In the summer of 2000 I left for the now customary backpacking trip throughout Europe. Having had an absolutely terrible time in Paris I quickly took off for Barcelona where my story all begins. On the ten-hour train ride it takes to get to Barcelona from Paris I met some very nice and sincere people. I think it has to do with the fact you can be yourself that there really is nothing to hide when you are traveling. Well I was lucky and meet lots of them including Juliana and Miguel. A twenty something couple doing the same as I was. We, as well as our other friends we made on the train ride enjoyed the next couple of days together in Barcelona. But all good things must come to an end and while I was headed for the Greek Islands they were on their way to northern Italy. Juliana and I stayed in touch during the year and I found out in April of 2001 she was going to come and visit me in Canada that July with her sister Gabriela.
June 30th 2001 I went to pick both of them up at Dorval airport here in Montreal. Now I am sure I don’t need to explain to anybody how beautiful Brazilian women are, which will make this next line easy to understand. I was awestruck by how pretty Juliana’s sister was (so was Juli but I meet her with Miguel and always considered her taken) as soon as they came across those sliding doors at the airport. To make this part of the story short they were supposed to stay in Montreal for 4 – 5 days and then head out to visit the rest of Canada. Well, three weeks later Juliana was on her way to Vancouver to visit another one of her friends and Gabriela and I were planning a little trip to go and visit Niagra Falls. We totally hit it off. I felt like I had this abundance of energy the whole time she was with me. But once again it had to end and Gabriela had to catch a flight back to Brazil. Lots of tears fell that day and lots of promises were made. One of them being I would go to Rio as soon as possible.
So December 11th 2001 I was on my way to be with the one who I had emailed everyday for four months and spoke to on a regular basis over the phone and MSN messenger. I was on my way to Rio de Janeiro to see the one I had fallen for.
You see where I come from Rio is known for its incredible beaches and very small bikinis. I had never been to South America before and was a little nervous. The flight was incredibly long and painful and finally 21 hours after leaving Montreal I had arrived in Brazil. I broke out in an instantaneous sweat having worn my boots and big sweater because were I left from you needed it or else you froze. This time it was my turn to come
through those sliding doors at GIG. I got to wrap my arms around my baby right away. After all those long months had gone by I still felt the exact same way about her but after seeing her again, as corny as it sounds, I knew I was in love. We left the airport taking the yellow line to Barra, which is where we stayed. I quickly got into my shorts and t-shirt and we were on our way to Barra Beach to sip on some coconut water. Life was great it was the middle of December and I knew all my friends were freezing back home while I was on a beach watching the sunset in my Havaianhas.
After a much needed sleep I woke up the next morning to an intense sun. Almost to much for a gringo like me to handle. I got ready for my first whole day on the beach. I went with Juliana because Gabi had to work. She’s a dentist and has her own practice in Copacabana, which makes it hard to take a lot of time off. Being Canadian, you could almost compare my skin color to Casper the friendly ghost, and I wanted to catch up to all these tanned
cariocas and refused to put sunscreen on for the first hour and a half. Big, big mistake! That afternoon before even leaving the beach I had blisters on my feet and could barely walk because of all the sun! I got home and Gabi walked in to see me in pain and said she would not let me go to the beach without her again! I laughed and knew I had learnt my lesson the hard way. Never Under Estimate The Power Of The Sun During Brazilian Summer!
The next day I finally got to meet the parents. Roberto and Wilma, two of the most generous people I have had the pleasure of meeting. We went for supper at this amazing Brazilian steak house and had a really nice evening! I got along with them just fine and consider them good friends. I spent the next couple of weeks doing the tourist trap stuff, which has to be done the first time you go to Rio. Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf, copacabana beach and my favorite POSTO 9 at Ipanema Beach. I couldn’t believe the amount of people all young and having fun. I also got to check out some of Rio’s nightlife including Nuth, Guapo Loco and I think I spent every Tuesday at Afro Rio.
