By Craig Parker
The road to Paraty, Brazil is like the road to heaven in two distinct ways: 1) it is paved with good intentions; and 2) the journey is filled with twists and turns, curves and bumps.

Recently, full of curiosity and armed with a three-day Tiradentes weekend (you have to love a holiday based on a public hanging), my wife Denise and I embarked on our voyage to see Paraty for the first time. We grabbed a cab after work and made the 5 P.M. Reunidas bus out of the Tiete Rodovrio (bus station).

After crawling out of São Paulo, we were soon traveling in the Mercedes Benz omnibus (bus) down the highway toward the eastern coast. There, in the darkness – safely ensconced in our air-conditioned seats – we were unaware of the passing hamlets, houses, towns, and favelas etched into the countryside that are Brazil’s signature. As the bus hurtled like a silver bullet along the cut highway, the massive foliage encroached on either side, as if allowing us safe passage by its own accord. Through hillside, cliffs, and mountains, the blurring constancy of passing silhouetted trees provided comfort to the weary night-time travelers – and made us feel strangely at home. Therefore, though it was but early-evening, we did what everyone does at home. We slept.

The bus pulled into the Paraty Rodovrio at 11 P.M., and Denise and I walked quietly to our pousada (lodging).

Finding a place to stay in Paraty is not a problem. More pousadas are positioned about Paraty than bees benignly swirling around a street vendor making caldo de cana gelado (a delicious sugar cane drink). The ratio of pousadas per capita in Paraty is almost as great as the per-capita rate of corrupt officials in São Paulo government. There are so many pousadas, even Jesus would not have been turned away. And it is my guess that he would have liked Paraty.

Paraty is a charming and quaint visage of a town that harkens back to the horse-and-buggy days. With its narrow, large-rock cobblestone streets, the whole town has a feel of some well-kept secret that only we are privy to. There’s not much to do in Paraty, so you begin to pay attention to the singular moments of life:

– watch an old woman park her flat-bed truck from the street to the curb, missing a garbage can by a perfect two centimeters – and then smiling;

– barter with the necklace vendors on the wharf, although not very well – and then buy their wares anyway;

– listen to the canter play acoustic guitar and expertly sing “No Woman, No Cry” in Portuguese – then stay for the next dozen songs;

– eat a sumptuous breakfast of bread, fruit, coffee, and bolo de coco (coconut cake) – and give no thought to weighing yourself afterwards;

– get turned around and lost in a town so small, then surprise yourself by actually asking someone for directions.

Focusing on the simple pleasures in life allows one to live in the moment and reflect on the magical charm of Paraty.

Paraty is an oasis in time. Its hope is that it is found; its treasure is that it is experienced. It is futile to attempt to listen for secrets; its whispers are too faint to be heard by the human ear. Rather, strive to feel its rhythms and slumber in its arms.

Do not dwell on Paraty’s dark gold-rush history, which Vinicius de Moraes referred to as the “despair of the infinite.” Paraty is not the place to plum the depths of one’s soul; rather, it allows you to skim over your joys as a yellow butterfly dances across the water-its destination unknown.

Paraty is like no other place on Earth. Rio de Janeiro has far-superior nightlife but none of the slowed heartbeat that is Paraty’s signature. Cabo San Lucas was once comparable to Paraty, but unregulated commercialism altered the Mexican fishing village’s face forever. Cancun was never in Paraty’s league, since it was built exclusively as a resort town. Although Hawaii has greater natural beauty, its charm is now choked by neon signs and condominium sales.

Paraty, by contrast, sleeps like a diamond in the sand, waiting for the venturesome traveler to discover. Its place on the registry of National Historic sites ensures that it will remain in its present and preserved condition. The anonymous, civic-minded visionaries who fought for Paraty’s protected status should hold a special place in all Brazilian hearts. Thanks to their efforts, Paraty is unique as a destination. It is the sphinx of South America. Like some strange obelisk in an Arthur C. Clarke “2001” series, Paraty remains unspoiled by human progress. All Ayn Rand architects, be forewarned: you can build the Freedom Tower monuments, palatial tributes, and multi-national testaments to greed.

Paraty you will not touch.

As travelers, ours is a journey with destination unknown. Some of us choose to make this trek from the couch in front of the television set, while others are more intrepid. Regardless of mode or want of action, this fact seems certain: All that we have experienced in our lives will one day be no more than standing water in a cobblestone street, reflecting what we once were. Many of us seek to get to another world, each in our own way. For travelers, it would seem that we are using new faces and new places to sort the pieces in our jigsaw puzzle redemption. Hopefully, one day we can all meet and help each other with the sorting.

Perhaps on the road to Paraty.

Previous articles by Craig:

Brazil: Gringo Goes Speedo
Brazil: The Carioca Five-Step
Brazil: Finally, We’re On Our Way

Meet Peter Berner, who has both Swiss and Brazilian citizenship, and has lived in Brazil as well as the USA. He has retired and is now living in the USA. Read the following interview where he tells us about his most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

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

I am a dual Swiss/Brazilian citizen, and have recently retired after working for a multinational company for 35 years. I live in Austin, Texas, where I moved to be close to my daughter.

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

I had been to Brazil to visit relatives since an early age however I first came to live in Brazil (São Paulo) at age 16 when my mother remarried a gentleman who was living there at the time.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

As said I was very familiar with the country since early childhood. But two cultures could not be more different than the Swiss and the Brazilian (and I feel 100% Brazilian by the way). So early impressions are all about warmth: (climate, people) lots of laughter and happiness in the air.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Considering Brazil home, I miss the people, the easy way of interacting socially, having fun in simple things. I miss the interior of Brazil, the smaller villages with its lack of commercialism and true joie de vivre”.

