By Alastair Kinghorn
April 1, 2014

You might be excused for thinking that Brazilians have no modesty worth talking about, let alone enough to make up the subject of an interesting article, but there you would display your ignorance of Brazilian etiquette and completely overlook how social contrasts and extremes affect the individual’s attitude towards appropriate behaviour.

Carnival is the clearest example of this, when it becomes acceptable for people to dance almost naked in the streets, to kiss strangers in public and for men and women to flirt outrageously.

For the remainder of the year this behaviour would be taboo, especially if the participants are married or members of one of the evangelical churches.

But in Brazil, what is normally acceptable is difficult for a foreigner to understand.

Take the beach as an obvious place to start.

Brazilian swimwear is famous and rightly so. The ‘fio dental’ is clearly the briefest of all bikinis, but it is very rarely worn topless, in Brazil at least. Public display of naked female breasts is not only immodest; it is illegal, except within one of the few nudist areas. Having said that, the sheer quantity of naked flesh on display is sufficient to prompt a startled reaction from even the most well seasoned observer. I remember my dear old dad remarking to me as we jetted back to London after a holiday in São Vicente, that he had never seen so many bottoms in his entire life! He was 80 years old!

Even in the street, rather than focussing on exposing her breasts, Brasileiras take the attention of the male gaze toward their buttocks, which are considered to be the most sensual part of the female anatomy, and to their cleavage, but her nipples are firmly left under cover.

Hence short skirts are very short indeed, shorts are minimal and tops plunge towards the midriff, but underneath there lurks a brassiere that would survive attack by shell-fire. Nipples are a no-go-area.

Enough of your leering about near naked Brasileiras! I hear you clamour! What about the men?

Well funnily enough it goes much stranger for them, as the Brazilian male will happily display his genital bulges , his ‘builder’s bum’ and some of his genital hair, on the beach, in the supermarket, on the street, almost anywhere! The ‘sunga,’ which is the briefest male beachwear, is very popular among single men and much admired by young and mature women alike. It is very tiny and made of the sheerest material, so that it becomes almost transparent when wet. Next comes the ‘bermudas’ which begin with a waistband that starts below the hip, then hug every contour down to the thigh before ending cut to the knee. The more daring or perhaps those who have more to display, wear ‘bermudas’ tailored in lycra.

In summer it is common for men to be bare chested almost everywhere, except for banks, smart restaurants and other more formal areas. ‘Six pack’ abdominals are ‘de rigueur’ for the aspiring Brasileiro. If this were not enough, the Brazilian male has a very strong attachment to his genital region, and that is his hand. It seems as if he is constantly seeking reassurance that everything is still there and intact. Quite unselfconsciously he will reach down and give himself an affectionate pat, sometimes a good scratching will then ensue and then a re-arrangement of his precious equipment before returning his hand to whatever else takes his fancy. Which is probably his girl-friend’s behind.

If he is on his own, or especially with his amigos, he will mercilessly taunt unaccompanied females with vocal appreciations of the most immodest nature, all of which is usually met with a haughty response.

All of the aforesaid is however in public, and little or none of this behaviour will be displayed within the privacy of a Brazilian house, especially while entertaining visitors.

First of all, the house is separated into the areas where guests are normally received, and those where outsiders will seldom be invited. You are unlikely to be given a tour of a Brazilian house beyond the sitting room. Bedrooms are frequently shared, especially among poorer families, but perhaps in an effort to recover some degree of privacy, they are seldom put on show. In a similar fashion, dress codes are curiously altered towards a much more modest arrangement. Skimpy bikinis and provocative clothing are fine for the beach or for showing off in public, but not usually welcome at home unless you are in the pool. While staying with close friends in their house, I made the mistake of coming from the bathroom wrapped in a large towel after taking a shower. As I returned to the bedroom allocated to me, my partner lost no time in telling me that this was much frowned upon.

Very strange indeed, I thought, especially since we had just returned from a party where there had been played over and over again, the then hit song;- ‘Move your body very sexy’ on the dance floor, accompanied by enthusiastic gyrating by all attending, complete with explicit body movements to illustrate the indecent verses being shouted aloud!

Tut! Tut!

Shameful!

And in public too!

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural south eastern 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 foot-hills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times I spend my time between my sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Scotsman in Brazil

By Chip Kishel
April 1, 2014

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

School Starts

Much to my dismay, school started in early August, nearly three weeks earlier than in the States. After all I was below the equator and the season in Brazil was late winter, so I thought.

Escola Graduada de São Paulo

As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the school bus was not like the ones I was accustomed to. The school bus may not have been a school” bus at all, but rather a bus for hire. I recall the interior of the bus being plain, but the front dashboard and windshield was decorated with hanging colorful balls and religious icons and decals. The school was 3 to 4 years old, as I was told, and isolated on a hill about 45 minutes from home. (Note: I Googled my school today, 50 years later, to find it surrounded by a crowded metropolis) My new school had a three tier playground with external hallways. Unlike schools in the states, this school served grades kindergarten to 12th.

What I did not expect was the practice of hazing new kids. Not only was I in culture shock, but now I’m picked on for no apparent reason and always by more than one at a time! Let’s review my thinking to this point in my story. Within four weeks of leaving my home in the USA, I sailed on a Coffee Ship on the Atlantic for two weeks, witnessed the rescue of two people floating in a small boat in the middle of the Florida straits, escaping Cuba, sunburnt red and throwing away their suicide pistol as they were hoisted up the Jacobs ladder and finally disembarking in Santos. Then, transported to a home in Brooklin that was surrounded by broken glass topped walls. I could not speak the language, got swindled out of money and was jumped by three Brazilian kids. (My gifted switchblade saved me.) Now I need to fight in my school… and I’m 10 years old.

Needless to say, the first months in Brazil for me were pretty crappy and I developed a hatred for everything Brazilian. One additional aspect about tropical countries that never crossed my mind was insects, especially fleas.

The Beebe house came with a dog named Blackie. Blackie was an older dachshund who took a liking to me. I vividly recall waking up one morning and itching really bad in my shorts. When I opened up my shorts and gazed down, I was bitten dozens of times… everywhere. I can just imagine how those fleas must have felt to have found a fresh Lilly white boy to feed on. I still recall my mother dosing my crotch with alcohol.

Boredom

To add to the culture shock, fighting, swindling and getting my crotch washed with alcohol, there was no way to escape boredom. We had TV, but American shows were old and dubbed. There seemed to be more advertisements than programs, but that did not matter as I had no clue what they were selling unless it was Coca Cola. We had radio, but the music was Samba and types I could not relate to, or once in a while, a 50’s rock n roll tune that felt like a minute of home. So I invented my own entertainment.

Streetcar Fruit Toss

The streetcar tracks ran parallel to the walls surrounding the Beebe house. At one corner stood a tree large enough to hold me and overlook the tracks. The streetcars had a loud bell they rang at intersections. This alerted me to be ready to toss. I wish I could apologize to those people who got hit with bananas, watermelon rinds, oranges and apples. My game abruptly ended one day when my aim was off and I broke a window. The street car stopped and the operator came to the gate yelling something in Portuguese. Our maid took the heat and my father paid him 1,000 Cruzeiros, which at the time was worth about US$3.00.

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 1

By Ed Freeman
March 11, 2014

2014, the year we’ve all been waiting for; the year we proudly reveal to the world’s hungry eyes how this great nation is primed for growth and prosperity. How we have grabbed this unique opportunity to showcase our founding premise of order and progress and play host to the world. So, please, come on in and make yourself at home, and get ready for the biggest entertainment spectacle on the planet, welcome to The FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.

Well, that was the prescript anyway; the reality is somewhat less celebratory. As Brazil attempts to dust off the riot rubble of public protest that plagued much of 2013, we can now, as the final countdown begins, expect the all too familiar pre-tournament press bashing to intensify.

Such journalistic interrogation has become oh so predictable in recent years, with the BRICS, the much celebrated quintet of emerging powerhouses grabbing most of the damning accolades. China hosted the 2008 Olympic Games and were branded heavy handed for their rigorous media censorship, whilst the success of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa was overcast by a cloud of corruption and scandal. More recently India haplessly staged The Commonwealth Games in 2010, during which very little escaped vehement criticism, and, at the time of writing, Russia is trying to defrost the icy reception it has received from the world’s media at the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi.

The result, irrespective of sporting achievement, is always the same; the host nation never wins. In fact, I have heard very little by way of sporting coverage from Sochi, only that the city has an abundance of stray dogs and hotel sanitation is not to be taken for granted. Understandably Brazil, if you will excuse the pun, is bricking it.

