Friday, November 28, 2008


These tiles are on 228 Rua Ascipuelta, Vila Madalena. Dad tipped me off that this would be a good neighborhood to visit after researching the travel section of the NYT. You're the best, Dad.

These ones are from a building on Rua Cupertino Durao in Rio de Janeiro. beleza

And these are from a cafe chain in Rio called Cafeina. Marite, Casey, and Pablo know that I love it.

Mark and Monica

So no ex-pat experience is complete, without a few other ex-pats to keep you company. In the lovely Estanconfor, I was lucky enough to be neighbors with Mark and Monica -- my cooler "older Bro and Sis" while in Brazil. Monica was the perfect Brazilian older sis. M's been living in the states ever since she got her Masters in Public Policy at James Madison 5 years ago. Monica hooked me up with EVERYTHING. She told me what was up in the office, in Sao Paulo, took me on an awesome hike and was always there, with an understanding ear and beautiful Brazilian smile when I was lost or confused.

Monica speaks English better than I do. This is due in part to her being incredibly smart. It may also have to do with her husband, Mark, who is American and she met while living in DC. Mark's the most American dude to hit Sampa since Bruce Springsteen came for his last concert. Mark just screams Gringo from miles away -- but he's great! While I was lucky enough to get to know Monica in carpool everyday, Mark we didnt know too well until Thanksgiving. That night Marite and I were both struggling with language and here was an American, telling stories and explaining problems to Johnata, with a strong American sotaque but fluent all the same. Impressionante!

Some of Mark's favorite questions were, "Hey, Liz, dont you like all the "-ade's" in Portuguese? Felicidade. Liberdade. Verdade. gee gee gee. Yep, Mark I sure do. Gente boa which became a theme for me in Brazil, and one which I suggested to him, "'Magina!". Love that. . .

Mark also taught us the Carioca face, which can be seen here in this picture with Monica.

Carioca was one of the first terms I learned in Portuguese class. It simply refers to anyone from Rio de Janeiro. And if you want to stump a Brazilian, just ask them where does "Carioca" come from and what relation it has to Rio. They will be speechless! The term is so tied to Brazilian culture and Rio, people never stop to think where it comes from (according to wiki it refers to an indiginous tribe from Rio.)

ANYWAY, the modern term carioca, conjures images of stuck up, lazy, but potentially beautiful people who are willing to take advantage of you when given the opportunity. Of course, this is just the stereotype. I only found a couple of people from Rio who matched it! BUT, Mark told me and Marite about the face Carioca dudes make when hitting on girls. He's making that face in the photo above. Pretty hilarious.

Valeu for the cultural lesson, Mark! Meu, vc e meu gringo irmao sempre, bruder!


This is by far my most important post. For me it sums up all the differences between US and Brazilian culture, right there in the restroom.

When I first got to the bathrooms at work, I noticed that the pressure of the flush wasn't as powerful as it is in the states. In fact, the level of water is so low, that it doesn't swirl when it flushes so I couldn't see the counter-clockwise flush, which was basically my whole motive for coming to Brazil.

I also of course noticed the big hose next to the toilet. That is one high powered bidet. Take that, silly seat warmers at Google Mountain View.

But it wasn't until I made this trip to Rio that I realized that I'd been doing things a bit wrong:

Aparently those big trash cans in the rest room aren't just for feminine hygeine. I then consulted with Brazilian friends -- do they flsuh it down or jogo? They all told me they throw it in the trash, cause the water goes into the nearby rivers and stuff. Man, crazy. Some of them told me that they will flush it down depending on the toilet and location, and their confidence level that it will all go down. Wow. So much to think about!

Planes, Trains, and automobiles

So here in Brazil, I've experienced a lot of different modes of transportation -- incredibly easy air travel, luxurious and comfortable coach (bus) travel, and a whole lotta cars and taxis. (Ok, no trains as of yet, except the Sao Paulo metro.)

