Announcement – Interviewed on Brazil

I had the good fortune to be interviewed about my time living in Brazil by an expat website. It seems they found me through Eyes On Brazil. If you would like to know more about the kinds of things I learned while living in Brazil, I’ll leave the link below!


Sacolé, Picolé & Sorvete – Chill Out

There are three pretty good ways to cool off in Brazil, they include having a picolé * (popsicle), sacolé * (popsicle in a bag without a stick where you cut the corner to get the good stuff inside. See advert below) or a sorvete (ice cream). They can be found on many beaches, in general markets or on street corners.

What beats the sacolé and picolé hands-down however is the sorveteria (ice-cream shop), where one can find a large number of different flavored ice-creams. The best part being the majority of flavors are made both of and with real fruit! The past-time of many is not to choose just one flavor but to load up on as many different flavors as you can fit in your cup and then to add your favorite syrup on top. Unfortunately in Brazil, the cup size doesn’t matter as you pay based on how much it weighs!

* Picolé & sacolé are also interchangably called geladinho, gelinho, chup-chup, or chupa-chupa.

Why Books Are Expensive in Brazil

I accidentally came across an interesting read on another blog as to reasons why books are so expensive in Brazil and I thought it would be important to share the link here as well as my response. In order to fully understand my response, its necessary to read other user’s comments (this may take a while) on the link above but in any event, I’ll repost it here.

My Response

Where to start? I’ll try by commenting on the most relevant points. Cost is definitely a major player although Brazil not being much of a reader’s paradise trumps the cost point, as has been pointed out by a few people here.

“You can go to a mid-class house and won’t see a bookshelf but will see a fancy US$2000 LCD TV.”

Books therefore aren’t part of everyday life and normal purchases. Make the choice, food vs. books and its easy. Refine the choice, material ‘necessities’ vs. books and its even easier. Brazilians are resourceful people so if they need a certain book, they’ll find a cheaper way to obtain it (‘camêlo’ which is a street vendor or ‘sebo‘ which is a 2nd-hand bookstore and also Portuguese for pork grease)

Slave culture as well as a social culture may very well play a part in the debate too, as was also pointed out. I do see Brazil being the kind of country the user Jimbino referred to in that post-schooling, education isn’t seen as any type of the highest priority.

Let’s expand on these ideas a little. From what I’ve seen, reading isn’t stressed as an important leisure activity in Brazil although when considering the class load (which I find superior to that of US students), one would think that Brazilians were ahead of Americans in a way (especially when considering the subjects included in the vestibular, or SAT).

The (tele)novela (soap-opera) culture doesn’t help either as we both know that when the novela das 8 comes on, a lot of Brazil stops what they are doing to watch. The conversation in the street turns not to what great book you just read but rather to why did Bia drive off the cliff and “die” in the novela Belissima (ok, that’s old news but it was the last novela I watched). From another view, walk into any LAN house (cyber cafe) and all you find are tons of teenagers yelling and playing video games. Insert the beach/sports club culture and you find more involving things to do than to just read a book.

Speaking of sports, what are they good for and how is that knowledge of use, except when discussing facts with other aficionados?

Ex. A person learns Portuguese and now he or she has a skill that opens them up to an entire world of subjects and experiences, therefore its of exceptional use and benefit to that person. On the other side, he or she spends two hours watching a soccer game with friends and aside from socializing, they now know the score. I repeat, how is this information useful? This however is a whole other can of worms.

As for BR Portuguese vs. PT Portuguese, I agree. Popular writers are easy to understand and don’t put a strain on your brain, but research papers and I’m sure other more academically-minded subjects are a bit stressing. Lets not even get into the difficult type of Portuguese used in the title ‘Os Sertões‘ (The Backlands) by Euclides da Cunha!

On the subject of there being a lot more information in English-language versions of books, that point is moot as a large enough readership of English-language books would have to exist in Brazil in order for this argument of more vs. less to make sense.

I used to be one of the two-hour commuters on the bus from the Zona Oeste to the Zona Sul in Rio and I spent my time between listening to Italian Pimsleur mp3’s on my iPod (I already knew Portuguese) and listening to music. I’m a big believer in taking things in and smelling the flowers when I travel so you wouldn’t catch me reading anything as my face was always glued to the fantastic views of Rio. There’s always something new to notice if one pays enough attention.

My ‘dois centavos’ based on almost 10 years of studying Brazilian culture. If turning the subject on the US, I’d have equally critical views of why we are (not an illiterate country but rather) an aliterate country.

Orkut & The Brazilian Invasion

(Questo articolo in “Italiano”)

Orkut is a social networking service which is run by Google and named after its creator, an employee of Google – Orkut Büyükkökten (don’t ask). The service, which started in 2004, states that it was designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Orkut is similar to other social networking sites, except that it is the most visited website in Brazil. The initial target market for Orkut was the United States, but the majority of its users are in Brazil. In fact, as of May 2008, 43.9% of the traffic comes from Brazil, followed by India with 38.8%.

The reason behind the high numbers of Brazilians on Orkut? The Brazilian Internet Phenomenon. It’s a term used to describe the massive adoption by Brazilians of an Internet service exceeding the number of members of the original nationality of the service. A possible reason for this is shown on a recently an IBOPE/NetRatings study that revealed that they overtook the U.S. in terms of time surfing on the internet and, today, are the people who spend the most time on the internet.

Other services which reflect this phenomenon also?
MSN Messenger

And its being seen with IRC, Blogger, Gmail & Skype too…so if you are looking for Brazilians online, now you know where to find them.

The Only Desert* w/ “Millions” of Lakes

The Lençóis Maranhenses in the Northeastern state of Maranhão is an ecological reserve which occupies an area of 1000 sq. kilometers. Despite much rainfall, the reserve is almost completely free of vegetation.

Composed of large, white, sweeping dunes, at first glance Lençóis Maranhenses looks like an archetypal desert. In fact it isn’t actually a desert*. Lying just outside the amazon basin, the region is subject to a regular rain season during the beginning of the year. The rains cause a peculiar phenomenon: freshwater collects in the valleys between sand dunes, spotting the desert with blue and green lagoons that reach their fullest between July and September.

The area is also surprisingly home to a variety of fish which, despite the almost complete disappearance of the lagoons during the dry season, have their eggs brought from the sea by birds.

The national park status serves only as a means of protecting the area’s ecology; consequently many people are park residents, as is also the case with nearby Jericoacoara. The inhabitants of the park work primarily as fishermen during the rain season. During the dry season, many leave for neighboring regions to work small plots of land.

According to local lore, the region was habitated by Caeté Indians, who woke up one day to find their town covered by sand.

As a general guide to this area, try the park’s official dual language website.

The English-language part seems to have been translated from its original Portuguese by a non-native speaker so hang tight. In the next few days, I’ll try to send them corrections.

For spectacular professionally-done photos of the area, check out this site.

Learn Portuguese Now

The Portuguese language learning content that I have included thus far has been minimal in an effort to focus more on cultural aspects of Brazil. For those looking for a more back to the basics approach to Portuguese without the slang, try this series of videos from Youtube user LearnPortugueseNow. If you want to see other videos of his, click on this video below, then click on his username or on the drop-down menu titled ‘More from’ to the right.

Vagalume – Lyrics at your fingertips

Vagalume (Firefly) is a great site for finding Brazilian song lyrics, given that you know at least something about the song you’re searching for. It boasts more than one million lyrics and offers searches based on artista (artist), música (song), trecho (verse or set of words) and one for videos (which I have yet to use). Each song is listed based on how popular its lyrics are, which makes it very easy to find the artists “best” (or rather, most popular) songs.

Apart from its main purpose, it offers news, interviews and a top-ten list of popular lyrics. The search technology allows you to see a drop-down list of artists matching your results. In the ‘Buscar’ field, try typing in ‘Ana Carolina’ for example and as you type it will narrow the search for you. Another great feature is seen when you search for an artist, then when you reach the artist’s page, change the search to songs and a line will appear below asking you to check the box if you want to search for lyrics only by that artist (otherwise you can just click on the drop-down menu that says ‘Escolha a letra’ to find any song of that artist).

Mariana Aydar – Diva Rising

Mariana Aydar is one of Brazil’s many new divas on the rise. She grew up in a musical family, always backstage, sleeping in dressing rooms and accompanying composers and singers to the studio. After studying music in Brazil and in Boston, she spent a year in Paris where she met Seu Jorge (see Brasis the Song), who had her as the opening act on his European tour. She has sung beside many famous singers, including Seu Jorge, Elba Ramalho, Dominguinhos, Arnaldo Antunes, Toni Garrido, Samuel Rosa, Daniela Mercury, Céu, and João Donato, among others.

Her 1st CD, Kativa 1, came out in 2006. Deixa O Verão (below) is a single from that disc.

Save the Summer

While I was escaping, you invented
Any apology for us to stay
And just like that, we didn’t leave

This sofa is just great
Save the Summer for later

Kombi – Between the Taxi and the Bus


The VW Kombi is the perfect passenger-service invention. It’s not as expensive as a taxi and it doesn’t take as long as a bus ride. This precursor to the modern van has been barrelling down Brazilian streets since 1957. In a deviation away from VW’s 1967 reconfiguration of the Kombi, the Brazilian variety stayed true to its extremely durable engine up until 1996 when a newer engine replaced the original in new models. Sometimes one might see a Kombi with a rusted or missing outer panel yet a perfectly-running engine. Now you know why.

The name Kombi comes from the German Kombinationfahrzeug (Multi-Use Vehicle), yet by VW standards the term does not include other like-models which officially carry different names. The VW term Kombi refers to the version with 11 windows. Brazil is the only place in the world where the vehicle is still being made with a rear motor and the Kombi also happens to be the longest-produced vehicle in Brazil and because of this, the name Kombi has come to encompass all models. In bigger cities, Vans (more modern and equiped with air-conditioning) are starting to be more widely seen.

Up until recently, when a Kombi-variant called the Standard (or Lotação) was legalized, the Kombi was not a government-sanctioned mode of transportation…not that such a ‘minor’ detail would impede its popularity. In addition, the multi-use implication of the vehicle is no longer legal in Brazil.

As far as the way it works, its pretty simple. Flag down the Kombi going in the direction you are headed (you’ll know by the city or neighborhood names listed in the front-window plaque). If not sure, use your best Portuguese to ask or just say the name of the place you want to go. The money-collector will slide open the side door and you hop in where ever there is room to sit, usually between or next to other people. The money-collector will most likely stand as to not take up passenger space and when getting close to the next stop, he’ll start yelling out the final destinations of the Kombi. The price can differ based on how far you are going and you usually pay when you get out. The good part is you can ask the driver or money-collector to stop along their route at any given point if that’s where you want to get out. All in all, its my preferred way of travel and I recommend trying it out!

For the history behind the Kombi, check out this site (in Portuguese).

Here’s a propaganda (advertisement) for the Kombi in which one kid says to the other ‘when I grow up I want a convertible car’ and the other responds by saying when he grows up he wants a kombi.

Músicas Infantis – Something for the kids

Over the course of my studies, I have come across some músicas infantis (childrens songs) which most Brazilians seem to know by heart. I will be posting video examples of them and a few of their translations.

O Sapo Não Lava O Pé (The Frog Doesn’t Wash It’s Feet)


O sapo não lava o pé

Não lava porque não quer
Ele mora lá na lagoa
Não lava o pé porque não quer

Mas que chulé!!!


The frog doesn’t wash his feet

He doesn’t wash because he doesn’t want to
He lives over there in the lake
He doesn’t wash his feet because he doesn’t want to

But, man! They stink!

There is also a second version of this song which kids (and adults alike) love to sing, which basically runs through the song, each time with a different vowel sound (ie, ew supu nu luvu ew pu). Here’s a video example.

Boi Da Cara Preta (Black Bull)


Boi, Boi, Boi
Boi da cara preta
Pega essa menina que tem medo de careta!


Bull, Bull, Bull
Bull with a black face
Get that girl who is afraid of scary faces!

Lavar As Mãos (Wash Your Hands)


Lava outra, lava uma
Lava outra, lava uma mão
Lava outra mão, lava uma mão
Lava outra mão
Lava uma

Depois de brincar no chão de areia a tarde inteira
Antes de comer, beber, lamber, pegar na mamadeira
Lava uma (mão), lava outra (mão)
Lava uma, lava outra (mão)
Lava uma

A doença vai embora junto com a sujeira
Verme, bactéria, mando embora embaixo da torneira
Água uma, água outra
Água uma (mão), água outra
Água uma

A segunda, terça, quarta, quinta e sexta-feira
Na beira da pia, tanque, bica, bacia, banheira
Lava uma mão, mão, mão, mão
Água uma mão, lava outra mão
Lava uma mão
Lava outra, lava uma


Washs the other, wash one
Washes the other, wash one hand
Wash the other hand, wash one hand
Wash the other
Wash one

After playing in the sand the whole afternoon
Before eating, drinking, licking, getting the baby bottle
Wash one (hand), wash the other (hand)
Wash one, wash the other (hand)
Wash one

Getting sick goes away along with the dirt
Vermin, bacteria, I send away below the faucet
Water one, water the other
Water one (hand), water the other
Water one

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
In the sink, tub, running water, bucket, bath
Wash one hand, hand, hand, hand
Water one hand, wash the other hand
Wash one hand
Wash the other, wash one

A lot of these songs came from a popular kids show called Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum on the Rede Cultura TV station. The creator of the show is Cao Hamburger, who went on to make the excellent mini-series ‘Filhos do Carnaval’ for HBO and the award-winning feature film ‘O Ano em que Meus Pais Sairam de Ferias’.