By John Fitzpatrick
June 30, 2008

One of the great dangers in following Brazilian politics is that you can become extremely cynical and thick skinned. After a daily diet of corruption, sleaze, greed, lies and incompetence, nothing surprises you any more. The press might print a dozen stories every day involving crooked Congressmen, state governors, mayors, policemen, lawyers, judges, trade unionists, soldiers and businessmen but you know that not a single culprit will be punished. There might be the odd sacking or reprimand but the overwhelming majority know they are safe to continue with their activities. In these circumstances it is not surprising that the good” guys have to turn a blind eye at best and remain as clean as they can or, as must often happen, give in and succumb to the temptations. This is what has happened to President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva. These thoughts came to me as I watched Lula greet ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso at the wake for Cardoso’s wife, Ruth, in São Paulo on June 25. It was touching to see the long abrao the two men gave each other and when Lula looked down at Ruth Cardoso’s face I wondered if he was recalling the days when he and Cardoso were on the same side fighting for the return to democratic rule.

Things were so much easier then and the goal was simple. By coincidence Ruth Cardoso died on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Cardoso’s PSDB, a social democratic party. The PSDB spun off from the PMDB which had been the main driving force for democratic change along with Lula’s Workers Party (PT) during the final years of military rule. The PT was founded only a few years before the PSDB and both parties have headed governments since 1995 with the PMDB acting as a powerbroker whenever its interests suited it. The PSDB was never as openly ideological as the PT and during his eight years of rule

Cardoso’s main partner was the PFL (now known as the Democrats) which was supposedly a center-right party which believed in the free market and was against state intervention. Despite sharing some goals, the PSDB and the PT were – and still are – fierce rivals and when it was Lula’s turn to replace Cardoso he formed alliances with a bewildering array of parties, including the PMDB. The PSDB lined up with the PFL as the main opposition force and have been pretty unimpressive to say the least.

It was this unwieldy alliance of Lula’s which led to the scandal known as the mensalão in which members of some of these parties were bribed to vote in favor of government policies. This blot tarnished the PT’s image and showed that it was not the honest, idealistic movement it had always claimed to be. It showed the PT as the Barbarians at the Gate when Lula finally won office, ransacking Brasilia for every grain of power they could get their hands on.

This scandal first emerged in mid-2005 and then gradually built up in the following months until it toppled virtually all of Lula’s top advisers and exposed a network of corruption involving siphoning off funds from state-controlled enterprises and banks. Despite all the damning evidence that Lula knew what had been going on, no smoking gun was ever found to link him. I recall that even during the blackest days for the government when there was even some muttering by opposition parties of impeaching Lula I was absolutely certain that he would not be toppled and would be easily re-elected the following year.

This turned out to be the case and the only setback was that Lula had to take the vote to the second round after narrowly failing to win 50% in the first round. I did not feel pleased or smug that I had been correct because most other people who follow Brazilian politics had felt the same. However, maybe we should have been more shocked or disappointed and not just have said “I told you so”.

I was talking recently to a foreign journalist who was leaving Brazil after a five-year assignment as head of an international news agency and he said that, while he recognized Lula’s remarkable achievement, he believed Lula had lost some moral prestige over the mensalão. I felt a little guilty on hearing these words because I no longer associate Lula or any politician here with moral prestige. Have things really reached such a depressing state that you no longer associate ideas like ethics and morality with day-to-day political life? If so, then I wonder if there is any point in continuing to try and following what is happening in Brazilian politics.

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 http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. He can be contacted at jf@celt.com.br.

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

Lost Your Job on Wall Street? Head for Brazil!
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?

June 30, 2008

National Geographic Traveler magazine has launched an online travel guide called Places of a Lifetime. This guide features 50 cities that all curious travelers should see in their lifetime.” Jason Bermingham researched and wrote the section on Rio de Janeiro:

“Marvelous city, full of a thousand charms,” sang Aurora Miranda, in a 1934 Carnival hit that’s now Rio de Janeiro’s anthem. To put this song to the test, each year as many people visit Rio as live there-riding cable cars up to Pão de Acar, and trams through Santa Teresa; going inside belle epoque palaces at Cinelndia, and pleasure palaces at Copacabana; climbing to the Rocinha favela (shanty town) by minivan, and to “Christ the Redeemer” by train; shouting samba lyrics at the Sambódromo parade grounds, and “gol!” at Maracan soccer stadium. In any other city, this would be exceptional. In Rio, you still have 992 delights to go.

Click Brazil: A Dream Turned Concrete
Choose Your Brazil
Brazil: Traffic Business Part 2
Brazil: Traffic Business Part 1
Brazil: Carnival in Your Living Room
Brazil: Busking in South America
Brazil: Improve Your English – Make Every Sentence a Song
São Paulo’s Liberdade District: Where Latin America Meets the Orient
Brazil: Deconstructing São Paulo
A Good Gig in São Paulo

AnaVitoria250June 27, 2008

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Ana Vitoria Joly. Read on as Ana Vitoria tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I’m from São Paulo and work as researcher and lecturer in the UK.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

That’s something I’ve never thought about, but I think the language is the major obstacle.

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

In my opinion it’s to think that most people speak and understand English. I’ve seen foreigners trying to explain to the coach driver where they would like to go, surprised that the coach driver looked very puzzled they repeated the same thing really slowly, like it would make any difference… Lucky for them there were people around to help, but in some parts of the country this could be very difficult…

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

In Egypt I was really impressed with the dress code for woman. I was aware we should not show our arms and legs, but even dressing suitably I was surprised with the way people looked at me when I was not wearing the veil.

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

Now I’m used to the English accent and find it really elegant, but when I first got here it was really hard to understand it so I used to prefer the American accent.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

Cairo and Bali, because they were the most different places I’ve been.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Japanese and Curry, but I’ve never been to Japan or India.

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

Favourite foreign band is a hard one for a Brazilian abroad. I like several bands, but my favourites will be always Brazilian at the moment, something that makes me feel closer to home.

I’ve been reading fiction lately, but my favourite books are still my research books on interactive television. I love the Interactive Television Production” by Mark Gawlinski.

Movies there are too many, the last one I saw and really really liked was the British film “Son of Rambow”.

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

I’m not sure about the difference, I’ve never dated a foreigner… I’ve heard there is a culture shock, but I think in relationships there will always be differences on the way people are raised and their expectations.

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?

Well, I had a huge problem with the marking scheme here in the UK. When I first got exams and coursework to mark I followed some Brazilian standards and when I submitted the marks the module leader scheduled an urgent meeting. In Brazil, seven is usually an average mark, here the equivalent, seventy, is distinction and given when the work is beyond that which is normally expected.

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

I would suggest to go to a “Festa Junina” and dance the “Quadrilha”. I think the folk dance with silly jokes, the costumes, the games, traditional food, the “quentão”. All this may not give a better understanding of Brazilian people nowadays, but certainly, after some alcohol when people are gathered around the fire, foreigners can probably understand Brazilian people and our culture. And if not, they will at least have some fun!

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

To read previous interviews in the Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series click below:

Helio Araujo
Adriano Abila
Anderson Ferreira
Sandra Partridge
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Alexandre
Elizabeth Sacknus
Geberson Coelho
Rosaly Loula
Andreas Saller
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Bruno Santos
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
Fabiano Deffenti

June 23, 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.

I find Brazilian women to be very beautiful, and I wouldn’t mind having a few dates with them. However, I don’t know the difference between Brazillian culture and North American culture. I want to know the differences between the 2 cultures on subjects like, courtship, sex, friendliness, etc. I know that not all Brazilian women are easy, so don’t mistake this email as me asking if they are. I’m genuinly curious, I study different cultures around the world and I simply want to know. I also want to know what kind of differences there are between classes and what to do and not to do.

— Zod

Ol!

I love your question.

I’m not an expert and I don’t think you should be. We are from a different country not from a different planet. Dating a Brazilian is like dating anyone else.

Maybe for Americans Brazil is a distant world out there but for us… do you have an idea of how Americanized we are? Only by movies, music and television? My first love was Sean Astin (The Goonies), I dreamed about him All Night Long while Lionel Richie was playing.

Anyways… For me, the main difference between Brazilians and Americans is that you are less dependent when it comes to family. You guys leave for college when you’re 16, Brazilians tend to stay at home until there’s money enough to rent for an apartment, and that is, generally, 10 years later.

That decade affects a lot the way we go out performing ourselves. Mom and Dad very often tell us what to do, or at least what they think we should be doing, on a daily basis. It’s not that we follow their rules, it’s not that we have to, it’s just that is normal for a Brazilian to have someone else’s opinion over most everything they do. And of course, we do care about having approvals.

I might be completely misunderstood by saying that, I see you Americans functioning more as individuals and we Brazilians more as a group. I don’t mean to point bad or good, just differences. It can be great that you have your own strong opinions about everything earlier, it can be great that we live a life more surrounded by people. What’s best?

For you to understand what makes Brazilians “easy”… what’s easy for a Brazilian is to interact. Sharing intimacies comes more naturally to us. Even with strangers, Brazilians get along with people, that’s all. There is a lot of people in a Brazilian’s life, we tend to be nice. And don’t misunderstand being nice with being in love with you, even with Brazilian guys that’s tricky.

One tip: If a Brazilian girl goes after you she’s probably not in love, she’s just being friendly. And if you (gringo) are in fact interested in a Brazilian woman, becoming a friend is your best shot.

As for the classes, there are three: The poor, the middle class and the Brazillionaires. You will notice the difference between them right away.

Good luck on your dates!

Vanessa

Readers comments:

I adored your article date 23, June 08. A lot of people who has never been to Brazil think Brazilians are some mysterious race of people! That is completely the farthest from the truth. Brazilians love, raise kids, go to movies, dances, sports events and other things just like anyone else. Before I went to Brazil, I learned to ‘falo um pouca Portuguese’. I would go to ‘festas’ and ‘resturantes’ in Atlanta, GA and my Brazilian friends would teach me Portuguese and as I progressed in my Portuguese, I got to learn and study their culture also. After two years of ‘study’, I went to Brazil. Needless to say I had a blast because I could communicate and had RESPECT for the people of Brazil. I had learned that I am a guest of this country, I did not pre judge or judge someone or an aspect of Brazil that may be different than what happens in the US. ‘Americanos’ would be surprised just how many people from the US are in Brazil, especially in Rio and São Paulo. I wonder why someone would visit a country and not take the time to learn the basic language and culture of that country. You were easy on that last guys question about ‘differentes e armor’. You could have told him, ‘well, if you strike out at home in the US, then you might strike out in Brazil’

— Ty

Eu li a sua ultima coluna no site gringoes, e quando vc fala q a maior diferena entre os brasileiros e os americanos e o fatos deles não serem tão dependentes da familia como nós parece que vc quer depreciar os homens brasileiros, considerando-os como os chamados mama boys, e eu não concordo. Se os americanos saem mais cedo de casa e porque os EuA oferecem mais oportunidades para os seus cidadãos e aqui as coisas são mais dificeis, oque faz essa processo um tanto quanto doloroso para a maioria dos jovens brasileiros. De qualquer forma parece que h no comentario uma certa vontade de desmoralizar e depreciar os homens brasileiros. Desculpe se eu entendi mal mas como leitor e admirador do site eu não pude deixar de dar a minha opinião.

— Felipe

Having lived in several parts of the world over the last 40 years, I find that Brazilians as a whole are similar to the American (US) culture of the 50s and 60s. Not as fast paced as the US of today, and friendly and courteous like in the 50s/60s.

Much of the Brazilian culture comes from the same European countries as the US.

I currently live in Alemanha (Germany to Americans, Deutschland to Germans). I like the pace of Brazil.

— Dan

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: What Do the Police Do?
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

Jun 13, 2008

Meet Johnnie Kashat from the USA who has very recently travelled to Brazil. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his 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.?

I am a 26-year-old, first generation American, born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan to a family that came to the U.S. with practically nothing. I was the first in my family to attend college at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2005. I plan to attend Northwestern University for a master’s degree in public policy in the fall. In the meantime, I help manage a small retail business that provides a key service to the residents of Saginaw.

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

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 30th, 2008, and since returning to the U.S. I have desired to go back. My trip to Rio started on Thanksgiving, when I introduced the idea to my college roommate and longtime friend. I convinced him that a vacation was in order, and after some slight hesitation on his part, I pulled out the beauty and richness of Brazilian culture card, with particular emphasis on the elegance of Brazilian women, and he agreed to come along.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

When arriving in Rio’s international airport, I was immediately struck by the emptiness of the airport. For example, there was no hustle and bustle of people waiting in lines at the counter, or people scurrying to the gates to catch their flights. The airport seemed to be eerily reminiscent of the kind of society envisioned in George Orwell’s book. I was struck by the level of security at the baggage claim, and saw government personnel with semi-automatic weapons, and wondered whether I landed in a war zone or in a productive society that offered countless opportunities for its citizens. However, as I stepped outside of the airport to catch the bus to our hotel, the humidity and scent of the crisp ocean air that warmed my lungs caused me to think differently. I realized that I was in a hurry to judge Brazilian society, and my impressions quickly changed to positive ones.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I miss seeing our local cops pull over traffic and prevent unnecessary accidents from occurring on the roads. In the U.S. there are strict driving codes in place as part of the organizational nature within our government, and having a small measure of this system in place on Rio’s highways would make traffic flow a lot smoother and save lives.

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

I think breaking the Western mentality that wherever you go and whatever you do, society should function in a specific way, where there is an elaborate organizational scheme in place from which decisions and rules arise. Brazilian society is a very sophisticated society with a strong national ethos and work ethic. So when traveling to Brazil, try to adopt a goal oriented approach to your thinking, realizing that not everyone may speak English, or arrive as promptly as they say they will, or find the hotel front desk people at 1 in the morning to locate a spare key to your room’s safe.

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

From the moment I arrived in Brazil, there have been so many events of great value, which I will cherish for the rest of my life. I think the positive attitudes of the Brazilian people to the beauty inherent in the cariocas are all examples of the marvelous wonders that the country has in store for a first time traveler to Brazil. But a noteworthy incident for me would probably be the visit to the Christ the Redeemer Statue. Not only was I stuck by architectural beauty of the statue that overlooks a diverse and bustling Rio in a blessing fashion, but I also felt a deep sense of relief when arriving at the statue. I have not always been a devout Catholic, so seeing this statue helped to a certain extent heal my relationship with the Catholic Church. I felt rejuvenated at having traveled half a world away and to arrive at the top of Rio’s skyline only to be greeted by the Christ statue with open arms left the impression that I had stumbled onto a new beginning in my life. I prayed for good health and protection over my family and friends, and I did this alongside my good friend, Vineet.

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

I just love the beauty inherent in all the people I encountered. It is true that Brazilian women are the sexiest women alive, and while in Buzios, I saw that beauty with all the fashion and richness that elite society can provide. Brazilian women in general, and cariocas are the products of a society that treats race in an open and affectionate manner.

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

Well, if you are a fan of caipirinhas, then Davessa in Ipanema is the place to go. I love the tranquil atmosphere of this restaurant/bar. It is a good place to really delve into the heart of Brazilian culture. Beautiful people and futebol fans help set the tone in terms of conversation and fashion trends, helping to create the kind of energy that may drain the mind of any first time visitor to Brazil.

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

Well, I’ll share this one funny incident that happened to my friend Vineet at a caf in Rio. We were curious as to where the best clubs in Rio were located and we wanted somewhere fun to go. I had done my research about the best nightspots before planning my trip to Rio, but my friend insisted on asking the locals for their advice anyways. So, he approached this attractive employee at the caf for the purpose of identifying the right spot to go, and she couldn’t really understand English, so she called her manager. As he came out, he blurted the name of a gay club in Portuguese, a club that had come up numerous times in my research. So I started chuckling with the staff, and I spent the next half hour explaining to everyone that my friend wanted to go to a straight club instead. You should have seen the look on his face.

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

I think the fact that futebol or American soccer is such a contrast between the two countries. Futebol in Brazil is steeped in tradition, where all the diverse groups of the country come along and interact to form a strong national ethos around the sport. It doesn’t matter whether your roots originate from a European or African background, the sport alone creates a meeting point of contact that is shared and enjoyed by all the races of Brazil. It certainly is a covenant that all Brazilians seem to accomplish. During our stay in Rio, it seemed like every patch of grass or beach was converted into a miniature futebol field, where children and adults alike were sharing in the spirit of the sport. For a lot of people who grew up watching and playing futebol, it was easy to relate to this aspect of Brazilian culture. Upon returning to Rio from Buzios, I noticed cars honking their horns, people partying in the streets with their red and black jerseys, shopkeepers holding signs, and a joyous commotion that generally characterized people walking around Rio were the simple result of team Flamengo winning the national futbol title.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most
difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly
confuse?

I wish I had known some Portuguese before traveling; it would have helped with developing some sort of rapport with the locals. I plan on visiting Rio again, and will likely enroll in language classes to further advance my knowledge of Portuguese. In Rio, I had limited knowledge of Spanish, so we were lucky to a certain extent. But if traveling to Rio, you would be advised to brush up on Portuguese if you really want to attain the full benefits of Brazilian culture.

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

Don’t believe everything you hear in the media about the dangers associated with traveling to Rio. It is a city of 8 million people, so there is going to be crime regardless, like any major European and American city. However, that should not detract from the fact that Rio is a modern and sophisticated city with some graffiti on side and with a growing middle class. I would advise using some common sense, and when someone squirts a packet of mustard on your expensive shoes, run to the closest public place and clean yourself up and continue to enjoy your vacation.

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

I think going to a football match anywhere in Brazil is the best way to express your interest in Brazilian society.

You can email Johnnie at jkashat@umich.edu.

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:

Jeni Bonorino – USA
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 Alison McGowan
June 12, 2008

Pousada dos Quatro Cantos is located right in the heart of historical Olinda, walking distance from nearly all the best bars and restaurants. The pousada itself occupies a grand mansion and listed building, dating back 120 years, and all the original features have been retained, from the high ceilings and huge floor to ceiling windows, to beautifully tiled floors. As with all old houses, things don’t always work here, but the staff are all charmingly helpful, and in the end you just stop worrying.

There are 18 suites but only six which really do justice to the beauty and charm of the pousada. Reserve the luxo, luxo superior, or the suite rooms for a chance to experience the past in grand style and comfort. Then relax and unwind in the swimming pool and leafy gardens. You’ll definitely appreciate it after all that hill walking visiting the sites!

About the location
Olinda is a world heritage city, around 5 miles north of Recife which appears to have changed little since the 18th and 19th centuries. Like Tiradentes (Minas Gerais) and Parati (Rio de Janeiro) streets are all cobbled, but just to make finding your way around slightly more complicated streets follow the contours of the hills, and the city is full of steps and nooks and crannies all waiting to be discovered.

In the historical centre there are some 17 churches and 4 museums, 2 markets and plenty of other things to see. That’s in addition to the famous carnival and carnival preparations, the wonderful handicrafts and local art, and all the festivals going on throughout the year. This is definitely not somewhere you want to visit in a hurry.

Not to be missed
– Pre carnival rehearsals and, of course, carnival itself
– Friday night serenades outside the pousada
– A guided tour around the histoprical centre
– A caipirinha in the “Bodega do Veio” round the corner from the pousada; a grocer’s shop which clearly hasn’t changed in 50 yrs

Getting there without a car
The easiest way is by air to Recife and then taxi to Olinda. You can arrive by bus and take a taxi from the rodoviaria/bus station, but be aware that the bus station is a very long way from the centre of Recife, and even further from Olinda.

Hiring a car is always possible at Recife airport, but check parking restrictions in Olinda before you leave your car. Streets are very narrow and can be difficult to negotiate if you don’t know your way around!

Starpoints at the Pousada dos Quatro Cantos
* Location – in the historical centre, walking distance from best restaurants and bars
* Lovely 19th century house, with original floors and tiling
* Excellent place to base yourself for pre-carnival “ensaios” (rehearsals) and carnival itself

Try a different place…
– if you have difficulty walking. Streets are hilly and cobbled.
– if you don’t like streetlife and noise
– if you want everything to work perfectly first time. The pousada is in a listed building which needs constant maintenance and improvements are also restricted by planning permission

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on alison@hiddenpousadasbrazil.com. Visit her blog at http://www.hiddenpousadasbrazil.com/.

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Estrela do Mar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Vivenda, Rio de Janeiro
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

By Bruce Jay
June 10, 2008

Too many tourists travel to Maragogi in the state of Alagoas and don’t see the tens of kilometers of unspoiled beaches and the spectacular reefs that protect the state’s second most frequented tourist destination. Daily, hundreds come off buses on excursions and board one of the fifteen large sightseeing catamarans to visit the tropical pools at what is called the Gals. Looking to their right and left, I am sure that some catch a glimpse of what they are missing and wonder. The beach, lagoon and the reef are a large eco system waiting to be explored. Maragogi is the gateway to the 130 kilometers of beaches and reefs of the region known as the Coral Coast – A Costa dos Corais.

Visit Maragogi and the Coral Coast while it’s still being discovered. Maragogi, Alagoas is this region’s gateway since it has a good infrastructure with great variety of resorts, hotels, inns and guest houses as well as a lively downtown water front. The city is only two hours on paved highway from both Recife and Maceio. Stretching north and south from Maragogi’s urban core are vast stretches of almost deserted beaches, many with easy access to a uniquely welcoming reef. These unspoiled beaches are dotted with some of the most charming pousadas or inns in Brazil. These are located in a cluster of closely knit municipalities along the northern coast of the state of Alagoas and include, besides Maragogi, the towns of Japaratinga, Porto de Pedras, São Miguel dos Milagres, Passo de Camaragibe and Barra de Santo Antonio.

The beaches and reefs of Maragogi alone extend for 22 kilometers. Just north from the city center, except for the few small villages inhabited by fishermen and summer homes, or where small streams flow into the sea, the beaches with crystal clear waters are one long, hard packed walking path perfect for strolling and shelling. Depending on the tide, time of day and the cloud cover, the ever changing views and colors of the lagoon make each day’s experience different from the last. Overall, my most spectacular memories of these beaches are when the sun raises, painting colors in the sky over the reef, bringing light to new adventures.

If you are lucky, you will be able to visit at the full or the new moon, when the tides are at their lowest. Then, at the points like those known by locals as Antunes and Xareu, it is possible to walk two kilometers out to the reef with water just above your ankles in what normally is well over one’s head. At most any low tide, after a short boat ride or jangada sail, a visitor has the chance to go reef combing and visit the many transparent tropical pools with just the precaution of wearing some protective footwear, such as beach or tennis shoes.

For the adventurous, the most deserted beaches close to Maragogi are Burgalhão, just to the north of the waterfront, and the afore mentioned Antunes and Xaru. Depending on where you are staying, you have the choice of going on little microbuses or “combies” that run up and down the paved road (AL-101) on the outskirts of the city center. Just tell them the name of the beach you want to see. They’ll be able to drop you off at the right spot. This transport is very inexpensive so bring loose change!

These same “combies” along with some regularly scheduled buses will also take you further south to the other cities that make up the Coral Coast for even greater adventures. Renting a car for a day excursion is another option. Driving allows one to follow the route that hugs the sea through Japaratinga’s Barreira de Bucarão to the ferry that takes you across the Manguaba River to Porto de Pedras and beyond. It is well worth it. This trip is never the same no matter how many times I do it. Stop for lunch at the simple restaurants along the shore or travel on to one of the Pousadas de Charme between Porto de Pedras and São Miguel dos Milagres to experience their epicurean delights and their excellent pristine beaches. Just beyond the village of Janparatinga, I recommend Dona Mara’s Caiuia Estalagem for great food in very comfortable surroundings. But, other great choices abound. See below for additional information.

Local arts and crafts of coconut, wood, or straw from banana trees as well as shells can be found along all these routes and along the water front of Maragogi. Much of it is unique to the region. For those that want a break from the beach, there are side trips into the hinterland. The most notable adventure is the Visgueiro Tree – Ecological trail that is supported by the agricultural coop Coopeagro in Maragogi.

Brazil is filled with great beaches, but few have the combination of reefs, lagoon and kilometers of pristine sands of the Coral Coast. Come take a dip.

For more information consult the site brazilbeachbum@yahoo.com.

By Marilyn Diggs
June 9, 2008

During my last two trips to the Amazon I stayed in a posh hotel and did the routine tours. This time would be different. I wanted to live the Amazon,” as the slogan of Amazonat Ecotours says. National Geographic magazine’s rating of Amazonat enticed me, awarding it 95% in spirit of adventure and 92% in quality of service. From the Manaus airport my small group of six traveled 160 km east in an air-conditioned van to the jungle lodge. In a clearing smack dab in the rainforest, we walk past the thatched-roof reception area (see photo below) to our duplex bungalows, beautifully decorated with hardwoods and local handicrafts. The jungle lodge is one of three options, the survival camp and the riverboat being the others.

Trekking in the Amazon Rain Forest
After a buffet breakfast, red araras (parrots) send us off on hiking trails under a closed evergreen canopy. Our guide splits open the jenipapo fruit, squishing the seeds with his machete and finger-paints our forearms with Indian tattoos whose indigo color is visible only hours later. So begins our initiation. We proceed through giant tree-lined, leaf-carpeted trails, listening to the capitão do mato bird as he alerts the forest of our intrusion. Enrico, our bilingual Peruvian guide, stops and puts his hand against a tree trunk. Instantly it is covered by tiny, red tapiva ants. He rubs them into his skin and asks us to note the pleasant odor. Indians do this all over their body when hunting to disguise their human smell. We are silent and watchful of swaying branches that hide monkeys while our eyes dart back to the path, mindful of snakes. A 2-meter jibóia cobra relaxes behind a fallen trunk along the path, with only his head visible. Our guide’s sharp eyes and lightning reflexes suspend the snake with a metal hooked rod for our perusal. Its black spots on beige stripes writhe and contort until it is safely lowered into the woods where it vanishes.

Eventually we arrive to the second lodge option – Jane’s Place, the jungle survival camp with two decks supported on stilts. Palm-sized blue butterflies and lime green dragonflies are curious to see us. Campers can spend the night in hammocks or enjoy it as a rest stop for lunch and wade in the tea-colored stream. Amazonat is on a black water tributary – due to the chemical composition of the water there are no mosquitoes here. There is also a nearby lake with a white-sand beach and a swimming pool at the main lodge.

River Adventure
While jungle forays expose us to the fascinating macro-mosaic forest world, boat cruising takes us to three Amazon tributaries, as well as the great dame river herself. Gray dolphins play near the dock as we board long motorized canoes that sit close to the water. It is the end of the rainy season, so floating houseboats bob along riversides and tall, submerged trees have their roots some 40 meters below. We make our way through inlets, temporarily disturbing a sloth on a tree top who slowly moves further into the leaves and turns his back to us. A giant tree lizard gets spooked and splashes into the water. Parakeets chatter, toucans clatter, and parrots swoop to neighboring refuges. We stop at Dona Zaza’s modest wooden river house and fish off the tiny dock for piranha. Next is a visit to an Indian village along the river where dogs languish near smoking pots. A pet parrot accompanies our interview with the cacique’s sister, whose shy child hides behind her.

Our boat maneuvers into a lake filled with gigantic green Victoria Regia pads and bright pink flowers. We are so close to the water that we touch their plastic-like surface. At dusk so many white heron fill the trees that they look snow-laden. Our approach frightens them and the sky is filled with flapping white. Sunset on the Amazon brings a light-show spectacle of orange, yellow, pink and purple. Lanterns shine into the black night as caiman eyes reflect it back. In an instant the guide leaps over the boat into a swamp and brings his bounty back to us: a 75cm long baby caiman that is returned after our curiosity and adrenaline subside. The boat docks; I leave the Amazon River still thirsty to see and know more. I have never felt so close to its essence.

CONTACT:
Amazonat Ecotours SP. Av. Paulista, 2073. São Paulo. Tel. (11) 3253-6114 or (11)3253-7878. www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Brazil: A Spa that Takes Care of Body and Soul
Around South America: Puyuhuapi – Chile’s Patagonian Secret
Around South America: Looking for Adventure in Chile’s Patagonia
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

June 6, 2008

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Helio Araujo. Read on as Helio tells us about his impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I was born in Lages, Santa Catarina. In 1993 I was accepted at UFSC in their Industrial Automation Engineering program, so I moved to Florianópolis, which is really today my 2nd home, whenever I go to Brazil. After I graduated I applied and got my first job at an international software company in Texas. There I worked for a couple of years as an Applications Engineer, helping customers solve technical problems and teaching different technical courses. I guess I wanted to keep travelling, and I wanted to find a place to live with a culture somehow closer to that of southern Brazil… That’s when I heard of a sales position in the company’s branch office in Montreal, Canada. Even though I could never have pictured myself working as a salesman, it didn’t take me more than a couple of days to think about it and start the paperwork to move over there. So here I am since June 2000. Last year I decided to quit my District Sales Manager job, and go back to school to try something new more related to arts, architecture and design, which are things that always had a big appeal to me. In April I finished my first year of Landscaping Architecture at the Universit de Montral.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

First and foremost, the language. As many people on www.gringoes.com have said, it’s often not easy for foreigners to learn the language, which is actually the bridge to understanding the Brazilian culture and people. I believe that this is actually one of the things that make Brazil special. Once you get the hang of it, if you’re open to the new culture, you’ll start really understanding the non-written cultural codes by observation and interaction with the locals.

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

Assuming or expecting things to be the same as in their native country.

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

It’s hard to make generalizations, but these are some impressions I had when interacting with foreigners from different places.

In a business environment, one thing that struck me the most when working with Americans was that they tended to require processes” and “guidelines” in place for handling almost any type of situation. It’s kind of “I just do this and you just do that”. If a special situation came up, for which there was no process in place, they wouldn’t have the “jeitinho” or it would be very hard for them to improvise. In those cases it was hard to get their collaboration for getting the issue solved. I imagine people didn’t want to be held accountable in case things went wrong. In the beginning that would drive me nuts… hummm… I guess it still does, but I no longer work for an American company ;-)

Someone wrote in a past interview here that we Brazilians are really warm and will go out of our way to help someone we know, or someone who’s a friend of a friend, but often we are mistrustful of or may even lack respect for people we don’t know. I had never thought about it until I read the article, but unfortunately I guess it’s kind of true on certain situations. Anyway, my point is that this contrasts a lot with what I see here in Canada, where people will hold a door for you, or will do you a little favor without expecting anything in return and you will accept their kindness without second-guessing their real intentions.

I find the British fun for their sarcastic sense of humour and I find the Germans very interesting, so “by the book” and even a bit uptight in Germany but able to loosen up very quickly when they’re abroad with other people. I admire their sense of justice and fairness.

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

Canadian. Although I speak mostly French here, whenever I speak English…. I think I have their accent. Americans make fun of them (or us…). When we say “about” or any word with the “out” sound at the end, it seems that it sounds like “aboat” to their ears…. But it’s all good and fun.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

I find it hard to pick one single place. I always tend to see the good and the bad in everything, so as soon as I think, humm, I really liked this place because of whatever reason, I’ll immediately remember also all the little annoyances I experienced there… But anyway, I guess Montreal would be on the top of the list or real close. Montreal is really in the crossroads of the old and the new worlds. It’s so cosmopolitan, and modern, but at the same time it feels somehow European. Every time you step out, just walking on the street you’ll hear at least half a dozen languages being spoken. And the food variety and quality goes without mentioning… Those are some reasons why I decided to move here.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Humm…. another hard question. I don’t think I have one favorite food. I love Japanese, especially the freshness and delicacy of sushi; middle-eastern with all it’s spices and slow simmering stews that cook for hours; Thai (the hot peppers and the coconut milk remind me of the food from Bahia); French (all those refined sauces and the meats cooked to perfection); Indonesian (so… tropical), Ethiopian and Indian (for the complex and almost overwhelming mixture of spices and flavours, although my stomach is not being able to handle those anymore these days, which is too bad…). And the list goes on and on…

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

I guess right now I’m listening to a lot of Jos Gonzlez, a Swedish guitarrist of Argentinian descent. I also like Sigur Rós, a group from Iceland, as well as Jean Leloup (now Jean Leclerc) a Qubec singer. About books, I liked most of the books by Dan Brown (Digital Fortress and Deception point). Movies, humm… several by Montreal’s own Denys Arcand like Invasions barbares and Le dclin de l’empire amricain.

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

I wouldn’t be able to say. Believe me or not, I never dated a Brazilian… Yeah, I guess I’m gonna be the freak on www.gringoes.com who hasn’t dated a Brazilian! :-)

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?

In my second backpacking trip I went to Europe. While in Paris I was waiting for a train to go to the youth hostel, which was about 40-min away from the city. The train was simply taking forever to come. There was a middle-aged Parisian couple that were waiting for another train on the same platform and they started talking to me. I wasn’t really expecting that, but what came next really surprised me. Seeing that I was a backpacker, a student and probably didn’t have a whole lot of cash, they invited me to spend the night at their place. Of course, if you’re reading this and you know the Brazilian mindset, you’ll think just like I did “What do they want to do with me?”. But being open to others and new experiences – besides the fact that the damn train was just really taking forever – I decided to accept their invitation. We boarded their train and it took us about 40 long minutes to get to their stop. My anxiety was going up as we got off the train and started walking through some narrow and dark streets. I was just about to start thinking what the hell I got myself into, when we arrived at their house. They opened the door and their kids (6 of them!) were there and just waiting for them for dinner. I was sooo relieved. It was an actual family :-) We had dinner (my first smoked salmon ever, I remember that). Afterwards they got their Paris maps out and started showing me the spots to visit. The lady even offered me to do my laundry in their washing machine! The next morning I had breakfast with them (a humongous bowl of hot chocolate, accompanied by baguette bread, butter and jam – the typical French breakfast, which by the way as also something very different for me at the time. Coming from southern Brazil I was used to a salty breakfast with cheese and cold cuts). But back to the story, the lady actually drove me to the youth hostel after breakfast. I was speechless and very grateful for their immense generosity to a totally unknown person…

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

First and foremost accept all the invitations you get and start socializing as soon as you can. In other countries people will not necessarily be that warm and welcoming towards foreigners and that can cause a certain feeling of loneliness when you arrive. If you moved to Brazil, you shouldn’t have that problem so consider yourself lucky and simply go with the flow! You also have to travel to different regions in Brazil so you have a more complete picture of the country and its people. Brazil is not a single Brazil but several regions, customs, peoples, colors, flavours…. You’ll want to experience it all and learn the language if you want to establish yourself there.

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

To read previous interviews in the Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series click below:

Adriano Abila
Anderson Ferreira
Sandra Partridge
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Alexandre
Elizabeth Sacknus
Geberson Coelho
Rosaly Loula
Andreas Saller
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Bruno Santos
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
Fabiano Deffenti

By Alison McGowan
June 5, 2008

Pousada Estrela do Mar is a simple, unpretentious, pousada with an Irish/Brasilian flavour, located in the Farol da Barra area of Salvador. Rooms are whitewashed basic, with no phones or cable TV, but they are clean and comfortable and have all the important things like air conditioning, ceiling fans and a minibar. Downstairs at the reception there are great staff with a wealth of information on what to do and where to go locally, and although there is no pool or bar there is a comfortable area with internet and free tea and coffee 24 hours, where you can meet and chat to other travellers.

Location-wise Barra is great for those who want to be relatively close to the historical centre (20 minutes by bus or taxi), but also want to be by a beach. The pousada itself is only half a block from the Farol da Barra bus-stop (where airport buses stop), the same distance from the beach and only a block from a good number of restaurants and bars.

About the location
Salvador is simultaneously hot, chilled and laid back. And nothing like the south of Brasil! Home to the largest influx of slaves in the country (nearly five million between the 16th and 19th centuries) its population remains predominantly black and local customs reflect and incorporate African traditions in religion, culture, dance and dress.

The city has grown tremendously over the last thirty years and with a population is now well over 3 million, the usual problems have all arisen. For many years the historical centre around the Pelourinho was a no-go area and the area around Barra also went into a steep decline. However many of the historical buildings in the centre have now been refurbished, policing is much better and recently the Barra area around the pousada seems to have gained a completely new lease of life, with lots of new bars opening. One thing is for sure – the vibe in Salvador is something else completely, and the tropical spirit in the air totally contagious.

Not to be missed
– A walking tour around the Pelourinho historical centre
– Local seafood at the Portal do Mar and Cabanas do Cely
– Local music on Friday and Saturday nights at Habeus Corpus
– The sunset from the lighthouse naval museum in the Farol da Barra
– A swim in the Porto da Barra where the sea is super calm

Getting there without a car
The best way to get to Salvador is definitely by plane. I did it once by bus from Rio and it is not a pleasant trip, even if (like me) you like buses. The bus takes about 36 hours; the plane only 2, and there are often cheap deals available with TAM and GOL.

Salvador airport is quite a long way to the centre and taxis are expensive – around R$70. The journey takes approximately 50 minutes. However there is also an airport bus marked Pca da Se, which goes along the coast road and will drop you off at the Farol da Barra, half a block from the pousada. Cost is R$4

Starpoints at the Pousada Estrela do Mar

* Location – close to Barra beach and all the bars, but down a quiet street with minimal noise
* Sean, and his excellent staff, all of whom are helpful, knowledgeable, and English speaking
* Great for singles, couples, families and gay-friendly.
* Excellent value for those on a restricted budget

Try a different place…
– if you want to be in the historical centre (e.g. Pousada do Boqueirao)
– if you want more sophistication, a pool, and a less crowded beach (e.g. Pousada Encanto de Itapoan)
– if you want a power shower, telephone, cable TV or 24 hour service!

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on alison@hiddenpousadasbrazil.com. Visit her blog at http://www.hiddenpousadasbrazil.com/.

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Vivenda, Rio de Janeiro
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