Friday, February 28, 2014

A walk through murder & mayhem - São Paulo

As everyone knows, my favorite section of Folha de São Paulo is one titled "Cotidiano" or Daily Life. Also referred to by me as Murder & Mayhem -- this section is filled with the bad stuff of the city. Okay, some good stuff but mostly bad.

I am going to take you on a little walk-through of yesterday's paper so you can see why it's my favorite.

C1: Front page. Here the story is about how the police has discovered a plan to rescue "Marcola", the leader of São Paulo state's biggest gang, the PCC. Marcola, it seems, was sentenced to 160 years in prison in 2013 and is currently locked up in Presidente Venceslau Prison, 611 kms from São Paulo. That is close enough for me. So, yes, apparently the PCC paid for some members to get pilot licenses and they were going to use two bulletproof helicopters painted like Military Police helicopters then get him to an airplane and from there across the border to Paraguay. Poor Marcola: they are now trying to transfer him to a Regime Disciplinar Diferenciado--known as solitary confinement for 22 hours a day. Yikes.

C2: Weather and an opinion article. Plus a view of this week's traffic messes from construction. Never mind.

C3: Ah, this is fun. There was a blackout at Cumbica, also known as Guarulhos International Airport, the international airport for this city. Twenty minutes of power loss, no one knows why, but no one has been sued yet. The security line looks bad. Good thing I am not traveling. Anyway, I subtitle this one "Imagine during the World Cup."

C4: An ongoing story about an actor who was wrongly identified as committing a crime and spent 16 days in jail before being exonerated. He forgives his accuser and said with a great deal more sympathy than I would have " it could have happened to anyone." And yes, we do have a big racism problem in Brazil. I saw it first hand when a young black man who worked for me in 1998 was pulled out of his expensive (corporate) car and frisked by one cop while another watched him over the barrel of a gun. That was not in the paper. That is engraved in my brain.

C5: Ah, there's a story I can't really read. It's about two kids who were inside a school van when it was hijacked by two bad guys. This stuff makes me ill. At the bottom of the page is an article about the house of representatives here considering legalizing marijuana.

C6: Agh, now this story makes me crazy. It's an "Anti-rationing plan" to use the unclaimed water in the reservoirs. The water that is below the tunnels. The plan would take 6 months to put into action. Meanwhile the water level has dropped to 16.8% full. Yep, even after the rains a couple of weeks ago.  Now here's my question, same as then: "why are we not panicking yet?"

C7: A woman loses her arm after being pushed in front of the train at the metro station Sé.  Or not. It seems that maybe she was trying to get away from two security officers and threw herself at the train. She had said she was pregnant and got into the special line but an intern said no, and then things went from there. There is nothing to be learned here. Later on the page is a small story about how facebook erased a Folha post on facebook that was themed "Flying penis." I am sorry I did not finish this article but you can find out more online. Or not.  Ah and finally a note that two Brazilians who dressed like women in Dubai have been deported.

C8: The final page of Cotidiano before going into the Health section talks about how the Carnaval parades are going to start in the rain on Friday. And where to buy tickets. And how to get out of the city in all this traffic. The final story is about a bar that was closed for thirty days for selling alcohol to minors (under age 18 which is legal drinking age here).

It's been a busy day in Murder &Mayhem.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Eating fire - São Paulo

Eat Fire!!! Image credit: Jovempan

As many of you know, the BH (Brazilian husband) is from Ribeirão Preto, a city about three hours northwest of São Paulo, in the agricultural interior of the state. We get there for a visit about every three months, a little less in the hot months...temperatures there can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit easily in January.  I melt at around 95.

Next week we may go for a visit because our niece turns one and there will be a party.  And then BH said to me "why don't we see if there are tickets for 'Come-Fogo' (Eat-Fire) on Sunday?" And I said....huh?  For two reasons. One, I've never heard of that team and Two, somehow my husband is mistaking me for someone who likes football.

