By Glenn Cheney
Here is the introduction to Glenn’s book Journey on the Estrada Real: Encounters in the Mountains of Brazil” which details a hiking trip along the Estrada Real, the oldest road in the Americas. It goes from Rio and Paraty to Diamantina, estrada de terra all the way, passing through not only the famous historic cities but scores of villages that were among the first settlements in the interior, back in the early 18th century. Along the way Glenn stopped in each village for a few days to write about the people, the local situation, the history, geography, good, and such. It’s close-up look at a part of Brazil that few non-Brazilians know about. We will serialise three excerpts from the book over the next few weeks.

Introduction
In 1697 or so, the Crown of Portugal ordered a road built from the port of Praia dos Mineiros, where the Rio Inhomirim met the Atlantic, to Diamantina, where creeks were exposing diamonds to daylight. The Estrada Real, the Royal Road, was to surmount the Serra do Mar that stands steep, dark-green, and misty about Guanabara Bay, then probe north into the region known as Minas Gerais – General Mines. The Royal Road was to connect the cities producing gold and diamonds as nowhere else on earth. Tunnels dug into hillsides were turning up just about every type of gem known to man. São João del Rei, Tiradentes, Congonhas and Vila Rica were already thriving cities. Vila Rica was becoming the largest city in the Americas, and its name would some day change from Rich Village to Black Gold Ouro Preto. Diamantina, in northern Minas, was rising from the muck of a diamond mine in a gully to become a Portuguese outpost worth the wealth it was sending south to Praia dos Mineiros – Beach of Miners later to be called Rio de Janeiro. From there the wealth of Brazil sailed to Lisbon.

This winding dirt road connected some of the world’s most miserable people to some of the world’s wealthiest – the slaves in the mines of Minas Gerais to the Portuguese Crown, the ultimate beneficiaries of everything that could be stripped from the land of the brassy-colored brasa wood – Brazil.

The Estrada Real was to restrict as much as facilitate transportation into the interior. The Crown did not want Brazil to develop industrial capacity. It was to continue completely dependent on Portugal for food, metals, tools, nails, ammunition, equipment, and supplies. The Brazilian economy was to be based almost exclusively on the export of gems and gold. The Estrada Real, therefore, was to facilitate the inward delivery of manufactured goods to the interior while speeding the outward flow of mineral riches. The Estrada was also to remain the only route of transportation, making it possible for Portugal to control development and exploitation.

In a certain sense, the history of the Estrada Real is the history of Latin America. Unlike the settlers who came to North America from industrial nations, the colonizers of Latin America came from feudal lands. They came neither to build nor to stay. In Portuguese, the verb explorar means both explore and exploit. The language has no other word for either activity. As if by lingual necessity, the Portuguese did both at the same time, exploring a region so vast that even today it has not yet been fully mapped, exploiting the land and ungodly number of native and imported people. Once the gold and jewels were gone, the people who remained were left with magnificent churches and abandoned mines but no infrastructure for any but an agrarian economy.

That situation hasn’t changed much. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Estrada Real of the 17th century is still there. Most of the road is dirt, dust, or mud, though it becomes cobblestone as it passes through towns and villages. Many of the villages have a toehold on the 20th century – undependable electricity, a single phone, two television channels, visiting doctors with medical degrees – but the lives of the people there haven’t changed much since the 17th century. They still cook on open wood stoves, and they travel by horse, mule and foot. They treat their ills with roots and herbs, and they pray for rain. They live in houses built by their grandfathers and sing in churches built by slaves. They still have no infrastructure for any but an agrarian economy.

This is the cradle of Brazilian culture. It all started here, in the mountains of Minas Gerais. As urban Brazil struggles into modern times and the global economy, its slow, quiet past still lives along its first road. How has it survived? How long can it survive? Should it survive? What, if anything, can save it? The search for the answers – a walk down the road – turns up the seeds of an odd revolution. People who have yet to benefit from the global economy are already struggling against it. Some, poor as dirt, ignorant of the world, are satisfied with the happiness they’ve found in God. Others, more aware, appreciate the wealth of their ancient culture. And some, of course, want to trade their antiquated ways for the commerce and industry that brings the money that buys the stuff that promises to make life better.

This book is about the people, culture and history of the Estrada Real. The people are changing, some by resisting change, some by embracing it. The culture is in the balance. The history is there, as immutable as it is unfinished.

For more excerpts and some photos browse to www.cheneybooks.com. The book is available at Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and you can order it at any storefront bookstore. The publisher is Academy Chicago Publishers, ISBN 0-89733-530-9.

By Tim Cowman
This is the third and final part of Tim’s article about Teresina. You can read parts 1 and 2 by clicking on the links at the bottom of the page.

Life and times of a Gringo in The @#$%hole of the Earth”
The lonely planet goes some way to giving us an idea of to what to expect from Teresina as a gringo:

“We recommend a visit if you yearn for attention or would like to feel famous for a day or two”

Life in Teresina for its handful of gringos (last count seven – two Germans, two Americans, one Brit, one Swede and an Austrian) can at times feel like you are starring in your own novela. I wouldn’t compare it to sitting on a packed train in Japan with a five meter space radiating out around only you but you can certainly be thrown into some bizarre situations. In ten months I have recorded voice overs for local radio, been mistaken as an English football scout, featured in the local paper, been interviewed on TV and had an audience with the city’s mayor. The peak of fame was reached when the TV cameras came out for three full days to commemorate the arrival of a group of Japanese bought here through my work.

From this evidence you can see where the lonely planet is coming from, but I think as foreigners in a country we are sometimes arrogant/paranoid and believe everything is for our specific benefit. Yes certainly in Floripa I was able to disappear into the surrounding mass of humans with my blue eyes, blonde hair and white skin (the tone of which only the British seem to own). Teresina is a big city, pollution wise, but with a small town countryside mentality. Everybody knows everybody, the staff at the supermarket know me, waiters know my order and as soon as I so much as set foot in many restaurants a chilled beer is often being pulled from the freezer. The people are much friendlier when compared to the often impersonality of big urban areas belying the size of the city.

Due to the goldfish bowl nature of Teresina I treated my recent jaunt into São Paulo more as a trip into civilization rather than a new Brazilian experience. Catching up with as many expat activities as possible – you know the things gringos usually do to keep themselves sane. One day I headed to an Irish pub to watch a bit of English football on TV, hopefully in the presence of people who spoke the same lingo as me. My pint of Guinness was very satisfying but the atmosphere was very different from the streets of Piaui.

My wife cannot wait to get back into the metropolitan environment as we look to move to São Paulo and away from the searing heat in the near future. I will be making sure that I make the most of the rest of my time here in the North East. Across the whole region there are some beautiful beaches, cities (Teresina is the only non coastal capital) and sites that I am still yet to explore. Though most of all I will be ensuring that as much of the limitless warmth of the local people rubs off on me. I will be attempting to discover the secret behind the never ending hospitality in “The @#$%hole of the Earth”.

Previous articles by Tim:

Brazil: Teresina Part 2
Brazil: Teresina Part 1

By Robin Sparks
Maybe I’m just tired from arriving in Fortaleza at 2 AM last night only to be told my hotel was full. Or maybe it’s the constant wind. It could be the random sprouting of multi-story buildings blocking the view of what I’ve heard is a beautiful blue-green ocean. But I’m not overly impressed with Fortaleza.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours. I’ll give it another day.

My two contacts in Fortaleza are middle-aged North Americans with young Brazilian wives. Charlie” emailed me over two years ago to ask for advice about his upcoming trip to Brazil. He’d just gone through a gruesome divorce in Canada and was going to Brazil to recover for a couple months. Should he take his computer? How much equipment would customs let him enter with? Charlie does voice-overs and wanted to set up shop even if temporarily while in Brazil. Fast forward two years. Charlie emailed me a photo of him and his new wife standing in front of a building where they now lived. The forty year age difference was obvious in the photo, but then so was his bliss.

