December 22, 2008

Meet Louis van der Wiele who first travelled to Brazil in 2005, and recently moved to Brazil to live. 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 was born in a tiny village near Utrecht, Holland and my profession has been Audit Manager lately. I am a Chartered Accountant. My hobbies are cooking, photography, travelling, soccer and skiing.

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

I arrived in July 2007 just after I got married in Holland. My wife is from Brasilia and we also had a wedding there. Then we moved to São Paulo. I am staying in Brazil because we had decided to stay together and it was possible to arrange both our jobs here. So what brought me here? Love.

3. What were your first impressions of Brazil?

During my first trip to Brazil I stayed in Rio for a week, went to the beaches of Santa Catarina, then visited the nature park Chapada dos Veadeiros in Gois and did some diving at Fernando de Noronha. And I met my wife during these 3 weeks. As you probably can imagine, my first impressions were quite positive…

But the very first impressions were in bairro Santa Teresa, where I stayed when I was visiting Rio de Janeiro. To name a few: mamão for breakfast, happy shoe-shine-boys, banana as a sidedish at dinner. These were all new things to this gringo.

4. What do you miss most about home?

My friends and family. Plus this November there was early snow in Holland. Also, iceskating on the Dutch rivers was possible last February, which is a rare event that I have missed out on!

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

To obtain a permanent visa, I got the list of necessary items from the appropriate website and prepared all of them. When I arrived with these at the Polcia Federal, they told me they now work with another list, twice as long, and some of the items are a little different from what I had already prepared. They hadn’t bothered to post this new list on the Internet.

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

In 2005 I was travelling in Brazil on my own. To go to Alto do Paraso in the naturepark Chapada dos Veadeiros, I took a bus from Braslia to Arraias, a city in Tocantins. I had to get out half way, but fell asleep and missed my stop! I found myself in the middle of nowhere, but… I managed to arrange a lift back to Alto do Paraso on the back of a motorcycle – with practically no Portuguese knowledge! Had to pay a few Reais though.

When I arrived in Alto do Paraso, I went to the tourist office which recommended a pousada. As I could not find it, I was walking around with my backpack. Then a truck stopped offering me a lift. The guy spoke English and asked me if I would consider his pousada. After checking it out, I agreed and stayed there.

In the morning at breakfast I was sitting close to this lovely young Brazilian woman. At one point we both reached for the coffee at the same time and she said something in Portuguese to me that I didn’t understand. So she repeated in English and we came to talk. The rest of this day we spent together hiking in the park.

Now this woman is my wife and we have a wonderful family.

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

The nature. In this enormous country there is a huge diversity of landscapes and animals (still) to be found. And as I didn’t see most of it still, I keep on dreaming of places to go in Brazil.

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

At the weekend we regularly have breakfast at Vila Madalena, a very pleasant area close to our home in São Paulo. Since we have a baby it is nice to be in a quieter place. Feira Moderna at Rua Fradique Coutinho has turned into a weekend breakfast favorite of ours, serving a top quality breakfast for a good price. I recommend it!

But in general, São Paulo is the place to be for good restaurants! To name a few that I have enjoyed especially:

Brazilian – DOM;
Italian – Piselli;
Spanish – Toro;
Arabian – Kebab Salonu.

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

Well, the first time I came to Brazil was also the first time I had ever crossed the equator. I was in Rio and decided to visit the Pão de Aucar, going there by subway. To avoid looking like a complete tourist, I studied the map before leaving. I saw that from the station I should walk to the west for some 20 minutes to reach my goal.

As I entered the street it was noon, so I looked up at the sun and started walking. After half an hour I was surprised to have reached the end of the street but… no sugarloaf! That’s when I realized that the sun is in the north at noon if you are on the southern hemisphere. I couldn’t find a cab and had to walk back for one hour (!) before I could order a well deserved beer at the Pão de Aucar cafeteria.

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

Have you ever been to Holland? It’s flat, chilly, individualistic, half of it is protestant, things are arranged to the maximum, people obey traffic rules, cultural and ethnic groups are quite separated, there are no real big cities, most people speak a second or third language, the state provides for the less fortunate, it’s relatively safe and it rains half the time. To name a few.

And also, we have never won the soccer world cup. Holland has lost as many finals as Brazil though (two), so I like to say that as far as soccer is concerned, the countries are quite equal. For some reason however, no Brazilian agrees with me…

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?

Let’s say I will survive in Brazil. My pronunciation seems to be OK, but I regularly confuse ‘vindo’ with ‘vendo’ for some reason. And ‘trazer’ and ‘levar’ always cause me to pause for two seconds in my sentence to think, and even then I get it wrong sometimes.

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

Well, be happy because you have come to a marvelous place. Soak up the wonders of this country. Travel around. Make contacts, it’s really, really easy!

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

In Sampa, enjoy the city’s restaurants and bars for a while, then go to places nearby like Juquitiba, Atibaia, Ubatuba, etc.

In Brazil I would recommend to visit Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguau and Bonito. And a beach holiday in the Northeast can be wonderful too!

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:

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 John Fitzpatrick
December 22, 2008

The year 2009 will be the penultimate of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s term in office and looks like being the toughest of his two mandates. The favorable international situation we saw not so long ago, which boosted demand for Brazilian products like iron ore, soybeans, sugar, coffee and beef, has gone. The decoupling” theory that developing economies would be unaffected by the problems of the advanced countries, thanks to China’s ongoing growth, has lost credibility. The decline in oil prices has ended the euphoria over the discovery of huge offshore petroleum reserves. Even the enthusiasm over the prospects for ethanol as a renewable fuel to replace fossil fuels has fizzled out. The international crisis has still not hit Brazil with full force and Lula has acted to mitigate its impact. However, how he reacts when things get worse will be critical and Brazilians can only hope that any frustration he feels that his achievements will be thwarted by what he sees as an external contagion will not lead to hasty decisions.

So far, Lula has remained restrained and his approach has won widespread support. A recent survey by the CNT/Sensus organization showed that Lula’s personal popularity rating was an astounding 80.3% – up from 77.7% in the previous survey three months earlier. The poll also shows that people are still fairly optimistic, with 37.9% feeling Brazil would overcome the crisis and 41.9% believing it would emerge stronger afterwards. At the same time, a hefty 40% felt Brazil was not prepared for the full impact of the crisis.

Lula has reversed his earlier view that the crisis was restricted to the United States and would only have a “ripple” effect on Brazil. He has responded by freeing up credit to try and ensure that exporters and companies have enough funds for working capital and future investments. His main fear is that unemployment will rise and hit his bedrock support among the working class and poorer section of society. He also wants to encourage consumption and has backed up actions by the Central Bank, the BNDES development bank, and state-owned banks by personal appeals to private sector banks to make more credit available.

He has also called on companies not to fire workers and even interrogated the CEO of the mining group, Vale, in which the government owns a substantial stake, on his plans to dismiss staff. In turn, Lula has had to listen to requests by companies and employers associations to ease Brazil’s restrictive labor laws to allow temporary lay-offs although there has been no sign that he will heed them.

Lula has also made it clear that he expects the Central Bank to cut interest rates at its next meeting in January 2009. While Central Banks all over the world have been slashing interest rates – to between zero and 0.25% in the United States, for example – Brazil’s monetary policy committee left the rate unchanged at a world high of 13.75% at its last meeting. This was the first time Lula has made known his desire for lower interest rates so publicly and specifically that one wonders just how much “independence” the Central Bank now has.

Whether this was just an off-the-cuff remark and his calls to the banks and industry were just general appeals or signs that Lula intends interfering more is yet to be seen. However, they reflect my worst fear that Lula’s frustration as he sees growing threats to his triumphs – rising GDP, higher levels of employment and income, greater social equality – will lead him to lash out and forget the lessons he has learned over the last six years. Deep down, Lula does not believe in the market economy and believes the state should have the final say. For example, his response to the recent merger of Banco Itu and Unibanco which will topple the state-controlled Banco do Brasil from its leading position was to call on BB to buy up other banks and regain its position.

He must be taking heart from the actions of governments in capitalist countries like the US and UK which are buying up banking assets and providing aid packages to industry. If anyone criticizes his approach, all Lula needs to do is to point to George Bush’s announcement on December 19 that the US will make R$17.4 billion available to help the troubled American carmakers. The incoming President, Barak Obama, has also made it clear that he will be pouring billions of dollars of public funds into packages to improve infrastructure projects, something which sounds similar to Lula’s Accelerated Growth Package (known as the PAC).

With the capitalist world floundering and no clear policies other than spending taxpayers money in sight anywhere, Lula will feel justified in following his own instincts. If these lead to higher public debt and rising inflation, then so be it. This is a cost Lula, the ideologue, might be prepared to pay but whether the Brazilian electorate will go along with it is another matter, particularly if it leads to a return to the high inflation which plagued the country for 20 years. The fall in commodity prices, including oil, may have dented Brazil’s trade balance and hit its commodity exporters but it has reduced inflationary expectations for the moment so this danger looks remote.

However, as 2009 proceeds we will see the parties chose their candidates for the 2010 presidential and state governorship elections. Lula cannot stand again and his preferred candidate, Dilma Rousseff, who is still virtually unknown at national level will face an uphill battle in establishing her credentials against a world recession and an economic downturn in Brazil. If Lula gives in and lets his heart rule his head then he will probably pave the way into office for his political rival, Jose Serra of the PMDB, the governor of São Paulo state.

To offset this rather alarming prospect, let me mention a round table discussion I took part in recently (pictured above), organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo. The following correspondents also took part: Todd Benson (Reuters), John Rumsey (freelance), Jonathan Wheatley (Financial Times), Ken Rapoza (Wall Street Journal) and Rogerio Simes of the BBC in London. Most were cautiously optimistic about Brazil’s prospects for the coming year although Benson was not as upbeat as the rest of us. Simes’s comments as an “insider”, i.e the only Brazilian commentator, were particularly valuable. He put the current crisis into perspective by comparing it with the situation at the beginning of the 90s when the finance minister – whose knowledge of running an economy came straight from textbooks – “solved” the problem of inflation by freezing every single person’s bank account.
In conclusion, I would like to wish all Gringoes readers a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year, particularly those who have taken the trouble to write to me or comment on my articles whether they agreed with me or not.

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:

Brazil: São Paulo Mayoral Election – a Foretaste of the Presidential Race?
Looking for Brazil’s Moon Under Water
Brazil’s Lula Finally Stops Playing the Blame Game
Brazil: Coming Up – Serra versus Dilma?
Brazil Becomes Middle Class but Not Bourgeois
Where is Brazil’s Barack Obama?
Brazil: Lula Loses Some of His Moral Luster
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?

