was with this vessel that we went to the mouth of the river and back again to Neopolis across the river from Penedo to return to the middle of the Sertão and on to Aracaju ending our journey/holiday down the Velho Chico.
On the way to the mouth of the river we stopped at Piaabuu , the market town that our boat would go to on Mondays, to see some of the handicrafts and to arrange to have lunch on the way back. The river comes right up to the retaining walls of the dock street and compared with the other towns and fishing villages, here was packed with boats for fishing and taking the local inhabitants at weekends down to the Mouth of the River. It was perhaps the most touristy town that we had come across over the last four days. The food in the restaurant, shrimp, prawn and crab, which we ate at on our return was excellent but quite slow in the coming.

The captain of the vessel, Sr Anselmo told us how he acquired this service. In the past there had been two vessels which would go every Monday taking the farmers and their products to the market in Piaabuu but both had sunk, the last of which had sunk “twice”. One day whilst docking it made a hole in its hull with a tree branch that was just below the water’s surface and semi-sank. Then while trying to free itself of this branch it reversed into another holing the other end of the boat and then sank seriously; paving way for our captain to acquire this line. But in fact for some time there was no river service to the market and the farmers adapted to the situation and went by road. As many of the river services were slowly fading out our captain decided to reactivate the river service to the market and said that he would go even if there were only one passenger – on his first trip there was only one passenger – and he went. It took some time to gain the confidence of the farmers and buildup his clientele. And now between his father and his brother they have three boats plying the river with their service to the market on Mondays and ferry services across the river from Penedo to Neopolis and the occasional tourists who might rent his boat for a week or more to go all the way up river to where we had just come from, that is to say to the fisher village of Piranhas and the Xingó dam, the land of Lampião and his gang of bandits.

A sad story had preceded us by a week. Between Piaabuu and the river mouth, a fisherman went afishing in his small canoe one morning but never returned. He was one of three brothers who all went their own ways to fish for needle-fish every morning. It was their custom to return around 11 in the morning for lunch and escape the midday heat. This day one of them didn’t show up and although his two brothers were worried they didn’t send out a search party for him at first but as the afternoon drew on they went looking for him and found him just before he was swept out to sea. He was hanging over the edge of his boat holding the fishing net he had thrown at the moment he had had a fatal heart attack.

The Foz and the leaning lighthouse
Right in the mouth of the river is ‘the leaning lighthouse’ (not as famous as the leaning tower of Pisa but leaning just the same) left after a storm had undermined its foundations and washed away the fishing village behind it. The fishing village was rebuilt, and not for the first time, but the lighthouse was left as a symbol portending the power of the sea.

The sand dunes and the few coconut palm trees at the river-mouth are a wonderful gift from Mother Nature and her surprises, which is only spoilt by the hordes of local tourists spilling out of their music screaming boats that come to enjoy nature at its best at the weekends. According to Ibama (there is a large hideous notice board -a real eye-sore), visitors may only remain there for one hour, take nothing with them and not play loud music. An impossibility for the friendly, stress free “nordestino”.

The End

By Lynea Newcomer
Think of a bee hive, swarming with activity, noise, seeming confusion. Now make yourself a bee, squirming up and over, down and around. Cue in thunderstorm. Pump up the volume till your body is bouncing with vibrations of deep drums. Of a sudden, spring forward with all the others, sudden organized movement, then, as quickly, bounce your little bee bum back. Wave your arms, or wings, whatever, oops, an elbow, stinger, in the cheek, but running again. Bounce! Bounce! Samba! Circle those bee bums. Now, op! here are several more hives. Move along, join in, bounce bounce BOUNCE!

I will be going back to Carnaval in Salvador every year, se deus quiser.

Relaxing in my apartment, showered and on the fresher side of #2 10-hour bus ride in the past 5 days, I only want to be back bouncing. As everyone else here says, I may be from elsewhere, but I am Bahian at heart.

Imagine! So let me first give the low-down on what Carnaval is. There are several different types that go on around Brazil. In Rio, you have the big fancy famous one. There, everyone sits in stands (camarotes) constructed on either side of a large avenue. Samba schools prepare all year to parade this avenue for a total of about 20 minutes each, and are judged in the meantime. If you want, you can pay a hell of a lot of money and walk the avenue with them, samba-ing if you can. Most sit in the stands and watch this incredible show of fantasy and history played out in elaborate costumes and floats (with many a nude interlude).

In Salvador, there are stands as well, but instead of samba schools, the big trio-electricos parade the two concourses in this city’s Carnaval. On top of these monster-semi-truck booming beasts, are many different bands. About 20 of the trucks go by per night, and it is the same deal as in Maceio fest: you pay to have a shirt and dance along with a certain truck.

Another well-known Carnaval is in Recife. Go look at the coastline of Brazil on a map if you don’t know where these places are. This version is based in Frevo, another type of music, but there are no big trucks to dance with.

Okay, that was fairly general, but it will do for the moment. Clearly, there are several other large cities in Brazil, like Porto Alegre and Fortaleza which host great Carnavals, and most smaller cities do as well. Being a stranger in these parts, I thought it best to go to the reputed best one: Salvador.

It is very LONG. For an example, Tuesday evening, I showed up around 10 p.m. to hang out in the streets a bit (the ‘pipoca’, popcorn) before my ‘bloco’ (name of a trio-electrico/band unit) left to start the procession. We got rolling about half past 11, and kept dancing, kept pumping out the tunes, the energy, until 5 a.m. rolled around. Mind you, I was in the Timbalada bloco, a largely African drum based group. Thus, CRAZY energy. Also, each bloco has about 4,000 people crowded around its truck. If you are of the weaker sort, i.e. me, you then go home and crash. If the Brazilian blood is feeling very full of iron, energy and some guarana, you either go crash a little, or stay in the street and keep going through the next evening. The Salvador Carnaval is also one of the longer ones in terms of days. It goes on for 7 days, with extra tidbits for several days afterwards. Tuesday happened to be the last night for the blocos to boomingly peruse the avenues, yet Wednesday morning, the drummers were all out there again at 10 a.m. to run the course one last time. I slept through that but heard it was marvelous.

During the day, if you are not wanting to chill and drink beer with your buds waiting for the next start of music and dancing, there are many beaches and a great city to wander. I managed to get to some beautiful beaches with my buddy Paulo, and run into many a famous Brazilian novella star I do not know. Maybe I should watch more television. (nah)

Also visited Pelourino, the oldest section of Salvador, and the old capital when the Portuguese first landed. High up on a hill with a great view of Bahia de Todos os Santos, this was a beautiful, typical example of colonialism finding revival in renovation and 21st century tourism. I don’t want to be cynical here, I just think it important to remember what the place was really like back in the day. My girlfriends and I went to a fabulous market and spent too much money on fun stuff from Bahia. Afterwards, we all had some acaraj (a bean-curd flour like substance, deep-fried in palm oil-dend, then sliced open and stuffed with shrimp and hot sauce and perhaps some green tomatoes).

Several nights I stood in the pipoca with friends watching all the blocos go by. This was a bit less tiring, and much more diverse, music-wise, than going along with the same band for 6 hours or so. Alegria was my energy source of choice, although an aca with guarana em pó here or there helped matters out a bit. (Aca is the fruit of heart of palm, and as nutritious as straight-up cows milk. Guarana powder comes from the fruit, and is gives you great natural energy, not of the caffeine type. This fruit is from the amazon region.)
I only saw one guy passed out cold on his face who attracted, at intervals, little crowds of people at the end of the evening, waiting in vain for buses, all concerned if he was indeed still alive. (he was)

I think I got on national television at one point when a cameraman descended out of no-where from some chair in the sky to film in amongst us all. That famous brazilian supermodel Gisele was around and about too.

Some of the blocos had themes. For example, the all male one called Ghandy (yes, that is indeed a reference to Gandhi). The men wore a sort of towel on their heads, lots of white and blue beads, and a white cloth they use toga/sari style. Bahian women make up another. These are the women famous for cooking up the acaraj, and are dressed in large white frilly dresses with mounds of white cloth wrapped on the heads. One bloco was a mascarade deal, and seemed distinctly reserved for homosexuals. It was the best flight of creative fantasy I saw in Salvador. The stuff on t.v. broadcasts from Rio was, of course, much more elaborate and organized.

Some other details. The bus rides too and from were a bit grueling, what with the heat and bumpy roads, yet we made it. On my return this afternoon I got to choose from the last seats open on the bus: extreme back (thus, no recline in the seat), or extreme front (with passenger to driver side view). For the leg room and the recline, I chose the front, then promptly buried my face in my pillow and tried to ignore the trucks and busses rushing at our front. My perhaps favorite maneuver was the up-hill pass on a curve in low gear. At one point an elderly woman got on and I no longer had the two front seats for myself. She also decided to sing for me for the next several hours. I suppose it was soothing in some sort of holy sense, yet when she drained her water bottle and tossed it out the window to the waving cane fields, I couldn’t help but think that her god might be a bit less plentiful in the coming seasons of rainfall.

Too many more details; everyone should visit at this time next year. The variety of gringos and Brazilians going crazy was incredible to be a part of, and a true exploration of instantaneous Brazilian alegria, no matter what tomorrow may bring.

By Alan B. Williams
I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting Brazil twice in my life, once in 1999 and again in 2002. I married into one of the oldest and most-established clans, the Area Leao family in Teresina, the capital of Piau, a small, almost landlocked, state in the northeast of Brazil.
Teresina has the distinction of being the country’s first planned city. Designed in 1852 in the form of a chessboard, it is situated at the mouth of the rivers Parnaba and Poti, and is known as the green city because all its streets and avenues are lined with trees, mainly mangoes.
I arrived in Teresina on July 7th, one week after the world cup final, and my son Kyle and I were greeted by over twenty family members at the airport. We were whisked away to my wife’s mother Iracilda’s apartment in Teresina, wherein the remaining Area Leao and Arrais horde greeted us with lavish affection. Many hugs and kisses, followed by cold Antarticas (the best beer in South America), Churrasco, pictures, laughter, and congratulation all around for the Brazil soccer team and the Lakers, who had just clinched their third title. The warmth in the room, or actually the back upstairs patio, was palpable, and I dare say that this ranked as one of the happiest days in my life. I had been separated from my wife, Tania Area Leao, for nearly five weeks, as she had a head start on her vacation, so we were in desperate need of each other. And this was the first time her family was able to meet my son Kyle. This was beyond mere pride I was feeling, more like jubilation.
Day two of our adventure, we headed down south, toward the family farm, dubbed Campestre, located near the little village of Hugo Napoleao, where two years previously I got married in front of the entire family. That trip was something surreal, and fantastic, but it went so fast, and I was in a state of shock, that I never had time to digest the entire journey.
Campestre itself is like the ultimate summer camp for the entire family. Situated on 165 acres in the center of Piaui, a river runs through it” quite literally, called the Berlenga. Located off the main road at the end of the farm, stands a little bar, with all the basics needed for a good time, beer, pool table, toilets, and the river itself. Concrete steps have been added recently, and did I mention, they’ve added electricity, too? The river is dammed, with a water height of five feet, and a mean temperature of 74 degrees. This is said to be the cleanest water around, and virtually free of all carnivores, at least during the day.
Our family would spend the entire day there, eating Testiculos de Bolassado (Bull balls), cooked in garlic, while consuming many beers. Of course, this is Brazil, and there is an area set up for soccer on the other side of the river.
It is a short ten-minute walk back to the farmhouse, and that’s were the action really is. With Iracilda’s home cooking, plus support from our other aunts in the neighboring farmhouses, Mae Julinha & Sonia, Campestre turns into one massive block party, sans the block. On any given holiday, the farms fill up with fifty relatives, with at least half being children. I started a tradition, which I hope will continue on every year. I headed into town (Hugo Napoleao), and procured balloons, fireworks, beer and sodas and chocolate. For 50 reals (about $18.00), I bought two cases of skyrockets, 200 balloons, a case beer, case of soda, and two boxes of chocolate. We had our first US/Brasil water balloon fight, against a backdrop of a raging bonfire, and the roar of skyrockets to start the battle. It was a warm evening, and the water and mayhem relieved the pent up feeling of the children. The wining team received the pick of the Garotos (chocolate candy).
I had what you might call a City Slickers moment the next day, as I was tossed into the corral and told to herd the cattle. Yipping and hollering like Billy Crystal, I screamed the “I’m on vacation” line to everyone in earshot, all the while dodging bulls the size of Helms bakery trucks.
Day three of our adventure involved a day trip to Agua Branca to pick up my bother-in law Arraizinho. Needless to say, this was a men-only adventure, as we had to stop at a least four taverns coming and going. Two of the bars were run by yet more cousins. As I said, the family was everywhere, and even I was well know, by reputation anyway, to most all of them. My Father in law, Antonio, my cousin Cincinato, Avany, Arraizinho & I consumed a case of Antarctica before noon, catching up on old times. My Portuguese being mediocre at best, I relied on broken Spanish, drunken English, and comedy to communicate.
We made it back to farm at noon, in time for siesta, for me at least. The “boys” headed off into town, for more debauchery.
Most of the visiting relatives slept in hammocks, judiciously posted throughout the farm. Similar to a sleep-in prior to a rock concert, this is the normal way for everyone to crash, and the weather permitting, quite comfortable. Tania and I had our own room, dubbed the “honeymoon suite” from our previous wedding, so no roughing it for us. The fun part was waking up in the morning to the sounds of the roosters and chickens at 5:00am, after collapsing at midnight. How I dreamed of Silence of the Hens.
Fresh chicken fresh eggs, fresh goat, fresh beef, and fresh vegetables every day, plus ice cold beer, Forro music, our own river, hiking trails, campfires, kids, dogs and view to die for, made Campestre as close to heaven on Earth as possible. Add in the fact that we were surrounded by love, all of the other material wants seem unnecessary. This was the part of Brazil the tourists don’t get to experience, and part of me still wants to keep it a secret. Thank God the road to get there is still unpaved, the directions murky, and there are no hotels anywhere to be found.
So unless you can ingratiate yourself with my mother-in-law Iracilda, you are out of luck.
Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary to my Mother and Father in law – Iracilda & Antonio

Campestre
(c) 2003 Alan B. Williams

If you have any comments on this article, or would like to submit a similar piece on life in Brazil, please send to copydesk@www.gringoes.com

Reply from Gary W. Smith
North Carolina State University

Hospitality and The People of Teresina, Piaui

I just finished reading this very interesting article by Alan B. Williams and would like to make some observations about Teresina also.

I have visited Brasil approximately 60 times and Teresina twice. My first visit to Teresina was in December of 1999 and the second visit was in December of 2003. The purpose of the visit last year was to spend some more time with a family that I first met 4 years ago – and the visit turned out to be one of the most rewarding events of my life.

The purpose of this article is to suggest that all Canadians and Americans would gain a great insight into what is worthwhile in life if we would try to learn from the people in the Northeast of Brasil because they have such wonderful qualities. In general they are a simple people but they are genuine – and that is why we could learn so much from them if we would only take the time to do so.

The person that I would specifically like to write about in this article is the Grandmother of the family because of her electric personality and the way she serves as a bonding agent for her extended family. During the visit, everytime I looked around, members of her family were all around her – either talking to her or bringing things to her or telling me things about her. The name of the Grandmother is Maria Deuza and she is absolutely the sweetest person anyone could ever meet and it was obvious that the entire family loves her.

Like most people in Piaui, the family does not have a lot of money nor does it have a lot of worldly possessions – but the family has a bond that one seldom sees in North America. In the extended family there are 6 children that I had contact with and it was incredible to observe how well behaved the children were. The 6 children ranged in age from approximately 3 years old to 12 years old and not only did they play together nicely but they had learned to respect their parents. Imagine – having so many children around and nobody was having a temper tantrum.

Recently Maria Deuza had some health problems and was having to go to the Doctor but fortunately now she is well on the way to recovery – and both her family and I are happy. As a visitor, the family treated me very, very well and insisted I stayed at their house rather than staying at a hotel – and that gesture made me feel so welcome. By their actions and words they made me feel so special.

I look forward to my next visit to Teresina and wish that everyone could have the privilege of meeting this wonderful woman named Maria Deuza.

Long live Brasil!

By Ciara O’Sullivan
Im contorted into an unnatural position on a mat on the 20th floor of a building in downtown São Paulo. B.K. Ivengar, the yoga teacher, is showing how easy it is to bend our heads back to touch our knees. But I cant do it.
And nor, it seems, can my fellow yoga-ites. Despite the overpowering smell of incense and the calming presence of strategically-placed plastic Buddahs, no one takes the class seriously. The teacher is battling to be heard over the throb of a samba school rehearsing in the neighbouring block. Yes, this is definitely Brazil.
I never had any intention of living in São Paulo. The third largest city in the world with congestion and pollution that would put most cities to shame, it has more than its fair share of challenges. You will work long hours in an office block, live in an apartment block – with no view- and use a car to travel everywhere whilst worrying constantly about being kidnapped or murdered. Now Rio would have been different. I could have graced Ipanema beach every day, wiggled past the bar where the famous song was written about the beautiful girl and learnt to samba in minutes.
Before I left in October to join my boyfriend whod been posted there as a journalist, I went home to see my parents and friends. From the esteemed height of a bar stools we pontificated on life in Brazil. Theories abounded:
Youll have to live in one of those high security compounds,” said Cecily.
“Never walk alone anywhere,” said Mum.
“Everyone has a gun,” warned Niall.
“Everyone is brilliant at football,” claimed Barrie.
“It has the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world” said Aisling.
“Theyll all understand Spanish” said my Gran.
“Youd better not wear a thong on the beach until youve had the plastic surgery” joked Dad.
Nobody seemed to know very many facts and few had been there in person but everyone was sure it would be AMAZING. We drank to that a lot – and they insisted they would all come to visit.
So what’s it really like? Well it’s a bit like Ireland really. At least São Paulo is. It rains here at least once a day, for starters. Tropical storms they call them but I cant see the difference. The people are welcoming, the history is one of a colonized nation and the dominant religion is Catholicism. But there the comparison ends. Founded by the Jesuits 450 years ago, São Paulo mushroomed through the centuries with the arrival of immigrants from the rest of Brazil and the rest of the World.
Today it’s a city of twenty million inhabitants. Japanese and Italians are the main communities, but really anyone could be a local here. The Paulistanos are tall, short, white, black and mixed race – pretty much anything and everything goes (although Ive yet to see a red-headed Indian).
Soon after we arrived here we went to watch the Rugby World Cup games in local Irish pub, OMalleys, at 6 in the morning! Being new and uncool we went to bed early and set an alarm, but at the pub it soon became obvious that everyone else has just stayed out all night. From the familiar height of a bar stool the questions were fired at us. Have you been to the coast yet? What no? Youll love it. When was your first car crash? Ive written off three cars already. Arent Brazilian women beautiful – married to one. Only 2 years? Youll never go back, been here for 10. Great people, Cmon Ireland! Cmon New Zealand! Cmon Australia! Oh Well, the English deserved it I suppose. Drinks all round.
Beyond the walls of OMalleys, it’s been a little different. People ask where youre from. Irlanda? They think they like Ireland – or is it Islandia or Holanda they like? They mention OMalleys and ask if Ive been there. I try in vain to say that I was hoping to meet some Brazilians.
Nobody speaks English and most people have never left the city, not to mind Brazil but they all insist I am very welcome.
So, as I pass out on my yoga mat looking at the reflection of São Paulo’s Christmas lights in the window, my mind wanders. What will I do here? Make some new friends, go to Carnival, travel the country, take my Dad up the Amazon, host all the people whove threatened to visit and learn to speak fluent Portuguese in just two years? A bit daunting. I inhale and exhale in time with BK Ivengar’s yogic instructions, but secretly tap my toe to the samba beat.
I reckon it will be just fine.

If you have any comments on this article, or would like to submit a similar piece on life in Brazil, please send to copydesk@www.gringoes.com

By William Vanvolsem
Samba Or Fado – Who Cares? Maybe you’d prefer Double Dutch Dealings, British Thuggery or French Arrogance? John Fitzpatrick’s recent article Brazil and Portugal – The Samba and The Fado” ended with the proposition: “…one cannot stop wondering how this continental-sized country would have developed had other powers…been the colonizers”. Well how nice it is to daydream… Let’s see what could have happened if history had taken a different turn:

– The Dutch, for instance, are a good example, and they almost made it. Generally considered a serious, hardworking and industrious nation, they occupied and colonized most of what is now the Northeast of Brazil from roughly 1630 to 1654. For almost 24 years ‘Nova Holanda’ stretched from Maranhão to Sergipe, including the territories, which are now the states of Piau, Cear, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraba, Pernambuco and Alagoas. Before that, they held Salvador for about a year in 1625 and later occupied Itaparica Island in Bahia dos Todos os Santos for a while.
They switched their capital from Portuguese-founded Olinda to nearby Recife, which they named Mauritzstad, in honour of Mauritz van Nassau, one of the most enlightened and progressive governors who ever ruled that part of the world. He did a seven-year stint there in name of the Dutch West Indian Company and constructed the canals and bridges which turned the city into the ‘Venice of Brazil’, considered the richest and most developed metropolis in South America at the time. Fortaleza, today Cear’s elegant state capital, was founded as Fort Schoonenborcht, while other place names still remind us of the Dutch presence, such as Fort Orange on Itamarac Island near Recife, and Fort Mauritius in Sergipe. (And the many present-day Brazilians called Wanderlei or Vander can probably trace back their ancestry to one Johannes Van der Ley, who was part of Nassau’s entourage.)
But the overlords in Amsterdam were not entirely convinced, Van Nassau was recalled, defenses weakened and in 1649 the Portuguese regained their territories in the Battle of Guararapes. The Dutch officially gave up Nova Holanda only in 1654, resigning themselves to Portugal’s rule over the region.
What if the hard-fought and bloody battle had gone the other way? What would have happened if the Dutch had won and stayed on? Leonardo Dantas Silva, of the Pernambuco Archeological Historical and Geographical Institute (IAHGP), admitted in an article in the Braslia newspaper Correio Braziliense (20/4/98): “If the Dutch would have continued dominating the region…for sure it and the rest of Brazil today would be another nation than the one as we know it today.”
Quite frequently I have heard Brazilians telling me: “Ah, if the Dutch had stayed instead of the Portuguese, Brazil wouldn’t be the mess it is today…”
How different would it be? We can look at the only other example of Dutch mercantile colonial settlement around the same time in history: Jan van Riebeeck set up a similar outpost at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Governor Simon van der Stel turned Cape Town into a city and the hinterland into a flourishing colony with new settlers, Calvinist puritanism and plenty of slaves. The same history might have repeated itself in Northeastern Brazil if the Dutch had stayed on there: a Great Trek inland, occupying vast new territories, building a society with a minority of masters and a great majority of servants (African and Malaysian slaves and their descendants without any rights), discovering diamonds in the interior of Bahia and finally gold in Minas Gerais, just as in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
Then, the Dutch “Brazilians”, concerned about the overwhelming majority of ‘non-white” descendants of the hundreds of thousands of slaves they had shipped in, would institutionalise racial segregation in its harshest form that has ever been invented: apartheid. São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro would be purely white cities, dead and boring at night, with large teaming Sowetos on their outskirts. The tragic developments and consequences of this policy and attitude are known to all. It could have happened here…if the Dutch had stayed on. Brazil would have been a sad, dull, harsh place, the outcast of the world. But, unfortunately for the daydreamers, it were the Portuguese who won the battle of Guararapes. So, unfortunetaly for the whiners and moaners, today Brazil is a vibrant, colourful, happy nation, envied by many…
Maybe comparing with South Africa is too far-fetched. Well, let’s stay in South America then: the only colony the Dutch ever kept on this subcontinent (until, in desperation, it was thrown into inept independence, chaos, corruption and tyranny) was what is now Surinam (formerly Dutch Guyana). Nothing more than an impoverished, retarded nation, not exactly an example of progress. Maybe the daydreamers feel Brazil should have developed along the same mould as Surinam?
Forgetting the Dutch, imagine Brazil having been colonized by the British. This would not be a daydream, but a nightmare. As a matter of fact, the Brits didnt even need to occupy or colonize the country: they were smart enough to exploit the riches of the new land without ever having to set foot here. They forced Portugal into a ‘colonial pact’ – exclusive trading rights at Brazilian ports for British vessels – and imposing exorbitant debts and interests in the most abhorrent capitalist fashion, forcing Portugal to suck Brazil dry of its gold – which didnt land up in Lisbon, but in the coffers of unscrupulous London banks as debt repayments.
And when they did come near, it was to rob, steal and plunder or hijack ships full of sugar or minerals to sell them fully laden to traders back in Britain. So did Edward Fenton in 1583 and Robert Withrington four years later when they tried to invade Santos. Trying not to be outdone, Thomas Cavendish found no better than to celebrate Christmas Day of 1591 by plundering the entire city, trying to repeat his feat in Esprito Santo a year later. In 1595 James Lancaster and his band of pirates looted all he could find in Recife. (História do Brasil – Lus Csar Amad Costa and Leonel Itaussu A. Mello – Editora Scipione – São Paulo 1992 – 4th edition, p.52). The Brits also did manage to found two colonies in Latin America: their own Guyana and Belize (formerly British Honduras). Anyone prepared to swap Brazil for any of these two super states?
The only cultural contribution (disaster?) the Brits ever gave Brazil was not football (soccer) – which they invented but the Brazilians perfected – but enforcing uncivilized London business working hours through their banks and trading offices they set up here. As a tragic result Brazil is the only Latin country in the world that does not have a traditional siesta after lunch, despite its tropical climate. In fact, the very word lunch found its way into the Brazilian language as lanche – here meaning just an unimaginative nibble or a snack of something or another. Basically, what an English lunch really amounts to, after all.
Speaking of which, city workers lunches in Brazil might be a bit more appetizing and pleasant indeed if Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon and Admiral Coligny had managed to keep Rio de Janeiro for France in 1567 – after having held on for some 12 years – or Daniel de la Touche and De La Ravardire had been able to secure São Lus in Maranhão (originally Saint-Louis de Maragnon) as capital of an intended “Equatorial France” in 1615.
But then, if they had stayed on, we would now have got accustomed to refer to Rio’s Pão de Aucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) as “Pot Beurre” (Butter Dish), as this is what the French called it at the time, according to the recordings of historian Jean de Lry. No one would refer to bread rolls as ‘pão francs’, nor get upset if France won another World Cup. And Zidane would be top-scorer in the São Paulo league.
What’s more, President Charles de Gaulle would never have dreamt of saying that Brazil was not a serious country…
There again, having been born and educated in Belgium, I equally dread the thought of my own country ever having had to colonise Brazil…one Congo disaster was enough! (Just imagine Brussels sprouts for Sunday lunch instead of feijoada or churrasco. One moan I do have about Brazil, though, is that – really, being Belgian, I’m an expert – the chips are just awful!!