I had a great time and felt like king but the city of Rio is very busy and packed. So we decided to take a little road trip to Buzios. Once again I didn’t know what to expect. After the two-hour drive it took us to get there Gabi woke me up (I needed some sleep since I was still suffering a bit from the jet lag.) and I opened my eyes to one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Great beaches, the most romantic restaurants, (Chez Brigitte is definitely recommended) very cozy villas. Gabriela and I took it easy for the weekend walking all around Buzios and spending a day on a secluded beach called praia Brava.
I loved every moment there. It was just Gabi and me. No cell phone, no TV, nothing except for the both of us and this beautiful place. We spent a lot of talking trying to figure out why two people who love each other so much would have to spend so much time apart. It was difficult knowing that I only had a couple of weeks left before I head back to Canada and all its coldness. I had lived so many of those perfect moments people some people look for forever. They just kept coming too. New Years at Marimbas on Copacabana beach, the suppers at the lagoon or even the quiet nights at home sitting in the hammock on the balcony.
It’s now March 19th 2002 and Gabriela and I still speak on a daily basis. I haven’t giving up and neither has she. I checked out some of the Universities around here hoping I would convince her into going back to school. I also really wouldn’t mind going to Rio for a while but I am into computer networking and hardware configuration and from what I know that
market is saturated over there and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t know where to begin to look. So that’s where we are, still very much in love and looking for a way to be together. read more

Hard to know where to start. I don’t know where it will finish. I’m due to get married in 2 hours. I’m not sure where, or by whom. All I know is to whom and why.
I’m not allowed to say anywhere, in any language, but the real reason for getting married now, rather than at any other date, is that once we’re married I can get a residence permit, and once I’ve got said permit I’ll be entitled to some sort of magic number, with this number I’ll be able to order (but not pay for) a phone, with a phone I can jump the queue and make an appointment with a bank manager, who will in turn, if he feels like it, permit me to open various bank accounts, from which I can pay, over and under counters, assorted bureaucrats, who will let me start a company, phone companies to let me have a phone, internet companies who will permit me to operate online, and into which account or accounts, new customers, namely
the bank itself, who will pay, theoretically, large sums of money, for I’ve managed to sell them a huge number of Financial English courses that haven’t been written yet, using software that doesn’t work yet, to be implemented on computers that haven’t been released yet, to be taught by a teacher I haven’t found yet.
And of course I love Jaqueline dearly. The marriage building is a modern monstrosity, one of Prince Charles’s carbuncles. Apparently the concrete shell of the building was designed as a state hospital, but in the mysterious manner of things the money went walkies and it’s now yet another courtroom, a haven for overweight paunchy lawyers, who all walk about talking into mobile phones. Fans hiss and whirr. Old ladies occupy every bench, Each office has a counter, on which lean anxious women. Only women; this is a divorce and marriage court , after all. No man anywhere in the world is going to get a good deal in a marriage or divorce court except the fatso lawyers. No point a man even turning up. Jackie’s friend Ana has been roped in to help. A wonderfully kind and generous person, she owns a lucrative Mitsubishi franchise, and apparently knows ‘the judge’. Or ‘a judge’. I’m not sure what a judge has to do with anything. In England vicars handle marriages. His role has not been made clear to me. Nor do I understand why a Public Prosecutor is involved. My Dutch divorce settlement of 8 years ago in Utrecht has been translated into Portuguese. Much tut-tutting whenever it is read by an interested party:
She did that!!!’ “You can do this in Europe!!”. Ana’s role so far has been to help us jump the queue, which as an Englishman goes against the grain, but there’s a limit to patience. I was so embarrassed at this blatant cronyism in one office I sat outside on a bench. Jackie and Ana, assuming I was following them dog-like, jumped the queue through a door with no handles, leaving me outside. More tut-tutting as the innocent gringo is led through the office the long way round, through the sweaty divorcees , to the inner airco sanctuary.
The judge can’t be too high in the tree, his office is pathetic. No pictures, one desk, awful chairs, and a table stacked 25 deep with piles of manila folders. Ana and Jackie bring out photo albums. The judge does the same. I give up any further attempt to understand what’s going on, and open my “The Future is Online and it’s Here Now!!” computer magazine and try without
success to relate the magazine’s content to where I actually am. The judge is evidently an old friend of Ana, maybe even family, but as here ‘family’ includes one’s sister’s husband’s cousin’s uncle, I have no way of finding out. He inspects my folder of translated European documentation. I’ve brought an English birth certificate, a certificate of good behaviour from the Dutch
Police, a ream of Dutch divorce agreements, or rather disagreements, an old French driving licence I no longer need, a one-week introduction to TEFL certificate from Hilderstone College in good old Planet Thanet in England that I judged to have the most impressive logo and seal. All this has been translated and assembled and covered with official seals and stamps for me by a multi-lingual Brazilian journalist in Utrecht by the name of Jos Carlos Pineapple.
I kid you not. Very helpful chap if you’re ever in Europe and need paperwork dealt with. The judge inspects and approves everything. Jackie and Ana get up, motioning me to follow. I feel like an old boxer who talks funny and can’t cope on his
own. We all shake hands and make our farewells for the regulation 20 minutes, and return to the car park. Apparently the paperwork is fine, but another judge is on his way over to approve, but he’s been held up by the day of protests.
Ana needs to get back to her garage to sell a car to a rich sugarcane mill owner. Jackie needs to go to work to make sure she can take off 2 weeks, without warning, to come to Europe with me tomorrow on a surprise honeymoon.
I need to find out if I still employ anyone. We arrived at the matrimonial eyesore building on the dot of between 1 and
2. No entry bribes were required other than to stop the barefoot boys ‘guarding’ the car from wrecking it. Yesterday’s national ‘day of protest’ meant that most people had gone to the beach and stayed there, but there were still a few obese lawyers on the phone, disconsolate divorcees and their mothers hanging around, and a gaggle of military police smoking. Ana
led the way. Senhor Carlos, the canny old lawyer politician who says he’s interested in investing in my software business, had put a tie on. My system operator Juninho, looking more like Mr Bean than ever, had shaved, but not put a tie on. It was at least 95 in the shade outside. I’d been cajoled into wearing a new charcoal suit and a smart new black T-shirt. Jackie’s kids had washed their hair and put on their cleanest jeans. Jackie herself had bought a new dress, mustard yellow with embroidered flowers, under which I suspect she was wearing nothing, as befits a Brazilian bride.
We were ushered into an ante-chamber. 8 chairs, a formica table, some storage boxes in the corner. Airco at full blast. Several secretaries fussed with folders. A judge appeared, we all sat down, various folders were passed around, other than that, nothing. I toyed with the ring. Senhor Carlos started the conversation. He was annoyed with the landless
peasants who were occupying the square downtown outside his office. Ana agreed with him. “70% of the landless aren’t landless at all’ she said.
“They join the movement only to jump the land purchase queue”. Very sensible, I thought in silence. I’ve been very careful not to learn to speak Portuguese, not out of laziness, well not much, anyway, more from a fear of embarrassing my wife and her family. I try never to speak in public, but I can read the paper and understand Jo Soares and the Sunday night TV news summary, and most conversations. This aloof attitude means only English or French or Dutch or German speakers are able to talk to me. The rest need to go through Jaqueline, her kids, or my trusty system operator. This way I can’t breach protocol and make the kind of social gaffes I tend to make elsewhere. Nixon survived for years like this. My sympathies are almost entirely with the dispossessed landless peasants, who seem to live in appalling mediaeval squalor, but it’s not a viewpoint shared by the Nordestinho elite among whom I mingle, who after all were doing me a good turn by turning up for the marriage.
Apparently another judge who the previous day had been delayed by protests had now had a car crash, and was attempting to get to the courtroom in a taxi, which had in turn had a flat tyre. Everyone in the room flipped out their mobile phones.
The conversation moved on to TV game shows and the deplorable spread of pornography, the landless peasants quickly forgotten. The previous evening decorum had been breached, and on prime time evening TV, a naked lady had been shown inhaling a cigarette, well er not with her mouth, if you get my drift. Jackie’s son Desinho said he’s seen it too.