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

Dealing with bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the several public sectors. Specifically in the past say getting a telephone installed.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

Traveling through the hinterlands of Bahia. Basically making Salvador my home base and taking excursions first to Lencois and then going by car down the BR101 to Porto Seguro, Arraial D’Ajuda, Trancoso, Espelho, Caraivas. Specifically on innumerable occasions people would not have change for even a low denomination bank note (a national malaise I think). The solution to this “problem”? Inevitably the same answer each time, “forget about it…next time you come through here you settle up with me”.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

Undoubtedly the people and the variation and beauty of the landscape.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

I will mention two: first is in São Paulo on the Rua Tiete and it is called Le Vin. The second is eating a muqueca de camarao at Iemanja in Salvador.

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

In the late 60s I was in a very isolated small farm in the Pantanal region. No electricity. I had a small kerosene powered icebox and it was badly regulated the first night, so the bottle of water I placed in it turned to ice. I was woken up by the caseira saying “that i had made a miracle, I had converted water into stone and placed it inside the bottle”. Obviously the concept of “ice” had never reached this place of Brazil before.

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

I consider Brazil my homeland so this question is not really applicable.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

Again we speak Portuguese at home, it is the language I use with my children, it is my mother tongue, so not relevant.

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

Basically don’t freak out about the differences, go with the flow and let the country and its people conquer you.

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

Definitely not to restrict themselves to visiting the large urban centers but go into the smaller villages of any of the states.

You can contact Peter at peter.berner@yahoo.com.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you 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 for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

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

Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
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 Richard Conti
It is no secret that I am one American thrilled with Brazil and especially with our city of choice, João Pessoa in Paraiba on the Northeast Coast of Brazil. As we are presently in the midst of designing a community for ourselves, some friends and a few choice others in João Pessoa I am in contact with friends and associates there on a daily basis. As a matter of fact a few of them just finished a visit here with me in Boca Raton Florida, where I live for the time being, just last week. As they were here as in Brazil they are always a pure pleasure. Such nice people Brazilians.

It was my pleasure to have them here and to entertain them as well. It was not a surprise to me at all to see how thrilled they were at how much cheaper they could buy certain things here. Electronics and computers can be bought here for much less then in Brazil granted, but that was about where it ended for anything else they may have been interested in getting while they were here.

They were honestly amazed at how much we paid for everything else here especially like lunches and dinners and drinks which are considerably more here then in Brazil to say the least. The one thing that was really a shock to them was the price of gasoline here now. It is actually higher then the cost of gasoline in Brazil and all you hear on the news each day is how it is expected to go even higher in the very near future.

Things are not all that well here in the good old United States with problems of terrorism, immigration reform, the economy, and the rising costs of prescription drugs as well. All you hear each day in the news is another bad thing. One after the other. Floods, tornadoes, mud slides, terrorists being caught in a nick of time, and yes here in Florida as in New Orleans the hurricanes which hit us last year and are about to make a return visit this year again soon with the promise of many many more visits to come in years ahead as well. Last year’s damages are still being addressed and many haven’t even begun to have been repaired, which is clearly evident by all the temporary blue tarps still covering rooftops in my area and others to prevent them from leaking. What is going to happen to them when the next hurricane hits?

Since the conception of our idea to build a private community in Brazil, and the posting of a few articles on sites as wonderful as www.gringoes.com about our idea and dream which is about to become a reality, I have heard from so many many Americans now looking towards other lands to spend their retirement years in. A move that in the recent past was considered by many as quite drastic. Why, you may ask? Well because it may be even more drastic of thinking of places like Florida to retire too with all it’s recent problems. Other places they may have chosen some time ago have now been taken off the list due to saturation and high prices and yes, terrorism threats.

Let’s be honest, when England, Spain, Italy and places like that were once an option they have been all but taken off the table due to people being frightened of terrorist attacks in these places. Other places like Mexico and Panama, Costa Rica and whatever other island is located in the middle of the path of a hurricane do not look as good anymore either.

Well where is one to go? Brazil that is where you can go. In Brazil we are welcomed, the people are friendly and helpful. The economy is doing well and the cost of living is so so much less than here for sure, as well as so many other places without giving up good health care and a really nice quality of life. Yes. you can still realize that dream of living by the ocean however you may have to change that address and zip code a bit and move a little further south to a land that is filled with beauty, both in it’s cities, and it’s people as well. It is not as drastic a move as you may think and it does make so much more sense to many of us now that have decided to do just that.

Surely, we had our doubts at first, like many of you may have, but the more we hear, the more that happens and the more we see only makes Brazil look better and better everyday!

When people such as myself think of retirement they think of being able to live a good life on what they have left to live on. Although many have done quite well in their lifetimes as they have been doing well the places they have always thought of retiring too have changed rather dramatically. For one, prices are much higher then they ever thought they would be, as are taxes and everyday necessities such as, yes, gasoline and insurance as well. This year alone 8 large companies have pulled out of the housing insurance markets in Florida, and those who have remained have raised their prices.

In my community alone the cost of a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom condo is about 290,000 US dollars, and the taxes are somewhere in the area of 4,000 US dollars a year. Not to mention maintenance costs which have been soaring due to increases in insurance rates and damages due to recent hurricanes with more sure to come this year as well. Maintenance is up over 300 US dollars a month now, and it never ever goes down! Aside from that we are being hit with damage and repair assessments which add even more to our financial burden here. There really is no end in sight and I fear the situation will only grow worse and worse here as time goes on and things happen which will always happen… like hurricanes!

These same places you remembered vacationing in and dreaming of retiring too for all these years have changed. They are much more expensive now. Some of the restaurants here in Boca Raton charge you as much as the ones in New York city! They are crowded as well and we are seeing more and more traffic jams during season and even off season. At times I feel as if I am back in New York city here in Florida! They are NOT the paradises you remember them to be as the real estate developers have turned them into condo parking lots!

Those who remain here for whatever reason they may have will find themselves living a retirement they were not exactly prepared for, giving up much of what they thought they’d be enjoying, if anything at all. Many will have to actually abandon those dreams of living by the ocean and enjoying warm weather year round as they are realizing that the once achievable dream is no longer in their reach due to their personal circumstances and or the price of everything going through the roof!

I myself once had dreams of retiring here and having a great life in my later years, but even here in Florida where I am already, unlike so many others that will still have to move here, I too can see the writing on the wall. The message it is sending me is clear and telling me to get out of town and do it as soon as I possibly can as things are not going to get any better anytime soon. As a matter of fact they have a very good chance of getting even much worse then they are now and while they are getting worse the places left to choose from around the world are getting more limited and more expensive thanks to terrorism and saturation of these areas.

By making a move such as we will be doing, we do ourselves a great service as well as so many others in need of a little help. Others, who do not even ask half as much out of life as some Americans do here. We create a wonderful community for us to live in, in an even more wonderful city. We enjoy a lifestyle where we can afford housekeepers and cooks, babysitters and drivers if we wish. We do this all for ourselves but at the same time create much needed employment for so many appreciative and thankful people as well. People that are not looking for a hand out but a job and grateful to have one as well as deserving of one.

You will enjoy summertime weather year round with no threat of hurricanes or terrorism. Enjoy miles and miles of pristine beaches and coastlines. Wonderful beach areas dotted with wonderful restaurants, malls, and supermarkets not to be believed, as well as fresh markets with everything from fresh baked bread to fresh local fish. All at a cost you will think quite unbelievable. A safe, relaxing Place as you will never find here in the States.

Yes, all good things do tend to have their bad side, as does even Brazil, and even João Pessoa. You will have a lengthy plane ride, which happens to be a nice flight, but may be considered a little expensive to some. Once you get to Brazil you will soon realize that this is about the only thing that will take your time away from truly relaxing, and cost you some money. Everything else is a joy, and a bargain! When you sit down and figure it all out, it ends up costing you much less then going to many many other places.

Maybe you are you worried about the grandchildren? Do not, because you probably will have a better chance of them visiting you in Brazil and for a longer time then you would in a place such as I live here in Florida… Why?… Because Florida is old hat. Many have already been there, done that and it takes a small miracle to get them to visit you here, but Brazil… now we are talking an adventure, another country… Brazil… beautiful Brazil!

I am telling you folks, Brazil is looking better and better EVERYDAY! And if you need some reassuring and motivation just call on me and it will be on it’s way to you, and my sincere pleasure to do so as well.

Think Brazil… we are and we’re glad as we are going to realize our dream! Why not realize your’s as well!

Readers comments:

Be careful not to confuse the Brazilian price of gas per LITER with the U.S. price per GALLON. Gasoline in Brazil costs more than it does in the U.S.

For example, on April 4, 2006, gasoline was selling for about 2.63 reais per liter in João Pessoa. This converts to about US$ 1.26 per liter, or about US $ 4.79 per gallon.

Now that Bolivia is nationalizing Petrobras holdings, the price of gasoline in Brazil may go up even more.

— Linda

Richard is an American born and raised in New York City in the shadows of the once towering World Trade Center. He now lives in beautiful Boca Raton, Florida. He is presently doing design work and general contracting, but his dream dream is to complete his private community in João Pessoa, Brazil, and to move there with his Brazilian girlfriend. Once there he wants to devote time to building many many more projects with Americans and Brazilians in mind. In his spare time he wants to write many many more enjoyable articles for www.gringoes.com for you all to enjoy. If you want to contact Richard by email then send to guyfrmbk@adelphia.net.

Previous articles by Richard:

Brazil’s Best Kept Secret

By Robin Sparks
I was out ’til late last night with Ryan and Jessica. We attended a huge street party in Lapa. THIS is what I didn’t get to do when I was in Rio alone last year. There was Olundum drumming and Bossa Nova and people crowded in the streets and fresh caipirinhas and dancing all night long. And my son sending me home in a cab at 2AM.

Rio, a city aptly named Cidade Maravilhosa – Marvelous City. You can feel it breathe, heave like the vital city that it is. It is winter and it is hot – not too bad today as it’s overcast, but I can go out at night wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, and sandals, and not get cold. Love it!

I’m having an entirely different experience in Rio this go-around because I’m in Copacabana among the tourists. Last year I stayed in Santa Theresa, where I will move later today. We’ve decided to stretch our stay here to a week. And so to save a money, I will move up the hill. It will be interesting to see if my experience of Rio changes with the neighborhood.

I now understand all the readers who wrote last year to tell me that they didn’t experience Rio as a dangerous city in the way I had. Even one of my American female friends told me she had a blast when she visited Rio, partying until late in the night. What I am learning this time in Rio, is that your perspective depends on what part of Rio you are living in.

The Next Day…
Copacabana – I can walk about safely with a minimal amount of watchfulness. Especially if I gesture, dress, and look Brazilian.

However, there WAS this incident our very first night in Rio, not two blocks from my hotel. As we stood at a street corner waiting for the light to change, a bus lurched to a stop. Inside the lit interior 0f the bus, people were standing, fists flying, shoving, jumping over turnstiles, pouring out of the bus, chasing some hapless soul down the street. Probably someone who got caught picking the pocket of a Brazilian on the bus. It served as a reminder, just a couple hours after our arrival, that Rio is a city that can at any moment break out in song OR a shooting.

Today I’m in bohemian, artist-centric Santa Teresa among the old houses that crawl up the hills, the streets that snake around and around. This old bohemian hood, it’s houses walled off, guarded by rottweilers, is surrounded on two sides by favelas. I ask Louis about the fireworks I hear going off. Oh that,” he says. “That means that the drugs have arrived.” “What about the occasional firecracker?” I ask him. “That’s to signal inhabitants of the favela that the police have arrived.”

I don’t carry my laptop in this neighborhood. Nor anything that I don’t mind giving away at gunpoint or a shard of glass.

I ask Adrianna why an end isn’t put to this terrifying hold that the favelas have on the city. She says that the police don’t do anything because they know that the favelas are as well armed as they are, maybe more so. “How can that be?” I ask. “Some say that there are insiders in the military who are selling arms to the favelas.” Adriana, a woman who has lived in Rio all of her life tells me that the fear is always there. She says that just two weeks ago favela lords duked it out from different ends of the Dois Irmãos Tunnel, a heavily used road through the Dois Irmãos Mountain from Leblon to São Conrado. “Brazilians caught in the tunnel panicked, abandoning their cars and running for their lives.”

There you have it. The Marvelous City. Heaving with vitality and set to go off at any moment.

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: The Only Macs are at MacDonald’s
Brazil: New Digs
Brazil: First Sighting – Fortaleza
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

By Randall Paul
With all the ugliness going around, I need to take a break.

I love fish: grilled, baked, fried, seared, raw as ceviche or sushi. I also love to fish, but rarely get the opportunity. Since Easter just passed, I feel compelled to mention the type of fish dish that is so popular among Brazilians and that I find so repellent: the dreaded bacalhau.

What is bacalhau? It’s cod that has been dried and heavily salted to keep it from going bad. It played an important role in European exploration (this book is an excellent analysis) and I’m certain that many people of that era would not have survived without it. It’s prepared by re-hydrating it in what I regard as a fruitless attempt to leach out the salt and baked with potatoes, onions, black olives and olive oil.

It is hugely popular in Brazil and it is hugely expensive there as well. With thousands of kilometers of coastline as well as numerous river systems all of which are filled with delicious fish, Brazilians with the means will pay a premium price for dried, salted cod – from the North Sea no less – that I, as a fish lover find inedible. There is no need for it. We have refrigerators. We can make ice. I remember a huge piece hanging on a hook just before Christmas at my in-law’s farm in Minas Gerais. Even the flies had the good sense to avoid it.

It is so popular that it appears that there is a black market for it:

Thefts of bacalhau peak during Lent, the 40 days of fasting before Easter, when religious Catholics serve more fish and less meat. Cod has been overfished in its North Atlantic habitat, so the once-cheap staple is now a luxury in Brazil. Most is imported from Norway and sells for as much as 115 reais a kilogram ($25 a pound).

Where the faithful see a delicacy, bandits see profit. Theft is so common in Brazil, the world’s largest Catholic nation, that many truckers refuse to haul the fish. Those who do hire armed guards and track their cargoes by satellite.

“If you’re not vigilant, there’s a gun in your face and your truck is gone,” said Paulo Santos, 44, sales manager for Pascali, a Rio de Janeiro cod importer. “It’s a constant problem this time of year. By the time Easter comes around, the evidence has all been eaten.”

Codfish theft is part of a wider Brazilian problem of highway cargo hijacking. Gangs filling orders from corrupt shopkeepers steal an estimated $700 million a year from truckers, said Paulo Roberto de Souza, 60, a retired army colonel and security chief for the São Paulo Transport Federation.

“This is big business,” he said. “The leaders have real businesses and mix stolen and legitimate merchandise in their stores.”

So bacalhau was served at our apartment on Saturday night. Fortunately for me, my wife is one of the most thoughtful and kind-hearted creatures on the planet. Thank you, Mrcia for that delicious red snapper fillet!

Randall is a Norteamericano living in New York with his Brazilian wife and has a passion for Latin American travel, culture, politics arts and history. His biggest sonho is for the day when he moves to Brazil for good. Visit Randalls’s blog at http://www.beautifulhorizons.net/weblog/.

By Tim Cowman
This year saw me get on the road” Jack Kerouac style, though North America was replaced by North East Brazil and consequently route 66 became pothole 666. Over 4000km were covered in a ten day period, taking in five states, an uncountable number of beaches, huge cities and bizarre backwater towns.

Our group included my wife and I from Piaui and her three friends from Sampa, excited to be in what appeared to be a different country from the one they knew as Brazil. After setting off from Teresina the first port of call was to the under developed coastal town of Luis Correa, picture wide open expansive rustic sand beaches, sleepy fishing villages and the odd beach bar. This is the unspoiled Brazil of old, emphasised by my night swinging in a hammock with waves lapping in the background occasionally drowned out by local radios blaring out Forro. (You’ll have to get on the Google Earth website to locate it because it’s presently an undamaged place and I don’t want to be the one responsible for changing that).

Lunch on route to Fortaleza was taken in Sobral, the kind of dry empty feeling city that only the edge of the North Eastern sertao can produce. Where the pace of life is often as slow as the 1970s VW’s or the donkeys and carts that you occasionally pass on the streets. We felt a stark contrast as we crept under nightfall past the high rise buildings and shopping centres, into the thriving urban area of Fortaleza.

The well known Canoa Quebrada was next up and this enchanting beach resort did not disappoint. Though becoming fairly commercial it still holds a hippy European feel and the remnants of the site’s original fishing villages are still hiding everywhere. Days were spent lounging in the many beach bars sipping cool beers and chilled agua de coco, complimented nicely by a great range of sea food, of which the prawns were the highlight. The numerous bars down the main street were packed most evenings and our final night brought us to a buzzing reggae party down on the beach. A chilled night ended with a reminder of the dangers that a land with a vast gulf between the haves and have nots can contain. As we wandered sleepily back through the lanes to our pousada a local guy made a smash and grab attempt at my wife’s handbag. He was unsuccessful and luckily so was my drunken foolish chase which could have ended in disaster.

The next day a person was successful in unjustly liberating Reais from my wife’s hands. Our robber for the day came dressed in a Pernambuco state police uniform and was positioned at a road block on the main highway heading into the largest of all the North Eastern cities, Recife. He didn’t even bother to find anything wrong with the car just asked for a bit of money to get some beers for him and his friends tonight.

