May 30, 2008

Meet Jeni Bonorino from the USA who has recently arrived in Brazil. Read the following interview in which she tells us about some of her most memorable experiences 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 Jeni Bonorino and I am from Reston, Virginia. I have spent the last 5 years traveling the world as an international wine buyer for a retailer in the US. Today I run my own company,

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

The price of every day items being at least double what I am used to paying in the US!

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?

While I understand most things my speaking is coming along slowly. I still get Spanish mixed in my Portuguese. I have taken up reading the newspaper everyday and asking questions as a way to force myself to learn more. I still can’t pronounce the word “trabalhar” properly due to the intense nasal sound.

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

Enjoy yourself! Remember that you aren’t going to understand everything in a week or a month. Baby steps are best way to take it all in.

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

Rio: Walk/run along the beach in the morning. It is truly a gift of nature.

São Paulo: Eat your way across the Itaim Bibi neighborhood. The Italian restaurants are 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 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:

Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
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 John Fitzpatrick
29 May 2008

The financial crisis which has hit American and European banks has cost tens of thousands of workers their jobs. One side effect of this has been a rise in interest by Western bankers in other markets, particularly in India, the Middle East and the Far East. The Times of London coined the expression summing up the dilemma facing those with no prospects in Western markets: ‘Mumbai, Dubai, Shanghai – or Goodbye. It quoted a headhunter as saying there had been an annual increase of 20% to 25% in the number of Western bankers heading East over the past two years. So far there has been no sign of many (if any) of these jobseekers heading to Brazil but there are a number of reasons why they should consider the idea.

Any Wall Street whiz kid would feel at home immediately in São Paulo. The city is obsessed with money, success, status and flaunting your wealth. Visit the old downtown area around the Bovespa and BM&F futures exchange, Avenida Paulista, Faria Lima, Funchal, Itaim and Berrini or head further out along the Marginal highway almost as far as Interlagos and youll see banks, brokerages, finance houses, insurance companies, accountancy firms, consultancies, actuaries and lawyers offices by the score. Countless sky-high buildings, gleaming as the sun reflects their glass exteriors, swarm with hundreds of thousands of busy bees, plugged into their computers, phones glued to ears as they gaze into their computer screens while holding conversations with a dozen people at the same time.

All of them obsessed with making money. All of them still have the same hunger for security and success that their ancestors felt when they arrived here from Europe, the Middle East and Japan, as well as every state in Brazil.

I believe the Paulistanos outdo New Yorkers any day when it comes to energy and stamina. While most workers in Wall Street cannot afford to live in Manhattan and head off in the late afternoon/early evening to the outer boroughs or to their suburban homes in New England, the São Paulo financial workers live in the city and are at their desks much longer. They are also much more flexible and enterprising in my experience. Some years ago I arranged a conference call with two top São Paulo analysts and some clients in the US the following Monday morning. I had forgotten that the time would change that weekend. The result was the analysts arrived two hours earlier than they needed to. They were not remotely fussed and agreed to come back later. Compare this with the attitude of a German banker I once interviewed for an in-house magazine. After the article appeared, he sent an angry e-mail to the marketing director of the company complaining that I had wasted 40 minutes of his “valuable” time since I had not given enough coverage to a deal he had been involved in.

People in the São Paulo financial area will work straight through the night to finish projects without making the slightest complaint. I know one equity analyst who went three nights without sleep recently when he was writing reports on the quarterly earnings of companies he covers.

If they work hard, they also play hard. São Paulo is open all hours whether you want to go to a concert, bar, supermarket, hairdresser or dentist. New York may claim to be the city that never sleeps but, to my mind, it is not in the same league as São Paulo in terms of the vibrancy of the lifestyle and excellence of the restaurants. When youve stopped drinking and dancing at 5 a.m. you can go to one of the thousands of cozy bakery cafs known as padarias and have breakfast – before heading back to another 12-hour working day.

São Paulo is not a city for losers. If you cant make it on your own then dont expect anybody else to help you. This has led to many immigrants giving up and returning home empty-handed but those who stayed showed iron stamina and endurance and built a city that overwhelms every foreigner who sees it for the first time. Their efforts also turned São Paulo state into the economic powerhouse of Brazil, responsible for around 40% of the entire GDP.

This wealth was founded on the rich agricultural land which made the state the world’s largest exporter of coffee and orange juice, and a major exporter of sugar. If you are reading this outside Brazil then the chances are that the orange juice, coffee and sugar you had with your breakfast today came from here. (There is also a fair chance that the chicken you will have for lunch and the steak for dinner tonight may also have originated in Brazil but that is another story.) This agricultural bounty is still continuing with ethanol production from sugar cane. Despite common belief abroad, most of Brazil’s ethanol is not produced in the Amazon but in upstate São Paulo.

Industry has also developed and São Paulo is now an exporter of cars, planes, steel, aluminum and all kinds of raw and manufactured goods as well as services. Although much of this development was led by foreign multinationals for decades, it was the Brazilian management and workforce which coped with the problems associated with the boom and bust years and the lost decade when Brazil was felled by hyperinflation, a huge foreign debt and feeble growth.

Nowadays, companies from São Paulo like the beverage giant Inbev (of which Ambev is one of the controllers) and the Votorantim Group have turned table and started buying up companies abroad. Inbev is currently trying to buy Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, while Votorantim has become one of the largest cement producers in the United States and Canada. Brazil is also helping the US and other countries cope with the ongoing financial crisis as foreign firms, particularly banks, remit the hefty profits they have made here to prop up their parent companies shaky balance sheets. Foreign companies remitted US$ 12.358 billion in profits and dividends between January and April this year. A quarter of this figure went to troubled banks abroad.

On top of this dynamism the metropolitan region of São Paulo forms a consumer market of almost 20 million people. In short, São Paulo is a financier’s dream with tens of thousands of corporate clients and millions of individuals all needing services ranging from investment banking to mortgages and car loans. São Paulo has always been a major financial center but the boom the Brazilian economy is enjoying has expanded its influence at world level. The Bovespa and the BM&F have recently merged to form the world’s third-largest publicly traded securities exchange. Petrobras is now the sixth-largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization. It may not be based in São Paulo but much of its potentially rich oil reserves lie off the São Paulo coast. Brazil’s expanding economy has led more companies to list on the stock exchange. Around 10 middle market banks and 15 homebuilders have opened their capital over the last two years. The pace has slowed somewhat and some listings have been postponed this year due to the international financial crisis but this crisis has had little effect on Brazil to date.

All this means that there are jobs aplenty for skilled financial professionals whether investment bankers, traders, analysts, consultants or tax specialists. The choice is your – out of work in Wall Street or making it in Avenida Paulista. Are you ready to go for it?

John Fitzpatrick 2008

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 He can be contacted at

Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on

Brazil: Lula Loves Investment Grade – Whatever That Is
There’s No Business Like Oil Business – in Brazil Anyway
Benefits of Brazil’s Growth Start to Spread
Let Brazilians Sort Out the Problems of the Amazon
Brazil’s Politicians Set to Cash in on Oil and Gas Discoveries
Brazil: Lula Learns the Lesson of Not Planning Ahead
Cops and Robbers Brazilian Style
Brazil: Oscar Freire – São Paulo’s Street of Dreams
Brazil: Lula Called to Account on Tax
Will Lula Leave Brazil in Safe or Unsafe Hands?
Senate Spits in the Face of the Brazilian People
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?

By Alison McGowan
May 27, 2008

Pousada Vivenda is a dream come true for owner John Hudson. Not only is his eye for design evident everywhere, but also his belief in offering quality, comfort and personal service at all times. The result is a rustic-chic style, with exuberant tropical touches. Although not in the historical centre of Paraty, this has its own advantages. Most of the action is a nice safe 10 minute walk away, along the river, and the pousada, in turn, is wonderfully tranquil.

Vivenda is very small with 2 chalet-type self catering bungalows and one double suite, spread around a delightful swimming pool and bar. Add some gentle background Brazilian jazz to the very personal service and intelligent conversation with John and other guests, and the impression is that you are at a very informal, yet sophisticated, house party. Wonderful!

Paraty is a world heritage site, a beautiful cobbled colonial town, with a traffic-free historical centre. Outside festival season at least, it appears to have stopped in time. The original inhabitants were Guaiana Indians, but the present town was founded in 1667.First famous for its sugar mills and its cachaca (sugar cane liquor) production, Paraty really came of age during the gold cycle of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail) was built. This opened up the interior of the country and more importantly gave the state of Minas Gerais access to the sea. It was through the port of Paraty that much of the gold and precious stones from Minas passed on their way to Portugal.

If Paraty is as well preserved as it is, much is due to its economic isolation in the 19th century, courtesy of the rather efficient pirates hiding out on the neighbouring beach of Trindade, who effectively forced merchants to find different ports. However another reason was the difficulty of access before the 1970s when the coastal road, Rio/Santos BR101, was built. In the last 25 years local tourism has grown substantially and the number of pousadas runs into hundreds, located both inside and outside the historical centre. Many of the original colonial buildings have been refurbished and now house craft shops, restaurants and bars, with live music in the evenings.

Not to be missed
– The journey from Rio to Paraty (one of the most scenic in the world)
– Schooner trips round the Ilha Grande Bay
– Walking tour round the historical centre of Paraty
– Walking the Caminho do Ouro, the 17th/18th century gold route
– Shopping for handicrafts, rugs, hammocks, wooden boxes, art, cachaa
– Festivals: Literary (July); Pinga (August); Gastronomy (November)

Getting there without a car
The easiest way is to get the bus from the Novorio bus station in Rio using the Visit her blog at

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Terra, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Caju, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Amendoeira, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Estalagem Caiuia, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Lagoa do Cassange, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta do Muta, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia

May 22, 2008

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.

What I’d like to know is exactly what the function(s) of the PMERJ/PM (Policia Militar, Military Police) is. If any. I’ve asked my friends here, in São Paulo state, Minas state etc., and they all look at me mystified and either laugh or answer “eu nao sei!” (I don’t know!). I’ve never seen them help in case of an auto breakdown, or an altercation, have seen them just watch traffic violations, and several times been in night clubs where they’ve been socializing with the girls and drinking chopp or mixed drinks in uniform (on duty). I have seen them stop motorcycles – myself included – for reasons my wife couldn’t find out. Is there something I’m missing in their duties that I can’t see? When I first started coming here – mid 70’s – when the military was in control, there seemed to be much more law and order under them than there is now, with much less of an obvious presence.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Dave, EUA & RJ

Oi, Dave,

I like to hear you are surprised. We got used to it.

Rio needs a civil war, that is already happening, but only against civils and between arm dealers. The police? Looking forward to being alive at the end of the day, making some if they can. So much money running around anyway.

And going to war with old 38’s versus brand new R14’s? Suicide.

Brazil desperately needs “order” for the “progress” that we are in. And we progress even in the mess.

How come they are drinking in a bar? Them drinking in a bar doesn’t even bothers me anymore. How come they don’t care about the marvelous Rio de Janeiro, the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen, and it’s people.

Even if there were thousands of PM’s that really choose to save Rio from it’s desperate need of help, chaos is still superior. Money. Politics. We need superheroes, there must be some, but they are few, and they are poor.

Thanks for sharing your surprise,

To give you a true example, have you seen “Tropa de Elite”? I think it’s Elite Squad, in English.

Best Regards,

Vanessa T. Bauer

Readers comments:

This is a response to the question about the policia militar in São Paulo. I have a good friend who is a lieutenant in that organisation in SP and when I visited her last September she carried her service gun with her in her handbag and when driving her own car she had the gun wedged between her bum and seat for protection. Apparently the reason for stopping bikers is that many robberies on the roads are carried out by motorcyclists. In fact on the way back to the airport to take me to the plane, she took her gun out and held it across her chest as she was driving and this was when she explained about the bikers as a couple of them passed our car.

— Ron

This is an added comment to Dave’s question regarding the PM (or MP) in Rio. The reason you don’t see them doing anything about traffic infractions, is because that area falls under the “Policia Civil”. That is why you will see ppl speed when going by a PM or running traffic lights, etc. Now, you will not see them (or perhaps, not see it as often) when a PC is on the scene. There were times when PM also issued traffic tickets, but that was taken away from them. Basically, it’s a huge mess and a constant battle.

In regards to why they stop ppl (cars and motorcycles) for no apparent reason… well, it is nothing more than a way to get “a little extra”… that means that even if you have done nothing wrong, they will hold you until you decide your time is more precious than losing about R$50 (or even less). Of course, if you have the time to waste and are not in a dangerous place, they will eventually give in and send you on your way (if they see they will not get anything from you)… I’ve personally been on both ends of the situation. It is a crappy situation, but then again, you have to think that these ppl have to risk their lives for a bad salary (and I mean literally risk their lives, bc once a thief/dealer/thug finds out a person is a cop, they tend to shoot them on the spot, no questions asked). And Vanessa is right, how can PM compete with the most advanced arsenal (and I do mean arsenal) with their crappy guns… and most don’t even have bulletproof vests.

So, they do what they think they can. Go out there, offer some/little reassurance when they are in scene and try to get more money for their living.

Now, don’t get me wrong… in no way do I agree with such actions. It’s all a question of ethics and, unfortunately, many of them have none…but, how can you blame them, when the very core of their superiors are just as bad or worst?? And yes, there are the PM and PC and others who are honest and do care… but, they are a very small minority.

Now, I don’t know that we need a civil war or anything, to restore order. I do think we need leaders with some thick blood. Leaders who will say, “ENOUGH” and shake the whole system. Out with the old and in with the new order. Climb the “morros” and take out the trash. Hit the pavement and protect the citizen (crap, we are prisoners in our own homes… count how many buildings you see that are not “behind bars”). Have harsh penalties for crimes (I never understood how a person can be condemned to 200+ yrs., when the constitution states the max. # of yrs. they can serve is 30). Create better conditions for police officers (better pay, better equipment, etc.)… and start giving value to the ppl. Better pay, better conditions (hospitals, etc.)… then, the citizen may start to care and help to make a difference. Once all this happens, then Brazil will be ready to move into being a 1st world country… until then, we can have as much money and prestige… but while we continue to live as savages and prisioners, it will all be an illusion (I mean, when you can’t buy what you want for fear of it being stolen… and you killed in the process… what is the point of having money???).

Sorry to get away from your question a bit, but it all ties in. In short, the PM is supposed to take care of protecting the citizen and combating crime. As Vanessa suggested, do watch “Tropa de Elite” (Elite Troop/Squad)… it paints a pretty good picture of how the system works… and it will show you that corruption runs loose, but it will also show you there is honesty as well (and pay close attention, bc the movie will show that police are willing to kill their own for greed… pretty shameful).

All in all, don’t give up in Rio… or Brazil… it is a great place and there is hope. Just pay attention and live according… don’t give fate a chance to make the worst or a great experience.

— Lawrence

Well, I tried to get the official side of the story first.

According to the PMRJ’s website (Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
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

By Marc Korn
May 15, 2008

It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a dar um jetinho” (can do) attitude. Like plan a trip to the Amazon… in the 48 hours before leaving! That’s what I did last December. In this story I want to share my experiences of this trip with you, the good – and the one thing I would do differently.

I first visited Brazil 3 years ago and I loved it… the people, the food, the culture… everything! I’ve been back 5 times now and I’ve studied Brazilian Portuguese at language schools in New York City ever since that first visit. As a biologist I especially enjoy traveling to wildlife areas – of which Brazil has so many – the Pantanal, Chapada Diamantina, Fernando de Noronha, the Amazon – to name a few.

Christmas vacation week was fast approaching and I had no plans. Work was… well… the corporate world can be a trying place at times. Getting away would be great. But the logistics were somewhat daunting… could I get plane tickets and reservations a few days in advance of one of the most heavily traveled weeks of the year?

The answer was… yes! The night of Wednesday, December 19th I purchased tickets from New York to São Paulo (using frequent flyer miles) and Friday night I left for Brazil. In the 48 hours before leaving I reserved a hotel in São Paulo, purchased round trip tickets from São Paulo to Manaus, reserved a room at an ecoresort in the jungle, obtained and filled a prescription for Malarone and packed. All that and more accomplished in 48 hours and, for the record, I worked a full day on Thursday.

For me, finding a really good naturalist guide is the key to successful ecotravel. So I was really pleased when I came across an article on the Guardian newspaper’s website about an ecoresort with a great guide. The Guardian was my favorite newspaper during the years I lived in London and the article was published about two weeks before I planned to leave – on the date of my birthday.

Ecoresorts in the Amazon are, of course, all inclusive (the nearest McDonald’s, or Habib’s to be more culturally a propos, is a long paddle away). Activities are programmed for you and where I stayed they included: piranha fishing, a guide-led rainforest walk, a tour of a Caboclo home, a visit with a local Indian tribe to see traditional dances, caiman-spotting, free time in the city of Manaus and a trip to the very cool “Meeting of the Waters.”

Piranha fishing involved lowering a hook baited with a small chunk of raw beef into the river and beating the surface of the water with the tip of the rod. While I had no luck (piranha are very skilled at eating around a fishing hook), my party overall caught about 10 fish over 2 or 3 hours. Everyone asks if you can eat piranha and the answer is yes – they can be grilled or made into the popular caldo de piranha – a soup I’d love to try some day.

Highlights of the rainforest walk included encountering a tarantula in situ (yes, this was one big, hairy spider), eating Survivor-style a white wriggling grub that lives in palm fruit and tastes like coconut (if the Guardian’s travel reporter can do it, so can I!) and seeing the infamous tucandeira ant, whose bite is said to cause its unlucky victim 24 hours of acute pain and fever. Male Amazon Indians prove their manhood by submitting to the bite of this ant repeatedly throughout their lives (learning of this made me think… perhaps corporate life isn’t so bad after all).

Manioc is a staple in the Amazon (and throughout Brazil). Preparing some varieties of manioc involves a little twist that sets them apart from wheat and corn, because the unprocessed root contains high levels of cyanide. An interesting aspect of the Caboclo home tour (Caboclos are individuals of mixed Indian and European descent) was seeing how manioc is processed. It’s a lot of work! The root is ground, mashed and excess liquid is wrung out. Then it is boiled. Only after the cyanide-containing liquid layer is poured off can the manioc be used in cooking.

Watching the Indians do traditional dances felt a little tourist-kitchy to me, but talking with the Indian chief, who spoke fluent Portuguese, was kind of cool. One of the things he said was that the whole tribe traditionally lived in one large lodge or dance hall, but because of the influence of what he described as “white” culture, many couples now want their own sleeping accommodations.

The eyes of caiman (relatives of alligators) reflect light, making them easy to spot at night by shining a lantern along the surface of the river. Having done caiman-spotting in an area of the Pantanal where the caiman were larger and more prevalent – I wasn’t expecting to experience anything new. But I was in for a surprise. After steering our motorboat beside one of the reptiles our guide, who was fully dressed, asked me to hold the lantern and immediately jumped into the river. A minute later he clambered back onto the boat with a somewhat unhappy looking caiman in his firm grip.

Two sites I’d long wanted to visit in Manaus are its famous fish market and opera house. The market has a great variety of fish including one of largest of fresh water fish, the pirarucu, which can weigh in excess of 400 pounds. The opera house was built in the 1890s, when Manaus was a very wealthy city due its rubber plantations. The market for rubber collapsed in the 1920s when the British successfully cultivated rubber trees in Asia and synthetic rubber was introduced. Seeing Christmas decorations along the main shopping streets of this jungle city gave me the same incongruous feeling as I used to get when I lived in Southern California and saw Christmas decorations on palm trees in Beverly Hills.

O Encontro dos guas, or the Meeting of the Waters, is a really unique phenomenon. Imagine a river with a line down the center. On one side of the line, the water is black – on the other yellow. This is the sight that greets you a few miles downstream from Manaus. There the Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro, merges with the Rio Solimes. The waters of the two rivers are very different in color, pH, temperature and density, and as a result the rivers flow together without merging for 10 miles or so. Pink Amazon dolphins are a common sight in this area.

The downside of my trip was customer service-related, you might say. I contacted the ecoresort I eventually stayed at directly to ask about availability, but booked through a Manaus travel agent ( who offered a significantly lower price for the same package. They didn’t like this at the resort, and they let me know in many ways. To me, treating someone discourteously who has traveled quite a long distance to stay at your resort is a bad idea, but my hosts viewed this differently.

I was surprised this trip could happen with only 48 hours advance planning, and more surprised that everything worked so smoothly (with the one exception I mentioned, which was not a timing issue). The Amazon is interesting in many different ways and a trip to there, planned 2 or 200 days in advance, is well worth taking.

You can contact Marc via

By Alison McGowan
May 13, 2008

Pousada Mirante de Pipa, for me, was a wonderful find. Having arrived in Pipa after a 6 hour journey, with a confirmed reservation for a different pousada, the promised rooms in the original pousada turned out not to exist. If they had, we would probably never have found the much nicer hidden” pousada, tucked away on re-forested sand dunes at the end of the village.

Mirante de Pipa has 12 chalets dotted about the woods, all rustic in style but very comfortable, with spacious verandas, table for writing and hammock for relaxing. Tiny sagui monkeys, beijaflor humming birds and butterflies keep you company. Breakfasts here are fabulous, and the breakfast area has panoramic views over Pipa beach and the cliffs beyond (with free wi-fi available).

The whole pousada functions on ecological principles, from the design of the chalets to the re-forestation and care of the environment. You will still need earplugs to shut out the noise of the village below at times during the night; the majority of time the pousada is an oasis of tranquility.

About the location
Pipa is the old Ibiza of Brazil and has a similar atmosphere to Praia do Forte (Bahia) and Buzios (Rio de Janeiro) further south. A former fishing village, it has now been taken over by pousadas, bars, restaurants and boutiques. The main street is cobbled and busy with beach buggies and tourists, both Brazilian and foreign. Several tracks go down to the beaches, the further ones flanked by impressive dark pink cliffs. Surfing is great; the atmosphere cool and laid back.

The town has grown a lot in recent years, and attracts the package tourist as much as the individual traveller these days, hence the different feel to the place from others on our trip. Parts of it are still charming, but for anyone looking for “quiet” and “hidden”, the centre of Pipa at least is long gone.

Not to be missed
– Watching the sunsets from the mirantes (viewing points) in the pousada
– A trek over to the Praia do Amor (Love beach), which is like Pipa used to be
– Buggy trip down south to the Coca Cola lake and Sagi
– Gastronomic boat trip down the coast
– Dining at the Restaurante Pacifico: great food at excellent prices
– A caipirinha or two with Marcus, owner of the Coconut Bar at the end of the beach

And then there is the famous Pipa bookshop (usually open from 4pm, but closed on Mondays), where the owner “hangs” books of authors she doesn’t like from the ceiling and refuses to let people “resurrect” (buy) them! She also refuses to lend to, or exchange with, anyone she doesn’t like, which can be quite disconcerting if you find you are one of them!

Getting there without a car
The easiest way is by air to Natal and then airport transfer (R$120 during the day; R$150 at night). Ask the pousada to organise it.

If travelling by bus, take the Empresa Progresso which has the Natal/Joao Pessoa/ Recife line and get off at Goianinha (a stop by the side of the road, not a town as such!). From Goianinha there are buses, vans and taxis at R$30, the latter well worth it, if you don’t know where you are going.

Starpoints at the Pousada Mirante de Pipa
* Location close to the centre, but slightly off the beaten track
* Comfortable, rustic style, chalets, all with verandas and hammocks
* Wonderful breakfasts, overlooking the sea
* Generosity and hospitality of Gisela and all the staff

Try a different place…
– if you have difficulty walking, particularly uphill
– if you have heavy luggage
– if you need/want a pool

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on Visit her blog at

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Caju, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Amendoeira, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Estalagem Caiuia, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Lagoa do Cassange, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta do Muta, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia

Can’t make this up