January 26, 2014

We would be delighted for you to join us at the St. Andrew Society Burns Supper 2014, taking place again at SPAC on 15th February. We are honoured that Alex Ellis, the British Ambassador to Brazil, will be along for the celebration.

When: Saturday, 15th Feburary 2014, 8pm
Where: Clube Atletico São Paulo (SPAC), Rua Visconde de Ouro Preto, 119, Consolacao.
Dress Code: Smart casual.
Price: R$130/100 under 30s, over 70s and teachers.

To reserve email eventos@standrews.com.br or http://www.standrews.com.br

By Alison McGowan
January 26, 2014

This morning I woke up in yet another gorgeous hidden paradise – the wonderful Pousada Sossego do Cantinho. Set on the banks of the River Preguias on the opposite side to Barreirinhas, gateway to the Lenois Maranhenses, this place has all the advantages of peace and tranquility off the beaten track whilst only being half an hour from bars restaurants shops and tourist agencies for those who need to be in civilisation now and again!

There are only 4 bungalows here, all super-spacious and light with rustic tiled floors, large beds and big bathrooms. Locally hand crafted buriti artesenato gives an authentic feel to the design, and the comfort is completed by split air-conditioning and fans plus mosquito nets, mini fridge and cable TV for those who can’t do without news from home!

There’s no pool here but you’re right on the river so a quick dip is easy and there are sun loungers around near the small beach and a hammock on your terrace for relaxing. Walk across the gardens and there is a small restaurant serving light lunches and dinners in addition to breakfast, where the wi-fi actually works!

Sossego do Cantinho came highly recommended by 2 lots of friends so I had high expectations already but the reality was even better. This is a place where the only noise is the rustle of the leaves and the birds singing, where you really can relax in peace. A truly hidden gem.

About the Location
Barreirinhas is a fairly non-descript and sprawling town on the banks of the River Preguias. It is nevertheless a good place to start your trip to Lenois Maranhenses not least because the 7am van from your pousada in São Luis will get you to your new pousada for midday, just in time for lunch before the “sunset trip” to the dunes which leaves at 2pm. Tell Michael at Sossego do Cantinho which van you are taking and get the van to drop you off at the Restaurante Terral where he will be waiting to take you the 5 minutes across the river. Time to grab a bite to eat, change into swimming gear, not forgetting hat, sunscreen and insect repellent, before heading off for the dunes. They’ll pick you up at the pousada.

Want to go into Barreirinhas in the evening? No problem. Just walk along the sandy track outside the pousada for 10 minutes and there’s a foot ferry running constantly over the river 24 hours a day. It costs nothing and you’ll be right in the town centre in 15 minutes total.

Not to be missed
– Trips to Lenois Maranhenses, the dunes and lagoons Azul and Bonita
– Trip down the River Preguias to Cabur and Atins
– Village of Madacuru and the lighthouse Farol das Preguias
– Trip down the Cardosa river returning in a rubber tube
– Local craft work made from Buriti palms
– Kayaking from the pousada

* Location on the banks of the Rio Preguias
* Swiss-Brazilian hosts Michael and Josiane
* Lovely chalets
* Great food

Try a Different Place if…
… you want to be right in town with all the noise, or if you don’t like sand!

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 – Casa Zulu, Icaraizinho de Amontada, Ceara
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Dona Zilha, São Paulo
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Fim da Trilha, Ilha do Mel (Encantadas), Parana
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Caminho do Rei, Praia do Rosa, Santa Catarina
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Sagi Iti, Praia do Sagi, Baia Formosa, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casarao Alto Mucuge, Arraial d’Ajuda, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Capim Santo, Trancoso, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Guesthouse Bianca, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Aratinga Inn, Ilha Grande (Abraao), Rio de Janeiro
Five Exceptional Beach Destinations in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Taruma, Conceicao de Jacarei, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Encanto da Lua, Marau, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Fazenda Baia Grande, South Pantanal (Miranda), Mato Grosso do Sul
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Palafitas Lodge, Rondonia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mangueira, Boipeba (Morere), Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Cote Sud, Porto da Rua, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Spa Casinha Branca, Bananal, nr. Paraty, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Castelinho 38, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Capao, Serro, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada d’Oleo de Guignard, Tiradentes, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Bela Vista, Novo Airão, Amazonas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Agua de Coco, Ceara
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Alcino Estalagem, Lenois, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada 0031, Cumbuco, Cear
Brazil: Maguire’s Guesthouse, Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Casa do Amarelindo, Salvador, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel BeloAlter, Alter do Chão, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Fazenda Santa Marina, Santana dos Montes, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casarão da Amaznia, Soure, Ilha de Marajo, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Mila, nr. Ubatuba, São Paulo
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Bambu Bamboo Pousada and Spa, Parati, Rio de Janeiro
Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Estrela do Mar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Vivenda, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Terra, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Caju, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Amendoeira, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Estalagem Caiuia, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Lagoa do Cassange, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta do Muta, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia

By Richard Klein
January 26, 2014

Throughout Brazil’s history there has been an ongoing tension between Eurocentric conservatism and the idea of a tropical utopia. This was present even before the beginning; contrary to what people imagine, the monarchs behind the Portuguese discoveries were one of the most enlightened ones that Europe has ever had. They practiced a very liberal form of Catholicism centered on the Holy Spirit that preached that redemption would happen through people getting along with each rather than through the Roman Catholic dogma. When the news about the discovery arrived, they believed that this was to be the Promised Land for the coming to happen. The inquisition would end up changing this spirit but it never erased the seeds that were to explain Portugal’s gentleness as a colonizer as well as their tropical sleeping giant’s” dream.

Adding to the pressure from the Vatican, what also suppressed the original utopia was Portugal’s military weakness that forced it to accept the protection of the British in order to keep its territory safe. Perhaps this explains why Brazil became a gigantic conservative, monarchical entity in Latin America throughout the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and why it was the last western country to abolish slavery. This may also explain why the country has been the continent’s bastion of mainstream policies despite a somewhat neutral international pre-disposition. Examples? In the 1800’s, while its neighbors were fighting revolutionary wars of independence, the exiled King of Portugal, Emperor Dom Pedro I, declared independence. He did this not to walk into an egalitarian world, but to stay free from his obligations towards the Portuguese bourgeoisie that had taken his country back from Napoleon. He continued ruling with the backing of the worlds super powers and the republicans who came after him too. In the twentieth century, in the 1960’s, the west invested in Brazil being the counterweight to Fidel Castro’s revolution and more recently Wall Street, the City and their allies portrayed the country as a prosperity haven to counter balance the influence of Venezuela’s Hugo Chaves’s.

Nevertheless, whenever Brazilians stopped to think about who they were, marvelous things came up. The first official awakening was in 1922 in a somewhat insignificant cultural event in São Paulo. It came to be known as the week of twenty-two and would end up providing some of the country’s greatest artists, writers and intellectuals, sealing the end of a cultural cycle that had begun with the arrival of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro in 1807 and signalling the beginning of modern urban/industrial Brazil.

The main expression of that week was Mario de Andrade, a paulista writer and thinker. He would be the father of the “Movimento Antropofagico”, or the cannibalist movement. The attention-grabbing name was a reference to the man-eating natives that the Portuguese came across when they arrived. In this metaphor, the locals ingested the good parts of what the colonizers threw at them, discarded the bad ones and returned with a result “for export”. This school of thought pointed to a golden pre-colonial era when “we already had a Utopian reality, we already had communism and we already had the surrealist language”. Andrade was against the “dressed up and oppressive society, registered by Freud” and longed for a “reality without complexes, without madness, without prostitution and without prisons, the one of matriarchal Pindorama” (the name given to Brazil before its discovery).

In the Antrpophagic vision, the here and the now would regiment a free and naked world. Perhaps more than coincidentally this was an echo of what the Portuguese Kings had envisaged for their colony almost five hundred years before. This theme would inspire the following generation to give itself the task of constructing a new country. Juscelino Kubitschek’s vision of constructing a new capital, Brasilia, in the heart of the country’s wilderness came from this spirit, Darcy Ribeiro’s masterpiece “A Historia do Povo Brasileiro” is impregnated by the idea, Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture too as well as the entire Bossa Nova movement. In the fifties and in the sixties the Cinema Novo and the Tropicalista movements continued to carry the banner. There is even a hint of the cannibalist logic in the country’s biggest passion: football, where multiracial players re-invented a European sport in a unique way that marveled the world.

It would be easy to confuse the Antropophagic Movement with coarse nationalism but it this would be wrong; it was about coming up with an identity and explaining how Brazil could, and still can, contribute to the world. A place where the human mixture becomes the answer to the question it poses; a solution to a planet that is becoming smaller by the day. As Mario de Andrade put it in an almost inaudible voice: “Tupy, or not tupy that is the question”.

