By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
December 12, 2015

Important Note: Although this information should be correct at the time of publishing, you should always check immigration information with your local Brazilian consulate.

After all you heard about Brazil you have decided it is finally time to pay a visit and enjoy what the country has to offer. But before you get onto the plane and set out for Brazil you should check whether you need a tourist visa. Some countries are exempt, as per this list at Wikipedia, based on recopricity. If your country is not exempt the process for tourist visa application is quite straightforward, and involves applying at your local Brazilian consulate with all the required documents and sending a filled internet application.

The first and most important document you need to bring is your passport, which shouldn’t be torn or significantly damaged. Remember that it needs to be valid for the next six months, and it should have at least two blank visa pages for the stamp. You should also bring a 5 X 5 cm photo of yourself taken within the last three months and printed in high quality paper. The photo must display a full frontal view of your face. Your expression must be neutral, and glasses and headgear aren’t allowed, except for religious purposes. Also, the photo should not be affixed to your application, and it shouldn’t have evidence that it was taped or glued anywhere. Another document that is required is your driver’s ID if you have one, so don’t forget to bring it!

Next, you should fill and print the online visa application, which can be found in the following address: scedv.serpro.gov.br. The page that will open will be in Portuguese, but you can choose a language of your liking by clicking on one of the flags on the left side of the screen. When filling out the application, you should fill all fields in it. Remember to write your full name exactly like it is in your passport. Towards the end of the process, you will be given a code number, which you should include as well. After you are done with the application, you should sign it and send it to the Brazilian consulate within 30 days.

When going to the consulate, you will be require to present a proof of your travel arrangements for the full trip. These arrangements must include a copy of an itinerary or an e-ticket with your entry and exit dates and location. If you are bringing any minors, some additional documents need to be brought for their application. These include an attached minor authorization form, a letter of consent from both parents or legal guardian, a birth certificate and a copy of both parent’s photo IDs. If that minor has a guardian, a legal proof of guardianship is required as well. All of these extra documents needed by minors have to be notarized.

After you have sent the application and gathered the necessary documents, all you need to do is go to the consulate and apply for your visa. After going through the process, you have to leave your passport at the consulate, and after a few weeks it will be returned to you with your tourist visa. Once it gets back, you are all set to visit Brazil and enjoy your stay over here.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
December 12, 2015

So you have heard quite a lot about Brazilian women before, and maybe you have dreamed about finding yourself a Brazilian babe. Now that you are here, it is time for you to spring to action. However, if your image of Brazilian women comes from watching videos or looking at pictures of semi-naked women dancing in the Carnaval, you might be in for a reality check. First, Brazilian women are not as easy as foreigners often seem to think, and many girls will be wary of tourists. That being said, Brazilian women tend to be quite direct when it comes to showing interest, they usually play less games than American or European girls.

One thing that is important to have in mind is that Brazilian women usually have a two-sided perception about foreigners. On the one side, foreigners are often seem as exploiters and sex-tourists, and many tourists do in fact act in a way that reinforces this stereotype. Because of this perception, girls might take it very personally if you are rude in your approach. On the other side, many Brazilian women are highly interested in dating foreigners, and will be very open and willing to be approached.

The first thing you should pay attention to when looking for a girl is the venue. In expensive places, you will find plenty of beautiful girls, but they tend to be less approachable and harder to get. In more accessible places, girls tend to be more down-to earth and friendly, and are usually more open to approaches. You should also be aware that the more accessible a venue is, the least likely it is that you will find girls that speak English. Sometimes, this is not a problem, and many girls will attempt to communicate with you using broken English. Using some hand gestures and basic Portuguese if you have any, you should be able to understand each other fairly well. That being said, many girls will be out of your reach if you don’t speak at least some Portuguese.

If you are lucky, you will also find women that speak fluent English. Many of them have studied in International or British schools, and some of them have studied or lived abroad. This is the best type of women you can find, not only because of the language, but also because they are usually used to dealing with foreigners, and will have much more common ground with you.

Women in Brazil tend to dress very well, and they will pay attention to how you dress. Unless you plan on going to an alternative venue such as a rave or a reggae concert, you should be well dressed. When it comes to the approach, you should be direct but not forceful. Brazilian women usually decide quite fast whether they are interested or not in hooking up with someone. If things don’t seem to be going anywhere after a few minutes, you should change your target. If the woman you are talking to is showing interest on the other hand, make your move. If you take too long she might lose interest and look for someone else.

When it comes to starting a relationship, things tend to move fast in Brazil. If you have enjoyed hooking up with your beau and got her number, it is normal to call her and schedule a date for the next evening. Unless you are dating a fancy girl, I recommend keeping it simple. Take her to the beach, go watch a movie or share some beers at a street bar. Now that you have a girl, the rest is up to you. Enjoy her company, treat her well and don’t try too hard to impress her. And last but not least, don’t forget to have fun!

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
November 13, 2015

So you are thinking about spending some time in Brazil but you feel the language to be a problem. In fact, Brazilian Portuguese is not the easiest language to learn, and things get even trickier when dealing with spoken Portuguese, which is full of slangs and expressions that sounds a lot different from written Portuguese. With that being said, some dedication and time will get you through these obstacles. Below, we have compiled 8 tips for bginners learning Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Get yourself a English-to-Brazilian-Portuguese dictionary: If you are serious about learning Brazilian Portuguese, this one is a must have. When trying to read in Portuguese, you will be coming across many unfamiliar words and expressions. With a dictionary, you will not only be able to understand and learn these expressions but also learn how to pronounce then, which is something you will need in the future.

2. Read something in Portuguese as often as you can: Reading is one of the most important activities for you to build your vocabulary and become familiar with the language. There are plenty things to read, from books, blogs, news websites and much more. A suggestion is to read the news in Portuguese at least a few times a week. Some of the most popular news websites in Brazil are <a href="http://www.estadao.com.br/">Estado</a>, <a href="http://www.folha.uol.com.br/">Folha</a> and <a href="http://www.uol.com.br/">Uol</a>.

3. Keep a language notebook: One practice which can be really helpful for beginners is keeping a language notebook. In this notebook, you should write new words and expressions that you have learned. Studies have already shown that writing down things help to consolidate them in your memory, even if you never read what you wrote down again. And if you need to check what you have learned, you will have it written down.

4. Watch movies and series in Portuguese: Brazilian Portuguese sounds a lot different when spoken. One way of getting familiar with it is by watching movies and series in Portuguese. Brazilian cinema has a wide array of excellent movies, and are a great choice if you want to get familiar with Brazilian culture while you learn the language.

5. Seek out someone who you can speak Portuguese to: This tip is essential if you want to train your conversation skills. The best thing you can do is find someone who you can speak Portuguese to in real life, or at least through skype. If this isnt possible, you can find many places where you can interact with Brazilians on the internet. One option is debating in forums and facebook groups in Portuguese. You can also look for a Brazilian pen-pal with whom you can hone your skills. For those that enjoy computer games, a good option is to play a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) in Portuguese. Many games such as Ragnarok Online, The Duel and World of Warcraft have a Brazilian Portuguese version, where you can find plenty of people to talk.

6. Listen to Brazilian music: Brazil not only has its own musical styles but it also has many vibrant music scenes. Delving into Brazilian music is a great opportunity to improve your vocabulary while you enjoy yourself and expand your musical repertoire.

7. Learn the jargon of your topics of interest: Once you start to understand the basics of Brazilian Portuguese, try learning the jargon of your fields of interest, or you might find yourself in trouble when trying to talk about these topics.

8. Be consistent: Last but not least, be consistent with your learning. Try to work on your skills constantly, and do not go for long without practicing, and review the things you have learned by using them as often as you can.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
November 13, 2015

In the streets, parks and beaches of Brazil, one often sees groups of people gathered in a circle, playing instruments while two people inside the circle sway, kick and dodge to the rhythm of the music. This is capoeira, a Brazilian martial art practiced through all of Brazil, especially in the northeast of the country.

No one knows exactly when capoeira originated, but it is believed that it was created by slaves in the 16th century. At that time, slaves were forbidden from practicing martial arts and their cultural traditions as well. They were also constantly subjected to torture and violence, and those that tried to run away were chased by “capites-do-mato”. In order to learn self-defense, it is said that the slaves created a new form of martial art and disguised it as a dance. The movements of capoeira are characterized by the way fighters sway and by the wide variety of kicks that they employ, as well as the acrobatic quality of the movements. Elements of diverse African cultures were also mixed in capoeira, making it a matter not only of self-defense but also of cultural identity.

Training sessions usually took place near the “Senzala”, which was the building where slaves were kept. But fights would sometimes take place in fields with small shrubs which were called “capoeira” at the time. This is where the name of the sport came from.

In 1890, Deodoro Fonseca, who was the president at the time, signed a law that made capoeira illegal, as it was considered subversive and violent. Later on, a capoeira master known as Mestre Bimba created a new style of capoeira known as “capoeira regional” (regional capoeira). Bimba would present his style in 1930 to Getlio Vargas, who was the president of Brazil at the time. Vargas enjoyed it so much that he made it legal and turned it into a national sport as well. Bimba also created the first capoeira gym in 1932 in Salvador and named it “Academia-escola de Capoeira Regional”.

His teaching method and style represented an important step in the development of capoeira. He began the tradition of training in an enclosed space, introduced a course curriculum and a systematic training method. He also fixed a defined instrumental arrangement to be played in a capoeira “roda” (circle). The arrangement consisted of a berimbau, which is an instrument composed of a bow and one string, and two pandeiros, which are hand-framed drums very popular in some Brazilian styles like samba and pagode. But his greatest contribution was probably the idea that capoeira should be disseminated and made widely accessible through the use of legal institutions.

In fact, he contributed enormously to the popularization of the sport. Once capoeira gyms became a thing, they spread like mushrooms after the rain, being found all through Brazil and even in many foreign countries. Because of his contribution, many practitioners consider Bimba the father of modern capoeira. His style is also the most widely practiced form of the sport worldwide.

Training capoeira is a great way to improve cardio, strength, flexibility and learning self-defense. At a capoeira gym one also learns discipline and gains confidence as his skills are honed. Last but not least, training capoeira is extremely fun, as well as being a great way to make friends. Whether youre looking to get in shape, lose some weight, learn to defend yourself or just have some fun, capoeira is a great choice and well worth a try.

By John Fitzpatrick
November 3, 2015

(Header Image: Celebrating 25 years of missionary activity in Angola)

An exhibition has just been held in São Paulo to mark 25 years of missionary work in Angola by members of the Brazilian Order of Franciscans.

The event was held in the historic So Francisco church and attracted hundreds of visitors, including worshippers and tourists.

The Brazilian Franciscans began their mission to Angola following a call made in 1982 by the global leader of the Franciscan Order, John Vaughn, an American, for them to go to Africa as missionaries.

The Brazilian order chose Portuguese-speaking Angola and the first missionaries – brothers Pedro Caron, Jos Zanchet and Plinio Gande da Silva – arrived in September 1990 right in the middle of the civil war that followed the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975.

(Image: A home is being built in Luanda for trainee nuns.) Despite the hardships, the Brazilian missionaries established a presence in four different provinces – Luanda, Malange, Quibala and Viana – where they preached the Gospel and looked after the spiritual and physical health and education of the local people. Some of their buildings were damaged during the fighting.

They were joined a few months later by Frei Odorico Decker who is a familiar figure to anyone who knows the So Francisco church.

