By Steve Nelson
January 29, 2013

Visiting The Anhumas Abyss in the Serra da Bodoquena National Park on the outskirts of Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul is not just one great thing to do in Brazil, it could possibly count as three great things in one. The limestone substrate of the park area makes for cave systems underground, with many still waiting to be discovered, and one in the process of being explored and opened for public visits right now. With small openings, they are difficult to locate and you would probably be happy not to have been the person that first discovered the Anhumas Abyss, as it is two holes in the floor of the forest, one a few metres across, the other a gap just narrow enough to slip down.

You have to descend into the holes to appreciate the beauty of Anhumas, as the two passages soon open out into a huge cavern, around 110m across at its widest point, with a 72m drop to the cave lake that covers the bottom half of the cavern, with a depth of up to 80m. As with the rivers of Bonito, the cave has crystal clear water, with visibility of up to 40m even in the underground darkness. The water contains calcium carbonate from the limestone, meaning that any impurities in the water are calcified and drop to the bed.

Another object that dropped to the bottom was a giant anteater who must have discovered the opening above while snuffling through the undergrowth of the forest, and fell to its death. The skeleton can still be seen in the depths of the lake, resting on the rock.

There are also underwater cones, some of the largest examples of this natural phenomenon yet found on earth. Water drips from fissures in the cave roof to the lake way below, and the calcium carbonate contained in the drips that forms stalactites when falling on rocks, instead forms huge subterranean, subaquatic cones up to 19m tall in parts of the lake. These can all be seen while inside the cave, especially around midday as the vertical sun shines straight through the larger aperture to illuminate the whole cave and like with a spectacular shaft of light.

The Anhumas Abyss takes some work on your part though to enjoy this subterranean natural wonder. First you have to get down there… then you have to get back up! The drop down from the narrow entrance to the lake surface is done by abseiling down, usually in conjoined pairs, and always with the right safety equipment (Bonito is probably the safest place in Brazil in terms of organisation, safety measures and first aid equipment). After such a narrow opening, the sight of the cave opening out below your dangling feet is Part I of this Great Thing to Do in Brazil. The descent takes around 10-15 minutes for most people, sliding down the rope slowly. Once at the wooden platform on the surface, you can take a boat around the lake to spot the shapes of rocks and stalactites around the edges.

The comes Part II. You can change into your wetsuit, don your snorkel and mask, and enter the cool water. Most people snorkel but PADI qualified divers can also dive in the darkness, swimming around the huge cones and visiting the anteater.

Part III is the pull back up, which may not be considered great by everyone. Proper climbing equipment is used for this, and only those who have completed the training session on the 9m practice tower in Bonito the night before are allowed to descend. The long haul takes around 20-25 minutes for people with a reasonable level of fitness. Help is on hand from the top if strictly necessary.

There is a real sense of achievement and satisfaction on emerging once more into the daylight of the forest. A drop into the Anhumas Abyss is a completely unique experience in Brazil, although this may not always be the case if more caves are found. For now though, Brazil Adventure Tours can recommend the Anhumas Abyss as one of the finest activities in the whole country for those who would like a little adventure in their trip to Brazil.

Activity Information: A reasonable level of fitness is required to complete the descent and ascent of the Anhumas Abyss, although no prior caving, rapelling or climbing experience is strictly necessary. All necessary safety equipment and instruction is provided, including the training sessions on the tower an evening or two before. Wetsuit, snorkels, masks and diving equipment for those who require it are also included. Trained instructors are on hand at all times, both during the training, at the entrance and at the lake surface.

You can visit Steve’s blog at Great Things To Do In Brazil: Snorkelling the Rivers of Bonito
Great Things To Do In Brazil: Swimming with Amazon River Dolphins
USA to Review Tourist Visa for Brazilian Citizens
Around Brazil: The Botanical Gardens, Rio de Janeiro
Around Brazil: Praia do Pontal, Macumba, Prainha & Grumari (Rio de Janeiro)
Around Brazil: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro
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By Maria A Petit
January 29, 2013

It’s amazing how despite the increased cultural sensitivity one acquires from living abroad, extensive travel and the acquisition of international friends it’s an endless educational process. When it comes to dating in Brazil, it’s no exception here are a few things I’ve learned: (Disclaimer: the content below is based on observations and extensive interviews with Brazilian friends who have expressed their views. It does not by any means reflect my private life or my personal experiences which I would prefer to keep private).

Paquerar = To Flirt. This is the initial mating’ subtleties two people engage in to initiate contact. In Brazil it’s almost scripted. Picture the scene at a “Balada” the Brazilian Portuguese word for “Night Club.” Guy makes eye contact looks away; you make eye contact and look away. You watch him from across the room as he attempts to arouse your interest by flirting with someone else (you know it’s for your benefit only). He walks by in the crowded “Balada” slow enough so that by chance you might catch the smell of his cologne or the touch of his skin (depending on how crowded it is). This might go on for most of the night until he finally gets the courage (or has ruled out his other options… sad I know!) to walk up and talk to you. He’ll usually ask you to dance and take this opportunity to hold you ever so close. This is perfectly normal and means absolutely nothing. If the dancing goes well and there is chemistry between you then the obvious next step is to get even closer as you dance (If you’re not glued to each other than you’re not close enough… reminder this is perfectly acceptable and means absolutely nothing other than for pure “in the moment” enjoyment.

If you’ve made it this far it will only be minutes before you’re snogging on the dance floor. Be warned this is not the casual innocent kiss. We are talking about an escalation of some serious face sucking. If your tongue is not down his throat on its way to his stomach then its only seconds before it will be. If this process is still “gostoso” Brazilian Portuguese for “tasty” usually reserved to describe FOOD and WOMEN. Somehow, one in the same in this country. A typical use of this word goes something like this ” Que Gostosa, eu vou a comer a voce” “you’re so tasty, I’m going to eat you”. Then, the snogging is escalated to a side wall at the “Balada” for a little bit more privacy and besides the wall serves a purpose as you’re pressed up against the wall for some serious dry grinding and more snogging. If things escalate further (and they will) then you can fill in the blanks from there.

The key here is it means absolutely nothing other than carpe Diem. Tomorrow is another day which may involve you but more than likely not. The day after though might have your name on it as Brazilians always come back for more unlike your typical one night stands and this is where it gets complicated because you move from “Paquerar” to “Ficar” which means ‘seeing each other’. The trouble is you have no idea how many people exactly he was “ficando” with when you met him or while you are “ficando”. One thing is for sure, as long as he is seeing you from time to time, then you’re still in the game. The fabulous news is that the rules apply to everybody so you can be “ficando’ with lots of other people too. Basically this carries on until you start “seeing less and less of the others and more and more of each other.” In which case you find yourself “namorando” or “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” which means you’re exclusive to each other however this means nothing because you can be “namorando” endlessly for years. Bottom line unless he is introducing you to his friends (this is universal) then he is definitely not putting a ring on it. Now, if you’re meeting the friends AND the family, then you are definitely on your way.

I should also mention most guys in Brazil unless they are married will be living at home with their parents. I know exactly what you are thinking, which brings me to the next phenomenon… love motels. There is NO shame or negative stigma in a love motel as ALL the social classes from A to Z participate as there is something for everyone’s taste and budget. Some finer details you should know, while in most places around the world if someone says “Talk to you later” the expression is open ended with no expectations of actually talking later. The equivalent of this in Brazil is “Let me call you back.” Which does NOT mean they will ACTUALLY call you back so don’t bother waiting for a phone call. It’s a way to get you off the phone and nothing more. Additionally, “I promise…” “See you…” “Yeah we’ll talk” all have Zero value, you might as well start believing in Santa Claus. Oh I almost forgot, Brazilian men will lavish you with compliments from the second they meet you “you’re so beautiful”, “you’re so smart”, “Wow you smell so great”, “you have such beautiful eyes, legs, hair, lips, body etc etc.” I know you ARE fabulous, but it’s NOT you it’s protocol, so take compliments with a VERY small grain of salt. Last, expat single men living in Brazil pick up the Brazilian protocol very quickly so beware! On the bright side rest assured though when Brazilian men do fall in love they will be eating out of the palm of your hand.

Maria is a Venezuelan-born American living in São Paulo, Brazil. She has a BA in Finance, Multinational Business and Spanish from Florida State University. She initiated her career at Motorola Inc. as their Europe, Middle East and Africa MDb Commercial Director, leaving in 2009. This was followed by an 18 month sabbatical during which she Co-Founded São Paulo, Brazil – Take 3 CPF “eee”
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By Larry Ludwig
Janaury 29, 2013

Sala São Paulo, Brazil’s premiere venue of symphonic music, made musical magic yesterday afternoon (Saturday, December 15, 2012). São Paulo’s Orquestra Sinfnica do Estado de São Paulo (the São Paulo Symphonic Orchestra) concluded its 2012 season with an invigorating, captivating presentation of the best” of “Porgy and Bess”. One might say the “top ten hits” of this Geroge Gershwin American classic of life of impoverished African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina of the 1920-s-1930’s. Conducted by Maestra Marin Alsop, the orchestra moved seemingly seemlessly from orchestral scoring to dramatic solos, duets and trios and choral pieces to the glorious quartet/choral finale.

There was that constant sensation of “instant recognition”, that moment one thinks “I know this song, its one of my favorites”, followed by “I know this one too” and again, “this one” and yet again and again ” this one/love this one”….moments of luxuriating in Gershwin’s glorious emotion-packed, melodious tonal, super-sing-alongable, well in the performance hall, softly humable melodies, Tunes like “Summer Time”, “Bess You is my Woman Now”, “I loves you Porgy”, “I got Plenty of Nuttin”, “It aint Necessarily so”, “Listen to your Daddy”, “My Man’s gone now”, “A Woman is a Sometime Thing”. My mind was reeling all night long, the various harmonies erupting forth in thought as well as in not-particularly-well, but definitely, enjoyably sung chords…to the somewhat dismay of roommate and neighbors.

The musicians were in top form, playing with verve, spirit, and eland to technical perfection. The Orchestra Chorus well rehearsed, singing with energetic Brasilian esprit, its singersEnglish diction totally understandable. Overhead “surtitles” in Portuguese smoothed over any questionable pronunciation doubts, and to some extent compensated for probably what is an inevitable, but THE only, performance weakness of the evening….singers voices submerged by the force of the full-scale orchestra, the audience unable to hear the words being sung. Normally this will not occur in an opera house production with significantly smaller-sized orchestras having to squeeze into the pit below the stage. From my perspective, the singeer/orchestra clash was unavoidable last night, where a single voice has to compete with over 110 musical instruments spaced out on an enormous stage area, particularly those moments of the score Gershwin designated to be played as forte, forte, forte, that is loud loud loud . On the other hand, Meastra Alsop made sure to show case the singers to the best of their singing abilities, constantly maintaining “over the shoulder” eye-contact with her solists…letting them hold a beautifully toned high-note that extra count, making sure an embrace or dance step was unrushed.

Oh yes, the performers, in this case the soloists… the Fabulous Four: sopranos Indira Mahajan and Alison Buchanan, tenor Larry Hylton and base-baritone Derrick Parker (currently of my home base, Spokane, Washington. The other three based out of New York City). Indira sang the role of Bess, and possibly Clara, while Alison sang Serena, possible sharing Clara as well. Larry sang a crowd pleasing Sporting Life, and believe the role of Robbins, while Derrick was assigned the roles of Porgy and Jake. (Other supporting cast roles were sung by members of the Chorus).

The Fab Four outdid themselves… in terms of quality of singing, as well as their thespian skills… acting and emoting as best one can in a concert-staged version of an opera. No sets, no costumes… rather elegantly clad: men in tuxedos, women in gorgeous evening gowns. Seated two-and-two on each side of Maestra Alsop, they would rise singly, or pair-off, or sing seated, depending on the drama of the moment… but sing they did. Was as if each would try and outdo the previous singer, yet challenge if not inspire the next, constantly raising the bar to higher vocal excellence. The audience felt the ever increasing quality, as did the chorus and orchestra who in turn performed at higher levels of musical ability, further enhancing the soloists efforts for even “more better” outpourings of sound.

It is well nigh impossible to determine who sang the best. Bess(Indira) “Summertime” lullaby breathtaking, her combined physical, facial and vocal efforts to resist Sporting Life’s proffering of “Happy Dust”, awesome. Serena’s (Alison) “My Man is Gone” vocalization of grief, soul-searing pain and agony, topped off by a series of high B’s (or C’s..but in any case very very high) notes, stunning Sporting Life’s (Larry) jive-shucking, con-mans/hustler dance-like swagger & struttings accentuated his expertly delivered “It Aint Necessarily So” solo, mesmerizing. And Jake’s and Porgy’s (Derrick) “Listen to Your Daddy” and “Ive got Plenty of Nuttin” arias, rendered in rich baritone/base tones, were heartfelt, emotionally warm and moving, befitting the more staid characterization required of these two roles. Derrick’s and Indira’s love duet tender, compassonate, sublime. All four singers were GREAT, all superior, of high-excellence, of super outstanding technical talent, reaching the higher realms of operatic bliss, perhaps among the levels associated with the Mary Poppins “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, just gosh darned good “opera wonderful” (Yes, I am gushing, but the performance WAS that GOOD!!! )

This combined effort was richly rewarded, both during the production (lasting over an hour) by the audience, loudly applauding and issuing forth calls of brava/bravo following many and aria or duet, and, at the concert’s conclusion, erupting with a four curtain-call standing-cheering-ovation, evolving into that rhythmic, sustained, in-unison clapping of hands applause common to European audiences, and it would seem, of Brazilians as well. The incessant clapping prompting Maestra Alsop to lead an encore of that rousing quartet/chorus finale of the opera. No one really wanted to depart the Sala, all emotionally charged, still hoping for more.

But as all good things come to an end, so did “Porgy”…albeit, not quite. Forgot to mention that Derrick comped me and roommate, as well as my singer soprano connection with the Tetaro Municipal chorus, tickets to the performance. (The three day run had sold out prior to my arrival in São Paulo this trip.) Following the performance, I was allowed backstage, inadvertently getting to assist Derrick, now in the role of a local super-star musical celebrity….in the signing of autographs, having pictures taken with adoring fans, and the like, Then joining he and the entire cast, chorus, orchestra members and Orchestra staff in an upstairs recpetion hall, for a celebratory champagne toast to a successful “Porgy” as well as to the end of a very successful 2012 performance season.

Somehow or the other, I was able to have some two minutes of Maestra Alsop’s time, letting her know how proud we Americans in São Paulo (not to mention many back in the State) are of her outstanding work with the Orchestra, having led the charge to raise its level of performance excellence significantly since taking over earlier this year…..even taking the Orchestra on a tour of principal European musical venues this past fall . She gave full credit to the Orchestra, noting the musicians played very well …and I responded, they played so very well thanks in large part to her excellent conducting leadership skills. That we look forward to her continued work with the Orchestra the next four years, and wished her well. She was very gracious, accessible, and seemingly appreciative of my interruption of her working the rounds of the reception attendees.

And, the magical evening had not yet ended…the Fab Four were then invited to their first “true” Brasilina meal, a combined Fejuada/Churrascuria, at one of Brazil’s more well known restaurant chain, ” A Mineira”, featuring the cuisine of the State of Minas Gerais, adjacent to both the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Fejuada is the meal with the black beans and pork, the churrascuria the one featuring cuts of several kinds of barbeque meat, from beef to lamb to chicken to pork to duck to fish et alia. Both accompanied by scads, oodles of side dishes, salads and deserts, and of course, liquid libations. And in this case, being the weekend, featuring a local trio combo, playing assorted Brasilian and international musical pieces (yes, sambas included)

Being present I then was fortunate to listen to singersinsider talk/chat, learning more about the complications and intricacies of the world of professional opera, as well as getting to know the four as personal, interesting individuals. Larry, by the way, spent many years in Washington DC, studying at the Duke Ellington School of performing arts, even residing about four blocks from my then house in southeast DC while I still lived in our nation’s capital. Small world; he was even familiar with the Orange Hat anti-drug/anti-crime neighborhood nightly patrols I spent some six years serving. Derrick and my connection goes back to working with Spokane Opera in Washington State, the other Washington.

Larry Ludwig spends six months in Brasil/São Paulo (Consolaão neighborhood), and six months at his residence in northeast Washington State, about 90 miles north of Spokane. Discovered Brasil in 2008 and has been back annually ever since. Retired from the US Department of Labor/Washington DC in 2003 (Economist and International Relations Officer, with specialty in agriculture/farmworker programs). Once retired became active as a volunteer with Washington State Democrats (State Committeeman and Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Caucus), with Spokane Opera of Spokane, Washington, where still serves as an Executive Board member, and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at local community college. In São Paulo, he is a Patrono of the “Coral da Cidade de S. Paulo”, and an occasional reviewer of opera performances in São Paulo and Rio.

What could be better than relaxing after work in an English pub with a nice pint of London Pride? How about if it’s an English pub showing the England v Brazil football match live from Wembley stadium in London! Facebook event page: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsjpz3XDSmQ

Wednesday might be the middle of the week, but with international football and live music, the Queens Head will be the best night out in São Paulo.

This event is part of the UKBrasil season – six months of events celebrating the best of the UK in Brazil in the areas of culture, sports, education, business and technology. For more information, visit our Facebook page: www.queenshead.com.br

Temporada UKBrasil: “All you need is GOL!”

O que poderia ser melhor do que relaxar depois do trabalho em um pub ingls com uma pint de London Pride? E se, de quebra, voc tambm puder assistir o amistoso de futebol Inglaterra x Brasil ao vivo, de Londres? Melhor ainda! Facebook event page: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsjpz3XDSmQ

Quarta-feira pode at ser o meio da semana, mas com esse clssico do futebol internacional e msica ao vivo de primeira, a melhor noite de São Paulo no Queens Head!

Este evento faz parte da temporada UKBrasil – seis meses de eventos celebrando o melhor do Reino Unido nas reas de cultura, esporte, educaão, negócios e tecnologia. Para mais informaes, acesse: www.queenshead.com.br

While Brazilians are renown for their beautiful figures, recent studies have shown that the number of overweight people in this country is increasing as well as the number of people resorting to plastic surgery. In this interview we speak to Dr. Roberto Rizzi, a specialist in Obesity weight loss surgery.

1) Can you describe in lay man’s terms what is involved with this type of weight loss surgery?

Answer:

There are several procedures. I prefer the Gastric Bypass procedure because it’s safer and has fewer complications than other available weight-loss surgeries. Gastric bypass, which changes the anatomy of the digestive system to limit the amount of food a person can eat and digest. It is also the favored bariatric surgery in the United States.

2) How common is this kind of surgery in Brazil?

Answer:

Brazil is the second country in the world that most performs Gastric Bypass Obesity Surgeries (USA is in the first place).

3) Who are the most common candidates for this kind of surgery?

Answer:

Generally speaking, gastric bypass surgery is available for all people (male, female, young and old) who are unable to achieve or maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise, are severely overweight, and who have health problems as a result.
Gastric bypass may be considered if the Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 35. BMI is calculated based on weight and height. The BMI can be calculated on our website www.robertorizzi.com

4) How does Brazil compare to other countries in terms of number of people overweight?

Answer:

Obesity is a serious health epidemic in America. It targets one in four Americans. It is estimated that more than 90 million Americans are obese, a number that is predicted to climb to 120 million in the next few years. But it is not only in USA. Obesity is now a worldwide epidemic! Obesity in Brazil is very much on the increase as well, because of the increased availability of (fast) food (gaining energy) and more hours in front of TV or computer (using less energy).

5) There have been well publicized cases of models and teenager girls dying from anorexia in Brazil in recent months, is it common for people to die from obesity, or obesity related illness?

Answer:

Anorexia is a different disease. It is a problem of being under weight. It is not an epidemic.
Obesity is a serious, chronic disease that is known to reduce life span, increase disability and lead to many serious illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

6) It is common for foreigners to come to Brazil for plastic surgery, but are they also coming for this type of procedure?

Answer:

The reputation Brazil achieved in Plastic Surgery extends also to Obesity Surgery. Brazil offers modern, affordable and safe medical Obesity Surgery. The high quality, training and specialization of surgeons and medical staff contribute to Brazil being a worldwide reference in almost all medical procedures. São Paulo is considered to have some of the worlds best equipped hospitals and highly skilled physicians.

7) Is there a significant cost difference here, or any other advantage?

Answer:

Cost of obesity surgery is significantly lower in Brazil than in many other countries. Also the quality and reputation of surgeons in Brazil makes many foreigners decide to come to Brazil for this procedure. I have patients from USA, China, Mozambique and other countries for these reasons.

8) What preparation is involved and what is the recovery period?

Answer:
Surgical candidates go through an extensive screening process. Not everyone who meets the criteria for gastric bypass is psychologically or medically ready for the surgical procedure. My team of professionals, including a physician, dietitian and psychologist evaluate whether the surgery is appropriate.
I perform this surgical procedure laparoscopically in Brazil. Only small incisions are required which significantly decrease post operative discomfort and result in quick recovery. The hospital stay is as short as 2-3 days. We ask patients from overseas to stay two weeks before returning home.

9) Is it a permanent solution or does the patient have to take care not to regain weight?

Answer:
The patient needs to make changes to the diet after undergoing weight loss surgery. The stomach will be reduced to a much smaller size and, as a result, the amount of food the patient can eat is very limited. In order to ensure good nutrition and health, the patient must pay very close attention to the types of food he/she eats. Foods that were well tolerated prior to surgery for obesity may cause discomfort afterwards. Our nutritionist discusses the diet with the patient before and after surgery so the patient can prepare herself/himself to make intelligent and healthy food choices.

The Gastric Bypass has been proven in numerous studies to result in durable weight loss (between 60 and 70%) and improvement in weight-related medical illnesses (such as diabetes). Half the weight loss often occurs during the first 6 months after surgery; the weight loss will peak after 18-24 months. The Gastric Bypass has resulted in marked improvements in quality of life.

Forums for further questions and answers are available in both sites below.

www.robertorizzi.com(English language site)
www.francoerizzi.com.br

By Ricky Skelton
January 8, 2013

The period around New Year is the great unifying time in Rio de Janeiro, and the beach is the great unifying place, more than any other in both cases. Everyone is on the beach at midnight as the New Year begins, and everyone is equal on the sand, in the sea and under the fireworks. All types of people are there mixed together, from the rich Zona Sul types of European and Mediterranean ancestry to the poorer people of the Zona Norte and favela communities, often of African and indigenous blood, all colours and all backgrounds are united by one thing – they all leave their litter on the beach.

This is not the behaviour of the average middle class carioca though, the only people you find collecting litter on the beach usually are the cata lata people. It has long been my feeling that those who collect your aluminium cans from the beach are generally the most respectful, courteous people in the whole of Rio. It feels like almost the only ones sometimes. Having watched the wonderful the turtles and rays are poisoned by it, the drains block with it and cause all kinds of storm chaos, flooding and maybe even contribute to the landslides that are becoming a regular feature of life around the state. A little more education (especially for the educated cariocas) and lot more recycling facilities would help. Rio is expecting a whole load of visitors from abroad in the coming years, and if the proud cariocas want to show the best side to their city and their state, then the first thing that they should do is to stop visiting those beautiful beaches and leaving them looking so ugly. A small step to help turn Porcaria de Janeiro back into the marvellous city that it once was.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: Holding Hands
Understanding Brazil: Statues & Self-Worth
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes Part II
Understanding Brazil: The Pub
Understanding Brazil: Protesting
Understanding Brazil: General Elections
Around Brazil: Oktoberfest Parade in Blumenau
Cultural Brazil: The Alambique
Around Brazil: Whale-Watching in Santa Catarina
Brazil: Tainha Time
Deported from Brazil? Part 2
Deported from Brazil? Part 1
Brazil: The President in Florianópolis
Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu’
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

By Maria A Petit
January 8, 2013

In an effort at making my stay here a little bit more permanent, I set out to get my CPF (Brazilians pronounce it CPF-eee”. The same way they pronounce my name “Maria Petit-eee” which drives me nuts! When in doubt just add “eee” at the end of most words and you’re on your way to sounding like a native.

I was at Azucar, a salsa club, at a typical weekly Internations event. For the record I would have never set foot at an Internations event in Dubai, UAE but in Brazil its actually pretty decent for mingling amongst the expat crowd. Their presence is definitely more prominent and active than A Small World, which is almost non-existent here oddly enough. Among the discussions someone mentioned that all you had to do to get your CPF “eee” was to visit any Banco Do Brasil Branch, complete a form and pay 5 Reals (aprox 2.50 USD… essentially peanuts). I immediately thought to myself it’s about time I got one.

By the way, I have yet to figure out what I would actually do with a CPF “eee” as its purpose is yet unclear to me. But for one thing, it comes in handy when you buy absolutely everything! As it’s the routine question before you buy at any store. “What is your CPF “eee?” followed by a long silent pause and a blank look of bewilderment… “what?! You don’t have one?!” Followed by my agitated “Yes, yes, ring up my order anyways… I don’t have one!”. If I tally all these delayed transactions, I can probably add back a few hours to my life if you know what I mean and that in itself was a great reason to get one.

So there I was queuing at Banco Do Brazil. I filled out the form and I paid the R$5. However when it was all done and dusted, I didn’t get a CFE “eee”. Instead I got a receipt titled “Comprovante de Atendimiento Nao-Conclusivo”. Translates more or less into “Proof of attendance non conclusive”?!! You can imagine my disappointment. “So what now?” I asked. The bank attendant simply said, take this receipt to the “Receita Federal”. “Search for the nearest address on their website at www.jucesp.sp.gov.br where I could find the address of the place where I could get a “traducao Juramentada” basically an official translation. So off I was to Rua Barra Funda 836 where I queued some more only to be told, “Oh, we don’t do translations here” “You have to find a translator on our website and deal with them directly”. She followed it up with “Can I see some ID?” I handed her my passport and in a sassy tone asked her “Do you need someone to translate it?” She didn’t think it was funny.

An entire precious day wasted and I felt totally defeated. I regrouped though and revisited their website printing the 19 page PDF file listing all the authorized translators. The list was in no rational order with listings for the entire state of São Paulo and for all languages. Needless to stay I spent at least 1 hour combing through the list for the appropriate translators. This was followed by numerous unanswered phone calls. Until finally I got through to a Denise who lived in Vila Olimpia and guaranteed to have it done the next morning for R$35. All I needed to do was send her a scanned copy via email. The next day at 10AM as agreed, I tried her home line, email and mobile phone number and no Denise. She pulled a “Brazilian” on me. Grrrrrr. My day was now hijacked sitting around waiting for Denise to re-appear. Eventually she did at 4PM. To her credit she did get the job done though and at this point I couldn’t wait to put it all behind me. The next day I rocked up to the Receita Federal in The Shopping Light mall and in less than 20 minutes I had an unceremoniously black and white print out from a generic printer. Something I could have easily forged with my eyes closed on my computer!! At this point I was just glad it was over!

So if you’re up to the task follow these steps:

1. Complete form and pay fee at any Banco Do Brazil (Bank will provide the form. Be sure to have original passport and home address details including CEP number)
2. Submit form along with Original passport to this office:
Receita Federal – Rua Coronel Xavier de Toledo, 23, 2nd Floor, Shopping Light shopping Center. Metro: Anhangabau. Hours: 08:00 – 20:00.

