July 27, 2007

Meet David Johnson, from Bermuda, who is married to a Brazilian and visits Brazil twice a year. David is a motor sports fanatic and closet gourmet chef. Read the following interview where he tells us about some of her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I’m from Bermuda, one of the last remaining British colonies and a 22sq mile speck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I’m 45 and married to Roseli with one son Ayrton Max who is 8 years old. I co-own a company that specializes in low-voltage systems integration like CCTV, building access and security. I spent a good portion of my childhood in the Bahamas as my Father worked on various construction projects on Grand Bahama and the surrounding islands. I also lived in the UK for 2 years for the same reasons. I’m a motor sports fanatic and a closet gourmet chef.
I own a house on Praia Dura, Ubatuba SP and visit at least twice a year for a month or so.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

I met my beautiful wife Roseli in Bermuda where she has lived most of her life and I tagged along on the annual family trip home to São Paulo in Dec 96. Roselis’ parents have a home in Mandaqui close to Horto Florestal.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

The view of the city from the airplane was just astounding and the taxi ride from Guarulhos was an eye opener. I’ve traveled extensively in North America and the Caribbean so I wasn’t too shocked at the obvious favelas and the disheveled Rio Tiete (which has improved steadily since) but the shear size and complexity of São Paulo was both daunting and exciting at the same time. Of course family and friends went out of their way to make me feel welcome and we we’re off on excursions to the feira and Horto and Shopping Centres almost immediately. São Paulo, like all big cities I guess, offers the best and worst of everything on the planet at any time of the day.

We spent the week of New Years Eve at a friends’ beach house in Santos (Praia Grande) and drove up and down the coast on day trips. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Litoral Norte and knew as soon as I saw the little beach towns around São Sebastiao that this was where I wanted to have my own little piece of Brasil.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Bermuda is very small, intensively developed, and has the Anglican penchant for neatness and order. It is a very safe society where you see the same faces daily and draw some comfort from that. My family is here (mostly) and I suppose they are the only thing I miss when I’m in Brasil. Oh, and my high-speed internet connection!

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

I suppose I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had family or friends to help with the things that would frustrate someone flying solo. Getting a driving permit, buying my house or car or having appliances delivered is always accomplished for the right fee and I’m cool with all of that. If I had to run a company here or deal with the civil service in any way I think I would be constantly frustrated.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

Every trip to Brasil has been memorable in some way but my first trip to Ubatuba in 2002 is by far the most. Having purchased my first car I made the decision to drive to Ubatuba after some research on the internet. We loaded up the luggage, dropped the rest of the family off at the bus station and we were off. I was at the wheel with my two brothers-in-law as co-pilots. The Marginal Tiete was a daunting challenge that transformed into the superb Ayrton Senna/Carvalho Pinto and breathtaking Oswaldo Cruz descent into Ubatuba. The trip was fabulous; we scouted real estate and found an agent who showed us some great houses but none that fit. We had to return to São Paulo for a few days but arranged a day to view some more properties and found our present house on Praia Dura. A last-minute trip to show the house to my wife and mother-in-law was planned for the last full day before our return to Bermuda. Of course I’d neglected to secure my driving permit based on my brother-in-laws’ advice (always a mistake) and on the drive down to Caraguatatuba encountered a Policia Militar check-point. Confidently handing over my international license and passport didn’t do the trick and I was ordered out of the car. My father-in-law leapt into action and a protracted negotiation ensued. Threats of a lock-up and mid-week court date vaporized with the appropriate donation and promise not to drive and we left with a hearty hand-shake. I still glance nervously at that point on each return trip.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

Of course the people are wonderful but the thing I like the most is the wild open space. There isn’t a single spot in Bermuda where you can’t see some sign of civilization or something man-made or planted. The variety of fresh food is amazing as well, everything in Bermuda is imported.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

I’ve been to so many restaurants since I’ve been coming here that a favorite is hard to single out but stopping for lunch at the Fazenda Comadre on Rodovia Tamoios is really good on a sunny afternoon.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

Once when I was shopping for groceries in Ubatuba with my Bermudian nephew in tow I stopped at the butchers counter to get some steaks. My nephew had been complimenting me on my Portuguese all day (he’s easy to impress I guess) and I was feeling pretty cocky when I asked for the steaks to be cut bem forte” instead of “largo”. The butcher smiled and the 2 old ladies in line behind me cackled and hissed “alemao!” My nephew called me ‘Alemao’ for the rest of the trip.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

As mentioned before Bermuda is tiny and buttoned-down in every respect. The Afro-Caribbean influence on our culture is our only splash of exuberance.
Brasil is huge and out-going and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

I’m getting better and better but I don’t think I’ll make real progress until I can stay for longer than one month at a time. I understand most direct questions and can reply most of the time but I struggle to follow and participate in group conversations and my verbs are always wrong. I’ve been studying the Rosetta Stone CD’s lately and am pleased with my progress.
As an interesting side-note, there is a very prominent Azorean community in Bermuda and Portuguese is heard everywhere, but the Azores are to Brasil as Scotland is to Texas!

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

Learn some basic Portuguese and immerse yourselves in Brasil. It’s not home so don’t get hung-up on comparisons.

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

In São Paulo you have to:
1. Go to a football game.
2. Visit the open-air car market at Anhembi on a Sunday. (the number of cars for sale is staggering)
3. Eat at a Churrascaria on a Sunday afternoon.
4. Go to the Rodizio do Pizza at the Policia Militar base in Tucaruvi. Endless chopp and pizza with live entertainment!
5. Drive up to Campinas and ride on the ‘Maria Fumaca’ restored steam train ride to Jaguaraina.

David can be contacted at dcj_2tech at yahoo dot com

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply