The Door with the Question Mark


I grew up differently than most people. My parents moved us around quite frequently and by the time I became a teen, I had already had around 12 previous residences across 5 states. From that moment until now, I’ve done what I know best and my current previous residence count is somewhere north of 30. Most people would be pretty bothered by moving so much but I suppose that’s the difference between being forced to move and choosing to do it. Either way, it’s a great way to learn about yourself and about the lay of the land.

I’ve traveled through the lower half of the US and lived in several states in that region and this has given me a good sense of what kinds of environments suit me best. Learning, in this sense, seems to come through a process of experimentation (of new places), elimination (of unfavorable places) and reflection (on past and future moves). I use the same method in Brazil and it has served me well, especially in the case of elimination.

Living in Belém, in the north, I felt really isolated, even though it is a city of over 2 million people. A good amount of time was spent to reflect on why I moved there and what I learned by going somewhere most people don’t go. Sure, it wasn’t exactly Acre (sorry, people of Acre) but there’s a certain distance-based psychological barrier that revealed itself while I was there and which kept me from continuing to live there. It didn’t help that my initial plan was only to stay there a few weeks before heading to Rio.

I do ask myself how can I really judge it, though, if I only spent 90 days there. Sure, I met a lot of cool and good-hearted people, went out at night, tried all the regional cuisine and even traveled straight across the state, but unfortunately I missed some of the region’s esteemed attractions. That includes Marajó Island where they have amazing pottery and where buffalos roam, or Algodoal Island where people head in droves for sun and fun during long weekends, and I also missed the Círio de Nazaré, an important yearly religious procession.

I remember when I told my Brazilian friends back in California that I’d be going to Belém, and they just looked at me, with a bit of a blank stare and said, “cool…have fun…”. Looking back, I suppose it’s like saying I’m all of a sudden going to move to South Carolina or something, or Alaska if we’re talking distance. The point is that I got to do something unexpected and be surprised by the unknown. I went somewhere most Brazilians, and even foreigners, don’t know much about. I like to think I carry a little bit of carimbó (a popular dance there, pictured above) with me, and came away with a better palette thanks to jambú (a plant with a numbing sensation that they put on pizza) and maniçoba (an indigenous leafy dish that can poison you if it’s not well-cooked).

When I look at my list, I can say that my more than 30 moves have made me happier. For anyone looking for a way to continually place themselves in unknown territory and learn at a quicker pace, I can recommend the road less traveled. I suppose what it comes down to is choosing between ‘happy’ and ‘interesting’, where happy describes the steps that should be taken in order to be happy (“graduate so you can get a good job so you can get a good house…”). Choosing interesting, on the other hand, is an automatic passport to the door with the question mark on it. Funny thing is, that’s what makes me happy.

Thirty-five story building falls in Belém

Apparently, it was in the finishing stages of construction when for unknown reasons (the wind and some rain is being blamed to clear the construction company’s name), it came crashing down today at 2pm. There are reports, most likely unconfirmed, that 20 people died and that the other buildings next to it are feared to be at risk as well. It took place in a noble area of the city, the Nazaré district…which I’ve walked through many times.

Globo (the only time the North gets on the front page)

When Technology Democratizes Music

Quite an interesting 15-minute talk by Ronaldo Lemos on the digital music revolution in Brazil.

For more on the subject, I happened to catch a longer speech of his titled “Free Culture in Brazil” back in April.

The Indian Museum – Pará

Back when I was living in Pará, I had a chance to visit the Museu do Índio (Indian Museum) in the Solar da Beira building (initially for tax collection), near the famous Ver-o-Peso open-air market. As you walk in, the left side showcases enlarged photos of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon region, most notably, the Xingu people. On the right side, you will find handmade indigenous artifacts for sale in the ‘Koisas do Índio’ store which are retrieved from expeditions undertaken every three months. A trip to visit the tribes that make the artifacts, according to the museum curator I spoke with, requires one to travel by air, boat and foot and routinely take 12 hours one-way.

I came close to going on the next expedition but the plan never quite came together. In any event, I found it to be a nice little part of Belém that I’m sure visitor’s don’t get to see when they visit Ver-o-Peso market.

More Info

For some reason, both sites that have to do with the museum are static pages with dead links.

Museum site (in PT)
Ipiranga Foundation (in PT)

NYT’s take on açaí in Belém

From The Good Blood, I saw an article she posted from the NYT on açaí from Belém. I’m surprised and pleased to say the NYT writer Seth Kugel did a great job on accuracy in the article, especially when he said the following…

“The velvety texture of the thicker varieties is wonderful, but the taste is more — how to put this? — earthy. O.K., it tastes like dirt. Making matters worse, the manioc flour that’s often mixed in to thicken it has the consistency of sand.”

I’m also glad the writer mentioned Cairu ice cream store because that’s the only place that I found great (cough*Rio style*cough) açaí, even if it was a little more pricey for what you get. Cairu also sells a flavor called ‘paraense’ which is açaí with tapioca balls mixed in, which I personally think dilutes the flavor.

On Eyes on Brazil, I’ve talked about açaí a few times already. You can find out what I think here (in general), here (while living in Belém) and even here (on açaí in the US).

Freebies, Links & Cybercafes in Belém

While I close out my Eyes On Belém site, here’s some content that someone may find of use one day.

What to do for free/Coisas pra fazer de graça


A Walk in the Utinga Park/Caminhada no parque ambiental do Utinga
It’s worth it to get to know the Bolonha lake and all of the shades of green that surrounds it. Vale a pena conhecer o lago Bolonha e o tanto de verde que existe por lá.

Open from Monday to Saturday but given that on Mondays, the Emilio Goeldi Museum and the Rodrigues Alves Forest are closed, it would be a good thing to do on this day. De segunda a sábado…mas como segunda-feira o Goeldi e o Rodrigues Alves estão fechados, seria uma boa programação para esse dia.

Location/Local: Perto da Castanheira.
Time/Hora: 8AM to …anyone know?/das 8 até ..alguém sabe?.

Timbers of the Amazon/Timbres da Amazônia
Presentation of instrumental music produced by artists from Pará. Apresentação de música instrumental produzida por artistas paraenses.

Location/Local: Capela do São José Liberto
Time/Hora: Starts at 6PM/a partir das 18h

Egret Mangrove/Mangal das Garças
Ecological area with aviary, exhibits and lookout over the river. Um complexo turístico com quatro espaços de visita monitorada que lhe permitem uma aproximação maior com a natureza.

Location/Local: Passagem Carneiro da Rocha, Arsenal
Hours/Hora: 7AM to 5PM (external areas) and from 9AM to 5PM (monitored areas)/das 7h às 17h (área externa) e das 9h às 17h (espaços monitorados)

Theater of Peace/Theatro da Paz
Neoclassical theater from the golden era of the rubber boom. O maior teatro da Região Norte e um dos mais luxuosos do Brasil, com cerca de 130 anos de história.

Location/Local: Rua da Paz s/n, Praça da República, Campina, Nazaré
Hours/Hora: Guided visits on the hour, from 9AM to 1PM. Visitação guiada de hora em hora, das 9h às 13h.

Celebration of the sunset with a presentation of popular groups from Pará. Celebração ao pôr-do-sol com apresentação de grupos da cultura popular paraense.

Location/Local: Orla da Estação das Docas
Time/Hora: Starts at 6PM/a partir das 18h

Open Rehearsal/Ensaio Aberto
Presentation of independent bands/artists from local music scene. Apresentação de bandas/artistas independentes do cenário paraense.

Location/Local: Espaço cultural da loja Ná Figueredo da Gentil
Time/Hora: 5PM/17h00

The Artisan Fair/A Feira de Artesanato

The Fair is considered a cultural heritage point in Belém and has been operating for over 20 years along the sidewalks of the Praça da República. A Feira é considerada Patrimônio Cultural de Belém e acontece há mais de 20 anos ao longo das calçadas da Praça da República.

Location/Local: Republic Plaza/Praça da República
Time/Hora: From 8AM to 2PM/a partir das 8h00 e até as 14h (se não me engano)

Sunset Theater/Teatro ao Pôr-do-Sol
Presentation of theatrical shows involving popular culture & Amazonian legends. Apresentação de espetáculos teatrais voltados para a cultura popular e lendas amazônicas.

Location/Local: Anfiteatro da Estação das Docas
Time/Hora: 5:30PM/17h30

Links on Belém

A quick apology to English-speakers looking for links on Belém in English. Aside from Wikipedia, they just don’t exist.




Cyber Cafes

Upon arrival in Belém, it can be a bit hard to locate free wi-fi hotspots and cybercafes so this page will be dedicated to the latter.

Ao chegar em Belém, pode achar um pouco difícil localizar pontos de internet sem-fio e grátis e LAN houses também então vou dedicar esta página para o citado em segundo lugar.

Batista Campos

Canal 13 Informática
Avenida Serzedelo Corrêa, 1000, LJ 2, Belém – PA


Avenida Presidente Vargas, 882, SL F, Belém – PA

Rua Conselheiro João Alfredo, 357, Belém – PA

Cidade Velha

Empório Saber Café
Rua Ângelo Custódio, 85, LJ A TO, Belém – PA


Snippers Lan House
Av José Bonifácio, 2146, Belém – PA

Rua Augusto Corrêa, 1, BL D, Belém – PA


Al Cyber Games
Alameda Providência, 19, Belém – PA


Avenida Duque de Caxias, 219, Terreo B, Belém – PA

Universal Informática Ltda
Avenida Primeiro de Dezembro, 962, Belém – PA
Barrio: Março


Equant Brasil Ltda
Avenida Governador José Malcher, 815, S 201, Belém – PA


Qgweb Lan House Internet
Avenida Marquês de Herval, 2547, Belém – PA


Lan House F4
Travessa Barão do Triunfo, 907, C F, Belém – PA


Pesquisa Pronta
Travessa Dom Romualdo de Seixas, 823, Belém – PA

Information pulled from Catálogo Fácil.

Raindrops & mangos – Observations

I think we’ve all heard the song “Raindrops keep falling on my head“, an oldie but goodie. We also all know how Belém, in some ancient local dialect, must mean “rain” although technically I know it means Bethlehem, which in turn means “House of Bread” (It would be awefully nice if a loaf of bread fell, right?).

When traveling here though, you should take caution when walking under the mango trees, as you may find out that raindrops aren’t the only thing that falls on your head here. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been warned that mangos hurt.

Of course, when there’s opportunity, there’s a Brazilian with their thinking cap on close by. When buying mangos in Belém from a street vendor, it’s quite possible the idea just fell into his lap.


Eu acho que todo mundo já conhece aquela música antiga em inglês “Raindrops keep falling on your head”. Também é bem possível que a palavra Belém em algum dialéto antigo desta região significa “chuva” mas tecnicamente sei que vem de Bethlehem a qual, em seqüência, significa “Casa do Pão” (seria uma boa se o que caiu fosse pão de forma, né?).

Embora quando o turista passa pela cidade à pé, ele deve ter cuidado porque as gotas de chuva não são as únicas coisas que podem cair sobre a cabeça. Isso aí, gente! As mangas têm a tendência de atingir a cabeça também.

Claro, que quando hã oportunidade, vai ter um brasileiro por perto, se pondo a pensar. Quando se compra uma manga em Belém de um vendedor na rua, pode ser que a idéia caiu do céu, de repente assim.

The Zones & Bairros of Belém

On Wikipedia, I came across a page (in PT) showcasing the bairros (neighborhoods) of Belém and as an added benefit, it broke them down by zones (not sure what to call them, perhaps municipalities). I’ve heard all but the first zone used in daily conversation as the bairros that make up the Zona Central are just referred to by their name.

Zona Central

Batista Campos | Campina | Cidade Velha | Nazaré | Reduto | São Brás | Umarizal | Marco


Águas Lindas | Aurá | Castanheira | Curió-Utinga | Guanabara | Mangueirão | Marambaia | Souza | Val-de-Cans | Universitário


Canudos | Condor | Cremação | Guamá | Jurunas | Terra Firme


Águas Negras | Agulha | Campina de Icoaraci | Cruzeiro | Maracacueira | Paracuri | Parque Guajará | Ponta Grossa | Tenoné


Aeroporto | Ariramba | Baía do Sol | Bonfim | Carananduba | Caruará | Chapéu Virado | Farol | Mangueiras | Maracajá | Marahú | Murubira | Natal do Murubira | Paraíso | Porto Arthur | Praia Grande | São Francisco | Sucurijuquara | Vila


Água Boa | Brasília | Itaiteua | São João do Outeiro


Benguí | Cabanagem | Coqueiro | Parque Verde | Pratinha | São Clemente | Tapanã | Una


Barreiro | Fátima | Maracangalha Miramar | Pedreira | Sacramenta | Telegráfo

As a bonus, each bairro page gives a tiny history of each bairro as well as principal streets to be found there and the linhas de ônibus (bus lines) that pass through there (a fact which I will add to the bus post I recently did).

Solar do Leitor – The thinker's bookstore

Last night, before seeing Lenine play live at the Book Fair, I went to see a friend of a friend at a book stand inside the Hangar. His name is Wagner and he not only seems like a great guy but he works for a great company, Solar do Leitor, here in Belém.

What makes Solar do Leitor different from other run-of-the-mill bookstores? They are selective with their inventory. What I mean by that is they don’t sell best-sellers just to make a buck and also they take care in only having in stock the kinds of literature that can really teach you something about the world.

If you are in Belém and want to check them out, here is their address (also on their site above), phone and email.

Solar do Leitor
Trav. dos Tupinambás, 431
Batista Campos
Belém – Pará
(91) 3087 9684