Much tut-tutting between the adults. ‘Scandalous misuse of television’, ‘appalling, perverse….’. Of course all of them had seen the show, which competes with two other channels to present the most disgusting, really disgusting items.
The conversation was severely straining my Portuguese. I’d come to get married, but as far as I could make out, the wedding party were discussing, among other subjects, how they’d seen shows involving cats having sex with rabbits, and two boys torturing a rare Amazonian frog with a home-made electric frog-prodder.
“What about the wedding ceremony?”, I whispered to Jaqueline.
“Soon….soon….another 20 minutes…..” she replied.
Juninho and I slunk off to look for something to drink.
The coffee bar outside the courtrooom was empty. We ordered drinks from a tiny lady whose head hardly reached the counter. Cups appeared over the edge, wizened black fingers clicked, Juninho handed over some grubby currency, and the hand disappeared. Jackie’s younger sister appeared, looking magnificent in a new hairdo and a smart new full-length polyester dress. “Hunting for rich lawyers,” muttered Juninho. The kids had joined us, bored with the courtroom, where the adults had
inevitably moved on to that Brazilian conversational staple, ‘mutual acquaintances who’ve died recently in car crashes’.
Juninho kindly bought everyone some sugary products. At last, the delayed judge arrived. Another very old, very small, very black wizened man, with white hair, wearing an electric blue suit, clutching a giant register of marriages almost as big as himself.
Juninho, who as a Paulista regards Nordestinhos as primitive barbarians, ushered me back towards the courtroom. I was getting nervous.”Can’t I have a quick drink to calm my nerves?” I asked him. “No”, he said, firmly. “Your wife-to-be will kill me if I deliver you smelling of cheap whisky”, which, after the poppy exchange in the car, I conceded was likely.
By now the crowd outside the courtroom had increased to a small horde of peasants, their families, their lawyers, secretaries, judge’s assistants, everyone in uncomfortable acrylic clothing. Most of the assembled throng awaiting matrimony were upcountry peasants who had never seen a gringo.
Someone wearing shoes is rare enough.
“It’s not quite queue-jumping,” I rationalised to myself. ‘They really do
want me to go first.’
Being tall and blue-eyed, I know what it must have felt like to be Queztcoalatl, who arrived on the shores of Yucatan a thousand years ago and was promptly turned into a living deity. Probably a Viking who’d lost his sextant, but his memory and no doubt his genes linger on. Crowds part when I’m on the move, as they must have done for him. In 5 years here I’ve only
ever seen half a dozen or so fellow blue-eyed gringos, who are as fascinating to Nordestinhos as Amazonian tribespeople with dinner plates for lips are to Europeans, and one getting married is …well I reckoned we might get on local TV game-show that evening as an oddball item, although I didn’t want to be prodded or have sex with an animal.
We’d now been an hour and a half in the courtroom.
The much-delayed wizened judge, having copied all our details into his giant ledger, stood up, I think.
We all stood up.
Cameras appeared. A mobile phone rang. I could hear two secretaries in the nearby office arguing about which printer driver to use. One of the kids knocked over a pile of storage boxes. Another judge appeared. Senhor Carlos tapped out his pipe.
I realised everyone was looking at me.We went through the ‘do you take this woman..’ routine..
‘Si” I said, confidently.
‘Si’ said Jaqueline.
And that was it.
Married.” read more

Brazil’s Banking Association Febraban has decided to maintain the current restricted operating hours, of 6am to 10pm, for São Paulo’s ATMs. The city’s ATMs were expected to return to a normal 24hr. schedule on Mar. 11, following the end of the country’s energy rationing program last week. Febraban decided, however, that in light of the increased number of kidnappings and robberies associated with late night ATM withdrawals, that it would be best to maintain the current restricted operating hours for the time being. read more

A dengue fever epidemic in Rio has left more than 10,000 people infected, with symptoms of severe pain, fever, headaches and nausea, and in its most extreme form, causing internal hemorrhaging, has claimed 11 lives this year.
Last week one thousand troops were deployed, along with 2,000 volunteers, in a citywide effort to stamp out the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the disease.
The mosquitoes can lay their eggs in almost any body of standing water, even small accumulations in old tires and in the leaves of bromeliad plants.
Epidemiologists estimate the total number of infected people, including those who do not seek medical treatment, could reach 100,000 in the next two months.
In 2001, eight people died of dengue in Rio de Janeiro state. The worst dengue epidemic in the state occurred in 1991, when 24 people died.
The current situation is not exclusive to Rio de Janeiro. Dengue has been declared an epidemic in the city of Campo Grande, near the border with Bolivia – where 6,699 cases were reported – as well as in Recife, Goiania and Cuiaba.
Meanwhile last week São Paulo confirmed its first dengue hemorrhagic fever death in 16 years. The victim, a 32-year-old woman, contracted the disease while she was visiting Rio in January,
The city of São Paulo has currently reported six cases of native” dengue, but not hemorrhagic fever, and another 184 people who have arrived here sick from other areas of the country.
One proven method to combat dengue is to spread coffee dregs on plants and other areas where water can accumulate.” read more

Brazil’s tourist agency Embratur has set up a special free telephone number 0800 701 1250 to provide emergency information for local and foreign tourists during the Carnaval period from Feb. 7 – 17. The service includes information regarding lost passports, credit cards etc. as well as procedure to be followed in the case of accidents, robberies etc. read more

If you plan on staying in São Paulo over the Carnaval period, don’t despair, the city has a large Carnaval stadium (Sambodromo) and the quality of its exotic floats, thundering bands and scantily clad dancers etc. is not far behind that of Rio. Rehearsals have been taking place at an accelerated pace over the past few months and are open to the general public for a small fee. One of the most central is Vai-Vai, which practices every Sunday from 8pm to midnight at Rua São Vicente, 276 – Bela Vista. Entrance R$2. read more

The Hash Hound Harriers is a worldwide organization and could best be descriped as a group of drinkers with a running problem.” For those new in town and interested in meeting other foreigners and English-speaking Brazilians there are two Hash Hound Harrier groups to choose from. While both groups have a similar objective (a fun day out) they each attract different profiles. The BNHHH (Brazil Nuts Hash Hound Harriers) is a mixed group of robust individuals who meet on the first Saturday of each month usually somewhere outside São Paulo. It’s a strictly adults only group and they normally have a good run followed by plenty of beer. For more details check the website read more

Located in São Paulo’s classy Jardins neighborhood, the ‘All Black Irish Pub’ is the latest addition to the city’s international bar scene. The pub has an authentic Irish feel to it, serves Guinness on tap as well as a range of Irish whiskeys, and has a space for live music. The pub has an openair space upstairs and on the ground level, ideal for summertime drinking.
Address Rua Oscar Freire, 163 – Jardins.
Tel. (011) 3088-7990 read more

For those interested in the arts a visit to the Pinacoteca do Estado museum is well worth the trip. There are always a number of exhibitions running at the museum, which recently hosted work by Roding, including 45 sculptures (16 of which were exhibited for the first time), 25 drawings and 10 photographs, produced between 1880 and 1910. read more

By Michael Marsden
I’m English, I live in Rio de Janeiro, and my relationship with Brazil has its ups and downs. We’ve been together for five years and, like many couples, we have good days and bad days.
Some of the things that happen on bad days will be familiar to other foreigners living in Brazil. I suspect, however, that when many other people have bad days they manage, unlike me, to remain good-humoured and keep their sense of perspective.
If I had to imagine my worst possible day in Rio, it would have to feature a queue in a bank. Not just any queue, but an immense, endlessly twisting anaconda of resigned-looking cariocas. There would be five counters, but only two clerks. Two other bank employees would tease me by loitering tantalisingly close to the empty counters, poised to alleviate the human suffering in front of them, but then wandering off out of sight, never to return. I’d mutter self-righteously to myself about disorganisation, and about Brazilians’ passivity in the face of third-rate service.