Some might deem this level of scrutiny unjust but a FIFA World Cup, despite appearances, has very little to do with football. Of course, there’s the obligatory fanfare of any global sporting contest, but the real prize is the international spotlight that it affords the host. Brazil has long been dubbed a sleeping giant, a source of unanimous frustration for its people, so FIFA’s unchallenged decision to award them the Copa back in 2007 was seen as the perfect alarm call. It was a chance to unify a nation, a chance to invest in the future. A chance to establish worldwide credibility and debunk any conceited first world misconceptions. Obviously the football fanatics of Brazil expect their cherished seleão” to lift the trophy for a record sixth time, but there is far more to play for this time. A nation expects, and rightly so.

Despite this bravado, one stereotype that Brazil seems hell-bent on preserving is her over reliance on last minute resolution. This rather laissez faire attitude to planning is not without its charm, the unwavering faith that “tudo vai dar certo” (quite literally, everything will work out) is wonderfully comforting, but perhaps this is not the stage to test the limits of such emboldened optimism.

Inevitably preparations are, according to popular tabloid taunt, woefully behind schedule. The planned infrastructure, from stadiums to hotels, has been dogged by delay, deception and even death. The airports have already hogged the headlines this year, with Guarulhos International ranking No.1 in CNN Travel’s Top 10 Worst Airports in the World, along with Forbes shattering statistic that only 59% of flights in Brazil arrive on schedule. With six years to prepare for this moment, you might ask why we are inviting the world’s media to snigger and sneer at our systematic failings before they’ve even been cleared for (delayed) landing.

Most journalistic jeer comes from a source close to my heart, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) which, for all its credibility and mite, is often the first to stick in the proverbial knife. A BBC correspondent is never far away from comment and a FIFA World Cup in a developing country is literary manor from heaven for these column crusaders.

Which is ironic, actually, given that domestic news is handled in a distinctly different manner. The news in the UK is often tailored, perhaps even manipulated, in a way that seeks to provide a more balanced, healthy outlook. Seemingly the “Beeb”, as it is affectionately known in Britain, recognizes its role as an intermediary to the national psyche, a parental portal of “need to know” information.

The absolute opposite is true in Brazil, where news crews have adopted a more Americanized approach to live broadcasting. Wherever there’s action, there’s a fully mobilized crew on hand to sensationalize, the often trivial. But there are the less mundane happenings too that are given the same sensationalist treatment, and this only serves to perpetuate the real societal issues that threaten to unhinge this year’s event.

Most news coverage in São Paulo ought to come with an advisory rating; the daily occurrence of serious crime – murder, robbery and worse – is terrifying. It would be foolhardy for one to assume that the UK does not suffer from similar ills, criminality is after all a distinctly human pastime, but the difference is nobody, including the BBC, talks about it. Discretion is also an exclusively human quality.

At some point someone decided, wisely, to keep quiet about domestic dirt and opted to throw mud at foreign entities instead, forming the World Service. And when things get a little heavy on the domestic front, they just roll out a nice fluffy story about a cat that learned to skateboard; sweet dreams, Britain.

No such comfort for Brazil, with only a few months before kickoff the nightmare could soon be stark reality; Brazil 2014 is very much a damage limitation exercise now. The World Cup that so many had dreamt of, the one that would give birth to a new Brazil for future generations is, at best, unlikely.

Brazil must play to its strengths, however, and celebrate the vibrancy of its culture. There will be traffic, there will be airport delays, but at least there will also be the infectious Brazilian spirit to get the party started and that, journos and editors alike, is something well worth sensationalizing. “

By Chip Kishel
March 11, 2014

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

My life as a young boy in the small town of Strongsville, Ohio before the summer of 1962 was fairly basic. We lived on a dead end street that continued a short distance unpaved. I attended a local parochial school about 3 miles away, my newly married sister would visit during the evenings my father taught night class at Fenn College in Cleveland. My brother, Bill being 9 years older had a Vespa and a host of his own friends who would hang out at the house while the ole man” was teaching.

The end of the above life style ended on July 1, 1962. By August 1, 1962 we were in Brooklin.

Mrs. Beebe’s house (The Brooklin House)
The first home we moved into belonged to an elderly English women named Mrs. Beebe. She was a small statured, very proper individual. How my father found this home still remains a mystery to me although I’m sure Uncle Sam had some influence locating this property. Referring back to my basic upbringing in the States, one can imagine the shock of residing in a compound like home thousands of miles away from one’s country… and being 10 years old. Although I was with my parents and brother, inside I felt alone and scared to death. The Brooklin house was outfitted with maids quarters as well as a small residence at the end of the property. The small residence housed the chauffer and his family.

Each room had a buzzer to, which if pushed would turn an indicator flap in the kitchen and point out which room needed to be attended to. I recall pushing the button and trying to ask for chocolate milk. The maids spoke no English, but they knew some English phrases and figured out what I wanted. The idea of telling someone to get you something was very foreign to me, as I was taught to ask for what I wanted.

Streetcars
Streetcars ran parallel to the property. Stories of streetcars were told to me back in the States as remnants of their tracks remained embedded in Cleveland Streets. But now, they actually existed in Brazil. I was fascinated by these old relics that were very much active throughout São Paulo. I recall wandering outside of the house walls to look down the tracks both ways.

The Birth of the American Moleque
The Brooklin house was surrounded by walled houses of various social status including some empty apartments. The neighborhood across the tracks was run down and poor. The Brazilian kids who noticed me were not friendly. I remember a small wooden storefront nearby. I walked in to try to buy a Coca Cola. I did not return as I was swindled out of my money. Fortunately later that week we were visited by our American friends who told us about the dangers of being an American young man, so for the rest of my time at the Brooklin House I always had some kind of friend or escort.

My brother gave me an 8″ switchblade knife for my pocket if I ever needed it, and I did.

My American friend and I were walking down the Street Car tracks about miles from home. Three moleques surrounded my friend and I and wanted money. I pulled my switchblade from my pocket and snapped it open. The moleques picked up rocks. No one was stabbed or hurt, but we did walk away knowing that the next two years were going to be long.

My first fight and standoff transformed me into a moleque as well, and the rest of my stay in Brazil was peppered with fights and general misbehavior.

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.

By Chip Kishel
February 18, 2014

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

I was 10 years old when my father accepted a teaching position at the University of São Paulo, through the University of Michigan and USAID, It was 1962. Our family of four (both parents, my brother Bill and I) sailed from New Orleans to Santos on a coffee ship called the Del Norte. We came from a town in Ohio called Strongsville and bought a new 1962 Chevy Biscayne to bring with us.

During the two week voyage, we socialized with other USAID families that would later become neighbors in Jardim Paulista.

I remember well being picked up in Santos and being driven to a temporary residence in Brooklin. The culture shock of living in a compound like home with glass topped walls and domestic help was frightening to me. The home was next to street car tracks. The street cars were called Bondgies” although the spelling may incorrect.

I was enrolled in the American Graded School and much to my dismay, school began in early August. The school bus was customized with trinkets, religious symbols and hanging fringe, much different than the bland yellow busses in the States. I remember the school being on top of a hill surrounded by forest and secluded. I also recall the school being only a couple of years old.

50+ years ago, an American family living in Brasil was unique. Whole milk was packaged in heavy waxed 1 liter cardboard triangles. The domestic help shopped at early morning open markets. Television was black and white with some American programs dubbed in Portuguese. I was as homesick as one could be and cried often.

A few months later we moved into a home in Jardim Paulista. The residence and neighborhood was more comfortable and we lived closer to people who were on the Del Norte. During this time my father told us of Fidel Castro and his interests to spread communism throughout Latin America. This explains the roving guards on bicycles blowing their whistles randomly all night long. My father was an early pioneer of computer programming. Years later before my mother’s passing, she told me that dad’s mission was to register communists on a database. This explained that on two occasions during 1963 we were directed to stay indoors during some unrest in the city. During the unrest, on the 2nd floor of our home lay guns for each of us. Not for suicide, but for defense. Three decades later, my father gave me an Argentine made 1911 style 22 semi-automatic, which was part of that small arsenal.

Oddly enough, when there was civil unrest and I was at school, the school was surrounded by military personal and vehicles.

My father also wrote monthly articles to an Engineering group every month. Often these articles spoke of political assignments, educational activities and occasional personal observations and family activities.”

By Alastair Kinghorn
February 18, 2014

There are few other people who can compete with Ayrton Senna for the title of Most Loved Brazilian Hero” except perhaps for Pele.

Following his death on1 May 1994 in a Formula 1 accident, an estimated three million people flocked to the streets of Senna’s hometown of São Paulo to offer him their salute as his hearse took him to the Legislative Assembly building, where over 200,000 people filed past as his body lay in state.

The day was declared a National Day of mourning, attended by rich and poor alike as his final victory parade took place. Voted the best driver of all time in various motorsport polls, he had been the most successful racing car driver since Fangio and some say the most determined to win at all costs.

At a price that he ultimately paid for with his life.

Since then, more than 30,000 Brazilian motorists have followed in his wake each and every year, as the death toll on Brazilian roads takes it’s terrible retribution against those who believe that they have inherited his incredible driving skills.

You only have to venture out onto your local “rodovia” for a few kilometers before you will encounter an avid fan. You do not need to search for him, as he will spot you immediately as being ripe for the plucking. Nothing will prevent him from accelerating up behind you at maximum velocity, then swerving at the last micro-second to avoid collision with your rear bumper and tearing past your wing mirror so near that the turbulence will cause you to sheer dangerously close to the verge, and then wrenching his steering wheel, he will occupy the space immediately in front of your front number plate for a few tantalizing seconds before releasing a cloud of hydrocarbons from his exhaust pipe and disappearing off into the haze.
No, he will not be driving a Ferrari, nor will he have a collection of advertising across every square millimeter of bodywork. He is more likely to be driving a Mercedes with a sign on the back of his 20 metre long pantechnicon truck that says “Go with God”.

Needless to say that meeting one of these head on while he practices his favourite maneuver on a blind bend is a sure fire way to obey this slogan.

For those who do not own the right to call themselves a “caminhoneiro”, the minimum time to reach your destination is not the most important goal, as long as there is no one in front of you.

Driving lazily along with one arm hanging out of the window, while chatting to your companion is perfectly acceptable, albeit at a speed that will be in excess of the limit required by the law. Should you appear in front of him however, a ghostly spectre wearing white overalls and face scarf will immediately interrupt his reverie, and with a fleeting smile baring his gleaming white teeth he will spring into Formula 1 action. It matters not if there are double yellow lines, warning signs of dangerous bends, rows of oncoming traffic or simply the engine of a tired old Fusca to contend with, he will never rest until he has passed you by, only to once again return to his former speed, but most importantly of all, right in front in poll position.

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural south eastern 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 foot-hills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times I spend my time between my sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create A Fora de Prazo
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By Sonsoles Navarro
January 26, 2014

I believe we can say that Brazil’s musical heritage is amongst the best in the world. Brazilian music is full of passion, of sentiment, of joy. It is deeply ingrained as part of life and wherever you go, there is always the music. It is their escape valve to any daily challenge they may encounter.

Brazilian music is defined by its intense mixing of styles, musical heritage from Native Americans, European and African sources blend to create magical rhythms.

In this first article about Brazilian music I will introduce you to samba, one of the most popular music styles in Brazil. It expresses so well the very nature of Brazilian culture. Its unique and contagious rhythm has attracted listeners for over a century. Please note that we are just scraping the surface of what samba is!

Samba was born from the mixture of African and Brazilian music. It is played with percussion instruments (tamborim, caixa, reco-reco, etc), along with guitar and cavaquinho (4 string guitar). Most samba lyrics refer to the day-to-day life in the big cities, mainly focusing on modest and humble people.

There are many styles of samba: early styles include the often overwhelming percussion of the samba de enredo, or street sambas (which are played during Carnaval) and samba canao, which was the first blend of Brazilian percussion and European song structure.

Classic sambistas include Beth Carvalho, Alcione, Cartola or Bezerra da Silva. Although samba lost popularity in the 1950s and ’60;s, as bossa nova came in with Tom Jobim, samba canao enjoyed a huge resurgence in the early ’70;s, as it transformed into the pop mixture known as pagode. Pagode style is relaxed, rhythmic and melodic and enjoys widespread popularity. Beth Carvalho, Jorge Aragao and Zeca Pagodinho were pioneer pagode singers.

I leave you with my selection of the best classic samba songs!

Beth Carvalho – Vou Festejar
Cartola – Alvorada
Cartola – Preciso me encontrar
Leci Brandao – Z do Caroo
Zeca Pagodinho – Deixa a Vida Me Levar
Jose Bezerra da Silva – Respeito as Favela
Elza Soares – Edmundo (In the Mood)
Alcione – Não Deixe o Samba Morrer

Sources: http://www.slipcue.com/music/brazil/brazillist.html

Sonsoles is an entrepreneur, traveler and consultant, based in São Paulo. She can be contacted on sonsoles@zuvyeffect.com. Visit her site at Discover Another” São Paulo – A Stroll Through Paraisopolis Das Artes

By Alastair Kinghorn
Janaury 26, 2014

Translated literally this means outside of deadline. I have just looked up the word ‘prazo’ in my Portuguese/English dictionary, and was surprised to find that the term ‘deadline’ even existed within the language spoken in Brazil!

Punctuality is not normally used to describe Brazilian character, and my recent experiences relating to keeping to an agreed date, let alone time, had led me to seek a definition, mainly out of curiosity but also out of a sense of frustration and powerlessness that has been so evident among people here who have taken part in the recent protests against corruption and mal administration in Government.