So when Marite was here, I got some quick tickets to Rio. And when I mean quick, I mean quick! I bought the tickets that morning at maybe 9am and we were at the airport by 11am. It was even worse for Marite who was sleeping in that morning and was able to throw together an outfit for a weekend trip like a champ!

The airport here is obviously close to my house, (see earlier posts)


So until about 6 months ago, my knowledge of Brazilian culture was basically knowing that Brazil dominated in soccer. Okay. Cool. But I was surprised how very quiet football has been in my Brazilian experience. I mean, I've gotten to know the teams that people torce (cheer) for -- Corinthiians, Sao Paulo, Palmeiras, Flamengo(?). And Marite is actually a fan of soccer and plugged me into such current superstart jogadors such as Kaka and Anderson.

Yeah, that video is hilarious.

But I forgot how much I really love soccer. For Americans, we only really get into it during the World Cup,(Soccer is such a ROW thing, isnt it?) And I actually met some Brazilians (mostly Brasileiras) who told me the same. Otherwise, it's mostly the dudes. And Sunday football matches are pretty much the norm. There are like 4 different clubs in Sao Paulo alone (I dont even know for sure). And at one match, aparently when I first got to Sao Paulo, the military police were out there keeping the peace with rowdy rioters, as well as the city police, and at one point they forgot about the fans and just went after each other. Huh??? What? Um, yeah, I guess!

But a little secret I forgot about, is that I know how to play soccer! Like every American girl, I paid my dues on the soccer field, 8 years as a goalie and 2 years playing Soph-Frosh in high school. Have a separated collar bone to show for it. So it was a nice little thing to pull out, when someone would bring out the soccer ball and start to juggle a few. I'm ok that I've hung up my cleats except for the occasional pickup game after work. But one thing Marite pointed out was that Brazilians continue their sports well into adulthood. When she told Brazilians that she used to play soccer, she said the normal response was "ussed to!?!?! why don't you still play?" with some kind of shock. I guess it's true. We're letting years of soccer practice go fallow.

Rio Rio Rio

cool sand artwork on the beach in Rio.

So Marité and I went off to Congonhas airport, caught a flight on Ocean Air and flew into Rio -- airport Santos Dumont. During the descent you could see the outline of that incredible city, it's twisting serpentine coastline and soaring green outcrops, it is absolutely incredible. As you land into Santos Dumont, there's also this church in the middle of the water on the right hand side, that almost reminds me of Venice.

Some cool brasswork reflecting a chef at a Cafeina in Leblon.

Once you get off the plane, there are these incredible tiles at the airport and for some reason, Rio makes me feel like I'm in a 1970's James Bond movie. But in a good way. Before I went to Rio everyone in the office advised me to be careful -- Rio is a dangerous city they told me. But as soon as Mari and I landed there was someone from the tourist board directing us to a taxi and they were able to take us to our hostel in neighborhood Leblon, Lemon Spirit.
Rua Cupertino Durao, where our hostel is, that lime colored building on the left side.

This hostel was a recommendation from my co-worker Marcella. I didn't know much about it, so we left our bags and tried the other hostels that Lonely Planet listed in the more touristy neighborhoods of Ipanema and Copa cabana. But this just goes to show you what horrible guidebooks those are. The hostels there in Ipanema are all down this one alley way, and you just hear all these British and Australian accents and see these pale, ruddy, sunburned faces. Defo not what Mari and I were looking for, so we headed back to Leblon. Leblon was also great because my other co-worker Lauren was visiting her boyfriend's family there in Rio and they live in Leblon. That Friday night we met up with them at a Boteco Informal on this square. We then went back to the hostel to get ready for a samba club that Lauren knew about.

