By Tamashin
June 28, 2007

I have been asked by several contributors on the Forum to get together a few of my true experiences of living in Brasil and put them on the home page and/or newsletter.

The Loo
When I first came to Brazil in the early 90s, the disposing of toilet paper in a bin rather than down the pan was very new to me and took some getting used to, particularly the origami involved. But it was to prove more of a challenge to one of my friends who accompanied me one year. I had warned her it wasn’t Butlins holiday camp, but she was very gung-ho about it so off we went. I had, by then, got used to the favela environment, would she?

We put her up in Dona Fatima’s house, one of the church officials, simple but pleasant and clean (that’s the house not Dona Fatima). A few days later, in church, I enquired of Dona Fatima as to how Jane (my friend) was getting on. Fine” she replied, “but she doesn’t use the toilet bin!”. There now followed the delicate task of explaining to Jane that she couldn’t put toilet paper down the pan, but would have to put it in the bin.

That evening, I climbed the mountain that is task and diplomacy and explained to her about not putting the paper down the pan, it blocked the pipes, the pipes were too small etc. You could have felled England’s forwards with the look she gave me. Twas to be but she wasn’t going to say so.

A few days later, on my way to see Jane, I happened upon an unfortunate soul, knee deep in one of the drainage trenches that ran down both sides of the road. He was prodding a length of bamboo up a pipe towards Dona Fatima’s house.

When Jane came out to see me, she saw the man and asked what he was doing. “Let’s see” says I and as we supped a coke by the side of the road, we watched the man clear out the pipe. Suddenly, a multi-coloured, toilet paper mache mush spewed forth into the trench along with some other unmentionables. It then flowed off towards the river for all to see, chased and poked by small boys with sticks.

She paid the man R$25 and the Loo was never blocked after that.

Tamashin is a retired civil engineer who first came to Brazil in 1993 to help build a community centre for street children in Rio. He now lives in João Pessoa with his Brazilian wife and children.

Previous articles by Tamashin:

Brazil: Tamashin’s Tales – The Rat
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 9
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 8
Brazil: Am I Concerned?
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 7
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 6
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 5
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 4
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 3
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 2
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 1
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 5
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 4
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 3
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 2
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 1
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 6
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 5
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 4
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 3
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 2
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 1

By Joe Lopes
June 28, 2007

With the upcoming anniversary, on July 11, of the birth of Brazilian-born composer Antonio Carlos Gomes fast approaching, here is a chapter from Joe’s soon-to-be-concluded book, ‘Brazil’s Fat Lady Can’t Sing’, covering the life and career of the country’s own uniquely Brazilian version of Verdi and Puccini.

Musical & Imperial Precedents
There were several false starts at presenting staged opera in Brazil during the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, mostly with the building of a few ad hoc theaters in fairly impermanent locales, with some even taking on the rather apt name of Teatro Provisório, or Temporary Theater (later called the Teatro Lrico).

It was not until the establishment of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro, circa 1840, where the enlightened despot” Dom Pedro II was formally crowned as emperor of Brazil, that opera began to make any serious inroads with like-minded audiences.

His majesty was an extremely well-educated and well-traveled sophisticate who strongly believed in support of all scholarly and intellectual pursuits. In that, he was a tireless and enthusiastic advocate of the opera (mostly from the Italian and French repertoires), and encouraged its performance everywhere in the realm, but particularly in Rio and São Paulo. He astutely grasped the efficacy of bringing high culture to the Brazilian masses as a way out of their agricultural and educational rut. (That this never actually took place hardly crossed the Emperor’s mind.)

Through one of those divinely-inspired confluences that brought worthy artists and their benefactors together when the need was at its greatest, the restless and urbane Emperor of Brazil was introduced to a talented young composer (born July 11, 1836, and one of 26 children) from the rural sticks of São Carlos (now Campinas), Antonio Carlos Gomes, of whom Giuseppe Verdi, the grand-master of Italian opera, was once purported to have proclaimed, “This young man begins where I have ended.”

Having shown promise at an early age, the boy Tonico, as he was called, often accompanied his older brother Jos Pedro, a conductor, and bandmaster father, Manuel Jos (known by the nickname Maneco Msico, or “Manny the Musician”), on their frequent concert trips to churches and family gatherings in and about their hometown.

While firmly establishing himself with the locals as a serious musician of quality, the youthful Antonio Carlos was able to supplement his studies by serving a brief apprenticeship to a tailor before moving on to the more cosmopolitan surroundings of Rio de Janeiro – exactly the ideal spot where a certain musical (and imperial) dilettante happened to have resided.

Accounts vary as to exactly when and where Gomes and Dom Pedro first met (some scholars speculate he was brought to the Emperor’s attention by a certain Countess de Barrai), but from their initial reticent exchanges composer and patron soon forged a close personal bond as well as a strong financial relationship; but more importantly, and despite various individual crises, they built and maintained a lifelong friendship and mutual respect for each other’s worth.

The Emperor, through his royal connections, helped Gomes gain entry into the Imperial Conservatory of Music in Rio de Janeiro (1859-61). To further his potential along as an opera composer, especially after two highly promising early efforts for the stage, A Noite do Castelo – “The Night of the Castle,” in 1861; and Joana de Flandres – “Joan of Flanders,” in 1863 (both of whose stories took place in medieval times and revolved around princely folk), Dom Pedro packed the young man off to Italy, the highpoint of any nineteenth-century musician’s professional career, where Gomes was given a grant, in 1864, to complete his studies at the Milan Conservatory.

Due to his being over the mandatory age limit, however, Gomes’ application to the Conservatory was at first rejected, so he undertook private lessons instead with one of its directors, the composer Lauro Rossi, and with resident musician Alberto Mazzucato.

Coincidentally, this denial of entry into one of Western Europe’s most prestigious institutions had been a source of much bitterness for the inexperienced Verdi some 30 years earlier, and for substantially the same reason. Only, the Italian master’s musical pathway would take a far different route than that of the Brazilian novice.

Gomes eventually received an official sanction from the Conservatory’s ruling body, yet would never reap the financial rewards this honor would presumably seem to bestow. Verdi, on the other hand, nursed his earlier rejection for the rest of his days, but went on to even greater fame and fortune in spite of the turndown.

Part 2 next week…

Copyright 2007 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

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 6
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 5
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 4
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 3
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 2
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 2
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 1
Misunderstanding Brazil’s National Anthem: A Crash-Course in the Hymn of the Nation
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 1
Theater, the Brecht of Life: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera, Part II
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 2
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 1
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 5
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 4
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 3
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 2
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 1
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 11
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 10
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 9
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 8
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 7
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 6
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 5
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 4
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 3
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 2
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 21
Teaching English In Brazil Part 20
Teaching English In Brazil Part 19
Teaching English In Brazil Part 18
Teaching English In Brazil Part 17
Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
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 Ricky Skelton
June 26, 2007

For those Brazilians who have ever wondered why your gringo friend is usually the drunkest person at a party full of locals, I’m going to try to offer an explanation, as I know I’m not the only one to experience this phenomenon. As well as the obvious cultural differences that we gringoes drink to embarrassing levels as a matter of course, there are other factors to take into account.

Important Factor #1 is that we generally like to have a drinking buddy along to accompany us and are never happier than finding some like-minded person to hide in the kitchen and share a bottle with at a party full of strangers. When you are the only gringo at a house party, this can be a little more difficult, especially when speaking Portuguese is still a work in progress.

Important Factor #2 is the amount of Brazilians who speak English better than we speak their language. At parties, it is very difficult to practice your Portuguese when everybody else wants to speak English. And wants to talk about English. Or your Portuguese. Nobody wants to spend a whole party talking to the gringo about languages so the novelty value understandably wears off rapidly, which is good as it can get a little wearing talking about the same subject all night, but bad because it means that eventually you have to try to join in the group talk.

Important Factor #3 is the amount Brazilians love to talk. I have stayed in pousadas around Brazil and heard breakfast conversations outside my room involving at least 4 people. When I leave the room, it has always been a shock to find only 4 people sat around a table, all of them talking. So to try to follow conversations, which needs heavy concentration at the best of times, is impossible at parties with loud music – like watching a tennis match played with 3 balls at once. This is when we resort to Defensive Drinking – constant sips because you can’t or don’t want to contribute to the conversation. It happens in other situations too – for example when stuck amongst in-laws with whom you don’t have much in common, or while waiting in a bar alone for your date to arrive.

Important Factor #4 is that we’re used to drinking from large glasses which we don’t share with anybody else. Then we can go at a casual pace, but sharing brings out our greed and we constantly bottle-watch. We finish our drinks first to ensure we get a full glass, and we fill up the other glasses at the same time. Then we go to the fridge to get a fresh bottle for more and also in order to give us something to do as we haven’t spoken for twenty minutes. Exactly the same process happens with caipirinha, and we will usually be the ones who end up in the kitchen making them, testing them, handing them around, making another, testing more before passing it on, making two, handing one around and drinking the other.

And so on. Don’t be too surprised if your gringo friend needs helping out of the door at the end of the night, and don’t be too hard on them for it. It’s only because they’re in need of a proper drinking buddy. And when they find one, things will be even worse, but at least along the way they learn to make fantastic caipirinhas.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

By Bernard Morris
June 26, 2007

When my Brazilian-born wife and I are in Brazil, dining either with friends or family or in restaurants has always been a pleasure. Our restaurant choices have included expensive and inexpensive ones, those in the food courts of shopping malls in São Paulo, or small ones in small towns. We had one of our best dining experiences in a restaurant along the highway to Ilhabela, one that we learned later is famous for its food and service. It specializes in meats of all kinds prepared in many ways, barbequed and served on a skewer or roasted or fried. Since my wife and I are vegetarians, we could enjoy only the aromas as we feasted on their rich and varied dishes of vegetables, pastas, and fruits, all served with several kinds of bread.

The story of our dining has not been free of some disappointment on my part, I must confess, but only because I become impatient when made to wait long for my meal. In an Italian restaurant in São Paulo, a very fine one, the service was so slow that I asked more than once whether we had been forgotten. No, the orders are coming, I was told. I left the restaurant and walked the neighborhood while my wife and our friends conversed and sipped mineral water. I returned and waited some more. Finally, the dishes arrived, they were delicious, my hunger was satisfied, and we all left satisfied. Patience, I learned once again, is a virtue.

A couple of our friends visited Jarin not long ago, knowing that my wife’s family lives there and having heard us sing its homely virtues. They own a condo in Brazil, and have family there; he is Brazilian and both are experienced travelers, and diners. They chose a pizza restaurant in Jarin and were disappointed, felt the food was not worth its price. When we returned to Jarin recently, we made a point of dining in that very restaurant, found the service satisfactory, the food satisfying, and the prices reasonable. We could only surmise that our friends were unlucky that day, and we assured them that when we four are in Brazil, we shall dine together in that same restaurant and guarantee them a fine time (Photo Above: This kilo restaurant in Jarin is informal and inexpensive, and the food is always fresh and delicious, ranging from potatoes, with or without sauce, steamed vegetables of many varieties, rice, beans, and meat dishes. The dinner rolls come with the meal, and the after-meal coffee is free).

That is how confident we are that Brazilian restaurants are almost never disappointing. Self-service restaurants are my joy, for the dishes are invariably fresh in the food courts where we often dine while in São Paulo; in Jarin, the kilo restaurant on the main street, Rua de Independencia, is a favorite of locals as well as visitors. The prices are reasonable – my wife and I regularly had lunch there, the day’s biggest meal, for about five dollars each (Photo to left: This appetizing table, prepared by our Brazilian friends, awaited my wife and me the morning we arrived in São Paulo. The large coffee cups are a welcome sight).

My quest for a good cup of coffee is another story, both amusing and instructive. For me, it has been an adventure, for when I order American-style coffee in a large cup, I receive it in an espresso cup. I ask for a larger cup and the server looks puzzled, not knowing what I mean. My wife comes to the rescue, explains that I would like the largest cup they have, and I receive one in a cup only slightly larger. Free refills are also out of the question. I easily adjust, however, for the coffee is always excellent.

In the homes of friends and family, I am served however much coffee I desire and it, as well as the food, is always well prepared and delicious. As vegetarians, we avoid the meat dishes, which are plentiful and attractive, and if anyone is concerned about the demands of our diet, we explain that no extra effort or consideration is required since we simply eat what everyone else eats, avoiding only the meat dishes. In restaurants, we have had no trouble finding plentiful dishes without meat. As the number of vegetarians increases both here and, presumably, in Brazil, dining at home and in restaurants has become easier for those with dietary restrictions or special preferences. One of our friends in São Paulo, along with her son, are allergic to wheat in food and must be especially careful. I have seen her actually go into the kitchen of a restaurant and give instructions to the chef, so important is that she and her son not eat food that has come into contact with anything that has touched wheat-laden dishes. At home, she serves meals with two sets of utensils and separate dishes. Vegetarians no longer pose problems for restaurants or those who serve vegetarians in their homes (Photo to right: The host of this attractive service is Brazilian, as is the meal itself; here he is serving friends in his home in the United States as he does in San Jos dos Campos. His American-born wife looks on approvingly).

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

Previous articles by Bernard:

Brazil: Walking the Walk
Brazil: Walking in São Paulo
Brazil Underfoot
Further Impressions of Brazil
Brazil: Walking in São Paulo
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 Stephen Thompson
June 25, 2007

Here is the second and final part of Stephen’s story about his business adventures in Brazil. To read part 1 click the link at the bottom of the article.

Another mistake I made was to assume that my mother-in-law would be a good restaurant manager. Doing business with your relatives is always risky, and I found out why: my mother-in-law turned out to have a wicked temper and treat the staff with disdain; as a high-class Brazilian lady, she found their manners disgusting, and frequently cursed them, which did not go down well with our customers.

This led to an argument with my wife; my first instinct was to get my mother-in-law out of the restaurant and hand over management to an experienced member of staff; but my wife did not back me up on this, and she reminded me that under Brazilian law, even though I had put money into business, it was legally half hers. So I had to put up with my mother-in-law as manager until I could find a way to get rid of her.

Before this could happen though, we began to lose staff. Our cook left on the day we took over the restaurant, but his assistant bravely stepped into the breach and we managed to keep going until a new, better cook showed up, said it was actually a blessing in disguise.

Our most experienced waitress was popular with our customers and capable of managing the business. From the start, she was complaining about my mother-in-law’s bad temper; my mother-in-law and wife were both jealous and unpleasant to her, so after a month she left.

My mother-in-law also turned out to be careless with money, for example spending on expensive new plates, which turned out to be too small for our portions.

We took over the business in late November, and had two to three good weeks before Christmas, when the shopping centre closed for a few days. We expected business to be slow in January and February, due to the summer holidays, but we were disappointed when it didn’t pick up again after Carnival.

Shortly after that, things took another turn for the worse. The administration of our shopping centre decided to install ultra high pitch noise equipment, to get rid of the rats which live in the heating ducts and other hidden spaces in the building. This equipment worked, except that rats appeared and scampered across the food court eating area during lunchtime. The next day, surprise, surprise, there were very few customers. Nor the day after, nor the day after… needless to say, there was no compensation forthcoming from the administration.

During this time, I finally ran all the figures through the spreadsheet, and realised for the first time that not only was the business was unprofitable, but that it would be unprofitable unless we could increase our sales by 30% over the volume we had inherited from the previous owner.

The main reason for our unprofitability that we were spending almost 50% of our takings on food, which is a high proportion in the restaurant business. Later we began searching our staff and their bags before they left work and our food bills dropped significantly. We should probably have started doing this earlier, but we were keen to have the goodwill of the staff in the early days.

During all this time, we had been struggling to legally take over the company. The previous owner’s accountant seem to be dragging his feet, and there were almost constant delays, many of which were blamed on the government. I discovered that when there is a public holiday on a Tuesday or Thursday, government officials are entitled to take off the Monday or Wednesday as well.

It was important for our business to be our name, because while it was still in the name of the previous owner, we could not apply for cheap credit from the Brazilian National Business Investment Bank (BNDES) to carry out the much-needed facelift and move upmarket.

Seven months passed, I went abroad and left my mother-in-law and wife to manage the business their way. We were still in legal limbo, the business still belonged to its previous owner, although finally we managed to get the company credit cards transferred into our name. During this time though we could not sign contracts to supply local companies to supply lunch, or even sign a rental contracts with the owner of our premises.

My time abroad was six months in England. During this time my mother-in-law and wife lost not only all the money which I invested in the restaurant initially, but also spent more money on cooking and ventilation equipment, clocking up debts with suppliers and employees which are still growing fast, due to Brazil’s high interest rates. At the end of the six months, they sold the restaurant back to the previous owner, who had in fact never legally relinquished it, in a dubious legal transaction, in which he simply paid off some of the debts that we had clocked up, and we got nothing in return, except for the remaining debts.

I still think it’s a good idea for someone to open a restaurant for gringoes in São Paulo, however, maybe taking over cheaper premises would be a better idea. Our restaurant rent was expensive, at R$3000 a month, which left me with a dilemma. I thought that we couldn’t afford to close down for refurbishment because of a higher overheads and the loss of sales revenue it would cause.

My advice for anyone thinking of running a similar business in Brazil would be the following: it is tempting to take over a business, to avoid the long period of building up a sales volume and finding staff and suppliers etc. and you can certainly learn a lot very quickly by taking over an existing business whose owner will normally spend a month show you the ropes. But be careful, especially to avoid falling into the trap which I fell into, check your margins especially carefully; it’s easy to boost sales temporarily with loss leaders.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to compete in low profit sectors such as rice and beans” restaurants. Make sure that you have enough capital in case of an emergency, which in Brazil are common. We took over the restaurant without a sufficient reserve of capital to refurbish it and move upmarket, which could have been a success. Also, I should have refused to let the previous owner operate a business so closeby; he ended up poaching a lot of our customers.

I still think the gringo style cafe, serving a range of breakfasts and other food not available in São Paulo, could be a viable business and a lot of fun. I’m interested in talking to other potential business partners or investors. This time, I will have learned from our mistakes, and will build up from a small base with a low rent, rather than taking over an existing business with a large sales volume and high rent.

And this time, I will not let my mother-in-law get involved.

Stephen Thompson is a fortysomething English gentleman who liked to learn languages (and already speaks some Portuguese and Chinese). He was briefly the owner of a small restaurant business in São Paulo, which lost a lot of money. He is married to a Brazilian and has one Portuguese/English-speaking daughter. He enjoyed living in São Paulo for five years, but he now lives and works in Shanghai, China, as a token foreigner for a variety of local companies, and is hoping to avoid a real job. He would be interested in meeting up with other former or current Gringoes, to share the strangely interesting experience of living in Brazil. He still rents a large, nice old style apartment in Pinheiros for which he frequently needs to find sub-tenants/roommates to share the rent.

He can be contacted @ stephenthompson at hotmail dot com. (no spam please).

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 1
Getting your Brazilian Steak Fix in China
Brazil: Birth and Dying
Imaginary Voyages to Brazil
Brazil: Probably the Best Country in the World to Live In
Great Brazilian Inventions: The Kilo Restaurant
Brazil: Things you wanted to know… and will never know!
Brazil: Expensive, Trendy, and Extremely Beautiful
Brazil: Not Really British Enough
Package Holidays to Brazil are Back On Track
Brazil: Reverse Culture Shock
Brazil: The Legal System
Brazil: Saying Goodbye to a Bilingual Kid
How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy

By Marilyn Diggs
June 25, 2007

My Chilean Patagonia cruise on the Mare Australis had surpassed all my expectations. We had trekked the glaciers, seen ice slabs disengage and slide into monster fjords, and been almost close enough to hug Magellanic penguins and sea lions. Our inflatable zodiacs had navigated through iceberg-ridden waters on adventures we would someday tell our grandchildren. Even the November weather had cooperated with just random snow flurries and some overcast skies. For me, only one anticipation remained: to step foot on the southernmost island in South America, Cape Horn.

The captain had told us four days earlier when we began our expedition from Punta Arenas, Chile, that landing on Cape Horn depended entirely upon the weather and sea currents. The last three expeditions had not been lucky. It would only take place if Neptune was kind and the captain felt sure of our safety. This would be determined 30 minutes before the scheduled embarkment.

Strong westerlies, hazardous currents, rogue waves and violent seas have hindered ships since the Cape, known as the sailors’ graveyard, was first chartered. In 1577 Sir Francis Drake circumnavigating the world passed through the Strait of Magellan but a storm blew him south of Tierra del Fuego. In 1616 Dutch navigators leaving from Hoorn followed Drakes’ course in search of an alternative route to the Far East. They discovered what they thought to be a cape and named it Kaap Hoorn. Only in 1624 the Horn was revealed to be an island, not a peninsula. From the 1700s to early 1900s it was part of the clipper ship routes which carried much of the world’s trade. Over 800 ships met their doom attempting to round the Cape and now there we were, heading for the most dangerous ship passage in the world.

The night of our proximity to Cape Horn was different than the others. Up until then we had navigated in protected channels. It was smooth sailing as we passed through the Strait of Magellan and the calm Beagle Channel. Now we were heading southwest, to open sea. That night the boat rocked in restless waters. The bathroom door swung open and banged against the our cabin wall. My book and papers slid to the floor. I looked out the window; all black. I tried to doze back to sleep despite the pitching.

At 6:00 a.m. my alarm clock rang and my cabin mate and I immediately looked out the window at the jutting pointed rock under a grey sky. An uninviting, charcoal island with a white frothing skirt loomed before us.
The 120 multinational passengers divided into groups according to their mother tongue and waited for the verdict at different stations. We English speakers milled around in the top lounge in waterproof britches, rubber boots, down parkas, gloves, wool hats and bright orange life vests. People talked in muffled voices, anticipating the important announcement. Several of the crew had taken a zodiac to the Cape Horn to verify landing conditions.

At 6:45 the word came – yes, we could go. I murmured to my friend, Houston, we have a lift off!” Smiling faces scurried through the corridors of the ship. No time to lose. We made our way to the back of the ship and entered single-filed into the zodiacs according to special instructions given the night before. Hand extended to crew member, step, step, sit and slide. Choppy, freezing salt water splashed against the rubber boat. The grey metallic sky made the ocean look black and foreboding. In 20 minutes the motorboat bounced and heaved to the island.

Two of the young crew men in skin-diving suits in frigid sea water up to their waists, pulled the bobbing zodiac to a board, the improvised landing dock against the rocks. Angry waves slammed against the rocks as one by one the passengers disembarked. Slide to the front, swing legs over the side, up you go, onto the plank. Next, we climbed 180 wooden stairs against a sheer cliff to reach the treeless, tundra-covered summit. A sign made of a tree trunk slab supported by two posts read, “Armada de Chile. Cabo de Hornos. Alcaldia de mar,” (mayoralty of the sea). My almost numb fingers must have clicked a dozen photos of my colleagues by that sign, a trophy for making the climb. The fierce wind at the top of the rock island, got even angrier as the morning wore on. Average winds blow 19 mph (30 kph) but squalls can reach over 62mph (100kph). What can you expect being only 400 miles (650km) from Antarctica? We knew our visit would be brief, so no one tarried.

The misty winds made the wooden planks that formed the path slippery. We followed them to a point of divergence. To the left, a lone lighthouse, a ranger’s station and a one-room chapel; to the right, a distant hill with a monument to shipwrecked sailors. First, I headed to the station to buy a US$4 postcard stamped from the southernmost post office in the world. Bless the young couple who man that station. I climbed the spiral staircase in the lighthouse for a peek at the ocean. A protected Chilean flag flew nearby, while another one exposed to the elements was a mere rag, ripped by unpatriotic gales. Inside a wooden cabin-like chapel was an encased uniform from the Chilean naval academy, a souvenir from its first landing on the island in 1916.

The winds increased and the temperature decreased since our landing 30 minutes earlier. Time to visit the bronze sculpture with a cut out of an albatross – the memorial to the mariners who lost their lives crossing Cape Horn. It is said that this huge bird carries the souls of shipwrecked sailors to heaven. From the knoll, I looked down to where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet and wondered how many drowning sailors went to Dave Jones’ locker from this very point. I snapped some photos and it was time to return. The descent warmed us somewhat, but the waves were now white-capped and the organizers waved frantically for us to hurry. The ride back to the ship was wet and wild. Icy salt water splashed against my sunglasses and stung my wind-burned face as the bucking zodiac raced home. So much for waterproof pants. Now the cold wet sea spray was almost unbearable. Despite the winds, the passengers made it back in record time. After a shower to take off the chill, we were in the breakfast room for a hearty, well-deserved breakfast. Spirits were high; the adventure had been invigorating. It was 8:45 a.m.

Traditionally when a sailor rounded “The Horn” he was entitled to wear a gold loop earring in his left ear, the one which had faced the Horn in a typical eastbound passage. He also had permission to dine with one foot on the table. I happily settled for my certificate signed by the ship’s captain, which I regard with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

For more information: Cruceros Australis –

(Photos taken by Patty McCrary)

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.

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Around Brazil: Hang-Gliding Over Rio
Around Brazil: Sailing in Paraty
Santiago: Gateway to the Chilean Experience
The Enchanting Easter Island
Nature and Nurturing in Chile’s Lake Region
Chilean Patagonia: Going to the Ends of the Earth
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 2
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

June 22, 2007

Meet Katja Zarco, from Germany, who moved to Brazil over a year ago. Read the following interview where she tells us about some of her 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 31 years old and have been living with my husband Max Zarco, and my son Markus Alan Zarco and my son Christopher Keith Zarco in São Paulo since March 2006. I am from Berlin, Germany, my husband is from Mexico City, Markus is from Mountain View, California, and Christopher is from São Paulo, Brazil. So everyone in the family has a different nationality. It’s fun. My husband works for Intel and I started a maid agency here (www.maidinSã, especially but not exclusively, for new incoming foreigners, taking advantage of the 5 languages I speak and of having lived in 4 different countries so far. The rest of the time I spend with my kids and international friends, on service projects ( and enjoying the great weather and beaches around here (well, most of the year, not so much at the moment, obviously).

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

March 2006, 7 1/2 months pregnant, and a quick move because my husband accepted a local job here in São Paulo.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I think Brazil is great. I love the European and especially German influence here. I haven’t been in Germany in years and so it’s as close to Germany here as I can get without going there. The various German restaurants around here surely get good business from me! I think the people here are very nice and friendly, especially kid-friendly, and helpful. As long as you don’t expect to be talking to anyone INside of your condominio that is, hahaha. Nobody seems to talk to each other inside of the 1 or 2 tower condominios! Still have not figured quite out why that is. The weather is awesome, I expected the summer to be worse, and was glad to be proven wrong on that. It has been a wonderful year. The downside is how expensive things are here. We were told, coming from Mexico City, that we’ll love how cheap it is, that we should expect everything to be 20% cheaper than there, but if anything we find everything to be at least 20% more expensive. Sometimes I wonder how people get by here on normal wages. Wages are lower than in Mexico, generally speaking, and things more expensive. It’s a mystery to me how some people live here.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Where is home? That is always a tricky question in our family, considering our 4 nationalities. I miss bread and sausages and Doeners from Germany, I miss German neighborhood friendliness, I miss the ease of getting things done and the customer service and ‘normal/adequate’ prices from the USA, I miss Mexican Tacos, Sopes, Flautas, and Mexican ingenuity when it comes to family survival – they always find a way to make a living, however large or small that might be.

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

The first few weeks trying to find your way around the city because even IF you have a map that tells you the direction of the streets, the map is not always correct in that. And learning that to take a left, you usually have to do a loop to the right.

The other frustrating things are usually related to customer service, like changing your Cable TV packages or type of phone line. We once spent 1 1/2 hrs with a rep from NET trying to change our package, called from the phone line that comes with the package, got charged for the call about 20 Reais and didn’t get anything done neither were we allowed to talk to a supervisor!

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

the 5-star birth of my 2nd son Christopher at the Einstein Hospital with my OBGYN Marcia Tabacow! That hospital is amazing, its like a hotel. And my doctor was wonderful, even though I only had I believe 4 or 5 visits with her before the birth. She is so personal and caring. She was with me in the hospital 11 hours! The entire time, talking, holding my hand, coaching, explaining, everything you could ever wish for. Unfortunately it was a c-section in the end because his head was too big, but she did a good job on the surgery too. The other memorable moment was visiting Blumenau, where my parents lived 30 years ago for 3 years and where my older brother was born!

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

How kid-friendly everyone is here. I find that amazing. And all those Salgadinhos! YUMYUM!

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

Ui, tough one. There is the brewery place in the Market place next to the bookstore. There is another German place in Embu das Artes on the plaza. Embu in general is definitely a favorite for us, it’s a nice get-away from the city. Ibirapuera park is cool and although the zoo is badly planned and confusing, I love zoos and so do my sons, so I’d have to say that is a favorite too. There is also by where we live, by Borba Gato in Santo Amaro, a Yugoslavian family that has a little mini restaurant, its so cozy and calm and familiar to hang out there, have some cake and eat some good food. Like a real Caf in Europe. I love it

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

Not really, sorry.

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

Its more the resemblance I think that is striking. Germany has a lot of laws like here. And many things get complicated in life by having so many rules, regulations etc. Germans are more strict though and stick to the regulations/laws, whereas here you find the legislation changing rules quite frequently. Differences, I must say is the vast social divide. Germany is almost only middle class, and since Mexico I have been surprised by how countries are that have little middle class and large rich and poor classes. That is still awe-inspiring to me. I studied Geography and Business, so many problems these countries have, seem obvious and solutions seem obvious to me, but I also see how the reality of things, local customs, or laws, or culture prohibit advancement in many areas. Having seen these similarities and differences from Germany, the USA, Mexico and Brazil, has given me a very unique view of the world and its cultures and I am so glad that I, my husband and kids can share that all together.

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?

Portuguese is great. No problems, past tense is sometimes confusing and some words that are too engrained in my brain in Spanish after 2 years in Mexico. But its cool. No complaints.

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

Enjoy whatever little or long time you have here – and get a maid! I didn’t want to get a full-time maid in the beginning. I thought that it would make me too lazy, but it is so great to be able to concentrate on things other than the kids for some time. And although it’s a difficult, and sometimes long journey to find a maid (if you have a story about that email it to katja@maidinSã please) it is worth it. Be patient with driving, and laugh it off when you get lost YET AGAIN. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. You’d be surprised what kind of people you meet. Even at McDonald’s playgrounds! And drive around and explore your extended neighborhood. I always tend to be too lazy to do it and later on regret it after we move! There is so much more than the nucleos we usually surround ourselves with.

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

DON’T travel in December, January or until after Carnival in February. Prices are nuts, beaches are packed, etc. Stay in Pousadas when you travel, they are awesome little family run mini-hotels. We have had wonderful experiences with that. In São Paulo, well, the Zoo and parks like Ibirapuera. Visit the south, like Florianopolis. It was gorgeous, both weather and water! Find your niche, and enjoy yourself despite the craziness of this metropolis! And have lots of churrascos!

If you need someone to help you get used to the city, find a place, be a friend, find a maid, just talk or whatever, feel free to contact me!

You can email Katja via katja@maidinSã

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 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:

Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
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 Teacher Claudia
June 22, 2007

Dear readers, should you be in Brazil in the month of June, there are two things to be noticed. One is the color of the sky, of a vivid blue, due to our position in relation to the sun. It’s winter time here, and this view is just a present, even more beautiful than the summer sky.

The second thing is our typical parties, called Festas Juninas”. Juninas because they only happen in June. They are popular celebrations of three important saints in Brazil: St. Anthony, St. Peter and St. John, and involve several cultural aspects, such as the rescue of homemade foods, old folklore songs, square dances and all sorts of games for children.
People usually dress up as if they were from the countryside, wearing a wide straw hat and boots.

Because June is the month of the harvest of corn and peanuts, many of the foods are based on them, and because it’s Brazil, most are sweets: curau, canjica, pamonha, pé-de-moleque, paoca…

Among the games there are: jump over the fire (to overcome fear), climb of the greased post (to achieve goals), fishing (to prove one’s good luck), love letters (to send anonymous notes to the subject of our passion), jail (to praise freedom) and many more.

A high point is the decoration, so Brazilian and naive, full of colorful flags and fireworks to illuminate these long winter nights. In São Paulo, the best Festas Juninas take place at Catholic churches and schools, but the most famous ones happen far from here, in Campina Grande and in Caruaru, both in the northeast region.

Teacher Claudia is available for private classes in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

To read previous articles by Teacher Claudia click below:

Portuguese Tip: Sounds Part 2 – De & Di
Portuguese Tip: Diminutives
Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Final Part
Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Exceptions
Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs
Brazil: A Day in São Paulo
Why Not? (Or on Brazilian Indians)
Portuguese Tip: Infinitives and Gerunds Part 1
Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Ningum X Nenhum
Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Tudo vs. Todo
Brazil’s Independence Day
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Denials
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Não and Nem
Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts Part 2
Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts
Brazil: To Tell or Not to Tell
Brazil: Ipiranga Museum
Portuguese Tip: Odd words
Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
A Brazilian Holiday: October 12th
Portuguese Tip: Sounds
Portuguese Tip: Verb Tenses
Portuguese Tip: The Mystery of Seu, Sua
Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 2
A Brazilian custom: Kissing the Cheek
Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Past
Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 1
Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Present
Portuguese Tips
Portuguese Tips: Adverbs in Portuguese
Portuguese Tips: Comparative and Superlative
Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes

June 22, 2007

More Airport Problems
Problems surfaced again for air travellers this week, reaching a head yesterday when issues with the air traffic control system caused around half of Brazil’s flights to be delayed or cancelled. Extra security was required at airports to protect staff from angry passengers. Defence Minister Waldir Pires was forced to return early from Paris air show to deal with the problems.

Monkey Biologist Jailed
Dutch biologist Marc van Roosmalen has been jailed and faces 14 years in prison due to not having applied for a license to keep monkeys. Roosmalen, who was hailed by Time magazine in 2000 as a hero for the planet”, has kept orphaned monkeys in a refuge in the Amazon for several years, along with campaigning to protect the rainforest. It is believed that Roosmalen is a victim of his campaigning activities against logging and soybean companies, who in turn reported him for keeping the monkeys.

Bush Blames Brazil and India For Failed Agreement
An agreement designed to help trade with developing nations, part of the WTO Doha Round talks, has collapsed due to Brazil and India, according to President Bush. Minister for External Relations, Celso Amorim, blamed the liberalisation of world commerce within the agreement as the main sticking point, as part of talks in Potsdam, Germany.

World Cup Guarantees Signed
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed agreements with FIFA, as part of guarantees to host the 2014 World Cup. Lula said that Brazil has “nearly” guaranteed to host the event, and redress the “unforgettable defeat” of the 1950 World Cup when Brazil were defeated.

Amazon Longest River in World
Brazilian scientists at the Institute of Geography and Statistics say they have discovered the start of the Amazon is further south than previously thought, and therefore longer. The increase puts it at around 4,250 miles, 90 longer than the Nile at 4,160 miles. The Amazon is also believed to carry the largest volume of water.

Indians Use Google Earth
Along with other world-wide initiatives using Google Earth, such as those in Darfur, Brazilian Indians are to use the program to police their reservations. Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui met with Google Earth executives in California last month to persuade them to help with the endeavour. The Google executives will buy higher resolution images to help keep an eye on the forest. Surui’s tribes have already used laptops and GPS to map their reservation.

This article was sponsored by the TABU restaurant, located in the Sonesta hotel in São Paulo, the lodging answer for all your business and leisure needs.

Tabu Restaurant São Paulo Sonesta Hotel São Paulo

By Tamashin
June 21, 2007

I have been asked by several contributors on the Forum to get together a few of my true experiences of living in Brasil and put them on the home page and/or newsletter. Here’s my first story.

It was 3.30am in the morning when, all of a sudden, there was an almighty crash from the BBQ area. Talk about a rude awakening!

With thoughts of recent kidnappings and break-ins not a million miles from my mind, I raced through the house to the kitchen area, where I peered through the glass door into the darkness of the BBQ area.

I was confronted by a large rat sitting next to the fridge on its haunches, looking not unlike an old armchair.

It had knocked over some bottles and things and was now chewing its way through a pink baseball cap. I was momentarily distracted thinking who wears a pink baseball cap in this house but it passed when the rat jumped onto the serving area.

We were now eye to eye (I was stooping a bit) and I was thinking about what to do next when my well meaning, good lady wife tapped me on the shoulder. I suffered a mild heart attack but recovered quickly. She advised me to leave it alone and it would go away. Where” I thought and how would you know it had gone.

I decided to trap it with one of the children’s clear plastic toy chests. Incredibly, this took about an hour as we played a bizarre type of chess game around the BBQ area. When I did finally trap it, I put a heavy chair on top of the box for good measure.

Later that morning I rang the local council to ask for advice on what to do with the rat. They told me to take it to SUS. “I haven’t hurt it” says I, but they explained, very patiently, that the rat would be taken away and examined for diseases.

Clear plastic chest in arms with a very large, unhappy rat inside, I marched into the local SUS and up to the reception desk. Several people left the room.

They would indeed examine said rat. I asked if I could have the toy chest back, “no” she replied a tad too quickly for my liking.

Several days later they rang to confirm that the rat had no diseases. My good deed cost me a toy chest but peace of mind. Are rats always on their own?

Tamashin is a retired civil engineer who first came to Brazil in 1993 to help build a community centre for street children in Rio. He now lives in João Pessoa with his Brazilian wife and children.

Previous articles by Tamashin:

Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 9
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 8
Brazil: Am I Concerned?
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 7
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 6
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 5
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 4
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 3
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 2
Popular Brazilian Expressions Part 1
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 5
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 4
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 3
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 2
Around Brazil: João Pessoa Part 1
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 6
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 5
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 4
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 3
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 2
Brazil: The Great North Road Part 1