Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Good fences make good neighbors - Joanopolis

This is an extremely dark photo of Portão 4 (Gate 4) of our friends' fazenda in Joanopolis. Gate 4 happens to be the entrance to the lovely house we rent at the top of the hill. You know, the Alemão (German house). Outside this gate is the highway (hahahahaha! it's a dirt road rarely wide enough for two cars much less the eucalyptus-stuffed trucks) to São Francisco Xavier or Joanopolis. It remains locked when we are not there, and this is the only vehicle entrance to the property.

While the car entrances to the fazenda (and our small rented piece of it) are all locked continuously, the law of the land around the area is that you can easily pass through a neighbor's property without someone getting huffy. The paths and dirt roads are open to people. They are not, however, marked, which led to a very exciting day when we almost missed a flight to the US because we got lost.

I assume that if an enterprising tour company started dropping off busloads of people at the end of the driveway, the rule might change a bit.  But for now, you can just wander through your neighbor's huge forests...with one possible exception. Serra Azul ("Blue Ridge") the enormous fazenda behind our hillside, is manned (dogged?) by three or so fierce "pups" (demon dogs from hell). We tend to send the ranch hand ahead to ask for permission to cross through so we are not eaten. No worries about the ranch hand, okay? He is not our customary sacrifice but rather someone who is known by the dogs and humans there.

A few years ago the owners of our fazenda had to reinforce all of the fences around their property. One of their least-favorite (oh, I am nice today) neighbors was not feeding his buffaloes enough and they would break through the fences to go eat our friends' hydrangeas, corn, whatever they could find on their property. Buffaloes are pretty strong. Really strong. That is some big-time damage. Finally our friends had to sue the neighbor and he had to remove all of the buffaloes from his property. I don't miss those big animals--Brazilian buffaloes are fairly ugly. Bring on some American bison!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The mother of all spiders - Joanopolis

Don't tell my kids but I hate spiders. It's true. Yes, I take them to the spider and snake museum (Instituto Butantan) about once a quarter but it is only part of my ongoing therapy. I love snakes. I hate spiders.

So when my kids caught this spider in an ice cream container this weekend at the fazenda (our rented country house), I had a hard time not screaming. It's carrying 100s of babies. Yeeecccchhhhh!

You do reap what you sow. When I got mad at the kids (pretending I cared for the safety and health of the kids and the spider), one said "but mommy, we checked first and it's not an armadeira because it didn't put up boxing hands". Armadeiras are one of the three deadly spiders in Brazil. Yay! My kids know how to threaten a spider so it will box them!  Or not.

Then the other one said "and mommy, it was heading towards your open bedroom window so we got it!" And I held on to my first response which was KILL IT and all its babies--I just said "oh, okay, thanks."

Then when their backs were turned (they released mama spider into the woods), I killed every last baby still heading toward the window. I counted 30 squishes. The horror.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gallery of Heroes - or report your crimes when we have toner - São Paulo

As promised a few blogs ago, here is the story of my introduction to crime reporting in São Paulo.

Last year, a 21-year-old alumna of my alma mater came to stay with us for a couple weeks while on an 11-country tour. Debbie was studying martial arts worldwide on a Watson scholarship, and was in Brazil to study capoeira for a few months--mostly in Bahia but also two weeks in São Paulo. Debbie was very independent and in spite of not speaking the language or knowing the city, she searched the web for an intensive Portuguese class, which she found in a neighborhood about 30 minutes by bus from our house. She then found the bus line that would take her there and she was off.

On her third day of class, I received a call on my cell phone when I was in a meeting. Debbie was calling from her Portuguese class. She breathlessly said that she had been robbed on the bus. Someone had unzipped her small over-the-shoulder purse and taken her wallet with Watson ID, bus pass, cash, keys to my house, and a number of smaller items. She had not lost her cell phone. Without going into details on how the crime had taken place, she asked what she should do.

I told her to find the closest police station to report the crime. Two minutes later she called back and told me that the people in her Portuguese school (the Brazilians) told her not to bother. The reason? Reporting is pointless, according to them, the police would never catch the guy. I had a different opinion—I wanted her to report the crime so that statistics would show that the buses in a certain area were dangerous, and that (theoretically) more security would be assigned there. I told her to take a taxi back to my house and I would pay for it, and then we would go to the police station together.