Not that I would wish to compare my three broken appointments with Elektro, the public electricity utility company, with the experiences suffered by families left to suffer, waiting in hospital corridors.

Mine has been a trivial matter, but nonetheless, it serves to illustrate what is fast becoming a national disgrace as we approach the World Cup.

FIFA has repeatedly voiced concerns about delays in construction schedules for stadia that are being built to host the great event. President Dilma has made reassuring noises and attended a gala re-opening of the famous Maracan stadium in Rio following extensive modernisation. The critics have continued to publish unwelcome details of unfinished work, despite being given a yellow card by Government officials desperate to avoid unwelcome publicity. One stadium has been opened amid a fanfare of propaganda only to be closed again following discovery of faulty structural steel which was condemned as being dangerously unsafe. The bullet train project, planned to ferry fans between Rio, São Paulo and Campinas at speeds unheard of in Brazilian terrestrial transport, has not even begun.

Tickets went on sale some weeks back and no doubt there was the usual bun fight among fans to secure the coveted slips of paper that will allow the privileged to witness the grandeur of such a popular event. I imagine that forgeries are being produced as I write, amid the favelas of Rio and São Paulo.

Brazilians are certainly opportunistic and never leave a golden opportunity, which happens only every four years, to pass by without extracting every last centavo.

Imagine the scene therefore, as the passion rises to its crescendo in July and flights to Brazil are packed with football crazy gringos en route to a 90 minute heaven. Hotels are already pre-booked and a whole new sector of dormitory accommodation is rising to cope with the demand for what will be the biggest tourist attraction in Brazil since the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais.

As the tumultuous throng join with their Brazilian hosts and surge towards the field of green and gold for the tournament of nations, swaying rhythmically to the sultry sounds of samba, then breaking into the chants of the terraces to proclaim their invincibility and certainty to become champions of the world, they will be stopped dead in their tracks by a discrete little notice pinned to the entrance way doors.

‘A fora de prazo’

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural south eastern 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 foot-hills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times I spend my time between my sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create A Scotsman in Brazil

By Richard Klein
January 26, 2014

Throughout Brazil’s history there has been an ongoing tension between Eurocentric conservatism and the idea of a tropical utopia. This was present even before the beginning; contrary to what people imagine, the monarchs behind the Portuguese discoveries were one of the most enlightened ones that Europe has ever had. They practiced a very liberal form of Catholicism centered on the Holy Spirit that preached that redemption would happen through people getting along with each rather than through the Roman Catholic dogma. When the news about the discovery arrived, they believed that this was to be the Promised Land for the coming to happen. The inquisition would end up changing this spirit but it never erased the seeds that were to explain Portugal’s gentleness as a colonizer as well as their tropical sleeping giant’s” dream.

Adding to the pressure from the Vatican, what also suppressed the original utopia was Portugal’s military weakness that forced it to accept the protection of the British in order to keep its territory safe. Perhaps this explains why Brazil became a gigantic conservative, monarchical entity in Latin America throughout the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and why it was the last western country to abolish slavery. This may also explain why the country has been the continent’s bastion of mainstream policies despite a somewhat neutral international pre-disposition. Examples? In the 1800’s, while its neighbors were fighting revolutionary wars of independence, the exiled King of Portugal, Emperor Dom Pedro I, declared independence. He did this not to walk into an egalitarian world, but to stay free from his obligations towards the Portuguese bourgeoisie that had taken his country back from Napoleon. He continued ruling with the backing of the worlds super powers and the republicans who came after him too. In the twentieth century, in the 1960’s, the west invested in Brazil being the counterweight to Fidel Castro’s revolution and more recently Wall Street, the City and their allies portrayed the country as a prosperity haven to counter balance the influence of Venezuela’s Hugo Chaves’s.

Nevertheless, whenever Brazilians stopped to think about who they were, marvelous things came up. The first official awakening was in 1922 in a somewhat insignificant cultural event in São Paulo. It came to be known as the week of twenty-two and would end up providing some of the country’s greatest artists, writers and intellectuals, sealing the end of a cultural cycle that had begun with the arrival of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro in 1807 and signalling the beginning of modern urban/industrial Brazil.

The main expression of that week was Mario de Andrade, a paulista writer and thinker. He would be the father of the “Movimento Antropofagico”, or the cannibalist movement. The attention-grabbing name was a reference to the man-eating natives that the Portuguese came across when they arrived. In this metaphor, the locals ingested the good parts of what the colonizers threw at them, discarded the bad ones and returned with a result “for export”. This school of thought pointed to a golden pre-colonial era when “we already had a Utopian reality, we already had communism and we already had the surrealist language”. Andrade was against the “dressed up and oppressive society, registered by Freud” and longed for a “reality without complexes, without madness, without prostitution and without prisons, the one of matriarchal Pindorama” (the name given to Brazil before its discovery).

In the Antrpophagic vision, the here and the now would regiment a free and naked world. Perhaps more than coincidentally this was an echo of what the Portuguese Kings had envisaged for their colony almost five hundred years before. This theme would inspire the following generation to give itself the task of constructing a new country. Juscelino Kubitschek’s vision of constructing a new capital, Brasilia, in the heart of the country’s wilderness came from this spirit, Darcy Ribeiro’s masterpiece “A Historia do Povo Brasileiro” is impregnated by the idea, Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture too as well as the entire Bossa Nova movement. In the fifties and in the sixties the Cinema Novo and the Tropicalista movements continued to carry the banner. There is even a hint of the cannibalist logic in the country’s biggest passion: football, where multiracial players re-invented a European sport in a unique way that marveled the world.

It would be easy to confuse the Antropophagic Movement with coarse nationalism but it this would be wrong; it was about coming up with an identity and explaining how Brazil could, and still can, contribute to the world. A place where the human mixture becomes the answer to the question it poses; a solution to a planet that is becoming smaller by the day. As Mario de Andrade put it in an almost inaudible voice: “Tupy, or not tupy that is the question”.

Richard Klein is the son of British expats who lived the Brazilian experience at its full in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up in the sixties, the seventies and the eighties. He tells his story in his book Lost Samba and in his blog: http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=2670

By B. Michael Rubin
January 8, 2014

Americans and Europeans travel to Brazil to see Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis and Foz do Iguau. Brazilians seek out lesser known wonders such as Lenóis Maranhenses. However, even Brazilians who take vacations to the Northeast don’t usually consider the capital of the state of Paraba as a vacation destination.

For those who enjoy tranquil beaches and easy smiles, you will find João Pessoa to be a small, sleepy city one-third the size of Curitiba or Belo Horizonte. Like its better-known neighbors – Recife, Fortaleza, or Natal – João Pessoa boasts warm ocean temperatures and calm surf all year, a welcome attraction for families with children. Especially attractive to vacationers, there’s not much rain. One taxi driver boasted, They don’t sell umbrellas here.”

Despite the reserved profile of this picturesque city, I found it open and hospitable to tourists. João Pessoa has a fleet of white taxis, a large public bus system with a TV on the bus, and plenty of hotels and pousadas. Best of all, the tourist restaurants and hotels along the beach aren’t full, which means better service and no waiting on line.

My flight on GOL Airlines was on time, but there was no complimentary meal service, and the small sandwiches they were selling were over-priced. Thus, after the 30-minute taxi ride from the João Pessoa airport to the beach and checking in at my hotel, my wife and I were starving. It was 5 pm local time. Amazingly, but typical of our vacation experience, we found a restaurant not yet open that agreed to open just for us. I had a delicious lamb dish with red rice served in a red-fired clay bowl.

Travelers will not be disappointed by the local food, as it offers a wide variety and includes delights rarely seen in the south of Brazil. For example, the breakfast in the hotel offered such Northeast specialties as mangunza, which tasted like sweet hot corn; escondidinho with carne de sol; rabanada, the Brazilian version of French toast; a filling potato-like root, inhame; and a quiche mixture called rocambole misto.

The large hotel where I stayed, the Hardman Praia Hotel, (120 rooms), was clean and quiet and efficiently run. It also offered its breakfast guests a woman on the kitchen staff awaiting requests to prepare eggs or tapioca in any style requested. I ordered an American dish not common in Brazil – ovo mal passado.

The hotel room had an excellent air-conditioner, the kind that comes with a remote control and is so quiet you can’t tell if it’s on or off. There was also a power switch next to the bed if you get cold during the night. The room had a side view of the ocean as well as a kitchenette stocked with water and soda and beer, but no plates or silverware. The hotel had an excellent restaurant with 24-hour room service. It also offered four free daily newspapers in the huge, comfortable air-conditioned lobby, along with a small fitness area with massage downstairs, and free chairs and umbrellas for the beach. The hotel provided suggestions and reservations for a wide selection of day-trip options through CVC and smaller travel companies, including boat trips and rental cars.