When finally leaving the bank, my bom humor already exhausted, I’d be ready to let the slightest thing irritate me. Knowing this, someone would drive past in an expensive car and nonchalantly throw a tin can out of the window. Suddenly I’d have to suppress one of my unhealthy neo-colonial fantasies, the one in which I’m the authoritarian governor of Rio decreeing draconian punishments for littering and other minor eco-crimes.
Later, at home, I would turn on the TV and be confronted by the ample form of Faustão, relentless in his appeal to the lowest common denominator, a man always ready to throw his considerable weight behind the forces intent on dragging Brazilian TV ever downwards. Like other sufferers from Faustophobia across the nation, I’d struggle with the urge to throw a heavy object at such a temptingly wide target.
The day from hell would end with a condominium meeting in the building where I live. Everyone would talk, very loudly, at the same time, and it would take all night to reach a conclusion. The conclusion would be that decisions about most items on the agenda would have to be deferred until the next meeting. At least a couple of residents would say astonishingly mean-spirited things about the porteiros, or about their empregadas. I’d take the opportunity to silently condemn the Brazilian middle-class for its disdain towards the underprivileged majority (I also generalise a lot on bad days), while reassuring myself that I’m an enlightened outsider untainted by local prejudices.
As I said before, I don’t think I handle bad days in Brazil very well. On such days I’ve been known to look back across the proverbial fence to England, which I still call home, and tell myself that the grass is much greener on the other side. Actually I do think there are many good things about my country (and not just beer and curry, the banal examples that always seem to spring to mind), but usually I know better than to try to idealise it from a distance.
On the whole I manage not to pretend that spending time in English banks is a spiritually uplifting experience, or that my country is a shining example of social solidarity, or that there isn’t any rubbish on British TV. (Just think of Jim Davidson or Noel Edmonds. If you’re not British and don’t know who they are, just be thankful.)
Actually, one of the most negative aspects of England is something I was only vaguely aware of when I lived there, but which my time in Brazil has made glaringly obvious. I’ve flown home from Rio six or seven times, and upon arrival I’ve always been struck not just by the pale and flabby appearance of most of my compatriots – my country urgently needs about forty million sunbeds and exercise bikes – but also by something more disconcerting. Compared with cariocas, an awful lot of English people look vaguely displeased, disgruntled, or just downright miserable.
Of course appearances can be deceptive, and not all the people in the airport with long faces are as morose as they appear. But even leaving aside superficial impressions, there are still some ways in which a lot of my compatriots compare badly with most Brazilians. Whenever I go home I’m always struck by how unanimated and undemonstrative many English people are. A certain difficulty when it comes to expressing emotion also probably explains the remarkable penchant for understatement and indirect communication, and – though I still love the British sense of humour – the overuse of irony. Nowadays I tend to find these characteristics exasperating, mainly because they seem so unnecessary. Deep down English people have as much passion and calor humano as Brazilians or anyone else, so why do so many of them have to hide it behind defensive walls? (After five years away, can I get away with using them” and not “us”?)
If I could export one characteristic of Brazil to England, it would be the pervasive exuberance of the people. Of course, to talk about Brazilian exuberance or alegria is to run the risk of using clichs, so numerous are the banalities have been said and written about these qualities. (Indeed, I probably could have stolen “pervasive exuberance” from the back-cover of a guidebook to Brazil, but I promise I didn’t.) Alegria can also be something of a dangerous theme – surely we’ve all heard someone try to dismiss Brazil’s social problems with the assertion that most people here are “poor but happy”.
And yet the exuberance continues to enchant me here, even more than the sensuality in the air or the stunning backdrop to the city. It’s the main reason I’m still around, and the main reason why, whenever I fly back here from England, I share the reaction Tom Jobim described in Samba do Avião: my soul sings when I see Rio de Janeiro. And what’s more, from an altitude of ten thousand feet, there isn’t a single bank queue to spoil the view. read more