Frei Odorico spent 10 years in Angola during which he travelled the country from north to south on foot or bicycle accompanied by his faithful harmonica which won him many friends.

“I went everywhere dressed in my cassock and playing my harmonica and visited families and old people who could not leave their homes. I brought comfort and the Eucharist and prayed with them. The war was going on and life was very hard for these people who welcomed me. Often I was the only outsider who had visited some of these places,” he recalled.

(Image: Frei Odorico spent 10 years in Angola during the civil war.) Frei Odorico was a keen photographer and many of his pictures were on show at the exhibition. He also wrote a book about his African experience.

The Brazilian venture into Angola was not a one-way process. The Franciscan lifestyle attracted many Angolans who decided to study to become brothers and nuns.

There are currently around 100 Angolan students in various stages ranging from beginners to ordained brothers.
An exchange program was set up for Angolans to come to Brazil to finish their seminary education in Santa Catarina and Rio de Janeiro.

One of these is 28-year-old Ermelindo Francisco who has been in Brazil for eight years and was won over by the work of the Franciscans.

“The Angolan people identified with the Franciscans because they were made up of simple people. The Franciscan ethic was very important. There is no difference between being a Franciscan and an Angolan because they are both a simple, happy and humble people,” he said.

The Franciscans are currently building a new home for aspirant nuns in Luanda. The project is being funded by donations from individuals and parishes. If you would like to make a donation, contact pvf@franciscanos.org.br.

John Fitzpatrick 2015

By Larry Ludwig
October 18, 2015

Sergei Prokofievs Opera “Monastery Weddings” is sheer JOY! He composed this work at the onset of World War II, in 1940. Think perhaps to escape for but a brief few hours into a delightful comedy with which to forget the doom and gloom of Stalin purges and the horrors of war. Yes, it is a comic opera, featuring some eight-lead roles, yes, eight principal singers. More than likely the key reason why this work is rarely performed. Wikipedia mentions “recent” performances in only England, Scotland and Spain, in 1989, 2006 and 2008. It was first performed in 1946 in St. Petersburg.

Well to be added to that list is the August-September 2015 production of Theatro So Pedro in São Paulo, Brasil. Also called “Betrothals in a Monastery” (“Bodas no Monastrio” in Portuguese), the plot is a convoluted, complex scenariao much reminiscent of a Shakespearean “Comedy of Errors” mixed in with a Verdian “Falstaff”. At times seemingly too complex to follow, but in the end, as the saying goes, “alls well that ends well.” Yes, an opera with a happy ending. Nobody dies! Hopefully the Wikipedia plot summary below will help clarify the confusion.

The 600-seat Theatros production was superb, excellent. Not a single fault could I find. A friendly semi-abstract set with its mix of a curtain drop and multi-purpose plastic blocks that for once “worked”, which with varying degrees of multi-colored lighting, allowed for quick scene changes (of which there are many in this opera) clearly evoking the required plot setting. Beautiful period Costumes (the opera seems to take place in the 1700s-1800s), good makeup, wonderful wigs, great choreography, great acting, and of course, excellent singing.

Not a weak link in the entire eight singing lead roles (contralto, bass, tenors, baritones, soprano, mezzo-soprano), two principal secondaries and an exemplary chorus. Not to mention, excellent conducting and outstanding performance of the orchestra. Sung in Russian, a Russian speaking Brasilian friend pointed out, the singers Russian diction was more than passable, a testament to both the Russian language coach and the linguistic talents of the mostly Brasilian cast. And for the record, the Portuguese subtitles were excellent.

Besides the myriad of plot surprises, Prokofiev worked in a few subtle, not so subtle surprising moments. For instance, what seemed like pure walk-on non-singing supernumerary roles for some of the servants, servants who pretended to be talking and gesticulating… well appearances can be deceiving. Two of them turn into secondary singing roles, with the maid suddenly becoming, after what seemed like half of the opera, one of the two top lead, and most applauded singers. Never had occasion to experience that role-reversal in an opera heretofore.