Im obviously not a supporter of military dictatorships. But the Brazilian generals launched one of the greatest slogans ever at the height of their rule: Brasil: ame-o ou deixe-o – “Brazil: love it – if not, beat it (in the sense of ‘get outta here’)”.
It’s still the only, and best, reply I can give to typical whiners, moaners and groaners (and why, for some unknown reason are they almost always English expats? Ive even known some who actually cheer AGAINST the Brazilian team during World Cup tournaments, even if their own country is not playing…!). They are the sort of people who will whine, moan and groan in Brazil, or Australia, Canada, China, India, wherever they are. I hardly ever experience this attitude with German, Italian, French, Spanish or Scandinavian expats…Why? Anyone out there who wants to open a discussion round about this strange attitude?

William Vanvolsem is a free-lance writer, journalist and translator who has worked and lived in Brazil for the past 15 years, having served such noble institutions as The Daily Telegraph, Gazeta Mercantil, Dow Jones Newswires and the American Chamber of Commerce (São Paulo). Born and educated in Belgium, he worked as a public relations consultant in Europe and as a journalist in South Africa before settling in Brazil. He also offers editorial and consulting services to those who want some knowledge and insight about Brazil that goes beyond “rules and numbers”. Currently living in Salvador, Bahia, he can be contacted at williambraz@terra.com.br or (71) 267 1489.

The African Art exhibition opened its doors in São Paulo on Jan. 31 and will run until the end of March. The exhibition includes over 150 pieces, including sculptures, masks, utensils, jewelry etc, brought over from the Berlin Ethnic Museum. Most of the pieces date back to the 19th century, during the period of European dominance in the region.

Where: Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil, Rua lvares Penteado, 112. Tel.: 3113 3651

When: Jan. 31 to Mar. 28. Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 9pm.

Entry: Free