I was fuming, shouting in the car as to how they could do this? Moaning about how no wonder this country stays in the state it’s in if even the police act like this. My Brazilian friends quickly nodded acceptance and returned to happily bobbing along down the highway. After one year in Brazil it finally hit me out on the roads of the North East. Corruption is not the right word – in Europe (of course it happens) it is seen as an evil underground act which needs extinguishing once exposed. In Brazil is it part of the culture, a business method, a survival technique – a way of life. From the politicians and their mensalao, to the policeman and his beer money – Brazil it seems is run on what we call corruption but what is seen here as a system of favours. Brazilians know this is how things work and consequently there is no need to waste valuable moments of life getting worked up about it.

The days after my cultural enlightenment were spent lazing in the crystal clear waters of the Port of Galinhas (disappointingly not a chicken in sight), wandering the cobbled streets of the beautiful (excuse the pun) vintage town of Olinda and experiencing the streets bars of old down town Recife.

Our group was finally cut down to two and me and my wife alone had to face the lengthy final leg of the journey, across the entire length of the state of Pernambuco and up through two thirds of Piaui to Teresina. It was safe to say I wasn’t looking forward to this, not just because of the immense distance between us and home, but more due to the rather disturbing notations on our official map – “Careful many carjackings, robberies and drug runnings take place on this highway”. My fears were far from eased as numerous machine gun touting policemen blocked our entrance to the road, quick questions confirmed that we were entering the dangerous strip of the route but due to the time of day we were more or less ok! I would have happily forked out at least ten Reais to this cop who had obviously drawn the short straw at the postings meeting. The return trip turned out to be fine but I have kept a copy of the map to show the grandkids. The biggest threat to our safety was in fact the enormous thunderstorm accompanied by torrential rain that cut my visibility to zero on roads that had almost been washed away themselves.

All in all the North East is a startlingly beautiful place with enough beaches to fill a lifetime, my rough account is just the tip of iceberg. With one foot clearly still in the middle of the 20th century it has its own unique irresistible culture and charm. Though with new flights arriving from Europe daily and land being bought up by Europeans at a staggering rate it will slowly get dragged up to the speed of the 21st century (Pernambuco state was recently forced to set a law limiting the amount of land that could be bought up by Europeans). It’s a place were you will be absorbed by Brazil and its multitude of various people at an easy pace. I highly recommend you visit before the bandits leave, you never know what you might learn.

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 3
Brazil: Teresina Part 2
Brazil: Teresina Part 1

By Joe Lopes
We continue with the fourth and final part of Joe’s article. To read previous parts follow the links at the bottom of the article.
Let us briefly consider, then, the following case study of the recent disharmony prevalent at the regally elegant edifice known as the Municipal Theater of Rio.

Conductor Luiz Fernando Malheiro, who still runs the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, had a brief but tension-filled tenure as music director of Rio de Janeiro’s famed Beaux-Arts opera house, where he ran into a veritable stonewall of nonconformity due to a change in the theater’s administration, sometime around April 2002, that swept into office both a leftist state governor, Workers’ Party candidate Benedita da Silva, and a new boss of the opera board, Antonio Carlos Grassi-strictly a political appointment, according to Amy Radil, a radio and print journalist based in Brazil.

With these shifts in artistic focus came the usual spurious rounds of accusations and reforms, including (but not limited to) budget cuts, cast substitutions, and threats of season cancellations, as well as endless and protracted grumbling about performers’ exorbitant fees.

We’ll never get beyond artistic mediocrity in our theaters,” a frustrated Malheiro protested to Jornal do Brasil, “as long as they’re subject to these abrupt changes.”

Responding to the charge, board president Grassi, who also happened to be the state culture secretary (and a former television, stage and screen actor), confidently declared that the “debate is political and ideological. I think the theater has to exist within the cultural context of the state,” inadvertently quoting the now-portentous Neschling’s favorite line; besides which, in Grassi’s opinion, “The last government left an enormous debt. There was no money for the original program, which was ambitious, but very expensive.”

“We live in a country in which crises return from time to time,” a member of the opera’s orchestra was heard to complain, “and the arts are always the first ones to feel it.”

“It’s ridiculous to make these changes for six months,” carped another. “Then we have to wait for the elections and see who wins.to find out who the new masters of the theater will be.”

These overly-dramatic developments in Rio had all the customary earmarks of one of those sordid television soap operas Brazilian audiences are so egregiously addicted to-it was quite a remarkable coincidence.

Upset at the way all parties mishandled this rather unseemly affair, particularly in the press, Malheiro upped and quit his post-so much for freedom of expression. The sudden showdown between the city’s political and theatrical heavyweights had thrown Neschling’s wishful cultural commentary into temporary disrepute.

Who, then, should the ultimate purveyor of high culture in Brazil be: the city, the state, or the local opera board? Given the conflicting viewpoints this extremely volatile topic seemed to frequently inspire, there has yet to be proffered a single set of proposals, or a reasonably attractive solution to the mess, going forward.

Meanwhile, back at the opera, Malheiro’s brave new successor, conductor Silvio Barbato, summed up his own feelings regarding the distasteful situation there, dismissing the misunderstandings as “merely a clash of egos.”

Moreover, Barbato went out of his way to praise the “socially conscious imperatives of the current government,” overlooking the glaring fact that it’s the state that “still pays the lion’s share of the (Municipal’s) budget,” to which his own future employment remained beholden to.

With state and local governments providing the bulk of the funds to ensure their survival in the modern musical world, both the Teatro Municipal and Teatro Amazonas could breath a collective sigh of relief, as they will continue to be allowed to “prosper,” artistically and culturally, as it were-with prosperity the relative term here, denoting a form of financial “stability” most foreign companies would be tickled pink to receive-as long as those self-same governments maintained their own financial stability (by any means, a tall order, as originally conceived).

Bailing out Brazilian opera houses, however, is not the answer. But like everything else in the country even remotely related to its culture-soccer, Carnival, samba, and the cinema-just keeping the political boat afloat is often all that’s required.for now, anyway.