Richard Klein is the son of British expats who lived the Brazilian experience at its full in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up in the sixties, the seventies and the eighties. He tells his story in his book Lost Samba and in his blog: http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=2670

By Alastair Kinghorn
Janaury 26, 2014

Translated literally this means outside of deadline. I have just looked up the word ‘prazo’ in my Portuguese/English dictionary, and was surprised to find that the term ‘deadline’ even existed within the language spoken in Brazil!

Punctuality is not normally used to describe Brazilian character, and my recent experiences relating to keeping to an agreed date, let alone time, had led me to seek a definition, mainly out of curiosity but also out of a sense of frustration and powerlessness that has been so evident among people here who have taken part in the recent protests against corruption and mal administration in Government.

Not that I would wish to compare my three broken appointments with Elektro, the public electricity utility company, with the experiences suffered by families left to suffer, waiting in hospital corridors.

Mine has been a trivial matter, but nonetheless, it serves to illustrate what is fast becoming a national disgrace as we approach the World Cup.

FIFA has repeatedly voiced concerns about delays in construction schedules for stadia that are being built to host the great event. President Dilma has made reassuring noises and attended a gala re-opening of the famous Maracan stadium in Rio following extensive modernisation. The critics have continued to publish unwelcome details of unfinished work, despite being given a yellow card by Government officials desperate to avoid unwelcome publicity. One stadium has been opened amid a fanfare of propaganda only to be closed again following discovery of faulty structural steel which was condemned as being dangerously unsafe. The bullet train project, planned to ferry fans between Rio, São Paulo and Campinas at speeds unheard of in Brazilian terrestrial transport, has not even begun.

Tickets went on sale some weeks back and no doubt there was the usual bun fight among fans to secure the coveted slips of paper that will allow the privileged to witness the grandeur of such a popular event. I imagine that forgeries are being produced as I write, amid the favelas of Rio and São Paulo.

Brazilians are certainly opportunistic and never leave a golden opportunity, which happens only every four years, to pass by without extracting every last centavo.

Imagine the scene therefore, as the passion rises to its crescendo in July and flights to Brazil are packed with football crazy gringos en route to a 90 minute heaven. Hotels are already pre-booked and a whole new sector of dormitory accommodation is rising to cope with the demand for what will be the biggest tourist attraction in Brazil since the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais.

As the tumultuous throng join with their Brazilian hosts and surge towards the field of green and gold for the tournament of nations, swaying rhythmically to the sultry sounds of samba, then breaking into the chants of the terraces to proclaim their invincibility and certainty to become champions of the world, they will be stopped dead in their tracks by a discrete little notice pinned to the entrance way doors.

‘A fora de prazo’

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural south eastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in ’86; due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the ‘Yuppie’ years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foot-hills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times I spend my time between my sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create A Scotsman in Brazil

By Sonsoles Navarro
January 26, 2014

I believe we can say that Brazil’s musical heritage is amongst the best in the world. Brazilian music is full of passion, of sentiment, of joy. It is deeply ingrained as part of life and wherever you go, there is always the music. It is their escape valve to any daily challenge they may encounter.

Brazilian music is defined by its intense mixing of styles, musical heritage from Native Americans, European and African sources blend to create magical rhythms.

In this first article about Brazilian music I will introduce you to samba, one of the most popular music styles in Brazil. It expresses so well the very nature of Brazilian culture. Its unique and contagious rhythm has attracted listeners for over a century. Please note that we are just scraping the surface of what samba is!

Samba was born from the mixture of African and Brazilian music. It is played with percussion instruments (tamborim, caixa, reco-reco, etc), along with guitar and cavaquinho (4 string guitar). Most samba lyrics refer to the day-to-day life in the big cities, mainly focusing on modest and humble people.

There are many styles of samba: early styles include the often overwhelming percussion of the samba de enredo, or street sambas (which are played during Carnaval) and samba canao, which was the first blend of Brazilian percussion and European song structure.

Classic sambistas include Beth Carvalho, Alcione, Cartola or Bezerra da Silva. Although samba lost popularity in the 1950s and ’60;s, as bossa nova came in with Tom Jobim, samba canao enjoyed a huge resurgence in the early ’70;s, as it transformed into the pop mixture known as pagode. Pagode style is relaxed, rhythmic and melodic and enjoys widespread popularity. Beth Carvalho, Jorge Aragao and Zeca Pagodinho were pioneer pagode singers.

I leave you with my selection of the best classic samba songs!

