By Chip Kishel
July 15, 2014

A story of a young American boy and his family living in Brazil from 1962 to 1964.

The Guido Bloch House
We resided in the Beebe House for five months. I learned we were moving into another residence and our household furnishings and our car from the States had finally cleared customs. This house was owned by a gentleman named Guido Bloch. Guido and his wife were an elderly couple who escaped before the Nazi invasion of their homeland. My father explained what the Holocaust was all about and that Guido and his wife owned a grain mill. They escaped with what they could carry. The story was Guido smuggled three valuable paintings. The value of the paintings purchased the home we were about to live in and several others, thus generating income. I recall visiting Guido and his wife. Guido was a refined gentleman and his wife was an elegant hostess.

The home was in Jardim Paulista. When I Google Earth the address, the home is still standing today. The street looks very different.

Once our furniture was in place I felt more comfortable especially sleeping in my own bed. The shipment included a new bike as well. The neighborhood was tight with above average houses. Each home was surrounded by walls. Some homes had guards. Although we did not have guards, there was a armed guard on a bike who rode through the neighborhood and blew a whistle. He rode all night, every night. There were some American kids who lived nearby and rode the same school bus. The school hazing finally stopped but I remained an outsider for the next 19 months. I accepted being an outsider because I knew that in 19 months I would leave and never return again.

The time living in the Guido House brought more people into our lives.

The Professor
My father brought a large fellow home to tutor Portuguese to my family. His name was Professor Reise. Augusto (Professor Reise’s first name) had a son about my age and his wife looked very similar to my mother. I found this to be very coincidental. In the coming months we met his friends and family. I recall visiting a compound-like home for dinner. The professor’s family” was of Italian descent. They fondly referred to themselves as Mafioso.

Augusto, his wife, and son accompanied us everywhere. I always felt safe when they were with us.

The “Wobin”
Our next door neighbor had a male caretaker. To this day I never knew his name. My brother named him “The Wobin”. He was a friendly person, always interested in our activities. I fondly remember him standing on top of the wall dividing the properties. He was our friend.

There was a host of American kids. We visited each other from time to time.

Roberto
Roberto was a university associate. Roberto had polio. Both legs were supported by heavy steel frames. He used crutches to walk. A nice person who liked good scotch. I recall my father telling us that Roberto managed to drive a car. The car was outfitted with controls. Roberto liked to drive fast and brake hard. We fondly agreed that the weight of his leg braces aided his driving habits.

Perhaps I was maturing, or meeting very fine people, but my attitude regarding Brazil was warming.

Chip Kishel and his wife Agnes reside in the small town of Sylvania, Georgia. Chip works for Houghton International as a contract Site Manager for Koyo Needle Bearing LLC. Chip’s hobbies include custom vintage Honda Motorcycle Restoration and his wife is an accomplished equestrian trainer specializing in dressage, cross country and stadium jumping.

Previous articles by Chip:

Brazil: 50 Years Past Part 2
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By Duncan Crowley
July 15, 2014

An amazing day happened on Sunday 15th of June 2014 in Vila Torres, Curitiba, the day before the city saw its first of four world cup games. Vila Torres is the most central and oldest of the many underprivileged favelas of the city. It’s a tough existence here, people with next to nothing do what they can, despite all the challenges that face them on a day to day existence.

Like all of the city and the country, people love their football. But unlike the more well to do parts of society, the community here had no means to get in on the excitement of the world cup. So the Brazilian student led movement #CheerForPeace decided to change that, to try to bring a little bit of the magic here too. What unfolded was weeks of building a movement, working with the community and pulling together whatever was available or possible to make a truly special day for ALL the football loving fans there. Huge thanks to all who supported, donated, came and shared in the day, hopefully all enjoyed the event. This was just the first of many more events. Huge respect must be given to the extraordinary women behind the local school, the Organizaão de Desenvolvimento do Potencial Humano (ODPH): Valdim, Kauann and all the gang… With leadership, strength and love like these remarkably strong and resilient women have, the future will indeed be feminine!

The event was a great success, about 200 kids came, played, made juices from the pedal powered bike machine / juice maker, ate organic vegan food, played football, danced, got their faces painted… And a whole lot more!

Canadian students from Alberta and their teacher Nick arrived and donated a whole load of green tops, boots and footballs. Read their reports here: Although word was sent to a host of both local and international media, many of which said they would come to report the event in the favela, only one did come to cover the story. Subsequently there have been no reports of any the local or international media. The only communications with the wider world about the goings on, coming from a few brief blog reports by some small groups and individuals. The following day Irish radio did cover the story for 5 minutes on RTE’s Joe Duffy show http://cheerforpeace.wordpress.com.

Duncan Crowley is an architect who is deeply involved in environmental and social movements. He focuses on urban ecology, open creative systems, bikes, gardens & fun. Although from Ireland, he is currently residing in Curitiba, Brazil. He has also worked and resided in England and Barcelona.“

By Alastair Kinghorn
July 15, 2014

Long before it started proper, it added to our perception of a country in crisis.

First there were the riots in São Paulo about hikes in bus fares way above the inflation rate but then this mushroomed into protests about a much greater malaise in Brazil; the disease of corruption mingled with that of federal and estadual ineptness, the waste of government money on prestige projects like the FIFA Fan Fest 2014, instead of the much needed improvements to virtually every state funded sector. Highlighted were hospitals and schools, but they were just the front runners in a long list of infrastructure that serves the majority of the population in an extremely ad hoc way, where winners and losers compete for an already insufficient government pot, and that is before it has been robbed by just about everyone on the way to delivery.

No wonder then that many projects like the High speed train from Rio to São Paulo and Campinas, or the new metros in São Paulo and Manaus are still-born. No wonder that many millions are disaffected by this callous disregard for social and fiscal propriety.

Then amidst all of this and feverish concerns from FIFA and foreign press about incomplete facilities, the football began and the land fell under a spell woven by almost 24 hour coverage from all major television channels with nether a mention of anything but Brazilian Joy!

Despite catcalls and unmitigated abuse thrown at Dilma during the inaugural game, the PR fanfare only played a victory tune. How can such blatant public manipulation go on unnoticed among a country of more than 200 million people?

First round to Brazil against Croatia.
Second round draw but won on points against Mexico.
Third round victory against Guatemala?
Then Brazil almost met its match against Chile, but won, albeit on penalties!
Quarter final victory against Colombia!

Then the costs began to tell… Neymar stretchered off with what was later diagnosed as a fractured spine. Team captain suspended due to foul play. Germany loomed onto the horizon. The party began to take on a different note. Maybe it was not all good news after all?

The political imperatives are clear; Dilma needs a victory to secure her popularity for re-election in just three months time. Her opposition would love to see her suffer a public relations disaster. The bookies had her and Brazil at odds to win. Neymar is in hospital. What miracle of benign intervention could save us from ignominy? Or could a disaster on the pitch save us from another term of weak government?

Brazilians put up with a great deal and always come out smiling, but if there is one thing that is detested here, it is bad news. Tuesday night revealed a much deeper degree of bad news than even the most cynical could have predicted.
In what could only have been a premonition of what was in store, I watched it unfold in an almost deserted bar. I had been there only days ago for the Colombia match, when it had been throbbing with activity, filled with a cheering crowd and awash with beer. But on this night it was me, the owner, and one onlooker, who was not even drinking.

We watched in amazement, disbelief and growing discomfort as embarrassment turned into a sorrowful pain. Ball after ball hit the back of the Brazilian net until we began to lose count and all sense of entertainment. A few other men arrived, driven from their home TV sets by the agony of it, downed a few beers and fled into the night, unable to take in more. I stayed to the bitter end. It was raining lightly, darkness had fallen and even the owner had gone, leaving only his wife and infant son on guard. The Brazilian team are all millionaires, she said. They play for European clubs. They can go there now and forget this night, but we must stay and live with the shame of it. The poignancy of the scene, matched the social reality perfectly.