Since moving here, Charlie has helped so many foreign men do the same, that he’s decided he may as well turn it into a business. I am his first client. He finds me a hotel, shows me the best restaurants in town, gives me recommendations about what to see and do in Fortaleza.

Charlie is driving me around the Beira Mar neighborhood when he points out a very tall apartment building facing the sea. “A millionaire American lives in the penthouse,” he says. “Why?” I ask, wondering why anyone with lots of money would choose to live in Fortaleza. “Same reason anyone lives here,” Charlie says. “He’s 70 years old, and he’s got a 31-year old Brasileira wife, and a nine-month old baby.” Well, of course. What was I thinking.

“Charlie, are you going to have kids too?” I ask.

“Well sure,” he says. “Lord knows I have enough already, but why not? You only go around once. Besides, it comes with the package when you marry a Brasileira.”

I brace myself against the wind as we step out of the car. “Is this wind the reason that kitesurfing is so popular here?” I yell. “Absolutely right!” he yells back over the wind. The palm trees look like inside-out umbrellas.

Charlie says, “Fortaleza is the number one vacation spot for Europeans. Americans would be here too but they’ve got Cancun.”

I knew something smelled familiar. Fortaleza is Cancun in a convection oven.

I ask about The Thing that Louis in Rio told me was the biggest problem in Fortaleza.

“Are the rumors about prostitution here true?” I ask. “No, there’s way more to Fortaleza,” he says. “The Brazilian government has passed strict laws to end it. People vacation here for many reasons.”

“So where are the white women?” I ask looking around. I haven’t seen so many middle-aged white men with brown-skinned women since Bangkok. Oblivious to what I see, Charlie continues, “There are 100,000 more women in this city of 2 million than men. The Brasileiras come from the interior hoping to meet a foreign man. They actually LIKE older men.”

Fortaleza, where men are assured of getting laid without the hassle of three dates, dinner and a movie. Even counting airfare, a guy can save money and time dating here. The girls? I’m guessing they’d call it an even trade. The men offer them hope, otherwise called survival. And they offer the men another swipe at life.

But then, I’m a little grumpy. I’ll sleep on it another night.

Originally posted by Robin at her site on the 9th September 2005.

Robin Sparks is in South America putting together the first issue of EscapeArtist Travel Magazine, an online magazine set to debut in April. Read all about it at www.escapeartist.com.

AND DON’T MISS THIS! There are only a few spots left for the travel writing workshop on June 3-10 with Robin and Larry Habegger, Executive Editor of Travelers Tales books. Join 8 others to sail the coast of Turkey while learning to “Write the Personal Travel Story”. For more information about this life-changing journey, click on http://www.robinsparks.com/index.php?cat=15.

Previous articles by Robin:

Brazil: Fear and Loathing in Fortaleza
Brazil: Hair Scare
The Brazilian Mating Game
Brazil: Going Once, Going Twice
The Thing About Brazil
Brazil: Bohemian Paradise
Brazil: Go South Old Man
Walk Like a Brazilian

Canadian International Women’s Society – Pub Night, Black Tie & Denim

Tickets now available; Make a table, invite your friends, come and have fun!

April 7th, 7:30pm

Grand Hyatt São Paulo

Tickets; R$140

Call; Louise Smith 5543 0170

or Susan Lord 3744 6470

Dig out those old jeans and cowboy boots or your best sequin dress!!

Anything goes!!

By Jose Santiago
In order to keep and maintain your CPF number valid, once it has been issued to you, you have to do an income tax declaration or a declaration of exemption every year (except the year you received the CPF). This will depend on your taxable income and other circumstances, based on them, currently; we have the options of declaration:

1. Declaraão de Imposto de Renda (Declaration of Income Tax)
If you earn R$12,696.00 or more per year. For a complete list of circumstances where one is obliged to do such a declaration please visit the Receita Federal homepage at: http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/PessoaFisica/IRPF/2005/Orientacoes/Obrigatoriedade.htm

2. Declaraão de Isento de Impostos (Declaration of Tax Exemption)
If you don’t have income in Brazil or if it is less than R$12,696.00 per year. For a complete list of circumstances and requirements to do such a declaration please visit the Receita Federal homepage at: http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/PessoaFisica/Isento/2005/Orientacoes/default.htm

Such declarations can be made by your attorney, CPA, agent, or by yourself via Internet on the website of Receita Federal at www.receita.fazenda.gov.br. You need to download a program from this page, which you use to create the submission.