Beth Carvalho – Vou Festejar
Cartola – Alvorada
Cartola – Preciso me encontrar
Leci Brandao – Z do Caroo
Zeca Pagodinho – Deixa a Vida Me Levar
Jose Bezerra da Silva – Respeito as Favela
Elza Soares – Edmundo (In the Mood)
Alcione – Não Deixe o Samba Morrer

Sources: http://www.slipcue.com/music/brazil/brazillist.html

Sonsoles is an entrepreneur, traveler and consultant, based in São Paulo. She can be contacted on sonsoles@zuvyeffect.com. Visit her site at Discover Another” São Paulo – A Stroll Through Paraisopolis Das Artes

By Ricky Skelton
January 8, 2014

Apparently the next Great War, the battles of 21st Century humanity, will be fought not over oil or territory or religion or football… but over simple water. As the population continues to grow and agribusinesses and industry require ever more to satisfy our produce and product demands, fresh water will become a scarce and valuable commodity. With around 20% of the fresh water entering the planet’s oceans doing so from the shores of Brazil, you can expect that the country will be at the forefront of any battles, as people realise that there are fortunes to be made and power acquired through our most basic commodity. There have already been disputes over water supplies in many countries, including Bolivia (‘Hasta La Lluvia’ is a film worth watching about it) as poor people were made to pay exorbitant rates for freshly privatised fresh water supplies.

Being one of the Major Cities of the World, you would expect Porcario de Janeiro to be world leaders in at least some aspects of life, and so it has come to pass. In Rio, it is the rich people as well who are having to pay exorbitant fees for their water. Rio is well ahead of other countries in this respect. Rio seems to be on the brink of its own private Water Wars, and may well be pushed over the edge during one of the major events to come in the next couple of years. The whole city recently ran out of water, although as this was put down to the cleaning out of one of the represas that supply the city (perhaps in preparation for those events), then it seemed like a temporary problem. What certainly wasn’t a temporary problem was the selling of caminhao pipa water to Zona Sul condominiums for ten times the usual price. Any good carioca knows how to take advantage of a crisis.

The city, as with many in Brazil, copes very badly with many visitors at peak season, and water supplies seem to dry up even when there has been heavy rain. Many of Rio’s events and the headquarters and accommodation for them will be in Barra da Tijuca and Recreio dos Bandeirantes, the new western sprawl, and it is here also that you can find clues as to how problems might develop. Barra and Recreio have sprung up from literally almost nothing in the last 30 years as construction-worthy land in the Zonas Sul and Norte and Baixada Fluminense became saturated. The mosquito-ridden flood-plain is now flooded with condominiums, apartment buildings and shopping centres, many of which have been built illegally and with ‘resgotos’ taking effluent directly into the lagoons such as Jacarepagua and Marapendi, or the ocean, often with a handy favela nearby to act as the scapegoat. This illegal construction, done in the inimitable carioca style, meant that the infrastructure of the area was only installed after buildings and roads were put up, and was never improved enough to cope with the booming population. Fresh favelas also sprang up as the opportunities arose around the construction industry, with the Rio Centro Conference venue, the Panamerican Games, Rock in Rio, and now the World Cup Broadcast Centre and the 2016 Olympic Village all in the area.

Now Rio de Janeiro is a mafia city, everything (and I mean ‘everything’) is organised and controlled behind the scenes by syndicates of gangsters operating huge schemes while often working in politics or the police. Ordinary working people and even the traficantes have to pay for the privilege of continuing to operate in Rio. There’s the Taxi Mafia; Minivan Mafia; Bar Mafia; Carnaval Mafia; Street- and Beach-Selling Mafia; Car and Business Registration Mafia; and many more. The city is so rotten under the surface that it wouldn’t be a massive surprise that there was even a Mafia Mafia somewhere out there.

So no surprise either then that a Water Mafia seems to be in operation, a scheme to make money out of selling water in periods of no drought. The legalised and still illegal buildings don’t receive water ‘on tap’, but only every few days as it is released from the treatment plant for certain areas only in order to fill up the huge tanks under the underground parking spaces. When the tank empties and no more water arrives to fill it up, the buildings must call a caminhao pipa. These water trucks arrive and charge anywhere from R$500 to R$5,000 per tanker to half-fill your tank, depending on demand. As you can see from the amount parked and gurgling outside buildings of all sizes, demand is usually high.

In fact, higher than ever now. Many buildings have gone 6 weeks without receiving a single drop of water in recent months, with even legally registered buildings spending thousands a month on water wagons. Meanwhile the favelas between them continue to receive water as normal, with people cleaning streets and cars with mangueiras, and kids dancing in the summer spray. Of course, any Soprano worth his salt will tell you that there is no point shaking down people who have no money. The theory goes that if the favelas have water turned off, they will be outside in the roads, blocking them off, whereas people in the larger apartment blocks won’t protest at all. Brazil being Brazil of course, then the water company still sends their large bills to places not receiving anything, and expect/demand that they be paid! Brazilians being Brazilians and with their innate fear of authority, the bills still get paid, with complaints only directed at friends and family.

