By Steven Engler
In March my wife and I went to Ilha Bela for a get-away, a weekend retreat for her co-workers and their partners/kids. Ilha Bela is, as the name vaguely suggests, a beautiful island, situated a 3 hour drive from São Paulo. That makes it a bit far for most get-away-for-the-weekend types from the megalottalopolis. (We also spent 100 minutes in the 200-car ferry line-up.) But it was still pretty busy, as summer’s hot and sunny weather (with afternoon deluges) stretched out unusually but pleasantly into autumn.

The main draws are the scenery, the beaches, and hiking trails, with waterfalls to shower under and cool mountain pools to swim in. There are some great restaurants and shops. (If you are thinking of dining on the pier – no doubt a very lively possibility – the pizzeria on the left is the best one; the best ice cream is at Rocha. I had an amazing braised coconut popsicle.) The commercial area is a mixture of shops/residences for locals (with the somewhat run down infrastructure of a seasonal town) and tourist traps (pottery and other art shops, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, water sport rental shops, etc. Tourism and summer home construction has shot up dramatically and consistently over the last 20 years. The island is a favorite stopping place for cruise boats doing the Brazilian coast (a local run): most of the tourists are Brazilian, with a few gringos in the mix.

If you get a chance to visit Ilha Bela, I recommend the DPNY Beach Hotel & Villa, a beautiful and well-appointed beachfront hotel at the very hip praia do Curral. It is very tastefully designed, has one of the top locations on the whole island, and has extremely reasonable prices. We day tripped there (staying at another hotel) and it was wonderful. We sat under the shady leaves of a huge tree, lounging around a sturdy table under a white umbrella, our chairs legs settled into the sand of the beach, ordering drinks and food (fresh calamari and fried mandioca were the favorites). Our group was there for four hours, and we spent R$20 each, including the fee for occupying the table and a half dozen sun recliners. (The place is owned and operated by a taciturn retired German. The name of the place. “DPNY,” reflects the fact that his business enterprise operated in Dsseldorf, Palma de Mallorca, and New York.)

Ilha Bela was discovered in 1502, and named “São Sebastião,” by Amrico Vespucio, the Italian navigator working for Portugal whose name was given to the “Americas.” Its tiny population expanded somewhat in the nineteenth century, in part due to its use as a landing site for the illegal slave trade. Ilha Bela now has a permanent population of about 15 000 on 330-340 square kilometers. It has almost 50 beaches (about 40 km of sand) and several hundred waterfalls in the mountainous interior. About 90% of the island is protected parkland.

A well-known downside to visiting Ilha Bela is the presence of one of the great pests of Brasil, the borrachudo. This nasty tiny black fly (genus Simulium) generally bites feet and ankles (other species are said to like the scalp) at dawn and dusk, leaves red welts the size of a mosquito bite. These do not itch right way, so you don’t even know you are being bitten at the time. In fact, I have never actually seen one on me. But I had the marks of the experience as a lasting reminder: they are miserably efficient for their tiny size. As usual, it is the females who suck blood. They spend 3-8 minutes feasting. A day or two later, the bites start to itch, and this can continue for up to a couple of weeks. The inching about my ankles was quite irritating for over a week. As always, some people get more bites and react more. In some parts of the country (mainly in Amaznia and Rondnia) it is a carrier for the parasite, onchocerca volvulus, that causes “river blindness” or “goldpanner’s disease.”

We went on a motor launch ride around the north side of the island, passing busy housing developments – dense at first, then rare as the road’s end approached. There are dozens of beautiful beaches tucked away along the precipitous rocky coast and vast expanses of unspoiled coastal forest. In some places, the rocks above the high tide line are covered with hundreds of bromeliads and cacti. The forest here forms part of the 5% of the mata atlntica left in Brazil (52 000 of the original 1,3 million square kilometres remain). The mata atlntica has the greatest biodiversity (species per square metre) of any forest in the world. There are worse things than borrachudos in there.

We stopped for lunch at a beachfront restaurant at Guanxumas bay/beach, right around the opposite side of the island. There is nothing there but the small beach and the restaurant. It is accessible only by boat (and, perhaps, by a rough four-wheel drive road through the interior of the island). The prices were only a bit steeper than normal, though there was some serious overcharging for the large fresh fish that we were served. And the beer selection was a bit limited, only Skol and Brahma (both among the top ten best selling beers on the planet). Then we piled back into the boat and motored back around the island.

Before returning to the pier, we circled a very small jewel of an island that is separated from Ilha Bela by a 100-meter straight. This perfect little tropical garden is one of the main scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the area. It is owned by one man, who has put an amazingly beautiful house and two guest houses on this carefully sculpted, palm bedecked slice of paradise. Of course, he is an allegedly corrupt politician who could never have bought the island, let alone build on it, if he hadn’t accumulated huge amounts of graft. (Or so I am told…) It is, of course, illegal to build on such a place, as beaches and islands are protected by law as a patrimony of the nation. He was ordered to tear everything down. He removed the heliport and left the rest. And so things remain…

The north end of the straight between Ilha Bela and the mainland gets a fair bit of wind. Several dozen parasurfers and windsurfers were out on the water, along with a variety of motor launches and jet skis. The wind was brisk, with a light chop. Our launch clipped waves, kicking up spray that peppered H. and me as we sat in the stern. The sun was bright and warm. The emerald forests of island and coast framed the crisp blue waters of the straight. A beautiful day off a Beautiful Island. And no borrachudos at sea…

You can contact Steven at sengler@hotmail.com.

Previous articles by Steven:

Brazil: Politics and Pop Songs
Brazil: Beauty Is in the Eye of the Fan
Brazil: The Sidewalks of São João

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

Sujinho"This week’s recommended restaurant is Sujinho in the centre of the city. The restaurant grew from a bar that opened in the 1960s and has since been famous for its eclectic clientele. For steak lovers the restaurant is a treat, and it is famous for its picanha along with other classic cuts such as the bisteca. Aside from the various grilled delights the restaurant is also famous for its pizza, with the sauce made from a secret family recipe. Expect to spend around R$25 per person per meal. Open from 11:30am – 5am. Rua da Consolaão 2068. Tel. 3259 1447. http://www.sujinho.com.br

PinacotecaEstaão Pinacoteca is showing an exhibition of cartoons from the collection of Jos Mindlin. The cartoons on show include 120 designs that show the famous curvaceous mulatas from Rio de Janeiro, that are both a cultural and political icon. The exhibition ends on August 28th. Pinacoteca also has other temporary and permanent exhibits, and is well worth a visit. Open Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm. Entry is R$4 (R$2 for students) and free on Saturday. Lgo. Gen. Osório, 66. Luz. Tel. 3337 0185. http://www.Sãopaulo.sp.gov.br/Sãopaulo/cultura/museus_pinac.htm

Curious GeorgeThis week’s film recommendation is Curious George (George, O Curioso in Portuguese). The film is taken from the famous books about the little monkey, Curious George. George is found as part of an expedition by the Man in the Yellow Hat (also known as Ted, and voiced by Will Ferrell) who is trying to save his museum from becoming a parking garage. The film is a definitely family favourite with the humour aimed at children, but also likely to make adults laugh. The film has received generally positive reviews. Make sure to check whether the film is dubbed or subtitled. Rated G in the USA, and U in the UK. IMDB’s page on Curious George. Guia da Semana’s page on Curious George, with showing cinemas and times.

Here’s a roundup of some other events happening around São Paulo over the coming weeks: 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). The famous Brazilian singer Maria Rita presents her show “Segundo” (Second) from August 18th to the 20th at Citibank Hall (tickets R$50 – 90, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). The opera La Gioconda will be showing at the Teatro Municipal, with Brazilian soprano Eliane Coelho and Bulgarian tenor Kaludi Kaludow on August 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th and 27th (tickets R$10 – 40, available from Ticketmaster, Tel. 6846 6000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.br). The German dance company of Pina Bausch present their show “For the Children of Yesterday” (Para as Crianas de Ontem) at Teatro Alfa on August 29th to September 3rd (tickets R$30 – 200, Tel. 5693 4000). Famous Brazilian singer Chico Buarque is on tour for the first time since 1999 with his new album “Carioca”. His show will be at the Tom Brasil Naes between August 30th and September 17th (tickets R$80 – 160, available from Ingresso Rpido, Tel. 2163 2000). The rock festival Live ‘n’ Louder is coming to Anhembi on October 14th, and famous Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura will be playing along with the Finnish group Stratovarius and German group Primal Fear (tickets R$120 – 250, available from Ingresso Rpido, Tel. 2163 2000).

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, July 24 – July 31 2006
What’s On Guide, July 17 – July 23 2006
What’s On Guide, July 10 – July 16 2006
What’s On Guide, July 3 – July 9 2006
What’s On Guide, June 26 – July 2 2006
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

Meet Walt Kirspel, who was born in the USA. After travelling and working in Brazil he finally decided to move here. 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 54 year old citizen of the USA. My career was in information systems, specializing in Warehouse Management Systems. My primary fields of expertise were Radio Frequency (RF) systems. First in bar code technology. The last several years in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

I spent a considerable amount of time during 2000 and 2001 on a project in Mogi Mirim in the state of São Paulo. This was my first exposure to Brazil. During this period I met my wife Selma, a Brazilian citizen. We were married in January of 2003. From late 2002 until December of 2005 we lived in Woodstock, Georgia with her son Felipe, 15. I also have a son Travis (23) and daughter Amanda (20) by a prior marriage. Travis is a restaurant/bar manager. Amanda is a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu.

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

In February of 2005 I underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Upon my return to work I learned that the manufacturer I had been employed by for the past 20 years was going to reorganize and reduce it’s workforce in the USA by approximately 33%. Ironically much of the work was going off-shore, to Brazil, China and Russia. As the sole employee based in Atlanta, I was a target. Tough year, eh?

The prospect of finding new employment, particularly at the level of management I had attained, was not attractive. So I opted to take a package and retire. Much earlier than I previously anticipated. Or had planned for.

My dream had always been to retire to the beach. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to be exact. But the math didn’t add up. I couldn’t retire on my pension and live comfortably in the USA. Selma and I had always talked about the praia” in Brazil as another option. That option might allow us to retire in 2008 or 2009. When the reorganization presented this “opportunity”, we said “Why not now?”.

We decided on Guaruj because we were very familiar with this area. We had vacationed here many times. Selma is a native of Bauru so remaining in the state of São Paulo was a plus. And the proximity to international airports with service to the USA was important. My older son and daughter were remaining in the USA. So we purchased a cobertura in Guaruj several blocks off the beach. I retired the morning of December 31st, 2006. That night I was on the plane to Brazil. We moved into our new home January 13th.

We spent the first 3 months remodeling. Someone once told me I was crazy to retire and move to another country at the same time. In fact on the same day. Two significant life changes at the same time were too much stress. If this is an unwritten rule, we can now add Kirspel’s Corollary. Never retire, move and remodel at the same time. Never. But we are settled in now. And have finally begun to enjoy retirement at the beach in Brazil!

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Actually, not good! I arrived at our factory in Mogi Mirim for the first time on a Monday morning in 2000. I had my first Brazilian meal in the factory cafeteria. That night I was sicker than I have ever been in my life. For the entire week I was sick. Sicker than you can imagine. Food poisoning. From my very first meal I ever had in Brazil!

And my first impressions of the city of São Paulo were not good. I would usually see it on Monday when I flew in. And Friday when I flew out. We would spend hours on the Marginals of São Paulo. Stuck in traffic. Passing favela after favela. My opinion of São Paulo was not good.

And then I met Selma in Campinas. On our first date she asked “do you like São Paulo?”. My response was very negative. So she asked “What are your experiences in São Paulo?”. All I could do was describe was the Monday mornings and Friday afternoons on the Marginals. Her reaction was “How can you be so negative about São Paulo? You know nothing about it!”. So over the next few years she gave me an education on the city of São Paulo. She was my tour guide. And I not only fell in love with her, I feel in love with the city.

It just goes to show, don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, its Marginals!

4. What do you miss most about home?

Easy! I miss my children. Travis and Amanda. Travis was here several years ago in Guaruj when we vacationed. Amanda was actually here the first week of this month. Both love it here. Amanda especially loves the restaurants and the ethnic flavor of São Paulo. She was surprised how much it reminds her of New York City with all the ethnic neighborhoods.

Speaking and conversing in English. I miss communicating in my native tongue. I love Brazilians! I truly do. But sometimes it is nice to hear your native tongue.

Nachos with sour cream and jalapenos. I can’t buy sour cream here. Although we are learning to make it. And jalapenos are severely overpriced. So we are going to grow our own.

The Sopranos. When will HBO finally show the new season? And I don’t like the one week delay on American Idol.

My Atlanta Falcons. But I am able to watch my Atlanta Braves at www.mlb.tv. Although this season they are not playing that well.

High speed internet. I really miss high speed internet. Not what I have from Terra and Telefonica/Speedy here. It is slow. Very slow. This reminds me of my days using 300/1200 baud modems.

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

I am frustrated here working with the customer service departments for major utilities like Directv and Telefonica. Customer service with these folks is sometimes an oxymoron. Completely useless. And excuse me, but incompetent. This surprised me. As I was used to the Brazilian way of waiters and store clerks who were always very helpful. Extremely helpful. But with Directv and Telefonica comes a lesson in Procon. And the workings thereof.

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

Two very memorable experiences. The first was bringing in the New Year of 2002 on Copacabana Beach with 2,000,000 of my new best friends in Brazil. What a night that was. What an experience. We took the night in directly in front of the Copacabana Hotel. Only as we were leaving did I realize that all the beautiful women that surrounded us had voices deeper than mine.

The second was the night of January 13th 2006. Sitting on the roof of our cobertura in Guaruj. By our pool. Looking up at a beautiful night sky and the stars of the southern hemisphere. And realizing how far I had come in the past few weeks. The immensity of the move we had made. And the life changes that had occurred. That moment was incredible.

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

Diversity. That is what I like most about Brazil. The diversity of people, cultures, land and food rivals that of the USA. No other place I have visited in the world has the diversity one finds here. It is truly beautiful.

And it has allowed me to live out my dreams. To retire to a beautiful beach with a beautiful wife and live life to it’s fullest.

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

Our favorite restaurants in São Paulo – Famiglia Mancini, Restaurante Tako and OK Churrascaria.

Our favorite restaurants in Guaruj – Any Restaurante Avelino’s, Restaurante Rufino’s, Pizza Micheluccio.

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

My second trip to Brazil was almost as memorable as my first. I was scheduled for a trip to another factory in Porto Alegre. As luck would have it, what should have been a 9 hour flight to São Paulo became a 20 hour trip. Equipment problems. So I missed my connection to Porto Alegre.

It was only my second time in Brazil. My Portuguese was terrible. Non-existent. I got nervous over when to use obrigado and when to use obrigada at this point. I understood sim and não and that was about it. I went to the ticket counter to rebook for another flight to Porto Alegre. Expecting the worst. But as I later learned, Brazilians typically know a little English and are always willing to help. So I did much better with the clerk at the counter than I expected.

All was going well. Until he asked for my passport. Immediately upon opening it he got a bit excited. He looked at me and said “Joe Vee”. Hard to confuse “Walt” for “Joe”. I am quite confused at this point. But he is looking at me with a huge smile. Repeating “Joe Vee”… “Joe Vee”. I give it my best “huh?”, and hope that this translates in any language. He points to the passport and says “Joe Vee, Joe Vee, you are from New Jersey!!! Do you know Joe Vee?”.

Then it dawns on me! “Joe Vee”. “New Jersey”. Jon Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi is from New Jersey. He thinks I might know Jon Bon Jovi. Someone had once told me Bon Jovi is big in Brazil. I hadn’t realized how big. Until now.

But the story doesn’t end there. It occurs to me to pull this guy’s leg a little. To have a little fun. So I say to him “No, I don’t know Bon Jovi, but I know Bruce pretty well”. He looks at me quizzically. “Who’s Bruce?”. And I keep a straight face and say “Bruce Springsteen”. Thinking I will impress the guy. But no. He says “Who is Bruce Springsteen?”.

That let the air out of my sails. For someone born and raised in New Jersey, someone who spent every summer on the Asbury Park boardwalk, someone who spent more than a few nights of his youth in the Stone Pony, BRUCE IS THE MAN! But sadly not in Brazil. Bon Jovi is the man.

Of course I shouldn’t be surprised. If I told Selma that Elvis was the king, and not Roberto Carlos, that would be the start a long argument. An argument I am sure I would lose. Or regret that I won!

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

I would have to say the apparent lack of a middle class. There just doesn’t seem to be one here. You are either wealthy, very wealthy. Or you are poor, very poor. And the ratio of wealthy to poor seems to be about 10% wealthy to 90% poor.

The level of security is also very different. Even Brazilians don’t feel secure here. We lived in the suburbs of Atlanta. And rarely locked our doors. Here our home is protected like a fortress.

And the infrastructure lags way behind. Particularly with streets and highways.

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 am someone who failed French-I three years running in high school. Foreign languages are not a strength. When Selma and I first met I worked hard to pick up the language. I purchased every computer based language package I could find. The Rosetta Stone series was my favorite.

And although Selma took English classes here and in the USA, Portuguese is the language we use to communicate. We do just fine because she speaks slowly and clearly. So we have don’t have a problem. But I still have problems understanding other Brazilians. Particularly if they speak very quickly. I have problems delineating where words begin and end.

I also have difficulty with the different pronunciation of Portuguese letters. I vividly recall the time two Brazilians friends suggested we go watch hockey. Born in New Jersey, I am an avid hockey fan and was quite surprised that there might be interest here. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at a bar playing rock music!

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

My first suggestion is to do everything you can to learn the language. The first year I worked here I did little to assimilate Portuguese. It wasn’t until I met Selma that I had the desire to learn. I wish I started earlier.

My second suggestion is to remember that this is not your homeland. This is not your culture. Accept the differences. Embrace them.

And my last suggestion is to try everything. Be open to new things. Be open to new places. Be open to new people. Explore! Enjoy!

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

I would recommend that they take in the beaches for certain. I have been to many of the beaches in the USA. Including Hawaii. I have seen them all. But the beaches here are especially beautiful.

In São Paulo I would take the time to explore the different ethic neighborhoods. The bairros. The diversity and ethnicity of São Paulo truly rivals New York City. I was born and raised 30 minutes from New York City. São Paulo reminds me of the “Big Apple” more than any other city I have visited.

And I would definitely suggest a visit to the Mercado Municipal. The place is a real treat. As is the street fair in the Placa da Republica on Sunday.

Lastly, travel and see as much of this beautiful country as you can!

You can contact Walt by email at walt@kirspel.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:

Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
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 Sol Biderman
Stephen Henriques, the most famous student of Dieberkorn, loves jazz. He has loved jazz all his life. He heard jazz played in the best holes in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans and all over the world. Jazz has influenced his music and his music has influenced jazz – at least the covers of some of the top jazz musicians all over the world.

At the Manaus Jazz Festival, thirteen paintings of Stephen Henriques, are on display. This painting (see the header image) is influenced by Theolonius Monk, and is appropriately called Monk’s Tango – jazzed up as Monk jazzes up a tango.

Henriques was born in the San Francisco area and his paintings reflect that both refreshing and foggy air that blows down the Pensinsula off the coast over the foothills beyond Half Moon Bay.

His family moved to the Bay area a century ago when the tall trees, the sequoias and redwoods, proliferated in the town of Palo Alto. He has been strongly influenced by his Bay experience and by the jazz musicians who have played there and the records he has been hearing since a child.

He and his wife are personal friends of leading jazz musicians all over the world and have worked together illustrating the covers of countless records and CDs.

He has chosen to live in Brazil finding new inspiration in his country home less than an hour from São Paulo. His works are highly appreciated by galleries, collectors and art museums both here, in Europe and in North America. He has had four exhibits in São Paulo in the last three years. This is his first exhibit in Manaus.

Aside from his Brazilian exhibits he has shown in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and in Europe. Galeria Berenice Arvani on Rua Oscar Freire has held two of his exhibits here with highly critical reviews.

Previous articles by Sol Biderman:

Brazil: The Stunning Abstracts of Renata Rosa
Brazil: Doris Lessing Still Surprises at 86
Brazil Art Review: Raquel Cararo
Brazil Art Review: Guilherme de Faria
Brazilian Art: Rimbaud and the music of colors in Stephen Henriques
Brazilian Art: A tale of 3 Angelicas
Aravena and Aravenism in Chile and Brazil
São Paulo Hotel Guide: L’Hotel

By Jose Santiago
Brazil has become one of the most desired countries for foreigners looking to acquire a second home, to live or retire, and also for people just looking to investing in real estate. There are many reasons as to why Brazil is one of the best emerging countries to invest in real estate now, here they are:

1. Natural beauty and weather: Brazil is internationally known for its natural beauty, beaches, nice weather, carnival, music and culture.

2. Solid and secure ownership: Brazil is one of the few countries that allows foreigners to own the free hold or fee simple ownership of its real estate.

3. Underdeveloped real estate market: Due to continuous years of recession and lack of purchase power during the 80s and 90s.

4. Buyers market: The quantity of real estate for sale far supersedes the amount of existing prospective buyers.

5. Inflation under control: the government has kept inflation controlled for decades now.

6. Housing Deficit and Population Growth: Brazil has a 7.2 million unit housing deficit. Moreover, every year the demand is increased by an estimated figure of around 900 thousand homes, nationwide; and on the other hand, only 270 thousand homes were built in 2005, for example.

7. Lower interest rates: Interest rates continue to drop gradually. Several economists believe that by late 2007, Brazil should have become an investment magnet country. They believe that the steady fiscal reforms and economic stability should allow Brazilian interest rates to drop even more significantly, which can already be confirmed. Source: Secretaria da Fazenda do Governo do Brazil (http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/Pagamentos/jrselic.htm). It would first change the shift from banking and stocks investments and create a boom in the mortgage lending industry which is almost non-existent now. With more money towards this area of investment, gain in value is undeniable.

8. Compulsory Investment in Housing: Brazil’s current main sources of mortgage funding include FGTS (Government fund that manages payroll taxes) and saving accounts. There is a mandatory allocation of part of each of these funds in the housing sector by the government and by the private banks. Plus, the analysts expect that commercial banking mortgages are forecasted to increase between 30 to 40% in 2006.

In conclusion, all indicators show a huge potential and growth for this sector in Brazil and if you are an investor or just someone looking for a second home now, Brazil is the place to look for it.

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

Previous articles by Jose:

The Brazilian Resident Investor Program for Foreigners
Brazil: Annual Required Procedures to Keep Your CPF Number
Legal Aspects of Acquiring Real Estate in Brazil

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By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here’s part 10 of Joe’s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

To facilitate my meanderings around town, I usually wore a light polo shirt or cotton print over a clean pair of sport slacks and some comfortable walking shoes. In hot weather, a clean T-shirt, sneakers and blue jeans were added to the ensemble. For cold snaps, a long-sleeved dress shirt with a heavier pair of pants was the order of the day, topped off with a smart woolen sweater or an insulated jacket.

Depending on where you intend to live and teach in Brazil, your wardrobe will need to be modified given the region’s climate and weather patterns, but most instructors should be able to adapt swiftly to the prevailing trends in informal teaching attire with little to no problem.

However, I’ve known some male colleagues to over-abuse the wearing of jeans, so much so that the jeans started to take on that rough-and-ragged look more beloved of Harley Davidson bikers than steadfast English teachers. And a few of the younger ones used to wear their open-collared shirts a little too open for my more conservative dress tastes to approve of.

A bit more discretion and decorum are good rules to follow when conducting in-company classes; at home is another story, where informality and comfort are the major themes.

And men, please take this next piece of advice to heart: do not forget to shave. It only takes a few minutes of your valuable preening time in the morning to make this a regular part of your daily routine. I grew a small beard to keep my mouse-colored moustache company, so I didn’t have all that much facial hair to scrape off.

You have no idea how scruffy-looking a male teacher with a five o’clock shadow appears to a group of sleepy-eyed students at seven o’clock in the morning. It’s like talking to Z Colmia (Yogi Bear).

Unless you are Ben Affleck or Thiago Lacerda-in which case, you wouldn’t be teaching English, anyway-you are much more presentable with a nice, close shave or an expertly trimmed beard.

Even my female colleagues were not immune to violations of the dress code.” One teacher I knew used to wear a super low-cut blouse over skin-tight stretch pants that left nothing to the imagination.

Another friend once came to work wearing a ghastly array of costume jewelry and gold pieces, with rings flashing from every finger, and bracelets galore all up and down the length of her forearms. She also absolutely reeked of her own liberally applied perfume. It took all my powers of concentration to fight back the unseen fumes that floated up toward my supersensitive nostrils every time we chatted.

The point of classes is not to parade oneself as if in a fashion show, nor is it to distract students from the session-particularly those with short attention spans. You will want to look your best but not overdo it.

A professional outlook and appearance to match are the best combination for all language instructors, who don’t get enough respect and recognition in their profession as it is. Inappropriate or over-elaborate dress can only lead to ineffectual lessons.

These may seem like minor quibbles, but even experienced professionals can overlook these basic but strategic tips.

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:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
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 Marilyn Diggs
Moonlight changes everything. I had ridden all over the expansive grassy knolls during the day. Certain privileged views of the Pirahy Ranch and coffee plantation were only to be seen seated in a saddle – like its colonial house almost lost in a 170-acre green ocean. The dry savanna is speckled with lush dark forest islands and odd boulders whose geographical origin is still a mystery to locals. By moonlight, the sun-kissed terrain changes completely, and traveling it at night on horseback only enhanced my appreciation for rural tourism. I’d come to the dude ranch specifically for this experience – a ritual that takes place only once a month, under the full moon.

Horses in the Corral

When I arrived there in the early evening, a warm lantern light radiated from the open- sided ranch house on the hill, near the stables. Three senior ranch hands, sons of the pioneers, strummed songs of hillbillies lamenting their move to the big city, she-done-me-wrong ballads and the lonely life on the cattle trail – songs as old as the hills. After sunset, as we zipped our light jackets up to the neckline, a round of sugar cane moonshine (cachaa), and piping hot bean soup were passed around in small ceramic cups. Then, one by one, we twelve riders made our way down the hill to the corral to be paired up, according to our skill, with a suitable four-legged partner. Riders were anxious to begin the adventure. Experienced hired hands led the way. The horses fell into line and began meandering along the moonlit trail. As the soulful voices of the cowhands faded into the distance, so did the ranch house’s pale yellow light, while the terrain took on nuances of silver, pale blue and indigo.

Above us, a cratered full moon illuminated well-trodden paths only visible after city eyes adjusted to unfamiliar landscape. The polite chatting dwindled as each rider was overtaken by the night’s magnificence. Imaginations roamed. We were trailblazers (bandeirantes) plotting unknown territories in search of gold and emeralds. We were runaway slaves traveling by night.

Fazenda Pirahy

When vision is limited the other senses take over. Owl hoots and flapping wings. Bats? Hope not. Scamperings in the underbrush. Leaves quake and grass swishes. Clip-clops on stony paths. Soft thuds on sandy dirt. Occasional far-off neighs. Odor of trees overlooked during the day:sweet smells, woody smells. Nostrils alive with chilly air. I’m glad I wore my gloves. Musty horses. Old ripe leather. Water laps against lake banks. Frog serenades. Tilt forward – the horse is climbing. Crickets chirp. We reach the crest and stop. City lights far, far away – a shimmering pool of diamonds. The trail slopes – lean back. A howl. Wolves? Our hips swaying with the horses ambling gate… a rock-a-bye. Wet snorts from tamed steeds. Riders wind their way through hill country, shallow lakes and woods for an hour or so. It is over too soon.

Horses quickened their pace as they approached the stables. In the daytime I would have let my horse return, full speed. But nightriders must be cautious… only a lively canter as we entered the home stretch. A speck of light grew to wash the knoll where the ranch house perched. We dismounted and climbed up (some with more difficulty than others) to the mess hall.

Friendly conversations waxed and waned while the enthusiastic serenaders still sang (as much for their own entertainment as for the guests.) Now other smells teased our nostrils – the backland’s home cooking over a wood-burning stove: shredded dried meat with manioc flour and baked pumpkin. The warm dinner and music ended a perfect night.

Our Group in Pirahy

ASIDE: Travel agencies are calling it “rural tourism” and it is really catching on. Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, need to relax, are after some quality family time, or all of the above, heading for the hills is an attractive option. Several fazendas (ranches) offer night trail rides. Fazenda Pirahy, only one hour from São Paulo, is near It. Visit: www.fazendapirahy.com. João at (11) 9607-7483 or (11) 4022-5311.

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International, a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

By Bernard Morris
When I set out to walk in Bela Vista, one of the city’s downtown neighborhoods, my wife’s friend, a Brasileira who speaks excellent English, said, don’t get lost.” She and my wife were at the Hospital Sirio-Libans with my friend’s father, who was recuperating from a stroke. I said I would just follow the streets and she warned me that streets in São Paulo have no discernible or regular pattern. It would be easy for a foreigner to wander into oblivion. Appreciative of her warning, I set out, careful to note landmarks as I strolled. The street I chose to explore curved up a steep hill, then across a bridge that spanned the large boulevard, down, around, over another narrow bridge, back along the street that was heavily trafficked in three or four lanes. In the middle of the six-lane street, dozens of people waited quietly for buses that roared by every now and then.

As always, the question of safety came to mind, but my wife’s friend said this neighborhood was safe enough for me, and it was. I encountered a few indigents as I crossed the upper bridge, but they looked non-threatening. One was a woman sitting against the cement side of the bridge on a blanket looking hungry and unwashed, a black dog huddled beside here. We ignored each other as I passed. Another was an older man, unwashed, too, but he paid me no mind, either.
I normally walk along a route one way for about thirty minutes, then turn around and retrace my steps. So I traverse the same course twice, seeing it from two perspectives, one each way. I am therefore able to study details better twice over or see something I’d missed on the way out. Ideally, I am ignored as I go along, undisturbed, undistracted, and unmolested. I stay on public sidewalks and streets so as not to attract unwelcome attention or encroach onto private property.

On this day, I noticed that the people in this area varied considerably in their appearance. Some were dressed like hospital personnel, wearing a linen cap and gown over their clothing. Others were young people who may have been going to or from work or school. While crossing the lower bridge that sloped upward through a small park, I saw a man in his forties off to the side. Though he was turned toward the wall, it was clear that he was casually relieving himself. No one seemed to notice, though busses and autos roared nearby and several people crossed the bridge along with me. I gathered that Paulistas are on the whole commendably easy going.

As I passed the lady with the dog on my return trip across the upper bridge, she this time addressed me, in Portuguese of course, in an insistent manner. I ignored her and kept walking but she continued. Her gestures suggested that she was offering me something I did not wish to purchase. Farther ahead, the other homeless-looking person began shouting angrily as I neared, shouting to no-one in particular. I ignored him too and increased my pace. Some kind of security man was seated in a vehicle nearby, ignoring the shouter, who quieted down a moment or two later.

Toward the other side of the bridge, I looked over the cement railing and saw, along the side of the street, two men lying on some blankets stretched out on the grass. I figured they were preparing to spend the night there, though it was early evening still. All the while, people walked to and fro, busses and trucks, and autos roared by, and people still waited for the bus. For me, it is both interesting and reassuring to find that life continues in ordinary ways in far away places. It is all new yet in many ways familiar. Human nature is universally uniform, and when circumstances change, people adapt to them without becoming themselves very different. When the visitor encounters new ways, they are always logical, at least in Brazil they are, and often are interesting and innovative. For instance, the practice in some restaurants to charge by the weight of the food on your plate I find to be both practical and pleasing and, for me, new. Fancier restaurants still rely on the traditional waiter-delivered order, but even there the waiters now use hand-held electronic devices to take your order and calculate your bill.

Paulistas have had to find ways to accommodate a tremendous influx of people in the last twenty or so years. The population has swelled to seventeen million, and no doubt the city has spread farther out into the countryside, but also it has reached upward and increased the number of high-rise buildings. As I walk about the city, however, I do not feel crowded, although everywhere I turn, houses, high-rise apartments, and other buildings line the streets and most of the streets are filled with vehicles and people. The city may not have been laid out according to an engineer’s orderly master plan, but a kind of order exists, mostly because people in the city are on the whole considerate of others and live sensibly, peaceably, and practically within the limits of their private world.

Biography: Born July 25, 1935, in San Antonio, Texas. U. S. Marine Corps, 1954-58, Attended the University of California, Berkeley, 1958 to 1973. Ph.D. in English literature. College English teacher at U. C. Berkeley, 1965-1972, and in Modesto, CA, from 1972 to 2003. Publications: Salem Press has used dozens of my essays on the works of Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emerson, Denise Levertov, and Louis Simpson. More than fifty literary journals and magazines have published my poetry. Harvard Review has also carried many of my literary reviews. My critical study of the poetry and prose of X. J. Kennedy, Taking Measure, was published in January, 2003, by Susquehanna University Press. You can contact Bernard at spbmorris@pacbell.net.

Previous articles by Bernard:

Reflections on Brazil Part 4
Reflections on Brazil Part 3
Reflections on Brazil Part 3
Reflections on Brazil Part 2
Reflections on Brazil Part 1

By Tim Cowman
Lessons in the art of searching for an apartment to rent in São Paulo.

My legs are aching, my brain burning and this belated reaction to my latest bout of Brazilian culture shock has just kicked in. I have spent the last three weeks pounding the streets of central São Paulo apartment hunting and I am finally within touching distance of signing a contract. Though I daren’t say anything final yet as knowing this country there will undoubtedly be a couple more twists left in the tail yet.

House hunting in Brazil involves a trip deep into the underworld of the unwritten rules of Brazilian society. As with trying to achieve anything in a foreign country the learning curve is steep and I have been truly schooled in the dark arts of real estate agents this week. Now it is always best learning by doing yourself but here are a few tips to help you on the way.

1. One common way of looking for an apartment is to choose a couple of bairros” you consider suitable to live in, for whatever reason, and walk around checking for Aluga-se (for rent) signs. You can then take the next obvious step and buzz the “porteiros” (door guards) for more information. There is nothing basically wrong with this process and it is a good technique to not only gauge the average renting price of an area but also to check out the feel of a place. However when you get into contact with the porteiros then this is when the path of deception begins and there a few basic things worth knowing so you don’t get too caught out.

2. The vast majority of porteiros are paid off by certain local real estate agents so they only pass on their number to potential clients. This means you will rarely be able to get directly in touch with the owner of the property even if they would like you too.

3. On calling the number given the real estate agent you reach will lead you to believe that the apartment owner is a good client of theirs. This is often not true at all and the likelihood is that they have never met them before. They will merely wait for you to make an offer and then present it to the owner (often as a cold call).

4. If the owner of the house is not receptive to this method then the agency could ruin your chance of getting this place. They will go on to tell you that the place has been rented already and that you should check out some other properties nearby that they have. Do not take them on their word and go back to the building to try and get the number of another agency if possible. In an ideal world with a bit of negotiation you maybe able to secure the number of the owner directly.

5. In saying the above some real estate agents try to own whole buildings and if they secure a good reputation with the porteiros and the present residents in the building then they can actually assist you in trying to get the place.

6. There are two types of deals with estate agents, and how they make their money will be a good pointer as to how much you can trust what they say.

– The first is the salesman type who works using the methods above. They make the contact between the two parties and then demand a one-off fee which is often the first months rent.

– The second type is the more official one which often counts the owner of the property as a true client of the firm. They will handle everything with regards to the legality of the property and will receive a monthly fee from the owner for administration costs.

7. Remember that there are three monthly costs involved in renting a house – rent, condominio and IPTU. Always find out what each of them are and whether there are any immediate plans for them to be increased. Never accept a “package deal” with no breakdown of the costs, this is a selling tactic.

8. Check if your rent includes a car parking space at the apartment or not. Even if you don’t have a car it is worth having one as in most apartments you can rent them to people with more than one car. Check at individual buildings but prices are generally more than R$100 per month which can make all the difference.

9. Before you get too far down the road of house hunting bear in mind you will need to find a “fiador” (guarantor) and they will need to be the owner of a property within the city of São Paulo. This can be hard for people who have just moved to the city and there are therefore other options open, such as paying an insurance company who generally charge one month’s rent a year. Both processes require a large amount of hard to obtain documents so it is good to start early.

10. All in all due to the nature of this industry don’t believe everything you hear and if you think something sounds strange then investigate further. Also if you like an apartment and it falls through with the first real estate agent then don’t be afraid to keep going back until you get somewhere. That’s what we did and we should be signing on the dotted line sometime this week…

Tim is based in São Paulo and is presently searching for employment opportunities in the areas of environmental business, journalism or education. He can be reached at timcowman@hotmail.com.

Previous articles by Tim:

Brazil: The Third Insight – Real change is a slow process
Brazil: The Second Insight – In Adversity We See a People’s True Nature
Brazil: The First Insight – Top sportsman “In the zone” a state of Nirvana?
Brazil: Enlightenment – The Way of the FIFA World Cup
Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 4
Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 4
Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 2
Brazil: World Cup Blog Part 1
Brazil: Welcome to Samba Football School
Brazil: The Romance of the Copa Brasil Part 2
Brazil: The Romance of the Copa Brasil Part 1
Brazil: On the Road in the North East
Brazil: Teresina Part 3
Brazil: Teresina Part 2
Brazil: Teresina Part 1

By Craig Parker
There we were, my wife Denise and I in Ouro Preto. The name means Black Gold,” but a more appropriate moniker might be “Dangerous Streets.” This is because Ouro Preto has many things: incredible churches, cobblestone roads, exhausting hills. And one other thing: too many cars.

The cars and motorcycles here are definitely a danger when walking the streets. The streets and sidewalks are narrow and quaint; that quaintness quickly wears off when you have a vehicle race by you at 30 kilometers an hour. And these cars and motorcycles are going by you all the time. So, instead of relaxing and enjoying yourself amid the ruins of a gilded-aged venture in human-rights abuse and greed, you keep your head on a swivel – always looking and listening for the sound of approaching chassis and metal.

Ouro Preto is a cool town, though, and Denise and I made our way through its winding uphill cobblestones to the tune of six – nearly half of its thirteen – churches. The town has three components: tourists, natives, and visiting college students – and this gives the environs a nice rhythm. Heathens and devotees amid history and heartbreak.

The next morning, we were to travel to Tiradentes. Without a car, we would achieve this feat by bus. Unfortunately, Wemerson, the desk clerk at our pousada informed us in Portuguese that our bus did not leave the rodoviria (bus station) until 1 or 2 PM (mais ou menos). So Denise and I set off for a new adventure: a gold mine called “Mina de Ouro de Passagem.”

When you go to find these places, without a formal tour, the process itself becomes the adventure. The simplest task becomes difficult. Where to find the bus stop? It’s in the Praa, off to the left. “The left” is about as broad a term as a country mile, and one goes through several locals (all nice) before one makes it to the actual bus stop. There, as we waited anonymously for the bus in the early morning cold with the other strangers, we noticed someone – across the street and up the road a ways – looking intently at us. It was Wemerson, the desk clerk at our pousada, no longer fitted with a pressed waistcoat but dressed down in his regular clothes. We gave each other a friendly pendulum arm-wave, and then he got on his bus going the other way – never to be seen again.

The bus came by and we alighted. It was all locals, making their morning way to Mariana to go to work. The bus shook itself along the cobblestones and turns, snaking along sheer cliffs of Brazilian landscape, grandeur, and danger. Nobody on the bus seemed to take notice, and one wonders about their life.

This vacuous thought-process went on for 20 minutes or so, and suddenly we quite innocently saw a rickety sign rush by that stated “Mina de Ouro de Passagem.” Was that our stop we just drove by? The bus driver did not stop, so it couldn’t have been. Right? I made eye contact with Denise and we began to debate whether we should get off in Nowhere Land. All the while, the bus was continuing on its merry way with oblivious passengers. Seconds stretched to minutes as we agonized over our next move. Should we de-bus from our chariot? Where was our desired stop? It’s like a virtual reality game of Where’s Waldo, but one with real consequences. Finally, other matters made the decision for us.

We were approaching a major highway. One that the bus would enter and then drive on to Mariana at a speed approaching “too fast” to jump from. So the two of us made our way to the front and hurriedly implored the bus driver to let us disembark. “Mina de Ouro de Passagem?” we asked. Yes, that was the stop back there. We got off the bus with little fanfare and even less understanding.

Once on terra firma, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere amid lush Brazilian countryside. Serene, immortal, breathtaking, and encompassing. We had to walk one kilometer back along the highway to find the mythical “Mina” sign we thought we previously saw for 1.5 seconds. We began our trek with good hearts. The morning was beautiful, the sun was shining, we had each other, and we were lost. We walked a ways along a highway, not knowing where we were or why we were on this highway when we did not remember it before. Plodding amid splendorous surroundings while trying to discern an answer to this major question, we came to a man waiting for the bus. No, said the helpful Brazilian to our stammering Portuguese question, you went too far. Walk back the other way and take the first left into town.

We dutifully followed instructions and turned onto a road with a car repair shop and two boys playing soccer with a small ball. When we inquired, the repairman directed his sons to take us to the Mina. We walked with the young boys past a school filled with students the boys obviously knew, and we wondered why these two boys were not with their classmates. The boys walked us to the Mina, and like suffering liberals we gave them each R$5 – thus reinforcing that they were better off out of school. Hey, it was either that or lecturing them after they helped us out of a jam.

We went down into the gold mine via the most primitive roller coaster carriage imaginable. We emerged into the daylight air with a better understanding of Brazilian culture. Needing to return by bus to our pousada, we walked to where a bus would eventually come. While waiting, a car with three Brazilians pulled up and asked if we were headed to Ouro Preto and that they would take us for R$2. We climbed into the car without so much as a hesitation or seat belt. They were wonderful, driving us right to where we wanted to be dropped off – the Praa Tiradentes.

Many more adventures awaited us on this day. For a successful trip, one must be flexible, aware, and intrepid. Stupid too, some might add – although that evaluation only comes with reflection, a commodity in short supply for the fearless and fickle traveler. What we have in abundance, though, is an understanding of one essential truth.

Getting there is half the fun.

Craig Parker has lived with his wife Denise in São Paulo for one year. They are learning the language, and Parker is the author of “Football’s Blackest Hole” – a book on the Oakland Raiders. He may be reached at elcraig@gmail.com.

Previous articles by Craig:

Brazil: Where Nature Speaks
Brazil: The Road to Paraty
Brazil: Gringo Goes Speedo
Brazil: The Carioca Five-Step
Brazil: Finally, We’re On Our Way