The Declaraão de Imposto de Renda (Declaration of Income Tax) is usually done in March and April and the Declaraão de Isento de Impostos (Declaration of Tax Exemption), in October and November of every fiscal year.

Care is required when filling out the forms, as the information provided has legal implications. This information is not legal advice on how to do the submission yourself, it is merely explanatory. Please always consult with a professional.

If you failed to file one of these declarations for the first year, your CPF will have a notation on your number and, if don’t do any of these two declarations for two years the CPF will be suspended. In order to re-activate the CPF you will have to go to the nearest office of Receita Federal and justify why you did not do the declaration(s). If accepted, most likely, you will have to pay a fee and your CPF will be re-activated, but I advise, it is a big hassle to do this, especially for those who do not speak Portuguese fluently.

Another important aspect is that if Receita Federal notices one person who made several applications or even has multiple numbers, all of them will be permanently revoked. Should you need additional information, please feel free to contact me.

Jose C. Santiago
Multinvest / Elite International
Licensed Attorney – Brazil
Licensed Real Estate Agent – USA
Phones: (55-11) 9348-5729 – São Paulo, Brazil
(800) 983-7060 – Miami, USA
Website: www.josecsantiagohomes.com
Skype: josecsantiago
MSN: josecordeirosantiago@hotmail.com

Previous articles by Jose:

Legal Aspects of Acquiring Real Estate in Brazil

By Joe Lopes
The Operatic Gold” Standard
We continue with part 2 of Joe’s article. To read part 1 follow the link at the bottom of the article.
It must have been hard, too, for the dwarf Alberich to give up his most prized possession, but at the end of four long nights of Teutonic music drama even the Nibelung’s potent ring had found its fateful way back to the bottom of the Rhine.

Perhaps, in this instance, the still-mighty Amazon River could serve as a modern Brazilian equivalent to Wagner’s allegorical German stream and provide some form of symbolic restitution: for the real “gold” that was missing from the once-decrepit national opera may finally have been returned to its rightful owners, i.e. those talented and lucky souls hungry enough to have pursued their operatic dreams to their ultimate fulfillment.

And who might these souls be? That’s an excellent question. We might also wish to inquire about another, more fundamental issue at hand: what is the real future of opera in Brazil today? Along with the opera goes the health and well-being of classical music and high culture, in general, with (ultimately) the preservation and dissemination of their musical heritage as a possible, and doable, long-term goal as well.

These are serious matters that have been probed about and poked at once before, but until now no real response has been forthcoming. We shall, however, deal with the first problem, namely that of potential rising stars on the Brazilian operatic horizon.

Fortunately for us, there appears to be a modest surplus of skilled stage performers ready and able to take up the calling-a minor miracle in itself-with most of them strategically placed to take advantage of their pending international status.

A few of them are already known quantities to Brazilian opera-goers: soprano Cludia Riccitelli, mezzo-soprano Cline Imbert, tenor Fernando Portari, baritone Paulo Szot, bass-baritone Lcio Bruno, bass Luiz Ottvio Faria, and conductor Roberto Minczuk.

But the most promising (and unusual) find of them all, a 35-year-old male singer with the rather disarming name of Marconi Arajo, is a rare countertenor commodity indeed-a sensational operatic novelty, who hails from the Northeastern city of Olinda.

Previously trained, at an early age, as a conductor and musical-choral director in his hometown, the University of Wyoming master’s degree candidate was a surprise, first-place finisher in the prestigious Sixth Annual Bidu Sayão International Vocal Competition, held at the famed Teatro da Paz Opera House in Belm do Par, in the spring of 2005.