The story going around is that the represa out in the wilds of the Zona Oeste was dry, although the favelas didn’t seem that way, nor did it explain how the water wagons can find so much of it. The drivers say that it is leftovers from other work (another very carioca way of doing ‘business’), although this explanation for hundreds of full water tankers in the road doesn’t hold water. Unless somebody somewhere has a giant bucket.

So bear this in mind as one of the first Infrastructure Problem Stories of Rio’s Golden Decade. Probably many more to come too, and remember that the underlying factor of anything going wrong in the Cidade Estupidosa is not a lack of organisation. On the contrary, the city is very organised beneath the surface, in a way that will make lots of money for a large scheme of few people. Things only go wrong here because more money is made when they do, but then, you could probably say that about Brazil as a whole.

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

Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: Pizza
Around Brazil: Porcaria de Janeiro
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 Ed Catchpole
January 8, 2014

I got a contract to teach English and was living in an apartment which I shared with 2 other teachers. A couple of weeks into the semester a third teacher arrived from England who we shall call Campbell”.

It was immediately obvious that Campbell was a couple of olives short of a pizza. Six foot tall, John Lennon specs, he was wearing a pink t-shirt (he said he had a lot of pink clothes after accidently putting a red sock in his white washing on his last contract) and some cut-off jeans. In an effort to look more “Brazilian” Campbell was also sporting a very large (women’s) sunhat and a shark’s tooth necklace.

We talked as he unpacked. He said he was a keen musician and asked me if I would like to help him find a piano in Recife to practice. I had nothing better to do and said yes.

After walking around our beach front neighborhood we eventually found one in the cocktail bar of a smart hotel. Campbell strode up to the reception and asked them loudly in English if he could play their piano.

The young hotel staff looked bemused – which is unsurprising as their travel and tourism course was unlikely to have included a module entitled “Coping with the Insane”. They eventually said that yes it was possible, but shorts were not allowed in the piano bar – trousers only.

This was my first insight into the idiosyncrasies of rules and regulations in Brazil because it seemed odd you could walk into a smart hotel wearing a pink t-shirt and an old lady’s hat and play their piano without first having had an audition – as long as no one can see your knees. But if the hotel staff thought they had dissuaded Campbell they were mistaken.

“Right!” he said marching out of the hotel and entering the beachwear shop next door. “How much money have you got on you?” he asked. I had about five reais to go with the ten he had brought with him.

He surveyed the “trousers” on offer and gradually realized the only pair he could afford were some pink neon leggings clearly designed for a 15 year old girl.

“These’ll do!” he said, whipped them of the rack and entered the changing area to try them on. Moments later the curtain flew back and Campbell stood in the doorway wearing his new “trousers”. It is an image I have since tried hard to cast from my mind. In order to get the trousers to cover his knees Campbell had had to pull them well below his waist.

He then marched back into the hotel. “Look no knees!” he said triumphantly, pointing down for added emphasis. The staff looked on open mouthed as he walked purposefully to the piano and sat down.

While Campbell’s trousers were pretty indecent when he was standing up, the situation got a lot worse when he sat down. And displaying the top half of his buttocks to the high paying guests he started to play.

This provided another insight into the Brazilian character – their remarkable toleration. The onlookers didn’t seem to mind Campbell’s show and continued with their drinks and conversations as if nothing were amiss. If Campbell had tried to play the piano at, let’s say the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while wearing perhaps a pirate’s hat and a pink leotard he would be cattle prodded within three feet of the front door (and rightly so).

A few minutes into Campbell’s recital a hotel employee approached me, “We like your friend’s music” he said happily.

“He’s not my friend”. I replied.

“Would you like to try our national drink? It is made with cachaa, lemon juice and sugar, it is called a Capirinha”. He asked.

“I should say so” I said, in what turned out to be my most important insight into Brazilian culture that day.

Previous articles by Ed:

Brazil Pass Notes No. 1 – The Basics
The United States of Brazil
Brazil: Don’t Stop the Party
Brazil: Super Toucans and Little Freddy Seaside
Brazil: Adventures in Portuguese

By B. Michael Rubin
January 8, 2014

Americans and Europeans travel to Brazil to see Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis and Foz do Iguau. Brazilians seek out lesser known wonders such as Lenóis Maranhenses. However, even Brazilians who take vacations to the Northeast don’t usually consider the capital of the state of Paraba as a vacation destination.