So we get in a cab with Lauren and Leo and drive from the beach to Lapa, the neighborhood where most of the clubs are near the center of Rio. Me and Marité loved the architecture -- there was something Victorian or almost Cajun about a lot of the older buildings we saw back there. Lauren looooves Rio and was telling us all about how it's normal here to see older people in Rio out in a Samba club right along side all the young kids -- awesome! So we got in line for this one club Rio Scenarium, that I later realized was the same Samba club recommended to me by the hematologist I met on the plane. The place is incredible! The decor inside looks like the set of a play, except there's a big party going on. Totally reminded me of LA. On the bottom floor there was a live Samba band, and upstairs a DJ spinning music -- mostly just contemporary Brazilian stuff, not electro and not hip hop.

me trying to get in on some Samba action at Rio Scenarium

Apparently, me and Marité, two girls from the Inner Richmond district, stand out like sore thumbs in a Samba club like this. We probably could've been wearing flashing signs "GRINGAS". Guys in Brazil aren't shy at all about talking in the clubs, and they all have a certain level of English. At one point, this guy was being a little aggressive and I kept wanting to say "Tu t'en fou!" in French, but lacking the vocab in Portuguese, I turned to Lauren and asked -- right in front of the guy -- "How do you say, 'go away and leave me alone?' " hahahaha!

Another pretty building in Rio.

Similarly, some guy was talking up Marité. He was sharing his American experience with her (almost all the Brazilians we meet have done a stint in America, to learn engligh. The two most popular destinations for these trips 1. Working at a foodstand at Disney World [I know at least 4 people who've done this] OR 2. Small town in the middle of America that i've never heard of.) This guy had spent time in St. Louis, which was original. At one point, he eventually asks, "So, Marité, what do you think of Brazilian boyfriends?" To which Marité, exasperated by being asked this question so many times, throws up her hands "Arrrrrgggggghhhh" and walks away. This is a highlight of my trip there! Later on we ended up dancing with some engineers from Sao Paulo. Seems like a normal thing, to go anywhere in Brazil and meet people who are living/working in Sao Paulo.

We got up late the next day, which was just about the best thing we could've done because it was RAINING! No beach time for us :( We went for a walk and actually ran into Lauren and Leo who were enjoying some Acai right before working out

That acai sure is popular in Rio. That Saturday night we took it pretty easy, with some pizza dinner and later meeting up with Lauren and Leo for chopps at a great Italian restaurant.

That Sunday we visited the Hippy Fair full of artesanal goods. Marité and I each got Capim Dourado earrings, made from this Golden Grass that can be found up in the Amazon. I think it's super elegant. Also at this hippy fair, I encountered the typical friendliness of Cariocas (name for people from Rio de J.) for tourists -- that is to say, non-existent. Mari and I stopped at this one woman's stand for about 20 minutes and ended up buying at least 5 rope bracelets from her. In the course of trying the bracelets on, at one point I put my cell phone down on her table. At which point, she picked it up, checked out the phone and put it in her pocket. I remember noticing that she had the same Motorola razor that I had, and then I noticed that she also had a Nokia. Strange I thought, but the Razor is ubiquitous here, and having two cell phones is common as well. It wasn't till about an hour later that I realized I didnt have my cell phone, so Marite was nice enough to go back with me to that stand. And strangely enough, the woman admitted that she had my cell phone and gave it back. So bizarre. But apparently, this is typical behavior in Rio, a city that sees a lot of crime and a lot of tourists just coming and going.

At any rate, it didn't leave a sour taste in my mouth, Rio de Janeiro is still one of the most amazing cities I've ever visited and I hope I get to go back many times in my life.

Marité comes!!!!

Yeah! Marité came to visit! Marité is a super great friend of mine that I've known since Kindergarten. As luck would have it, this November she came to Brazil to visit some old friends in Londrina, in the state of Parana. After spending time with them she made a stop in Sao Paulo with me. Yay! As you can see, Marité is a bit camera shy but I was able to snap this quick one at a Caipirinha stand on the beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Marité was so great to have around! Since she had just had a crash course in Brazilian culture (hanging out with mostly dudes in the interior for 10 days!) by the time she got to SP we had a lot to talk about! Also, Marité is a polyglot extroadinaire! Her dad is french, so she's fluent in both french and english, and she's been speaking spanish since she was a baby. As you can imagine, only after two weeks Marité was speaking a pretty mean portuguese! We connected on the many similarities between the French and the Brazilians (fer serious!), the differences between Brazil and SF (bastante!) and all the many cultural lessons we have been learning.

Marité landed on the Wed. before Thanksgiving. That Thursday, we celebrated with some other Googlers at the Hamburgeria Nacional (see the post on that.) That Friday morning, I logged onto a website, and bought us two one-way tickets to Rio! Marite was still pretty exhausted from her long travels within Brazil, and so when she woke up, we only had about 40 minutes to pack! (One goog thing about living in Moema is that all those planes flying overhead, means it only takes about 5 minutes to get to the airport.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I just realized that even though I've been living here for close to a month, I've been spelling the name of this city wrong the whole time!

I've been writing 'Sao Paolo'. It's 'São Paulo'.

I'm not bothered by the tilde -- it's the 'u'. D'oh! Thanks, Antoine. You're email made me realize this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No escritório. . . in the office

Oh! And did I mention I'm here for work? Here's a pic from the office looking at another office. It's nice working in tall buildings rather than office parks. . . just a personal preference. . . :)

Update: Changed this post title from "No escrotorio" ---to---> "No escritório". Not only did I spell it wrong but apparently the former looks like a naughty word.

Valeu, Pecini, por me avisar!

I want to ride my bicicleta!

And finally I did it! I did it! I found a wonderful vintage, hipster's dream of a road bike:

But the search for the bike wasn't an easy one.

I tried craigslist but with little success. I guess the US ex-pats here in São Paulo like to keep it low key and aren't posting much on CL.

It was nearly impossible to find a bike that wasn't new. Check out how expensive these bikes were! R$ 3.999??? That's like $2,000 whaaaaa???? Sorry, Trinh, I'm not at a place where I can spend that much on my bikes yet.

. . . .and the Rest of the World (R.O.W.)

Sometimes it's when you leave your own country that you have the time to reflect on what your country really means and stands for. This time in Brazil has been no exception. Right before I came to Brazil, I was visiting my sister who was studying in Paris. There's no doubt that Brazil retains more of a continental European influence than the US, and it's extremely tempting to group all these similarities into "the Rest of the World." Here's the short list of things that people in ROW (and by ROW I kinda mean Brazil and France) seem to love, but Americans are pretty oblivious to.

Things loved in ROW:
- Soccer (football)
- Yogurt
- Vacation
- eating dinner late
- staying up late
- paying for the bus at the back
- waiters
- English as a second language

Things loved only in the US:
- Baseball
- early to bed early to rise
- English as a first language
- self-service at the counter

Monday, November 17, 2008


There's a lot of fruit. Alot of fruit juices. OMG is there a lot. Often there is only fruit for dessert -- pineapple, mango, the super sweet ones. And Marite taught me all the names: maracuja (passion fruit), acabaxi (pineapple), and she even introduced me to acerolas -- small, cherry like, intensely bitter fruit but have "more vitamin C than 20 oranges" a claim we both have heard from several fiercely proud Brazilians. yeah!

When I first got to Brazil I was super surprised at the amount of fruit. Especially the fact that it's a standard for dessert ("hey! where's the chocolate?" I would think). I was surprised to hear my friend say "I got to watch out for the fruit in Brazil -- so much sugar." Huh? Sugar? It's fruit! But by the end of my stay in Brazil I was very conscious of the wonders of sweet, sweet pineapple, fresh squeezed OJ, and any fruit you can imagine. Succos were a staple for breakfast at my local padaria, and by far my favorite ended up being Caju -- cashew, the fruit not the nut!