Turns out "Come-Fogo" or "Eat Fire" is the name of a classico. A classico is a grudge match like Corinthians-São Paulo here or Flamengo-Vasco in Rio.  Oh, okay, I will help the Americans: like Ohio State-Michigan. Or Yale-Harvard. Or Boston-New York.  Sorry, I cannot help Europeans, I have no idea the rivalries. 

In this case, the classico is Comercial de Ribeirão Preto (not to be confused with my team Comercial de Piauí)  vs Botofogo: Come - Fogo.  

There are a number of these nicknamed rivalries that make me laugh. There is of course Fla-Flu in Rio which is Flamengo vs Fluminense, and Bota-Ferro which is Botafogo (again from Rib Preto) versus Ferroviária de Araraquara (never heard of a team named for a railroad, but let me think on that...Maria Fumaça? No). And Choque-Rei which is the game between Palmeiras and São Paulo.

Things start getting worse when you head out of the "civilized" territories. In Sergipe, the "Derby Sertanejo" is between Nossa Senhora das Dores (Our Lady of Pain) and Nossa Senhora da Glória (Our Lady of Glory) and I can tell you I'm on the side of glory.  In João Pessoa, there is "Botauto", a tongue-twister of a rivalry between Auto Esporte (??? football????) and Botafogo. Yes ANOTHER Botafogo. Then there's "Mare-Moto" in Maranhão between Moto Clube (seriously now, folks, it's football) and Maranhão AC.  My favorite is probably "Pa-Tu" in Belem which is between Paysandu (one of the contenders for my new Brazilian team) and Tuna Lusa. I translate Tuna Lusa as a Portuguese tuna fish. That's got to be good. And Pa-Tu sounds like duck so I'm pretty in favor of that too.

 Bring on the dinner...I mean football!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Watching the car - São Paulo

Image credit:

My tolerance for bull**** was at an all-time low yesterday afternoon as I parked my car a block away from the Spanish bank branch where I was sure to have a non-helpful customer service experience. It wasn't my car, actually, but the monster truck that belongs to my husband. Large, old, bullet-proofed, scratched, dinged. 

As I parked the car, the rain started and that of course annoyed me because I had left my umbrella at the house. So as I closed the door, and made a run for the bank, a man stepped in front of me and said "can I watch your car?" Yes, a flanelinha, the guys that made me spout off crabbiness in another blog last year. I looked at him with the "wtf?" face that sometimes works and said "ummm, it's bullet-proof but if you want to watch it, feel free."

After having the expected annoying customer service experience with the Spanish señores, I came back out into a light mist of rain. As I came close to the car, the man approached me. I couldn't resist the following remarks:

Me: "So was the car okay?"

Flanelinha: "Oh yes."

Me: "Did anyone approach it?"

Flanelinha: "No, Senhora"

Me: "So it was all okay over here?"

Flanelinha: "Yes"

Me: "Well, great. I'm glad you were here watching out for my car."

And I gave him 50 cents. And so much sarcasm, the rain was dripping with it.

Hate this. But then I'm just having one of those bad days.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Putting fire to that drowning - São Paulo

Risk of "Afogamento"!! Photo credit:

There are certain words in Portuguese that just don't work for me. No, I'm not suggesting changing this beautiful language but just commenting that I get them wrong at least 50% of the time. To get them right, I have to really think about them. They are my false friends, my Waterloo, my quicksand... here are the top three words that mess me up.

1. Afogar, verb. To "afogar" is to drown. I will never understand how a word that has a root of "fogo" or fire means to drown. When I hear someone say that a child or whoever "afogou", I immediately think that someone has been immolated or fried up to a tiny crisp. Yep, so when I'm on the beach and the signs say something about the danger of drowning "Risco de afogamento", I pretty much look for matches. I can't get this one. Yes, I do know there is also a double-meaning with geese involved but I'm going to skip that.