It was the first time a native singer of his extraordinary vocal abilities had ever been awarded such a fabulous prize inside Brazil-and in a voice category not especially well regarded there, to boot.

Not only was the reward recognition long overdue, but was exceptionally hard-fought for the talented young artist every step of the way.

“In Brazil, there is a negative pre-conception of countertenors,” Marconi explained. “Many people believe it is not a real voice and it’s difficult to find a teacher who will accept you. More than anything, I would like to change the operatic environment in my home country so other countertenors can have careers there.”

The very genuine, and unstated, difficulty present-insomuch as it might pain some heterosexual alpha males there to hear it-could be the rather lame and reprehensible notion in the country that real men should not be singing in such a “high-lying” vocal manner, which is contrary to the musical evidence put forth by such long-established stage-pros as Ney Matogrosso and Milton Nascimento, to whom falsetto and head-tone are a matter of course.

Still, a universally respected (and acceptable) operatic role model, along the dignified lines of the celebrated David Daniels-variety, may do much to alter this prejudicial perception, as Marconi seems to feel it would.

“I am hoping that this will help other countertenors succeed in Brazil,” he confided. “This victory is changing the lyrical environment of our country. Maybe it will open the door to a new revolution.”

Part 3 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. He is a lover of all types of music, especially opera and jazz, as well as an incurable fan of classic and contemporary films. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

We will be having a Ceilidh on Friday, March 31st so bring your dancing shoes as this will be a good opportunity to practice your Scottish dancing. The details are as follows:

Date: Friday, March 31st 2006

Time: 8:00 pm

Location: Centro Brasileiro Britnico. Rua Ferreira de Arajo, 741 – 4 andar – Pinheiros

Dress: Casual

Dinner Cost: R$ 29,00 per person – includes buffet dinner

Drinks: Cash Bar

Paid Parking available in building

Everyone is welcome.

Prior to the Ceilidh, we will be holding the Annual General Meeting at 7 PM to vote on the 2006 committee. All St. Andrew Society members are invited to attend the meeting.

RSVP: Cristina at (11) 3016-8300 ext. 8310 or e-mail: cristinamazzanti@rhi.com.br

I look forward to seeing you there.

Yours aye,

Sean Hutchinson
President
E-mail: seanhutch@rhi.com.br
Phone no: +55 (11) 3016-8300
Fax no: +55 (11) 3016-8309
Web Site: www.standrews.com.br

This week’s entertainment guide for São Paulo features a restaurant with contemporary food in Vila Madalena, an art lesson for kids at USP, a recently opened museum, this week’s recommended film release, and a roundup of some other upcoming events.

SantaThe restaurant Santa Gula was born from an idea between four friends, who were trying to bring the best of many cuisines to São Paulo. Brazilian cuisine is represented, as is Italian and French, with the idea of trying to always make the dish good quality and contemporary. The restaurant decoration itself is unusual, with an entrance comprising a 50 metre corridor of banana trees, giving the impression you’re leaving São Paulo behind. The restaurant itself is decorated with pieces from Minas and other areas from Brazil. At night time around 200 candles are lit to illuminate both the entrance and restaurant itself. The fixed price lunchtime menu is simple with a choice of starter, main dish and dessert, such as soup of white beans, chicken with a crunchy parmesan surround and spinich risotto, and flambd banana with ice-cream and farofa. The dinner menu is of course more extensive, with various starters including seafood, such as crab shell with Bacalhau gratinado, or crunchy squid. Then there are choices of soup, salads, pastas and risottos, seafood, and meat and poultry. Some examples include cream of Mandioquinha with pesto soup; chicken salad including, chicken, lettuce, banana, mango and grilled pinapple with curry sauce; and salmon in crushed cashew nuts, with a sauce of marucuj and pure of madioquinha. A full dessert menu is also available, including: cream of manga with Amaretto and almonds, and nut and banana crepes with ice-cream. Rua Fidalga, 340. Vila Madalena. Tel. 3812 7815 / 3031 7224. http://www.stagula.com.br