As a final addendum to this convoluted storyline, about a year later, in early 2003, the Federal Ministry of Culture, headed-up by recently appointed pop-star Gilberto Gil, chose Antonio Carlos Grassi to become the next president of Fundaão Nacional de Arte, or Funarte.

According to that organization’s farsighted mission statement, it was charged with the lofty task of “promoting, stimulating and supporting, throughout all the nation and abroad, the practice of developing and disseminating artistic and cultural activities, in the (primary) areas of theater, dance, opera, the plastic and graphic arts, photography, and popular and classical music,” in addition to “documenting and informing, as well as providing the research into, these same areas.with a view towards the preservation of the country’s cultural memory.”

With respect to the organization’s actual budget, “the financial resources for Funarte will originate with the National Treasury, and are approved by the (Brazilian) Congress; (funds) are also provided for by the official Brazilian institutions, to include foreign or private investments.”

This should be most reassuring to Mr. Grassi, after what he and maestro Malheiro went through at the Municipal.

Perhaps one day he can meet up with the fiery conductor and share a laugh or two, over strong cups of black coffee; together, they can even try to let past bygones be bygones-unless, of course, the maestro’s “cultural memory” has itself been all-too-well preserved.

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 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
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?

By Lance Belville
The San Francisco’ International film Festival (SFIFF), America’s oldest, kicked off its two-week run (April 20 to May 4) with a screening of Sergio Machado’s Lower City (Brazilian title, Cidade Baixa) as one of the opener films. Four of the seven Brazilian films scheduled to play the SFIFF enjoy their first screenings in the first three days of the event. Films from Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Mexico will also play the festival.

This film festival, the granddaddy of them all in the USA, will project 227 films – among them 97 features – from 41 countries over its two-week run. The official program guide is a hefty 208 pages.

In previous years, the San Francisco International Film Festival has won distinction for championing films from lesser-known directors from around the world. It showed the films of Abbas Kiarostami from Iran when his work was virtually unknown in the United States and continues its support with a showing of a short from the Iranian master this year. And the SFIFF has been a longtime friend to Brazilian filmmakers showing the work of many over the years.

Lower City showed to a virtually sold out house in one of the Festival’s largest venues in prime time at the festival’s first full night of screenings. And with it the Brazilian industry established a strong presence among the crowded field here.

Although the audience here was heavily weighted with Brazilian expats and Americans with some connection to Brazil, the subject matter of the film proved strong for the American audience. A number of audience members decamped during the showing, something I have never seen before in a hipper-than-mainstream SFIFF house.

Readers in Brazil may be familiar with the film. It concerns itself with a bi-racial love triangle between Karina, a blond prostitute (played in a raw tour de force performance by Alice Braga) and a pair of fighting, boozing, robbing buddies, Naldinho (played to sweating perfection by Wagner Moura) and Deco (a sensitive swine sympathetically portrayed by Lzaro Ramos).

The Lower City refers, of course, to that part of Salvador. Karina meets the two by hitching a carona” on their cargo boat to Salvador for a lot of love from her and a little additional cash from them.

After vowing that nothing like a woman’s female parts will come between their lifelong partnership, the two become deeply and passionately in love with Karina, and she with them. They are, of course, not in a world that will deal kindly with their complicated emotions and lifestyles. The cargo business goes sour and while Karina pursues her profession, Naldinho throws fights for a living while Deco has a go at petty robbery.

The lifelong pals are doomed to fight it out over Karina, of course, which they do. And the film ends with a transfixing scene, after the big fight, in which we move from close ups of the eyes of the three lovers to close ups of Karina’s hands squeezing the blood mopped from the battlers’ brows into a tin bowl where the blood of the black man and the white mix in the water she using to clean their wounds.

Brazilians I overheard after the film were voicing the all-too-common Brazilian filmgoer lament, that here is yet another Brazilian film up for export languishing in the world of prostitutes, crime and drugs. While this is superficially true, the film presents a serious and deeply beautiful examination of the struggle to love and survive under devastatingly difficult circumstances. It is a deeply realized discussion of the minefield of human emotions involved in racial relations as applicable to the United States as it is to Brazil.

The story is shot with starkly beautiful images of the ugly realities of the Lower City. And here, probably, lie some of the problems for American viewers. The graphic love scenes between Karina and her black and white lovers are seen early and often throughout the film, something American mainstream film audiences have never seen. And there is a brutal cockfight early in the first reel. And the vociferous American animal rights movement which pickets Ringling Brothers Circus for making elephants do trick; who knows their reaction if they got wind of this film?

The attractive and very personable Ms. Braga-niece of Sonia-was in attendance for the showing and did an hour-long Q & A following the film. Most of the audience stayed for the lively back and forth. She spoke at some length about the difficulties of keeping the love scenes evenly divided between Karina’s black lover and white lovers.

Lower City plays again later in the festival. And all three of the stars in the film will be seen in other Brazilian films during the run of the festival.

Note the cover picture is from the SFIFF, with Alice Braga talking to fans (photo taken by Lance Belville).

Lance Belville formerly worked for UPI and then the American Broadcasting Company in Brazil. He currently lives on a houseboat and visits Brazil frequently. A play of his, POPE JOAN, is due for production in Rio later this year.

Previous articles by Lance:

Brazil’s Kayapó Tribe
San Francisco International Film Festival: ALMOST BROTHERS Adds More Fans To Its List of International Devotees
San Francisco International Film Festival: Nelson Friere Documentary Enchants Audiences
San Francisco International Film Festival: Three Brazilian Films”

0 Comments/by

By Mark Taylor
24th April, 2006

When I first arrived here I wasn’t expecting Brazilians to be rolling around in the mud, but equally I wasn’t prepared for just how seriously some Brazilians take cleanliness.

I’d never viewed myself as an excessively dirty person (I typically have one shower per day whether I need it or not) but my wife will often bully me into taking a second or third shower, and I know that I’m not alone in this. Of course Brazil is often a hot country so perhaps this is warranted to some extent, at least that’s my wife’s excuse!

Even so, Brazilians can often take great pride in their appearance, women in particular often getting their nails cleaned, tidied and painted regularly, or visiting the Chiropodist to have their toes and feet checked and cleaned. Another example of the approach to cleanliness is in clothing style. Although Brazilians do dress casually, they tend to lean more towards smart casual. A Goth or grunge styled Brazilian is a rare thing to witness, although I’ve noticed an increasing trend in teenagers following their US counterparts (and by default the rest of North America and Europe), no doubt at least partly due to the influx of US and to a lesser extent European TV programmes in Brazil.

Regular teeth cleaning is another common thing to see, with teeth typically being cleaned after every meal. It’s typical to walk into the gents around lunchtime in a shopping centre and see several guys bearing their pearly whites" at the mirror. In fact my teeth feel positively furry now after lunch, and I feel obliged to clean mine as well. Once I popped into a shopping centre toilet and was amused to see a policeman, replete with gun and truncheon, engaging in some oral hygiene.

Cleanliness in the home is often taken very seriously also, facilitated perhaps by cheaper hired help in relation to North America and Europe. It’s not uncommon to see the 50s style home with plastic covered chairs and sofas (although I’m sure we have the odd family member who still engages in this). This is aside from often seeing the concrete or tiled front of a house and backyard having every corner regularly and dutifully hosed down, to the point where a single fragment of dirt will be blasted from one end to the other. Curious to see in a country where water is often cited as a precious resource.

I’ve debated with my wife as to why Brazilians (typically middle and upper class) take cleanliness more seriously than say North Americans and Europeans. One reason I’ve seen written about before is that Brazilians are keen to differentiate between themselves and the lower class, say those living in the slums. One key difference is dressing smartly and looking ultra clean. Whether that’s really the case, or some other cultural nuance is hard to say for sure.

Do you find Brazilians take cleanliness seriously, or the opposite? If the former, any theories as to why they do? Do I just need to take more showers? Let me know at <a href="mailto:mark@www.gringoes.com">mark@www.gringoes.com</a> and I’ll add your comments to the article.

Readers Comments:

I have a couple other observations and a reason (about cleanliness).

1) Brazilians are very conscious about dirt from the ground outside the house (da rua). You don’t sit on the bed in street clothes because your pants have the dirt from the street and you will get it on the sheets.

2) Also, people wear flip-flops (what is that word in Portuguese?) around the house, but if they want to bring their feet up on the sofa, the flip-flops are automatically left on the ground. (I have trouble remembering to do this.)

3) A Brazilian-American friend of mine wrote a book based on her life in poor, rural, Goias state. In the farm communities, a nightly ritual was for the women to wash the feet of men before the men entered the bedroom at night.

I think Brazil has been poor and dirty for a long time. The home and especially the bedroom are sanctuaries of relative cleanliness in a very dirty world. So, there are rituals to maintain that state.

— Ethan

<i>You are correct in your observations: middle/upper-class Brazilians do indeed attach high importance to personal hygiene. Actually, so also do many poor people, at least when it comes to taking daily showers. Compared to South Asia, for example, one encounters much fewer people reeking of sweat!</i>

The reasons are the climate, but probably mostly cultural. Brazilians often joke about the famous Europeans, especially French, who until 100 years or even more recently used to bath only once a week or even less (*). Obviously, this was dictated as much by the absence of modern bathrooms and piped hot water, as well as the harsh winter, as by culture. Being a young country, Brazil luckily isnt weighed down by this history. Brazilians apparently consumes more deodorant and toiletteries per capita than anyone else – good for Unilever, Natura et all!.

(*) By the way, the Japanese (of whom there are many descendants here) are also famous for their hygiene – if youve read Shogun, youll remember their calling the Europeans who first landed there in the 16th century barbarians.

— Jacques

<i>My Brazilian wife has been teaching me just how serious Brazilians take personal hygiene. Some of the examples you cited, as well as in the comments hit very close to home. It can be exasperating at times. My wife was shocked that I washed my clothes in like colors. One should NEVER wash intimate clothes with other outer garments. It’s just not done.</i>

And yet while we were driving in São Paulo and having a conversation about this very thing, she stared out the car window and looked at the dirty streets, the graffiti filled walls, the bags and piles of garbage in the open fields. She remarked that if Brazilians were really proud of their country and themselves, then it wouldn’t just be personal hygiene they cared about. It’d be their surroundings as well.

Personally, I once saw a well dressed Brazilian gentleman inside an airport while waiting for his luggage spit on the floor. I had never seen that before (and thankfully never since) but it was something that I saw in various other forms whenever I have visited Brazil.

It’s an interesting dichotomy.

— Max

Recently read your article and the comments of other readers. It was the last one that I was glad to read. The filth in this city of São Paulo is utterly atrocious! I come from Canada and in each province there are by-laws with huge fines for littering. I have been to a couple of the city parks and noticed the lack of garbage cans. This is also evident in the streets of the city. In Canada as well as the states, this would never be the case! I witness daily, the lack of respect that Brazilians have for their city of São Paulo where people, young and old, throw litter of all sorts from their cars, walking down the street or from their windows. The rivers stink to high heavens with the trash that accumulates because people just dont give a damn and throw their trash where ever they feel. It is just a lack of respect as well as education.

— Linda

Your text was like therapy for me, as my girlfriend litters me with mental abuse regarding this subject. And to give her perspective "Americans are slobs."

Why are Brazilians clean freaks? Because it has always been so cheap to keep to things clean. For example, I have a Brazilian friend who told me that she has never made her bed in her life. The result of this is a necessity to maintain class status. As if to say that if the place isn’t spotless, then you are poor. And heaven forbid that somebody may think that you are not wealthy.

Where I come from we aren’t so worried about whether other people think we are rich or not.

