By Laura Ferreira
January 11, 2016

On the western end of the beach city of Santos, there is a hill that rises sharply, one hundred and eighty one meters above the sea. A paved but neglected road winds up the hill, through a small favela, ending abruptly at what is arguably the most gratifying vista for miles around. There – surrounded by views of white sand beaches and high rises – is a small restaurant, a flight center, and a grass field used for takeoff by paragliding and hang gliding pilots.

That is where I met with Prem Basir and Maria A. Petit, the international paragliding experts behind Basir Up in the AIR. We had all left São Paulo early that morning and made the hour and a half drive to Santos with hope that it would be a good day for flying. When we convened at the top of Morro do Itarar, the sky was clear with gentle tufts of clouds, and a soft wind was beginning to pick up. I had never paraglided before, but the day seemed too perfect not to amount to something.

Prem Basir and Maria explained to me that we would need to wait for the wind to pick up to ensure a longer flight, but that it did, indeed, look like a good day for flying. They suggested that we have a coconut water and chat at the restaurant next to the field while we waited for the perfect wind.

While we took in the view and had our drinks, Basir told me his history with Paragliding. He began paragliding years ago with a tandem flight and lessons at a site called Fuyang in China. His first experience was very positive. Basirs piqued interest led him to continue training on the Wasserkuppe – the birthplace for various types of flying (located in Germany). He then spent four years working for Papillon – the largest paragliding school in the world, and moved on to instruct and conduct guided paragliding trips across Europe and Latin America. Basir explained that he is a DHV certified paragliding instructor and tandem pilot.

All this information worked to calm my first-time nerves. Maria – who met Basir in Brazil, and spent time paragliding with him in Europe as well as Brazil – helped Basir to explain the physics of paragliding to me. They talked me through the weather conditions that create an enjoyable and lengthy flight, and the basics of preparation, flight, and landing. By the time the windsock was full, coming from the right direction, I felt confident and excited for the flight.

We walked to the flight club and registered, and Maria walked me through the process of checking equipment and practicing for our takeoff while Basir got set up. In just a few minutes, I was hooked to Basir, Basir was hooked to our parachute, and we were ready to run. The takeoff was an adrenaline rush, but so momentary that it didnt define the experience. It was being in the air that left a lasting impression.

We soared on thermal air pockets, high and low, back and forth. It was serene and beautiful – something you can only have an inkling of in a small plane. Birds glided past on the same wind that we used – giving me the impression that we were part of their private club. Moreover, there were many other paragliders around us, snapping selfies and waving to each other as they passed – engaging in a culture that is friendly and thrilling – cultivated through brief shared moments, high over the beaches and hills of Santos.

Basir encouraged me to loosen my white-knuckle grasp on my harness and enjoy the flight, and after a few minutes, I was taking photos of the city and sea, and marveling at the feeling of quietly floating through the air. After we had seen the sights, and I felt I hadnt missed a thing, we headed down towards the beach. Basir pointed out the landing field and asked me to identify the windsock and the direction of the wind. For the final act, we passed over the ocean, and turned to fly along the line of buildings on the beach. Basir explained landing one more time, and we came down towards the field. In a split second, we touched the ground – smoothly and relatively gracefully.

I highly recommend the experience of paragliding. Particularly to those who, like me, want to enthusiastically explore, but arent interested in adrenaline overload. It is an unexpected experience that will push you just far enough out of your comfort zone that you gain new knowledge and incredible perspective without feeling over the proverbial edge. And, if youre in or headed to Brazil, Basir Up in the AIR is exactly who you should look up to get you started.

A video of Laura landing at Basir Up in the Air’s Facebook page.

Basir Up in the Air’s website: www.basirair.com

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
January 9, 2016
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If you are a foreigner that wants to live in Brazil, you should know a few things in advance. One of these things is what sort of documents you will need in order to live, work and drive here and how to get these documents. The first document you will need is the CPF, which stands for "cadastro de pessoa fsica". This document is a tax identification number linked to the Federal Revenue of Brazil. This CPF is needed to purchase many goods and services such as a car, a health insurance plan and a house. This document can be obtained through a Brazilian embassy or consulate, or from the Brazilian Receita Federal, which is the local Tax Authority. Getting it through a diplomatic mission requires more work, costs more and takes weeks before you get your number, so doing it through the Receita Federal is recommended.

Another essential document is the CIE (Cdula de Identidade de Estrangeiro). This is a card that contains your RNE (Registro Nacional de Estrangeiro), which is your proof of ID in Brazil that is the equivalent of the Brazilian ID card, the RG (Registro Geral). Important note: this first requires you have an appropriate visa e.g. permanent. In some places you can also use your passport as an ID, but there will be many situations where your RNE number will be needed such as when opening a bank account, buying a car or getting a mobile phone plan. To get this document, you need to fill a form and apply for it at the <a href="http://www.dpf.gov.br/">Federal Police website</a> within 30 days of arriving in the country. It is important to be aware that although some bank workers will tell you that they only accept an RG number they are wrong, as the RNE number can be used as a substitute for the RG in any occasion according to Brazilian law.

You should also have a proof of residence, which may be required when doing things such as getting a job or an internet plan. There are several documents that can serve as a proof of residence, and different institutions might ask for different documents as proof. Some of the documents that are most commonly accepted are condominium bills, electricity bills, bank statements, lease agreements and traffic fines. If you dont have any of these documents in your name, you need to present them along with a document that proves your relationship with the homeowner.

If you want to work here, you also need to get a CTPS (Carteira de Trabalho e Previdncia Social). This document will give you access to labor rights and record information about your employers, jobs and wages. The CTPS for foreigners is issued at the Regional Offices of Labor and employment, and requires you to present a series of documents. The only different between the CTPS for Brazilians and for foreigners is the color of the cover, which is blue for locals and green for foreigners.

As for driving, you will need a CNH (Carteira Nacional de Habilitao), which is the Brazilian drivers licence. If you have a license from the United States, European Union, Australia or South Africa, you can exchange it without having to take a driving test. In order to do this, you need to find an official translator, submit your license to them and wait for it to be returned. If you dont have a license from these regions, you need to contact DETRAN (Departamento Estadual de Trnsito) and go through the process of acquiring your license, which includes a psychological test, classes and a test in driving theory, and practical classes with a final practical test.

Of course, other documents might come handy, but with the ones listed above you should have no problem living in Brazil. We will cover in more detail how to get the aforementioned documents in other articles. As for your stay in Brazil, we hope you enjoy it!

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
January 9, 2016

Minas Gerais is a state in the southeast of Brazil marked by rolling hills, mountains and a sky that is said by some to be the bluest in the country. Minas has played an important part in the history of Brazil, playing a role akin to the Wild West in the United States when gold was discovered in the depths of its mountains. Nowadays, the gold is all but gone, and all of the misery and riches it has brought has gone with it, with the exception of the gold-adorned churches of Ouro Preto. But the inflow of people that occurred in these times has not only made it the second most populous state in the country, but also one of the most culturally rich states. Among these riches, is a culinary tradition amazing in its diversity and richness of flavors.

In Brazil, the cuisine from Minas is known as the epitome of home-cooked food, and some even go as far as calling it “the soul of Brazilian cuisine”. From the Portuguese colonizers, it has inherited elaborate pastries and thick broths and stews. From indigenous culture, it inherited the use of many local spices and plants such as manioc. And from the African culture that came to Brazil with the slaves it took its ingenuity and capacity to create and adapt recipes with whatever resources available. The trademark of mineira cuisine is the wooden stove and the assortment of rustic pans and pots made of clay or stone. Whether in Minas or not, any mineiro restaurant that prizes itself still used this setup.

One of the things that is most notable in mineira cuisine is the abundance of thick broths and stews. These usually have a lot of meat, specially chicken and pork meat, and are as caloric as they are delicious. It also uses a lot of native vegetables and roots, such as kale, cassava, and okra. Two staple dishes of Minas are the Feijo Tropeiro and Tutu de Feijo, which are broths elaborated from cassava flour, beans and a mix of other ingredients. Pork is used with no restraints in Minas, and can be found prepared in a variety of ways. There are pork stews, broths, roasted pork and fried pork. One of the most popular pork recipes from Minas is the torresmo, an appetizer that is made from fried pork skin and fat.

Minas is also notorious for its variety of cheeses, which are very popular through Brazil. Its staple cheese is known through the country as “queijo mineiro” (Minas cheese), which is a whitish cheese with a soft texture that is often served as a dessert together with goiabada, a guava-based candy. From Minas also comes the “po de queijo” (cheese bread), a cheese flavored roll that might be the most recognizable Brazilian snack.

To top it all, Minas is known for its cachaa, a distilled spirit made from sugar cane that is known outside of Brazil for its use in preparing caipirinhas, a notorious Brazilian fruit cocktail. Although cachaa is popular through the whole country, the cachaa from Minas is reputed to be the best. It also goes down very well with the mineiro dishes, especially the heavy pork-based ones. If you are a fan of eating and drinking well, you shouldnt miss the opportunity to try some authentic mineira cuisine washed down for some cahaa. But be warned: if you are wary of caloric meals, this experience might not be for you.