Again and again I am reminded of the awesome gap between the haves and have nots in this beautiful country. We Gringos are often criticised by our Brazilian hosts, for being critical of their country. Earlier in the day a friend of mine had commented via the internet that she had visited Blumenau recently, where everything worked!”, and that if this was an example of how the Germans could succeed, even in Brazil, she was going to be cheering for them later that night, even if she is a Brit! I remarked that she is always controversial! Little was I to know, how controversial that was to become.

Is there really no other way for Brazil to find the destiny that it deserves, other than through social conflict? Can there not be a middle path? Is there no jeito? Must we always be on the attack against unassailable odds, only to be beaten back, again and again? Can we only quench our grief in beer until the jokes restore our humour and alcohol allows us to forget… until the next time?

Or is it only a game?

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern 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 foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create Brazil: Seguranca
Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Scotsman in Brazil

By Robert Eugene DiPaolo
July 15, 2014

Introduction
This column is about my experience living and working in Brazil. First let me begin by telling you that as hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve spent more than a decade living in Brazil, now the world’s fifth largest economy. During this time I’ve learned a lot and mostly, as I will tell you, the hard way. And as I will also tell you, the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized what I thought I knew was wrong and that the longer I stay, the more obvious it becomes to me that I remain a stranger in a strange land. As beautiful a country Brazil is and despite its economic growth and great potential, it remains something of a cacophony of sounds, traffic, curiosities, trash pickers, street cleaners and the like. That said, I’ve discovered as will you if you live here or decide to visit, if you really want to understand Brazil you need to be able to conjugate not just its 14 verb tenses, but more importantly its culture and cultural heritage dating back to 1808 when the Portuguese court decided to flee Portugal in light of Napoleon’s pending invasion. While this is more than 200 years ago, Brazilians oddly enough still blame the Portuguese for all Brazil’s problems, as if the Portuguese had shown up for the first time last week.

How I Ended Up In Brazil
The first time I came to Brazil was in 1997, after which I came back on a regular basis for work and pleasure. Then in 2004, I came to Brazil intending to stay for four months and then return to my glorious life as a glamorous BIG LAW corporate lawyer in NYC. Or was it as a white collar slave trapped in my office 12 hours day? It’s hard to remember… Either way, as things turned out, I didn’t go back to BIG LAW. Instead, seeing what I believed to be a bigger opportunity, I decided to stay in Brazil. I opened a legal/business consultancy with an office in São Paulo and NYC to provide professional services to foreigners doing business in Brazil and to Brazilians who needed US legal advice in connection with cross-border transactions.

To be honest, it has not been easy, but doing business in Brazil is not easy. That said I have nothing to complain about as I’ve managed to navigate what often feels like a circus where there are no fixed rules and situations which make you think Brazil has intentionally made it difficult for foreigners to establish new businesses or to do business here. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have witnessed approximately 25 million Brazilians pulled out of poverty into the middle class. Unfortunately, rather than doing this right, Brazil more often than not has seemed to be imitating all the things that others countries have tried, the US in particular. The result? Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians who previously had no access to credit, piling on the debt like there was no tomorrow, getting fat and learning the skillful art of living beyond their means. But that tale is for a different day.

During the last decade Brazil has emerged onto the world stage as a member of BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as what until recently appeared to be a serious global player. Unfortunately, approximately four years to the date after The Economist’s cover announced Brazil takes off” (November 14th – 20th 2009), The Economist’s cover asked “Has Brazil blown it?” (September 28th – October 2013). What happened? To address that question one needs to put economic calculations aside and look at a far more important aspect of economic development than The Economist and others seemed to have overlooked. I sure did!