IMPORTANT If your passport is in a language other than Portuguese, than have it translated by an authorized translator. Download list of authorized translators from this link: JAM Language Ltd., studied Arabic and taught English in Sana’a, Yemen, played polo in Argentina and Mexico, in addition to travel stints in Jordan, Spain, USA, Norway, Kenya and Morocco. She returned to Dubai, UAE in 2010 joining Al Habtoor Trading Enterprises as Commercial Director until Spring 2012. Her languages of choice are English, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese. Most recently she co-founded SP Night Market. Maria oversees Sales and Marketing for JAM Language Ltd. Contact Maria at maria.petit@jamlanguage.com

Previous articles by Maria:

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By Steve Nelson
January 8, 2013

One of the most surprising and enjoyable activities in Brazil, and one open to people of all ages and abilities, is to spend a morning or three floating and snorkelling down the rivers of Bonito, whose crystal clear waters are amongst the three clearest river systems on the planet. The limestone substrate of the Serra da Bodoquena National Park area means that the freshwater springs that bubble up in Bonito, forming the Rio Sucuri, the Rio Formosa and the Rio da Prata, are full of calcium deposits. Any impurities in the water are thus calcified and drop to the sandy riverbeds, leaving stunning visibility.

Bonito is also a town that cares for its environment so no fishing is allowed in these tributaries of the Rio Miranda that passes along the southern part of the Patnanal in the interior state of Mato Grosso do Sul, heading towards the huge Rio Parana that separates Brazil from Bolivia. This has allowed the aquatic life to flourish under the surface, although much of it can also be seen from above. The rivers teem with huge pacu, piraputanga and the shining golden dourado. Snorkelling so close to such huge fish in a river is special enough, but Bonito also offers the chance to snorkel with many other creatures that you wouldn’t encounter elsewhere. Giant otters and caiman alligators can occasionally be spotted, and the abundance of fish means that neither they nor the seasonally resident anaconda (‘sucuri’ means anaconda in the local indigenous tupi-guarani language) ever need to worry about attacking humans, nor do humans need to worry about being attacked by them.

There are also monkeys in the overhanging trees (with groups of piraputanga waiting below for them to drop fruit), while toucans and kingfishers flit from branch to branch. While snorkelling in Bonito it is just as valuable to look out of the water as often as inside. Anteaters, giant and lesser, and tapirs might also be found bathing in the shallow pools that form at the sides of the river, hidden by vegetation, while on very rare occasions a jaguar has been spotted relaxing on the riverbanks.

Bonito then can boast some of the most varied snorkelling on earth! It does need a little luck to see the larger creatures, although not everyone would appreciate such serendipitous meetings, but even without such close encounters with the local wildlife, the experience of snorkelling in the rivers of Bonito is a special one. There are three main options, all of them being easy to manage even for beginners. In order not to disturb the riverbed and ruin the clarity of the waters, everybody must wear life jackets and also must enter the water without sunscreen or other pollutants. The snorkelling is a gentle float with the current around the waters and vegetation accompanied by hundreds of fish. A little practice breathing with your snorkel outside the water is all that it takes for beginners to get the hang of the relaxed rhythms necessary to enjoy the experience to its fullest.

The Natural Aquarium is the most charming of the three principal excursions, a freshwater spring that fills a shallow lagoon separated from the river. The morning sun illuminates the white sand on the riverbed and leaves everything – fish, vegetation and humans – with a spectacular lining of blue and yellow light.

The Rio Sucuri is the most relaxing river, a 2km float downstream which can be accomplished with absolutely no effort at all for long periods, just allowing the current to take you gently downstream, like a natural flotation tank with added wildlife. This could well be the most peaceful experience that you can have in Brazil.

The Rio da Prata is the most adventurous river in Bonito, with a faster flow and some rapids to negotiate on foot as well as in the water. One quick bend in the river is particularly good fun to float around at a decent speed, with a wonderful bubbling spring halfway down too. As you enter the main river, the waters slow and so does the aquatic life, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the company of your favourite fish in the turquoise waters, with tropical rainforest lining the banks for the final half of the 2km extension.

You can float down as many of Bonito’s rivers as you please, and experience isn’t necessary. Our recommendation is that you try all three on different days, as the slight differences make them a fascinating combination. Snorkelling the rivers of Bonito is an ecotourism activity known to few people outside of Brazil at the moment, but being such a special experience, Brazil Adventure Tours are sure it will grow in popularity.

Activity Information: The excursions in Bonito need to be booked in advance, and transport may also have to be arranged on certain days when the regular shuttles do not run, as each starting point is outside the town centre. People of any age and any ability can manage the floating and snorkelling, and a boat is always on hand for those who decide that they can’t manage any more. Physically, the activities are not tiring in themselves although a certain level of fitness is necessary.

You can visit Steve’s blog at Great Things To Do In Brazil: Kayaking the Costa Verde
Great Things To Do In Brazil: Favela Tour
Around Brazil: Tandem Hang-Gliding in Rio de Janeiro
Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Around Brazil: Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

January 8, 2013

Meet Rami Alhames who moved to Brazil recently. 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 Syrian, 34 years old, father of 9 months old Gabriel. I work in Project and Production Management, 2000 class Mechanical Engineer from Damascus University, 2011 MBA University of Wales, with international experience in Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain and Brazil.

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

First time 2008 in São Paulo as a tourism trip when I knew my wife, Dec 2011 the last entrance escaping from Bahrain conflicts in Middle East with a pregnant wife.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

A new world to discover.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Family, Friends, culture and security.

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

Disrespecting time, promises and how people are used to bureaucratic daily life.

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

My first visit to Rio centro and downtown.

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

Nature and future.

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

Any bar/Restaurant in Pompeia Neighborhood and Vila Madalena where I live

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

Waiting to happen.

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

Security issues, international connections and everything is huge here (distances and market size).

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?

Fluent but still suffering with few Indian origin words and Portuguese grammar (male, female, -se, -lo, -la,… etc)

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

Learn Portuguese and know where to buy, negotiate, and finance control.

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

Don’t go beyond your capacity, improve and move to the next level accordingly.

I have my own blog about the Syrian uprising and Brazilian economy. Author and translator at Syrian in Brazil
GV Portuguese translator profile: Rami Alhames
GV Arabic author and translator profile: Maya Bell – New Zealand
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By Robert Eugene DiPaolo
January 8, 2013

It’s been a while since I last wrote an article for www.gringoes.com and quite some time since I wrote my first. During this period a lot has changed in the world’s fifth largest country, both in terms of geographical area and population. In December 2011, Brazil surpassed the U.K. to become the world’s sixth largest economy. Unfortunately, other things have remained the same. When I wrote my first article in September 2006, Brazil ranked 121st out of 175 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings in terms of the ease of starting a business, and 115th in terms of doing business. Amazingly enough – or perhaps not – in the World Bank’s rankings for 2013, Brazil comes in at number 121st in terms of the ease of starting a business, albeit out of 185 countries rather than 175, and 130th in terms of doing business.

But, I’ve already gotten ahead of myself. What I’d like to do, given the various changes that have taken place in Brazil since I wrote my previous articles, was to provide you with a brief update about certain changes with respect to topics about which I’d previously written, in particular:

– Doing Business in Brazil; Forming a Brazilian Limitada
– Getting a Permanent” Investor Visa in Brazil
– Brazil’s Taxation of U.S. Limited Liability Companies as Tax Havens

And to provide an update about Brazil’s Emergence as a Global Economy and Investment Destination

Doing Business in Brazil; Forming a “Limitada” in Brazil
Brazil has remained a somewhat difficult place to form a new company and do business. However, the World Bank now estimates that it only takes 119 days, rather than 152, to start a business in Brazil, and 13 steps rather than 17, to form a company.

Of the variety of legal entities one can form in Brazil, the legal entity of choice remains the “limitada”. While Brazilian lawyers increasingly like to refer to limitadas as LLCs, it’s better to think of a limitada as a specific purpose partnership with limited liability for its partners, also known as “quotaholders”, of which there must be at least two. And it’s worth mentioning that despite the fact the law governing limitadas provides quotaholders with limited liability, the Brazilian tax and labor courts are known for piecing the corporate veil of limitadas to make sure that all the taxes and labor obligations are paid -even if by the quotaholders. As a result, foreign and many savvy Brazilian investors often choose to use foreign legal entities, such as U.S. LLCs, which actually do provide its members with limited liability, to act as partners of limitadas in order to add an extra layer of protection. However, the Brazilian government has seen the increased use of U.S. LLCs as partners of limitadas, in particular by savvy Brazilian investors and businesses, as a problem, as I discuss below.

Whenever the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings come out, Brazilians tend to get a bit defense. They will insist it does not take so many days to set up a company in Brazil. But, they’re thinking only in terms of Brazilians forming companies; not foreign investors. The process for foreign investors to open a company in Brazil remains cumbersome and entangled by numerous bureaucratic hurdles that drag out the process. These include that each foreign partner be represented by a Brazilian residing in Brazil or a non-Brazilian with permanent residence there, that the administrator of the limitada be a Brazilian living in Brazil or a non-Brazilian with permanent residence there, and that the company, in order to be formed, must have a commercial address suitable to the its proposed “corporate” purpose.

It’s also worth keeping in mind, that once you’ve established a limitada and obtained its tax ID, known as a CNPJ, the first order of business, even before you open a bank account, is to hire a Brazilian accounting firm. Why? Well, because taxation of companies, like many things in Brazil tends to be byzantine, bureaucratic and complicated and is based on the movement of money. As a result, Brazilian companies are required to file monthly and quarterly tax declarations with the tax authorities even if only to declare that the company had no money movements, and thus does not owe any taxes. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. And if such declarations are not filed when due, they will have to be filed later. This will mean hiring an accounting firm to file all the unfiled declarations that should have been filed since the company was established, and paying fines and interest thereon for not having done so. So, once your limitada has been established, do yourself a favor and hire an accountant.

Getting a Permanent Visa in Brazil
Since I wrote my article about getting an investor visa, Brazil’s Ministry of Labor has revised the requirements to do so. The Ministry of Labor has raised the minimum investment amount from U.S. $50,000 to R$ 150,000. It has shortened the length of the time before this type of “permanent” visa must be renewed from five years to three. In addition, the Ministry of Labor now requires investors to present a business plan for the company they are investing in, along with their visa application. The business plan, among other things, must include the number of new jobs the company plans to create for Brazilians during the initial visa period. While not specified in the law, the magic number of Brazilian employees a company needs to plan to hire with respect to each investor applying for a visa seems to be around three. Once approved by the Ministry of Labor, the applicant must finalize the bureaucratic process at a Brazilian consulate. This is not to suggest you should marry a Brazilian to obtain a permanent visa. That option has its own unique set of rules, as well as consequences, but that’s another article best left to those providing personal advice. That said, would be individual investors should be aware that getting an investor visa in Brazil is not as easy as it used to be.

