Tunisia’s Youssef Bouguerra first came to Brazil for work reasons back in 1999. Despite some initial difficulties settling in, Youssef quickly fell in love with Brazil and can’t wait to move back. He has some great advice on integrating into Brazilian culture along with some suggestions on places to eat and drink in Rio de Janeiro. He loves Brazilian music and shares with us some of his favorite lyrics.

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Tunisia where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. I also have some French blood, that’s probably why I moved to Paris in 1992 to go to university. I stayed there for five years and then decided that it was time to move countries again and headed to Cambridge in the UK. I spent some time in Argentina in 1999, and was based in Rio de Janeiro between October 1999 and September 2001. I now live in London, and I’m working on my next move: to Brazil again, but this time, it will be for good! I’m thinking about the best way to make this happen, and am considering all possible options – but I’m most definitely moving back to Brazil!
I have a lovely four-year-old carioca daughter called Sofia.

What do you do?
I’m currently working for a large management consultancy, advising corporate clients and public sector bodies on technology projects. Prior to that, I spent six years working for a software vendor implementing billing systems for telecommunications operators – pretty specialised stuff, but I was travelling a lot and loved it. People were also brilliant. Telecommunications was a very good industry to be in the late nineties – it was good as long as it lasted!

In my spare time, I do voluntary work for the British Computer Society. I’ve been elected Secretary of the North London branch of the Society, and we run educational events every month.

When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
October 1st 1999 – my twenty-fifth birthday. I was on international assignment in Buenos Aires with my previous job when the project I was working on got cancelled. I had to decide whether I wanted to go back to London or move to Rio. The choice was obvious, but I have to say that I wasn’t that keen to move to Brazil either: I was loving it in Argentina.

What were you first impressions of Brazil?
I remember arriving late at night at the Sofitel hotel in Copacabana. The heat was suffocating. I went for a walk on the beach and I wasn’t sure what to think really. I don’t know, I guess I was feeling saudades da Argentina (with all the irony there is in putting the words saudades” and “Argentina” side by side). I remember seeing the lights of favelas on the hills and thinking they were early Christmas decorations.

The truth is, it took me a while to get to fully appreciate Brazil. You need time to get to understand the culture. You need even more time to integrate yourself – if you ever get there. You’ll remain the average gringo, I’m afraid, until you go through this steep learning curve. There’s also the process of learning the language, which is very important. In my case, it started with Spanish, and then “Portunhol” for a while. I think I only got to fully appreciate Brazil and the Brazilian culture, to truly learn to love them, after I left Rio in 2001. I’m a convert now, a big fan. I travel to Rio about twice a year and, as I said earlier, can’t wait for the time I move there for good.

What do you miss most about home?
The last few times I was in Brazil, I was so happy to be there, to spend time with Sofia, that I wasn’t missing anything at all! Or maybe there was something I was missing, a little bit. Cheese. It’s extremely hard, and expensive, to get hold of a good Camembert or Roquefort in Brazil. There’s excellent cheese produced in Brazil, in particular in Minas – but some good old smelly French cheese is a luxury I could certainly do with!

What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
The fact that some taxi drivers try to take advantage of you when they detect your gringo accent. I use taxis quite a lot when I am in Rio and I always try to have a friendly chat with drivers – chatting to taxi drivers certainly helped a lot when I was learning Portuguese. Most of them are very friendly, but it’s extremely irritating when they are not, when they assume you’re a foreigner who has no clue where he is and they try to charge you extra, or choose a route that will get you stuck in traffic jams for hours.

What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil?
Sofia’s birth. I can’t find words powerful enough to describe the feelings of pride and accomplishment for being her father.

What do you most like about Brazil?
The answer that springs to mind immediately is music. I love forró, and I have a particular predilection for Mastruz Com Leite, definitely a melhor banda de forró do planeta (even if my Brazilian friends don’t necessarily approve of my musical tastes)! I also thoroughly enjoy Luiz Gonzaga, Trio Nordestino, Elba Ramalho, Alceu Valena and others… There’s something special about forró – take Luiz Gonzaga’s “Noites Brasileiras” for example:

Ai, que saudades que eu sinto
Das noites de São João
Das noites tão brasileiras nas fogueiras
Sob o luar do sertão

This is pure magic! This is the essence of saudades we were talking about earlier – saudades for that special Brazilian atmosphere, festas juninhas, batidas and caipirinhas, everything that makes Brazil such a great place. And when you listen to “Noites Brasileiras” in London, you do grasp the true meaning of saudades.
I also like samba, Martinho da Vila being my favourite, and ax music: Ivete Sangalo, of course; but I’ve also recently discovered Babado Novo: little musiquinhas like “Cabelo Louro” or “Lirirrixa” are just pure delight – they make you feel happy.
Brazilian music is great, and so are Brazilian cinema, Brazilian literature, people, food, the scenery. Everything really.

What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
There are loads of excellent restaurants in Rio. If I had to choose one, it would have to be Porcão, the one in Marina da Glória. Food is excellent, and the view is beautiful – just make sure you’re hungry when you get there! There’s also a “comida a kilo” restaurant I love in Centro, I can’t remember its name right now, but it’s the one on the basement in Edifcio Avenida Central, Avenida Rio Branco, 156. Very good choice of meat, salads, side dishes, deserts, and excellent quality and customer service. When I was based in Rio, I used to have lunch there at least twice a week.

Otherwise, any kiosk in Lagoa will have something to offer. Lagoa is definitely one of my favourite places to hang out, to go for a walk or just to chill out and have a chopp.

Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
Well, I can think of a tragic incident, rather that a funny story. Cristiane (Sofia’s mother) and I had decided to spend the weekend in a pousada called “Le Siramat” in Nogueira, near Petrópolis. It’s a beautiful place, and I strongly recommend it to whoever is after a calm and relaxing retreat with magnificent views on the valleys below. The thing is, you need to have a car to get there as the pousada is situated at the top of Caminho do Cu, literally the path to the sky. Forget about walking up there. We didn’t have a car and so bravely decided to hitch-hike. An old “Brasilia” car stopped and we gratefully got in. As you would have expected, Caminho do Cu proved tough for the old vehicle, so it was out of the question to brake abruptly halfway through the slope – not even when a poor chicken decided to cross Caminho do Cu at the wrong time. I won’t describe what happened next, but we got to the pousada a few moments later without the driver saying a word about the incident.

What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
I’m fascinated by the size of Brazil. There is so much diversity, in landscapes, cityscapes, culture, accents, even local Portuguese grammars – going from one state to another, even from one city to another, is like being in a different country. See how Rio and São Paulo are different – and they are not that far away from one another.

What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Learn the language – that should be your number one priority if you want to make the most of your stay. Avoid the company of gringos and make friends locally.

Before arriving in Brazil, I was given useful advice in relation to violence: when you go to the beach, don’t wear expensive clothes, jewellery, watches, etc.; avoid dark streets late at night. Just apply common sense really, as you would anywhere else, and you’ll feel safe at all times.

What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil?
I’ll only talk about Rio as it is the city I know best. The main tourist attractions are definitely worth a visit: Pão de Aucar, Corcovado, Jardim Botnico. Lagoa, of course. Walking or cycling along the beach in true carioca style. I also enjoy wandering about in Centro – there are many things to see and feel there, in particular in the area around Rio Branco and Rua do Ouvidor.

I also recommend crossing the bridge between Rio and Niterói. The best views of Rio you’ll get are from Niterói. The dramatic view from Parque da Cidade is unique – you’ve got to go there and check it for yourself!

Youssef can be contacted at: bouguerra@aol.com.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

By Debbie Eynon Finley
One of the get-to-know-you or conversation starters at ex-pat community socials is, How is your maid working out?” Since labor is so much cheaper in Brazil, most ex-pats hire a full-time maid (plus a gardener and pool cleaner).

When friends first asked me about our maid, I didn’t know how to answer. I’d never had a real maid before or a solid basis of comparison. With our Suburban Sweepers cleaning service in Austin, Texas, twice a month, their team would come and go like a ninety minute, tidy-up tornado. Usually, my husband and I were away at work. In Brazil, like most ex-pat spouses, I don’t have a work permit so am often at home during the day.

“My maid is very nice and hard working,” I answered. “But, I’m a little tired of making her lunch (big, U.S. dinner type meal) every day.”

“What?!”, a more seasoned friend, Beth, corrected me. “She’s supposed to be making and serving your lunch. My maid sets the table and makes and serves me a fabulous hot, four course meal every day. And, there are always leftovers for supper. You need to put some fire under your maid.”

I now realized that I misunderstood our translator when she said that the maid is supposed to get lunch. I grasped, “Wow, she’s supposed to get lunch for me! That means I won’t need to stop what I’m doing in the middle of the day to run home and cook her a hot meal. Now, I can to be treated like a princess too.”

Another friend Cyndie added, “Well, my maid stole money from my purse so I had to fire her. Just be happy that you don’t have a maid who steals from you.”

Hmm. Now, I felt lucky just to have a maid who didn’t steal. I also realized why at social gatherings Cyndie would put her purse in high, out of the way places like on the roof.

Although having a maid is a wonderful luxury, it can be an adjustment. For instance, having a maid can mean a loss of privacy. Our maid, Dialinda knows everything about us from the food in our pantry, to the medications in our bathroom, to the size, state, and expiration date of our underwear.

It’s hard to relax or take a nap, when Dialinda is cleaning around me without feeling guilty, like I should be pitching in. What’s even harder is having my masseuse come over when Dialinda is working hard, and has been complaining about her bad back.

My friend Britney, is always trying to find ways to have more privacy, away from her maid too, “I begged my husband, to only have our maid, Silvia, come four days a week. But he said no because we need to boost the local economy while we’re here. Silvia needs the job.” “I guess he’s right,” she sighed, apologetically

When I told Britney that I liked having our maid, because she walks our dogs, she exclaimed, “You just gave me a great idea! If our family gets a dog, Silvia can walk it. That will get her out of the house!”

The next day Britney drove around the town of Baro Geraldo, until she spotted a cute but mangy stray dog, hanging outside of a churasscaria (barbecue restaurant). He was begging for food. She opened her car door and called the dog over, waving a bag of treats. Now the dog (“Spotado”) is family. Along with his daily, two-hour walk, Britney’s maid takes Spotado for weekly shampoos and vet visits. Spotado is happy to oblige.

Now that our maid has worked for several months, we have all gotten more comfortable with the arrangement. In the beginning, Dialinda was always overly conscientious about arriving on time, often stayed late, and cleaned meticulously. However, as the months have passed, Dialinda got more relaxed. She arrives progressively later and leaves progressively earlier. She chats on the phone to friends (while she does house work), hides out in the pantry to snack on party food, sneaks in her soap operas, and spends forty minutes in the bathroom doing her hair and make-up at the end of the day. When she takes our dogs for a walk, it’s usually so that she can rest on a bench in the park around the corner. Fortunately, by the time she leaves, she has made the house sparkling clean again. We’ve not only gained a maid, we’ve gained a teenage daughter.

As well as a loss of privacy, when hiring a maid, communication can also be a challenge. In the beginning, when I would absently mindedly forget to do something like give Dialinda, bus fare, she would repeat the words faster and louder, hoping in vain that I’d understand her.