Falla Portugues Week 3

Nope. I sure don't speak it and I understand even less. But I could get by with the 200 word vocabulary I do have. I could easily be one of those ex-pats living in a cushioned world for the next 20 years not picking up much more than that, watching the international weather reports on CNN and BBC international (It's cold Toronto, now let's check on what the weather is like in Manila -- what???)

Second time's a charm!

Sooooooooo, here in Sao Paulo I take a lot of cabs -- to get to work, to go out, etc. There's a Ponto de Taxi (a taxi stop) right near my "Flatch" (it's called a flat, but pronounced "flatch" -- man, I love Portuguese.) But since Sao Paulo is a city of nearly 20 million people, the chances of running into people on the street would be pretty slim, right? Apparently not.

Apparently all these cabbies stick at the same Taxi Stops, and since I need cabs all the time, at the end of the first month, I started getting the same cab drivers over again and learning their names. To be honest, I think they all started remembered me -- "Aren't you the girl who wanted to go to neighborhood Independente? [which doesn't exist. I meant to say Liberdade, the Japanese neighborhood in near downtown.]? OR "Hey, aren't you the american who goes to Itaim Bibi? [neighborhood where the office is." At first I was astonished to encounter the same cabbie for a second time, but pretty soon I got to know everyone from the Moema Taxi Pont at the corner of Anapurus and Miruna. Gilson (Gi-u-son), Vladmir (Vladj-meer) and of course, Jorge.

Jorge is my best friend out of all the cabbies. He has a voice that sounds like he smokes 2 packs a day. In my first ride with Jorge, early in my trip, I was telling him all the things I knew how to say in portuguese, which back then were only palvraos (bad words.) Caralho, porra, vai tomar no cul. These mean nothing to most of you, but they're pretty nasty, and when I said them they had Jorge rolling on the floor laughing in stitches! It seems like Jorge would be the type of guy who loves Howard Stern.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Parque!!! - In the park!!

Here in São Paulo, there's a big central municipal park called Parque (pronounced Park-ee) Ibirapuera. It is packed at just about any hour and there's a central loop of 3 km that encircles the pond in the middle of th park. There's also lots of Brazilian vegetation, like check out that crazy amazonian tree above?!?!?

And check out the hammocks! How can I bring this back to Golden Gate Park?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Musica Brasileira

This video may be a bit slow in loading, but the beats are so hot, it's worth the wait. . .

Music is a huuuuuuuuuuuuge part of Brazilian culture. That's no surprise, but it actually is an awesome way to learn Portuguese. I knew a couple of BR artists before coming, Seu Jorge, and . . . oh no, actually, just him. But I knew there was a bumping scene. I also knew there had to be some hip hop, and my first weekend here I heard a song my Marcelo D2 (d-dois) that made me tug on the shirt of the guy next to me to figure out what it was. ENNNNjoy!

Falla Portuguese Week 2: Taxi Driver Portuguese

The more you know, the more you realize you don't know. This is how it is with me and this language. I remember at the end of nine months in France, thinking how little I really knew, and then six months after being back in the US, confidently telling other Americans that I could speak French. It's all relative.

Anyway, I realize I don't know Portuguese very well at all. My friends and co-workers try practicing portuguese with me, but it's so slow that we eventually just switch over to English. The only place I succeed in having conversations is with the taxi drivers. I have enough vocabulary to carry on a 15 minute conversation on the ride to work. But even then, I can get absolutely lost. With one particularly chatty cab driver, I got extremely lost. He wanted to talk about the US election and how it related to BR President Lula and some regional politics. Hell, I probably would've gotten lost if we had been speaking in English. So yeah, I don't know how to speak portuguese, except with Taxi Drivers? You talking to me?

Voce fallando conmigo?


A quick trip to the grocery store reminds how different Brazil and America are.

Yogurt is huge here. I swear to you this isn't the whole dairy section in this photo, it is ONLY yogurt!

