Meet Steven Engler, from Canada, who has been travelling to and working in Brazil during the last 20 years. 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 was born in Prince George, in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. I grew up in Hedley, Meadow Creek, Penticton, Creston, and Princeton (with a year of high school in Brazil), studied at Universities in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montral, and taught/researched (Philosophy and Religious Studies) in Vancouver, Montral, Camrose, Edmonton, and Calgary. I am in Brazil on a two-year leave from my job as a Religious Studies Instructor at Calgary’s Mount Royal College. That means, in Brazilian terms, that I’m from Prince George, and, in Canadian terms, that I’m from Calgary.

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

I first came to Brazil in 1978-79. I spent a year as a Rotary exchange student in São João da Boa Vista, a small city in the interior of São Paulo near the border with Minas Gerais. I learned the language and loved the music, food, climate, and social life. I returned in 1982 to spend six months visiting friends and traveling the country: up the coast by car, bus, and sailboat from Rio to Belm, by boat to Manaus, by bus to Porto Velho, by train to Campo Grande, and then down into Paran via Asunción, before returning to São João. I kept in touch and exchanged visits with friends over the intervening years.

I am currently spending a year as a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, supported by a grant from the Fundaão de Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP). I am also an adjunct researcher at the Centro “Cardeal Arns” de Estudos Interdisciplinares (CECREI) at the PUC/SP, working on relations between science and religion. (I was interviewed on Rede Vida recently discussing this subject.) I have been teaching, serving on thesis committees, researching, writing, and attending and speaking at conferences. Brazil is one of the best laboratories in the world for the social scientific study of religion and its relations to other aspects of society.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

That first day, in August of 1978, was filled with disconnected impressions of newness and difference, seen at first from the windows of a car: rich red soil; a thousand shades of green; overloaded Mercedes-Benz trucks with brightly painted wooden rails clogging the narrow highway; the brilliant sunlight, heat, and humidity; an endless stream of Volkswagen fuscas, Braslias, and kombis relieved by the occasional Chevette or Opala; mysterious trees and bushes, many flowering yellow, red, or pink; insane motorcyclists passing and being passed on the edges and in the centre of the asphalt; neat rows of coffee plants and the jumbled bamboo chaos of cane stalks; horse drawn carts on the shoulder of the road; bloated clouds that seemed both larger and more distant than the clouds of home. My host family picked me up, and none of them spoke a word of English. The Portuguese lessons began right away, with much pointing and waving of hands. My pocket dictionary was passed around the car from hand to hand, and we lobbed isolated badly pronounced words back and forth like kids at their first tennis lesson. Above all, I remember the cool and calm of the room I was shown to when we arrived, and where I was left in peace for an afternoon nap: a room with dark parquet floors; floor to ceiling closets; a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall; two fragile-looking wood-frame beds, each with one thin red-checked blanket; and a view out over a tiny yard with a lone papaya tree and a whitewashed wall, and beyond, palm fronds floating in a sea of red tile roofs.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I miss the obvious things: friends and family; the qubecois dimension of Canadian culture; hockey on TV; the bright colours of autumn leaves; the faded green of ponderosa pines; the Rocky mountains in the distance; the silence of snowy morning streets; walking by the Bow River; the smell of lilacs in June; big skies and summer thunderstorms; not to mention more personal space in public, an intelligible grid of city streets, and well-funded university libraries.

Like anyone living abroad, I miss certain foods that are hard or impossible to find in Brazil: Montral-style bagels, dark rye bread that isn’t sweet, Morning Glory muffins, cheddar and feta cheese, vegemite, quality tinned tuna, Boddington’s bitter and Calgary’s own Traditional Ale, crisp romaine lettuce, and, of course, fresh apples and blackberries. After several months here, I have found the feta and versions of or substitutes for a couple of the others. All in all, though, the joy of eating Brazilian foods far outweighs my saudades for the foods of home. Beyond the things all foreigners seem to love (feijoada, churrasco, guaran, and caipirinhas) I am thinking here (my mouth watering) of pão de queijo, bolinhas de bacalhau, carne seca, mandioca frita, cerveja Original, atemóia, doce de abobura com coco, torta paulista, pamonha (“pamonha de Piraicaba!”) and rosquinhas de coco.

I find myself missing a bunch of less obvious things as well, things like waiting for an almost empty bus on a frosty morning, bilingual food labels, making right turns on red lights, and the mix of French, Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Cantonese, Urdu, Russian, and other languages (occasionally even Portuguese) that you hear on Canada’s urban streets. I occasionally hear snippets of Spanish or English in São Paulo, but there is definitely a more imposing linguistic monoculture in Brazil. I also miss finding a well-stocked science fiction section in the bookstores. Stephen King (!) and Erich von Daniken (!!!) are easy to find in the ficão cientfica section, if there is one. But I suspect Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was slightly misshelved.

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

Having consumed enough “chair tea” to last several lifetimes, I no longer consider frustrating the cavalcade of Kafkesque glitches, pitches, hitches, and switches that bedevil such tasks as registering for an R.N.E., opening a bank account, or dealing with cell phone companies. That’s just life. Frustration is the more subtle experience of never quite being able to read all the social and linguistic signals that determine the flexible, improvisational, and intensely personalized interactions of day-to-day life. (Back home I know the rules. Back home there are rules.)

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

One of my most memorable experiences in Brazil was watching the 1982 World Cup and Brazilians’ reactions to it. I was in São Paulo for the penultimate game and was blown away by the carnaval that exploded on Avenida Paulista after that victory. That was my first experience of the power of a Trio Eltrico cranked up to 110 decibels. I felt an even greater impact while out walking at the moment the final game ended, in tragic defeat at the hands of Paulo Rossi and the Italian team: dead-quiet streets, no traffic, and an elderly man crouched against a wall sobbing openly. I could almost see a lone tumbleweed rolling down Paulista to fetch up against a tattered Brazilian flag hanging forlornly from the window of the one car on the street, the driver respecting the red light as if it finally meant something. The 1982 team was amazing, yet failed so miserably. As I write this (not long after the Edmonton Oilers sadly failed to win this year’s Stanley Cup), I am gearing up to cheer for Brazil in their next game, wearing my canarinho, filling up on popcorn, and waiting for the city to erupt in sound after every Brazilian goal. I hope this year’s team, tão badalado quanto, makes up for ’82;.

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

I like the easygoing, open, friendly social relations. Brazilians (to judge from the circles I move in) are less judgmental (more accepting of people for who they are, not to mention accepting “traffic” as a great excuse for any lateness), less hypocritical (running people down behind their back is more public here, which makes it easier to deal with and to dish out in return), and less self-righteous. (This last point in interesting: I have seen everything from this characteristic to government corruption blamed on Brazilians’ “insecurity” when comparing themselves to the “first world”, but I think this is patronizing and simplistic.) Whenever I return home after spending time in Brazil, many of the greetings and smiles that Canadians offer seem insincere. In Brazil, when I ask how someone is doing, they actually tell me, which made me quite uncomfortable at first. Many of the “negative” aspects of Brazilian culture and institutions (especially the badly functioning impersonal “system”) have the positive side effect of emphasizing this importance of personal relations, and of creating spaces for these to work themselves out at their more leisurely pace. Of course, it can all get a bit intense at times. Sometimes I almost miss the supercilious and painted-on smiles of casual workmates and Starbucks clerks back home; after all, they emphasize the privacy of my personal space, making it clear that most of my fellow Canadians are quite happy to preserve our mutual distance. (You ignore my back, I’ll ignore yours.)

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

My favourite place for chopp and petiscos is the Tekinfin in São João da Boa Vista. The food is good, the chopp gelado, and, of course, the company is great. I still have many friends in São João, and my girlfriend is sanjoanense. I have been going to the Tekinfin (more off than on) for many years. It is a loud place, apparently designed, as many Brazilian bars and restaurants seem to be, to maximize the echoing frenzy of excited voices. A thick coating of ice forms around the case that holds the taps and around the thick pipe that delivers the chopp down from the floor above. I find it refreshing on a hot day just to stare at the pillar of ice. The bar opens out onto the sidewalk, where a half dozen tables encourage passers by to stop and chat.

I find that the trick with places like the Tekinfin is to succeed in heading off the waiters as they try to plunk down another choppinho when you are finishing off what you, naãvely, imagine to be your last. They swoop in silently, almost invisible, and deposit a fresh chopp beside any glass that has reached the point of being less than a quarter full. You don’t order another beer; it just appears. Barring catching them at the exact moment of their miraculous apparition, or sending an unwanted full glass back, the only solution is to place a coaster over the glass as a sort of white flag, thus admitting defeat, with a meek “Please, sir, can I have no more?” I prefer to soldier on, hoisting a glass to the waiters when they win yet another another round. (Fortunately, there always seems to be a full glass at hand to toast their victory.) Someday, I may be sufficiently acculturated (or sober?) to see them coming.

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

I had an interesting Portuguese lesson once, talking on the phone to a fellow high school student during my first year here when I was just learning the language. I said something that she found amusing (quite a challenge given my limited vocabulary). She laughingly told me that I was “um barato”. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to show some gallantry, and to demonstrate my grasp of masculine and feminine word endings, I replied suavely that she was “uma barata”. The complement fell a bit flat, given that she called me a hoot and I called her a cockroach.

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

There is a polarity in Brazilian social interactions that continues to surprise me. On the one hand, there is a wonderful warmth and sociability among family, friends, and social connections. On the other hand, there is an incredible lack of respect for people outside that immediate circle, in anonymous situations like driving in the streets, dealing with nameless functionaries, or jostling for position in public spaces. I don’t mean to suggest that Brazil is better or worse than Canada on these or any other counts. The countries are just different, for a variety of complicated reasons.

Brazilians are individualists in public spaces with good cause. Family and personal relations work; the government and the “system” don’t. One offshoot of all this is a lack of trust: lack of trust that the system will work, and distrust of people outside one’s circle, both views often quite justified. One of the things I miss, living in São Paulo, is people accepting with appreciation (rather than suspicion, gloating, or derision) my polite offers to open a door for them or to allow their car a space in front of mine in traffic. Always the polite Canadian, I have opened doors for people on four continents, and only in Brazil do (a few) people look at me suspiciously and refuse the offer, as if such unusual behaviour on my part might indicate a desire to get in behind and pick their pocket. In one way it is amusing, but there is a vicious circle here. If I don’t think it worth my while to be polite to strangers, why would I expect them to respect me? If they don’t respect me, why should I be polite to or trust them? I open doors to strangers in Canada because, as a general rule, my experience backs up my confidence that they would do the same for me. If I had grown up in Brazil, this would not have been my experience. (But I would definitely be better at working the jeitinho.)

All in all, it is a lot more interesting and pleasurable to slowly catch on to the Brazilian way of doing things. I find Canada a little too cold, in more than degrees Celsius. In social and personal terms, I prefer life in Brazil (close social relations are more social here); although in professional and impersonal terms, I prefer life in Canada (distant social relations are more respectful and dependable there). I like both the calor humano of a Brazilian casa and the cool politeness of Canadian streets. Too bad it’s such a long commute. But Brazil’s positive and negative extremes (the sociability at home and the impersonality away from it) are flip sides of the same coin. All in all, as a Canadian circulating in the Brazilian social economy, I am more than happy with the exchange rate.

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?

I speak, read, and write well. (I have taught graduate courses, spoken at conferences, and published academic papers in Portuguese.) But I still can’t tell where the line between “ali” and “l” is. (English distinguishes neatly between “here” and “there”, and I unconsciously transpose this dualistic logic into the more flexible Portuguese scheme, asking how things are going “l” when speaking to someone on the phone, for example, instead of the correct “a”.) I was at a party a couple of months ago and-switching into learning mode-I asked my girlfriend if the cake (about 4 metres away) were “ali” or “l”. She and two other women in the circle, all Brazilians, agreed that it was clearly “l”. Then I asked if the people standing just this side of the cake (about 3.5 metres away) were “ali” or “l”. Clearly “ali”, everybody agreed. So I walked around for a couple of weeks thinking that “l” starts at 4 metres, until a different conversation proved this too to be wrong. It’s all relative. But I still haven’t figured out what it is relative to. (Maybe I should start asking Brazilian children where things stand, as they seem to pick up this subtle distinction quite handily.)

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

Brazilian culture is personal. It is easy to have a superficial connection with Brazilians but hard to know them well. (I don’t claim to know more than a handful at all well. I feel like I am just past the phase of breaking the ice, having known my soon-to-be-in-laws for a quarter century.) This leads to a lot of stereotypes, as outsiders judge public faces and behaviours, not what goes on in hearts and homes. Unless you commit a big chunk of your life to this (or any foreign) culture, you come away with a narrow and misleading picture. Of course, this is only a problem if you fail to recognize the limitations of your experiences. (In practically terms [seriously!], I recommend spending a few months with map of the world turned “upside down” on your wall to see the way the world really looks.)

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

I suggest going to the nearest padaria, ordering a cafezinho and a pão de queijo, and asking the Brazilians gathered around the counter about places to go and things to do. There is invariably someone who speaks enough English to get the ball rolling, and on that path you will gather moss no more .

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:

Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
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 Mark Taylor
After discussions between the government and various represesnative bodies during the last few months, the way forward for the new terrestrial digital TV standard in Brazil was chosen on June 22nd. The new standard, named Sistema Brasileiro de Televisão Digital” (SBTVD, the Brazilian Digital TV System), will be implemented countrywide with the eventual goal of replacing the current analogue system.

In a statement from the Brazilian government announced back in March they stated that four specific standards would be defined for the various elements of the system, to be used in digital TV. They waxed lyrical about how this would have a huge impact on culture, politics and science and technology within Brazil, with the idea of opening channels up to small TV companies, businesses, government, communities, universities, and the public. Although a cynic might worry about additional channels, when the current channels available on the analogue system aren’t particularly high in production quality overall.

Although it was much vaunted as a chance for Brazilian technology, the digital TV systems under analysis were from Europe and Japan. Ultimately the system from Japan was that most likely to receive consideration. An open letter from Brazilian university professors criticised the limited choice by the communications minister Hlio Costa, particularly when a technology produced by a combination of 22 Brazilian institutions had been ignored.

It seemed even clearer the government were going to choose a Japanese standard when negotiations with Japanese companies for a factory were underway earlier in the year. Also the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation has offered further support in the form of loans for around US$500 million to prepare infrastructure. Calls from telephony companies were also ignored when they recommended in a collective document to the government that the European DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) system be adopted, as it was already being used in 57 countries. The Japanese standard is only used in Japan. The European standard used a cell type distribution though, opening a market for cell operators, so the telephony companies had a vested interest in seeing this standard adopted. The Japanese system uses direct transmission negating the need for cell type operation.

The Japanese system has been supported by Brazilian TV stations though, as it is technically superior. Although Brazil will modify the standard to suit its needs. The consumer will be required to buy a set top box (around R$200) which can be used with any reasonably modern TV. The Japanese system also already offers High Definition television (HDTV), although this will require a new and significantly more expensive television (currently costing around R$15,000 minimum). HD is already being shown on limited channels in the US and Europe with bespoke systems. Good news to film fans, at least those on services like NET, is that relevant content should be broadcast in widescreen.

Plans to implement the system are likely to start in São Paulo, followed by Rio and other principal capitals. It’s estimated that it will take ten years to cover the majority of Brazil, and that the broadcast market could reach around US$20 billion.

If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would simply like to contact him then email mark@www.gringoes.com.

Previous articles by Mark:

Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: Manners
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazilian TV
Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

By Mark Taylor
A big thanks from Ciara and us at www.gringoes.com to all those who asked to be added to the petition for NET to reinstate BBC World, TV5 and TVE on their analog service (see our previous article). We were even contacted by TV5 in support of the petition, who also pointed out that their channel is second only to MTV in terms of availability around the world. All your comments have been forwarded to NET so let’s hope they change their mind.

If you missed the first article and would like to add your name to the petition then send an email with your name to mark@www.gringoes.com.

Here’s a summary of some of the comments we received:

I would like Net to reverse this decision and put BBC World, TVE and TV5 back on its basic analogue system

— Fabio Santana

Missing BBC, and I’m on a building system.

Grateful put me on list of people complaining.

Thanks & regards,

— Ian Davison

WE WANT BBC BACK ON AIR. WE CANT LIVE WITHOUT IT !!!!!

TELL US HOW WE CAN HELP MORE.

— Sattyendra Muley

Moises Zeferino is a NET client and wants to join the complaint list.

We want BBC World back !

Regards

— Moises & Steffen

I am very unhappy that BBC World is no longer vailable on my NET package.

— Bjarne

Please add my name to the complaint list for NET. I am especially angry that BBC has been taken out (without the slightest notice!). For the TV5 France, I received a letter according to which NET will install, free of charge, e digital decodifier; but nothing about BBC.

— Jacques Allain

I certainly want to complain.Put my name on the list.I want the BBC back!What else do you need from me? let me know.Best regards

— James Sinclair

Yes please put BBC World, TVE and TV5 back on net virtua cable.

— Rick Brown

My name is Ivan Nieves and I’d really like to put my name on the list which will be sent to NET.

— Ivan

Should they reverse their decision? They should have never taken the decision to take it off in the first place! The best news, Top Gear, Sport Today, they finally got rid of Richard Quest , it was all too good to be true! I knew it couldnt last much longer. I know we are a small English community here in São Paulo but to subject us to CNN and expect nothing to be said. Come on! Ridiculous decision in my opinion but am now use to these sort of decisions after 7 years in a country where their version of common sense never ceases to amaze me.

Regards,

— Malcolm

Myself and my husband want BBC back asap.

— Catherine and Fabio Santana

I have upgraded already to not lose the service….not very happy about it.,……but….BBC was on channel 96/98 for a while after it disappeared from 59…

Add me to the list….

— Michael

Please add me to the list of complaining gringoes! Bring back BBC and Fox news.

Regards,

— Kathi Powels

I would like to support the request to make NET reverse this decision about removing BBC World.

Best regards

— Egil Fujikawa Nes

Yes, I want to participate of campaign to bring BBC World back:

— PAULA TERUKO HAYASI

I would love to have the TV5 channel back, as I’m learning French at the moment.

— Luciane Conceião.

I agree 100%! they’re an absolute disgrace! no respect whatsoever for the viewers!

— all the teachers and students at the Cultura Inglesa!….

Yes please add my name to the list of people not happy to see the BBC disappear off our screens!

Best Regards

— Paul McMahon

You have my full support to lobby Net to bring back the BBC World Service.

— Ivan Clark

Meu nome Ligia Urbina Telles e sou assinante da NET. Gostaria de voltar a ter os Canais BBC World, TVE e TV5 sem alterar meu plano.

Um abrao,

— Ligia Telles

please add my name to those who want the channels back…good luck!

— Melanie Capelin”

By Joe Lopes
We continue with part 2 of Joe’s article. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.

In recounting the liberating effect” this epiphany had on his subsequent literary output, the author sheepishly disclosed to fans that he “didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that.that’s how my grandmother used to tell stories, the wildest things with a completely natural tone of voice.”

The astounding musical conception that emerged from this fictional backdrop-a marvelous compendium of hallowed themes (“love, redemption and transfiguration”) both familiar and sublime to followers of composer Richard Wagner-takes root in the natural world, the tactile, all-enveloping physical realm of tropical flora and fauna, something the nature-loving German master would have found great affinity for, while not straying too far afield from its essentially preternatural state.

Catn explains it further: “The fantastic elements (in magical realism) really are symbols for some emotional or internal solution to a problem dressed in this exotic way. But the solutions to situations are internal solutions-not like a deus ex machina-that get presented in a poetic way.”

As director Andrew Morton, who remounted the successful 1996 world-premiere presentation of Florencia in Houston for its 2001 return engagement, in addition to supervising the 1997 production at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, so deftly elucidates for us: “What it means is that strange things go on which are metaphors for the feelings and emotions which the characters are experiencing.”

One of these “strange things” is eloquently conveyed in the lead baritone role of Riolobo, El Dorado’s resident steersman-in reality, a mercurial, form-changing figure who is not quite what he seems: part magical tour-guide, part Greek chorus-style commentator, he’s an operatic second cousin to the gods and nobles once embodied by celebrated male castratos of the gaudy Baroque period.

A dashing free-spirit of the rainforest region as well, Riolobo (or “River-Wolf”) is also the grand manipulator of environmental events-such as the sudden pink rainstorm that washes the characters clean at the close of the first-act curtain-that gives the opera its mysterious air and feel. He is no match, however, for the mythical Amazon itself.

Indeed, the world’s mightiest river takes on a musical life of its own, thanks to the tender loving care Catn lavished on it in characterizing this vital aspect of his work: “I learned about the dangers of river navigation, and also about the psychological states the Amazon induces in its travelers; the way it conjures up their most secret desires and deepest fears.”

Praised by critics for his “finely honed sense of theater” and “wonderful command of sonority,” the composer was unjustifiably pounced upon by others for his alleged indifference to the rich legacy of native-Indian sources seemingly at his beck-and-call.

“I was not interested in caricaturing any indigenous element in the Amazon,” Catn was quick to counter. “When thinking about the way I would capture the music of the river, or the soul of the river, I decided to use a lot of wind instruments and a lot of percussion instruments. It seemed to me [those] would be the right ones to capture the flow of the river, and the way it constantly changes as it flows.”

A cursory peek at the opera’s 45-piece construction would seem to corroborate this point: it reveals a decided shortage of strings, supplemented in turn by such exotic-sounding additions as tubular bells, marimba, djembe, ukulele, mandolin, accordion, harmonium, electric organ, synthesizer, and something called a sarrusophone-an unwieldy cross between a saxophone and a bassoon.

In acknowledging the score’s one-of-a-kind sound-design, director Francesca Zambello, who, along with set designer Robert Israel, was responsible for the original Houston and Los Angeles co-productions, eagerly confirmed that, “Nowadays, we are returning to an era when people want music to be something that relates to their emotional world. Daniel writes music that people have an immediate response to.[his] style is very romantic, lush and emotionally expressive. It’s quite direct and powerful.”

Florencia is Flourishing, But Not Only in the Amazon

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. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
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 Mark Taylor
We continue with part 3 of Mark’s article, about a recent programme in the National Geographic series Megacities focused on São Paulo, and some of the surprising efforts underway to not only save the city from all the rubbish it produces, but in recycling, and recycling research. To read previous parts click the link at the end of the article.

The Government Catches Up

Although business has seen the virtues of recycling for some time, the government is trying to catch up in fighting pollution. In the past few years around 58,000 trees have been planted, and 2,000 square kilometres of green area has been added.

An Urban Agriculture programme was started in 2003 to try and help the poor, as well as clean up blighted land. Vehicle pollution inspections were supposedly toughened to reduce vehicle emissions by 30%, although a quick look around São Paulo’s roads will give evidence at odds with the testing regime.

The COSIPA Steel Mill

Located in Cubatão, the COSIPA steel mill used to produce both air and water pollution but has cleaned up its act over the last few years. COSIPA have spent around a quarter of a billion dollars in new equipment to either capture pollutants or recycle elements from the production process. This almost matches dollar for dollar the machinery used in production itself. Recycling isn’t a new thing to COSIPA in some senses though, as their main product has always been made partly from scrap. Steel is the world’s most recycled material, around 400 million tonnes are recycled a year, enough to construct almost a thousand Golden Gate bridges. Unlike the previously mentioned aluminium can recycling plant, the COSIPA plant isn’t quite so fussy and will recycle any scrap steel e.g. appliances, cars, ships, trains and even the guts of old buildings.

The refining process for the recycled steel starts with a gigantic cauldron that is loaded with both scrap steel and pig iron, an impure form of iron (in the ratio of around 4 to 1). The mixture is then heated to around 1350C. The cauldron itself can hold around 140 tonnes of metal, the weight of two Boeing 757s. A chemical reaction between the steel and iron is rapid, and the process is much easier than the previous method which used open hearth furnaces, which took around 9 hours. The new process takes only 45 minutes, thanks to the Basic Oxygen Furnace.

The Oxygen Furnace is a relatively old technology from the 1950s, but this old process has itself been refined and taken into the 21st century. COSIPA is the second refinery to license the CoJet process. This first involves charging the furnace with scrap steel and molten iron, and then a lance with a patented tip is inserted into the mix, and 99% pure oxygen is blasted through the tip at Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound). Again the temperature is raised to around 1350C. The yield from the furnace is high purity steel, although impurities still remain and are removed by limestone which is added to the mixture. The impurities then float to the surface as a layer of slag, and the liquid steel is tapped from the bottom of the furnace. Even the slag is recycled though, for use in road surfaces and fertilisers.

The refined liquid steel is converted into slabs, approximately 5 metres in length and weighing around 10 tonnes each. The slabs then sell for around US$500 – 600 a tonne, making the recycling a lucrative process.

Part 4 next week…

If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would like to contact him then email mark@www.gringoes.com.

Previous articles by Mark:

Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: Manners
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazilian TV
Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

By Joe Lopes

There’s No Need to Fear, Timão is Here!
Don’t worry,” my father assured the rowdy bunch of soccer aficionados that had gathered outside the Cinco Esquinas (Five Corners) bar and grill, near the central part of the city known as Par, “Corinthians will do it.”

“What? You can’t be serious?” exclaimed Azevedinho, one of dad’s old cronies. “Annibal, tell me you’re joking?”

“That stupid team hasn’t won a damned thing in years,” roared another, “and you’re saying they’ll be champions? Quick, someone, get a doctor!”

“I’m telling you, Corinthians will win,” dad repeated, with even more bravado than before. “I’ll cut off my neck if they don’t go all the way,” he declared, as he defiantly left the bar, followed by the raucous crowd of doubting Thomases.

Dad was on his way to Morumbi Stadium, an imposing Coliseum-like structure situated in the choicest section of São Paulo, accompanied by my mother, her younger sister, and his brother-in-law. They were to be the guests of my father’s oldest nephew, Frede, who was shortly to become the chief administrator of Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, and were to celebrate his timely promotion in fairly big fashion: by going to the concluding match in the Paulista Championship between the underdog black-and-white-striped Timão (the name Corinthians followers gave their club) and the Ponte Preta squad.

Arriving early at the stadium, they sat down behind a glass-enclosed partition, in a specially reserved corporate booth, cushioned from the delicate blows of paper cups, flying debris, and stray confetti strewn about everywhere by the thousands of delirious soccer fans assembled for this exciting occasion.

The date was October 1977, and Corinthians had last won the elusive Paulista title back in 1955, the year after my birth. Since then, the club had weathered 22 dismal seasons of ever-worsening drought conditions without ever having won a single campeonato. It was more than time for the team to make up the lost years and break this nearly quarter-century curse inflicted upon them-and dad did not want to miss out.

“Thanks be to God,” my father pronounced upon his return to New York City, after having taken the month off to visit family and friends, “Corinthians did it.” At this point, he furtively crossed himself, which I correctly took for reverence.

“They did?” I quickly noted, giving my parents a big welcome home hug. “Did what?”

“They won the Paulista Championship,” he croaked, in barely audible tones.

“What happened to your voice?” I inquired.

Mom then intervened, and explained that my father had yelled himself hoarse at the stadium after Corinthians had finally regained their championship club crown.

“Oh, I see,” was my absent-minded reply.

Undisturbed by my lack of interest in this latest news flash, dad asked how I had spent the last four weeks that they had been away.

“Well, I went out last Sunday to Giants Stadium with Uncle Daniel,” I answered, “and we both saw Pel’s final match with the Cosmos and his old team, Santos.”

“How was the game?” dad whispered, his words taking on the sound quality of a badly tuned radio broadcast.

“Boring. No goals, no thrills, no nothing. And the weather was awful, too. Cold, damp, and drizzly.”

“What did you expect from soccer in October?” he snorted. “Ridiculous!”

“Yeah, but there were 77,000 people in the stands. And Pel gave a farewell speech at the end. How was it at the stadium in São Paulo?” I asked innocently.

As if in blind obedience to some invisible, preconceived cue, dad pulled out his copy of the most recent edition of the Brazilian magazine Manchete.

“See for yourself,” he asserted proudly.

There, on its front and back covers, was a splendid panoramic display of Morumbi Stadium, filled to the rafters with 150,000 screaming fans. Huge plumes of gray smoke issued from every conceivable vantage point, along with hundreds of fire cracker explosions, dozens of colorful balloons, miles of waving banners, and bushels of ticker-tape streamers, all vividly capturing the festive Carnival atmosphere provoked by Timão’s amazing victory performance-with my parents smack-dab in the middle of it all.

“Wow,” I mused to myself, wishing like crazy that I had been there with them, “it must’ve been quite a show.”

“You wouldn’t have believed it,” said dad, all misty-eyed and venerable for once, “but your mother and I witnessed it. Imagine nothing for 20 years and then, all of a sudden, a miracle. And I told everyone that because I was there, cheering for Corinthians, that they simply had to win, but no one believed me.”

My father’s voice was almost gone now, as he went to the kitchen to get a glass of water to soothe his aching throat.

“I bet they believe you now, huh dad?” I smiled knowingly, while gawking at the magazine photograph.

“Pois ,” was his strained final say on the matter, “yes, indeed.”

Part 2 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. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
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?

(The Adventures of 2 Brazilian Students at American Universities)
By Rita Shannon Koeser

Going Home”
Hugging and kissing everyone all the time, rice and beans with every meal, a maid to cook every meal, cafezinho. These are some of the things, not necessarily in order, that Solange and Fernando look forward to when they return to Brazil. Not to mention the happy craziness of arriving in Brazil during the world cup. New York, cheesecake, black squirrels, friends, and a cute little godson named Owen, are some of the things they will miss here. After five years of studying at universities in New Jersey, USA , they have graduated, and with their degrees in hand , it is time to go home. They are headed for new jobs, new friends, a new life. Their families are happily awaiting their arrival. But after five years, it will be hard to leave the place they have called home for so long.

“I’m very sad to be leaving”, said Solange with tears in her eyes amid packing crates, boxes and half packed luggage. “I have a godson here whom I love very much. I like the life style. Princeton is very special, and my American friends are dear to me”.

Owen begged them to stay. All of their friends are sad. But Solange and Fernando will remember the fun, the good times, their friends, their schools and of course, their pet squirrel, filomena! They will try to forget the food, George Bush, American television, and other bad stuff. They loved the good times, and they got through the bad times. It was always a challenge. With Charles Dickens, they could say “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” There were times they wanted to say with Albert Einstein, Princeton’s most famous resident who lived here from 1933 to 1955, “I am very happy in my new home in this friendly country and the liberal atmosphere of Princeton.” Then there were times they would have agreed with Woody Allen “.a vast primitive wasteland..New Jersey” .

Before they departed for Brazil, I asked them to reflect on their five years here, what it meant to them, and how it would impact their future lives..

Solange and Fernando (on the right) having Thanksgiving dinner with their American friends.

Q. Were most Americans interested in and knowledgeable about Brazil?

A. Yes, they asked lots of questions and wanted to know about the lifestyle and culture. Except for the ones who thought Spanish was the language of Brazil and Buenos Aires was the capital that is! But most people were knowledgeable. However there were some who lumped all of South America together as Spanish speaking, banana republics, all of whom had Buenos Aires as their capital! There weren’t too many of those, thankfully.

Q. Did you feel accepted here?

A. Yes, Americans were very friendly, but we quickly learned that you don’t hug and kiss everyone that you meet. It shocked some of my American friends, especially the ones I didn’t know well, when I was constantly hugging and kissing them!! This was true of the Europeans and Asians I met here, too. So, I had to learn to tone down my Brazilian exuberance.

Q. what was the best part of your experience here?

A. There were several things. The education at our universities was superb. The professors were tops, and in some cases, they were world renowned in their fields. There are lots of things, but our godson, Owen, is at the top of the list. He is the adorable five year old son of some American friends. These friends honored us when he was born by asking us to be his godparents. We loved being close to New York, the theaters, the culture, museums, famous attractions. It is a special town.

Q. what was the worst part of your experience?

We didn’t like American food. It was too fattening and greasy. American television, like Brazilian television, has a lot of junk. It was only on the public radio and television stations that we found quality programs. We didn’t care for George Bush and his policies, especially his war in Iraq. In fact we even campaigned for his opponent, John Kerry, in the 2004 presidential election. Even though we were guests in this country and not citizens, we felt that, because we lived here, we could have a say in the government, too. We were sad when John Kerry lost.

Solange (in red) with her friends Rita (in black) and Neuza at a going away party for Solange.

Q. Was it easy to obtain a visa to study here?

A. No, it was difficult. You can apply for a visa after receiving an offer from a university. You have to prove that you have money to pay the tuition, clothes, food and living expenses. The schools give you an estimate saying how much money you need, and you have to prove it by bank statements. There are always long lines at the immigration offices. We had to spend a whole day there in São Paulo. The service was poor. There weren’t enough people in the office to serve everyone efficiently.

Q. How will your experience here impact your future lives?

A. Living in a foreign culture, learning a new language, new customs, made us look at the world differently and grow as people. We have a broader perspective on the world now, and we can bring this perspective with us to our new jobs in Brazil. Our employers were impressed with our resumes and liked the fact that we had studied at universities in the United States. The opportunity to improve our English while living among native speakers in the United States was priceless.

Q. How did you like living in the Northern Hemisphere, more especially the northeastern part of the United States, with its extremely cold winters?

The first winter here, we thought we would die. But when we finally bought the right kind of winter clothes and learned how to dress properly, it wasn’t that bad. When the heating in our house started working properly that helped, too. But we got to where we loved the snow and even learned to ski. It wasn’t easy, and we often think how lucky we were that we didn’t break any legs, wrists or ankles that first winter. We eventually got pretty good at this sport.

Q. What advice would you give to other Brazilians thinking of coming to study at universities in the United States?

A. I would say go for it .It will change your life. You will make lifelong friends, your English will improve tremendously, and it will be a great adventure. There will be many challenges, but it will be a rewarding experience. The education you receive will be tops.

Next and last article… their adjustment to living back in Brazil..

Previous articles by Rita:

Brazilians In The USA Part 6
Brazilians In The USA Part 5
Brazilians In The USA Part 4
Brazilians in the USA Part 3
Brazilians in the USA Part 2
Brazilians in the USA Part 1
Brazil: A Woman Ahead of Her Time
Learning English in Brazil’s Outback
Brazil: An Encounter In The Amazon
Manaus and the Rubber Boom

By Bob McCulley
I travel to Brazil often on business and most of my travels are in Amazonia where very few people speak English. Even in the hotels and shops in Manaus very few people speak English. My business requires me to fly into the interior and it is difficult to find interpreters that are willing to travel with me for extended periods of time.

As a result, I decided to learn Portuguese. I also have a business in the states so it was not possible for me to attend classes in Brazil. I live in the northeast which is a fairly large area with many colleges and universities, so I sought out classes in Portuguese. They are very few and far between and only offered during the day for full time students. I then went on the internet to find help. I bought everything I could find to help me with my quest to learn Portuguese. Despite all my gadgets and electronic aides my progress was slow and I realized I needed to be able to speak with someone in order to improve my pronunciation. I didn’t know any Brazilian or for that matter whether there were any Brazilian in my city. I soon found out there was a large community of Brazilians (mostly undocumented) living on the fringe of the city and in nearby New Jersey.

This is where my story begins, I was introduced to the Brazilian community several years ago by a Catholic missionary. I now teach English each Sunday after mass to his Brazilian parishioners. Many of them have befriended me and this has exposed me to the day to day life and struggle of the undocumented Brazilian immigrants in the USA. For the most part they have one common goal, that is to make enough money to return to Brazil in five years and buy a farm or shop and provide a better life for their family.

Although, I don’t condone them coming here illegally and breaking our laws I have been to the cities and interior of Brazil and seen first hand the poverty and despair. I would not hesitate to do what they have done to provide for my family.

Most of the Brazilian women clean houses in the suburbs and the men work construction. The obstacles to succeed in these endeavors are not speaking English, not having a driver’s license and a social security number. The women can get by without a social security number but driver’s license and understanding and speaking English are essential. The other major obstacle is time. They work long hours and travel long distances to and from their jobs and they have very little time to learn English. Sunday is their only free day and they have tasks to prepare for the week ahead.

Post 9/11 it has become almost impossible to get a driver’s license without documentation, and as a result every traffic stop by police or traffic ticket is a major problem. This has created a booming black market for bogus international driver’s licenses that have no credibility at all with local police, but most Brazilians don’t know that when they pay the US$1,000 to the seller. I have developed a relationship with a local city hall attorney that specializes in traffic violations and I take my Brazilian friends to him with their traffic problems. To date, none have been deported but that may soon change with new proposed immigration law.

Next article: the family from Rio, culture shock…

Bob is a CPA in private practice, an entrepreneur with several businesses in the USA, and a forestry business in Brazil. See brasilforestbargains.com for details. You can contact Bob at robbucky@aol.com.

By Andy Gold

Faking It
My girlfriend knows I’ve been faking it. Once was easy. Twice in an afternoon was more difficult but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I just about managed it. But I defy anyone to simulate passion convincingly four times in one evening.

The build up, the anticipation, has been fantastic. She picks out something for me to wear – a retro number in her favourite colour. We enjoy some food to set the mood, and loosen up over a drink and picture the future but when it really matters we’re in completely different places.

Ronaldo’s equalizer against Japan has my girlfriend leaping around. She’s ecstatic and has plenty of yellow clad friends to share the moment with but my frozen reaction is noticed. Fortunately the ‘galera’ are gathered in a high-ceiling’d spacious lounge otherwise the plaster would be having head and fist shaped holes butted and punched out of it. Brazil add three more goals of high quality and each time I’m belatedly to be found applauding politely.

It’s been a progressive realization that I don’t want Brazil to win. Five days earlier I climbed, not leapt, to my feet as Adriano broke the deadlock with Australia. Later in the same game I produced an audible groan of disappointment when Harry Kewell failed to put away a golden chance into an empty net as the erratic Dida went woefully walkabout. I pretended afterwards it was a sigh of relief but no one was fooled.

Before the World Cup I had announced I would be getting behind Brazil unless they were playing my homeland England. I love Brazil, particularly the hospitality and warmth of the place I’ve made home, São Paulo but clearly with football, however inconveniently, the heart wants what it wants.

As an Englishman I’d normally be about as likely to get behind Australia as a Paulista is to say something complimentary about Rio de Janeiro. But with my rational England hat on I know I want to see Brazil banished to the other half of the draw. No amount of affection for my adopted home actually appears to surpass the fact that I know seeing Brazil out of the tournament opens the way for England. Should I feel guilty about such north-European coldness?

My girlfriend has celebrated every England goal in this World Cup with warm genuine enthusiasm. Admittedly while she high jumps dangerously after each Brazilian goal, for England she only manages a smaller perhaps hurdle clearing leap. I am not entirely pleased by her enthusiasm however. My conclusion is that she does not feel Brazil’s hopes are the least bit threatened by England’s progress into the knockout stages.

Optimism
My host holds up seven fingers and then bends three down as the full time whistle blows on Brazil’s final group F game. Four fingers remain, counting the four games to go. And he clearly thinks winning a sixth title is as straightforward as that. Another friend has just invited the assembled crowd to come and watch the quarter-final at her apartment building next Saturday.

I’ve booked the communal barbecue area, kick off is at 4 o’clock so we can eat before the game.” I am aghast. Truly open-mouthed with shock at such awe-inspiring, superstition free, confidence. Brazil still needs to navigate past Ghana in the second round. I could never plan so far ahead with England, allow myself to be so presumptuous and cocky. In my mind I would so obviously be jinxing the team. Bitter experience with England has taught me to fear each game. The Brazilian experience is that you need only fear not having somewhere good to watch the business end of the tournament.

England and Brazil have been remarkably similar in this World Cup so far. Both have talented players, who have produced results without really impressing and when they have played some attractive football it has been offset by displays of defensive ineptitude.

If I’d just seen the less than heavyweight Japanese strike force score against England and carve out other chances I’d already be resigned to the fact that once again this is not our year. But none of my Brazilian companions are the least bit perturbed as an eventually comfortable win unfolds. The summit is getting closer and the mood is euphoric like mountain climbers starved of oxygen my Brazilians friends are looking upwards and onwards giddily.

Win one more game, bend one more finger down, and Brazil is over halfway to lifting the Cup again. When you’ve climbed a mountain five times before it all seems so much more surmountable. You see no reason why you should slip and fall within sight of the peak.

In England, hidden crevasses and crushing rock falls are being predicted everywhere. In the last week I have read and heard complete nonsense from usually intelligent English broadsheet journalists, including suggestions that Ecuador’s mighty ‘Clockwork Banana,’ (as they are being humorously dubbed by the Quito press in an ode to the Dutch Clockwork Orange teams of ’74; and ’78;) will be too strong for England, and that Portugal and Mexico’s level of creativity has been far more impressive than that of David Beckham’s men.

Fortunately I have been able to find a more measured assessment of England’s chances in the Brazilian press and have not joined my countrymen rocking back and forth quietly in a fit of manic pessimism.

“Of course we’re worried as well” my girlfriend explains as we plough home through a sea of flag-waving cars, tunefully honking horns in celebration. “But when we won in 1994, we had Tafferel in goal. If a team can overcome that, well then anything is possible.”

“This time the first choice full backs don’t have enough energy to run back and defend after they’ve run forwards to attack. Dida is useless and Ronaldo is just standing around, like Romario did back in ’94;, leaving all the hard work to everyone else. But it doesn’t matter this team can find a way to win four more matches.”

We stop at traffic lights under the archetypal grim concrete São Paulo overpass. A young man jumps out of the car behind us and does a flag-waving dance around his car. Four lanes of traffic appreciatively salute, by manically pounding their horns before the lights change and break up the party.

“Hexa-campeão, hexa-campeão” he shouts. It’s as easy as counting to seven on your fingers.

Andy Gold is a journalist and writer living in São Paulo.

Previous World Cup blogs:

Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 2
Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 1

This week’s entertainment guide for São Paulo features a restaurant in Pinheiros, an exhibition at Pinacoteca, this week’s recommended film release, and a roundup of some other upcoming events.

LaTo have a taste of France then head to the La Marie restaurant in Pinheiros. The restaurant itself is small and intimate and quite literally artistically decorated, as all the walls are home to many contemporary paintings (to highlight the art of cooking, or that’s the idea at least). Set at the back of the restaurant is a glass panel filled with 30 different types of herbs, which lend to the atmosphere. The staff are also pleasant and helpful without being intrusive. The restaurant offers the “alcoo executivo” (executive lunch) obviously at lunchtime, where similar to other restaurants you can pick a starter, main dish and have the dessert of the day. Main dishes range from grilled trout to chicken curry (the executive lunch is currently R$25.90, but check the web site for updated prices). For dinner there is a much greater range at individual prices, with starters such as foie gras salad, carpaccio with an oil sauce and capers, and a Greek salad. La Marie currently have a “souffl festival”, so there are those to try. There’s also a range of seafood, meat, poultry, pasta and risotto dishes. Some examples of these include rabbit in olive oil with fettuccine, shrimp in Grappa with salmon torteloni, fillet steak filled with brie and pastrame with a red wine source and risotto rice, and brie risotto with dried tomatoes. Desserts include flambd fruits with lavender ice-cream, pear “Bella Helena” in wine with ice-cream, and currently sweet souffls (but with a 30 minute preparation time, you are best to order these in advance of your main dish). A cute touch at the end of the meal are chocolate truffles presented on ceramic pots filled with dry ice. Expect to pay around R$60 for a typical meal not including wine. Open Monday – Friday: 12pm – 3pm, and 6pm to midnight, Saturday: 6pm – until last customer. Rua Francisco Leitao, 16. Pinheiros. Tel. 3086 2800. http://www.lamarierestaurante.com.br

Lan e Marco ButiThe exhibition Lan e Marco Buti opened last Saturday at Pinacoteca do Estado. The exhibition highlights the different forms of expression from the two radical Italians. Lanfrance Aldo Ricard Vaselli Coarellini Rossi Rossini, or Lan as he’s known (it’s easy to see why!) is a famous cartoonist. Born in Florence, raised in Montevideo, and graduated from Buenos Aires, Lan was famous for his Brazilian political cartoons from the 1950s. The collection comes from the library of Jos Mindlin, with 120 original designs produced between 1963 and 1990, divided into six themes. Marco Buti, born in Empoli and graduated from São Paulo, has an exhibition of around 100 drawings, photos and sculptures from the last 15 years. The theme is looking at the city and the relation with the individual. Ends 27th August. Entry R$4 (free Saturdays). Open Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm. Largo General Osório, 66. Luz. Tel. 3337 0185. http://www.Sãopaulo.sp.gov.br/Sãopaulo/cultura/museus_pinac.htm

Tristan & IsoldeThis week’s film recommendation is Tristan & Isolde (Tristão & Isolda in Portuguese). The medieval romantic epic, set around 600AD, tells the story of the star-crossed lovers. Tristan is an orphan adopted by the English ruler Lord Marke who grows up to be a great knight, and when poisoned during a battle is believed to be dead and is dispatched to sea on a funeral boat. The boat washes ashore in Ireland, and is found by Isolde, and as she cares for him they fall in love. Their relationship is forbidden, and Tristan must return home. Will Tristan and Isolde meet again? The film has been well received, and is of course recommended for romance fans. Rated PG-13 in the USA, and 12A in the UK. IMDB’s page on Tristan & Isolde. Guia da Semana’s page on Tristan & Isolde, with showing cinemas and times.

Here’s a roundup of some other events happening around São Paulo over the coming weeks: US Composer and Trumpet player Terence Blanchard comes to Bourbon Street’s jazz festival on the 18th July (tickets R$120, tel. 5095 6100). The Venezuelan Contemporary Ballet of Caracas are coming to Teatro Municipal on the 30th June and 1st July with pieces from Carmina Burana and Carmen (tickets R$20 – 50, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). US heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio, and his band, are touring with his new CD Holy Diver Live, at Credicard Hall on the 15th July (tickets R$80 – 200, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). The Chinese National Circus are performing with “Millenium” at Via Funchal on the 18th and 23rd of July (tickets R$30 – 150, tel. 3089 6999). The David Simmons Dance Company from the USA are coming to Credicard Hall on the 28th and 29th of July (tickets R$80 – 140, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). Tickets for the 2006 dance season which starts on July 29th at Teatro Alfa are already on sale. The seasons starts with “Plic Ploc” from Cirque Plume (tickets R$178 – 400, tel. 5693 4000). Cirque de Soleil are coming to Espao Vila Olmpia with their show Saltimbanco between the 3rd and 25th August (tickets R$50 – 400, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). Via Funchal is holding the Ramones Fest on August 5th, which brings the drummer Marky Ramone who will be playing with the Brazilian group Tequila Baby. It will also include a performance from US band The Queers (tickets R$80 – 160, tel. 3089 6999). The infamous musical Cats is coming to Credicard Hall between the 9th and 27th August (tickets R$80 – 200, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br).

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 might be of interest to foreigners) that would like to be reviewed by www.gringoes.com, as well as appearing in our 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, June 19 – June 25 2006
What’s On Guide, June 12 – June 18 2006
What’s On Guide, June 5 – June 11 2006
What’s On Guide, May 29 – June 4 2006
What’s On Guide, May 22 – May 28 2006
What’s On Guide, May 15 – May 21 2006
What’s On Guide, May 8 – May 14 2006
What’s On Guide, May 1 – May 7 2006
What’s On Guide, April 24 – April 30 2006
What’s On Guide, March 27 – April 2 2006
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