June 23, 2010

Meet Rod Saunders who recently visited 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’m 53. I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was laid off from TV Guide three years ago after working for ten years in the IT field and have been playing and teaching music since then – basically waiting around for retirement. I am a classical guitarist. I play for weddings, restaurants, corporate functions… etc. and I run the Tulsa Guitar Society.

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

I arrived in late October of 2009 and stayed until the middle of January of 2010. I have wanted to go to Brazil since I was about 20 years old and saw a photo of the skyline of São Paulo. Like many Americans I grew up thinking South America was all jungles and third world living conditions. When I saw that photo of São Paulo I realized that there were modern, developed areas that rivaled cities in the US. As I got older I became familiar with much of the music of Brazil and started playing some bossa nova in my repertoire. As a result I also started learning a bit of Portuguese and my fascination with all things Brazil grew from there.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

It seemed chaotic. My first night in Brazil I went to a pizzeria with my Brazilian friend Jefferson in Porto Alegre and the traffic was unbelievable. Trains, busses, taxis, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, pedestrians… all going every which way with no apparent rules or organization. I guess you could call it organized chaos but the Brazilian people seem to be able to make sense of everything and function okay.

4. What do you miss most about home?

American food. I love Brazilian food but I missed being able to get Mexican food or a Subway tuna sandwich. The Subways in Brazil are not as good in my opinion.

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

The language, no doubt. This was my first experience at being a foreigner and trying to communicate with people who don’t speak English. I constantly told people nao falo portugues muito bem” which I thought meant “I don’t speak Portuguese very well” but I am now convinced that it means “talk louder and faster, otherwise I might actually be able to understand what you’re saying.” I was on a bus in Rio Grande do Sul and didn’t understand anything the bus driver said. It was half an hour after I was supposed to arrive so I thought maybe I missed my stop and I tried to ask him about Canoas, my exit. When he responded the only thing I understood was “longe, longe” (far, far). I didn’t know if it was far behind us or far ahead. Several Brazilians tried to elaborate but the more they talked the more confused I got. It turned out there was a lady from Chicago who was fluent in Portuguese and she explained to me that our bus was very late and she would tell me when to exit. I appreciated her help but was still very frustrated at not being able to understand without an interpreter.

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

Foz do Iguacu. No matter how many photos or videos you see nothing can take the place of experiencing it in person.

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

The people. Some of my best friends are people I got to know in Brazil. Three or four times I took a bus to a different city and it arrived an hour or two late (nothing runs on time in Brazil) and my host was waiting patiently for me when I arrived. In the US you would probably be told “call me when you get there”.

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

In Paranoa, a suburb of Brasilia, my friend Nelson and I ate several times at a place called “Boca Louca” (crazy mouth). Great food and nice people. Nothing fancy but I liked it. Also, Jefferson and I want to Bourbon Country mall in Porto Alegre where they had live entertainment in the food area. Being a guitarist I really enjoyed hearing the singer/guitar player perform there.

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

My friend Jefferson who lives in Santa Rosa, Rio Grande do Sul was driving me around his city and said “I’m going to stop for gas at the Teshockoo” I said “what’s a Teshockoo?” He pointed at a sign and said “it’s a gas station”. The sign of course said Texaco. I thought he was just mispronouncing it but I later learned that it’s pronounced that way throughout Brazil.

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

Probably the graffiti. When I returned from Brazil I couldn’t help but notice all of the buildings and walls without graffitti. It’s a shame because it’s such a beautiful country, but this is rampant in Brazil.

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?

People tell me that my Portugues is good, but I am very frustrated. I can understand more than half of what I read but when people are talking I pick up 10-20 % of what I hear. I have had trouble with the word ‘cachorro’ for some reason. I keep wanting to say ‘cocharro’. Once I was trying to say somebody was crying and instead I said “ele estava chovendo” which means “he was raining”.

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

Be prepared for culture shock. The crime and poverty rate is much higher in Brazil than in the US and there are many people trying to sell you things or hit you up for money for watching your car for you, carrying your luggage … etc. Take it all in stride and don’t criticize or point out the differences between Brazil and your country because regardless of how you mean it people will take it as an insult. I unintentionally offended people by doing just that and I regret it now.

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

Go to the interior. See how real Brazilians live. The real beauty in Brazil is the warmth and hospitality of the people. You don’t see that so much in the tourist areas. Go to a club or restaurant in a city of less than 100,000 people and observe how much fun Brazilians have just hanging out with their friends.

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

Ken Van Zyl – South Africa
Angus Graham – UK
Anne Morddel – USA
Jessica Mullins – Switzerland
Evan Soroka – USA
Mary de Camargo – USA
Brendan Fryer – UK
Aaron Sundquist – USA
Jay Bauman – USA
Alan Williams – USA
Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
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 Alison McGowan
June 23, 2010

I had heard good recommendations for the Amazon Tupana before I even came to the Amazon, so I knew it would be excellent, but having never been to a jungle lodge before had little idea of what to really expect. As it turned out it was very similar to other hidden pousadas in size and atmosphere – 10 apartments and 2 bungalows and – but this is way off the beaten track, only accessible by river and only for those who like their jungle and river excursions as part of a pre-planned package. Like most places of this sort the Amazon Tupana works on an all-inclusive basis, with transfers and all meals included in the price. Every day has a programme of activities – including Cayman spotting, jungle walking, piranha fishing and visiting local riverside dwellers and guides are chosen on the basis of fluency in languages other than Portuguese in addition to knowledge and experience.

There are a good number of jungle lodges located in the Amazon region, with varying standards of accommodation and varying prices to match. Amazon Tupana is definitely the one which offers the best value for money of the lot, and it undoubtedly has the best food but don’t expect luxury for the price. Rooms are good sized with nice sheets, en-suite shower-rooms, screened windows and a veranda with hammock, but there is no soundproofing to the apartments and the low power generator” electricity is only on for a few hours every day which means you can’t see what you look like in the bathroom mirror, really cold drinks are sometimes hard to find and reading a book in the evening requires an additional torch.

Owners Walter and Conceicao bought the place a couple of years ago and since then they have been busy making improvements, building new accommodation and a new restaurant with views over the river. There are still things in the planning stage, but don`t expect air-conditioning, TV, music, internet and mobile phone coverage anytime soon. What you get instead is an oasis of peace, where in addition to the excellent service, you get showered with affection by Conchita the monkey and Romeo the anteater. And all around you is the constant quiet hum of the green green jungle.

The Amazon Tupana lodge is situated on the banks on the Tupana river and getting there is an adventure in itself, including 3 boat rides of various types and just over a hundred miles of TransAmazonian highway which runs southwest from Manaus to Porto Velho, deteriorating into constant potholes after the first 50 or so miles. Don’t expect air conditioned luxury as you are just as likely to get a VW van which has seen better days, but the scenery on the first and last boat journeys is definitely worth seeing and includes the famous “Meeting of the Waters” where the brown River Solimoes runs alongside the black Rio Negro and eventually becomes the Amazon.

On a good day the hotel transfer from airport or pousada in Manaus to the lodge should take you about four and a half hours. But that is if you don’t get torrential rain, and the guide isn’t taken unexpectedly sick, and the fast launch isn’t out of action and the canoe isn’t stuck in the sinking mud. All of those things happened on our trip and we finally made it several hours late, sodden, muddy and hungry – but just in time for dinner.

That number of unforeseen things is unlikely to ever repeat itself – in quite the same combination at least – but it is as well to take as little luggage as possible, to be prepared for minor inconveniences and have a rain jacket and torch to hand just in case it does. The Amazon Tupana is a true Brazilian hideaway and like most hideaways getting there isn’t that easy, but it is definitely worth it when you do arrive – and then you are right in the middle of the Amazon Jungle.

Not To Be Missed
– Meeting of the waters
– Night time cayman spotting
– Piranha fishing
– Guided jungle walks
– Overnighting in the jungle
– Visits to riverside communities

Starpoints
* Spacious comfortable rooms
* Excellent service
* Consistently good buffet food
* Lodge pets – Conchita the monkey and Romeo the ant-eater

Try a Different Place if…
… you can’t stand heat and humidity or affectionate monkeys, or you don’t like being completely cut off from the outside world.

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

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Luar do Rosario, Milho Verde, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Chal Oasis, Galinhos, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijo do Vento, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Artjungle Eco Lodge & Spa, Itacare, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada 0031, Cumbuco, Cear
Brazil: Maguire’s Guesthouse, Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Casa do Amarelindo, Salvador, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel BeloAlter, Alter do Chão, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Fazenda Santa Marina, Santana dos Montes, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casarão da Amaznia, Soure, Ilha de Marajo, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Mila, nr. Ubatuba, São Paulo
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Bambu Bamboo Pousada and Spa, Parati, Rio de Janeiro
Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Pernambuco
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 James Turner
June 14, 2010

Maybe there’s hope yet for São Paulo’s suffering drivers, perpetually trapped in anguished gridlock. The first two stations of the new Yellow Line No. 4 metro are now open, and for anyone who’s ever cursed Av. Rebouas while idling on a smoggy day, there’s light at the end of Marta’s tunnel. The Paulista and Faria Lima stations are marvels in their own right, all clean lines and soaring spaces. You can get from Av. Paulista to Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima in about three and a half minutes. That’s right drivers, three and a half minutes, approximately five times faster than jumping behind the wheel on a typical weekday. And if you’d bought real estate near the new Faria Lima station several years ago, you’d be making four times your money. But that’s another story.

The new stations are modern as can be, brightly lit, clean and colorful. They reportedly feature free high speed wireless internet, though your intrepid reporter did not test this offering. Glass doors whoosh open at the turnstiles. Uniformed employees stand at attention, eager to respond to inquiries. Clearly legible electronic signs hang above the platforms, keeping tabs on the next train’s arrival time. A glass wall on the platform runs along the edge of the tracks. Its sleek doors only open once a train is stopped in the station. New York City could take a lesson in this regard, that’s for sure. The glass barrier creates an unmistakable feeling of safety while waiting on the platform. The public address system however, was surprisingly unintelligible considering all the planning and attention to detail that’s obviously gone into this ambitious project.

