Monday, September 30, 2013

Kids and Soccer - São Paulo

Nigeria (green) waits to take the field against Tahiti (red)

I try not to write much about my kids as this is a public space and you never know what will come back and bite them (or me) in the butt. Also the NSA doesn't need to know about them. But once in a while, they have to come in from the periphery of this blog, as they are a big part of how I see Brazil. And of course, they are half-Brazilian so they add to my cultural learnings every day.

One of my sons (they are twins but not identical) is a born sports man. He is good at just about every sport he tries, but has an special love for soccer/futebol. He plays at least 2-3 times a week year-round. The other boy is a creative, shall I say; he likes non-competitive sports but doesn't love any. We finally found a soccer place that could handle a boy who, unlike most Brazilian boys, thinks it important to look for flowers on the soccer field and do dances  while waiting for the ball (no, he doesn't run after the ball but he will kick it if it comes within range). They are six years old. 

Yesterday we had one of the sports days of four hours of games that many of you parents can identify with. The soccer boy (I shall call him Blondie) had a game at the club for Panelinhas (hmmmm, how to translate? Technically a "clique" according to my translator, but really an internal club tournament for kids. Adults play in "Panelas", not to be confused with pans, which would be the literal translation). The club has a great soccer program--though one of the smallest clubs in the city, it gives great attention to the kids' program--this year there is even a sticker album with all the players. Love it.

Sticker album

Blondie plays for Nigeria. The other three teams in his age division (5-9 years) are Tahiti, Italy and Brasil. Blondie likes to win, but I have to say that he is a really good loser. Last year, his Panelinhas team, Manchester City, lost every single game. He did not cry, not even once. That being said, he prefers to win. 

Tied 0x0

Creative does not play at the club. The club is competitive and the parents can be tough. On a Sunday afternoon, they are likely as not to have had a couple of beers and feel that it is okay to yell "steal the ball from the little guy, he can't stop you." Yesterday, one of the fathers from Nigeria started yelling at the referee for a call against our team. Folks, this is a game and these are small kids influenced by their parents. Personally I hate going to the club games for the sole reason that I hate the parents. No, that is harsh. I dislike the attitude of anyone who cheers against another person--you may cheer for your own team but you may not do it to the harm of the other team. This is not only true of Brazil, by the way, because I have seen a lot of ugliness on Little League fields in the US. 

Anyway, it was a fun game and fairly evenly matched. With the range of 5 to 9 year olds there are some kids who tower over others, but they are very respectful of the little guys. Seriously. The kids are respectful. Not the parents. But I have covered that.  Blondie played well and ended up with the "Fair Play" award for the game. He was very happy. The game ended in a tie and we had to run out to get to his game at the soccer academy. 

As I said, our club is very small but well-kept and well-off. The soccer academy is located in a rougher area and attracts a range of kids. My kids don't usually play there at the academy but rather at a rented field at a house near ours. The academy consists of one concrete-walled, chain link fenced field, a small parking lot and an upstairs bar area which is tiny and hangs over one of the goals -- you have lean out into the chain link fence to see the goals.

Blondie is playing for Bayern Munchen. He was unhappy at first because he loves Barcelona, which is Creative's team. At first I was annoyed that my boys were placed on different teams because of different schedules, but I realize that it is for the best. 
Bayern Munchen vs Real Madrid

To cut a long story slightly shorter, Bayern took the field first against Real Madrid. Real Madrid is the team of Blondie's friend and archrival who I will call Irish. Blondie can handle any loss except when he is playing goalie and Irish scores a goal on him. They are great rivals and friends. It was 0x0 for a time until a penalty was called against Real Madrid. To my surprise, my son asked to shoot the penalty kick (is it a penalty kick when there is a "barreira"? The wall of kids? Hmm, out of my league). You see, a little known fact is that my little sports man is very shy.

And in one of those moments when mommy hearts burst with joy for our little ones, he scored an unbelievable goal. A ball that lifted and soared over the defense "wall", that curved right when the goalie went left. I will never in my life forget the look on his face--joy, disbelief, and happiness all rolled into one. He ran with arms out hugging the air...the bar area celebrated with him and the calls of "golaço" (huge goal!) rang out. 

The game continued and Blondie became goalie for a time, and of course Irish's team took this moment to score a well-deserved goal. Even that could not take down Blondie. The game ended 1x1.

Then came Creative's turn as Barcelona took the field. The team came out with hands held and Creative spent the entire walk to midfield blowing kisses and waving to me. Then he did a little dance while the teams were being presented. He wiggled his butt and jumped around doing gymnastics. Blondie just covered his eyes in the spectator area. The writing was on the wall.

See the one dancing on the left. yes. That one is mine.

Creative came in when the score was already 2x0 against Barcelona. He played defense. He did not leave the box. He stood on the line. If the ball came near him he would try to kick it. He did not run from the ball. He did not run to the ball. He stood on his corner. Then he sat down and tied his shoe. They paused the game. Then he did some spins and talked to the goalie. Then he sat down and tied his other shoe.

At this point, one of the neighboring fans, the mom of one of the stars of the game (and on Barcelona), said "what in the world is that kid doing?" She was not mean. Just wondering. And I suffered that dark suffering of moms as they hurt for their kids. By the way, Creative was not suffering. He was having a good time. He loved the game. He left the field believing that he had contributed. Final score: Man City 5 x 3 Barcelona. It could have been worse but there were several excellent players, including a little girl, on Barcelona.

As we left the academy, I noticed the mom of the little Barcelona star get into a small hatchback with 10 other people. I am not kidding--it was all full up. We got into our big imported car.  On the soccer field, it is all equal, or unequal, in terms of interest and skills. But I have to say that I much prefer the fan base and mix at the soccer academy to the attitude at the club. Let's see in a couple of weeks when Nigeria, Barcelona and Bayern Munchen again take the field.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Beautiful Money - São Paulo

I got this nice insert in my newspaper this week. It shows the new 2 and 5 reais bills. As you all probably know, currency here is the Brazilian real and the plural is "reais". 

Brazilian bills are some of the prettiest on the planets. Yeah, the dude on the front is more or less like any other dude or dudette (apologies to Queen Elizabeth) on any other currency. Ah, and I just got corrected (see Comments below) that it is a lady not a dude. looks like a dude. But on the back, you have the best beasties around: the hummingbird ($1), the sea turtle ($2), the heron ($5), parrot ($10), golden lion tamarin monkey ($20), jaguar ($50) and grouper ($100). Why the jaguar didn't get the $100, I'll never know. Grouper? Seriously? 

Anyway, the colors are also gorgeous--blues, pink, maroon, green, it's great stuff. Puts the US dollar to shame. When I first got the new $100 reais bill last year, it was so beautiful I was sure that it was fake. So I quickly spent it. I guess this is why they send out these informational inserts in the newspaper.

Currency in Brazil has had quite a checkered history. It's not a subject for a Sunday but some time I'll talk about the currencies that Brazil has seen: cruzeiro, cruzado, new cruzeiro, new cruzado...And all wrapped up with a history of inflation and banking fandango. Yes, I am going to go with "fandango." Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Creepy Crawlies - São Paulo

On Thursday the kids had no school because of parent-teacher conferences. I asked them what they wanted to do with their free day and the answers came back, simultaneously: Butantan! Then one amended and said "can we get seaweed and then go to Butantan?" Yes, seaweed. Apparently this is the snack of choice among second graders.

I forgot my camera for the Asian store so I'm going to hold off on my comments on that until I can show some photos to go along. I love it there. I have no idea what half of the stuff is because I don't read Japanese/Chinese/Korean, and the Brazilian translations don't help. We did find the seaweed. My kid started munching it on the street. 