When Debbie got home, she told me the whole story. She had been seated on the bus facing the "cobrador". Buses in Brazil are manned by a bus driver and the "cobrador" or money-charger who will change any bills (exact change signs as blazoned on NY buses are not here). She was wearing her small purse slung over her shoulder, and with her hand on top of it. Debbie is Chinese-American. According to her, the money-taker started making racist gestures at her such as making pulling his eyelids to make squinty eyes, and speaking to someone just out of sight on the other side of the turnstile. Debbie did not understand what they were saying. Finally, she removed her hand from her purse to gesture “me?” and to try to understand. During these moments when she was distracted from her bag, someone unzipped it, and took her documents and money. When Debbie discovered it, she immediately assumed the money-taker was involved and tried, in English, to complain or get some help. No one on the bus spoke English. No one helped her. She left the bus in tears.

Close to our house is a large park called Villa-Lobos. At the entrance to this park, down a few hundred meters, there is a Policia Militar (military police) station. I had noticed it a number of times before since it even abuts the running path through the park (though you cannot actually access it from inside the park, which seems bizarre). I said to Debbie we would try there first. We decided to take my car even though it was walkable—just in case it took a while and we ran into rodizio (rodizio is the six hour period one day a week when you cannot use your car 7-10 am, 5-8 pm). Off we went.

Police Station Villa-Lobos (from

As we pulled up to the gated entrance, a military policeman comes to the car and asks “pois não?” which literally means “no?” but in this case means “yes, may I help you?”See a prior blog on this one.

Me: “We need to file a ‘boletim de occorrencia’”.  (crime report)

Guard: “Não pode.” (you can’t)

Me: “Por que não? (why not) "Aqui é delegacia?" (Isn’t this a police station?)

Guard: “Pois é." (Yes).

Me: “….?”

Guard: “Estamos sem “toner”” (We have no toner. “Toner” apparently has no translation in Portuguese)

Me: “O que?” (what?)

Guard: “Não tem como imprimir o boletim" (We can’t print the crime report).

Me: “Podemos fazer eletronico e outro dia imprimir?" (can we do the electronic bit and print the rest out later?)

Guard: “Não pode” (You can't)

While flabbergasted that I cannot file a police report because the printer is out of toner, I finally pull it together to ask if there is another station nearby that might have some toner. He shrugs and says he doesn’t know. Pois é, the police man does not know if there is another police station. He tells me to keep driving down to the traffic circle about a kilometer away and ask someone there. I hope I will ask someone who is not a bad guy.

I drive on, and Debbie and I are shaking our heads about how crime cannot be reported without toner. We get into the Praça Panamericana and I happen to glimpse a sign that I’ve seen a million times before but never read. It reads “BPM- 13 Dist. – Sede” with a directional arrow. Aha! That means the Military Police Battalian 13th district headquarters are nearby. Hooray! We start following the signs. The signs lead us up and down and around in circles. Just when we think it is hopeless, a sign pops up pointing back in the direction from which we came. Finally, we are down a tiny side street and I ask the neighborhood security guard where the station is, and he points across the street at a tiny white house, behind a metal grade, and down some stairs.

We park. We walk to the locked gate and ring the bell. No one answers. Down in the little BPM “house” we can see two uniformed men, from the shoulders down, from our angle, walking around. Either ignoring us or not hearing the bell. So I check out the gate, and notice I can pop the lock from reaching inside the grade. So I reach inside and unlock the gate.

We walk down the steps and into the large open room. Not a single seat. Just a huge long counter and one very surprised policeman behind it. Clearly wondering how we got in.

PM: “Pois não?”

Me: “We’d like to file a police report.”

PM: “You can’t do that here.”

Me: “Why not?”

PM: “You have to go to a police station.”

Me: (looking around and then looking pointedly at his uniform)—“isn’t this a police station?”

PM: “No, this is police headquarters.”’

Me: “Oh.”

The PM suggests that we go to the military police station at Villa-Lobos. I say it is out of toner. This does not seem to surprise him. He tells me of another station further away, and I make note of it. As I turn to leave, I notice a huge empty wall with a sign at the top. It reads “Galeria dos Herois” (Gallery of Heroes). It is completely blank.

We get back in the car. It is now 4 pm and I am starting to get nervous because of rodizio. But we head over to the other police station. I note there is no free parking. I wonder how people who have their money stolen park there. Maybe they have their cars stolen too. We walk inside. At a front counter is a man typing on a laptop, no uniform. We stand in front of him. He doesn’t look up. Finally we figure out that he is just a member of the community, and not affiliated with the police. No one greets us…so I keep walking back farther into the police station. There are about 6 people waiting on broken chairs watching a fuzzy TV novella. We keep walking.

As we walk past a window (with no information or signs), a muscled plainsclothes cop pops out of nowhere, gun holstered under his arm, and blocks our way.

Detective: “What do you want?”

Me: “We need to file a police report.”

Detective: “Really? (sarcasm? Or was he trying to joke?)

I explained to him the general outline and he said that we would need to wait since there were other people in front of us. He shows us the broken chairs. There are no numbers to decide who is next. We sit. And sit. After 15 minutes, another PM comes through and asks us all what kind of crimes we are reporting. He tells one couple that they can report their occurrence on line, because it is a theft rather than a robbery. He comes to us and we tell him how the situation is, and he said we could not do it online because the items were purposefully stolen, not that someone had picked up a lost item.

We wait 20 minutes more then I ask if Debbie can talk with someone who speaks English, since I have to go because of rodizio. The detective looks at me blankly. No one speaks English. I tell the detective that we have to go. He says “come back anytime, we’re here 24 hours a day.”

We never did report the crime. Four days later I return to the original police station and ask them if they had gotten their toner yet. They said no. Note to all gringos coming for the world cup: bring toner. I’ll find out the cartridge number.

Note: a couple of months ago I met the lieutenant in charge of the Villa Lobos police station. I told him this whole story and he added some information.

1. The police man at the entrance to the station who mentioned the toner missing was actually a contracted worker not a police man. I said that did not excuse his attitude. The lieutenant agreed. 
2. All police stations should take reports verbally if they are out of toner and keep them electronically until able to print. 
3. You cannot report crimes at police headquarters. 
4. The Gallery of Heroes is for photos of men and women who died in police service. It was a blank wall not because there were no heroes, but because there were no dead heroes. I apologized to him for that one.
5. He claimed that calling "190" which is the 911 equivalent in Brazil, you can get an English-speaking attendant who can help. He volunteered for us to do that together one day from the police station and see what happened. I have yet to find time to do that.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Night Vision - Campo Limpo Paulista

This is the view out the front windshield as we drive the 3 hour trip to our rented country house in Joanopolis. This is Friday night around 6:30 pm and we've just passed by the heavy (seriously, there are some big trucks out on a Friday night) traffic in the rotary (or round-about, depending where you are from) in Campo Limpo Paulista, population 74,000--that's the town population. Rotary population is around 23,000 on a Friday night.

About 10 minutes past this craziness, the lights go out around you and you feel like you are on the road to the end of the world. I personally hate traveling to the country house at night because I don't like to think about how long it would take for help to come if the car were to break down. With two 6-year old kids and 2 senior labradors stuffed in with groceries for the weekend. Well, at least we'd have the veggies for the barbecue to eat.

But it was no problem...and the weekend was quite delicious.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Leaving the American sector - Douglas Michigan and São Paulo

I finally found a sign that conveys how I feel upon landing in São Paulo after five weeks in the US. As soon as those United Airlines doors open and I say goodbye to the all-American crew, it is deep dive. A race to the immigration line, a general feeling of malaise getting my passport stamped, and then the battle for luggage. I can't explain it--it just feels different from the USA. Primarily because no one is so friendly as the midwest. No one. No one says to me "welcome home" as they do in the US (I am a permanent resident here so I would think I would get a welcome home...).

Customs is the usual potshot of whether or not you will be stopped. I wasn't, in spite of 5 large bags and two small kids. Then we leave out the double doors to the chaos of the waiting area. Taxis and other drivers, family, carts, craziness. Luckily I have a greeter in the middle of it--my husband who I have not seen for two weeks. If I didn't, I might try to get back into the American sector.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Waiting Game - São Paulo International Airport

Here is an image many of us have seen countless times in our lives. The baggage carrousel. In this case, it is at Guarulhos, São Paulo's International Airport. For 45 minutes this morning, I waited with my extremely patient 6-year old boys (beware of sarcasm) for the molasses-blooded airport workers to unload the bags from our 777 from Chicago. The carrousel fits roughly 50 people around it, and the 777 carries around 270 people (and was completely chock-a-block) so it was every woman for herself.  I do apologize to the small woman I pretty much sucker punched with the duffel bag but frankly, she was in my way.

My favorite moment is when the workers put a bicycle box onto the belt and it got stuck around the corner inside these curtains. Then two guys crawled in after it, promptly got caught in the carrousel when it unexpectedly and violently started up again, and made a not-so-elegant exit. I guess they learned their lesson because afterwards a giant Jeep (those ride-on things for kids) showed up--that ginormous box exited through a double door behind the carrousel.

Can't wait to see how this airport handles the World Cup. Beware of sarcasm.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Catavento - São Paulo

This is a photo of the Catavento ("Pinwheel") Museum in São Paulo. It is probably my second favorite after Butantan (the snake and spider museum). Fully half of Catavento is dedicated to hands-on learning, much like the Exploratorium in San Francisco (though that museum could eat Catavento for a snack). It is a place where you long to have a 10 year with whom to play with physics problems, light reflections, noises. My kids are a little young at 6 years to fully appreciate the explanations behind the fun--mostly they are interested in making noise and pulling levers.

The museum is housed in the old Palacio das Industrias, which dates from 1920. It's a crazy building in itself with animal gargoyles hanging off of every parapet. Definitely worth a visit. Afterwards you can head to the giant Municipal Market for lunch!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Garbage platforms - São Paulo

These are garbage cans in residential neighborhoods in São Paulo. Yes, they are. You set your garbage bags on this basket/platform after 6 pm and the garbage men pass by during the night. I am guessing that this format is key here in Brazil for two reasons: 1. No one steals the cans. 2. No stray dogs can rip holes in bags and get the stuff.  Okay, maybe one more reason: many more dumpster diver opportunities when it's all out in the open to look at! But maybe that's just me (a master-class dumpster diver).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lake Michigan vs. Brazil's Atlantic Ocean

None of these folks are related to me.

Saugatuck, Michigan vs. Guaecá, São Paulo state

Saugatuck is where I was visiting with a few girlfriends this weekend. Guaecá is the beach that I have visited in Brazil annually since 1996.

1. Saugatuck is sweet water (not the drinking kind but the lake kind). Guaecá is saltwater Atlantic Ocean.

2. Small waves in Lake Michigan. Large and larger waves in Brazil. Guaecá is known as a surfing beach. Surfers in Lake Michigan consist of paddleboarders.

3. In Saugatuck no one wanders by to offer me coconuts, water, beer, shrimp, corn on the cob, ice cream, blankets, hammocks, hats, sunglasses or jewelry. No one offers me anything. On the other hand, every one says hi as I walk by them on the beach. No one has ever said hi to me ever in Guaecá. Unless related to me by blood or marriage.

4. Saugatuck has blondes. Natural blondes. Hello, Dutch descendants. Guaecá has blondes. Not natural. Except me. And Lalo.

5. Saugatuck: Everyone totes in their own food. Large wheeled coolers, snow sleds, children are all loaded up with food and drinks. Brazil: All in-laws loaded up with snacks and a styrofoam cooler of beer. Anything forgotten can be bought.

6. Saugatuck: it costs $6 to park. Guaecá: nada.

7. Saugatuck: public bathrooms. Guaecá: ocean. 

8. Saugatuck: boats that pass consist of one motor boat (large) and one paddlewheel (large tourist). Guaecá: lots and lots of enormous Petrobras tankers.

9. Sunset over both. Yes. Sunset on the Atlantic Ocean in Guaecá because of a jig in the coastline around São Sebastião.


1. Chubbies are everywhere. No one cares.

2. Fried gringos are everywhere. No change.

3. Tattoos are everywhere. Though I think Michigan wins.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Getting crafty - São Paulo

This is a bedspread our housekeeper's aunt made for me. It is for my son Lalo's bed and is made of pieces of his baby onesies and shirts. It is one of my favorite items in my house. Nico has one too.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prison or College? - São Jose dos Campos

These are the dorms of the Air Force Academy of Brazil (Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica, or something like that--ITA), one of the top engineering colleges in the country. My husband is an alum. As far as he can tell, they have not updated or repaired the dorm rooms in the 20+ years since he graduated. I can tell you that I would not sentence stray dogs to live there. It is no wonder they call underclassmen "bichos" or animals.

The best minds in the country go here. I hope they never see MIT because they might get just a little mad.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I need to see ID with that milkshake - Ribeirão Preto

Wine Milkshake

Here's a specialty of the ice cream shop in Ribeirão Preto, a city of around 750,000 people three hours into the interior of the São Paulo farming area. The Central Valley of Brazil. Yum yum.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are you sailing in my tap water? - São Paulo

This is a shot of the Guarapiranga Reservoir in São Paulo...and of my husband sailing away with my kids just before a tricky breeze caused them to all dump out into the water. My kids have not wanted to go sailing since. Not a surprise. However, this is not my point.  In the distance you can see the skyline of São Paulo, and of course the lovely layer of pollution that frequently accompanies it.

Guarapiranga Reservoir was built in 1906 for energy generation but is now used as drinking water (and place to dump twins out of boats). I don't mind the sailboats and people in it, but I do mind the jetskis and motor boats that also add their juices to the water.

It is a beautiful place with many yacht (pronounced "yah-chee" in Portuguese) and country clubs around it. Still, if you mention it to my kids, they immediately say "I don't want to sail!" And so we don't.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Party like it's 1999...or is that the number of kids? - São Paulo

The Buffet. It's a Brazilian cultural phenomenon. No, I'm not talking about Red Lobster on a Friday night. I'm talking about kids' birthday parties at the "Buffet Infantil". Since we arrived in São Paulo five years ago, we have been invited to countless of these parties, though we have never hosted one ourselves. While it is a great time to meet and talk with parents, there is also a high percentage of kids who come accompanied only by their nannies. Not so interesting.

Here's how it goes.

1. Rent buffet. You can choose between Spasso at the top end (pictured above) with NASA themed ride (!!??!!), three story play structure, indoor roller coaster, inside boat pool, stage and discoteque, or perhaps a "non-video game" place that may have themes of Brazilian native peoples or maybe looks like your own backyard.  "La No Quintal" (there in the yard) used to be THE place for their former school's kids. In a three week period when they were 3, we went to 5 parties there). You select based on how many people, how much you want to spend, also which neighborhood you live in or work in.

2. Invite X number of people where X is the number of kids in their classroom, your family and closest friends. And their kids. And their nannies. And then realize that you will actually get X + 500 people because everyone brings the siblings, the nannies, the cousins, etc. for the party.

3. Pay for a cake table. This is the weirdest phenomenon ever in Brazil. Apologies to my Brazilian friends who may possibly never invite me again to their parties, but paying $300 US to have a themed table where you place sweets and the cake is really bizarre. Say your kid likes dinosaurs. You would pay for a cake table that would have plastic or styrofoam dinosaurs, some safari-looking forests, fake grass and a big poster of dinosaurs behind it. The price is without the cake and sweets.  Now I do this at home at our parties for the boys but simply grab dinosaurs off Nico's shelves, throw down a green tablecloth and grab some weeds from the back yard. Done.

4. It's party day. Eat cardboard pizzas, flat soda pop and chat with the nannies. Ah, often kids' parties also include beer. This is strange for a kids' party but I got used to it and actually have been known to complain if the beer brand is not my favorite. I am my own worst enemy.

5. Sing happy birthday. Get tons of presents for your kids which will be duplicated and you will have to run all over the city to return within the established 30 days (that is definitely the subject of another post--return policies in Brazil). Pay up. Get your car from the valet parking.

The best part? You don't have the clean up!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No Brazilians on the same team - LaGrange, Illinois

I signed my kids up for the Chicago Fire soccer camp this week. The Fire is the local MLS team, and they run an hour-and-a-half five-day camp in the late afternoons. Yesterday the local temperature at 5 pm was 90 degrees. The group that my kids are in is coached by two British young men (age 25?) and has perhaps 12 kids. Both of my guys are loving it.

I noticed right away that the kids had been placed on different teams for scrimmages. I asked the boys about it and they said that the second rule of Chicago Fire soccer is "No Brazilians on the same team." I failed to ask about rule 1. I wonder if this was their creative answer to "No brothers on the same team".

I love that they are on different teams--one of my sons was born kicking a soccer ball but the other struggles with the required skills. In this shot, the less-experienced son is directly behind the coach and he is leaping over the ball, doing a little dance complete with arm windmills to try to "fool" the other side. His teammate, the little girl in blue, is in simple shock. The coach really doesn't know what to say. I am laughing so hard that this is the only clear shot and not a good one. (By the way, the little blond is not mine--my blond would rather die than wear sunglasses on the soccer field).

I am hoping that my son's dance moves over the soccer ball come back to Brazil, where "football" is known as the "beautiful game." Certainly his opponents, all Brazilians on the same team, will be impressed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No such thing as a hit and run - São Paulo

This is a photo I took with my phone of the car that just hit me. Yes, that brown car in front of me. She had cut a corner in order to pass me on the right and get in front of me at the light. She bonked the right front bumper of my car and squeaked in front of me. She did not stop her car, she did not get out, she did not acknowledge me flashing my lights and beeping at her.

So I did what they tell you not to do. I chased her. Okay, it was a slow chase because it was raining and you can see the current traffic. I followed her until she finally turned down a side road and stopped her car. I got out, she got out. She said "why are you following me?" My jaw dropped. "Because you hit me." She then says "show me" and I show her the (small) scratch and dent on my car's front bumper. She looks at me and shrugs and says "ah, these little bumps and scratches happen all the time in this city." And then I say "I am going to report this to the police." She gives me a pitying glance and says "go ahead." And she gets back into her car and drives away.

Reporting crime to the police is not easy. Sometime I will tell the story of the stolen wallet on the bus, and the inability to report it because of a missing toner cartridge. For today, let me just say that my hit-and-crawl driver bet correctly. I never reported it. And the bumper scratch is just one of many on my city car. But it reminds me every time of the feeling of helplessness I had at that moment.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How California farmers markets differ from Brazil feiras - Chico, California

As you know, I've been on vacation in California. One of the days we went to a farmer's market in Chico which was well-organized, full of wonderful food items and friendly vendors. It wasn't very busy at 11 am but there was a steady stream of shoppers. Favorite purchases: crunchy lettuce, amazing blackberries the size of ping-pong balls, strawberries, and flowers. Also an 8 year old boy and his 12 year old brother sold me on some Indian nan bread and spinach spread. Delicious.

At my closest farmers market (or feira) in São Paulo, the scene is a bit different. First of all, you can bring your dog, cat, bird or reptile. Though the latter seems unlikely. Also, the noise level is generally much higher as vendors yell out their wares or call out to you "Oi loira, vem provar a manga!" (hey blondie, come taste the mango). At the end of the farmer's market, it gets even higher volume and crazed as the vendors drop prices so they don't have to cart the stuff onwards, or throw it out. There is also a butcher and fishmonger (I did not see these at this particular Chico market) but there are few "processed food" vendors--certainly no Indian food. Generally it is much more crowded, but the vendors are equally as friendly. Deals can always be had.

Which one do I prefer? It's a tie. Each is unique and fun, and a great way to spend a morning.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Traveling light - Chicago

I crashed my husband's car a couple of months ago. To be honest, I hate his huge Volvo SUV and I can't back out of a garage to save my life. Every single accident I have ever had in my life has been in a parking garage or parking lot. Mostly me against an immobile concrete pole. In this case, I was backing out of our garage at too sharp an angle and I cracked the brake and rear view lights. Oh, all right, I scraped the left side of the car too. 

In any case, the brake lights need replacing. Estimate from Brazil: part is US$400, then service. So I wrote Volvo parts in the US and bingo!! Here is my new brake light, US$151. Now to stick it in my huge suitcase.

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Superheroes - São Paulo

Twice a year the kids' swim academy puts on an event to show off the swim skills. There is always a theme--pirates or Carnaval or Olympics. This time it's super heroes and there is a scrawny Superman, a definitely cold Wonder Woman and teenage Spideman wandering about. And during breaks they play the Star Wars music which is pushing it a bit on the superheroes thing.

At the end of a short demonstration of crawl stroke, back stroke and 'submarine', the kids all get a medal. And then there is a 'pula-pula' (jump-jump or trampoline)  and more activities outside. 

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Do not swim, or row, or even look too closely - São Paulo

Beautiful day. Yucky river.

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sunset Park - São Paulo

A hazy sunset from the Praça Por do Sol...Sunset Park.

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'll be watching you - São Paulo

Here's the lady that watches me arrive with the kids at capoeira class. I can never figure out if she is wearing a halo or devil horns. Hmmm.

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kombi - São Paulo

See the delivery truck? Yep, it's that little Kombi, the old famous VW bus. This one is delivering Vigor yogurt products.

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I'll be Watching You - São Paulo

Radar detectors in Brazil are unmanned cameras. What makes them a little less than effective is that they place signs 50 meters (150 feet) from the radar to warn you that it is coming. So everyone hits the brakes and the bad guys get away....again...

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hey, my cable is STILL not working - São Paulo

More of my favorite electric and cable wire spider webs in São Paulo

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Roadside Bar - Joanópolis

Here's my favorite roadside bar on the way back from the fazenda. Of course it hasn't been open in a few years but there is always potential, no?

Starting July 5, I am on vacation in San Francisco, California and my posts are pre-scheduled and short photo and captions. See you back on July 15!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Flying by the police - São Paulo

This news clipping is from the Folha de São Paulo and is about a crack user who is suspected of killing a college student at a party. It's from the "Cotidiano" or "Every Day" section of the São Paulo newspaper...a section my mom would call "Murder and Mayhem" much like the Metropolitan section of the NY Times used to be (and maybe still is).  Cotidiano is filled with robberies, murders, traffic jams, weather and other "every day" occurrences in the city.

In the second paragraph there is one of my favorite police-isms (sorry, give me a little grammatical license, okay?). It says that the suspect "já tem passagem pela polícia". The phrase means that the suspect already has a history with the police. He has a file. But since "passagem" is also an airline ticket, it always makes me think of the criminal 'flying by' the police station. And unfortunately, that is frequently the case. The Brazilian justice system means that anyone who has committed a crime with a penalty of fewer than four years does not even stop over in the police station. No prison. Robbery? Under 4 year penalty--out on the street. Most domestic abuse cases--under four years, out on the streets. Drug abuse? Under four years...out on the street. So to call it a "passagem" or fly-by is really quite accurate. The reason for this is mostly prison overcrowding--they save the choice long-term spots for the "serious" crimes--and yes, murder is one of them.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

La Maquina Roja - Bridgeview, Illinois

Yesterday I took my kids and my parents to everyone's very first Major League Soccer (MLS) game. The Chicago Fire was playing the San Jose Earthquakes (a natural disaster face-off) at the Toyota Park in Bridgeview. The town is only about 20 minutes from my parents' house though it took a bit longer with rush hour traffic combined with people trying to get to Chicago's fireworks display. It always amuses my husband that we have fireworks on July 3 when the actual holiday is always July 4. Yes, we were promised fireworks after the game.

We were able to park in an actual parking lot. This as opposed to the usual park on the street and paying off the street guy in Brazil. Traffic was directed by portly cops. I had pre-paid parking so we just handed over the receipt, followed the gesticulating pony-tailed college kids (girls and boys) to our spot. And then passed by the tail gaters who had been there since 3 pm, charcoal grills and all. Does any country tail gate like the US?

The field is beautiful--red brick outside and modern and metal on the inside (open air). It is used only for soccer and is not an oval--the 30,000 capacity was about 70% full. We were in the fifth row practically on the goal line and I definitely could have touched  a soccer player or two. There was no line of policemen protecting the players looking constantly at the crowd. In fact, security in general was much different from Brazil. On entering the stadium, there were no patdowns (standard at all games in Brazil) and they took only a cursory glance at my small backpack filled with sweaters, and cherries (the boys do get hungry, you know). For a country terrified of terrorism, it certainly did not carry over to the Chicago Fire crowd.

We easily found our numbered seats and sat down just as the teams came on the field. The color guard came out with the US and Chicago flags, and then we got the obligatory wanna-be opera singer to do the national anthem. There are several differences from Brazil here. First of all my kids always want to know why they need to stand up and take off hats for the national anthem. Never mind that we stand up for the Brazil anthem--for some reason the US one is much more respectful. Second of all, the national anthem of the US is almost always sung live at sporting events (used to be an presidential inaugurations too). And it is almost always sung badly. Maybe we should follow Brazil's lead and have the anthem recorded and piped in. It would be less cringe-worthy then, I suppose. We have no second stanza to the the American anthem so we don't have any way of making a political protest as in the Confederations Cup when the crowd refused to stop singing the Brazil anthem after the first stanza. Our singers are usually bad enough that we are praying for relief at the end of the octave-and-a half torture.

Food and beer and drinks are all available at your seat. Mostly beer. I had to get up and go after hot dogs (only $2!! Okay, Polishes were $9 So were Corona, Dos Equis and Modelo beers. Rather an ethnic beer choice, no?) for the boys and also bottled water.  The concession worker unscrewed the bottle cap on the water and gave it to me. What? She explained that you cannot keep the bottle cap at Toyota Field as people throw them on the field when they hate a call. Hmmm. New one for me.  I passed quickly the doo-dads and clothing concession--they wanted $70 for a kid's jersey, and $27 for a scarf with "La Maquina Roja" on it.

Which brings me to La Maquina Roja or the Red Machine. This is the organized cheering section for the Fire. I had just said to my husband that I didn't know if there would be anything like the Mancha Verde, the huge cheering section for Palmeiras or the Gaviões da Fiel (Corinthians) or any of the many organized groups in Brazil. There was: La Maquina Roja. I was impressed. A section behind the goal which started around 50% full became 100% full by half time. They stood and sang the entire game. They did not bounce like in Brazil. They played the drums and strangely enough-- a trumpet. Also they played Yankee Doodle. And lots of songs from the 80s which were changed to include the Fiiiii-iire in the lyrics. I was very very entertained by them. They rolled out a large banner with every goal and shook flags from Chicago and the Fire. Good on them.

It was as entertaining as a soccer game can be for me (I'm not really such a fan). The Fire got three goals, the Earthquakes two. I missed one goal on a French fry run for Lalo, I missed another when we left a few minutes early to avoid the mess at the end. But I never really missed them because here they have a huge TV at one end of the field with all the replays.

We heard Spanish and English during the entire game with a possible bias towards English. The Mexican population is pretty large around Chicago and I was expecting more Spanish. All announcements on goals and player changes were first in English and then in Spanish.  It was a nice crowd--many women, many kids, no swearing that I heard. Nobody yelling insults at the players (from their own team or the other team--it always shocks me the "coaching" that Brazilians give their own team).  It is as different as you can imagine from Brazil.

Or not. The Fire Stadium was built by the last mayor Daley. He chose Bridgeview as the location of the stadium because he grew up in that working class area. Seems a little sketchy. But then I think that Mayor Daley was part Brazilian. He also decided he didn't like Meigs Field airport anymore and the state house was taking too long to act so he blew up the runways late one night. True story.

On the way out of the stadium, Purina gave out tennis balls and free kibble for our dogs. We skipped the kibble and the kids each got a tennis ball.  We saw the fireworks from the car. It was an incredibly pleasant way to spend an evening. I'll be back, Chicago! Go Fire!

La Maquina Roja - before the game. This section was full by the end of the game. And fun.