Inside the shiny new trains, it’s all one long tube. The individual cars are interconnected without any interior doors, making for a pleasant stroll from caboose to engineer. Except there is no engineer. The trains are completely automated, leave the driving to the computer, thank you. The lack of a motorman’s cabin frees up the front windows for metro passengers who like to peer into the murky light as the train winds through the subterranean passage. In-train announcements for the next station are sharp and clear.

The Yellow Line runs from Luz in the Centro to Vila Snia, way on the other side of the Marginal beyond Morumbi. All eleven of the new stations are scheduled to be open by 2014. The Paulista station also provides an underground connection to the Green Line No. 2, which will eventually create a seamless run from Sacom to USP and beyond. The new line is also expected to alleviate crowding on the Blue Line No. 1. If you’ve ever tried boarding a train at the S station during rush hour, you’ll appreciate such a benefit.

Overall the new metro is wonderful, and for anyone attempting to live in São Paulo without a car the partial opening of the Yellow Line represents a welcome step forward. Even if you prefer to drive, give the new line a try to see what city planners have been up to. São Paulo’s residential areas, business centers and cultural attractions are now within easier reach, with more relief still to come.

More information is available at www.videopaulista.com.“

By Marilyn Diggs
June 14, 2010

June will be here before you can say, pé de moleque” (peanut brittle) and with it comes the lively folkloric parties called Festa Junina. Many of you will attend them in the city at schools, churches and even social clubs, which will be typically decorated with strings of colorful, crepe-paper flags. The dress is country bumpkin, where little girls wear calico dresses with ruffles, straw hats with lace along the rim, fake (usually) braids, and freckles drawn on their cheeks. Boys go for jeans with patches, plaid shirts, a few blackened-out teeth and straw cowboy hats. Children’s activities include fishing for prizes, sack races, three-legged race, and country-style carnie games to win prizes.

Square Dancing, Sweets and Saints
One of the highlights of a Festa Junina is a quadrilha, a type of square dance. Traditionally, a mock bride and groom lead the other couples in the fun. During their wedding ceremony, the groom invariably runs away and is often brought back by an angry father of the bride.

Prepare to savor Brazilian sweets and food such as Maria Mole (marshmallow), rapadura (unrefined sugar cane), paoca (pressed peanut powder), popcorn, candied apples, and coconut chewies. Corn comes disguised as cold pudding, or a sugared paste inside a husk “purse.” Grilled meat on skewers and cooked pine nuts are washed down with quentão, a ginger tea with pinga, or vinho quente, a warm spicy wine.

All these Festa Junina festivities are to honor three saints: St. Anthony of Padua – the patron saint of weddings ( June 13th), St. John the Baptist – the saint who is a model for a perfect life (June 24th) and St. Peter, who guards heaven’s pearly gates ( June 29th) .

Rural Festivities Make It Real
Although it has become a commercialized party, the traditional Festa Junina is still celebrated in rural communities. It started in the colonial times with the Catholic Portuguese and Spanish settlers celebrating the harvest and worshipping saints. Processions where a saint’s statue is hoisted onto shoulders and paraded through town still take place in hinterland communities.

Cool June weather calls for bonfires, which are part of the Festa Junina tradition. Hot-air balloons are often still released into the sky, taking with them notes with requests to the saints. Many have to do with marriage partners, which St. Antonio surely hears on his special day. An image of the revered saint is erected on a pole and hovers over the party-goers, blessing the festivities. The fun continues into the night as country bands sing along to accordion, guitar and tambourine.

My choice for the Festa Junina is just 80 km from Sa Paulo. Fazenda Capoava, a historic ranch dating from the 18th century, is the perfect location for the rural festivities. Its owners, who take pride in their Brazilian heritage, make the experience authentic. Celebrate Festa Junina the way it was meant to be: in the country.

Fazenda Capoava
Special Festa Junina weekend packages, or come just for the party on Sat. 7 pm – 11pm. (June 12 and 26)

How to get there: From São Paulo, take the Bandeirantes highway and exit at 59 km onto Rodovia Dom Gabriel Paulino Bueno Couto (former Marechal Rondon). At km 89,9 exit again, then continue to a dirt road and follow the signs.
Reservations (11) 4023-0903 ou reservas@fazendacapoava.com.br

Site: www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Fazenda Capoava: Tourism – Brazilian Style
Dune Walk in Northeastern Brazil
Everything’s Coming Up Roses in Holambra, the City of Flowers
Around Brazil: Embu Das Artes – History, Headdresses and Handicrafts
Full Steam Ahead! Chilean Vineyards by Train
A Trip to Easter Island: Beyond the Obvious
Atacama Desert, Chile – I Came, I Saw, I Explored
Journey through the Fjords of Patagonia
Around Brazil: Jap Mountains, When Nature Calls
Around Brazil: Living the Amazon
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