By Paul Scottyn
December 22, 2008

Capoeira is undeniably the spirit of Brazil. It is a passion of expression which is both a Brazilian martial art and dance. It is a sport, a ritual, a dance (that actually inspired the American break dance), a musical expression, a martial art and a philosophy. Visitors should include in their shopping list of interests when they visit and book their stay in Rio de Janiero hostels.

The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Less frequently used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body throws. Its origins and purpose are a matter of heated debate, with the spectrum of argument ranging from views of Capoeira as a uniquely Brazilian folk dance with improvised fighting movements to claims that it is a battle-ready fighting form directly descended from ancient African techniques. To a native Brazilian, capoiera is many things. It is not just martial art and dance. It is much more. To know more about this art is not a problem for first time visitors. Information and guides to travelers abound in all Rio de Janiero hostels.

First time visitors should start their initiation into the world of capoiera by properly laying out their travel plans and making the necessary arrangements with their Rio de Janiero hostels on how to go about their discovery tour. And while you are into it, you could also do your initial research and arrange with you Rio de Janiero hostels to visit the relevant organizations in Brazil dedicated to Capoiera

Capoeira was invented by African slaves in Brazil over 450 years ago. The African slaves that came to Brazil brought with them their culture. Many of those slaves practiced other types of African Martial Arts in their mother land, like the Sanga. Sanga means to triumph”. And it is a war dance. Those martial arts had an enormous influence on the development of capoeira. But although capoeira received the influences of dance and African martial arts, it was the African slaves living in Brazil that invented capoeira.

African slaves developed this martial art as a way to fight against the Portuguese landowners. The slaves were prohibited from practicing any form of self-defense as a deterrent to any uprising against their rule, so they managed to practice by slipping martial arts moves into their evenings of music and dance. Even after the end of slavery in Brazil in 1888 the government officially outlawed capoeira and many capoeiristas were arrested. To avoided being arrested the capoeiristas created nicknames for themselves. Many of them had two or three nicknames. This made it hard for the police to discover their true identities. Today when a person is baptized in the art of capoeira, he/she receives a nickname.

Capoeira is performed in a circle (roda). In the center two players show their skills in what is called the jogo de capoeira. The people forming the circle around those players sing, play instruments, and clap hands. The most important and respected instrument in capoeira is the Berimbau (a piece of wood bent with a steel string). When capoeira was outlawed in Brazil, some of the berimbau rhythms played were a way to alert players that the police were around. The moves in capoeira are beautiful and spectacular. It combines strength and grace with personal expression. You may kick, sweep or flip. It’s acrobatic with moves like au (a cartwheel) and takedowns.

Capoeira as an art and dance is now receiving its much deserved attention and acceptance worldwide and it is just logical when you get to visit Brazil that the first thing to ask when you get to your Rio de Janeiro hostel is where to see capoeira.

About the Author – Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers, Paul Scottyn did a backpacking tour of Brazil, he checked out much of the country, including some 0 Comments/by

December 19, 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 your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

I’m just writing to say how much I enjoyed finding the gem that is “Ask a Brazilian”, on your site. I was having a bad day and particularly liked the “Saying No and Punctuality Revisited” as almost all the same things (including the pathetic but typical school story) have happened to me. I’ve lived in Brazil for about 1 year, learned to speak “good” but not quite fluent Portuguese, mix with almost 100% Brazilian people only and try to understand and appreciate the culture and life as best I can.

I have to admit that Brazil has defeated me.

I’m quite young (in my early 30s), I consider myself very tolerant and reasonably well educated and polite; I’ve lived and worked in several different countries (including one African one in full civil war, for anyone who suspects I have a golden spoon hanging out of my mouth) and always appreciated the differences, but I’ve never disliked things in a country, the way I do in Brazil.

My question for the column is “Why do people treat animals so badly in Brazil?”

I’m not a vegetarian tree hugger but I think leaving a sick dog to die in agony because you want to spend the vet’s bill money on beer and a new dress, can’t be “right”. I’ve seen that story happen two times already with different people. I’ve also seen so many abandoned animals on the street (I finally succumbed and have an abandoned kitten destroying my furniture currently). I’ve seen many people keeping dogs locked up all day in tiny spaces and I never see a Brazilian walking their dog or playing with their “pet”. Also people think it strange to take a cat to be neutered at the vet, even if it’s free; as if they are totally allergic to any kind of responsibility.

One day I hope Brazil will become the country it can be and fulfil it’s truly great potential, but it will be a long time coming and a real tragedy for many people still stuck in poverty and poor education for the sake of ignorance, greed, hedonism and lies. I have met a handful of wonderful Brazilian people, but I’m tired of being disappointed and seeing animals (and people) treated badly time and time again whilst being chastised for not “relaxing” enough.

A ranting Gringo.

— Jonathan

Hi, Jonathan,

Sorry that Brazil didn’t bring a favorable outcome for you.

About your question “Why do people treat animals so badly in Brazil?”… I don’t have enough info about countries that mistreat animals, but there’s http://animalivre.uol.com.br/home/?tipo=noticia&id=1321

Jonathan, you are exaggerating! When you say that “I never see a Brazilian walking their dog or playing with their pet”, you must be looking in the wrong places. You can see dozens of dogs being walked by their owners any day here in our neighborhood in the Zona Sul (Campo Belo, Brooklin, etc.). And I know from friends that many people neuter their pets, to avoid over-breeding. I also know dedicated people who run homes for abandoned pets, trying to find new homes for them.