Off to Instituto Butantan. Yes, it is my favorite museum in São Paulo (see prior blog post here). Not because it's chic but because it is the opposite. It is dark, empty, seemingly abandoned and for real fun,  the translations are atrocious (if they exist at all). And they also have the most beautiful collection of snake, spider, scorpion and lizard that they can think of.  Yeah okay truthfully spiders give me the creeps and scorpions are not my favorite, but the colorful venomous and non-venomous snakes are truly amazing. I have been there maybe 20 times and I seem to always see a new snake. 


After naming all the snakes for the 20th time and choosing our favorite, the kids and I went off to visit the monkeys. The monkeys are used to research viruses, and were critical in developing a yellow fever vaccine. Honestly, you don't want to think about these test animals. Or where they live. It's not pretty. 
Monkey cages
Then a look at the mosaics and a race down the avenue to the lanchonete where we can eat salty snacks and the kids can run around the park (actually the helicopter landing area for critical bite cases). After lunch we go to the microbiology museum where we watch the screen of a microscope showing a drop of water from the local river. Looooooootttts of paramecium and amoeba in there. Again probably don't want to think about that too much. 

My favorite way to spend two hours with my kids. Instituto Butantan. If you live here, you must go for a visit!

Friday, September 27, 2013

South African National Heritage Day - São Paulo

One of the biggest joys of living in São Paulo is the international friendships I have made over the years. The downside of this is that many of these friendships are with expatriates or consular employees who are off to the next place after a couple of years. I have good friends now in Brussels, Beijing, Rome and Pretoria, but very little chance of seeing them any time soon.

One of the more recent friends I have made is from South Africa. A country that I had never had in my top 10 list of places to go until fortune dropped it in my lap in 2010. One of my husband's co-workers could not go to the World Cup at the invitation of a service provider, and we were invited in their place. 

Folks, I fell in love. Beautiful country, wonderful people, extraordinary history. Since that first trip, we have returned twice, and will be heading back with my sons soon for their first safari. My kids tell me (and anyone else who asks) every day how excited they are to go to Africa.

Tuesday was South Africa's National Heritage Day. I was invited to a celebration of the holiday by a friend connected to the consulate. Not knowing anything about the holiday, I spent a bit of time looking it up. Though there seems to be a long and short version of how it developed, it is a holiday that originated with a Zulu king and today celebrates South Africa's multicultural heritage. And barbecue. In a Heritage Day speech, Nelson Mandela said: "When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation”.

On arrival at the party place (a beautiful building in Pinheiros), I was greeted by women in traditional dress and had three dots of white "paint" applied under my eye.  I was warmly greeted by my friend and by the consul-general, who is a woman (when I told my six-year old son this later that night, he said "reallly??? Girls are taking over everything!" He meant it in a good way...)

I also met the recently arrived consular officer of Switzerland and we commiserated about how long it takes to get stuff out of customs. I chatted with a few other people until, after a short introduction, a group called Afro II came in. Loudly. Pounding drums and feathered headdresses, painted faces and chests. And extremely athletic!! I am not actually sure if the dance was traditional for South Africa but it was fun and energetic--the group was filled with enthusiasm and theatrics. 

My photos of the event are not good--I had only my phone with me and it could not handle the lighting. While I was looking for photos on the web of the Afro II group, I found out some other information about them but I would like to know more. All I can find is that they are based in a neighborhood of São Paulo called Itaquera, in one of the public housing projects. One of their videos on youtube mentions that they are a socio-cultural organization

After the show, the consul general spoke about the holiday and South Africa, and then told us about the traditional South African foods about to be served. I so wish I could remember the names of these dishes, but in the end it doesn't matter--they were all delicious.  My friend told me that several of the spouses of consular officials had made the food (joking that she had just stirred the pot) so I guess having this stuff catered for my birthday is out of the question. Unfortunately, because I had to pick up my kids later at school, I did not have any of the South Africa wines or the Amarula that were offered--it was hard to hold firm when the Pinotage made the rounds. Then a delicious dessert ("melktart"? sorry, I am really not good with names) and rooibos tea to finish up.

