Commentary on my life in Brasil

Thursday, June 14, 2007

International Day

Jasper's School held it's famous International day about 2 weeks ago. They encouraged me to get involved as there had never been a Canada booth. So enlisting the help of a Canadian teacher on staff, I called the consulate, Canadian companies, and cooked up a storm just in time for the big day. It was a hideously cold & rainy day, but people seemed to appreciate the few Canadian treats we prepared, including maple syrup cookies, french toast with syrup, and rather undeniably yummy poutine. But oh boy, am I ever glad it's over. In fact, I think I'm still recovering from it. Now if I could only get my voice back....

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Red Light: Stop

Just an observation. I think more people than ever are running red lights in this city. I sit at green lights for at least 30 seconds sometimes while people in the other direction JUST KEEP GOING. I think one day I'm gonna just hit the accelerator.

The Unique Revisited...

Those of you who know of my life in Brasil understand my hang-up with kids Birthday parties here. Today was "unique". The party was hosted at what is possibly the hottest "art" hotel in Brasil, by a popular local model & her husband who I understand is the owner of the place. It is these surral afternoons that I will probably remember most after my time here is up. I have never seen so many beautiful people all in one place. I have never seen such an amazing buffet either: sushi, fresh home-made pasta, a dessert buffet with every treat imaginable for the kids, and a mountain of chocolate boxes from the most posh chocolate shop to be found in Sao Paulo. A small troupe of actors arrived to act out the story of Cinderella interactively, and there were automated rides, video games, and the most expensive craft I have seen yet - decorate your own ball-cap or handbag. The Parabens table was adorned with a larger-than-life dollhouse and all the little creatures from cinderella were scattered all over it. The cake was actually a castle. You couldn't see the Birthday girl for all the stuff around her. For me it was a little bit of alright - whatever drink your heart desired, and trendy single-size electric blue bottles of Pommery champagne into which once uncorked blue & silver straws were inserted. Think soda shop with a very expensive twist. Never hurts when you have to make inane conversation in a language not your own. Highlights today: my favourite mummy telling me to go shopping for "that" underwear (the modelesque woman in question had on a Grecian toga-like dress in white jersey underneath which I could see some ruffled thong-like apparatus) and seeing the butt crack and a great deal of the butt of a mother who had on trousers which were just TOO low cut. Nice....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Minas Gerais

Easter weekend. A blow-out here in Brazil. We decided to finally get our act together and get up to Minas Gerais - the original treasure chest of Brazil. Drove for the better part of 7 hours to get to Belo Horizonte, the state capital, and the drive was surprisingly beautiful. As opposed to Belo Horizonte which was a mini-Sao Paulo. I never would have believed it possible to be stuck for 45 minutes in a traffic jam in the middle of no-where. Now I know.....
But once outside the city, it was like driving through a tropical Tuscany. Rolling mountains, curving roads, atmospheric mist, but interspersed with the trappings of third world hardship: cinder-block constructions on the side of the road, street vendors selling fruit and crafts, and the occassional road-side bakery. The outskirts of the historic cities were not regulated in terms of development, and were therefore pretty nasty. But the protected historic centres were wonderful. Ouro Preto (Black Gold) in particular was astounding. This was the main centre where gold was taken from Brazil and sent down to the coast for shipment to Portugal, and it showed. One church (of which there must have been over 30) had over 400 kilos of gold decorating the inside alone. When "churched-out" it was possible just to sit outside and feast on the local cuisine: let's just say an even heavier version of typical Brazilian fare - rice, beans, beef, pork, cheese, bread, potatoes, until you want to vomit. Instead, though, I normally chose to wash it down with a Caipirinha. Beauty. We headed further south on the gold route to Tiradentes, stopping in Congonhas to see sculptures carved by a notoriously talented cripple around the 1880's. Apparently, without the use of hands, he had chisels bound to his stumps and carved lifelike images all over this part of the country. I rather liked his fish (see above...)
Tiradentes could not possibly have been more touristy - or charming. It was like a mountain "Paraty" with better food. The churches were again copious and ornate, and we were delighted to see the images of the saints "tucked up" at night beneath becoming purple fabric. Brazilians are mad about their saints. We took the "Steaming Mary" train - apparently the first steam train operating in Brazil - from Tiradentes to Sao Joao del Rei to see yet more bloody churches. At that point I just sat down, gave Jasper his Power Ranger magazine and drank a huge bottle of beer while waiting for the train to take us back. Bad idea as no bathrooms on it... The highlight of the trainride, apart from the atmospheric chugging and antique carriages, as well as the mountain scenery, was a huge electric blue butterfly drifting past us.
Easter was good. The bunny found us. We drank gassy mineral water directly from the spring (cool!) and got to see a bit more of Brazil. What was most wonderful of all, was to see most of the tourists were Brazilians, revelling in their beautiful country. And rightly so.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Eileen knows that to look good on film, you need to make friends with the camera. Or use the vowel sound of your choice...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jesus Christ!

The Unique

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Swissland revisited

The balloon festival at Chateu D'oex was amazing as ever. The sensation of being next to the gigantic balloons as they are assembled, inflated, and airborn is unreal. Hoping to be able to make it again next year...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


It's been a while since I've posted. Not much interesting to comment on in Sao Paulo these days. Same old thing with explosions - but this time in Rio, and more recently at New Years. Thank goodness the explosions at New Years were the good kind: Fireworks!
Christmas we celebrated here at the "white house" with friends and their son. I made Turkey, stuffing, and gravy for the first time ever. It was rewarding, but I'm still weighing up if it was really worth it to have sweat so profusely for only a few minutes of dining pleasure. Perhaps I'm getting sentimental in my old age & yearning for those sweet years of Fondue & Lasagne. I'm thinking of re-starting the tradition for 2007. The japanese squash tart which was brought as well as the balsamic fig dip definitely won the prizes for best x-mas food in my books; perhaps because I didn't have to make them?
After a stint at the beach, we came back to SP for New Years at Eduardo's place. It was wonderful in all the ways I could never have imaged New Years could be before coming to Brazil.
The festivities started at 8pm, and people kept streaming in until around 10 or so. The BBQ was fired up around 9 and you can't imagine how many pounds of salted marianted succulent beef, pork, chicken, sausage, etc etc etc were grilled until well into the early hours of the morning. A group of men took turns attending to the meat, and were never far from the kegger in order to keep cool with a few cool beers. The only accompaniment deemed necessary by Brazilians for this fired-up splendour was a fresh salsa of tomatoes & onions, as well as a huge pot of rice, and a bowl of the most mayonaissy potato & veg salad EVER. Some veg with your mayo? Ecca... I guess that's why they call the salad Mayonnaise.
Fireworks had started the night before, and all through the afternoon you could hear boys setting them off. Things really got going around 11:30 and even in the modest neighborhood were we celebrated the show was phenomenal. The most interesting for me was watching a massive firework go off by mistake on the ground (yes mom well away from where we were standing) and then hear all the people around comment on who they know who had lost digits (and in one particularly macabre story a limb) from setting off fireworks stupidly or while under the influence.
I was liberated by a child who slept from 7pm (in the car on the way to the party) until 11:30 pm. He woke just in time for the show, and it was amazing that as the fireworks started to really go off, he remembered what we had told him last year to calm his fears: Buzz Lightyear was up there.
After embracing almost everyone with kisses & wishes for "tudo de bom" for 2007, we retired back to the house for the secret friend gift exchange in which people provided comical clues as to who their secret friend was. It mellowed out but the men kept on the beer and chilled until the sun rose when they roused all the sleeping beauties for a game of 6am footie. Chris joined the crew and appeared under the window at 9am looking rough but victorious. Big breakfast, lots of super-sweet coffee (a-la-Zilpa) and then things just started again. People flooded back into the house and cranked up the keg again, put coals on the fire, and the volume increased gradually until about 4pm when due to exhaustion and nasty exhausted kids they reluctantly embraced the world, kissed profusely & went home.
All in all a lovely experience. Relaxing. No prizes for best dress. No lipstick. No stress. Tudo de bom.
I hope all future new year's celebrations will be so good.