So that Dialinda would give our dogs, Rocky and Baylor, a couple of treats during the day, I showed her the box of dog biscuits in the pantry. Instead of taking a couple, she poured half of the box into their bowls, about four days worth of food.

Since Dialinda can’t read or write and I couldn’t speak any Portuguese the first month, every time we had a communication problem, she or I would say, “Joana!”, the translator, and phone her. Although, Dialinda can’t read or write, she has figured out how to navigate our four remote controls in the TV room to watch her favorite soap operas while we’re out.

My husband and I have gotten more relaxed also. When we first hired Dialinda, we kept the house picked up, leaving no signs of our typical, slovenly habits. Progressively, we’ve started leaving dirty dishes in the sink again until it looks like Mount Rushmore. And we’re back to leaving our clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the TV room, and towels on the bathroom floor. I no longer clean the toilet bowls either. I almost got on my husband to clean up his mess, until I discovered that half the mess was mine.

When friends visit us and see our messy house, we explain to them that we only have a maid twice a week, feeling sorry for ourselves. Friends sympathize, suggesting that we hire a full-time maid like them, who will do everything except beauty and spa treatments. But, we like the sympathy and our privacy too much. And, having a full-time maid might make us even messier – a habit we’ll have to break when we return to Texas.

Copyright Debbie Eynon Finley 2005.

To read previous articles by Debbie click below:

Brazil Life: Brazilians are so Nice

Brazil Life: Gringa Goes Shopping at Carrefour
Brazil Life: Amazon Encounter Lodge Vacation
Brazil Life: Keeping Track of My Purse

Debbie Eynon Finley has been living in Campinas, São Paulo with her husband and two dogs since November 2004. She is also a graphic artist and has a website, http://defDesigns.com. She can be contacted at d1eynon@yahoo.com.

By Alexander von Brincken
Dear Friends at Gringoes after I had given my interview, I had quite a couple of responses, most of them favourable. But maybe, the readers of Gringoes might also be interested, how a very grown up German came to meet a Brazilian lady, with such a huge distance dividing them.

First I have to explain my skills on the computer!!! They are barely existent!!!! My writing on the keys is the so-called eaglesystem i.e. circling three or four times to find the proper key, and then hitting it forcefully.

In beginning of 2003 I watched a TV documentary, on the difficulties for especially older people, but also for very busy managers, to find a partner. Now-I was both of it!! One of the solutions they offered was searching a partner over the internet and claiming, that there was a very high success rate.

Since I really didn’t like the idea of being all alone in old age, especially with the kids starting to leave home and lead their own lives, I decided to give it a try.

But how?

Fortunately I had a very competent and warm hearted secretary of many years, who was willing to lead me through the jungles of working the computer, and, especially, how to get into the internet. It took her many sessions and a great deal of patience to introduce me to these mysteries, and me a lot of nervousness, sweating and calling her again and again, whenever I got stuck.

But finally I made it and even achieved filling out all the forms, which are necessary to not only give personal details on yourself, but also to explain what kind of female I was looking for. From that day on -in line with my specifications- I got the descriptions of ladies, who might fit my wishes.

After about 14 days, up came a lady, who immediately called up all my attention, to say the least I was totally smitten and fascinated by her profile, and what she wrote about herself. She was searching for an English-speaking man, living-according to the profile-in Dortmund, about 300 km from the place I live, and I was-according to her profile-49 years old.

The day I received her profile, was 12 February 2003 and I wrote her 3 emails altogether, without receiving any reply from her. In my 3rd mail I called her a witch, because her profile had really enchanted me. She didn’t tell me, that she was Brazilian. And – you wouldn’t believe it but she answered me and even called me a wizard, because not only because of my profile, but because the three emails had caught her attention.

From that day on we exchanged many, many emails exchanging thoughts, opinions, details on our families and especially our children (both of us have 3 grown up sons each) and our wishes and dreams. We became very close to each other.

After about three weeks, I was in my office, and as usual not having had a lunch break. My secretary had switched the phone directly to me, the phone was ringing and I was answering it with :Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg, von Brincken,Guten Tag”. And there came this ladies voice asking very hesitantly:” Alex???” in English.

Now there is only one lady, an old friend from Hong Kong- who talks English with me, and it definitely wasn’t her voice, so I asked: “Rosaly” and she confirmed, that she was my email-friend from the internet. So, we chatted for a while and then I made the suggestion that we should meet the following weekend in Dortmund, to really get to know each other.

On her side there was a moments hesitation, and then she told me that she hadn’t really told the truth in her profile, and that she was actually calling from Salvador/Bahia in Brazil. I now knowing this, would most certainly not want to go on with this relationship. I definitely had no idea how it could go on, but nevertheless answered, that things had developed so beautifully, that even-because of the distance- if it would remain just a letter-friendship, it was worth it.

So, on it went until sometime later she told me, that she would be going to Barcelona in May, discussing her script for her PhD, which she intended to finish at the university of Barcelona. Afterwards she intended to travel to Paris and/or London, both cities she loved very much and that this would be an opportunity for us, if I could come to either city.

But, that was the point, when not only my personality as a bank manager, but also as an Aries showed through very clearly – I told her, that after Barcelona she definitely wouldn’t go to either place, but directly to the (tiny) city of Steinheim in Germany (that’s where I live)

And, you wouldn’t believe it, but after a while she agreed and “veni vidi vici” she came, saw and conquered. Then I went to Salvador and loved it and her family and decided to become a gringo in Brazil.