Then there was the subdued, but quite classically balletic dancing by some of the servants, done in quite confined spaces. Difficult but done beautifully, elegantly. More like a side-bar action to main events elsewhere on stage… sometimes feeling like a three ring circus. Also featured was a three-piece trumpet, drum, clarinet combo on stage, as well as cast members walking onstage up from the audience.

Than the big WOWer, well one of two big WOWs of the night… a super rousing rambunctious well staged chorus of drunken, rapacious, yes very greedy monastery monks. Felt like a scene out of Karl Orffs “Carmina Burana”, perhaps the inspiration for what was one of the more powerful scenes of this opera. The monks brought the house down, as that saying goes.

The other “WOW” moment was during the concluding moments of the opera, with Don Jerome, tenor Giovanni Tristacci, while singing at full volume, put on a virtuoso performance playing musical-bottles non-stop, at a presto high-velocity pace. A true musical “tour de force”, one of the evenings many memorable highlights.

Prokofievs music is much like that of his ballet, “Romeo and Juliet”. The music melodies, tender or be it martial, flow, seeming seamlessly, without pause, leading one easily from one scene to the next, from one emotional moment to the next. There are very few solo aria or duet or quartet like moments common to more traditional operas, no real place for the audience to express delight with applause and bravos. That has to be saved for the end of each act, and especially at the end of the opera itself. And applause and bravos, bravas and bravis were aplenty with the standing ovation, this one, in my view, truly earned and very much deserved.

If you get the chance, do go see this work. Its an opera evening as noted earlier of pure JOY. You wont be disappointed.

By the way, the cast list follows, along with the Wikipedia plot-summary synopsis.

A Duenna Lidia Schffer, Mendoza Svio Sperandio, Don Jerome Giovanni Tristacci, Don Ferdinando Johnny Frana, Louisa Laua Duarte, Don Antonio Anibal Mancini, Clara DAlmanza Marly Montoni, Dom Carlos Erick Souza…and honorable mention on secondary, the two chief Monks, Padre Elustaf and Padre Augustin, Mar Oliveira and Educaro Fujita. This is in addition to eight other minor secondary roles.

Conductor Andr Dos Santos.
Coral Lrico Paulista and Orquestra do Theatro So Pedro

Synopsis:
Act 1
Don Jerome intends his daughter Louisa to marry the vain, wealthy and ugly fish merchant Mendoza. However, she loves instead Antonio, who is poor, though noble in spirit. Furthermore, Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome and prone to fits of jealousy, wants to marry Clara dAlmanza, who is a virtual prisoner of her stepmother.
Act 2
Don Jerome locks up Louisa in her room to force her to marry Mendoza. Louisas nurse (the Duenna) provokes the fury of Don Jerome by pretending to be a messenger between Antonio and Louisa. Jerome dismisses her – but the Duenna exchanges clothes with Louisa who makes her escape in this disguise.
By the quayside – where fisherwomen are praising the quality of the fish caught in Mendozas boats – Louisa encounters her friend Clara, who has also run away from home and intends to seek sanctuary at the monastery. Louisa asks to borrow Claras name for a day – Clara assents. Enter Mendoza and his courtly friend Don Carlos. Mendoza is recognized by Louisa but he has never seen her. She therefore approaches Mendoza claiming to be Clara and asks him to take her under his protection and find Antonio with whom she is in love. Mendoza is attracted by this idea as a means to rid himself of his rival Antonio by marrying him off to Clara. Don Carlos escorts Clara to Mendozas house.
Mendoza visits the house of Don Jerome to meet Louisa (the Duenna in disguise); whilst Louisa is not as young and beautiful as Mendoza had been led to believe, her dowry is sufficient attraction. they agree to elope that evening.
Act 3
The mystified Antonio arrives at Mendozas house; while he is offstage meeting Clara, Mendoza and don Carlos congratulate themselves on their cunning. Still unwitting, they agree to help the pair get married.
Don Jerome is rehearsing some amateur musicians (A trio of trumpet, clarinet and bass drum). He receives two messages- one from Mendoza saying he has eloped with Louisa, which delights him, and another from the real Louisa, which he does not read carefully, asking for his blessing on her marriage. He sends back his consent with both messengers and arranges for a great feat later that evening to celebrate.
At the monastery, Clara meets with Antonio and Luisa and laments her apparent loss of Ferdinand. Enter Ferdinand , who mistaking Clara for a nun exclaims that he is chasing his false friend Antonio who has run off with his beloved Clara. Clara is secretly overjoyed at this demonstration of Ferdinands passion.
Act 4
The act opens with a drinking song for the monks in the monastery where the marriages are to be performed. The monks then switch to a hymn that extols fasting and abstinence, to a tune that is a slower variant of the earlier drinking song. Enter Mendoza and Antonio who by lavish bribery gain the monks consent to marry them to their loves. Enter Ferdinand who challenges Antonio to a duel, but the genuine Clara arrives and Ferdinand now understands the true situation. The three marriages are agreed.
At Don Jeromes feast, the host is increasingly amazed, exasperated and infuriated as the successive arrival of the newly-weds makes it clear that his plans have gone completely awry. He is slightly compensated by the likely size of Claras dowry. He sings a drinking song, accompanying himself on a set of tuned glasses.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

When trying to speak Brazilian Portuguese, the language that is used on a day-to-day basis is riddled with slangs and expressions. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, these expressions change a lot from region to region. Below, we have listed some slangs and expressions that will help you to understand the people of São Paulo, Paulistas.

Meu/mano: Both of these expressions are frequently used by young people, and they are the paulista equivalent of "dude", "bro" or "man".

Ta ligado?: This expression literally means "are you on?". This is asked after making a statement, and it is the same as asking in English "You know what I mean?"

Na moral: To do something "na moral" is to do it in a way that is not arrogant or disrespectful. But when you ask "Na moral?", this slang has a completely different meaning. In this case, it is the same as asking "really?"

Sinistro!: As one can easily guess, this translated literally to "sinister". People say that as a reaction to something that is bizarre, cool or freaky.

Mina: A shortened version of "menina" (girl), this is the paulista equivalent of "chick".

Firmeza: This word means "firmeness", but when used as a slang it is the same as saying "all right". It is also used as a greeting, with one person asking "firmeza?", and the other person answering "firmeza!".

Fica Frio: When telling someone to relax, this is what paulistanos say. Literally, this expression means "stay cool".

Pode crer: When people from São Paulo agree with what someone just said, they often reply "pode crer", which literally means "you can believe).

Tipo: This word is pops up a lot when paulistanos speak. It means "type", but they also use it in a way similar to a comma, without altering the meaning of the sentence at all.

Farol: The paulista word for "traffic light".

Lombada: This is how paulistas call a speed bump.

Mo cara!: A way of saying "a long time"

Se pa: A slang with no possible translation that means "maybe".

U: This expression has no real meaning or translation, but it is used a lot by people from São Paulo. It is usually said when questioning something unusual.

Top: Taken from english, paulistas call something "top" when it is really good.

Suave: One of the most common slangs used by young paulistas, this expression has a few uses. It can be used as a greeting the same way as firmeza, but it can also mean that something or someone is easy or relaxed.

Tenso: Meaning "tense", this expression is used to describe something or some situation that is difficult or bad. If someone tells a story about getting robbed for example, someone else might reply "tenso!". Another person might use the word to describe a difficult videogame level.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

Brazilians are known throughout the world as warm and friendly people. They are also usually receptive towards foreigners, and tend to treat them very well. That being said, there are many cultural differences foreigners face when coming to Brazil, especially those that do not come from a Latino culture. Whether you plan to visit Brazil or live here, being aware of those differences is a good way to improve your interactions with locals.