Playing With ArtChildren can have a chance to learn the basics of design, painting and sculpture in Playing With Art (Brincando com Arte) run by MAC and USP (Museu de Arte Contemporiana and Universidade de São Paulo, the Museum of Contemporary Art and São Paulo University). Wednesdays, 10am – 12pm. Until the 12th April. Note it’s necessary to call and reserve a place for your child, Tel. 3091 3559. Rua da Reitoria, 160. Cidade Universitaria.

Museum of the Portuguese LanguageThose studying Portuguese will no doubt enjoy a visit to the recently opened Museum of the Portuguese Language (Museu da Lingua Portuguesa) located at the Estaão da Luz. The museum uses a number of high technology exhibits, at a cost of 37 million Reais, to illustrate the Portuguese language in three areas: the history, the spoken and the written. The exhibits were designed by around 30 language specialists and constructed by 750 workers, also involved in the restoration of the Estaão da Luz, one of the oldest train stations in São Paulo. Highlight include the “tree of language”, a sculpture three stories high, created by the Brazilian architect Rafic Farah. The tree can be viewed through transparent elevators which access the three floors of exhibits. Tickets: R$4 Adult, R$2 Student, free for under 10s and over 60s. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Praa da Luz, 01. Luz. http://www.estacaodaluz.org.br

ShutterThe film recommendation this week is another in the recent trend of J Horror (Japanese horror films), Shutter (Espritos – A Morte Est ao Seu Lado, in Portuguese). A young photographer, Thun, and his girlfriend, Jane, discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after fleeing the scene of an accident. As they investigate they notice more supernatural images appearing in photos, and their friends are being haunted as well. Has their past caught up with them? Recommended for horror fans, and has generally been well received. Rated R in the USA. IMDB’s page on Shutter Guia da Semana’s page with cinema’s showing Shutter

A quick summary on some musical events happening in São Paulo. The Hawaiian singer Jack Johnson comes to the Skol Arena on the 7th April (Tickets R$120 – 380, available from Ingresso Facil, Tel. 2162 7250 http://www.ingressofacil.com.br). The Campari Rock festival is set for the 8th April, bringing UK group Supergrass, US group Mission of Burma, and São Paulo group Ira!, as well as DJs David Carreta and Douglas McCarthy (Tickets R$40 – 100, Tel. 3223 5300)

If you have been to a restaurant, club, park, museum, or anywhere else in São Paulo that you would like to recommend to other readers in future Entertainment Guides then don’t hesitate to contact us!

Also if you are a bar, restaurant , or night club owner (or hosting any other form of event) that would like to be reviewed by www.gringoes.com, as well as appearing in the entertainment guide, please contact us to arrange a visit. If you would like to submit a weekly entertainment guide for your city we’d be interested to hear from you also.

What’s On Guide, March 20 – March 26 2006
What’s On Guide, March 13 – March 19 2006
What’s On Guide, March 6 – March 12 2006
What’s On Guide, February 20 – March 5 2006
What’s On Guide, February 13 – February 19 2006
What’s On Guide, February 13 – February 19 2006
What’s On Guide, February 06 – February 12 2006
What’s On Guide, January 30 – February 05 2006
What’s On Guide, January 23 – January 29 2006
What’s On Guide, January 16 – January 22 2006
What’s On Guide, December 13 – December 20 2005
What’s On Guide, December 5 – December 12 2005
What’s On Guide, November 28 – December 4 2005
What’s On Guide, November 21 – November 27 2005
What’s On Guide, November 14 – November 20 2005
What’s On Guide, November 7 – November 13 2005
What’s On Guide, October 31 – November 6 2005
What’s On Guide, October 24 – October 30 2005
What’s On Guide, October 17 – October 23 2005
What’s On Guide, October 10 – October 16 2005
What’s On Guide, October 3 – October 9 2005
What’s On Guide, September 26 – October 2 2005
What’s On Guide, September 19 – September 25 2005
What’s On Guide, September 12 – September 18 2005
What’s On Guide, September 5 – September 11 2005
What’s On Guide, August 29 – September 4 2005
What’s On Guide, August 15 – August 28 2005
What’s On Guide, July 28 – August 14 2005
What’s On Guide, July 7 – July 27 2005
What’s On Guide, June 22 – June 28, 2005
What’s On Guide, June 15 – June 22, 2005
What’s On Guide, June 6 – June 15, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 26 – June 6, 2005
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