Alexander von Brincken can be contacted at: germanwizard2002@yahoo.com

To read his interview in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Alexander von Brincken

This week Dear Gringo deals with a common problem in Brazil – having stuff delivered to your home such as furniture, electrical appliances etc. Well, Dr G has lots of personal experience in this area and can say, in no uncertain terms, the answer can be found in beer drinking, providing your fridge has arrived…

Dear Gringo,

I just moved to São Paulo and am having lots of problems with deliveries and service providers. I bought furniture and other stuff from a variety of stores, but they never deliver when they say they will. I have the same problem with service providers, telephone, TV cable, etc. It’s very frustrating as I can’t even argue with them since my Portuguese is very basic.any suggestions?

Waiting in Vain

Dear WiV,

Probably the best idea would be to move to another planet. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for you here on earth. I actually had my phone cut off a few months ago because I had overpaid the previous month when they ‘accidentally’ billed me twice (feel free to send me your unpaid bills-there’s a good chance I’ll absent-mindedly pay them). Due to the credit, I stupidly believed that I could skip the next month’s payment. Nope. No warning, no refund, and no dial tone. I pulled a few more hairs out when my new refrigerator arrived a few days early! This would have been a nice surprise had anybody been home to let them in. The guys at the front gate let us know that we’d missed them. We’d just been told the previous day by the store manager that they didn’t have our requested model in stock and that it would be two weeks late. !

I guess what I’m trying to say, WiV, is that I feel your pain. However, there is not much I can suggest to ease it except for the don’t-worry-be-happy strategy. Beer helps in this department (though not if it’s warm and you’re waiting for a fridge). Improving your Portuguese might even add to your stress-my Brazilian wife is the one who gets into all the arguments around here. We did have a very pleasant experience with the shop where we bought our TV and DVD. They delivered when they said they would, and they came back two weeks later in the evening (at no cost) to hook it all up when we were ready to unpack. I was amazed by their efficient service and immediately felt an urge to buy more electronic goods from them. Now if only they could teach my cell-phone company how to deal with customers…


CCH Update-I’m not sure if our unhappy homestay friend has been in touch with any of you good samaritans out there, but she did give us an update on her Canadian experience. It seems she had enough of big city living in Toronto and is heading west to do a farm stay in Saskatchewan. Stay tuned?

If you have any unanswered questions that would benefit from the wisdom of Dear Gringo please forward them to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with ‘Dear Gringo’ in the subject line.

To read previous letters to Dear Gringo click below:
Looking for Love
Lonely Heart
No Falo Portuguese
Paulista Princess
Amazon Woman
Pining in Pinheiros

This week’s entertainment guide features a Spanish restaurant in Moema that also shows flamenco dancing, a new pool bar in Moema, a show at Tom Brasil which promises a night of great Brazilian music, a movie release where the main character is transformed into the future and a park in São Paulo which makes you feel a long way from São Paulo.

Plaza Del TablaoPlaza Del Tablao is a Spanish restaurant in the heart of Moema. Beyond the food and the fine setting this is the best place to participate and experience Spanish music and flamenco dancing. If you like to dance the flamenco, guests are free to strut their stuff on Tuesday nights. If you prefer to watch, there is music and dancing from Wednesday to Saturday night. Besides the dancing the menu is also sure to make your mouth water. The menu offers traditional Spanish paella Mar with seafood as well as a paella Montaa (meat and lots of it) and paella Regional, which caters to Brazilian flavours and tastes. There are also many rice dishes to choose from which draw inspiration for the Catalan region of Spain. You might consider trying some of the cocktails such as Anis, Orujo and Pancharam. The wine list offers a good choice of Spanish wines. Address: Avenida Cotovia, 325, Moema. Phone (11) 5093-9685. Open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Open for lunch on Sunday.

Snooker Rock BarThe Snooker Rock Bar, already thriving in Santana, has recently opened its doors in Moema and brings the same formula of bar, music and pool tables. For those that like to shot pool there are five tables spread around the bar. The bar also offers a unique feature whereby customers can play their own CDs and DVDs. The menu offers bar food, including steaks, sandwiches, salads and desserts. The best choices include: Rock Picanha (picanha grilled with baked onions and tomatoes), the Espeto Misto (chicken on a skewer with sausage, onion, tomato and pepper) and the Rock Bar Picanha (hamburger of picanha with cheese, grilled onions and fries). Apart from chope Brahma, the Snooker Rock Bar also has wine, whisky, cachaa, beer, tequila and cocktails that have been named after some of the streets of Moema. Address: Alameda dos Aics, 1245, Moema. Phone (11) 5092-3444. Open from Tuesday to Sunday until late. Check the website: www.snookerrockbar.com.br

Martinho da VilaOn the Friday, 27, and Saturday, 28 May 2005, Martinho da Vila presents a show launching his new CD at the Tom Brazil, Naes Unidas. These shows will be recorded and released on a new DVD. In this show, Martinho will perform songs from his new record Quando Essa Onda Passar, Roda de Samba no Cu (both composed for Martinho da Vila), Sob a Luz do Candeeiro (a partnership with Nelson Onion), Fetiche (partnership with Cludio Jorge) and Feitio da Vila, along with some of his biggest hits, which mark a career spanning over 40 years. The Italian singer Mafalda Minozzi will be joining him. Tickets cost from R$30 – R$70 and can be purchased from Tom Brasil, Naes Unidas, Rua Bragana Paulista, 1281 or over the phone on (011) 2163-2000. Check out the website: http://www.casatombrasil.com.br

The JacketThe Jacket is a drama starring Adrien Brody. A military veteran returns to his native Vermont suffering from bouts of amnesia. When he is accused of murder and lands in an asylum, a well-meaning doctor puts him on a heavy course of experimental drugs, restrains him in a jacket-like device, and locks him away in a body drawer of the basement morgue. The process sends him on a journey into the future, where he can foresee his death (but not who did it or how) in four days time. Now the only question that matters is: can the women he meets in the future save him? Opens in Brazil on 27 May, 2005. Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity. Length 1hr and 42 mins.

Parque TrianonParque Tenente Siqueira Campos, better known as Parque Trianon, was created on an existing native forest and later remodelled with the introduction of some exotic species by Frenchman Paul Villon and Englishman Barry Parker. With an area of approx. 48,000 square meters, visitors can admire cedar trees and wood-iron, along with gigantic native species, such as sapopemba, jequitib-branco and jatob. In addition the park is home to diverse species of insects and birds. It is one of the few environments in the city which provides suitable habitat for the breeding of native birds such as rolinha, periquito, pica-pau, joão-de-barro, bem-te-vi and sabi-laranjeira. Small mammals such as caxinguels (squirrels), can be seen by visitors. There are playgrounds for the kids as well as tracks for wandering around the park. Rua Peixoto Gomide, 949 Cerqueira Csar. Phone: (11) 3289-2160

See below for previous editions of What’s On in São Paulo

What’s On Guide, May 20 – May 25, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 13 – May 19, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 6 – May 12, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 29 – May 5, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 21 – Apr 28, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 6 – Apr 20, 2005
What’s On Guide, Mar 31 – Apr 6, 2005

By Sol Biderman
Rimbaud’s famous poem Voyelles, describing the colors of vowels, reminds one of the work of Stephen Henriques. Rimaud associated each different vowel with a different color. In the case of Henriques every color seems to be associated with a different musical note. This characteristic of Henriques, who is finishing his exhibit at the Hebraica on June 6, the third of a series of successful art shows in São Paulo and Brasilia in two years, has been noted by several art critics in his one man shows in New York and San Francisco and São Paulo, for the musicality of his color.

The perceptive art critic, Daisy Peccinini found a similar focus on the theme and musicality in the work of Stephen Henriques, and the role that time and place have impacted on him. If the World Trade Center disaster caused Gilce to focus on the rose, the sounds and colors of he Bay area and particularly jazz has helped partly to mold the mind and the art of Henriques whose family has been associated with San Francisco and the bay area for a hundred years. His family were pioneers in the Bay Area and his mother wrote a fascinating book on the pioneers of Palo Alto. His grandfather started life there as a junk dealer. From the world of junk to the world of fine art took only three generations.

Henriques has been classified as a major disciple of his teacher, Dieberkorn, but after seeing examples of Henriques’ work exhibited in galleries in São Paulo, Brasilia, New York and San Francisco, in my humble opinion he outdieberkorns Dieberkorn, a student who surpasses his master.

As Ms. Peccinini points out, Henriques was actively involved in the art community of Bayside, of San Francisco, a city wrapped in an envelope of fog and mist that magic-like disappears into thin air. The rhythms of Jazz, Ms. Peccinini notes, has had a marked effect on his painting. The images rise to the surface inspired by jazz, a musical form so conducive to the creative impulse.” He captures the spirit of San Francisco where “figures emerge from the hues of mist and assume a density in splashes of color, taking on contours and identity then evanesce once more, dissolving into small multicolored stains or splashes where the drippings and the flux and flow of paint are not uncommon.” Henriques works, she notes, are fluid and syncopated,.integrating music and the imaginary world of jazz in his opus.”

One may also observe influences of a different place and tone in his later paintings, after he moved to the interior of the state of São Paulo, where he lives in a region that receives the last remnants of the Atlantic Rain forest. The vivid hues and colors of Brazil are ever-present but retranslated and refracted by the refinement of his brushstrokes into patterns so abstract as to leave no specific message of time or place. Only a sensitive eye can perceive a hint in a tone of red, or a bluer brightness, an intonation, an aura, an influence of his new abode.

Stephen Henriques is now showing at A Hebraica, Rua Doutor Alberto Cardoso de melo Neto, 115, Jardim Paulistano. Phone: (11) 3818-8800. Exhibition finishes on 6 June, 2005.

By Gary Sands
Last week the local papers reminded Brazilians of the signing of the Lei Aurea” by Princesa Isabel on May 13th, 1888, a law effectively abolishing slavery in Brazil. Of all of the countries in the Americas, Brazil imported the most slaves from Africa and was the last country to officially abolish slavery. While slavery may have been abolished officially, forced labor, or “trabalho escravo“, took its place and was officially recognized by the State in 1995. The problem of forced labor in Brazil made international headlines in January 2004, when three Brazilian judicial officials were murdered while looking into allegations of slavery on ranches near the nation’s capital. The following month government officials discovered 32 slave-workers on the ranch of right-wing Senator Joao Ribeiro in the northern state of Para. The officials said the captives worked seven days a week without pay and had no running water or toilets.

This month, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva released a report entitled “A Global Alliance against Forced Labour”. The ILO defines forced labor as involving “degrading work conditions and the impossibility of leaving the employer owing to fraudulent debts and the presence of armed guards”. While examining conditions in several countries, including Myanmar and China, the report also focuses a good deal of attention to the characteristics of slavery in Brazil. ILO estimates there are as many as 25,000 forced-labor slaves in Brazil, primarily in the Amazonian states of Para and Mato Grosso. These workers are primarily recruited from the poor cities of the Brazil’s nordeste region. Recruiters, often referred to as “gatos“, lure the poor with promises of good pay for hard work, and some are told the cost of their transportation will be deducted from future wages. The workers are then transported hundreds of kilometers away to work in logging camps, or on ranches raising cattle or tending to crops. Many workers are only told once they arrive at the camp or ranch that they will now be responsible for paying the costs of their transportation, which are often inflated. In addition, if they are held in collection points for days or weeks, all food, housing and other expenses they incur are deducted from their future wages – usually at inflated prices. And the price-gouging does not end there. Since the camp or ranch is typically isolated from nearby cities or towns and transportation is limited, employers often charge a premium for bringing such provisions as food, drink, and other essentials to the site. When you add the inflated upfront costs to the ongoing necessities of food, drink and shelter, it is little wonder how the typical worker quickly becomes trapped economically. Why doesn’t the typical worker just leave when he realizes his predicament? Isolation, threats, violence and sometimes homicide can make it difficult choice.