One of the first things that strike unaware foreigners is the way people greet each other in Brazil. Men tend to great one another with handshakes, while kissing women on the cheeks. Women also kiss each other on the cheeks usually. In some parts of the country such as São Paulo, this is done with a single kiss, but in other places, people will greet with two kisses instead.

Another thing that might seem strange for foreigners, especially those from European or Asian countries, is how touchy Brazilians are. It is very common for locals to touch others in the shoulder or to give a slap in the back while they talk for example. When talking, Brazilians tend to speak in a direct manner, and in a relaxed and casual style. They also have a tendency to interrupt others during a conversation, which can bother foreigners but is considered normal for natives.

Brazilians usually dress well and in a stylish manner, specially in large cities. In the countryside, people tend to dress in a simpler manner and are more conservative in their style. When going to churches or government buildings, using tank-tops or hats is frowned upon. As for business meetings, men are always expected to wear a full suit, while women should wear smart business suits. Brazilians can also be quite formal when it comes to business settings, despite their laidback manner in casual settings.

There is also something known as "Brazilian time". For most informal meetings, be they parties, dinners or reunions, it is very common for people to be late. Except in the case of a business meeting, you should not expect people to arrive on time.

When it comes to conversations, it is often sensible to avoid some topics. Brazilians tend to be very sensitive when it comes to foreigners opinion of Brazil, and usually do not take criticism very well. Topics such as poverty, crime and politics can make Brazilians upset, so you need to be very careful when threading on these topics. You should avoid criticizing Brazilian culture as well, unless you are fairly sure that the people you are talking to are open to it, which usually isn’t the case.

There are also a few things foreigners should know about eating in Brazil, the first being that lunches or dinners can take very long. Brazilians like to take their meals slowly and talk a lot, so a lunch can last over two hours in some cases. They also tend to have good table manners in industrial cities, so be careful with the way you eat. Chewing or talking with an open mouth is considered really rude, and in some settings putting your elbows on the table is frowned upon. When eating at a restaurant, putting your fork and knife side by side in your plate indicate that you have finished, but waiters will not bring the bill unless you ask them to. Tipping is not common in Brazil, and there is usually a 10% service fee that is included in the bill.

With those things in mind, you shouldn’t have much of a problem adapting to Brazil. Despite cultural differences, Brazilians are friendly and easy to deal with, and are usually quite tolerant of mistakes that foreigners might make. Be willing to adapt and open, and soon you will find yourself at home here in Brazil.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
September 26, 2015

An alternative paradise in the state of Minas: Come taste the magic of Sao Thome das Letras.

Located near Trs Coraes, in the state of Minas Gerais, So Thom das Letras is truly a wonder to behold. The best way of getting there is through the Ferno Dias highway, which connects São Paulo and Belo Horizonte. From the highway, one should exit at the city of Trs Coraes and then take the MG-868 road to So Thom.The city lies at the peak of a mountain 1.444 meter above sea levels, surrounded by rolling hills that are full of rivers, waterfalls and caves ready to be explored. The name of the city comes from a local legend, which tells the tale of a runaway slave that entered a cave and found a statue of Saint Thomas.

So Thom is famous for harboring many alternative lifestyles. The city is full of artists and hippies, which form a vibrant and welcoming community. Some also say that So Thom is one of the 7 points of energy of the planet, which attracts many mystics, spiritualists and lovers of the esoteric. This esotericism is quite present in the city. Walking around, one sees places for yoga, meditation, crystal healing and even shamanic rituals. UFO sightings are also very common there, attracting UFO enthusiasts as well.

For those that enjoy partying, the night is very lively there. The city is full of bars playing rock, reggae and other styles of music, and most of them offer free entrance. For those that know how to play, there are even bars that allow you to play with your band or join in with the other musicians. The cachaa from So Thom is also extremely good and cheap, and enthusiasts can find quite a variety of cachaas available. Late-night partiers can also join in the tradition of watching the sunset from the pyramid, a small watchtower located at the very top of the city that offers a dazzling view from the hills around the city.

So Thom is also a great destination for the outdoors lovers. The city is surrounded by mountains that can be freely explored. Those that are adventurous are even free to explore them outside the walking trails, as the lack of thick vegetation makes it easy to do so without getting lost. These mountains are also full of waterfalls such as Shangri-l, Vale das Borboletas, Eubiose and Antares. There are also many grottos that can be explored. Some examples are Gruta do Sobradinho (Sobradinhos Grotto), Gruta So Thom (So Thoms Grotto) and Gruta do Carimbado (Carimbados Grotto).

Those that plan to visit So Thom can stay in inns or in the camping sites around the city. For those that want to focus on the outdoors and have no problem camping, it is recommended to do so. Most campsites have bathrooms and restaurants, and prices are quite cheap, usually at roughly R$ 20 a day. The city is within walking distance from most campsites, so camping isnt much of an obstacle for those who also want to visit it. Drinking and eating in So Thom is quite cheap as well, making it a great choice for those who want to travel at a low budget. But whether you want to visit So Thom for its nature, culture or music, it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
September 26, 2015

The Brazilian film industry is highly underrated. Although few national movies have become popular internationally, Brazilian movie directors has been releasing solid films for decades. We have compiled a list of some of the best for you to enjoy.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)

If you have never been to Brazil but have heard of a Brazilian movie before, it is probably Cidade de Deus. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, this movie is a harrowing tale about a slum known as Cidade de Deus in the beginning of the 80s. The movie tells the story of many characters from the point of view of Buscap, an aspiring photographer that has to face the grim reality of living in an environment where the only choice seems to be between semi-slave labor and crime. It is through his perspective that we come to understand the humanity that exists in a world ravaged by constant violence. Those that intent to watch it without subtitles should be aware that the heavy use of slangs make it a hard movie to understand. But with our without subtitles, this is a must watch if you want to get into Brazilian cinema.

O Auto da Compadecida (A Dogs Will)
Based on a work of Brazilian writer Ariano Suassuna and directed by Guel Arraes, many consider this the best Brazilian comedy every made. The protagonists of the story are two friends that live in the village of Tapero in the state of Paraba called Joo Grilo (Jack the Cricket) and Chic. Grilo is a liar, Chic is a coward and they are both poor. The movie chronicles their adventures as they get into all sorts of shenanigans, whether looking for work, tricking people or trying to get Chic a girl. The movie plays with stereotypes from the northeast of Brazil, and at the same time offers a humorous criticism of the misery that the region still faces nowadays. It is also hilarious from beginning to end, with many unforgettable scenes. If you are feeling adventurous and want to watch it without subtitles be warned: like Cidade de Deus, it is quite hard to understand due to the heavy northeastern accent and use of regional expressions.

O Que Isso Companheiro? (Four Days in September)
In 1969, the United States ambassador to Brazil Charles Elbrick was kidnapped by members of the Revolutionary Movement 8th October (MR8) and Ao Libertadora Nacional (ALN), two left-wing guerilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. Their intention was to trade Elbrick for 15 political prisoners, most of them guerilla fighters as well. This film, directed by Bruno Barreto, is a thriller that tells a fictional version of the event. Loosely based on a memoir written by Fernando Gabeira, a Brazilian politician who was one of the kidnappers, it is a truly fascinating account from the time Brazil lived under a dictatorship engaged in a constant fight with guerilla groups and other “subversives”. This movie, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is a must watch for those that want to have a better understanding of that period, as well as for those that simply enjoy watching a good thriller.