As I walked to my car, I thought about Heritage Day. And I thought about my five years living here in São Paulo and how this city is filled with its own multicultural experiences. This is the idea of Brazil in My Eyes and how open I hope to be to learning new expressions, customs and meeting new and different people here. And not just Brazilians. I am lucky to call Scots, Australians, Germans, French, and Americans friends here. We are multicultural. Try that in Connecticut (oh dear, now I will get hate mail from all five people who live in that state, yes, yes, I was one)...

Thank you, South Africa!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Can you fit it with a smaller font? - São Paulo

Quick, find the logo of the actual team! No, not the Dutch girl
Okay, so returning to one of my favorite, football, futebol, etc. The beautiful game. And once you love the beautiful game, you must buy a beautiful shirt. That will set you back almost R$130 for an official shirt, less for a knock-off. And you had better be getting this year's version--you can tell best by who the sponsor is on the shirt.

The shirt so full of advertising messages, they can't actually fit in the player's name. And really, they are all just numbers to me, and a changing number at that. But I am repeating myself.

As you know futebol does not have television time outs. No $500K per 30 seconds spots. I am sorry for football...except that they have figured out a solution. The football shirt. Some so filled with sponsors names I have no idea if there is actually a team emblem on there or not. The most successful at this is Corinthians, beating out the team (Flamengo) with the most fans of any team in Brazil. They gain R$74 million (US$34 million) per year in sponsorship of their shirts. How do they do it? Let's look:

Ummm, these sponsors are a joke but hard to explain to non-Brazilians...
First of all, the principal sponsor of the shirt is Caixa. That costs $30 million reais but you are front and center for every shot on goal. Sleeves are worth $12 million ($3 million more than the hem. Who knew?). Ah, you want your name with the player number, that is going to cost you $2 million. And it's your shirt material (Nike)? $30 million over 10 years.

Are there any other sports that do this? Car racing jumpsuits, right? Anything else? Strange stuff. In My Eyes.

PS> I know football teams worldwide do this...I am not picking on Brazil....much...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

House Call - São Paulo

House calls. Chic doctors, kids wearing white. Total fiction...or is it?

I am not a fan of doctor visits (shhh, keep it on the hush-hush: my father in law is a pediatrician, and my stepson is in medical school). I am known to put off check-ups for years at a time. I've gotten a bit better over time, but pretty much I will only go if I am near death. This does not hold true for me taking my kids, by the way. While I am neither a helicopter mom nor totally relaxed, I will go see their neighborhood pediatrician with them if things look not so good. I have very healthy kids--last time they saw the pediatrician was in November 2012. Dr. Leonardo, a giant bear of an Argentinian with accented Portuguese, is my kids' favorite doctor.  Oh all right, one likes his plastic surgeon Dr. Rodrigo even better (my kid has an issue with needing stitches on his head).

Then, through a friend in the newcomers club here, I was introduced to Dr. Daniel Habib. And he has become my absolute favorite thing about Brazil. Better than warm beaches, better than creme de papaya, and most days, I would even trade my caipirinha for a visit. Why? Dr. Habib makes house calls. Yes, he does. He even comes in his white doctor coat with his button down shirt and doctor bag. It makes me practically tear up at the site of him. Always well-dressed, always buttoned-up.  

I called him on Sunday night with some stomach pains (oh, fine, I'll admit I'd had them for five days but could not be bothered to do anything about them). He was here at 11 am the next morning. He did a few tests then gave me a diagnosis and the prescription. Then Dr. H was off again to rescue another gringa (well, they're not all gringas but he does a good business with us). He speaks English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. He has a lovely accent and reminds me of a Roger Moore James Bond. No, I do not have a crush on him, except in a professional way. 
  He writes prescriptions in legible writing with a FOUNTAIN PEN! Ack, it's like a movie. And he'll write a second copy for you in English so you don't have to figure out if a "comp" is comprehensive, compromido (pill) or free.  He will also see anyone in the household for the same fee. Okay, he said no to checking Caju my senior lab over for lumps...