What is currently being done by Brazil to fight forced labor? A high profile advocacy campaign was launched in October 2003 by Brazil’s Congress, and the results are so far promising. Voluntary contributions from communications and publicity agencies have so far totaled $7.3 million, and are being used to display material in 20 of the largest airports. The killings of the judicial investigators prompted state-level campaigns to increase efforts, and media attention has likewise increased exponentially. In addition, a database of offenders has been developed, a mobile inspection group has been formed and strengthened, and a program for the rehabilitation of former slaves has been set up, mainly through income generation, capacity building and legal assistance.

The efforts of the Brazilian government to combat forced labor are laudatory, but must continue and intensify. Many countries, as part of a prevention strategy, have turned to microfinance as a way to combat forced labor. Microfinance lends small amounts ($50-100) to individuals or small groups of people who wish to set up their own micro-business. With repayment rates exceeding 90%, it has been an extremely effective strategy in combating poverty throughout the world. The concept is not new to Brazil – President Lula da Silva announced in late March that government-owned Banco do Brasil had earmarked more than 18 billion reals (USD$7.2 billion) for micro-lending in calendar 2004. The microcredits will be made available at an interest rate of 6% per annum, with a four-year grace period and 12 year repayment term. Lula also noted that the state-owned savings bank, CEF, had initiated operations to lend to the poor, and had already attracted more than one million new clients. While we praise the efforts of Lula’s government to combat poverty through microlending, more effort is needed to target these microcredits at the poor cities and towns of the nordeste, where most of gatos actively recruit. Only by concentrating efforts in these hard-to-reach, and previously “unbankable” areas can Lula’s government effectively stem the tide of forced labour.

To read previous articles by Gary click below:
An Analysis of the Brazilian Airline Sector

Gary Sands is the Managing Director of Micro Equity www.microequity.org and freelance journalist based in Rio de Janeiro. Gary also publishes a humorous weblog called Everything I Know about Foreign Policy I Learned as a Kid found on Blogger.com (http://foreignpolicyforum.blogspot.com/atom.xml).”

By Prof. Claudia
As I was going through my lesson plan for gringoes, I found that there’s just a small part left for plurals (not considering plurals of compound nouns). Therefore I’ll finish basic plurals today and go back to verbs next lesson, ok?

Activity 1
Read part of a song, Fico assim sem voc, by Adriana Calcanhoto:

T louca para te ver chegar…..I’m crazy to see you coming
T louca para te ter nas mãos…..Crazy to have you in my hands
Deitar no teu abrao…..To lie down in your embrace
Retomar o pedao que falta no meu coraão”..To retake my heart’s missing piece

The part nas mãos is in the plural form. In case you’ve forgotten, we need to know the word in the singular form to change it into the plural.

Activity 2
Take a look at this table:

Singular – Words Ending Add Plural
e.g. a mão, o botão, o pão
aos, es, es
as mãos, os botes, os pes
s – with the stress in the syllable before the last
e.g. o tnis, o atlas
nothing changes
os tnis, os atlas
s – with the stress in the last syllable
e.g. o francs, o ms
os franceses, os meses
e.g. o cnon
os cnones
e.g. o tórax, a nix, a fnix
nothing changes
os tórax, as nix, as fnix

Activity 3
Write sentences using these words:






Activity 4
If you take a closer look at the table again, you’ll see some words come after an “a” and others after an “o”. In Portuguese, there is still Gender, which we’ll begin to learn after some more verbs. Meanwhile, try to practice what we’ve worked so far.

See you next class!
Prof Cludia

To read previous articles by Prof. Claudia click below:
A Brazilian custom: Kissing the Cheek
Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Past
Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 1
Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Present
Portuguese Tips
Portuguese Tips: Adverbs in Portuguese
Portuguese Tips: Comparative and Superlative
Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes

Prof. Claudia is available for private classes in São Paulo. She can be contacted at claudiafmla@uol.com.br

Debbie Eynon Finley
Brazil may not have the fastest people in the world, but, they do have some of the nicest. A culture where even business people, such as bank personnel, hair dressers, and language professors hug you, kiss your cheek, remember your name, and treat you like a long lost American cousin is right up there with pao de quejo (Brazilian hot rolls with cheese inside).

At first, I pondered about why Brazilians are so kind and happy. Is it because of the beautiful weather, the beans and rice, or having the seasons flipped in the wrong order? I stopped trying to figure it out, and just enjoy and appreciate it.

The other day, my Portuguese teacher, Professora Fabianna, was at my house giving me a lesson. She asked me if I knew who was playing the beautiful piano music, Elivis Presley’s Love Me Tender, that was floating in through my open kitchen door.

That’s one of our neighbors, ” I replied. “I think that he or she is a concert pianist. They play almost every morning.”

“What, ” Fabianna replied, “you don’t know whether it is a male or female? You don’t know who it is?”

“No, ” I replied nonchalantly, having never seen most of our neighbors in Austin, except at the biannual block party.

“Well, then, ” she insisted, “we must find out who this person is and introduce ourselves.”

I’m thinking, “We know who this person is. It’s our neighbor who plays the piano every morning. Enough said.”

But, I figured I’d appease her with a compliment,” Wow, you are really outgoing Fabianna.” But, she didn’t seem to catch what I was complimenting her about.

To extend my education of Brazilian culture, Fabianna moved me from my textbook to the real world. The first step was to determine from which house the music was coming. Outside, Fabianna and I each took a bar stool from the barbecue area and placed it against the seven foot tall, backyard cement wall.

We stood on the stools, peering over the wall. Now, I just needed to hold a sign that read, “Beware of Peeping Toms” in Portuguese. Fabianna said that she could see a keyboard and part of a grand piano in a window of the house directly behind us. We concurred that this must be the house of the pianist.

Ten minutes after receiving another enthusiastic nudge from Fabianna, we had knocked on the pianist’s door, introduced ourselves, and were sitting on Jorge’s sofa with a cool drink. Fabianna complimented him extensively, until the color of my face matched the cherry colored upholstery.

Then she came up with an idea, “Debbie is having tea for her condominium (gated community) friends, and perhaps you’d like to practice your piano then.”

Not only was Jorge overjoyed to practice during my tea, he wanted to know what kind of music I wanted him to play. I didn’t want to impose, but he persisted, “Classical, Brazilian, jazz, the Beatles?”

Then, he and his wife, Zilda, invited my husband and I to come over anytime for coffee and to listen to his piano playing. We said our goodbyes with thank-yous, hugs, and kisses. I felt like I’d just met more of my long lost Brazilian cousins.

“Wow, people are so nice and friendly in Brazil!” I exclaimed to Fabianna.

“Yes, but some people here are mean. like people who work in banks,” she replied.

Apparently, she doesn’t use my bank.

Copyright Debbie Eynon Finley 2005.

To read previous articles by Debbie click below:
Brazil Life: Gringa Goes Shopping at Carrefour
Brazil Life: Amazon Encounter Lodge Vacation
Brazil Life: Keeping Track of My Purse

Debbie Eynon Finley has been living in Campinas, São Paulo with her husband and two dogs since November 2004. She is also a graphic artist and has a website, http://defDesigns.com. She can be contacted at d1eynon@yahoo.com.

By Van Wallach
My Brazil experience differs from others who write for Gringoes. I’m not a long-term expat or immigrant, nor am I married to a Brazilian. I don’t speak Portuguese. Still, my week-long visit to the country in November 2004 made a deep impression on me. Seven months later, my interest continues, so I offer to you a series of impressions, snapshots from a first-time visitor without any deep comments on national character or cultural differentiators.

My growing awareness of Brazil began in early 2003 when a woman I’ll call Kitty in Rio de Janeiro contacted me through an online dating site. We’re both Jewish, enjoyed writing, and had increasingly friendly online chats. I called her several times and she talked about me visiting her. Because of the distance and post-divorce emotional hesitance, I didn’t take the offer too seriously and never considered a visit’s pleasures. Kitty and I drifted apart and by early 2004 she met somebody local and that, as the phrase goes, was that. In retrospect, I missed a wonderful opportunity.

In September 2004 I contacted a woman in São Paulo. Let’s call her Astral. Again, we formed a connection, as best one can online. She also invited me to visit. This time, I felt more confident and eager for an adventure. Instinct said do it,” so I surprised her, myself, and most of my family by agreeing. After considerable checking of calendars and airlines, we settled on the last week in November as the best time.

The complexities of a cross-cultural romance emerged after I ordered my tickets through my employer’s travel office. Soon, the corporate security service sent a lengthy email wishing me “success and a safe voyage on your upcoming trip to Brazil.” After that cheery opening, the email got down to the nitty-gritty. I learned, for example:

“Crime rates have been rising in Brazil, largely the result of drugs, gangs and poverty. The most significant crime problems are in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Petty theft is especially common in the tourist areas, hotel districts and beaches, while more violent crime tends to be reported in the slums surrounding these cities. In several recent incidents, however, violence has spilled over from these slums into popular tourist areas.”

“Additionally, São Paulo has reported thefts at Guarulhos International Airport, involving carry-on luggage or briefcases that have been set down, sometimes for only a moment. Arriving and departing travelers should be especially vigilant and take the necessary precautions at this and other Brazilian airports. São Paulo also suffers from the same problems of street crime, which appears to be on the rise in nearly every part of the city.”

“Tap water and ice may not be safe. Drink only bottled or boiled water and carbonated drinks.”
The alert also listed every possible health vaccine, including for hepatitis, rabies, malaria, typhoid, yellow fever, with the bold-faced warning, “Areas of Brazil have chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum malaria.” Fortunately, I read, São Paulo did not have a problem with malaria.

Given that I’m a paranoid gringo when it comes to international travel, the well-intentioned warnings left me doubting the wisdom of instinct. Kidnappings, airport theft, rabies; what was I getting myself into? I forwarded the alert to Astral, writing, “What do you think? I’d better not send this to my brother-he’ll freak out!” (My younger brother in Texas strongly opposed this 5,000 mile jaunt to visit a woman I barely knew in another country).

Astral replied with a light-hearted note, saying, “The only serious advice I have for your safety is that you get the best health insurance you can just in case you collapse after meeting me. And also, just in case I kidnap you to the best places in town just have plenty of valid credit cards! Now if you wish to go to the jungle in the Amazon rainforest than get all those vaccinations darling.”

Still, my concerns deeply offended her. My frame of reference for Latin America stopped thousands of miles away from Brazil. I grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, and past visits to Mexico and El Salvador (of all places) merely led me to interpret Brazil in terms of those countries. “Brazil is not El Salvador,” she told me, exasperated at my ignorance of the country. Even a week before I left I was asking my doctor about shots I might need. My plan to carry my passport, travelers check and other papers in a Velcro-sealed travel pack around my neck didn’t impress her either.