For those who enjoy tranquil beaches and easy smiles, you will find João Pessoa to be a small, sleepy city one-third the size of Curitiba or Belo Horizonte. Like its better-known neighbors – Recife, Fortaleza, or Natal – João Pessoa boasts warm ocean temperatures and calm surf all year, a welcome attraction for families with children. Especially attractive to vacationers, there’s not much rain. One taxi driver boasted, They don’t sell umbrellas here.”

Despite the reserved profile of this picturesque city, I found it open and hospitable to tourists. João Pessoa has a fleet of white taxis, a large public bus system with a TV on the bus, and plenty of hotels and pousadas. Best of all, the tourist restaurants and hotels along the beach aren’t full, which means better service and no waiting on line.

My flight on GOL Airlines was on time, but there was no complimentary meal service, and the small sandwiches they were selling were over-priced. Thus, after the 30-minute taxi ride from the João Pessoa airport to the beach and checking in at my hotel, my wife and I were starving. It was 5 pm local time. Amazingly, but typical of our vacation experience, we found a restaurant not yet open that agreed to open just for us. I had a delicious lamb dish with red rice served in a red-fired clay bowl.

Travelers will not be disappointed by the local food, as it offers a wide variety and includes delights rarely seen in the south of Brazil. For example, the breakfast in the hotel offered such Northeast specialties as mangunza, which tasted like sweet hot corn; escondidinho with carne de sol; rabanada, the Brazilian version of French toast; a filling potato-like root, inhame; and a quiche mixture called rocambole misto.

The large hotel where I stayed, the Hardman Praia Hotel, (120 rooms), was clean and quiet and efficiently run. It also offered its breakfast guests a woman on the kitchen staff awaiting requests to prepare eggs or tapioca in any style requested. I ordered an American dish not common in Brazil – ovo mal passado.

The hotel room had an excellent air-conditioner, the kind that comes with a remote control and is so quiet you can’t tell if it’s on or off. There was also a power switch next to the bed if you get cold during the night. The room had a side view of the ocean as well as a kitchenette stocked with water and soda and beer, but no plates or silverware. The hotel had an excellent restaurant with 24-hour room service. It also offered four free daily newspapers in the huge, comfortable air-conditioned lobby, along with a small fitness area with massage downstairs, and free chairs and umbrellas for the beach. The hotel provided suggestions and reservations for a wide selection of day-trip options through CVC and smaller travel companies, including boat trips and rental cars.

The most popular strip of ocean in João Pessoa runs along two beaches, Tamba and Cabo Branco, where the Tropical Tamba Hotel is located, João Pessoa’s best known hotel. Along these two beaches, you will find the typical open-air inexpensive eateries as well as the ever-popular McDonald’s. There are also two crafts fair exhibition malls within a few blocks of each other in Tamba, alongside a central shopping center and a helpful tourist information office with friendly assistance in English.

The Hardman Hotel, where I stayed, was located about 2 kms. away from Tamba on Manara Beach, which is less populated. I like beaches without restaurants right on the sand as they are quieter, but most Brazilians prefer the more crowded areas. The street than runs along the beach, Avenida João Mauricio, is closed to cars each day from 5-8 am.

On Manara Beach, there were few vendors selling hot cheese or sunglasses. Occasionally they walked down the immaculate sidewalk that stretches along the beach and made themselves available, but they didn’t approach tourists unless they were summoned.

Manara Beach, although less crowded, has numerous restaurants. I was surprised to discover a sushi restaurant, as I’d imagined this cuisine only had fans in the south of Brazil. I also found Chinese restaurants that were filled with hundreds of customers for dinner, unlike typical Brazilian Chinese restaurants that are designed mostly for deliveries. In the one where I ate, China Praia, the food was inexpensive (R$20 for two people), and the menu much larger than most Chinese places I’d been to.

I enjoyed several lunches at DNA, which was around the corner from my hotel and offered a very large menu. One afternoon, I ate lunch a few blocks away at a “buffet por kilo” restaurant called Mangai. It had seating for at least 500 people and offered the largest buffet selection I’ve ever seen.

Manara Beach also has one of the newest malls in João Pessoa, with a Pizza Hut out front. It’s not the biggest mall in the city, but the design, a white tent structure facing the ocean, is strikingly unique. The food court seating area of the mall offers spectacular views of the ocean.

One day I took a short hop to the Estaão Cincia (Science and Arts Education Museum), about 10 km. from my hotel, which can be a pricey taxi ride, depending on your budget. However, after arriving at the museum by taxi, I discovered it was easily accessible by bus, and we took the bus back. The museum didn’t have much to see inside, but the building itself is a glass, eight-sided wonder designed by the late Oscar Niemeyer. From the roof deck, there are magnificent views of the entire panorama of João Pessoa. The museum stays open until 9 pm, and I was told it’s beautifully lit at night.

Another nice excursion brought me to the arts fair in Jacar, a tiny town just outside the city limits of João Pessoa, which sits at the mouth of the Paraba River, where the area’s first port was located. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a bus there from my hotel, so I spent the R$30 each way for a taxi. Every evening along the Paraba River in Jacar, thousands of tourists gather for the sunset at two or three riverside restaurants. The tradition was begun by a man known as Jurandir do Sax. He plays Ravel’s Bolero on his saxophone standing in a row boat in front of the restaurants every evening as the sun sinks over the river. His idea for a sunset revelry became so popular that he opened the Maria Bonita restaurant, and in the passing ten years, it has inspired a cluster of other restaurants and tourist shops neatly organized along a serene walkway bursting with flowers.

My wife and I also spent one day walking through the historic center of João Pessoa, which was an easy 30-minute bus ride from our hotel. The historic center is the oldest section of the city, located alongside the river that brought the first residents. Surprisingly, it didn’t appear as if the city had spent much money to support tourism there, but we were treated to some magnificent churches reminiscent of Salvador. We also discovered in what appeared from the outside to be a woman’s house, an extraordinary collection of antiques, which the owner said she’d been gathering for over 40 years. Typical of the hospitality and friendliness of the Northeast, the woman was on the street having left her house when we happened to wander by, but she turned around and invited us back to view her marvelous collection.

Although some Internet travel sites have noted the high crime rate in João Pessoa, I never felt unsafe walking around. The beach promenade is busy even after dark, and I was never approached for money, despite my appearance as a tourist. Even the guys who watch the cars parked on the street were polite and much older than the teenage boys we normally see in the South.

The hotels in João Pessoa are never full except during Carnival week, thus offering a welcome retreat for families from Rio, São Paulo, and Braslia. During my week in this quaint city, which lacks the sophistication and infrastructure of the South, I was continually impressed by the good cheer and warmth of the local people, especially those working in the hotels and restaurants, who were always ready to greet me with a smile and never seemed stressed, unhappy, or too busy to take care of me.

B. Michael Rubin is an American living in Curitiba, Brazil. He is the editor of the online magazine, Brazil: Communication for Foreigners

By Alison McGowan
January 8, 2014

Pousada Fazendinha Buzios was a wonderful find and at the same time a complete surprise – a new guesthouse where you feel as if you are in the middle of the country whilst only being a few miles from the bustle of Rua das Pedras and the innumerable beaches of Buzios. There are 6 beautiful spacious chalets to choose from here set in 30,000 sq metres of parkland, complete with fruit trees, stables and small equestrian centre. All the chalets have different colour schemes with verandas leading out to the gardens and all are equipped with excellent king sized beds, ceiling fans, air conditioning, fridge TV and telephone, En-suite shower rooms come complete with special fazendinha” amenities, fluffy white towels and bathrobes.

Bring/rent a car if you want to explore; if you don’t feel like going out though you’ll find plenty to occupy you actually in the pousada. There’s a good sized pool, massage room, large lounge with board games and cable TV plus a restaurant serving light meals and snacks to accompany the extensive wine list. Regrettably I wasn’t around long enough to take proper advantage of everything on offer, but it’s always best to leave wishing you didn’t have to. I’ll definitely be back!

Armacao de Bzios, or Bzios as it is more commonly known is not exactly a hidden place. A beautiful hilly peninsula with 23 beaches located only a few hours drive from Rio this is somewhere everyone has heard of and Carioca high society was already coming here way before French actress Brigitte Bardot made the place famous in the 1960s.

The Pousada Fazendinha Buzios is actually 10kms from the action of the main drag of Rua das Pedras and 6 kms from the famous beach of Gerib, and if this is what you are looking for there are lots of pousadas nearer by to recommend. Where this pousada wins is in offering the comfort and space of your own chalet in the tranquility of the countryside whilst still being near to all the famous beaches. Bring or rent a car and it’s a perfect combination!