And then you write him a check (he is more than $75US cheaper than the kids' Argentine) and he is off. Insurance covers most to all of his charge (we just changed companies so I'm not entirely sure).  In a day I am sure I will get a text message from him to see if I am all better. 

I love him. Platonically. And forever.

Best thing in Brazil. Hands down.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Red Light, Green Light, No Light...GO! - São Paulo


I am from Connecticut. Okay, so I was born in NYC and grew up until age 8 in suburban New York, but the fact of the matter is that I learned my driving skills in Connecticut. The nice part. The part where you get to a four-way stop sign and you wave each other to go first. You all four sit there and wave at each other for 15 seconds before you all start at once, then stop and wave at each other again. This can go on for hours. It is why nothing actually gets done in Connecticut. We are all sitting at four-way stops. Think of how the economy would burst ahead if we could put in rotaries.

For six years in the early 2000s, I lived in Miami. Now Miami is punk (prounounced "punky" in Portuguese) at four way intersections. You just assume no one will let you go so you go first. During the several hurricane powerouts that we had during the time I lived there, it was a complete free-for-all. So much for the Florida law that says in case of a power out of the stoplights, it is a four-way stop. No, it was a four way GO! Normally gridlock would ensue quickly.

São Paulo channels more Miami than Connecticut (shocking, right?). Yesterday we had a huge thunderstorm and pouring rain. I knew traffic would be crazy and left early with the kids for school. All of the stoplights were working except for one minor set -- meaning the cross traffic is virtually non-existent at that intersection. We got by with no problems.

On the way back from dropping the kids, I went a different route. Mostly okay except for one very busy intersection with a broken stoplight, which was unmonitored by the traffic cops. In fact, 96 stoplights were out around the city from the storm (it really doesn't matter if they are flashing yellow or just out--it means the same thing to the lunatics here--go faster!). 

So after waiting a while for my turn, I see how this is going to work. Basically one direction has right of way until the cross traffic gets fed up and all jumps into the intersection at the same time. Hopefully led by a large bus to protect your sides. When it was my turn, I cautiously stuck my nose in, some cars stopped, others skidded almost into their neighbor's front grill, and I was almost across when a Toyota Hilux (the US 4runner) barreled through at around 40 mph and just narrowly missed my front end. And beeped at me! Because clearly my cautious approach was ridiculous! Dangerous! 

Just another day living in traffic paradise.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Safe in São Paulo - Stats and Tatts - the Last in our Series

In our final post in the Safe in São Paulo series, Born Again Brazilian and I are bringing you some of the statistics of crime in Brazil, São Paulo and in your own neighborhood. And just for "fun," we’ll show you some of the tattoos that may show a criminal background.

Let’s first take a look at some data on the 190 emergency number. Remember that you can dial the emergency code from your home country (e.g., 911 in the US) and get connected to 190. If you do not speak Portuguese, you may ask to be transferred to an English or Spanish-speaking attendant.


43.2 million emergency calls per year

~150,000 calls per day

15,000 dispatches of PMs every day

42,000 interventions

310,000 rescues

120,000 sent to prison

12,300 guns apprehended every year

45 Tons of drugs apprehended every year (this number is double last year’s)              *Source: Policia Militar

Crime statistics nationwide

In 2010, there were 26 homicides per 100,000 residents in Brazil. This is up from 11 per 100K in 1980. Just as  comparisons, Pakistan has a population similar to Brazil (185 million) and its homicide rate is around 7.5 per 100K. The US has about a 4.7/100K rate and Mexico 23.7/100K (Mexico's rate has more than doubled since 2008). Please note that intentional homicide statistics vary from source to source. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Brazil rate is 21.3. Ah, the UNODC is working with 2011, our most recent Brazil-sourced numbers are 2010.

Depending on where you live, the numbers are worse (see state by state numbers copied here). In some regions of Alagoas, the homicide rate reaches 1000 per 100K in the 15-24 age group. It is, as a police captain said, a “massacre.”  The young folks there are being cut down by a rampant war for drug territory. 

The main driver of homicides in the Northeast region is drug wars – gangs trying to mark territories. Traveling from São Paulo to Porto Seguro, Bahia, your chance of death by homicide go up 8 times. Sobering statistics.

Here are a few other interesting statistics:

¤ Age groups: ages 15-24 150% higher chance to die

¤ Race: 139% more blacks die violently than whites

¤ Gender: 91.4% male homicide victims

For more crime statistics, you can go to  

Crime statistics in São Paulo

We are going to get to the good news. Right now. São Paulo state is now the third safest state in the nation. The homicide rate here is around 13.9 per 100K. The news is even better for São Paulo capital where we are the second least violent state capital in Brazil. How was this done? A focus on security over the last decade and a half. (source here)

  1. Security budget increased from $2B to $11.5B
  2. 395K illegal guns off the street
  3. Emphasis on prevention rather than reaction
  4. New police cars and equipment (tablets in each car for real-time help)
  5. Use of crime concentrations – identifying regions/addresses with the most crime and concentrating police forces there.
  6. Register of bad guys – the Policia Civil has a database of 500,000 criminals and 1.4 million photos of these criminals (extras are tattoos and other identifying characteristics)

Outside of homicide, there are the usual thefts and robberies. You can find updated statistics on a trimestral basis at the state’s security site. We have summarized the first trimester 2013 for some São Paulo crimes below:

¤ Crime Stats (trimestral, SP Capital only)

¤ Boletins de ocorrencia: 196,601

¤ Folks sent to jail: 7,500

¤ Robbery (cars): 11,700

¤ Robbery(Bank): 23

¤ Robbery (other): 29,000

¤ Theft: 49,000

¤ Theft of vehicles: 11,543

Crime by Neighborhood

We cannot emphasize enough that part of staying safe in São Paulo is knowing your neighbor. Go to your area’s Conseg meetings and meet your local police force (the head of Policia Militar, Policia Civil and Guarda Municipal as well as the submayor must attend these meetings.) Join Facebook groups that are active in your neighborhood – you can search for them by “Sociedade de Amigos XX (neighborhood)”.  Two of the most active communities are in Pinheiros and Morumbi where residents quickly relate any crime activity in the area.

Take a look at your neighborhood’s crime statistics. Datafolha periodically publishes them, and there is an interesting (though hardly scientific) site called Onde Fui Roubado where people are identifying where they were victims of crime. Take your concerns to your Conseg meeting or your local police station.


Now for some fun. Did you know that certain tattoos show what kind of crime that the person has committed before? No, we're not talking about beautiful tattoos (if you're into that kind of thing) of butterflies and hummingbirds and Chinese proverbs. No, we are talking about tattoos done the hard way, in prison, and probably pretty painfully.

A carp may mean a PCC member
As we have mentioned, the PCC is the state's largest crime organization. Numbers we have seen are that there are 13,000 members of whom 6,000 are in prison. These numbers may be low. As part of your membership, you may get tattooed with identifiers of which crime you have committed. 

For example:

Hands: Tattoos on the inside of the index finger/thumb (the meaty part). One droplet means robbery, two means something else.

Shoulder/bicep: A clown is a PCC symbol (the largest criminal gang in SP)

Back: A huge tattoo of Nossa Senhora Aparecida (the patron saint of Brazil) on your back means murder. Yep.  Which doesn’t mean that you make your pedreiro strip down and show his back. Just be aware.

1533 means PCC. P is the 15th letter in the alphabet, C is the third. Think twice about hiring someone with this tattooed on their hand.

There is an enormous document that shows the details for each tattoo in Brazil. This is more for interest and not because you can memorize all of these. Not only that, but we have to emphasize that you should not discriminate against a person because of a tattoo--unless you are pretty sure that it symbolizes a dangerous style of life. We are not advocating profiling--we are suggesting that it is an additional piece of information in your hiring process.

If you do get held up, one of the best identifiers of a bad guy is to memorize a tattoo on his hand or arm—remember the database of 1.4 million images.  Do not try to memorize someone's facial features, but if you can notice a Chuckie doll tattoo on a forearm, you may have increased the chance of catching the bad guy.

If you are like us, you may find this interesting enough to spend a few minutes looking at all the tattoo types that the police have identified. Surprisingly, a pretty carp is not what it seems. 

Final Words

Thanks for reading our series on staying safe in São Paulo. At no time did we mean to terrify anyone about living or visiting our city. We have both lived here for years and traveled back and forth for upwards of 25 years between us both. We simply provide advice and statistics and information we have ourselves received from the local police, neighborhood associations and other security people. São Paulo provides a rich cultural and gastronomical experience and we hope you will come to visit and stay a while!

Tomorrow Brazil in My Eyes returns to daily views of my life in São Paulo.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Little Big Town - São Paulo

Yesterday at the Palmeiras game (yep, another one), we had watched the first half and were sitting down at half time (as I've mentioned, there is no half time show except for inflated credit cards (!!??!) in the middle of the field) just looking around. And we noticed a row down across the aisle the judo teacher for the boys. We went over to say hello and he commented that he is at every game, and he is a green-blooded Palmeirense complete with 1914 tattooed on the inside of his wrist. Six months ago I would not have known what that means but now I know it to be the year of Palmeiras' founding. 

Anyway, my football genius is not the point. The point is that I run into people I know all the time in this, the 7th largest city in the world. 21,000 at the stadium and we run into the judo teacher. I get lost in an area of the city where I never am, take a detour down an alley and almost run over my own husband who has come to lunch for the first time in the same area. My husband, as a Brazilian native, is even more likely to run into his "peeps"-- a kindergarten friend, an old co-worker. I never run into people I know in the US--not even in my old home town of 17,000 people (and many of the people I grew up with still live in that town). Why is that? 

Little Big Town.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cabbage Kombi - São Paulo

Here is the view out my driver's side window as I am on my way to pick up the kids at school. We were stopped at a traffic light and now this cabbage Kombi is passing me and is shortly going to cut me off. Someone was in a hurry to get the legumes home. In the side view mirror, you can see a motoboy about to zip on through--he narrowly missed become a flapjack against the Kombi.

Just another day in São Paulo traffic.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Everything ends in pizza - São Paulo

Yesterday morning I sat down to read the Folha de São Paulo at my local bakery. Folha, as most of you know, is the daily newspaper that I love to ummm, tweak. If you want to know why I am biased against it, you'll have to look back at a little editorial they ran a few years back about how the city being largely without internet for three days was a "Technological 9/11". One might see how an American would not find humor in that image since internet failure vs. people throwing themselves out of buildings is really not the same level of distress.

But I digress. I opened up the paper and there was a huge photo on the front with headlines about the Mensalão scandal. Again, I would be out of my league to try to give the details of the scandal, but the general idea is that some politicians who were very corrupt were convicted as being very corrupt and sentenced to prison. Then the supreme court re-looked at some of the charges, and the last judge who waffled around for a few days (unlike the US, apparently judges can come back with their decisions at separate times) broke the tie with a vote for "yes", let's re-look at these charges and maybe some of these bad guys won't have to go to prison. They can spend a few years under house arrest. Judgement on this is not expected until early next year.

This is a big deal. This is not Dilma saying no, I won't break bread with you, Mr. Obama, because you read my e-mail. This is justice at its worst. And yes it happens in the US too. I is an emotional and disastrous result of a long and seemingly certain road to bringing bad politicians to justice for corruption. Now they get to stay in "home prison" and probably eat pizza.

Speaking of pizza, let me look at that first photo again. It is a protester chucking pizza at the supreme court building. What? Not eggs? Pizza? What a waste. I am laughing about this, and then realize I must be missing something. An email is sent off to the Brazilian husband (who is out of the country): Is there a significance to throwing pizza? Yes, the response is, there is. Turns out there is a wonderful expression in Portuguese that goes like this "Everything ends in pizza." I like it even before I know what it means.

Where did it come from? According to my online sources (of middling to high confidence level), the phrase came from a newspaper article about a political dispute in the Palmeiras Football Club in the 1960s. No, I don't know if Folha was responsible. Though I'd like to find out.

Look, I digressed again. Wow, I am going to get in trouble for defamation one day. Anyway, there was huge fight in the Palmeiras club with lots of accusations flying from both sides. While the reporter was there watching the fight, the two sides finally made their peace. And to celebrate the peace, they went to a pizzeria to celebrate. The next day, the newspaper published an article with the title "Briga no Palmeiras termina em pizza. ("Fight in Palmeiras ends in pizza" )

Over time the expression began to be used for political scandals that build into huge fights...and then work out in the end to be just fine for all parties involved. So the protester was saying "hey nice for you politicians, it has again all ended in pizza all around." No one pays for their corruption.

Apparently the expression has even changed from an earlier version of "everything ends in samba." Either way, it is a brilliant image of an unhappy protester. Tudo termina em pizza.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy songs and lawsuits - São Paulo

Today was the Assembly of one of my sons at his IB (English-language) school. I won't bore you with the stories of how wonderfully and enthusiastically tone-deaf he is, but rather point out a superior cultural moment. It all has to do with a little song called Happy Birthday. 

At the end of Assembly, to which parents are invited, they call forward all children who have a birthday that week. This is Infant School only -- with kindergarten, first and second graders in attendance. With around 120 kids there, there is always someone with a birthday. They ask each child (this time there were two--Matheus and Mathias) how old he/she is, and then we sing happy birthday.

We start with the American version:

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear whoever,
Happy Birthday to you.

I never realized just how boring this is, until that song is swiftly followed by the Brazilian version. Total party time. Volume goes up, clapping, "heys!" -- it is possibly the happiest, most fun song in the whole world. Okay, not counting Dança Kuduro. Kidding, folks.

Here are the lyrics:

Parabéns pra voce       (Congratulations to you
Nesta data querida       on this special day
Muitas felicidades         Much happiness
Muitos anos de vida      Long life)

that is the basic short version. You clap for each word. Then you yell "hey" at the end of each line. Parabens pra voce -HEY! Check the video below.

At birthday parties, it goes on (and not with smelling like a monkey). Here is the medium version:

"E pra Matheus tudo ou nada? é tudo!!

Como que é?

é pique, é pique
é hora, hora, hora
Ma-the-us, Ma-the-us!"

And the longer version involves marriage or something. Long version as sung by a classroom (not my kids):

Sorry I cannot translate. I am out of my league. It is so loud and so fun. Just sit and envy, Americans.

Now, when I started looking around for videos to put in this blog post, I discovered something really wacky. The Happy Birthday song is not in the public domain. In fact, someone owns the right to that song and will charge $10-$25,000 for the rights to use it in a movie or show. Whaaaaat?  True story. Look here (men will want to read to the end where there is a gratuitous photo of Hooters girls--or just scroll down, it's too many words for y'all, anyway).  Two sisters wrote the original, published it and then the rights were sold on and on, now owned by Warner. 

This is why some restaurants change the lyrics so when they bring out your cake with all the servers, they do not have to pay royalties. And some movies and shows will do the same to avoid paying out. Now a filmmaker in NY is suing Warner for $50 million to have it repay all royalties from what she claims is a public domain song. This article is from June, and I was unable to find any information on the results of the lawsuit, if known yet. If the lawsuit is lost, the US will wait until 2030 to have public domain rights to the song.

But wait, it's not in the public domain here in Brazil either! The song was imported from the US and then a national competition in 1942 (judged by the illustrious Academia Brasileira de Letras) came up with the (short) version seen above (more or less- "pra" has come to be used instead of "a"). According to copyright laws here, the song will enter the public domain in 2017. Much better than 2030.

Here is my advice, USA, forget the US version. Just sing the Brazilian version and have a really good time. Ra-ti-Boom! Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!