Oh! And they've got that unrefrigerated milk . . ..

and being a Tropical Country and all, fresh juice is the norm. They have this Valle juice stuff that is like Kern's nectar. Super rich, super good. ..

Dental plan

Another Brazilian cultural difference I was tipped off to before coming, was the importance of dental hygiene here. Back in the States, more than once I've witnessed visiting Brazilian co-workers in the office brushing their teeth in the bathroom after lunch. Reminds me that Lisa needs braces (ibiza interpretation).

Now as an American, when traveling in Britain or Europe sometimes people wouldn't be too happy about my country's foreign policy or the decisions of our Presidents of the past, but one thing the Brits and the Euros always seemed to admire about us Americans is our white and straight teeth. I don't know who me and my fellow Americans have to thank for making dental hygiene a priority in our everyday lives, but I'll just go ahead and thank the ADA, American Dental Association.

However, the Brazilians put us to shame! I mean, brushing after lunch? At work here there's even toothpaste and dental floss in the bathroom. When I've talked to Brazilian co-workers about this difference, they've told that they feel gross if they don't brush after lunch! Wow!

And check out this Dentist's office:

It's located and this major Boulevard, Avenida Ibirpuera, and can you see the dentist's chair right there in the front window? I think the last thing I would want when I'm held captive in that chair with my mouth pried open by 7 different tools is a city of 12 million people being able to see me at my finest hours, but you got to admit, that office sure is shiny!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Saudade

In my Portuguese classes with Dyla back in San Francisco, one of the first cultural lessons she gave me was on, "Saudade". One of those words that just can't really translate, but homesick or nostalgic comes close. Check out what wikipedia has to say on it.

Anywho, I've been watching mostly International CNN and BBC while I've been here, tracking Obama's every move during the run-up to the election and tracking Sarah Palin's latest flubs. And while this past week, I've been having the best "bem-vinda" (welcome) to Brazil and I'm already wondering how I could extend my stay, today I felt true pangs of regret that I'm not in SF on this truly momentous day. As I write this, the Electoral Count is 3 Vermont delegates for Obama and 8 Kentucky delegates for McCain. Hearing about everyone who is voting for the first time, hearing about a line at my neighbor Mr. Dishman's garage (which usually has tumbleweeds blowing through it on election day.) I can only imagine that the rejuvenated interest in what's going on in this country is what it may have felt like with JFK in the sixties.

In the two presidential elections I've been able to vote in, my vote supported losing candidates. For the past 8 years, our country has been lead by someone people felt they could have a beer with, not necessarily someone that was competent enough to have a finger over the red button. And tonight I hope we have a win. And I wish I was with my friends in San Francisco no matter what the outcome is.

But I know that once we know the results, and this all dies down, I will again feel lucky to be here in Brazil. Now, I'm off to an Irish bar to watch the results and hoping that I run into some of my countrymen.

I ended up going to an Irish pub in the neighborhood Jardins called O'Malleys. Didn't quite find as many Americans as I would've liked -- I saw a group of business men from afar with what looked like home-made "I voted" stickers, two german-speaking guys in the background of that photo, and some study abroad students. From what I hear about the SF celebrations ("Can you imagine people chanting 'U-S-A' on 24st?" Evan tells me), it looks like I picked the wrong day to not be an 'Merikan. It's ok, Ill be checking out flights for Inauguration Day. . .


One of the most important things to know about contemporary Brazil is Orkut -- the google social networking program that took off huge in India and Brazil and not really anywhere else. Here they pronounce it as "Or-kutchie" which is just pretty funny. Almost every internet user in Brazil has an Or-kutchie profile. I'm not joking at all. There's really not a big difference between Or-kutchie in Facebook for me. Except one Brazilian co-worker who has profiles on both networks said they hate facebook because of the mini-feeds, which I've realized I totally ignore.

