September 28, 2007

Meet Mike Stricklin, from the USA, who has both worked and lived in Brazil. Read the following interview where he tells us about some of 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.?

Our history with Brazil and Brazilians spans four decades. Born and reared in Texas, I am an emeritus professor of journalism and mass communication studies at the University of Nebraska, with degrees from Baylor University, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Iowa. I had been a newspaper reporter, editor, and publisher before becoming a teacher for 31 years. Chere, born in Louisiana, is a retired blood-banker, having run the laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska. We live, since January 2005, in Teresina, Piau, where I am a visiting professor in the Department of Social Communication and Journalism at the Federal University of Piau (UFPI). I write an occasional column for O Dirio do Povo” here. Chere works with educational exchanges, mostly as liaison between schools across the world and piauienses. It is not uncommon for her to telephone three or four countries every day! We have two adult children, Woods and Robin. Both studied Portuguese in Brazil. Woods Stricklin, 37, is a language and ESL teacher in Portland, Oregon, and father of Rubin and Penelope Jane. Rubin, 16, will arrive in Teresina in January to study Portuguese and Brazilian culture. Penelope, 9, proudly wears the colors of the Brazilian select team and plays soccer, along with other sports. Robin Stricklin, 30, an accomplished equestrian, lives in New Orleans and has a rock and roll trio with a very complicated name — the Leah Quinella All Stars, Featuring Happy. Robin plays drums, guitar and sings (sometimes the music of Caetano!) Happy plays guitar, slide whistle, recorder and kazoo. Asia, the third member, sings, plays guitar, and writes most of their songs.

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

My wife and I are, in a way, fulfilling a long-time dream. We arrived for the first time in Rio on December 8, 1966 as Peace Corps Volunteers. I was 22 and she 21. We lived for two years in Brejo Grande, Sergipe, a very old community at the mouth of the São Francisco river. At the time, there were about 2,500 inhabitants, no electricity, no treated water. I had been trained as a journalist and Chere as a biochemist, both of us at Baylor. I helped develop a vegetable garden for more than 250 elementary school children. She dispensed medication at the SESP health post, explaining to the mothers how to use them. We conducted a census (my minor area of study had been sociology), and were able to put together an analysis of the town that had direct impact, particularly in education. For example, the mayor funded a kindergarten and provided adult literacy classes. We learned a lot, but I must say that the people of Brejo Grande taught us much, much more than we taught them. Our lives were changed forever.

That was the &rsquot;60;s. We took time off for graduate school and for children in the &rsquot;70;s, returning for a visit to Brazil for the first time in 1981. (We flew on the inaugural American Airlines flight from DFW airport to Guarulhos.) The next visits came in 1989 and 1990 as Partners of the Americas exchanges. Then, in 1996, I was invited to lecture at UFPI, which I continued to do annually during my summer vacations. (I gave the first extension course about the Internet in Piau in 1996, for more than 180 students.) I was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at UFPI in 1999, and helped start a graduate program in journalism.

The May 2003 day that I decided to take early retirement at Nebraska, I went home and asked “Vamos aposentar em Teresina?” Chere replied, “Embora!” It was an easy decision, to make a dream come true.

3. What were your first impressions of Brazil?

First impressions:

Rio is hot in December. (As hot as Teresina, although cariocas will never admit to this!)

Brazilians are amazingly hospitable and tolerant (Imagine twenty or so novice Peace Corps Volunteers boarding the same bus armed only with a vocabulary of about 2000 words and trying to pay the fare of old Cr$100 with Cr$5000 notes. It could have been a disaster, but the fare taker merely threw his hands up in surrender…)

Later impressions:

Brazilians are not troubled by disorganization, but too many Americans are, dangerously so (If the meeting was scheduled for 9:00 a.m., that means only that there is absolutely no possibility that will it start before then. Although there is no disrespect at all intended, the American too often gets miffed, then retreats into a defensive posture.)

Brazilians place family above all else, except God. (A hundred or more from one family will gather for Sunday lunch, representing three or four generations. The American has no hope of keeping the names straight.)

Brazilians never take a promise idly. (If the American says, yes, I will go with you to whatever, it appears to be taken as a solemn commitment. On the other hand, Brazilians hate to say no, so when the American invites someone to dinner, the response will always be yes. Disappointments abound because the American does not know that an invitation must always be confirmed. (In other words, it is the invitation itself that matters most. Rule: Never get your feelings hurt. And, always say yes, but expect confirmation to be required.)

One final observation in this regard: Culture shock is a process and not a label, i.e., it never ends yet merely changes over time. Of course the initial and superficial matters such as cuisine, the physical ambiance filled with another language, other noises and aromas, will be surmounted through experience. But, at deeper levels, I must say that I learn something new almost every day about how human nature can be so totally the same and at the same time be played out in such different ways. Amazing!

4. What do you miss most about home?

These days, very little, due in large part to broadband Internet and Skype. I have libraries at my fingertips, and can visit with family and friends daily. What&rsquot;s to miss?

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

It required more than a year to receive permanent visas.

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

There are so many, but to choose only one, because I am the only non-Brazilian to have been so honored, I am reminded of the ceremony in 2005 when I was made a Citizen of Teresina, surrounded by friends. I ended my remarks that night with these words: “To think about having my name written down along with those who have been granted this title tightens the muscles in my throat and brings tears to my eyes. You see, I am a romantic and an idealist, perhaps a dreamer. Yet, I dream good dreams, and, more than even these, I am honored to have my name and that of my family recognized by the leadership of this city as being worthy of being called Teresinense, of formally joining the tens and hundreds and thousands who call Teresina home.”

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

There is nothing better than a Brazilian festa (somehow, the word party just doesn&rsquot;t do!) Brazilians truly enjoy each other. (I love to say to my friends and family back in the States, “Well, last night, when we were at a birthday party with about 200 of our closest friends… By the way, what were you doing?”)

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

In Teresina there is the Santana&rsquot;s Bar, which has been in business almost 60 years. No sign outside, just a place on a downtown corner. There are about a 100 or so Amigos do Santana. On a given Saturday afternoon we have lunch together, with much cold beer, a little rum and Coke, and swap stories.

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

Chere and I have been active members of the Partners of the Americas for many years. Piau and Nebraska are sister states, and we hosted many Brazilian visitors to Nebraska, so many that our home was christened “Hotel Chere”! One time we had two distinguished physicians from Teresina visiting us, one being the state secretary of health and the other a clinician (and later president of the Brazilian medical society). That first night, they watched me intensely for cues on what to do. After dinner, I rose from the table and carried my dinner things to the kitchen, rinsed them off and put them into the dishwasher. Both were gentlemen and on their very best behavior, so they, too stood, picked up plates, knives, and forks, and followed my lead perfectly, rinsing and stowing just as I had done. The future president smiled and said, “Your Maria never takes a day off, right?”

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

Days of the same length — being only 5 degrees from the equator — and only having two seasons, wet and dry.

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?

It is good to be a so-called “life-long learner.” It comes in handy, particularly when I make a mistake in Portuguese. It is well for one to know that Brazilians delight in double and triple entendre. So many words have more than one meaning that an entire conversation can seem to be conducted in a sort of code. For example, the other night, at Santana&rsquot;s Bar, I asked a fellow for his email. Everybody laughed, but I didn&rsquot;t get the joke. I should have asked for his email ADDRESS, because the word email, when pronounced badly, has quite a different meaning, one that I cannot share on a family web site!

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

Relax, this is Brazil!

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

The Northeast coast of Brazil, from Fortaleza to São Luis is (as yet) little known. Take a plane to Fortaleza, book a stay at the Boa Vista Resort in Camocim, continue on to the delta of the River Parnaiba, unique in the world, and stay the night in Luis Correira, finish up in the Lenis in Barreirinhas, Maranhão. Unforgettable beaches, sea food, steadiest sea breezes in the world
(really!) and hospitality. Fly home from São Luis. Hurry! Before it becomes “discovered”.

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:

Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
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 Katie O’Hara
September 27, 2007

A desert oasis on the shore of northern Brazil’s warm turquoise waters, Jericoacoara is the place to be in Brazil-to relax, enjoy life, and get back to the basics.

Alain de Botton teaches us in his novel, The Art of Travel, that frequently when we travel we are blind to the sights because we are caught up in what we should see. Taking a break from the daily rigor of life and decision making, we find ourselves in foreign places questioning what to do and trying not to miss anything by squeezing it all in. Sometimes, we need to just let go and allow our natural desires and impulses take over.

Jericoacoara, a few structures scattered around streets made of sand, lost in a sea of dunes, is constantly being blown and shifted by the endless wind. It’s the kind of town you leave feeling fulfilled, or rather filled full of sand. Up your nose, in your ears, stuck to your scalp, and inside other crevices of the body. It’s a wonder they have any sand left in that town after I left with half of it in my pants.

Beyond the sandy town with a vibrant nightlife, the surrounding area offer oasis lakes and sand dunes beautiful enough to send the toughest scenery critics into euphoria. The area is best explored in a bugre (4WD beach buggy) or large passenger truck. I chose the latter option, which was the only conscious decision I made that day.

Very close to missing the ride and having to run after truck, I jumped in the bed while it was moving, apologizing to my new travel companions in a couple of different languages since I wasn’t sure whether they spoke English, Spanish or Portuguese. They turned out to be Isabel, a French girl that was traveling, a woman just getting over a bout of Dengue, a fever caused by mosquito bites that can cause hemorrhaging, and ultimately death. Fortunately, most cases are not this extreme though. Also in the truck was a mother with her two teenage children. In contrast to most teenagers on “family vacations” they were thoroughly enjoying themselves and appeared to be taking pleasure in spending time with their mother.

We exited Jeri by means of Tatajuba, an endless stretch of seashore, whose beauty laid in the simplicity of the landscape. It was broad path of smooth sand and sea that appeared endless since its cool indigo color matched the shade of the clear sky. A few soft clouds gave it depth and transmitted some mysterious shapes onto the surface of the water. Fishermen’s weather-worn shacks dotted the beach. I felt, not pity for the men that live in these broken-down homes and do backbreaking work catching fish in tiny wooden boats, but, rather, slight envy for the uncomplicated lives that they lead. Sandro, the driver, ruggedly handsome with eyes the color of the sea, spoke with a sense of pride about the fishermen. He admired these strong men the way they rise early in the morning and head straight into the water to wait for the big one and lose themselves in thoughts. When supplies are needed, they simply hop on a bicycle and ride to the closest town, no need for decisions that don’t pertain to basic survival.

Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) a sapphire pool of water resembles a large puddle in a vast expanse of sand. The water was surprisingly cool and fresh in contrast to the surrounding burning white sand. Recumbent, elbows dug into the sand and buttocks protruding from the clear shallow water receiving heat like the shells of sunning turtles, we watched more ambitious visitors paddle around in kayaks and dive from a wooden plank. A single sailboat floated nearby, knotted loosely a driftwood post in the sand.

After breezing through Jijoca to admire the small town, we stopped at the aptly-named Lagoa Paraso (Paradise Lagoon). Heavy wooden tables and palm frond umbrellas tastefully dot the shore. Beside the tables, cushioned lounge chairs promise complete comfort and maximum sun exposure (if desired) while waiting for a meal. I enjoyed the crab cakes and basket of fish with rose sauce. Stuffed and happy, I transitioned into recline mode once again without having to exert any effort dragging myself to another spot for tanning.

Part 2 next week…

By Joe Lopes
September 27, 2007

There is an old adage your mother may once have taught you about the neighborhood weirdo – commonly referred to in English Literature as the village idiot”-which goes something like this: “poor people are crazy, rich people are eccentric.”

For the purposes of this discussion, though, we should add the following caveat: “local people have good ideas they never seem to act on, while outsiders all have crazy ideas they always act on.”

Remarkably, most times we remember the crazy ideas best – and, equally remarkable, they’re usually the ones that “work out” in the end.

One of many such ideas is the focus of German director, writer and producer Werner Herzog’s fantastic jungle opus Fitzcarraldo (1982). Fantastic, that is, in the dictionary sense of the word, as in “strange,” “freakish,” “odd,” and totally “farfetched.” Webster’s New World Thesaurus even lists “foreign” as a plausible substitute.

We also have “absurd” and “futile,” both synonymous with the writings of French philosopher Albert Camus, in particular the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” based on his existential analysis of the tragic Greek figure of the same name, condemned, in the afterlife, to roll a huge rock up a hill, only to see it slide back towards the ground upon reaching the summit.

Yes, all these descriptions are fine and accurate and certainly help to convey the surreal atmosphere that surrounds this mesmerizing adventure flick at times, yet none of them truly suffice as much as the term “madness” does.

Madness in the way the director eschewed special effects for larger-than-life realism in his grueling account of Irish entrepreneur (and resident outsider) Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, transformed by the natives into the more euphemistic sounding “Fitzcarraldo,” and his cockeyed scheme to provide opera to the isolated Peruvian village of Iquitos.

Madness in Herzog’s use of authentic Amazonian locales, despite the inherent difficulties and insurmountable obstacles that shooting in that part of the world entailed for him and his long-suffering cast and crew.

Madness in his insistence on a real 340-ton steam vessel, to be hauled, by real Indians, first up, then down a real mountain slope – never mind the fact that the real Fitzcarraldo, a nineteenth-century devil-may-care businessman, had chosen to dismantle his vessel before actually transporting it.

And madness in his employment of unruly screen veteran Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, The Wrath of God, 1972; Nosferatu, The Vampyre, 1978) – the epitome of erratic behavior both on and off the set – in place of the previously announced Jason Robards (who came down with amoebic dysentery only four months into the shoot) and rock star Mick Jagger (who left soon after to join a Rolling Stones concert tour). They both got off easy as a result.

That the film was completed at all after having suffered through these and countless other ignominious mishaps – and went on to become a hallmark of the epic-movie genre as well – is the unlikeliest (and likewise maddest) concept of all.

Still, the sheer thought of bringing grand opera to the tropical rainforest area was not as improbable as it might first have appeared, even for a work of pure fiction.

Indeed, for all its vaunted inaccessibility and vastness, the Amazon has historically been the site of not one but several elaborately furnished opera houses bankrolled by the rich and powerful rubber barons of the period – the most famous of which, the pink-marbled Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, makes an eerie nocturnal appearance early on in Herzog’s accident-prone production.

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 JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 5
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 4
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 3
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 2
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 1
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 4
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 3
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 2
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 1
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 Stephen Thompson
September 25, 2007

China is quite popular in Brazil these days, and there are lots of opportunities for business and employment in this bilateral trade, which has been booming for the last few years. Chinese head of state Hu Jintao visited Brazil in 2004 after Lula’s visit to China. The Brazilian media then and now have been bombarding us with news from China. With the Olympics in Beijing next year, prepare for even more reporting. There is a demand professionals who know about China or can assist Brazilian companies wanting to do business with China.

For example, Chinese-Portuguese interpreters are needed. I worked as interpreter for several Brazilian companies, interpreting at meetings and training courses, and guiding tours of Chinese around steel works, tractor factories, ethanol plants. I even interpreted at trade talks at the Ministry of Agriculture.

These days, with the high Real, many Brazilian manufacturers are opening plants in China. The commodity exporters of Brazil are doing well, mainly due to strong demand from China. According to the Financial Times, 02/00/2007, Brazil is heavily insulated from shocks by high foreign reserves, low foreign debt and healthy current account surpluses”. Just two years ago, it would have been hard to imagine such a statement from a serious newspaper.

Brazil has 200,000 overseas Chinese, but many of the youngsters have gone back to China to take advantage of the opportunities there. I myself thought I would give this a try, and have just spent 18 months working a series of companies in China, both freelance and full time. I worked for a wine company, a real estate venture and printing firm. I did three freelance interpreting jobs for Brazilian companies, taking them to trade fairs and on factory visits. I took a journalist around China. My Chinese improved greatly and I learned that when it comes to business, the Chinese are as clever as they say they are!

Many Brazilian businessmen are trying to learn Chinese themselves, and enrolments at one Chinese school in São Paulo went up 500% in 2005. There is a demand for books and information about China, with very few available in Portuguese. The media is focusing on China, and in January, I spent two weeks interpreting for a Brazilian journalist. Globo TV is currently filming a documentary on China and they want to interview me.

When you are in Brazil, China can seem a long way away, and getting information can be difficult. There is a shortage of good private Chinese teachers and courses on China. The University of São Paulo has a small Chinese language department, as part of the department of “Letras”. David Xu, an Indonesian Chinese, is in charge of language teaching there. At PUC in São Paulo, Professor Altemani leads a group of scholars interested in Asian studies, many of whom are studying International Relations, see here. Altemani’s own research interest is mainly focused on ASEAN. I also taught a six part “Introduction to China” at Rio Branco, the University run by the São Paulo rotary club.

The best Chinese restaurant in Brazil is probably the Taiwanese Golden Ginza, on Galvao Bueno in Liberdade. This is where most visiting Chinese delegations go when they can’t take any more Brazilian Barbeque Beef Buffets.

To gain exposure to the Chinese language, there are of course many good internet sites. Radio Beijing broadcasts in several languages including Portuguese. You can subscribe to either of the two Chinese newspapers published in São Paulo. One of them represents the views of the Taiwanese community, and has an office on Rua Galvao Bueno. The other reflects the opinions of the Beijing government, and it’s office is just around the corner on Rua São Joaquim. Many of the stories in both papers will be Chinese translations of articles from yesterdays papers. You can also get Mainland Chinese TV on satelite.

There are several chambers of commerce in São Paulo and Rio. Charles Tang, who actually lives in Rio, has an office. Charles is considered one of the leading experts on China in Brazil, although strangely he does not speak Mandarin, only Shanghainese. Paul Liu has the most active chamber, the CBCDE, with inconspicuous headquarters in the Vila Madalena.

Stephen Thompson lived in Brazil from 2001 to 2005. He is married to a Brazilian and has a daughter. He works for Xpress Holdings, a Singaporean printing group, as their Shenzhen Marketing Manager.

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 1
Brazil: What’s in a Name?
Brazil: Go East, Young Man
Brazil: This Is The Life I’ve Always Wanted
Brazil: Stolen Computer
My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 2
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 Simon Tarmo
September 25, 2007

I have arrived. I have packed up my life and now I’m in one of the biggest, craziest cities in the world – São Paulo.

Actually, this is just a temporary stay, for a couple of days, before I move on to my new home for a few years or so – Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil.

But I’ll speak of São Paulo for now.

To begin somewhat poetically, the sheer size of the city alone makes the mind shift to different places, places where my former safe, secure and controlled existence (in Sydney, Australia) are overcome by semi-subconscious feelings of possibility, excitement and the unknown.

I touch down at about midnight on a Friday and quickly clear the tired and bored looking federal police and customs officers, before picking up my 92kg of luggage (yes, we paid handsomely for the extra kilos but it’s hard to leave your previous world behind) and greeting my good friend Augusto (Guto for short), who had just arrived to pick me up. Despite various warnings from folk supposedly in the know back in Australia, I had absolutely no problem with my trip, especially the final hurdle getting out of São Paulo airport, and actually rolled through the exit gates before my scheduled landing time – lucky my friend is prompt.

Following a quick search for Guto’s car in the balmy São Paulo night, we squeeze into the little Fiat and make our way through the surprisingly light traffic (compared with previous, mid-week and daytime trips) on the surprisingly improved roads and, after a few absolutely natural moments of panic checking the green suburb direction signs before veering off on an exit while simultaneously muttering the Indian sounding names and affirmations that we were on the right course, Guto announces out arrival in his suburb of Vila Madalena (Madalena is a version of the name Magdalene, I was quickly answered, reaffirming that I am now miles away from my English/Aboriginal inspired homeland).

Now, with São Paulo basically the entire Australian population crammed into a space the size of Sydney, I found Vila Madalena to be a small, gracious haven amongst numerous not-so-couth areas. After parking in the security area below Guto’s rented two bedroom apartment, rigorously wrestling my weighty luggage into the diminutive lift-with-a-pull-to-door, and quickly changing shirts and smells thanks to Rexona’s shower in a bottle, we take off down his street to a ‘favourite’ bar of mine (I’d been there once before a few years earlier and loved it) for a midnight snack/dinner.

Oh, by the way, I had also just met back up with my wife after a few weeks apart (this life move thing is complex) and we were now hand in hand following Guto and his wife, Adriana (Dri), through the increasingly busy streets.

Busy soon becomes crowded and as we arrive at the heart of Vila Madelena’s restaurant/bar area we are already peering into places for free tables, and, although the bar of my choice is packed to the Patricks, we spot a nice, free corner in the establishment across the road and head in. A quick picanha na chapa (beef rump cut the opposite way to in Australia cooked medium rare and served on hot plate sizzling above two burners – yeah) and five or six Originals (600ml bottles of beer shared amongst the table – yeah) and I am well and truly ready to surrender to my jetchee lagee, which I rapidly do.

I’ll skip a day now thank you very much air travel, although on Saturday we did manage a trip to the wonderful central markets and dinner at another friend’s apartment, even though my body said not to.

Sunday morning is funny. Still timezone-challenged, I wake early and spend 7-8am on Guto’s wireless laptop catching up with mum and sister on Messenger (mum’s come a long way) and culling my already growing inbox of work-related emails. At about 8:30am I hear a rather, no very, loud explosion of music coming from the street 12 levels below and washing over the entire suburb. It is the lovely Marisa Monte – Brasil’s own PJ Harvey crossed with Norah Jones – singing a bit of samba and a bit of MBP (Musica Popular Brasileira). As I’m not tired at all, this is great. A bit different to my customary Sunday morning, but almost exactly what I expected and wanted to happen on my first real day back in Brasil. Actually, it feels somewhat like that Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show in that everything seems to be happening just because I’m here, but will stop when I leave.

The latter is kind of true. I am quickly assured by Dri, who has risen with the music, that this is not normal but the opening of the annual Vila Madelena Festival – now in its 30th year. Lucky me. Once we are all up and ready to get going (I’m actually starting to feel tired again), we head to a nearby caf that serves breakfast – relatively rare in São Paulo I’m told – before moving on to check out the already pulsing streets of the festival. Pearl Jam’s Alive is now pumping out of the speakers on the main street stage, a bit too familiar for my liking, but once Eddie has finished off the song with his customary whine Paulista musicians take the stage and begin practicing and checking sound.

Now a festival’s a festival and I won’t bore anyone with the details but amongst more beer and carne (meat) na chapa (remember?), there are a few odds and ends worth mentioning, namely: it’s a bloody big festival, with about four street sections of around half a kilometre each closed off and full of revellers; you can buy beer anywhere and drink it anywhere, beleza! (beauty!); it’s freakin hot – over 30 degrees – although it’s still officially winter; it’s freakin loud, particularly when the real bands are on stage; and the whole time my wife remains incredibly happy to be back in her home country.

On Monday we are up and at ’em early and quickly on the way to Congonhas (or Conyongas as I like to mis-pronounce) airport for an early flight to Belo Horizonte, my new city. Before I leave São Paulo for the time being, though, I’ll mention a couple more of my numerous and just plain amazing highlights. Travelling from the airport at midnight I particularly liked going past the city’s main cemetery to see about 10 of the 30 or so flower stalls that line its gates completely open and as fully stocked as Mother’s Day, just in case a late night visit took your fancy (although, upon second thoughts, I reckon I could have done with some flowers a few times late on a Friday night, and my wife agrees). I also loved our trip to the markets on Saturday when we parked the Fiat in a big, old, narrow building that seemed to me to be based on a design out of Mad Magazine – the street level is a long row of garage spaces which cars are driven into before being raised however many stories (the entire, 15 level+ building is dedicated to parking) on big elevators to rest for a few hours and then be retrieved.

Anyway, another gringo has had a taste of São Paulo, a city that really doesn’t seem to sleep or end, and the salt from the meat and foam from the beer remains on the tip of my tongue for now.

And so I move on to a place I feel is a genuine illustration of Brasil and her people, well away from the overt tourism and sheer madness of many of the other renowned cities. My new home is Belo Horizonte. Stay tuned…

By Ricky Skelton
September 24, 2007

It’s just one of those names, isn’t it. You hear the word ‘Amazon’ and immediately think of all kinds of dramatic scenery, exotic people and odd occurrences. As far as I’m concerned it definitely lived up to the hype. I had such an amazing time travelling up the River Amazon and I will never forget it and will recommend that everyone takes a journey up the world’s mightiest river.

Perhaps it wasn’t quite how you may have been led to expect – no indigenous warriors lining the banks with blowpipes and poison darts, not many caimans or anacondas following us around, and no sign of the piranhas that aren’t anywhere near as dangerous as legend has it. All of this is a shame but never detracted from the experience. The absence of the candir was an obvious bonus, but you cant be too careful. The reputation of this fish induces so much fear that even going to the toilet on a boat on the River Amazon is a nervous experience. Always move from side to side, just in case. It didnt stop me swimming in the river though. To the layman, swimming amongst vegetation to escape mosquitoes that have savaged every passenger on a broken-down boat in the knowledge that theyre not likely to encounter humans again for many years in that part of the river might be difficult to romanticize, but it was easy for me. I was swimming in The Amazon!

What I did experience there was a total sense of culture shock that Id never had in other places in Brazil. The cities and beaches of the south are a little different to back home, but not amazingly so. The lifestyle of the caboclo people who live alongside the Amazon River and its various channels towards the mouth is an incredible thing to behold. Somewhere between Ilha do Marajão, with its buffalo-riding policemen, and Santarem, hundreds of houses built on stilts sit directly above the water during the wet season floods. Surrounded by half-submerged trees, the wooden dwellings are very simple, small enough to have two rooms at the most, and often with a satellite dish. This surprises some people as though the descendents of indigenous people and the colonial Portuguese shouldnt be allowed to watch television. Buffaloes wallow in the fields to the side of the houses, boats filled almost to the point of sinking chug their way up or down through the floating trunks and grass islands that are heading towards the Atlantic.

And then the kids arrive. From the sides of the river, like one half of their ancestors attacking the other hundreds of years before, they paddle into the middle of the river in their dug-out canoes to meet the big boat. Only there arent any waves of arrows, just waves of little hands. They dont try to attack, they try to attach their canoes to the back of the boat and catch a ride up the river. These tiny canoes are the equivalent of bikes, and the kids bob up and down in the swell behind the boat for fun. Even our boat dwarfed them. My jaw dropped when I saw one girl of around 4 years old paddling happily into our path like a mosquito about to be run over by an elephant. I couldnt take a photo of her. I was literally holding my hands over my eyes and peering through my fingers, wailing. This little river veteran didnt bat an eyelid as the prow of the boat passed within 6 inches of the front of her canoe. She smiled and waved, smiled and waved in rhythm with my pounding heart.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
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 Matthew Ward
September 24, 2007

One of the hardest lessons many of us foreigners learn here in Brazil is that there is always a disorderly queue of individuals happy to relieve us of some of our hard earned cash, by fair means or, more often than not, foul. I suspect the account I’m about to relate may be familiar to some readers, who in a state of unemployed desolation like me, fell for the idle promises of hungry sharks poised to devour novice surfers dipping their toes into the Brazilian job market for the first time.

After hiring a marching band and a fly-past to celebrate finally receiving my RNE in September 2003 (I’d almost forgotten that I’d applied for it way back in June 2002, shortly after arriving in Brazil), I embarked upon the challenging endeavour of finding work. My background is in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL to the uninitiated), but I was keen to make my move to Brazil from Britain a clean break career-wise. Having dabbled a little in web design, I fancifully imagined it would be possible to work in that field, so I started scouring the local press for opportunities. Unfortunately, as I live in a small town in the interior of São Paulo state, the jobs advertised were nearly all related to manual, semi-skilled professions – if I’d wanted to be a butcher, for instance, I could have chosen from a veritable smorgasbord of openings. As the months passed without opportunities forthcoming that didn’t involve the chopping of meat, my self-esteem and associated love of Brazil both entered a worrying tailspin.

In my opinion, despite its obvious blessings, the arrival of the Internet has made the task of finding a job an overcomplicated and frustrating burden. Whereas in the past it was sufficient to buy a newspaper and answer an ad with a letter enclosing our CV, or a simple phone call, now we have to trawl the Internet, sign up to various sites, upload our CVs, edit them online whenever facts change, all without any inkling of the reputation of the organisation in which we are putting our faith. However, not wishing to appear a technophobe, particularly considering my ambition to work in the slick realm of web design, I opted for the Internet job site Catho, tailoring my CV to reflect as favourably as possible my paucity of web design experience.

Taking advantage of their introductory offer, I spent the best part of a weekend uploading my CV, which under the terms of the agreement, would remain available to potential employers for the next fortnight. Imagine my unmitigated delight when I received a phone call on the following Monday morning, apparently in direct response to my having launched my CV into cyberspace.

Are you interested in working in Campinas?” the young lady’s voice breezed promisingly.
“Yes, of course,” I enthused. My brother-in-law lives there, and, before arriving in Brazil, my wife and I had planned to seek work there, if possible. An interview was arranged for the following day and my depleted sense of self-worth instantly took a deep whiff of smelling salts.

Arriving at the company’s offices in one of Campinas’s classier districts, I had the distinct feeling that things were finally dropping into place. The office space was all sleek metal furniture and clean, crisp lighting. The receptionist was welcoming and polite, attractive even, though I think in hindsight that this appeal was less based on physical beauty and more on the fact that she and her colleagues might have the key to end my eighteen-month exile from the land of the productive. My wife and I were ushered efficiently into a meeting room, and while we waited for a “consultant” to arrive, we exchanged excited glances of anticipation. I shrugged off the fact that this wasn’t the company offering the job, confident that they were on the brink of helping me find some elbow room in Brazil’s crowded job market.

Looking back now, it is hard to imagine how I fell for this outfit’s trickery. Granted, at the time I had no idea as to just how grotesque a scam they were pulling on me, but there were certainly warning signs that, under normal circumstances, would have caused me more than mild concern. But the spiel was so cleverly tailored to play on all the hopes and fears of a university-educated professional who is beginning to feel, in his mid-thirties, that he may never work again, that, like a rabbit trapped in headlights, I happily played along with their woeful pantomime.

One such warning sign was that they didn’t appear to know I was British. If you call somebody to offer them a job, however cursory your review of their curriculum vitae beforehand, their nationality is surely one of the basic facts you’d pick up on. A second blaring alarm was the fact that I was never going to find work as a web designer with my hopelessly limited experience – as “headhunting specialists”, I consider it was their duty to inform me of this. However, I was behaving like I was the subject of a conjuring trick – even if in the back of my mind I had an inkling as to how the magic was being performed, I preferred to play along so as not to ruin the effect. In essence, I wanted to be deceived.

Part 2 next week…

Matthew Ward is a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language and article writer. His wistful reflections on the peculiar world of TEFL, and life in Brazil, can be seen on his blog “Notes from the TEFL Graveyard”.

By Joe Lopes
September 21, 2007

Here is the fifth and final part of Joe’s article, covering his top ten favourite tracks that reflect the pervasive influence of the classic bossa nova sound in their makeup or design. To read the previous parts click the relevant link at the bottom of the article.

8. Believe in Life” (Eric Clapton). From the cream of the crop to the bottom of the barrel, that’s what we get with Eric Clapton’s “Believe in Life,” his one (and hopefully only) attempt at a bossa-nova connection. But the only connection purchasers need make after having acquired this nonentity is with the Returns Department on eBay.

The song is found on his ponderously named Reptile (Reprise, 2001) – and yes, friends, the party’s definitely over with this bargain basement, pseudo-Brazilian atrocity, as faux a piece of work as any I’ve heard from the blues-man from Ripley. I’m still scratching my head over its banality and blandness next to the topnotch quality of Clapton’s previous output (“Wonderful Tonight,” “Tears in Heaven”).

Possessed of the most uninspired lyrics he’s ever had the misfortune to unearth (“And when the day is almost done / And there is nothing left to say / You will let me call your name / ‘Cause I love you more than light”), the less I say about “Believe in Life,” the better.

And talk about a lounge lizard’s delight, this Reptile runs both hot and cold (mostly cold), and is musically all over the map. My advice would be to look elsewhere for your pop thrills.

9. “Come Away With Me” and “Sunrise” (Norah Jones). Just when you thought it was safe to throw out your old compact disc player – especially after repeated hearings of Number Eight above – along comes a talented young artist, of the exalted caliber of Ms. Norah Jones, to lift the spirits and sooth the soul with her much-needed conviction that modern-day pop is alive and well and thriving in Variety Land.

Jones (the daughter of sitar master Ravi Shankar), along with her crack backup band, received six Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist, for her triumphant Come Away With Me on Blue Note (2002).

On this, her premiere set of songs, and on the atmospheric title tune, she is miles ahead of her closest recorded rival, jazz-pop darling Diana Krall, whose sleepy-eyed readings and mushy diction are a chore to get through. Not so with Norah: she’s completely natural and unaffected throughout.

Even better is her 2004 follow-up, Feels Like Home (Blue Note), with its bouncy opening number, “Sunrise” (“Sunrise, sunrise / Looks like mornin’ in your eyes / But the clocks held 9:15 for hours”) – the colorful and surreal video isn’t bad, either. It holds the attention span, as well as the Number Nine position, which brings my top-ten list (now a baker’s dozen) to a close.

I know what you’re thinking: that neither “Come Away With Me” nor “Sunrise” is, strictly speaking, legit bossa nova. I concede they’re a bit of a stretch, but just listen to that sure beat and toe-tapping rhythm, and especially to that irresistible voice and its allure.

Norah Jones is the real deal, all right, and the best we have in this repertoire right now. Despite certain tonal similarities to Dido and to Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachan (with a hint or two of country music’s Lee Ann Rimes), she’s as near to the “Astrud” aesthetic as we’re likely to get. Enjoy her, while you can, or I’ll be forced to give Eric another spin.

So how did bossa nova do after all? Not bad, actually. I half expected it to be a whole lot worse off than it was. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but truth be told it’s come along quite nicely through the years – given what there is to work with.

As we have since seen, the best songs of this type can be categorized not just by their exceptional lyrical beauty, but by the singer’s individual attitude toward them, expressed, principally, in the way he or she distances (or does not distance) him or herself from the source.

To put it another way, it’s one thing to approach bossa nova covers in this arms-length manner; it’s quite another when attempting to do proper justice to your own work. The finished product, then, usually ends up becoming a precarious (and sometimes unsatisfactory) balance between the two.

Both are viable options, however, and based strictly on personal preference (as this list certainly is).

Now if we could only get the producers of American Idol interested in that Brazilian beat. Indeed, that would be my ideal “fantasy island” wish, and, when it comes right down to it, the only thing I’d like to take with me to that fictional tropical atoll. Who needs all that excess CD clutter anyway?

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 JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 4
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 3
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 2
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 1
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 4
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 3
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 2
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 1
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?

September 21, 2007

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

Hi,

Why are Brazilians particularly tolerant of problems, such as neighbours playing loud music, and long queues at the bank? Is it just Paulistanos that are like this, or the same across Brazil?

Marcus

Ol Marcus,

I like your question, but I ask you: Are Brazilians tolerant or did Brazilians learned how to deal with so many unfavorable conditions?

Have you ever called the police at 4am and asked them to stop the favela’s loud party? If you didn’t, don’t. The police won’t go to the favela at all. They can’t step in there, can you imagine shutting their party off? Impossible.

You say we tolerate, I would say we can’t count on the police so there is no much to do but put your best CD on and make a party yourself.

And that goes on and on. There is a tax we pay, the CPMF, implemented in 1993. It was supposed to be provisory, for public health, but it was now prorrogated for more 4 years! Will Brazilians tolerate that? Yes, we will.

Examples could never end for how Brazilians tolerate, accept, swallow, endure, digest, you choose the name, from corruption to 4am parties.

Why? I wish I had an answer for you. I wonder how so many things are so wrong that Brazilian’s might think: Who am I to change that? And how?

Brazilians aren’t warriors, although there is a lot to fight for most people here feel like being around with their friends with some cold beer and a footbal game is good enough.

Talking about football, there is this one thing Brazilians won’t tolerate: Losing to Argentina.

Beijos,

Vanessa T. Bauer

Readers Comments:

In Brazilian culture, people are first and foremost defined by their relationships to other people. While the average American, Australian or European sees himself or herself mostly as an individual endowed with universal rights that may not be trod upon, Brazilians see themselves as nodes in a social network, in which each person is defined by who knows them and whom they know. Being seen as a nagging neighbor would damage their social relationships, leading them to think twice before complaining about anything. Thus, in a situation where a gringo would undoubtedly act to see his or her rights (to nightly silence, to a swift service at the bank, whatever) respected, a Brazilian will try instead to establish a good (i.e., enduring and mutually profitable) social relationship with his or her neighbors. He will endure the loud music, and in doing so the people responsible for it will become more or less connected to him and he will be able to expect them to endure his or her own unpleasantness, doing him small favors when requested, etc.

It is not a straight exchange, as, ideally, the relationship will never end. He will not be bartering his endurance of a single night of loud music for one given favor, but, for instance, he will expect a discount at the entrance fee if he ever decides to join the ball. In other words, he will endure the loud music in exchange for a permanent relationship in which he can expect a special treatment, just as he is giving the party people a special treatment.

At the same time, a strong notion of hierarchy comes into play: Brazilians do not see themselves as the equal of every other man, as there are people who are much more powerfully connected in the same networks he inhabits. Let us not forget that the Brazilian equivalent of “money talks and BS walks” is “mais vale ter amigos na praa que dinheiro em caixa” (“friends in the marketplace are worth more than cash”). Thus, in the bank (or if the loud party is thrown by someone powerful), to disturb the social order by complaining loudly would be seen as a social blunder, unless the complainer is more powerful than the bothersome party. If that is the case, the blunder will be the bank’s, for not giving him his due respect.

Thus, if the bank manager is a friend, the average Brazilian will expect his or her friend to fish him out of the queue and take personal care of his or her business: the bank manager’s power becomes his own because they are connected. If he knows nobody at the bank, he is powerless and will not at all see a swift service (perceived as a kind of special treatment, as, looking around, he notices nobody has it!) as his right. On the other hand, he will more often than not chat with the people in the queue, complaining about the service as he would complain about the weather, establishing thus a relationship with them, “fellow underdog”. Then, if he arrives the next day in a store and the store manager is the guy whom he met at the bank line, he will expect some kind of special treatment from him (anything from a smile to a good suggestion of what is the best buy), as they are already connected. Needless to say, if you want a good life in Brazil, don’t forget your Dale Carnegie!

For further reading, I would recommend a book by the famous anthropologist Roberto daMatta, called Carnivals, Rogues, and Heroes: An Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma (ND Kellogg Inst Int’l Studies).

— Carlos

In the two examples Marcus mentions, it seems he’s confusing tolerance with despair. It is a fact that many people will have no scruples at all to play loud music at inconvenient hours, but it being your neighbour inhibits a direct protest, as you’d be reluctant to start a conflict, and calling the police is useless. In the case of bank queues, they are a nuisance you can do nothing about (although I heard about a law imposing penalties on banks if you have to wait for more than X-minutes) – and provided you’re not one of the lucky class of elderly or carrying a baby who enjoy the privilege of a special cue (fila preferencial). Or even better, if you belong to the elite customers who are received by a personal bank manager (Itau Personnalit etc).

As for the second part of your question, it certainly is not the Paulistanos who would qualify as the most tolerant (just drive in our crazy traffic to be convinced!). In general terms, Brazilians tend to be more patient and relaxed the further north you move, and the further you go to the ‘interior’ as opposed to big cities. If that’s not exactly the same as tolerance, it helps.

— Jacques Allain

I assure you the loud music is in operation everywhere! Not just in São Paulo! Since coming to Brasil 6 years ago, I have lived in several cities, large and small, in the North East, SP and RJ… the noise is still my biggest stress point. It isn’t limited to the favelas and morros either!

In my city, one of the worst offenders is a club frequented by upper and upper-middle class people; many weekends the ‘party’ begins at around 11.30pm and continues until 5 – 6am. When I have asked Brazilians why they accept what in the UK would be considered antisocial, I am usually told, ‘It is Saturday night’.

— Tamara

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

By John Fitzpatrick
September 19, 2007

Brazil’s Senators showed their contempt for the people who elected them by spitting in their faces when they absolved the chairman, Renan Calheiros, of unparliamentarily procedure on September 12. The entire 81-member Senate turned up and voted by 40 votes to 35, with six abstentions, not to accept the recommendation of its own ethics committee and force Calheiros to stand down over allegations that his personal expenses had been paid by a lobbyist for a construction company. This vote flew in the face of credible evidence that Calheiros had not only used the lobbyist but had secretly acquired control of two radio stations and had also intervened to help a brewer gain tax benefits. The 40 Senators who voted for Calheiros must be the only people in the whole country who accept his unconvincing explanations and condone the unscrupulous methods he has used to cling onto power. Parallels have been drawn with the 40 Senators and the 40 Thieves, with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the role of Ali Baba. This is a fair comparison, confirmed by the abstentions of PT Senators who saved Calheiros.

Calheiros triumph could be short-lived as he still faces at least two other charges from the ethics committee over his shady business activities. It is difficult to see him holding on much further and the likeliest outcome is that he will stand down, maintain his position as a Senator and rely on a team of lawyers to fend off any attempts to bring him to court. The idea that he will be punished in the form of a jail sentence, a hefty fine and/or the confiscation of his gains is inconceivable in a country like Brazil where politicians are coated in Teflon. A deal will be done, he will maintain a low profile for a while then bounce back, as so many of his colleagues have done. Fernando Collor, Antonio Palocci, the late Antonio Carlos Magalhes and Jader Barbalho are examples. In fact, one of Calheiros main advisers is Barbalho, ex-chairman of the Senate, who stood down in 2001 when faced with allegations that he had illegally amassed R$35 million (around US17.5 million) during his political career. By standing down, rather than being forced out, Calheiros will be able to maintain his rights and stand again as a candidate for election.

PT Loses its Ideals
We will probably never know all of those who voted for Calheiros because the vote was taken in secrecy but there is no doubt that Lula’s PT tipped the balance in favor of Calheiros who is from the PMDB party, the main ally of Lula’s government. This was another example of how the PT has forgotten its ideals and is now just another amorphous political grouping which is prepared to make a deal with any other party or group in order to share political power. Calheiros is an all too familiar figure – a man of modest background from the Northeast who has built up a personal fortune during his political life and used his influence in Brasilia to benefit himself, his family and friends. He showed his true face when he made veiled threats against two other Senators by name, letting them know that he could leak information about them. He also called for a congressional inquiry to be opened against the company that owns Veja magazine, which broke the scandal in May, and accused it of acting illegally in a business deal.

The Veja report showed that Calheiros, a married man, had been paying an allowance to a journalist with whom he had had a child, through the lobbyist. The amount was out of proportion to his salary as a Senator and Calheiros claimed he had paid from the sale of cattle. This explanation fooled no-one and inquiries showed that many of the bills he presented to back up his claim were phony and inflated. His inability to clear his name led to the opening of a number of inquiries, both within the Senate and by the police.

Like Barbalho, Jose Sarney and ACM, Calheiros is exactly the kind of figure the PT has always said it opposed and blamed for the social inequalities in Brazil, particularly the Northeast where Lula was born. In practice, Lula has been happy to sit down and do business with them. Ironically, this affair would never have reached this stage had it not been for a group of former PT members, now with the PSOL party, who Lula threw out of the PT because they had refused to vote with his government on certain issues. The two main opposition parties – the PSDB and DEM (ex-PFL) – let the PSOL set the pace and entered the fray too late. There is a widely held view that many Senators did not want to upset the status quo as they too have their secrets which they do not want appearing in the press.

The PSDB and DEM now say they will not cooperate with the government while Calheiros remains in charge. Lula will have to take this threat seriously because the Senate has to approve various measures to get the budget ready. The most important is the extension of the CPMF tax on financial transactions which bring the government around RS$ 40 billion in revenues. When this tax was introduced 10 years ago it was supposed to be a temporary measure but governments of all stripes have come to rely on it. Reports say that the government is working behind the scenes to break this logjam and come up with a solution which will basically let Calheiros off the hook, appoint the vice-chairman who is from the PT as the new Senate leader, and allow the opposition to claim a victory.

As for the Brazilian people whose faces have been spat on, do they care? It seems not. There have been a few scattered protests, usually involving students, but the majority of people are not interested or know nothing about the affair. A pathetic attempt was made by a group of São Paulo socialites and so-called celebrities to form a protest group under the uninspiring name of Cansei” (“Fed Up”) but its “rallies” were an embarrassing failure. The organized left-wing groups, like the MST landless peasant movement, and the trade unions, which could put tens of thousands of demonstrators on the streets, are only interested in their own causes and not democracy. For example, the postal workers have started a strike aimed at boosting their wages by almost 100% and hiring tens of thousands of extra staff.

John Fitzpatrick 2007

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish writer and consultant with long experience of Brazil. He is based in São Paulo and runs his own company Celtic Comunicaes. This article originally appeared on his site http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. He can be contacted at jf@celt.com.br.


Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on www.gringoes.com:

The Lord Mayor Goes Zapping the NYSE in Brazil
Brazil: Economic Boom – Political Gloom
Around Brazil: Natal – Sun, Sand Dunes and Solitude or Hassle, Hustlers and Hookers
ACM – Brazil Will Never See His Like Again
Brazilians Let Politicians Treat Them as Doormats
Senate Chairman Upholds Tradition of Treating Brazil with Contempt
Brits Turn Their Backs on Brazil
Look Out for the New BBC – the Brazilian Broadcasting Corporation
Navel Gazing in Brasilia – Largesse in São Paulo
Brazil’s Politicians Share the Spoils
Cida – A Brazilian Entrepreneur
Ten Top Brazilian Songs to Download on Your iPod
Lula Lets Brazilians Down by Failing to Exercise His Authority
Brazil: Laid Back Lula Finally Gets His Team (Almost) Together
The George W. Bush PR Show Comes to Brazil
Briefing Bush on Brazil the CIA Way
US Authorities Tackle Brazil’s White Collar Criminals
Brazil’s Opposition Parties Try to End Disarray
Lula Faces Arm-Wrestling Contest with New Congress
Brazil Waits for Lula to Return from Holiday
Around Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba
Brazilians Start to Stand Up for Their Rights
Darfur – Brazil’s African Side Show
Economics and Politics in Brazil – a Tangled Web
Brazil’s Strange Idea of Democracy
Brazil: John Pizzarelli – the Boy from Ipanema
Brazil’s Stock Market: the Path to Riches or Rags?
Brazil: Lula Unlikely to Change Course after His Massive Victory
Brazil: Privatization – Lula and Alckmin Defend the Indefensible
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 2
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin Hits Lula but Lands No Killer Blow
Brazil: Lula Pays the Penalty for Complacency
Brazil: Does Lula Deserve to Win?
Brazil: Cardoso Writes a Poison Pen Letter
Monte Verde – Brazil’s Green Mountain
Brazil’s Gross Disappointing Product
Brazil’s Election – Alckmin Hands Lula Victory on a Plate
Lula Hits Back at Congress
Brazil’s Presidential Election May Not be a Walkover for Lula
Pity the Brazilian Voter
Brazil’s Fainthearts Let the Nation Down
Now is the Winter of Brazil’s Discontent
World Cup brings Out the Best and Worst in Brazil
Brazil’s Big Spender
Brazil: The Dogs of War are Unleashed in São Paulo
Brazil: Self-Righteous Indignation Marks Bolivian Nationalization
Brazil: Lula Still Vulnerable
Brazil: The PSDB Takes the Hard Road
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 3
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 2
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin the Hare Takes on Serra the Tortoise
Patronizing Brazilians the Politically Correct Way
Brazil: Election Gives Voters Chance to Clean Up Congress
Brazil: João Pessoa – a Victim of its Own Success
No Consistency in Brazil’s Foreign Policy
Brazil: Sitting in the Shadow of Sarney and Magalhes
Brazil: Gentrification Creeps Up On São Paulo
Dirt Flies as Brazilian Parties Aim for Presidency
Brazilians Vote for Guns and Death Not Peace and Love
Brazil’s Gun Lobby Launches Hysterical Campaign Against Arms Ban
Jews and Arabs Find Success in Brazil
Brazil’s Politicians Start Looking Ahead to Next Year
Brazil: Lula Down but Certainly Not Out
Brazil’s Congress Struggles to Cope with Ongoing Crisis
Brazil: Scandal Threatens Presidential Mandate System
Brazil: If Lula is to Survive He Needs to Change His Tactics
Brazil: Many Parties – Few Ideas
Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Helping the Helpless in Brazil
Pinheiros – São Paulo’s Best District
Growing Old (Dis)gracefully in Brazil
Canudos, Still With Us 100 Years Later
The Rise of the Brazilian Empire
Brazil and Portugal – The Samba and the Fado
Brazil – Just A State Of Mind
Brazil: For Lula, is Ignorance Bliss?
Brazil: Pay Day – or Pay Dirt?