Oh, to hell with it, I finally thought. I didn’t take the shots, I didn’t buy extra insurance, I just left Astral’s phone numbers and my flight plans with my ex-wife and my brother. I simply got on the Saturday night American Airlines flight and stumbled out, the next morning, into that hotbed of criminality, Guarulhos airport.

My Brazil experience had a slow but uneventful start. I snaked through passport control and customs, going through the special Yankee line to be fingerprinted and photographed. After a long haul I finally emerged into the terminal and had my first sight of Astral in a delightful white business suit.

The next week very much reflected Astral’s Brazil, neither a typical tourist experience nor a long-term expat’s view. Some highlights:

Food. We visited Baby Beef, a crowded, delectable food experience, everything the travel books suggest. What I remember in even more detail is lunch on Saturday, on our way in from the airport, at a Japanese sushi restaurant downtown. Dazed from the long flight, the slog through customs, and the sheer novelty of a new city and a new friend, I think of the place as my real introduction to Brazil. A Japanese man entertained the crowd by singing American pop songs by Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and others, accompanying himself on guitar. Astral said he didn’t actually speak English. American music by a Japanese man in São Paulo: in a word, surreal.

Traffic. The congestion is São Paulo is horrendous. That’s no surprise. What surprised me was the round-the-clock bicycle traffic in Guaruja, where we spent several days for beach time. The flocks of bikes added a graceful, quiet note to the town and helped keep traffic congestion down. I even saw dozens of bikers after midnight, on the short ferry ride from Santos to Guaruja. The sturdy, practical bikes were a welcome contrast to the fashion-statement mountain bikes so popular in the U.S.

Santos. Friends of mine who had lived in Brazil and visited Santos collapsed in shock when I sang the praises of sophisticated Santos, based on a seven-hour day trip for beach, shopping, and dinner. “Santos? When I was there that was a dump!” exclaimed one. All I can see they saw one Santos, I saw another. The wide swooping beach with rocks rising from the sea proved a perfect backdrop for photos. The endless apartment buildings along the shore drive were majestic in their variety and testified to Brazilians’ skill at constructing massive numbers of housing units (I’m talking about the outward quantity and appeal to a U.S. apartment dweller; I have no idea about the interior quality). A few blocks inland, in the buzzing business district, we made our major touristy buys: Astral selected two CDs of MBP for me (Agora que São Elas and Gilberto Gil Unplugged), while I got two pair of shoes.

Marketing. The weekend street-level marketing teams for upscale dwellings delighted me. Young women in coordinated uniforms tout developments by passing fliers through car windows and unfurling banners in front of stopped traffic at red lights. I’ve never seen this kind of selling in the U.S. I even saved two fliers as marketing mementos of São Paulo: Loft Ibirapuera and Townhouse Village Morumbi.

Hebraica. The Jewish Community Center in São Paulo amazed me with its size, level of services, and friendly spirit. It stands like an oasis plopped behind (very) secure walls in the center of urban tumult. From the swimming pools to the library to the movie theater to the art gallery to the simple pleasure of strolling and greeting friends, Hebraica offered everything a close-knit community needs in a central location. It may not merit mention in general tour books, but for Jewish travelers, Hebraica is a must-see. If I lived in São Paulo for any length of time, I’d join.

Language. The smoky bingo parlor in Guaruja suggested a great way to study numbers in Portuguese. Listening to the bingo callers, I connected what I heard to the numbers posted on the big display board. I got a double reinforcement: hear it and see it. After some time on the beach, Astral gave me a Portuguese nickname: “Peludo,” (Fuzzy) which, I will always associate with that memorable week.

Entertainment. Before I left for Brazil I was already addicted to Latin telenovelas, mostly Mexican soap operas. The theme music always rocks, the star actresses are slinkily adorable, and, anyway, I could justify watching anything as a way to improve my Spanish. I had always heard Brazil does novelas better than anybody, so Astral introduced me to one of the favorites, “Senhora do Destino.” One of my favorite memories of the trip was nights in Guaruja, sprawled on a beanbag chair after a day on the beach, watching “Senhora do Destino” while Astral translated. The theme music especially struck me, with its haunting, soaring vocal. The music stayed with me long after I returned, as I couldn’t remember the performer, and Astral and I were no longer in contact. Then one evening I was listening to my Internet radio service, Rhapsody, and the unmistakable riff came on. I immediately checked the performer information, and found it was Maria Rita’s performance of “Encontros e Despedidas.” Within a week I had ordered her CD from Amazon, along with a Bebel Gilberto CD. The word that comes to mind whenever I hear Maria Rita is “magic.”

And now . . . six months later, my Brazil trip slips, day by day, back in my store of memories. I have no plans to return, although that could happen someday, somehow. The place got under my skin. I’m constantly checking out CDs from the New York Public Library, including Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Virginia Rodrigues, Elis Regina, and more by Bebel Gilberto. I’ve investigated various Portuguese language sets to study the language, which makes the music that much more enjoyable, once I can understand a little more. I pick up free Brazilian newspapers at a money-transfer place on New York’s West 46th Street, “Little Brazil.” A friend loaned me the novel Tieta, by Jorge Amado, so I will be reading that soon. She warned me it’s “spicy,” so I know already I’ll like it. Of course, I read Gringoes religiously. So, I expect the Brazilian romance will continue.

So, all that’s left to say is: Obrigado, Astral.

Van Wallach, a native of Mission, Texas, is a freelance writer based in Stamford, Connecticut. He is a graduate of Princeton University and a confirmed fan of MBP. He can be contacted on mission76tx@yahoo.com.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com