Without realizing it when I picked up the book, 1808 – The Flight of the Emperor by Laurentino Gomes, I had accidentally discovered a resource that would give me the answer. In short, the answer is culture! You can’t change a society without addressing its culture. Brazil will never change until Brazilians themselves decide to change and then to change Brazil. Change cannot be orchestrated from the top down, it must happen from the bottom up. Or, you can pull people out of poverty, but if you don’t provide them with the opportunity to be educated and to learn new life skills that will allow them to exist and fully participate in the middle class, they will soon slip back into the poverty from which they not so long ago emerged, and likely for the worse.

Brazil tends to be a highly paternalistic society/culture. Brazilians are not very individualistic and in general don’t attempt to better themselves with education or other opportunities. As Brazil tends to treat its citizens like children, most Brazilians would much rather be given a fish than be taught how to fish. While this is an overly broad generalization, as there are plenty of Brazilians who have bettered themselves, it is essentially true. And those who have bettered themselves generally started with a foot up to begin with and simply built upon that foundation. While there are few exceptions to this rule of thumb, Silvio Santos (Google him) pops to mind, let’s face it, if a silly and extremely lucky television personality (or a futebol player for that matter) is the role model for self-improvement and personal success, you know (or should know) that your economy is in jeopardy. Not everyone can be a successful TV personality or professional soccer player. In fact, hardly anyone can.

I decided to write this column, about which I’ve been thinking for a few years, to share, in a highly self-deprecating and hopefully humorous manner, what I have learned (and am learning) during my time in Brazil. Without realizing it, what I’ve learned and mostly the hard way, as I am a slow learner, has had more to do with Brazilian culture than anything else. With respect to Brazil, I have learned it’s not cash but culture that is king. If you do not understand Brazilian culture, you will never understand Brazil. Put down The Economist, and pick up Veja, Caras, or turn on Fantastico, Big Brother or one of the billions of novelas (evening soap operas) et al. No, I can’t believe I just wrote that, but… well… or as Stan Lee used to say, “Nuff Said!”

This column will be based upon my experience living and working in Brazil. It will also draw upon my observations. Most important, it will be about things I’ve learned (and as said above, generally the hard way) from living in Brazil. As an American from a highly individualistic – do it yourself (or at least it used to be) culture – I’ve had to learn how to survive and manage my existence in a foreign and often impenetrable culture, which unfortunately often feels more foreign to me the longer I am here. Life is funny that way. You don’t really know a place until you’ve lived there and as comfortable as you may become, the longer you stay the more you realize how much you really don’t know. But, I like Brazil and some days I love it. Where else can you treat every day like an adventure because it really is? You just have to open your eyes and enjoy the parade as it passes by. Every day I witness events that one could only imagine. It really is like a beautiful circus to which I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat.

I had other possible titles for this column, but settled on the above because the best thing about Brazil and at the same time the worst thing about Brazil, is the fluid, organic and often seemly chaotic nature of its culture, which often feels like you are at the circus, with all its wonders, magic and yes, chaos, than anything else. Or to put it another way, the best thing about Brazil is that it’s a mess waiting to be discovered, while at the same time, the worst thing about Brazil is that it’s a mess just waiting to be organized into something great.

That’s Brazil! And if you ask me, likely to be Brazil for some time to come. It’s the place where the future never seems to come, despite claims that it has finally arrived. But I have my fingers crossed! And can tell you from my own experience that Brazil is a country that has everything it needs to make it great, other than the vision to do so and the dedication of its people to make it happen. But, changing a culture means changing habits and cultural norms. This is hard work! And Brazilians would rather go to the beach (why not) than work hard. Again, I over generalize, as many Brazilians work very hard. In any event, I hope that will change as I’ve taken a big risk on Brazil. But, I digress. I hope you will join me on this adventure, whether you are an expat trying to make sense of your experience here or someone interested in Brazil because it’s a beautiful country or the world’s fifth largest economy. Thanks for reading! I can be reached by email with thoughts, comments, ideas, etc. at dipaolor@gmail.com.

2014 Robert Eugene DiPaolo

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