Brazil’s Treatment of U.S. LLCs as Newest Tax Havens
Since I wrote that Brazil had published legislation which amended the country’s transfer pricing regulations and expanded the legal definition of countries with favored taxation, otherwise known as tax havens or fiscal paradises, Brazil’s tax authorities have indeed updated the country’s list of blacklisted jurisdictions with favored taxation to include not only Delaware LLCs, but all U.S. LLCs whose members are foreign persons not subject to U.S. taxation. This does not mean that Brazil has declared Delaware or any other U.S. state a tax haven! Rather it means all U.S. LLCs, regardless of where formed, will be taxed as if they were located in a tax haven if the LLC’s members are not subject to taxation in the U.S. There is some debate as to whether an LLC with one member that is not subject to U.S. taxation is sufficient to cause the Brazilian tax authorities to treat the LLC as if it were located in a tax haven, or if all its members must be foreign persons not subject to U.S. taxation. The law is a bit vague on this point. But it if an LLC has no members not subject to U.S. taxation the Brazilian tax authorities should not treat it as if it existed in a fiscal paradise. Interestingly enough, the law does not address other types of U.S. legal entities, such as limited partnerships, which could serve as an alternative legal structure to that of an LLC.

Brazil’s Emergence as a Global Economy and Investment Destination
Since the cover of The Economist’s November 14, 2009 edition declared “Brazil Takes Off”, devoting 14 pages to its Special Report on Latin America’s Biggest Success Story, some have begun to ask “Take off to where?”, while others have turned decided bearish. In the May/June 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Ruchir Sharma, head of Emerging Market Equities and Global Macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, in an essay entitled “Bearish on Brazil” summed it up like this “Until recently, there seemed plenty of reasons to be bullish on Brazil. Having posted record growth for a decade and weathered the financial crisis well, the country looked poised to become a global economic leader. But the would-be giant stands on feet of clay. The economy depends too much on high commodity prices, and as demand falls, so may Brazil.” Further, according to the Latin Globalization Index for 2012 published by the Latin Business Chronicle, Brazil, for the second consecutive year, continues to be the least globalized country in Latin America. Not good news for a country that was recently declared to have taken off, become the darling of the BRIC countries, and been touted as Latin America’s biggest success story.

The BM&FBovespa stock market index which climbed to 72,607 on November 1, 2010, fell below 53,000 in 2012, and recently has been trading in the 59,000 range, which is slightly above where it began this year. At the same time, the Brazilian Real, which had strengthen dramatically to a high of 1.53 Reais to 1.00 U.S. Dollar, has significantly weakened this year. The Real has been trading in the 2.00 Reais to 1.00 U.S. Dollar range for several months and looks likely to stay in that range for the near future. More dramatically, the interest rate set by the Brazilian Central Bank, which has historically been one of the highest in the world, has been cut from 12.5% in July 2011 to a current historic low of 7.25%, with promises or more cuts on the way. So much for getting high returns on money invested in Brazil. At the same time that the Brazilian Central Bank has been engaging in loosening the money supply to fuel economic growth, the cost of living in Brazil, including everything from dinning out to buying real estate, particularly in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, has climbed. So much so, that it’s now more expense to live in Rio and São Paulo than in New York City.

Looking Back; Looking Forward
Despite its economic slowdown, along with that of the rest of the world, Brazil’s unemployment rate remains below that of the U.S., even as large numbers of people who were once part of Brazil’s “informal economy” have moved into its “formal economy”, becoming registered employees and taxpayer for the first time. This has been accompanied by a rising middle class, the so called “C Class”, which has – for good or bad – proven to be voracious consumers, willing to take advantage of their recent access to credit to buy everything from consumer products, including, computers, iPods, iPhones and iPads to new cars, gigantic flat screen TVs and apartments to boot. As if I needed any further proof of this changing reality than the never ending stream of new cars on the roads of São Paulo, I made the mistake of going to EXTRA, a big box Brazilian retailer on what would have been the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. Without knowing it, I’d stumbled into a “Black Friday” sale, as frantic as any I’ve had the misfortune of finding myself in, in the U.S. It was surreal. Customers were carting off everything from computers to flat screen TVs like, well like it was Black Friday, only without Thanksgiving the day before.

One of the many ironies of the rise of the middle class is the shortage of maids, something The Economist’s December 17, 2011 issue referred as “[Brazil’s] Servant Problem”. Apparently, some Brazilians, like their U.S. neighbors, will need to learn to iron their own clothes or learn to live with the “causal wrinkled look” of “wrinkle free”, “iron free” clothing that seems to have been adopted the U.S.

To wrap up, Brazil has its share of opportunities and risks. But, despite the difficulties of doing business in Brazil, with the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the horizon, and its recent discovery of large offshore oil deposits, Brazil remains a country with vast potential and opportunity for those willing to navigate the hurdles of investing and doing business there. At the same time, it goes without saying, or at least it should, the Brazilian government needs to do more to make Brazil a more business friendly environment, by improving its infrastructure and educational system, and by modifying the laws and seemingly endless regulations that make doing business in Brazil difficult, not only for foreign investors, but for ordinary Brazilians as well.

DISCLOSURE: All information herein given is merely for elucidative purposes. It reflects current legislation, which can be modified in the future. In case of questions regarding a particular case/issue, always consult with your own attorney.

Robert Eugene DiPaolo is the founder and managing director of The Fidelis Group, a legal consultancy offering U.S. and Brazil legal capacity. Robert can be reached by email at dipaolo@fidelisgroupco.com.

Previous articles by Robert:

Brazil’s Surprising Expansion of the Legal Definition of a Tax Haven
Getting a “Permanent” Visa in Brazil
Doing Business In Brazil: Part 5 – Acquisitions, Investments and Joint Ventures
Doing Business In Brazil: Part 4 – The Despachante
Doing Business In Brazil: Part 3 – Starting Your Business
Doing Business In Brazil: Part 2 – The Variety of Brazilian Companies
Doing Business In Brazil: Part 1