– Jerel

As a Brazilian living in Europe for a quite long time, it’s funny to read this article, as we indeed care a lot about cleaning.

I could agree with many things said but the Brazilian cleanliness has nothing to do with "differentiate themselves between and the lower class", we learn on early age that it is acceptable to be poor but not dirty! As a volunteer worker I have been in very poor places, including "favela da Rocinha" and it’s amazing of besides the lack of infra-structure people keep their place spotless. I guess you all would agree that there is noway of somebody who live in "favela da Rocinha" wouldn’t look poor.

Once I moved to The Netherlands I was amazed to see my colleagues to go work with the same shirt they had the day before, still once you choose to live abroad the better way to deal with differences and try to understand the reason for it. Very nice website, well done Mark!

In another hand, Jerel makes me sick with his comments.

— Juliana

I have to agree with Juliana and disagree with Jerel. The ‘obsession’ with personal hygiene is about self-esteem, respect for others and practicality:

– self-esteem: why impose upon yourself the desperate circumstances of the marginais, when you have access to running water and a washing machine? Keeping clean and cheiroso is not an attempt to mock the homeless but is partially to do with respecting oneself.

– respect for others: anyone who has had to contend with the London Undergound in the summer will know that a shockingly high percentage of commuters do not wash before leaving home. The stench on the way home is beyond description…

– practicality: personal hygiene is essential in the tropics. My wife has commented that if the UK were a tropical country, the population would be decimated by plague/cholera/etc such is the disregard for personal hygiene.

On a lighter note, there is some amusing stuff around this topic. Has anyone seen (largely) female relatives dousing hands with the ubiquitous alcool before handling someone’s newborn (to avoid infection, natch), then smothering the poor creature in kisses? LOL!

I believe the dichotomy of filthy cities (São Paulo is mentioned) and spotless homes dovetails with the ‘private prosperity, public squalor’ creed inherited from colonial times. I would add that Brazilians consider the apartment block to be an extension of home: they cooperate closely with neighbours to ensure that common areas are dignas and that the block does fall into decadencia. This contrasts with the UK, where people are unconcerned with whatever happens outside their front door. I have a student who lives in a very snazzy new build in London. The corridor was becoming filthy because…it was being used, but not being cleaned! Being a brasileira, she found this intolerable (and bizarre: ‘this block is expensive!’) and harassed the managing agent into taking action.

— Bill Martin

It’s only natural that if only ‘gringoes’ try to find an answer the debate will easily tend towards speculation. So I’ll give my contribution.

Brazil has had an extremely rapid (still ongoing) urbanization. In rural (and here I mean really aside from modern facilities and ‘products’) places there isn’t something as ‘litter’. Aside from keeping your house clean and ordained there actually doesn’t exist the garbage disposal problem since there are no industrial products and everything is either recycled naturally or easily burnt. Also people may get in touch with tv even before they can actually buy anything, so many long to go to the cities. These people are not dumb, they just had a rearing in a completely different environment. That along with the lack of education, that makes unclean habits (from urban standards) pass towards the next generation, accounts for much of the problem (individualism and political corruption also play a major role).

— Srgio

Just found your website by googling, "Why are Brazilians neat freaks". Yes, my wife to be is a Brazilian, and yes, she is a clean freak. After a long days work, when I just want to go to bed, she wants to take a second or a third shower. If I try to negotiate out of it, she threatens to put a long body pillow between us in the bed.

She washes the dishes by hand before she puts them in the dishwasher, so I can’t tell if the dishes are dirty or clean when I try to empty the washer. She uses the clothes washer twice a day, whereas I just used it once a week (all clothes in the same load). She makes my English Bulldog take baths every two weeks, but I’m not allowed to use the bathtub, so I have to take him to a groomer. She bought me Brazilian shoes so I can wear them from the bed to the bathroom.

I love her, and I will try to change her, but so far she seems to have the upper hand and is succeeding more at changing me.

— Scott

By Stephen Thompson
Why are Brazilian street names so long?

Why does Brazil have public holidays in the middle of the week?

Why do Brazilians say difficult” when they mean “rare” or “unusual”, and “complicated” when they mean “difficult” (in Portuguese).

Why don’t international flights to Brazil stop in the north on the way to the south of Brazil?

Why can’t you turn left when driving in Brazilian cities?

Why are Brazilian rents and telephone charges increased automatically when Brazil is trying to combat inflation?

Why do Brazilian cellphones all have local area code prefixes?

Why can’t you get good bacon in Brazil?

Why don’t Brazilians use bicycles to get to work?

Why do Brazilian newspapers smell so bad?

Why do Brazilian doctors wear white socks and white belts? Isn’t that going too far?

Why is the weather in São Paulo so cold this year? Isn’t this supposed to be a tropical country?

If you have any more “things you wanted to know… and will never know!” send them to us at mark@www.gringoes.com.

Readers Comments:

Why do plumbers, electrictions, etc. set an appointment for a certain hour on a certain day but never show up?

— Hank

Why is the price of a mini-van in Brazil the same price as a Porsche in the USA?

— Robert

Where does all the tax money go?

The economy is said to be booming. How and for who?

Why do Brazilians spend holidays in Mexico?

Why does Santa wear a big old wool suit when it’s 40 degrees outside?

Why can’t a waiter make a living in Brazil? They sure look like they’re working their ass off to me.

— Sean

Stephen Thompson runs “O Gaucho”, a snack bar serving breakfast, juices, smoothies and sandwiches. Galeria 2001, 2001 Avenida Paulista, São Paulo. For an English menu contact stephenthompson@hotmail.com

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

Brazil: Expensive, Trendy, and Extremely Beautiful
Brazil: Not Really British Enough
Package Holidays to Brazil are Back On Track
Brazil: Reverse Culture Shock
Brazil: The Legal System
Brazil: Saying Goodbye to a Bilingual Kid
How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy