By Joe Lopes
November 30, 2007

A Testament to Black Orpheus, Bossa Nova and the Partnership That Started It All – Welles Raises Kane in Rio
Enter the American director, writer, producer, actor and jack-of-all-media-trades, the inimitable Orson Welles, once known in theatrical circles as the Wonder Boy of Acting,” that master showman – some would say “shaman” – and larger-than-life radio personality (at six-foot, four-inches tall and weighing close to 250 pounds, he certainly was that), now thrust onto the center stage of the cultural cauldron that was Carnival-crazed Brazil.

The Wisconsin-born wunderkind had carved out a fabulous niche for himself in movie-land with his self-aggrandizing maiden effort, the classic Citizen Kane (1941). But during the turbulent years of the middle thirties, before the time that Vinicius claimed he was inspired to put pen and paper to his Carioca tragedy, Welles had successfully experimented with a version, set in Haiti, of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, staged in Harlem by him and his associate, John Houseman, with the Negro Theater Unit of the Federal Theater Project.

With Welles at the helm, so to speak, drilling and coaching his non-professional cast literally for months on end, the all-black ensemble managed to traverse the tongue-tripping impediments of iambic pentameter, to the extent his so-called “Voodoo” Macbeth became one of the singular stage achievements of that racially divided period.

Of course, Vinicius could never have been privy to such an unconventional production in its prime, but he did get to make the acquaintance of the talented Mr. Welles in his. The chance to absorb from, and cavort with, the frenetic young genius up-close and personal (and in the poet’s own backyard) was a rare opportunity indeed-one the dedicated film-lover and movie critic could ill afford to pass up. Fortunately, his cinematic credentials would help ease the transition into establishing the now seismic connection.

It presented itself, in December 1941, through the Motion Picture Division of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, headed by future New York State governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, which, along with RKO Pictures (whose major stockholder at the time was the political appointee himself), dispatched the 26-year-old “boy wonder” to Brazil to film a cultural exchange project, in three parts, promoting friendly relations with Latin America-a job cartoonist Walt Disney had similarly been called upon to perform earlier that same year.

Uppermost on the division’s agenda was the use of this kind of innocuous programming ploy as an excuse to counter alleged militaristic tendencies within the Getlio Vargas administration, in addition to shoring up support for the coming U.S. war effort. In line with this outcome, the Brazilian government was apparently unperturbed by the ruse. Quite the opposite: it was tickled pink to have the much talked-about radio and film star visit its home shores, gauging his impending excursion “as a huge endorsement and a hope for the future; the native film industry perceived it as a step towards its emergence from obscurity.” These were both overly optimistic assessments.

Delusions of pan-hemispheric unity aside, Vinicius witnessed firsthand the challenges Welles took on with regard to his mostly improvised semi-documentary It’s All True, in particular the unfinished segment entitled “Carnival,” in which the easily distracted director had poured his unflagging energy (and the studio’s monetary resources) into capturing Rio’s annual whirlwind procession circa February 1942.

What he hoped to achieve, as soon as a workable plan had come to mind, would be a spectacle “that would treat its black participants and black culture with respect and affection” – a view shared by his newfound friend Vinicius (then a worldly 29), who was more than willing to act as Orson’s tour guide through the country’s cultural labyrinth.

Quick study though he was, Welles had been tipped off beforehand as to Brazil’s geography, politics, customs, language and cuisine. Indeed, no sooner had he set foot in Rio than the welcoming throng greeted him as a conquering warrior (he was referred to, appropriately enough, as o simptico garotão, or “the charming big boy”). If that now meant he could samba the night away with some of Sugar Loaf’s loveliest senhoritas – and go shoot “Negroes covered with aracatu feathers” afterwards, in an honest to goodness favela – then more power to him; with the upshot being that RKO Pictures and the Office of Inter-American Affairs got more than they bargained for, what with their self-indulgent “big boy” out of control.

On top of all these troubles, there were the meddling Brazilian authorities and not-so charming press types to tangle with. They certainly had their own ideas about what impressions of Brazil their neighbors to the north needed to have come away with-and they did not include footage of “dancing jigaboos” and “no good half-breeds” running around Rio “as if it were another Harlem.” Not only that, but the accidental drowning death of Jacar, one of the poor Northeastern fishermen to be featured in Welles’ proposed third segment, “Four Men on a Raft,” slammed the door shut on the doomed endeavor beyond all hope of reopening.

With a management change and reshuffle at the home studio, the rain soon fell on Orson’s Rio Carnival parade. Expecting something along the lines of a standard-day video travelogue, a somewhat “superficial view of Brazil that would encourage tourism rather than criticism and cries for social justice,” the head offices were rewarded instead with the director’s 16mm rough-cut of “poor people, particularly poor black people.”

In his review of the 1993 New York Film Festival presentation of the making of It’s All True: Based on an Unfinished Film by Orson Welles, movie critic Vincent Canby rightly observed: “[This] did not fit into any good neighbor policy that RKO or the U.S. State Department wanted to publicize,” with the result being that the financial spigot was abruptly turned off on the aborted Brazil project. That did not stop Welles from carrying on with the assignment through his own makeshift means, but it did foil previous plans for him to finish the editing of his latest epic, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which laid the groundwork for his eventual undoing and removal from Hollywood’s A-list of sought-after filmmakers.

What of the faithful de Moraes? He would meet up with his incorrigible pal Welles once more in 1946, in Los Angeles, where the poet and playwright went to assume his latest diplomatic post as vice-consul for Itamaraty; and where, by his own admission, he picked up the story of black Orpheus right where he had left it (in his Guanabara bath, no doubt, where he did the bulk of his writing).

Not that his official duties with the Brazilian foreign service ever got in the way of perfecting his art, but while Vinicius was on the West Coast he did learn all he needed to learn about the movie business, mostly by watching the quadruple-threat Orson in action making The Lady from Shanghai (1948), a dismal box-office failure upon its belated release, as well as the unmaking of his friend’s four-year marriage to screen siren Rita Hayworth.

After the late 1940s, the well-tempered boy wonder’s career had seen its best days, but the seemingly more mature Mr. Welles would gamely soldier on by continuing to work as an independent. Because of the notorious Brazilian escapade, however, highlighted by his freewheeling methods and chaotic approach to moviemaking, the major studios could no longer trust Orson to do the needful with respect to their valuable film properties. Welles’ own disillusionment with the elite of Hollywood’s film community led to his voluntary exile in Europe for most of the remainder of his life.

Despite all his difficulties with It’s All True (many of them, quite frankly, of his own devising), as expected Orson did, in fact, leave his personal stamp on Brazil’s nascent film industry – in a manner of speaking. To quote from critic Canby, “‘Four Men on a Raft’.[has] the gloriously liquid look of the heavily filtered, black-and-white photography favored in the 1930s to ennoble peasants and other common folk. It’s corny and possibly condescending, but it still works. Glauber Rocha, a leading talent in Brazil’s own Cinema Novo movement, used the same style in his Barravento (1961), which is set in the fishing village of Bahia.”

Otherwise, it was a slow and steady slide from Welles’ brilliant but barely conclusive beginning with Citizen Kane to his all-but unemployable ending, the memory of which would linger in Vinicius’ mind long after their warm relationship had substantially cooled-but not long enough to have profited from the director’s unheeded lesson about compromising one’s artistic integrity in the face of social and political realities.

To be continued.

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:

Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 2
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 1
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 3
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 4
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 3
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 2
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 1
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 1
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 2
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?

November 30, 2007

Meet Julien Porisse, from France, who first visited Brazil 15 years ago and has returned many times since, along with building a pub here. 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.?

My name is Julien; I’m 45 born in England and have a mix of nationalities – Irish and as the name hints a French father. I own and run Irish Pubs in Paris France, and even had two Pubs in São Paulo in a not so distant past!

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

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro in February 1992 during the ‘carnival’. My twin brother had gone, on a coin toss, to Brazil, met up with an ex-girlfriend and got married in just 6 weeks! I bought a ticket to Rio and met him there for three days, ended up in a camarote watching the carnival and wondering if I had just arrived in heaven, then we drove off to São Paulo.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

The size of the buildings and the huge amounts of vegetation growing out of them. The stunning beauty of the women, the energy and dynamism all around. The friendly faces that spoke to me in pure double dutch! The lorries with weird cables going down to the wheels and the general state of them. Taking a Volkswagen Beetle Taxi in the mid 1990’s.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I certainly don’t miss the weather in northern France, I miss my family when I stay for more than 6 months, sometimes the serious approach to discussions or business dealings that in Brazil tend to be a bit wishy washy! The rugby on TV.

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

Getting my Permanent Visa, it took me 12 years! I applied in São Paulo in my local cartorio, then, everything went SLOW, the documents got lost in Brasilia, then, I had to reapply, and lastly after insisting to my Brazilian wife that we were doing it all wrong, I used the services of a despachante and I got it all in just 6 weeks – I made all the possible mistakes.

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

Getting married and walking down the church aisle looking at all the faces of my wife’s family staring at me! I was freaked out! Building the pub in São Paulo (Corcoran’s) now unfortunately sold, but I learnt my basic Portuguese speaking to all the builders and the architects.

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

The way the people just smile, the sense that there’s a great future here even if it’s confusing and almost out of control. The good life, the fact that you get amazing service everywhere in restaurants, even in petrol stations, they do it all, this does not exist in western Europe.

8. What is your favourite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I go to Baby beef Rubaiyat almost weekly, the meat in Brazil is amazing. I’ll down a pint, a whiskey and pop a cigar at the All Black Irish pub, and say hello to Mark if he’s there. My favourites: Pizza Braz, Rodeo, Bar des Arts, Merceria São Roque,Barbacoa, loads.

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

When I first arrived in São Paulo I was walking down rua Augusta and I was looking up at something in the electric cables and I just collapsed! The footpath just disappeared into a small pothole. Some bystanders came over to help me but I got up and hobbled away, I heard somebody mention gringo etc” I was embarrassed.

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

Everything is just different. The body culture in Brazil, there is some superficiality out here in São Paulo especially with the more comfortable classes. Sometimes there is too much uniformity in dress, women with fancy sunglasses and handbags all look the same, and men with the numerous Mont Blanc pens on the shirt pocket. It’s too much! When I speak about a serious matter to people in São Paulo they listen with big smiles, white teeth and all, you wonder if they are listening or not. Brazilians are very nationalistic, fanatic, especially in such sports as volleyball, beach soccer and of course football, they cannot accept that France beat them 3-0 in 1998! It was a conspiracy or something! After all this I like them.

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?

My Portuguese is OK, could be better. I can order food on the phone; I use the same phrases in a multitude of ways. I had been thirty times to Brazil and could only say bom dia, como vai, and tudo bem. Then, I took twenty lessons at Berlitz and IT WORKED! All my subconscious vocabulary came back and I started to speak. Language is the key, without it the door stays locked. In Paris just a few days ago a Brazilian tourist asked me for some information I spoke to him in Portuguese and he said my sotaque was Paulistano! I make obvious mistakes such as tres (3) and treze (13).

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

Try to hang out with the locals ‘Brazilians’ in order to get to feel the place. Try to stay calm and not treat the administration as third world idiots – don’t be a bigheaded Gringo.

Don’t make a big issue if going to the beach, even if you’re white and fat! Just go and you’ll fit in, there is always someone fatter but rarely as white!

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

Go to all the different areas of the city: Visit Liberdade (Japanese sector), Jardins, and the old city centre during the day. Try to visit other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, even Santos. Brazil is so big and so diverse – it’s amazing.

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:

Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
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 The Curmudgeon
November 30, 2007

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is nothing if not consistent. Basically, he hates the idea that laws which apply to everyone else should also apply to international football1. To him, football is only a game, to be judged by its own internal rules, not by external laws.

The particular question that now vexes his Swiss heart is that of the mobility of football players. Put more plainly, he objects to European laws that prohibit imposing quotas or other limitations on the nationality of football players2. He proposes a six plus five” rule, meaning that each side in, say, the UK, must start a match with at least six players with UK nationality3. Not content with that, he rails against those countries who grant nationality to foreigners after only two years of residence. And, finally, he presents his own armageddon-like view of the end of the world cup – in 2014 or 2018, out of the 32 World Cup teams, half will be composed of…GASP! OMIGOD!…Brazilians!

The supposed justification for this outburst is that national teams in countries where foreigners make up a majority of the professional teams, do not do as well as they would if they were always paired with some of their compatriots. England seems to be his principal case in point after its abject failure to qualify for the finals of the European Cup. Spain gets mentioned regularly for its failure to go anywhere in the World Cup. Needless to say, France, Italy and Germany, which contract at least as many Brazilians as England, Spain or Portugal, are not mentioned by him.

This, of course, is rubbish, from the point of view of both football and law, not to mention common sense. From the football point of view, how is it that the English who play abroad are somehow less qualified professionally than if they played in England? Conversely, the Brazilian national side has almost no one who still plays in Brazil – so, why doesn’t it suffer? Ditto Argentina. Ditto Norway.

If what he means is that fans will not flock to support teams loaded with foreigners, the real world answer is, “Oh, yes they will!” What fans want is a team that wins and makes them happy4. Blatter affirms that some club owners support his plea for nationalizing their squads – but if that’s the case, all those owners have to do is hire home-grown talent. They don’t, of course, because they want the best and the best may not have the right passport. So, those with deep pockets hire the best and those with shallow pockets…hire whomever they can find. As it happens, Blatter may be right – perhaps Brazilians do have a competitive advantage in football. But, rather than trying to repeal the laws of economics and chop a few fingers off the Invisible Hand, he ought to consider something more effective than passport control – perhaps salary caps, such as are used in baseball and other professional sports.

Moreover, for a Swiss national such as Blatter to criticize the immigration rules of other counties is not only impertinent, it’s laughable. The Swiss have one basic rule, i.e. you cannot become Swiss unless both sides of your family have been Swiss for hundreds of years. Of course, if the denizens of some mountain fastness deem you suitable (often conditioned upon a hefty fee paid to the canton) that rule can be waived.

Fortunately for common sense, and for football, the EU is standing firm and has told Mr Blatter and FIFA that the rules are not for bending, and any person who makes his living playing football has the right to do so for a club anywhere within the EU if he complies with the national rules on visas.

1The Curmudgeon notes that, in the US, there is a specific exemption from the anti-trust laws applicable to baseball – but not to basketball, football, hockey, or any other sports. Only the national pastime. This is not a good reason for the EU to follow suit, it is an aberration.

2Some years ago, the EU ruled that football clubs could not treat players as slaves and prevent them from playing for other clubs. FIFA hates this ruling, too.

3Substitutes can be of any nationality, apparently.

4Arsenal fans still fill the Emirates Stadium, even if not a single Gunner on the pitch is British.

The Curmudgeon is a US citizen, resident in Rio since 1977 except for a 5-year stint in SP. He is a practicing lawyer (admitted Rio and SP) in his daytime job which he is not giving up.

Previous articles by the Curmudgeon:

Brazil: The Curmudgeon and Competition Law
Brazil: The Curmudgeon in Alcohol-Induced Dudgeon

By Marilyn Diggs
November 27, 2007

Nature lovers and adventurers, have I got news for you. There still remains a pristine place whose unspoiled beauty makes visiting it an unforgettable trip. One of South America’s best kept secrets is the Aisn region in northern Patagonia, Chilean side. Aisn is the least populated, least traveled and least developed part of Chile. I decide to explore the rugged wilderness for myself – destination General Carrera Lake, (the second largest lake in Latin America, losing only to Titicaca) and the Northern Patagonia Ice Field.

Greeted at the Balmaceda airport at 2 p.m. by two smiling faces – our guides for the next 10 days – we pile into a 4 wheel-drive SUV and head south on Chile’s southern highway. The Carretera Austral road changed the lives of the villagers since its construction begun in 1976, by connecting them to the rest of the country, although the global connection is still a minimum. Only in its capital, Coyhaique, can you see a few familiar store names, but no fast food joints, convenience stores or billboards en route.
Our road trip takes us past grassy steppes, old-growth forests, misty wetlands, snow-capped mountains, raging rivers and tumbling waterfalls. Irregular rock pinnacles throw strange finger puppet shadows against the sage green hills on the other side of the road. Melted marshmallows cling to taupe, jade and black jagged peaks. Even the rearview mirrors reflect postcard landscapes. Shaggy sheep, wooly cows and tall popular trees (brought from Europe as wind breakers) speckle lime green fields. In a lucky moment we spot a small huemul deer and her fawn almost hidden in the lenga beech forest. Suddenly the Andes seem to erupt from a turquoise and violet lake that looks more like an ocean. Just when we thought we had seen it all, the setting sun hiding in spun lemon swirls paints the mountains with golden brown, amber and pink hues broken by livid purple shadows (photo above shows the sunset approach to Terra Luna Lodge). We arrive at Terra Luna Lodge, near Puerto Guadal, on the shore of the General Carrera Lake.

Terra Luna Lodge – a Unique Place
Philippe, our energetic host, welcomes us with a pisco sour (Chile’s national drink) and gives us a quick tour of the restaurant, children’s play area, private discotheque inside the rustic three-story wooden lodge house. (There are 2 lodges, 4 bungalows and 2 camp huts on the grounds.) Through the enormous window, Mt. San Valentin (northern Patagonia’s highest peak at 4058m), is facing us bathed in peach light and resembles a wide-screen movie opener. After a scrumptious dinner of grilled salmon, peppered potato puree and Chilean wine, we retire to our cozy lodge accommodation with a lake view. A potbellied stove warms the beauty-overdosed travelers. (Terra Luna Lodge pictured to the left)

Terra Luna specializes in trekking, mountaineering, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fly-fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, rafting, nature hikes and short touristic flights. I begin mentally picking and choosing. Activities are divided into: conventional programs, soft adventure, hard adventure and mountaineering programs. “Travel is hope, exploration, discovery, passion and innovation. We are adventure lovers par excellence and we love seeing things from another perspective,” says Philippe. One way that this translates is into the high speed, emotionally-packed jet boat excursions to glaciers and lagoons. We want to be a part of it all and do as much as our time and stamina allows. Our reward is relaxing in the outdoor hot tub, with a phenomenal panoramic view of the lake and the Andes Mountains.

Following the Explorers
On one of our days, we leave the Terra Luna Lodge grounds and venture to The Capilla de Mrmol (Marble Chapel) located on the western side of the lake. Time, erosion and sulphuric acid from volcanoes dissolved in the water, carved caverns resembling chapels in the giant marble boulders. The motor boat that takes us there, snuggles into the rooms where lapping, clear turquoise water reflects onto the sculptured naves. Natural swirling designs on rock walls resemble modern abstract paintings. (photo below of Marble Chapel – taken by Marcia Menand)

We continue our sightseeing, surprised at the many English names in the area. The guide reminds us that early 19th century British sailors explored the region in search of a passage to the Atlantic. In fact, the word Aisn may have come from “ice ends”. Taking the highway west we come to the crystalline deep blue Baker River which mixes with the opaque aqua water of the Nef River at “La Confluencia” (meeting of the waters), not far from Bertrand Lake. Bertrand was a sailor in the Darwin expedition sent to look for food and ended up at this spot, about 30 km from Puerto Guadal.

We end our stay with an invigorating hike around Terra Luna to the magnificent roaring 25-meter-high Cascada Los Maquis waterfall hidden in a green velvet forest. In a short few days I have come to appreciate the expression I heard when I first set foot in Aisn, “God was inspired when he painted Patagonia.”

TIPS
Terra Luna Lodge: Tel: 431-2631. Near Puerto Guadal. Reservations – Azimut360 in Santiago. Tel: (56-2) 235-1519. info@terra-luna.cl and www.terraluna.cl
Azimut360: Chilean Tour operator. Gen. Salvo 159, Santiago de Chile. Tel: (56-2 ) 235-1519. www.azimut360.com
Senatur: National Tourism Service. Bulnes 35, Coyhaique. Tel: (56-67)-233-949. Sernatur-coyhaiq@entelchile.net and www.sernatur.cl

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

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Around South America: Road Trip through a Forgotten Land – Aisn, Chile
Conquering Cape Horn
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

By Ricky Skelton
November 27, 2007

The Amazon River is full of small towns clinging to the banks, sometimes half submerged. The river boats stop at every one to load supplies and passengers and to deposit passengers with collections of cameras and wallets. There is around half an hour to hunt down more booze and ice and have a little look around. In only one of these towns did I spend more than half an hour and it was highly memorable for all concerned.

Our boat had broken down at various points, the latest one appearing to be almost terminal. A tiny boat towed us for some way and then gave up. We spent all of Blondie’s birthday marooned at the edge of the Amazon, swimming amongst the floating islands (only after the crazy chef had done it first) and drinking from before dawn almost through to the next one. What else was there to do?

A unique way to spend a birthday was enhanced at the finish by a boat full of buffalo arriving out of the darkness to tow us to the nearest town. The next morning found us hungover and struggling to climb out of our hammocks or whosever hammock wed fallen into. We were moored at a pier. Some of our group had already hit the town, the rest followed higgledy-piggledy in the early afternoon. It could well be that the town wont forget our day either. By the time we met up again outside the bar by the pier, everybody was drunk again, all having different stories. Some played a game with the local kids that involved putting a bike tyre around the ankles and pulling it. A tiny Amazonian kid could pull a hairy gringo off his feet. Others visited pools or played pool with the locals, making friends all around.

We explored the town until we realized there was nothing to explore. The jungle was behind. We couldnt go any further. A hot equatorial sun was burning down. We saw a pool table in a backstreet bar on the last street in town. The shade made sense, the beer made sense, the pool didn’t. After a game or two a crowd of local kids had gathered. We invited them to play, not knowing that was illegal, and they baffled us with the rules which seemed to change with every game. After finishing our sport for the day, we chatted to the two sisters who owned the bar. They told us so much about their way of life and how hunting the jungle animals was illegal, but everybody did it anyway because they were poor and needed food. Despite the obvious poverty, they showed us their Aai processing machine (like a meat-grinder), and one of their sons shinned a huge palm to bring us down a branch with the small green nuts attached. They gave Blondie some earrings hand-made with Aai seeds and generally treated us like visiting relatives, including inviting us back for the Reveillon party in the town. Their hospitality was warmer than the overhead sun and is one of the main reasons that Im glad our boat broke down.

Back at the pier, things started to get messy towards sunset. The drinking turned to singing and chanting and roaring and dribbling, none more so than the crazy chef who was in the bar halfway down the pier, making more noise and having drunk more than the rest of us put together. He was already a legendary figure in my eyes, but not for his cooking skills. It looked like we could forget dinner that night. I wont forget Gurup though, and one day Id like to go back to see if our friends remember us. Then, as well as a unique birthday, we could experience a unique New Year on the Amazon.

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

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
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?

November 26, 2007

The Consultant to the Fry Group responsible for developing Latin America and the Caribbean, Patrick Holman, will be in São Paulo over the coming weeks to advise and attend clients. Their website is www.thefrygroup.co.uk. The Group is offering a free investment review to ensure clients’ affairs and portfolios are managed with their financial objectives in mind and with the appropriate level of risk.

Specialists in tax, financial planning and executor & trustee matters since 1898 they have over 40,000 clients worldwide in more than 150 countries. The company’s executives regularly tour the main expatriate centers overseas and from 28 to 30 November and 5 to 14 December 2007, Patrick Holman will be available for meetings in São Paulo to discuss a number of important changes which have recently been announced. These include:

  • Residence – from April 2008 residence rules will be tightened and the taxman will count the days of arrival in and departure from the UK when calculating whether or not an individual is non-resident
  • Capital Gains Tax – until now CGT has been charged according to an individual’s personal tax rate, but from 6th April 2008 a flat rate of 18% will be charged
  • Inheritance Tax – the IHT threshold for couples has risen to 600,000, yet careful planning is still needed. If you live in Bermuda you might feel safely out of the net of the UK taxman, and may not be aware that if you are still domiciled in the UK, you could be liable for Inheritance Tax on your worldwide assets
  • Pensions – you may be able to transfer any UK pensions offshore – which might offer far greater flexibility and the possibility of a commutation

    You can contact Patrick in the UK at mail@yarner.com or whilst travelling at prfholman@hotmail.com. Here are Patrick’s contact details in Brazil:

    Hotel Tryp Higienopolis
    Rua Maranhao, 371
    01240 – 001 Higienopolis
    São Paulo
    T: 00 55 11 3665 8200
    F: 00 55 11 3665 8201

    The British Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Brazil
    Rua Ferreira de Araujo 741 1 andar
    05428-002 São Paulo SP
    T: 00 55 11 3819 0265
    F: 00 55 11 3819 7908″

  • For readers in João Pessoa there’s a meet up this Thursday, 22nd November.

    The meet up is at the large restaurant at the end of Avenida Mar Vermelho (apparently for those coming by taxi just ask the driver to go to the Taxi rank at the end of this street and the place is right next door).

    By Marilyn Diggs
    November 19, 2007

    Until five years ago the Aisn Region (also spelled Aysn) in northern Patagonia wasnt even mentioned in the Chilean weather report. Like most travelers, Id visited southern Patagonia and the Lake Region, completely oblivious to what lies in between. Lately the area’s potential as a hydropower source has called national attention. Time to see this untamed area, now, before nature is harnessed.

    After a 4-hour flight from Santiago, we touch down in Balmaceda Airport, just meters from the Argentine border. My driver/guide picks us up in his SUV, and the trip begins into the most pristine and wild part of Chile. Even though Aisn Region’s land surface is the second largest in country (representing 14.2% of continental Chile), it has only 100,000 inhabitants – nearly half living in Coyhaique, the capital. Most of the towns are scarcely 50 years old since the government only promoted colonization of the rugged terrain in the early 20th century.

    As custom dictates, we beep the horn three times as we zip past the candle-laden San Sebastian Grotto, the cave dedicated to the patron saint of drivers. The Carretera Austral (pictured at the top of the article – photo taken by Marcia Menand), Chile’s southern highway, links northern and southern Patagonia. Our first destination is Terra Luna Lodge near Puerto Guadal on Lago General Carrera – the second largest lake in South America. No fast food joints, no billboards, very few towns with gasoline stations and no emergency phone booths along the way. Traffic is almost nonexistent on this roadway of which about 30 per cent is still unpaved. Nature lends a hand – the Hudson Volcano spewed ashes, turning day into night in 1991. “Volcano ash makes good roads since it compresses on the road surface!” my guide exclaims.

    I have never seen so much majestic scenery within such a short time. As the car hugs each hilly curve, we descend into another awesome landscape, varying from silver wetlands, ochre prairies and evergreen forests, to mountain peaks against clear cobalt blue skies or crowned with heavy clouds. In the 1940s the Chilean government rewarded ground clearance with land titles so the colonists burned nearly 3 million hectares of forest (40% of the region), destroying much of Aisn’s native southern beech trees. The fires got out of control and raged for nearly a decade. Today trunks look like grey matchsticks on green covered hills and charred twisted stumps remain amid new growth, giving a surreal impression.

    We stop for lunch at the tiny town Villa Cerro Castillo at the base of a mountain whose fortress-like peaks earned it the name Castle Hill. A typical gaucho barbeque cooked over a campfire is later served inside a country-chic restaurant. The owner tells us about the native tribes that lived in the fjords and steppes long before the first Europeans arrived in Aisn in the 1550s. We go by car, and then hike to nearby hand print paintings on cliffs over-looking Rio Ibez. The trail to the 8,000 year-old red stenciled and stamped hands is lined with chrome-yellow lady slippers, hardy fuchsia, berried musk rose (whose oil is used for cosmetics) and red Chilean fire bush (for toothaches and ointments) – a sampling of the 280 species of wild flora. Original log houses still stand, testaments to the hearty pioneers in this primeval terrain.

    After a few adventure-filled days at Terra Luna Lodge, we return north and stop in Coyhaique, the young capital founded in 1929. Known for outstanding fly-fishing in the Simpson River, condor-watching from nearby cliffs and geographical beauty, locals raise cattle and grains and receive tourists with open arms. From there we continue the road trip westward-bound and travel through the Enchanted Forest in Queulat National Park. (Some say the “City of the Caesar,” the legendary city of giants and gnomes, is hidden there). Misty clouds 700-meters-up blanket the road and create a mystical mood. Giant leaves of the 3-meter-high nalca plant (related to the rhubarb family) line the road and give a Jurassic Park feel. We comb the cloud-crowned peaks for condors and scan forests for the tiny pudu deer. (Pictured below – Hanging Glacier in Queulat National Park)

    Our road trip ends as we reach the western side of Aisn resembling scattered puzzle pieces on the map. The next phase holds more natural wonders – fjords, islands, bays, hot springs and glacial lagoons. We journeyed on only a small section of the 1200km Carretera Austral and went at our own pace, giving time to reflect on the immense beauty of this unspoiled wilderness. The Patagonians are right when they say, “He who is in a hurry in Patagonia, wastes his time,” or as we say, “Take time to smell the roses.”

    TIPS

    Where to stay:
    El Reloj Hotel is named after the clock brought by first English settlers in town, which hangs in the entranceway. Renovated sawmill warehouse that combines history with rustic/chic decor. Great views from restaurant and in rooms at back of hotel. Excellent regional cuisine with creative twist. Baquedano 828, Coyhaique. Tel: 56 – 67- 231-108. htlelreloj@patagoniachile.cl and www.elrelojhotel.cl.
    Mincho’s Lodge: Homey and charming. Large spacious rooms with views. Sophisticated family-style dining. Owner is a gracious geologist and gives tours upon request. Fly-fishing arrangements available. Camino del Bosque 1170, Coyhaique. Tel: 56-67-233-273. vmoya@entelchile.net and www.minchoslodge.com.
    Terra Luna Lodge: near Puerto Guadal. Contact Azimut360. Tel: (56-2) 235-1519. info@terra-luna.cl and www.terraluna.cl.
    Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa: Contact Patagonia Connection. Tel: (56-2) 255-6489.
    www.patagonia-connection.com.

    Where to eat:
    Ricer Restaurant: just off the main Plaza de Armas. Very popular. Typical dishes served with a flare served in rustic setting. Savory paila marina (shellfish stew) and salmon a la criolla highly recommended. Horn 48, Coyhaique. Tel: (56- 67) 232-920. restaurant@historicoricer.cl and www.historicoricer.cl.
    La Cascada Restaurant: close to the awesome Velo de la Novia cascade and Rio Simpson. Delicious regional favorites include grilled salmon, platiada (special cut of beef) and peppered mashed potatoes. Km.32 on Camino Aysn. Coyhaique. Tel: (2-1) 964-527.
    turisticalacascada@ctrnet.cl and www.turisticalacascada.cl.
    Puesto Huemul: in Villa Cerro Castillo beside the highway. Restaurant, deli with homemade preserves of regional delicacies, souvenirs, tourist services and information. Tel: (56-9) 218-3250.
    acolomes@entelchile.net

    More information:
    Senatur: National Tourism Service. Coyhaique. Tel: (56-67)-233-949. Sernatur-coyhaiq@entelchile.net.
    Azimut360: Tour operator. Santiago. Tel: (56-2 ) 235-1519.
    www.azimut360.com and www.terra-luna.cl.

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

    Previous articles by Marilyn:

    Conquering Cape Horn
    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

    November 23, 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 someone else. 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.

    I am Saad from London. I am doing a research on setting up a business in Brazil. I have to explain what cultural problems someone from can England face in Brazil, and how can they be minimised.

    Help and support will be appreciated.

    Many thanks!

    Oi, Saad,

    Hard to explain cultural problems regarding England, as I have no knowledge on the UK culture or the sort of business you refer to, but let’s try something for you to start, ok?

    You might have heard already: “Brazilians are never on time”. Well, Saad, it is true. And a real issue for you to consider. For appointments 5 minutes is nothing. For deadlines you can wait a week.

    Can you? So be prepared, deadlines in Brazil can be deathlines if you don’t push your team on how important it really is to commit to time. It’s crucial to exaggerate, and normal.

    “If this isn’t ready on Thursday, we are fired.”

    Don’t bother lying, everyone else does. And practice being a good liar. People have a radar for dramas in Brazil. We have a masters degree in that. And be careful to use lies properly. You can be classified as the rubbish deadlines kind of guy otherwise:

    “He said Thursday.”
    “Who? Saad? Ah, rubbish!”

    One other thing I must alert you to is that Brazilians have a hard time saying “no”. There is absolutely no time, the budget is impossible, and you hear:

    “Ok, Saad I will try.”
    “Please.”
    “Yes, sure, ok, Saad. Don’t worry.”

    And that is something you will find not only in personal relations but professional. Nobody will tell you “I can’t”, so be prepared not to take any promise as red until absolutely signed, sealed and delivered.

    At the end of the day you will notice our famous “Não deu”.

    “Did you do that?”
    “Sorry, não deu

    “Não deu” means “I couldn’t do it”.

    That answer will be given to you with no extra excuse, that’s simply the reason why. The underly reason could be no time, no money, no available employee, or anything else that you could understand and manage if you already knew, but you’ll find it hard to understand why no-one tells you this.

    Again, because Brazilians have a problem saying “no”, they will tell you later: “Não deu”. Just when everything goes wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    Unlike America, or the UK (again I don’t really know how close your culture is), where people see themselves as individuals, Brazilians see themselves as a group. So it is crucial here to keep a good relationship with everyone, and saying ‘no’ is a way to ruin a relationship for a Brazilian. For example, if someone invites you to a party and you can’t go (no matter what reason) it’s normal here for people to use excuses like “oh, i have to wake up really early tomorrow”, or… “it’s my mom’s birthday”… or “I’m really sick, I’m dying here”. There is no such thing in Brazil like “Sorry, I had plans for today” and that’s it. “What plans?”. And you’d better find some good plan to justify your absence.

    I know it sounds terrible, Saad, but in any work environment those social relationships walk together. If you are not “someone’s darling”, this person will not commit to you professionally. If you are a darling, your job (whatever that is) will be the first in line, regardless if you were the last to arrive. Actually the line is organized according to whose job it is.

    “Who asked for this?”
    “Saad.”
    “Hum… let’s see, we have Vanessa’s, Saad’s… Let’s finish Vanessa’s first.”

    Sorry Saad, that’s how it works, I’m a woman, I’m cute, I am first.

    Hope it helps you somehow.

    Good luck to you!

    Vanessa T. Bauer

    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: Picking Teeth
    Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
    Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
    Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
    Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
    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

    November 23, 2007

    Meet Hans Keeling, from the USA, who first visited Brazil in 2004 and then moved here and setup a business. 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.?

    I grew up in Northern California with a love for sports, the outdoors, travel (my mom being from Austria, our family traveled quite a bit when I was younger) and foreign culture. I studied economics and environmental sciences in college, graduating from Stanford University in 1998, after which I moved to Los Angeles and went to law school, graduating from the UCLA School of Law in 2001. Have invested so much time, energy and money in my academic career up until that date, I took the logical next step and took a job with a top international law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, where I worked from 1999-2004. While I had a great experience working as a corporate lawyer, focused primarily on mergers & acquisitions and corporate finance transactions, I soon realized the lifestyle was not for me in the long run. I managed to travel a lot during my work, including stints in Europe and Asia, so knew that I would love to do something overseas whatever my next step might be.

    Toward the end of 2003 I was contemplating several job opportunities (still traditional ones, in corporate law and finance) in Europe and Dubai (Middle East) when by chance a long time dream of mine came true – a New Year’s vacation with several friends to Brazil, a country I had long dreamed of visiting and was super curious to see for myself.

    What I saw exceeded my already high expectations, and I was literally blown away by the wonderful culture and warmth of the people. It was such a contrast to the world I was accustomed to up until that time – lawyers, accountants and investment bankers overworked and overstressed, with tons of money and material things, but for the most, unfulfilled and not happy with their lives.

    To the contrary, the Brazilians I met during that first fateful visit to Rio and Buzios for New Years of 2004 were healthy, happy, relaxed, living life passionately and enjoying the moment. It was such a breath of fresh air for me, that I knew I wanted more. I returned to the US on Sunday evening, and Monday morning walked back into work and gave 3 weeks notice. It was quite a shock for many around me, co-workers, colleagues, family, etc., as I had always been the achievement oriented type and many read this as he’s giving up”. I didn’t see it that way, I just figured out that I wanted something different from my life. I didn’t know exactly what it was yet, and many thought I was nuts for quitting a “prestigious” and secure job without having a plan, but I figured I’d worked my butt off for a long time now, been smart and saved up some reserve funds, and owed myself a bit of time to unwind, reclaim my life, and then go about figuring out next steps with a clear head.

    But one thing was certain, I wanted my next steps to involve Brazil and more of that feeling of exhilaration and truly living life that I’d felt those first fateful 10 days on vacation in Rio.

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

    I arrived in Brazil full time in September of 2005.

    I took about 6 months off after quitting my job in Los Angeles to travel, explore options, get back in shape, etc. I turned over every stone imaginable trying to find work in Brazil, but it was very difficult I discovered for foreigners to get jobs and work visas in Brazil. Not to mention my Portuguese at the time consisted of about 10-15 words that I’d picked up on vacation while on the beach.

    After about 4 months of searching to no avail, I finally came across a lead – a friend of mine at another law firm mentioned there was a Brazilian lawyer doing an exchange program of sorts, 6 months in the US, to gain experience and bolster her resume. I checked with my old law firm, with whom I maintained strong ties, and sure enough, they had on various occasions accepted foreign guest associates from Brazil’s top law firm, Pinheiro Neto Advogados. Eagerly I worked backwards and found some contacts in Pinheiro Neto’s Rio office (their São Paulo office was 10 times the size and a much more logical choice, but I already knew that I was doing this more for the experience of living and working in Brazil than for the career bolstering, so Rio was my aim). Sure enough, while they had never accepted a foreign associate in return from the US (not many US lawyers apparently are eager to go work in Brazil for a 10th of the salary;), they were eager to meet me and set up an interview. So in no time I was back on a plane to Brazil, interviewed for the job, and the rest was history.

    I had a great experience at the Brazilian law firm. 95% of my work was in English, working with foreign companies investing in Brazil, so luckily the language barrier wasn’t too much of an issue. But all the same I worked super hard to improve my Portuguese, and after a few months I was already able to get by with basic conversation pretty well. I got to work on a lot of interesting transactions and had a much bigger role than I would have had back in the US, where I would have been one of the more junior of many well educated, highly trained, lawyers on the totem pole hierarchy that makes up most major international law firms. In Brazil on the other hand, I was the only US born, US trained lawyer with major deal experience, so my opinions were truly valued.

    However, after about 6 months, the same yearnings and frustrations began to set in again. The work was fairly similar, and the business model of the law firm was fairly similar to that to which I was used to back home. I had now practiced law on 4 continents (North America, Europe, Asia and South America), and it was safe to say by now, it was not for me.

    At this point, I reached a very difficult crossroads in my life – I loved Brazil and wanted to stay longer, however my career and all things “rational” dictated that I would return to the US after this brief hiatus and get back on track for “big things”. I opted to take a risk and stay in Brazil, following a dream for a new tourism sector business that I’d dreamed up along with a few friends during a recent friend’s bachelor party. We were a group of young professionals, many of whom had taken up the sport of surfing recently and fallen in love with it, who wanted to take a vacation that would mix great surf with fun nightlife and culture, and allow us to stay in a nice place (as opposed to many traditional surf camps that are off in the middle of nowhere with great waves but little else to offer). When we couldn’t find what we were after (it seemed it didn’t exist), it dawned on me that this would be a great opportunity to launch a new business that would unite many of the things I loved the most – traveling and discovering new foreign cultures, outdoor sports, nightlife, and of course Brazilian culture.

    In the meanwhile, during all my travels in Brazil (I tried to see as much of the country as possible while working in Rio), I came across one place that stood out head and shoulders from the rest – the island of Florianopolis in the south of Brazil (Santa Catarina State). It struck me that this would be the perfect location for this new adventure travel company that I’d dreamed about, so against all odds was born Nexus Surf (www.nexussurf.com). The launch and growth of the company have been another adventure altogether which I’ll save for another day (otherwise this interview will get way too long!!:), but suffice it to say that I’ve never been as happy or as fulfilled as I am now with my professional life, despite the fact I certainly work more now than I used to as a lawyer (which wasn’t my initial goal when moving to Brazil, but what are you going to do?).

    3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

    Much of this I addressed already above, but to recap, for me it was love at first sight. A country and a people that prided themselves on music, celebration, dance, sports, love of the beach and sun worshipping, festivals, etc. – what wasn’t to love? The vibrant, passionate and good natured approach to life characteristic of so many Brazilians was a joy for me to see. With so many people in the US stressed and constantly worrying about things in the future that in reality don’t make a huge difference one way or the other (say a promotion or a new car), it was truly refreshing for me to see how the Brazilians really were able to focus and live life in the moment (perhaps a bit too much, which might explain why they’re always late, but that’s another story as well;).

    4. What do you miss most about home?

    Without a doubt, friends and family, though luckily living in “paradise” I get lots of visitors, most important of which are my parents, both of whom are now retired and fortunately have the good health and time to travel and come to see me.

    Aside from that, pretty much just reasonably priced electronics and cars (the latter being a bigger deal than the former, as not so feasible to ask a friend to bring for you in his/her suitcase;).

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

    Doing business in Brazil is quite different than vacationing here as a tourist, and you get to see a few things which prove the old saying that “no place is perfect”.

    One the one hand there’s the bureaucracy, which sometimes seems so ridiculous that it often passes the point of frustrating and becomes humorous (if you don’t have a good sense of humor, then I wouldn’t even advise you to think of ever doing business in Brazil!).

    On a more personal note, I was sad to learn that many Brazilians don’t trust in others very easily. Perhaps from being burned in the past, or perhaps from the institutional presumption that you’re “guilty until proven innocent”, but it’s a bit frustrating for someone from the US to see how many things don’t happen that should simply b/c of a lack of trust.

    A very simple example that sticks in my mind sums up both of these frustrations. The first time I tried to rent a movie in Brazil and wanted to open a new rental account I was told I couldn’t do so because I did not bring a “compravante de residencia”, or proof of residence. I was a bit confused, b/c in the US, no one cares where you live, they just assume you live somewhere, and that’s not really relevant to something like a movie rental account. But apparently here I wasn’t worthy until I proved with a piece of paper that I actually in fact lived somewhere (as opposed to under the bridge somewhere?). My offers of leaving 10 times the value of the movie with them as a deposit or putting down all my credit card information for them to charge me any late or non-return fees went on deaf ears.

    The next month I returned to the store, emboldened by my Xerox copy of my light bill (which of course took a while to get transferred to my name from the previous owner of my house), and confident that I soon would be worthy of once again watching DVD’s in the comfort of my own home.

    Only to be told that the copy wouldn’t do b/c it wasn’t “authenticated”, as if they assumed that I would be the type of person (aka, criminal) who would forge documents just to open up an account. Another trip wasted, I was off to the local “cartorio”, a wonderfully Brazilian creation which is like a notary public on steroids. A lot of steroids. I had to wait in line for 30 minutes just to take a new photocopy of my light bill with a very official looking stamp on it. Only now was I in full compliance with all the bureaucracy required of the situation (which I mistakenly some 5 weeks ago had assumed would be a simple matter of putting down a credit card and renting a movie!), and bearer of an “official” stamp of approval that I was indeed not a fraud.

    Ahhh, Brazil. Remember what I said about the sense of humor right? ;)

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

    My most memorable experience in Brazil would have to be my first New Years Eve, 2004, spent in Rio de Janeiro. It was such a tremendous contrast to anything I had ever seen or known before, to see 3 million people, all dressed in white and celebrating in total harmony, jumping into the water at midnight, throwing white roses into the ocean in an offering of good fortunes, all beneath the most incredible fireworks show I had ever seen in my life.

    If I wasn’t already won over by Brazilian flair and culture, this night was the crowned jewel for my early Brazilian experiences.

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

    I love the fact that Brazil is still a developing country, with so much potential and such a bright future. Many Brazilians look at me like I’m crazy for leaving a nice part of California to come live here, wondering why I would leave behind the established global economic superpower that is the US. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, b/c to me, the fact that in Brazil there is still so much room to grow and so much to improve is exciting. Being in Beverly Hills or Marin County everything is already done, I’m not needed any longer! But here, I feel like I can still play a positive role in how the community is shaped, which is kind of exciting.

    Then of course there’s the people, and their open, warm and fun-loving way, that’s hard to beat as well. The only place I’ve been that compares is Italy (though perhaps that’s because I’m in southern Brazil where there is a strong Italian influence).

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

    My personal favorite restaurant in Brazil is Thai (http://www.thairestaurante.com.br) and my favorite place to go out is Confraria das Artes (http://www.confrariadasartes.com.br/index2.html), both in Florianopolis.

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

    I’ve lived in Florianopolis now full time for just over 2 years, and prior to that Rio for about 9 months, so plenty of funny experiences, too many to recount here!

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

    Actually, I find them quite similar in many ways. Having lived in Southern California for 8 years prior to moving to Florianopolis, I am many times shocked that I don’t feel less at home here than I do. But honestly sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that I’m not in San Diego or Santa Barbara or some place like that.

    But then I just have to look at the price of a plasma TV or an SUV to wake myself up! What would we do without all those wonderful protective economic tariffs of the Brazilian government??

    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?

    By now I’d say I’m pretty much fluent. My crowning moment came after about a year and a half in Brazil, I was renting a car somewhere in Bahia, and the lady behind the counter looked at me and asked something to the effect of “You’re not from here are you, are you a Paulista?”. Aside from taking offense that she didn’t recognize my wonderful Carioca Portuguese, I was proud as could be that someone actually for a second thought I was speaking well enough to be considered a Brazilian.

    Most confusing words to pronounce:

    Airplane, Grandfather, Grandmother — voo, vo, vo (forgive me I’m not good with accents)!!

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

    Relax. Take things slow. Try to learn from watching from the local culture and absorb yourself in the rather intoxicating way of life.

    Learn Portuguese, it’s really a beautiful language.

    Avoid the temptation to compare everything to the US or to critique — if you wanted everything clean cut and simple, you could have stayed home and had that already!

    Also, while it’s American ingenuity and industriousness is a good thing, try and avoid the temptation to look at every street corner and store front as a “oh my goodness, this could/should be [fill in the blank economic activity]”. There’s a reason why many things that perhaps in an ideal (American efficient) world would happen business-wise, there’s also a good reason why it hasn’t yet in Brazil. And going around with that kind of mind set is just setting yourself up for frustration down the road, b/c there are things (taxes, bureaucracy, restrictions, etc.) that most westerners don’t factor in at first upon arrival to Brazil.

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

    Being a bit biased perhaps, I would for sure recommend that everyone visit Florianopolis at least once, it’s a really unique place that offers world-class dining and nightlife, stunning and unspoiled natural beauty, and virtually unlimited outdoor adventure sports options (surfing, kitesurfing, river rafting, horseback riding, paragliding, sand dune boarding, wakeboarding, ecohikes, and the list goes on!).

    Any questions about Floripa or Brazil generally, feel free to drop me a line at hans@nexussurf.com!

    Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

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

    Jim Adams – USA
    Richard Murison – USA
    Will Periam – UK
    Jan Sandbert – Sweden
    Jim Jones – USA
    Mike Stricklin – USA
    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