Not to be Missed
– Night out in Rua das Pedras
– A tour around the 23 Buzios beaches
– Side trip to Arraial do Cabo including Ilha do Farol
– Golfing at the Buzios Golf Club
– Lounging around the pousada pool

* Peace and tranquility of the location
* Proximity to beaches with as much or little action as you want
* Wonderful chalet accommodation

Try a Different Place if…
… you don’t have your own transport. This place is off the beaten path!

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 – Dreamland Bungalows, Marau Peninsula, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Natur Campeche, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta da Piteira Boutique Hotel, Praia do Rosa, Santa Catarina
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Vila do Patacho, Praia do Patacho, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Praiagogi Boutique Pousada, Maragogi, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Calypso, Trancoso, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Maris, Paraty, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Cool Beans, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Chez les Rois, Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil: Relaxation and Rejuvenation in Bahia’s Eco-paradises
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Tanara, Itacare, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Vila dos Orixas Boutique Hotel, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa da Carmen e do Fernando, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Lagoa das Cores, Chapada Diamantina, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Naturalia, Ilha Grande (Abraao), Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ilha de Toque Toque Boutique Hotel, São Sebastiao, São Paulo
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Eco-Rio Lodge, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Amazon Tupana Lodge, Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Luar do Rosario, Milho Verde, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Chal Oasis, Galinhos, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijo do Vento, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Artjungle Eco Lodge & Spa, Itacare, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada 0031, Cumbuco, Cear
Brazil: Maguire’s Guesthouse, Manaus, Amazonas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Casa do Amarelindo, Salvador, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel BeloAlter, Alter do Chão, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Fazenda Santa Marina, Santana dos Montes, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casarão da Amaznia, Soure, Ilha de Marajo, Par
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Mila, nr. Ubatuba, São Paulo
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Bambu Bamboo Pousada and Spa, Parati, Rio de Janeiro
Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Estrela do Mar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Vivenda, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Terra, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Caju, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Amendoeira, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Estalagem Caiuia, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Lagoa do Cassange, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta do Muta, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia

By Richard Klein
January 5, 2014

On the 31’st of December millions of people go to Copacabana Beach dressed in white to welcome the New Year. In a way, this could be seen as one of the biggest pagan festival in the world as until the early eighties the followers of this tradition were almost exclusively Candomble, the afro-Brazilian religion, practitioners.

Back in the day, on the night of the turning of the year the beaches of Rio would have a very different public. The people who took over the sand were not from the elegant apartments of the Zona Sul but from the favelas and from the beachless and poorer neighborhoods in the outskirts of the city. Most of them were of African origin and would scatter the coast with candle lit tents giving the beach a special character. Inside there would be drumming and singing that was very African but that had nothing to do with Samba nor any other familiar rhythm. The center of attention were the Maes de Santo and Pais de Santo would bless people and do consultations while incorporating spiritual entities. On the floor inside and around the tents they lay down cachaca bottles, flowers, cigars, dead chicken, bowls full of ritual popcorn and other offerings on elegant embroided cloths.

The women wore traditional white bahiana dresses and lots of symbolic bracelets, rings and necklaces while the men dressed up in elegant white outfits. The non-initiated middle class and the non-initiated rich would go there almost as tourists either to satisfy their curiosity or to have undercover consultations with the incorporated mediums. The drumming would go on all night long and the festival would end at dawn when the people would either go out to sea in little fishing boats or go to the edge of the water to put flowers in the ocean. If the waves and the tide took the flowers away it was the sign that Yemanja, the goddess of the seas, would provide them with a good year, if they came back not so good.

As the eighties kicked in and the economy toughened, the African character of Rio’s beaches on New Year’s eves began to recede. Many factors explain this: the population explosion in the southern sector of Rio, in particular Copacabana, and the fact that the younger generations were not so panicked about afro-Brazilian religions and saw these events as a fun and low cost alternative for spending their reveillon. There are also more pragmatic reasons; the tourism authorities saw this festival as an opportunity to increase the city’s revenues and perhaps the most devastating cause of all: the arrival of the evangelical churches who, hungry for new tithe paying faithful, portrayed Candomble as a devil worshiping activity.

There are still many flowers floating around on Rio’s coast on January the first but, in a way, the Candomble character of the night was a victim of its own success. However, the fact that millions of people from all over the country and indeed all over the world go to Rio’s beaches dressed in white to receive the New Year shows a seed blossoming in an unexpected way. The carioca’s white reveillon is another example of what Mario de Andrade called the antropophagic nature of Brazilian culture.

Richard Klein is the son of British expats who lived the Brazilian experience at its full in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up in the sixties, the seventies and the eighties. He tells his story in his book Lost Samba and in his blog: 0 Comments/by