Oh shoot. And now I've realized that they have that feature they used to have on Friendster, where you can see who was looking at your profile page. Shit! that means other people can see! If I visted their page! fuck

Tropical Country

"Well, this is a tropical country, you know"

There's something about a tropical country that is so foreign to me! Coconuts in the middle of the city? Palm trees everywhere? Rain bursts followed by rainbows in the middle of downtown? Crazy, man. . .

New World! Same World? Different world!

New World?
So much the same, so very different --- it sure is the new world but it aint home.

Right before I came to Brazil, I went to Paris with my family. I live in Paris for nine months in 2003-2004 and this was my first time back since then. For a while there, I was literally over Europe. I had studied it for so long, it shares so many ties with my current life that it wasn't interesting to me anymore. I studied Africa and was lucky enough to visit the beautiful country of Mali for a short while. But up until now, I don't really know my Americas very weel.

And so there are so many things about Brazil -- part of the New World -- that are so very familiar to me. Like it's a country of immigrants, and everyone has their immigrant story, "So, where is your family from?". The newer architecture, the reliance on cars (ESPECIALLY in Sampa.) And a certain informality and creativity. I often think the flatness of the A's in American English and Brazilian Portuguese are somehow an evolution of new world english. And then there's that quebequois, and I dont much know what that could be. . .

Falla portugues? Week 1

Falla portugues??? I learned this phrase about 3 years ago when a friend of mine who liked soccer mentioned his trip to Brazil. It's the one phrase any American seems to know in Portuguese, and it's the first question every Brazilian asks me!

Do I speak Portuguese? Ugh. . . not really. Despite studying intensively for two months with Dona Dyla da Souza in Daly City, now that I find myself in a PT-speaking country, I find that I really can't speak it! (But I can read and write ok, I think.)

And why? Cause it's soooooooo hard! PT is like pig latin. D's can sound like G's (Bom dia = Bom Geee-a!), T's can sound like CH's (the word for tip, 'tipo' is pronounced "cheep-o') and R's can sound like H's or they can all sound completely normal! Words that are the same in Engligh, like . . .get transformed in Portuguese! And I get lost!

This is so frustrating for me, cause portuguese is seductive! It shares so much vocabulary with English and French and between the two I can read a lot and logically see how sentences are put together. But with all these different pronunciations I have no idea what people are actually saying! (and they say it so fast!)

Everyone at work speaks incredible English. I'm so impressed! And so frustrated, cause everyone can speak English with me! I could see how people could leave here for a loooooong time but not pick up any portuguese.

Carro, say it with me Ca-ho!

The cars in general here are more compact than in the US. You see a lot of compact 4-doors, with hatchback. Black is by far the most common color, cause it looks good with the windows? All 4 windows on most cars are tinted to the darkest black (in the US you can't tint the window on the driver's side or passenger side -- it's ilegal, only the two in the back.)

Oh! And dont get your finger caught! I first noticed in one of the cars I got into that as soon as you close the car door, the windows automatically roll down about an inch. Why? They told me it's in case you got your finger caught in the door. I dont know how much creedence I give that. If anyone does know can you tell me?

VW buses

When you first arrive in a foreign land, I feel like they are things that surprise you at first, but you quickly get used to. I want to try and capture most of these in this blog. And one of the first things I noticed while I was here was all the VW buses!!

These are iconic surf-mobiles, right? Out at Ocean Beach, I'm used to seeing plenty of old VW's: beat up VW's that homeless dudes are living out of. Kinda nicer VW's that bohemian surfers are living out of. And a nice shiny red VW, that has been beautifully restored and has a sign on the side of it:

So lots of VW buses. Seems to reflect the chill vibe I'm used to at Ocean Beach and can feel everywhere here in Brazil! Beach is a way of life here for sure. Everyone has asked if I've been "na praia" (to the beach) yet! For me, it's October, it's still raining outside, I can hardly think of the beach! But I do want to go . . .

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apart- Hotel

My apartment is great!!! I'm currently in what's known as an "apart-hotel" or a "flat" (they use the English word in portuguese to describe my particular setup.) It's like a hotel -- there's a concierge, full breakfast ('cafe da amanha') in the morning, a mini-gym, and a pool. But the apartment itself has two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a washing machine! You would feel more than comfortable staying here for a while, and so I understand why the minimum stay is only a month. There's a lot of business people in the building, lots of Spanish speakers, and some other Brazilians, who I'm told might be from somewhere else in the country but need to stay in SP for a while due to business or medical reasons. (More photos of the apt here!)

Did I mention the balcony?

The neighborhood I'm in is called Moema. It's really safe. There's no metro station and not a lot of bus lines. (Some people say this is why it's so safe!) But an interesting thing about the neighborhood is that it's near the domestic airport. And when I mean near, it's underneath the flight path that leads to the landing strip, so about every two minutes (oh - there goes one now!) I can hear planes overhead. What's more, I can almost touch them! Check it out!

The photo even adds more distance (like if you've ever tried taking a photo of a rising harvest move -- close to impossible!), but it truly feels like the plane might just touch the building. Insane.

Getting into town

So I went to Brazil with a healthy sense of apprehension. Everyone says it's a pretty dangerous place. One Brazilian advised my co-worker when she same to São Paulo to always leave her laptop in the office, and if she walked around only go with a group of 15 people.

So when I got off the plane, I was completely disoriented. I had to stand in line for like an hour and a half at customs, baggage claim, and finally at the exit. While in line, I stood out like a sore thumb. But not because I was a foreigner, but because of my age and because I was a woman. I guess I'm not the typical business traveler to Brazil. My Sunday night red eye was filled with middle aged bussiness men (I saw one savily dressed woman) and there were definitely no young backpackers or hippies. I guess this bodes well for Brazil's economoy? And yeah, there werew certainly no other young online-advertising-coordinators arriving in SP on this Monday morning. It really makes me stop and say, wow, what a crazy opportunity this is!

Anyway, I was completely relieved that someone was waiting for me at the airport. I don't think after that flight and with my Portugues I would've been able to find my way into the city very well, without maybe getting ripped off. My driver was a nice guy, 30 years old, who spoke great English -- having only learned it here in Brazil (which I'm always really impressed with.) I told him I was learning a bit of Portuguese and we spoke a little bit.

It took about 45 minutes with the traffic to get into the city. From the outskirts you can see the skyline of SP. It's very impressive. I've never seen an stretch of skyscrapers that wrap around almost like a panorama. São Paulo is a city with 12 million people in the city, and 20 million in the metro area. This is bigger than the American metropolises in NY or LA. And it's fascinating! SP feels like a combo of those two -- it's got the verticality of New York and the horizontal breadth of LA. So far, I love it.

Red Earth

As the plane started its descent and the land of Brazil came into view, it was true to all those photos in the guidebooks and on websites -- Green. A beautiful, fertile, true green that's almost juicy. A green that could only come from a humid climate like this one. As the plane landed there was lots of dirt on the side of the runway and I was surprised to see Red Earth. The color of the soil here is so different from home and I remember the first time I saw it was when I landed in Africa on a different trip. I guess it's just typical of countries close to the equator than I usually am.

All stories start at DFW

So my trip to Brazil started with a layover in Dallas Fortworth on Sunday October 26, 2008. DFW is typically Texan for me -- it's a huge airport with 4 gi-normous terminals. The walkways and people movers and extremely wide and there's a food court every 20 feet (or so it seems) with 15 different restaurants and they all seem to be fairly full.

Anyway, I snapped this picture on the way to the AirTrain to switch terminals. The light was perfect and the reflection was so bright. Now when I look at it, it's almost abstract, my eyes have a hard time reading it to see what it really was. Anywho, after the pic I headed over to Terminal D which faces West and I got to see the sun set one last time before the over night flight to São Paulo.