The most popular strip of ocean in João Pessoa runs along two beaches, Tamba and Cabo Branco, where the Tropical Tamba Hotel is located, João Pessoa’s best known hotel. Along these two beaches, you will find the typical open-air inexpensive eateries as well as the ever-popular McDonald’s. There are also two crafts fair exhibition malls within a few blocks of each other in Tamba, alongside a central shopping center and a helpful tourist information office with friendly assistance in English.

The Hardman Hotel, where I stayed, was located about 2 kms. away from Tamba on Manara Beach, which is less populated. I like beaches without restaurants right on the sand as they are quieter, but most Brazilians prefer the more crowded areas. The street than runs along the beach, Avenida João Mauricio, is closed to cars each day from 5-8 am.

On Manara Beach, there were few vendors selling hot cheese or sunglasses. Occasionally they walked down the immaculate sidewalk that stretches along the beach and made themselves available, but they didn’t approach tourists unless they were summoned.

Manara Beach, although less crowded, has numerous restaurants. I was surprised to discover a sushi restaurant, as I’d imagined this cuisine only had fans in the south of Brazil. I also found Chinese restaurants that were filled with hundreds of customers for dinner, unlike typical Brazilian Chinese restaurants that are designed mostly for deliveries. In the one where I ate, China Praia, the food was inexpensive (R$20 for two people), and the menu much larger than most Chinese places I’d been to.

I enjoyed several lunches at DNA, which was around the corner from my hotel and offered a very large menu. One afternoon, I ate lunch a few blocks away at a “buffet por kilo” restaurant called Mangai. It had seating for at least 500 people and offered the largest buffet selection I’ve ever seen.

Manara Beach also has one of the newest malls in João Pessoa, with a Pizza Hut out front. It’s not the biggest mall in the city, but the design, a white tent structure facing the ocean, is strikingly unique. The food court seating area of the mall offers spectacular views of the ocean.

One day I took a short hop to the Estaão Cincia (Science and Arts Education Museum), about 10 km. from my hotel, which can be a pricey taxi ride, depending on your budget. However, after arriving at the museum by taxi, I discovered it was easily accessible by bus, and we took the bus back. The museum didn’t have much to see inside, but the building itself is a glass, eight-sided wonder designed by the late Oscar Niemeyer. From the roof deck, there are magnificent views of the entire panorama of João Pessoa. The museum stays open until 9 pm, and I was told it’s beautifully lit at night.

Another nice excursion brought me to the arts fair in Jacar, a tiny town just outside the city limits of João Pessoa, which sits at the mouth of the Paraba River, where the area’s first port was located. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a bus there from my hotel, so I spent the R$30 each way for a taxi. Every evening along the Paraba River in Jacar, thousands of tourists gather for the sunset at two or three riverside restaurants. The tradition was begun by a man known as Jurandir do Sax. He plays Ravel’s Bolero on his saxophone standing in a row boat in front of the restaurants every evening as the sun sinks over the river. His idea for a sunset revelry became so popular that he opened the Maria Bonita restaurant, and in the passing ten years, it has inspired a cluster of other restaurants and tourist shops neatly organized along a serene walkway bursting with flowers.

My wife and I also spent one day walking through the historic center of João Pessoa, which was an easy 30-minute bus ride from our hotel. The historic center is the oldest section of the city, located alongside the river that brought the first residents. Surprisingly, it didn’t appear as if the city had spent much money to support tourism there, but we were treated to some magnificent churches reminiscent of Salvador. We also discovered in what appeared from the outside to be a woman’s house, an extraordinary collection of antiques, which the owner said she’d been gathering for over 40 years. Typical of the hospitality and friendliness of the Northeast, the woman was on the street having left her house when we happened to wander by, but she turned around and invited us back to view her marvelous collection.

Although some Internet travel sites have noted the high crime rate in João Pessoa, I never felt unsafe walking around. The beach promenade is busy even after dark, and I was never approached for money, despite my appearance as a tourist. Even the guys who watch the cars parked on the street were polite and much older than the teenage boys we normally see in the South.

The hotels in João Pessoa are never full except during Carnival week, thus offering a welcome retreat for families from Rio, São Paulo, and Braslia. During my week in this quaint city, which lacks the sophistication and infrastructure of the South, I was continually impressed by the good cheer and warmth of the local people, especially those working in the hotels and restaurants, who were always ready to greet me with a smile and never seemed stressed, unhappy, or too busy to take care of me.

B. Michael Rubin is an American living in Curitiba, Brazil. He is the editor of the online magazine, Brazil: Communication for Foreigners