— Jacques

Jacques, what a wonderful idea! I will ask your permission to pitch it to TV Globo, when I have the oportunity. Are you interested in helping with the writing?

— Vanessa

I think that when discussing treatment of animals in Brazil, you do have to distinguish between those living in poverty, who may barely have enough resources to feed their families and can in fact claim a lack of information about how to treat animals, and those in the upper classes, many of whom have pets but who definitely favor prestige breeds, particuarly poodles. There does not seem as of yet any strong movement to adopt street anmals, or to sterilize one’s own pets to prevent future litters (just one anmal can, eventually, lead to hundreds and event housand of future cats, dogs, etc., and no one can guarantee they will find homes for all of them). There does seem to a slightly growing consciousness regarding picking up after one’s dog on the street, but what I would like to see would be some novella stars and other celebrities on TV celebrating how grat it is to adopt a mutt or tabby, and how important it is to spay or neuter one’s own pet.

— Steven

I have to agree with Jonathan although without such extreme examples. But of the people I know who have pets, the responsibility question is the most apparent to me, especially dogs. Why have a dog if you pay someone else to walk it, bath it and feed it. What’s the point! Seemed like a good idea at the time! Right. I’m not saying everyone, but look on the streets there are a lot of services in the pet industry these days in SP.

Then there are those who have dogs but leave them at the weekend house (for those who are fortunate to have such things). The housekeepers feed them but the dogs tend to be lonely or abandoned as I notice when I am wakened at 4 in the morning by dogs hollowing, in the condominium of my Sogro’s weekend place. Now I find that my kids are being encouraged by relatives to have pets but again with no responsibility to the animal’s welfare. My spouse is allergic to pet hair so we don’t have pets, so my young kids were bought a rabbit for the Grandparents weekend house, despite our objections, due to the age of the children. They no longer visit or care for the pet, despite our attempts to first encourage more attention from the other adults, and secondly encouraging the kids to demand support. Sadly the poor beast is alone, out of site and of no interest. We have relatives who bring their dogs with them to the same house with the sole purpose of getting them exercise without to much attention. Regarless of where they mess, or what they eat (toys anyone!). Sorry but definitely my opinion of those in an affluent situation, more often than not they have no or little responsibility here in SP.

— Andrew

Andrew, I see your point. My point is being selfish is not a Brazilian thing. Humans are selfish with their pets, yes. Bad humans! I’m with you. Let’s hope for Jacques idea about the novela and start a campaign. I’m in.

— Vanessa

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 articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Well-to-do Ladies
Ask a Brazilian: All Souls Day and Halloween
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
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

By Marilyn Diggs
December 19, 2008

Ahoy, nature lovers and adventurers. How about an eight-day boat trip guided by experienced explorers into one of the world’s last untouched ecosystems? Cruise inside sea passages, fly-fish secret coves, kayak waterways, trek lush forests and gaze at hanging glaciers one day; then pamper yourself in a luxurious thermal spa the next. Chile’s Northern Patagonia, a wilderness begging to be explored, is on its way to becoming a world-class ecotourism destination. Even so, it is still off-the-beaten-track, perfect for those with wanderlust who relish solitude. Navigating deep into calm ocean passages and through a maze of islands is many a water-lover’s dream. The wish comes true in Chile, where mainland Patagonia fractures into a myriad of islands formed by millennium volcanoes, geographical shifting and melting glacial ice.

The trip begins in Puerto Montt, Chile, where a private charter plane flies travelers to Melinka port in the Guaitecas Archipelago, declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2008. Next, you board the comfortable, 8-passenger motor yacht Noctiluca named after Patagonia’s luminous plankton. Made from Patagonian cypress wood, it combines traditional craftsmanship of the region with the latest technology. Chile’s best wines accompany the delicious meals served on board.

Anchors away, as seafarers head for the first destination – Jchica Island. Spy on sea lions, sea otters, regional birds, dolphins and if Neptune is willing, the great blue whale. As the boat heads towards sheltered fjords in the west, it passes Corcovado Gulf, a spawning place for this rare whale species.

Jchica Island
After two days at sea, passengers dock at Isla Jchica – over seven thousand hectares of primeval nature and postcard vistas. Travelers bunk at the Jchica Island Retreat, which is completely integrated with nature and the delicate ecosystem. Three unobtrusive wooden cabins play hide and seek in the emerald flora.

Trekking excursions lead hikers to unique vegetation (such as sphagnum peat) in the ancient Evergreen Forest, secluded seashores, misty lagoons and the quiet marina. Austral dolphins and seals play in the bay, while the Magellan woodpecker, austral seagull and black-browed albatross circle above. There are over 50 species of land and sea birds, migrant and stationary, which breed on this island.

The first people to colonize the Chilean Patagonia canals were the Chonos Indians. They traveled the archipelago islands in canoes (dalcas) in search of food and shelter, wearing only a leather cloak and loincloth. Spaniards recorded their presence as early as the second half of the 16th century. Until recently, this area has remained relatively untouched because of its isolation. Sea kayaking through the fjords lets one re-live history and at the same time get close to the dolphins, cormorants and penguins. After an invigorating day of hiking, boating, kayaking and photographing, guests relax beside the fireplace in the cozy clubhouse bar and restaurant.

Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa
A morning’s voyage departing from Jchica Island ends at Dorita Bay, the site of one of Chile’s most prestigious hot-spring resorts. Visitors to Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa (pictured at the top of the article) find active tourism options (hiking, biking, kayaking), a relaxing spa with thalassotherapy (healing related to the sea), delectable meals and rustic-chic rooms. The impressive architecture of the wooden lodge was inspired by 18th C. Jesuit churches.

Guides take guests on hikes to places such as the Hanging Glacier on the western edge of a gigantic ice field, inside Queulat National Park. Hikers cross a suspended wooden bridge over a surging river and trek through the misty forest to the Tempanos Lagoon where a boat transports them even closer to the turquoise ice table. The threads that unravel from the blue ice are actually gushing waterfalls tumbling down sheer rock.

Water sports like fly-fishing and kayaking take sport enthusiasts into the fjords, channels and lagoons. After all that exercise, you relax in the spa’s soothing hot-springs pools both outside and indoors, compliments of five nearby volcanoes.

San Rafael Glacier Up Close
The last adventure is via the Patagonia Express catamaran to the San Rafael Lagoon for the unforgettable iceberg expedition. The 70-passenger, luxury two-story cruiser serving gourmet meals makes the all-day trip top-end. The catamaran glides over inlets and sea, past timbered hills and snow tipped Andes. Aquamarine ice sculptures dot the lagoon in front of the 2km-long and more than 70m-tall turquoise face of San Rafael Glacier. Zodiacs (inflatable motorboats) take passengers close to the blue giant, part of the Northern Ice Fields. The excursion ends at 10:30 p.m. at Chacabuco on the mainland at a lovely hotel. The next day travelers follow the famous Carretera Austral highway back to civilization. This journey which explores one of our planet’s last frontiers – the fjords of Northern Patagonia – is an opportunity not to be missed.

More information
About the trip: www.patagoniacanales.com
Guaiteca Archipielago and Jchica Island: www.islajechica.cl
Hotel Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa: www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

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

December 1, 2009

Meet Evan Soroka who first visited Brazil 8 years ago, and recently moved. Read the following interview in which she tells us about some of her most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Aspen, Colorado. From a very early age I knew that I did not feel at home in the US. I graduated from the University of Colorado in Anthropology and Spanish/Portuguese Language and Literature.

I have started a concierge business in Florianópolis for tourists. We are Help Me! Floripa.

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

I arrived in Brazil for the first time when I was sixteen and I lived in Mato Grosso for a year on Rotary Exchange. Since then it has been an 8-year love affair. After graduating from college, I lived and worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina for two years, but my love and loyalty to Brazil brought me back about 6 months ago.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

The sounds, the smells, the tastes, the sights. It was new and vibrant.

4. What do you miss most about home?

That is easy… I miss our cheeseburgers. It is the first thing I have to get when I go home for a visit. I miss Colorado summers, my family, and friends.

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

There have been a lot of frustrating experiences, but I would have to say that starting my own business has been very frustrating. People think that as I am American female I am automatically rich and stupid and that they can walk all over me. I have had so many experiences where I trusted people but they were just using me for their own benefit. It frustrates me as I look and feel Brazilian, I speak perfectly, but no matter how hard I try, I will always be a gringa. It had been a wonderful learning experience and I am getting better everyday.

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

My most memorable experience was when I was on exchange in Brazil in 2001 in Mato Grosso. I lived with a wealthier family who did a lot of community service work. I remember going with my host mother to a small favela outside of our town. We went to see a woman, or girl rather, who was the same age as me and she had two children and lived in a concrete box. She was happy. She had nothing by western standards, but she had everything; happiness. Maybe it was an external impression, I am sure she suffered in her poverty, but she was truly happy. She danced and sang and spoke with me with such patience. This moment marked me drastically as I realized that material gains do not equate happiness; something that one does not realize growing up in Aspen.

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

What I most like about Brazil, is what I dislike as well. It is the bureaucracy, it is the lateness of things getting done, it is the total mess and disorganization, it is the don’t worry about it so much, because it will all work out somehow someway attitude. I am trying to find a happy balance between my North American get-it-done attitude and the Brazilian Laissez-faire outlook on life. To me this is the ideal way to live.

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

I love Florianópolis, why anyone would want to be in Rio or São Paulo is beyond my comprehension. I like to hang out all over this island on its trails and its little fishermen’s villages. My favorite place is the community of Costa da Lagoa that is only accessible by boat or trail. I love to do the hike, and then order an Antartica Original and a grilled fish.

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

Man, there are so many, I don’t even know where to begin. Mostly just simply messing up my Portuguese when I was learning. I used to say that I needed to drink (tomar) pee (xixi) when I had to go to the bathroom rather than (fazer)… and no one told me. They would just laugh.

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

The sense of community is very different. I think that in the States we have more of a get it done attitude. I think that in Brazil it is easy to get people together to have some cold beers, but it is very hard to get people together to make a change in the system. People would rather just accept that things are wrong rather than stepping up and fighting for change. It is a complacent laziness that I find hard to comprehend. On the other side of things, people are warmer here, more receptive, and more willing to give you the time of day. This is what I like most about living in Brazil. The people.

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 am proud to say that my Portuguese is basically perfect, but it did not come easily. It is my talent and I have a very good ear. I am fluent in Spanish as well and I have been speaking Portuguese for 8 years, 2 of which in a consulting firm in Buenos Aires in the Brazil department. So I had to learn fast. I still find it hard to say words like melhor, or trabalho… anything with lh comes out funny sometimes and my friends make fun of me, but that is ok, because I am a gringa.

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

Be careful and keep your eyes open at all times. It may seem like everyone is your friend but there are a lot of messed up things here and bad people. Don’t get obliterated at the bar, because you are asking for trouble.

Learn the language. Wherever you go, bring a dictionary and try to learn to communicate well. The best thing about Brazil is its people. Once you can speak well a whole world of possibilities opens up to you.

Travel to the lesser known places in Brazil. The small towns are magical.

Enjoy the nature, go on a lot of hikes, and respect the environment.

Don’t let the frustrating things get you down. Look for the beauty in it.

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

As I said before I don’t know why anyone would want to go to São Paulo unless they work in big business or have a friend there who knows it well and can take you around. Or if you just love to be stuck in traffic for 7 hours.

On the other hand, Florianópolis is magical. It is close to Rio and São Paulo by airplane. I came here for the first time when I was 16, and I knew it was home. It is safe, beautiful, laid back and it has everything that one can want in a vacation. Sports, beaches, outdoors, nightlife and beautiful people

I recommend getting in touch with me at evan@helpmefloripa.com and checking out our webpage 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 Lauren Smith
December 15, 2009

For many travelers, Carnival is the highlight of any trip to Brazil. Its reputation as ‘the greatest show on earth’ precedes it and with so much going on over the four days it can be easy to get carried away and blow a sizeable amount of your hard earned travel funds. This can ruin the rest of your trip and leave you having to scrimp and save for the rest of your holiday.

The beauty of Carnival, though, is that you don’t have to push the boat out to have a good time once you’ve booked your flight and hostel in Rio de Janeiro, even if you’re on the tightest of budgets.

The Samba Parades are the centerpiece of Carnival and no Carnival experience would be complete without a visit to the 70,000 Sambodromo. Depending upon the day you go, who you buy from and what area you sit in tickets can set you back several hundred dollars. However, if you avoid the busiest days and most popular parades (most notably the Monday when the best 12 Samba schools strut their stuff) then tickets are considerably cheaper.

A great day to go is on Saturday 13th when the A league schools compete for a place among the elite schools the next year. Tickets are half the price yet the atmosphere is just as good.

You can also save vital beer money if you shop around before buying your ticket. Prices vary enormously from agent to agent. Typically tickets bought through third parties will cost you more as they have to pay a middle man. Do look around, but as good a bet as any is to try and get your ticket through your hostel. If they don’t have tickets, they will know someone who does at prices that won’t hit you too hard in the pocket.

Unlike many modern sporting arenas views vary considerably inside the Sambodromo and prices vary accordingly. Avoid the numbered seats and get yourself a Grandstand. You won’t have a guaranteed seat but the tickets are so much cheaper and the atmosphere is often much better. If you’re on a really tight budget look for tickets in Sector 3, otherwise look to get a ticket in sector one where the samba schools enter the stadium. The atmosphere here is terrific and is where many of the locals in the know go to watch the parades.

If you are really pressed for funds or can’t get a ticket to the parades you can still get a taste of the Sambodromo in the streets that surround it. All the bars are packed to the rafters with locals and travelers alike and are alive with music, dancing and outrageous costumes deep into the night. Here you’ll also catch a glimpse of the samba schools themselves as they practice their routines before entering the Sambodromo itself.

The surrounding area comes alive during the festival and in many ways it is the street parties that make Carnival. The best part about the parties is that they are FREE! There are lots to choose from and all feature bars selling beers and shots of Cachaca at ridiculously cheap prices. Among the best parties are the Popular Street Dance at Cinelandia which features orchestras, singers, bands, performers and all the samba music you could possibly want as you party until the sun comes up. The street party at Ipanema is widely considered the biggest and the best and is the most organized.

For food, check out the snack bars which are everywhere in south side neighborhoods. You can get a full meal featuring a generous serving of rice, beans and pasta for less than $10. If you’re looking for a hostel Rio de Janeiro has lots of options, from party hostels with huge dorms to chicer options with private ensuite rooms.

Carnival doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun – you just need to where to go and when.

Before joining HostelBookers in 2009, Lauren Smith indulged her passion for travel, backpacking around Brazil and staying in a Backpacking from Iguacu Falls to Argentina
Best Beaches in Brazil for the Backpacker

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By Alison McGowan
December 15, 2009

I had stayed at Alcino’s the last time I was in Lencois and was already recommending it before Hidden Pousadas even existed. The colonial style house is beautiful and despite appearances less than 20 years old. Alcino himself ensured it was an accurate replica of what was there before, and internal spaces make use of reclaimed materials mixed with Alcino’s own ceramic creations.

There are 5 suites and 3 rooms with shared bathrooms, but Alcino provides beautiful bathrobes for the latter and everything is super clean.

With breakfast being a major selling point for all pousadas in Brazil it is difficult to choose the best, but Alcino’s is surely in the running for the best. Dona Flor does not care if ou are on a diet. The food keeps coming and as you chat to fellow guests you will find you just keep eating and chatting and eating.. Temptation of the very best kind!

About the Location
Lencois is the main town in the Chapada Diamantina and the place where most of the eco-tourist agencies are based, but outside high season it is just a sleepy colonial town with very little traffic an cafes where you can sit and drink and chat or work without worrying when they might say it’s time to leave.

Once the business centre of the Brazilian diamond trade the colonial buildings are testament to a wealth beyond dreams. Many are now in need of a coat of paint but the place is still vibrant and there is a thriving eco tourist trade for peoplewho want to explore the Chapada Diamantina and enjoy the hikes to mountains, waterfalls and caves. This is an extraordinary and magical place-one that people come back to again and again.

Not to be Missed
– Trips to Poco Azul, Cachoeira da Fumaca and cachoeira do Sussego
– Caves of Lapadoce and Torrinha
– Sunset at Pai Inacio
– Walk to the Serrano river to see he coloured sands

Starpoints
* Lovely house in great location
* Communal breakfasts with other guests
* Breakfasts themselves
* Alcino’s decoration and atelier

Try a Different Place If…
… you want a TV, fridge, telephone, and air conditioning

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 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 John Fitzpatrick
December 10, 2009

Just as Brazil’s formal workers receive a 13th monthly wage in December so the country’s beggars can also look forward to a Christmas bonus. People are usually more generous at this time of the year and those who make their living from begging or selling items at busy traffic junctions, often children, benefit. A few years I wrote an article about a woman selling sweets on the buses in São Paulo who told me that her income rose by about 40% in December. However, there are those who feel that people should be less generous and not even give child beggars anything. They claim these children are exploited by adults and that well-wishers would be better off making donations to charitable organizations. This is a view I do not share and would like to discuss as it raises a moral question facing anyone who lives in Brazil and sees the problems of poverty every time they walk down a street.

The Estado de S. Paulo newspaper recently claimed in a leader column that people should realize that behind every child who begs for coins or sells products in the street there is a criminal exploiter.” It also called for laws to be drawn up to prosecute those who “have no scruples about exploiting child labor”.

This seems far-fetched to me. Brazil is awash with laws, including article 227 of the Constitution which states that the minimum age at which a child can work is 14. There is also a raft of laws covering working conditions, including slave labor, backed up by inspectors who visit workplaces to check on conditions. Labor courts have backlogs of hundreds of thousands of complaints which will take years to settle. So making the statute book even bulkier will make no difference to this situation.

Obviously some of the money does go into the hands of exploiters but in many, if not most cases, it goes to the children’s parents who take them to the places where they beg. The paper says this is the case for 35% of those aged between 8 and 11. If this is true, then many older children must go and return on their own and the money remain within the family.

Begging is often identified with homelessness yet many of these children are part of an extended family which has a home. The Estado itself singled out a family which comes from Minas Gerais state every weekend to beg in an affluent area and spends the night in a hotel in the city center. It also mentioned six boys from the MBoi Mirim area south of the city who go to the center every day to beg. These can make substantial contributions to household income.

These children are estimated to earn about R$40 a day (about US$18), a figure which can go up to R$70 at this time of the year. That is a lot of money by Brazilian standards and in monthly terms comes to between R$800 to R$1,400 based on a five-day week per child. It is well above the minimum age of R$465. In the case of the six boys mentioned above, that amount could rise to between R$4,800 to R$8,400 if each of them gained this amount. Most people could only dream of earning this upper figure which is probably what a senior manager would earn in a bank or industrial plant.

The paper highlighted the fact that while the children are selling items at traffic lights, juggling or just begging they are not at school. However, even then it admitted that 74% of them actually do go to school regularly. Obviously this is completely unsatisfactory and the children have no chance of gaining a decent education. It quoted an educational specialist as saying that people would not be as tolerant towards the parents if they saw that the children had a hoe in their hands and were working in the field.

I am not so sure of that either. Families of beggars are a familiar sight in the streets of Brazil’s cities. Brazilians are faced with this stark poverty from their earliest days and know it is an innate part of their society.

I believe most people would be more concerned about the children’s safety. Not only are these children exposed to danger in thick traffic but they mix with older beggars and criminals and they are often sexually exploited or enticed into becoming drug addicts.

Brazilians are used to helping people as individuals rather than as members of society. People are usually kind on an individual basis. Most middle class families with maids not only pay their wages but subsidize them in other ways by buying them essentials or giving them used clothes, furniture and other possessions. They sometimes pay for the maid’s children to have extra lessons or for an English or IT course.

This personal way of helping is one of the reasons why there has been such a backlash among the middle class against the Bolsa Familia program which pays families a small monthly grant if they send their children to school and for regular health checks. The Brazilian taxpayer prefers to give the benefit directly to the person rather than through the bureaucracy which is often inefficient and corrupt. That is why campaigns such as the “Give more than coins. Give a future” which the São Paulo city government launched in 2006 to try and stop child begging by persuading people to make donations to charitable organizations failed. At the end of the day it is up to people themselves to decide whether to give child beggars money or not. If the Brazilian state cannot rid the streets of children in this position why then should people feel they should give the money to it rather than the children themselves?

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Brazil 2009 – The Year of Living Dangerously
Brazil: São Paulo Mayoral Election – a Foretaste of the Presidential Race?
Looking for Brazil’s Moon Under Water
Brazil’s Lula Finally Stops Playing the Blame Game
Brazil: Coming Up – Serra versus Dilma?
Brazil Becomes Middle Class but Not Bourgeois
Where is Brazil’s Barack Obama?
Brazil: Lula Loses Some of His Moral Luster
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?

December 10, 2008

Meet Drew Glaser who first travelled to Brazil on an internship as a teenager and has continued to travel there since. 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 from Boston, went to college in Atlanta, and I’m currently working in Chicago as an engineer for Siemens. However I’m trying to get to Brazil full time, so if you know of any opportunities let me know!

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

In 2005, while I was a junior in college, I applied for an international engineering internship with an organization called IAESTE. I actually got a job in Denmark, but the offer was revoked last minute. IAESTE worked hard and found me an internship in Brazil for the summer.

I was expecting to be in a large city, living with many other international students in a dorm like atmosphere. Boy was I wrong. I landed in São Paulo and hopped on a bus that, for two hours, wound through hills and fields until I arrived in the small city of Piedade. When I arrived at my host family’s house, the cab driver pointed at me with a puzzled look, as if saying what is this gringo doing here?”. My host mom assured him with a thumbs up that they were expecting me.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

The summer before I went to Brazil, I did the typical study abroad in Europe, going to all the tourist cities and checking famous sites off my list. From this experience I guess I was expecting a lot of English speakers in Brazil. My expectation was turned upside down when I realized that my host parents, with whom I was going to spend the next 3 months with, did not speak a word of English.

A more general overall impression I had was the incredible friendliness and helpfulness of everyone I met. If it wasn’t for my coworkers taking the initiative to get to know me, I never would have met all the great friends I made… and most importantly I never would have met my girlfriend.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Besides my friends and family, American football and baseball. Luckily I can talk baseball with my girlfriend, as many Japanese Brazilians play baseball and softball.

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

When I go to Brazil, it is as a tourist or in a structured exchange program, so luckily I haven’t had to deal with the bureaucracy and inefficiency that seems to effect everyone at some time. However, I find it very frustrating seeing my friends accepting this inefficiency as the norm. I’ve had to learn not to say “In the US, this is much easier…”. If there’s no way to fix the problem, there’s no point in talking about it.

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

Without a doubt, my trip to Ilha Bela. Within the first few weeks of my first trip to Brazil, one of my English speaking coworkers invited me to go to his girlfriend’s family’s family reunion. I thought this was a little weird… I barely knew this guy and he invited me to a family reunion that wasn’t even his family… but of course I accepted the invitation.

The family rented a coach bus for an overnight trip from Piedade to Ilha Bela. We left late Friday night, arrived early Saturday morning, and the churrasco started right away and lasted for two days. At the end of the weekend, all guests who were not part of the family have to give a little speech. Of course, being only my 3rd week in Brazil, I had to give my speech through my English speaking friend. I signed a notebook to record that I was there, and if I go 2 more times I am officially part of the family. Unfortunately, my future Brazil trips have not corresponded with the Ilha Bela family reunions, but I still hope to attend in the future.

Oh, and I can’t forget the most important part. This weekend in Ilha Bela, I met my girlfriend Akemi. When I met her my Portuguese and her English were both very limited, but we had a natural chemistry and somehow managed to communicate. More than 3 years and several trips later, we are still together.

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

Same answer as my first overall impression of Brazil. I was very impressed by everyone trying to help out the gringo. Even if there is some political bias towards the US, Brazilians are willing to discuss it rather than hold a grudge.

Also, as a soccer player, I love that a game is always available. In my small city of Piedade, I joined the local country club. In the US this means a golf course. But in Piedade, they had 3 different soccer fields of different sizes.

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

This won’t be your typical answer… “O Rei das Vitaminas” in Santos. It has 61 different vitaminas (smoothies), all different combinations of all natural fruit. Maybe I just liked this place because I can order by number, and I don’t have to be looked at weird because of my gringo accent.

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

At the family reunion in Ilha Bela, I was the popular gringo that everyone wanted to meet. They were playing with me by telling me to say things in Portuguese, and then telling me what they meant. I got tired of being treated like a little kid, so I decided to yell the next thing they told me to say. I don’t want to get too graphic (in Portuguese or English)… so I’ll say that the word that I screamed refers to a female body part. Everyone at the party immediately looked at me, but luckily I got a free pass because I didn’t speak Portuguese at the time.

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

There are many, but one that stands out for me is the public university system. Here in the US, there are many public universities with great reputations, but generally speaking the most prestigious universities are private. Also, unless you are on scholarship you still have to pay tuition for the public universities. In Brazil, the public schools are the most difficult to get into, and are also 100% tuition free.

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?

After my first trip to Brazil in 2005, I have been taking Portuguese at the Atlanta International Language Institute (if you’re in Atlanta, I recommend it!) I have also had the luxury of either writing or speaking in Portuguese almost daily with my girlfriend. I like to say I’m conversationally fluent. In a social atmosphere I can speak naturally, but when it comes to more complicated things like politics, the economy, or business, I still need to improve my vocabulary.

I always have trouble with levar (to take) and trazer (to bring). It seems like people liberally use these words to say the same thing in the US, while in Brazil there are strict rules of when to use each one. And I always seem to get it wrong.

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

I would just say, try everything! Brazilians are very open and welcoming, so you will have many opportunities to have some great experiences and make friends, but you have to be willing to step out of your element. Even if you don’t like soccer at all, try to play a little, or at least learn about the teams in Brazil so you can talk about them. When I met people for the first time, I was often asked “where are you from, why are you here, and what soccer team do you cheer for?”. Luckily I chose São Paulo, who went on to win the Copa Libertadores while I was there, and since 2005 have won two Brazilian championships and a World Club Championship.

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

Even though I have spent the majority of my time in the state of São Paulo, I haven’t done much in the city. However I have done a bit of traveling in Rio so I’ll recommend a few things there. Hang glide with Paulo (www.cruxecoaventura.com.br), and eat at Zaza in Ipanema.

You can contact Drew via drew.glaser@gmail.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:

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