Meet Solveig Skadhauge, from Denmark, who has travelled and worked in many countries. She moved to Brazil recently, and is planning to marry her Brazilian boyfriend. Read the following interview where she tells us about her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?

I was born and grew up in Denmark. However, I haven’t lived there for the past 10 years. Due to my career I have been moving country a lot, and have lived in about 10 different countries (mostly Europe). I have a PhD in theoretical physics and my future husband (we plan to get married in February) never finished high-school. I think my situation is different than most people here at Gringoes, who seem to have rather luxury problem like finding a good maid. I know quite intimately the favelas, where most of my (brazilian) family and friends live.

2. What do you do?

I work as a researcher in high energy physics at USP studying topics like the dark matter of the universe and ‘odd’ particles like neutrinos.

3. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

I lived in Portugal for two years and I decided to apply to Brazil as I wanted to see something exotic and I was tired of learning languages. Shortly after that I met my boyfriend, who is Brazilian and we ended up moving to SP in October 2005. My boyfriend was one of the many illegal Brazilian’s in Portugal who in the search for ‘gold’ ended up working often for nothing. As an illegal you can’t complain if you don’t get paid.

4. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

When we first got here we stayed at my boyfriend’s brother’s place, who lives in a favela zone. The first morning I saw a man threatening his wife with a brick shouting that he would kill her if she didn’t come home. Fair to say that my first impression was scary and I got a picture of a poor and dirty Brazil.

5. What do you miss most about home?

Since I have moved so much, I actually miss various countries, and I suppose it would be difficult to define ‘home’ for me. From Finland I miss cross country skiing, in general I miss the Scandinavia seasons. From California I miss the great nature there and the multi-ethnic people. From England I miss going to the pub early Friday afternoon. From Italy and France I miss the nice food. From Lisbon I miss Alfama and Bairro Alto.

6. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

It’s difficult to pick out just one experience. I’m frequently frustrated when people don’t understand my Portuguese. I’m also often frustrated by the old-fashioned way women are treated here. (Also seen by the number of prostitutes here, which is the prime example of female abuse.) I grew up under the women’s liberation in Scandinavia and sometimes it feels like being put back some 50 years. However, I think the biggest difficulty I have there is trying to plan things. You can’t trust (private) appointments with people here and often Brazilians give you an answer even if they don’t know the answer. I suppose it makes them feel better. But I frequently lose much time because of this.

7. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil?

I think it would be when my parents came to visit me here. They are very old and haven’t travelled much in their lives. It was the first time my mother flew – and it is a long way from Denmark. I simply found it so impressive that they had the courage to come here! It was great seeing them experiencing a third world country like Brazil and the very different nature and plants that exist here. They were very happy to see the waterfalls at Iguacu.

8. What do you most like about Brazil?

The Brazilians! I also love the nature and beaches here.

9. What is your favorite restaurant?

The number of times I’ve been to a restaurant in SP can be counted on one hand. Besides that my boyfriend loves cooking and has time to do it (he has been unemployed since we got here) we also don’t have the money for restaurants. Of course it is a matter of priority, and we prefer to spend our money on traveling and going out for a drink every now and then – I like Vila Madalena for that.

10. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

I remember that after an occasional short talk with a Brazilian lady, she told me to come by her house. I was very puzzled as we had talked for about 3 minutes and I didn’t even know her name, not to mention where she lived. Thus, I simply replied But I don’t know your address”, where after she repeated the invitation. Now, I know that this is normal. Brazilians are so easygoing that they don’t even bother if it doesn’t make sense what they are saying.

11. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

There is a world’s difference – culture, mentality, richness, the welfare system…

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

Get some brazilian friends who can give you more advice.

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

Go for weekend trips every now and then. There are many beautiful places close by, like litoral norte, Monte Verde, Iporanga, Brotas etc.

Are you a foreigner living in Brazil, or a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of 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

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

Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
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

By Tim Cowman
Attractions in “The @#$%hole of the Earth””
My folks are braving the searing heat and coming out to visit me in Teresina next month. They will in some respects feel at home as due to local climate I have finally found a place on earth were people talk/complain about the weather more than the English.

For the city famed to be the hottest in Brazil there really are a limited number of things on offer for the average tourist. Sitting down with my wife (a Teresina local) it took all of ten seconds to reel off the main attractions of the city. A comprehensive tour of the city would take in the street market, two shopping centres and downtown. Not exactly Rio with Copacabana, Ipanema, sugar loaf and all. It can be assumed that the city is not a hot bed for tourism.

There is one hidden gem though, the two rivers meeting point (Encontro das Aguas) which acts as a small scale version of the same phenomenon which takes place between the Rivers Negro and River Solimoes in Amazonas. The nature park at the site, incidentally constructed by my father-in-law, pays homage to what must be one of the strangest folklores of all time – Cabeca de Cuia. This large headed character was a fisherman who lived where the two rivers meet. One day he returned home without having caught even one fish. Already irritated he saw that there was nothing to eat in the house so he angrily killed his mother with a bone. Just before dying his mother cursed him and he was transformed into a big headed monster. Desperate he threw himself into the river and the only way he can break the curse was to eat seven virgins. He’s still searching, so the tale that is more “The Ring” than the brothers Grimm is still on going.

Teresinas’ lack of physical attractions though is more than offset by the warmth of the place and I don’t mean the soaring temperatures. The people here are unbelievably friendly, bending over backwards to make you feel welcome. Lifts, food, nights out, drinks, help with jobs, language etc. In the name of hospitality nothing is of too much trouble.

Under the Teresina sun life is centered around the essential survival activities of relaxing, drinking cold things, eating great food, keeping cool and chatting (often about the weather). The early evening and night are spend in wide open restaurants or street bars contemplating life over a refreshing beverages.

The local hobby of drinking a cold beer has, out of necessity, developed into a science. You know some days when you feel like only a cool beer can quench your thirst, well in continual forty degree heat that becomes an everyday sensation. Large bottles are plucked straight from the freezer and stored in a jacket, with only the smallest amount poured into a glass at a time for immediate consumption. It is the same here in São Paulo you might be saying to yourself but I can assure you it is not. The locals here have a built in temperature gage from birth and any beers slightly too hot or over chilled to ice are rejected out of local pride. Having traveled a bit of Brazil I can with my hand on my heart say that Teresina is by far the hottest city but serves the coolest most refreshing beers.

The food here, if a little interesting at times, is fantastic and a special mention has to go to the delicious local crab. Once again though inevitably the sun has a role to play and if you didn’t know it already Piaui is the founding home of Carne -de-Sol (Sun dried meat). Around every street corner hangs meat stretched and baking in the sun as it dries to perfection in Teresina’s natural Barbeque.

So come to Piaui not for the beaches, forests or city lights but to touch base with the real Brazilian people. Accompany me to my local street bar where you will instantly be among friends, tuck into succulent sun dried meat and sip on an ice cold beer to give you a rest bite from the sun. I am certainly looking forward to introducing my parents into the hospitable open arms of Brazilian society which is so evident here under the Teresina heat.

Part 3 next week…

Tim Cowman is an Environmental Consultant who is moving to São Paulo in May 2006. He would appreciate hearing from anybody with news about jobs or advice about living in the city. You can contact him at – timcowman@hotmail.com.

Previous articles by Tim:

Brazil: Teresina Part 1