September 26, 2008

Meet David Drummond who recently moved to Brazil for work. 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.?

My name is David Drummond, and I’m from Vancouver, Canada. I’m 28 years old, and work in business development for a large oil tanker company.

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

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on August 22, 2008, to take a business development job in my company’s recently opened Rio office. I was previously a part of the finance group, and had spent a few years working in investor relations, and wanted a career change after 5 years in finance. When the company offered me a 2 or 3 year stint in Rio, I jumped at the chance to live in a country with an endless summer”.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first impressions of Brazil have been interesting. Because I’ve been spending a lot of time working with Petrobras and other companies in the oil production, exploration, and services sectors, I interact with a lot of people who are poised to reap vast benefits from Brazil’s burgeoning economic prosperity, and as such are willing to work very hard. However, the “Cariocas” (people from Rio de Janeiro) have a very relaxed way of life and are generally not the hardest workers. So I see a country that’s grappling with itself: on one hand, they can work hard and make a lot of money; while on the other working hard poses serious challenges to their lifestyle. Unfortunately, the way this will probably play out is the the already wide gap between the have’s and have nots will become a chasm. I sincerely hope that Lula’s promise that oil revenues will be invested in education is kept.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Although I don’t miss either just yet, I know that I’m going to miss skiing at Whistler, and the NHL.

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

I’ve been trying to rent an apartment in Rio, and I’m finding that because of the influx of expats into Ipanema and Leblon, many of the locals are trying to charge exorbitant rental rates. I’ve had people try to charge me the equivalent of US$5,000 a month for an unfurnished apartment that’s not even on the beach. It’s worse than New York! I’ve also looked at a few furnished places, and I can’t understand how Brazilians can call a place a “luxury apartment” (seems everything marketed to foreigners is a luxury something) when the furniture appears to have been purchased by someone’s grandmother in the 1960s.

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

I went to see a Flamengo vs. Fluminense (two of the bigger teams from Rio) match at Maracana. Although the stadium was only 80% full, there were still about 65,000 people in attendance. The people down here completely lose their minds over football, and the mayhem inside the stadium during the match is a much different experience that a North American sporting event (in North America, people don’t set fire to things).

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

The nightlife here, especially in Lapa, is awesome, but then again so is the beach. After careful consideration, I have to say the the Brazilian bikinis tip the scales in the beaches favor!

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

My favorite restaurant is definitely Sushi Leblon, and Lapa street parties on Friday nights are great.

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

A couple of friends came to stay with me a few weeks ago. On one afternoon we all had too many caipirinhas on the beach and on the way back to my hotel one guy dared the other to tackle a fluorescent-orange-Speedo-clad jogger on the beach. So the dared friend ran out onto the beach, chased the jogger down and dove at him grabbing one of the poor joggers legs. The jogger shook off the tackle without breaking his stride, looked down at the drunken gringo in the sand and nonchalantly kept jogging as if nothing had happened. Priceless.

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

The economic imbalance is really startling. In Rio, half the city lives in poverty in shanty towns run by drug dealers, while the other half live quite well on the beach. While we certainly have our issues with poverty in Canada, the portion of the population affected is much smaller (maybe 15% below what’s termed the poverty line, but very few living in Rio slum-like conditions).

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?

In a nutshell, my Portuguese sucks. I’ve got a tutor that I see 2 or 3 times a week, which I supplement with the Rosetta Stone CDs, but I really wish I could take one of the 8 week, 4 hour a day intensive Portuguese classes. I find that when Brazilian’s realize I’m a gringo (on first glance they assume I’m Brazilian), they really want to talk to me in English, which doesn’t help either. However, I’m committed to being functional in Portuguese within 6 months, and effectively fluent in a year.

As far as pronunciation goes, pronouncing “s” as “sh” (it’s a Carioca thing I’m told) and the nasal “oes” pronounced “oin sh”, are both killing me!

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

Throw yourself into Brazilian culture and just assume that the locals want to befriend you. The standoffishness you see in major North American cities like New York is the antithesis of the Carioca way. Getting a few local friends early really gets you into a network quickly, and if you’re willing to go out on a limb asking for phone numbers, etc (not just for dating purposes) you’ll be amazed at the speed with which you gain a vast circle of friends.

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

I haven’t been to São Paulo, but if you’re visiting Rio, check out Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer), and a few days on the beach are a definite must!

You can contact David via daveythed@hotmail.com.

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

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

Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
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 Alice Woolliams
September 22, 2008

Rio de Janeiro’s famous statue of Christ the Redeemer may be one of the most iconic cultural symbols in South America but ask many travelers for their enduring memory of the city and the answer will often be the same: the endless, inimitable appetite for partying.

And whilst the city is incredibly vibrant throughout the year, there’s no time quite like the annual carnival, when Rio’s party spirit really comes to the surface…

Held in February every year over the four days that lead up to Mardi Gras, the carnival in the cidade maravilhosa (or ‘marvelous city’) is a sumptuous mix of dance, music and color.

Although there’s technically a main procession that parties its way raucously through the streets, much of the atmosphere is derived from mini impromptu festivals which spring up across the city, inciting even more revelry and hedonism throughout the days and nights!

There is one significant event, however, that is rather more organized and competitive than the vibrant, spontaneous atmosphere of the rest of the carnival would suggest.

On the Sunday night, it’s time for ‘Sambadrome’ where (as the name implies) the city’s biggest love comes into its own – Samba! At the end of the parade, the best school is awarded a prize (and considerable prestige) according to dress, music, dancing and, of course, their float.

But even though the carnival is gloriously chaotic, it’s also surprisingly laid-back and friendly – which makes it all the more seductive for travelers joining in the fun!

Eating and Drinking
The best place for backpackers to find a cheap, filling meal during their stay in Rio is at the butecos. These caf-style eateries may look well-worn but they offer fantastic fresh food at great value. Delicacies available include casquinha de cirri (crab cakes) and cabrito assado (roasted goat).

Whilst the popular venues in Copacabana may prove expensive for a long night of revelry, the more affordable beach bars or quiosqes in the Lagao district make a great spot for a pre-carnival drink or two.

Accommodation
And just as it’s relatively easy to find great food and drink on a budget, there’s good news for travelers when it comes to accommodation.

Your average Rio de Janeiro hostel is a great source of cheap dorm beds and private rooms scattered right across the city, from the quieter historic neighborhood of Santa Teresa to the edge of Copacabana beach. Although the latter is the place to stay for the most adventurous (and energetic) carnival-goers, it’s definitely not somewhere you can expect to sleep for four days!

Although hostels in Rio are always sociable thanks to their shared facilities and the city’s amazing nightlife, carnival time sees them packed with such an enthusiastic international crowd that they have an exciting buzz all of their own that reflects the streets outside.

However, travelers are advised to book a bed well in advance for the carnival as accommodation fills up fast thanks to the event’s enduring popularity.

About the Author – Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers, Alice Woolliams traveled in South America and experienced the hedonistic carnival from a Hostelling in Brazil