2. Aceso, adjective. If you have your headlights "aceso" (or acesa in the feminine form) then the lights are on. To me, "aceso" (pronounced "Ah-seh-ZO") sounds like "ceasing" or stopping and that to me sounds like the lights are off. So when I see a sign on the highway that says "mantenham as luzes acesas", I generally turn off the headlights, then realize what I've done and turn them back on again and then the driver in front of me flips me the bird because he thinks I'm telling him to move over. Sigh. Yes, I am also aware of the double-meaning involving breasts. Never mind.

3. Laticínio, noun. A laticínio or in another version "lacticínio" means a dairy product. Harmless, right? Unless you're lactose-intolerant of course. But I keep mixing it up with "latrocínio" which is robbery following by killing. This is not harmless. It is what always gives me pause while I'm on the Pão de Açucar supermarket site and one of the categories for delivery is "laticínios." You can see why I don't often order those because of the fear factor. No thanks, no robbery-killing today.  I did not include a photo of those since yeah, you don't want to think about that. Do NOT google it. Seriously. Here, this is a nice photo of milk.

Photo credit:

 I am sure there are other false friends but I did hear all three of these today on my adventure to the car repair place. Yep, again.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Cafu the ranch dog - Joanópolis

Meet Cafu. No, not the captain of Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning team but a gorgeous German Shepherd who lives at the fazenda (ranch) where we rent a house. He was born in 2002, hence the name. He's my dog Caju's best friend, and it amuses many who hear us calling "Caju....Cafu..." And even more amuses those who see the two pal around together--both old now, limping, grey-muzzled, one tall and the other squat. 

Cafu spent his first year in São Paulo, growing up with and being trained by my friend Pri's gaggle of border collies. Then he moved out to Joanopolis and the enormous tree farm where he would be the guard dog. He is the size of a wolf, has a mean bark, and in his best years, could run like a deer across the fields. I have twice seen him bite men he does not know, until called off by the owners. He still does not like stray dogs and will attack them if on a hike where we cross paths with one. 

The life of a ranch dog can be pretty tough. They are really working dogs and will go out with the ranch hands to fix fences or cut trees, following behind tractors. At night they sleep out in dog houses at the barn or up at the main house. Pri's ranch dogs are the lucky ones, however, as she feeds them well, gives them the best in veterinary care, and they get plenty of social time and love during the weekends that we are all at the fazenda. Cafu is the undisputed favorite of the working dogs.

Back away from my ball!! (circa 2009)

Cafu now limps because he was hit by a car, possibly even twice, and had surgery to put pins in his leg. Unfortunately they could not remove the plate after two attempts, and this causes him significant pain when he walks. He was so upset and pained after the second attempt that he spontaneously attacked and killed one of the ranch kittens. That was his last surgery.

He can be a jealous guy--once when the twins were small they started playing with the ranch hand's small dachshund instead of Cafu. Cafu came over, flipped the dog onto its back and bit it, opening a three-inch gash in its stomach. He easily could have killed it, but I think the message was "stay away from my humans." He has never attacked Caju though, though the play used to be rough between the two with Cafu nipping at Caju's neck when the latter got out of the lake. It was rough enough that Caju has one scar from a chomp.

Cafu has never hurt any child. Visiting kids go from trembling fear of this huge wolf to launching themselves bodily on top of him. I used to be afraid of him coming too close to the twins but I know now that he would never hurt them. Not even when they pulled his long ears. Or stepped on his enormous paws. 

This past weekend we were at the German house, the house we rent about one mile away from the main fazenda house. On Sunday, I locked my two labradors in the kitchen and we drove down to the main house to ride horses and swim in the big lake. Cafu was there and he sniffed all around the car to see if Caju had come with us. He seemed vaguely disappointed that it was just the humans.

Three hours later we piled back into the car and rode up to the upper ranch--with the exception of BH who walked up. I said goodbye to Cafu at the lake, and watched him grow smaller in the rear view mirror. When we got back to the upper house, we started to prepare lunch. About a half-hour later, Cafu walked in, puffing and limping. He had walked all the way from the lower ranch to the upper ranch--it's not an easy hike for anyone. Caju jumped up (as well as he could) and went over to nuzzle his buddy.  

It's good to have a best friend. 

Chopp (1999-2010), Cafu (2002-) and Caju (2000-). Circa 2009.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sushy anyone? - São Paulo

One of my favorite signs I have seen recently. You can have a "sushy" buffet for R$51,90 or a kilo of meat for the same price. Hmmmm. Only available at the local bakery.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Another "a-ha" moment - São Paulo

I've lived in Brazil now a total of 9 years. I complain periodically about the lack of berries here--yes, yes, there are strawberries but just about everything else is imported. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries--oops, not a berry but I lump it in with my favorite fruits. They're all imported, and generally from Chile.

I have never known that "groselha" translates as "currants". When my husband has ordered popsicles on the beach that were "groselha", I thought well that sounds yucky and didn't even try it. All this time I've been missing out on currants.

 Live and learn.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kill his goat - São Paulo

Fire in the house. Photo credit: globo

So I pre-wrote my blog for today yesterday, knowing that I would be running around with guests arriving this morning. But I have just read something in Folha de São Paulo this morning that has left me "indignada" or indignant. No, "indignada" is stronger than its English translation--I am shocked at people. Every day.

The story is about the exciting conclusion to an ongoing battle between the government and some squatters. The government has a program for public housing called "Minha Casa, Minha Vida" (My House, My Life) which I will go into at some other moment when I am not so indignant. Basically the government is building low cost housing -- if you make less than R$5000/month (more or less US$25,000/year), the government will subsidize the purchase of one of these apartments. If you make less than US$10,000/year, you get even more help.

So in Itaquera, in the east part of this giant city, squatters invaded almost-ready apartments and refused to leave. This was in July of 2013. Since then, efforts have been made to negotiate an end to the stand-off--while these apartments were promised to other low-income folks, the squatters were promised other soon-to-be-finished places.

Yesterday the police ejected the squatters. It was the usual horror of rubber bullets and blockades of furniture etc. Kids missed school so they could help their parents cart their furniture and TVs out. And then the squatters set fire to the apartments and threw out plumbing fixtures onto the street, making the place completely uninhabitable by others. One squatter is quoted saying "If it's not me that's going to live here, no one will." 

This attitude makes me sick. The people who were supposed to have these apartments waited for years to get them. They followed the law to get them. Now they have no apartments, but not because they're not done--because they were done in by people who did not follow the law and somehow believed that they had more rights than the next person. Poor person. One squashing the other.

My undergraduate degree is in Soviet Economics and Politics. Yes, I am that old. It wasn't history then--it was reality for many. One of my best professors ever, Marshall Goldman, classified Soviet culture at the time like this: "My neighbor has a goat. I don't have a goat. Kill his goat." 

So the squatters have killed their fellow man's goat. They haven't hurt the government. They've hurt their neighbor.


Release the prisoners! - São Paulo

Remember the four flat tires we had about a month ago? Well, during one of these tire changes, the screw that holds the wheel onto the car disappeared. Actually there are five of these screws on the Volvo, and only one went missing which is why our wheel did not come off and spin off across the highway in the last week since we discovered it.

I dropped by a new Volvo dealer today and asked for the "parafuso" or screw that holds on the wheel. I was without the car so I had to show the guy more or less what I was talking about. He said "oh, the prisoneiro de roda" (the prisoner of the wheel). And I said "yes" which is always what I do when I have no idea what the car guys are talking about.

Here's the screw, and the "Prisoneiro" for R$30. What a bargain.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't drop the potato - São Paulo

Praça das Araucarias, Largo da Batata

On my way home from the "gringalhada" (the monthly meeting of gringas) yesterday in Cidade Jardim, I passed by this, possibly the saddest "praça" or square in São Paulo. There is some competition from a skateboard park called Roosevelt near Republica Square. But I won't set foot there as it seems if not dangerous, more than a little seamy. Even after renovations last year.

I've talked about Largo da Batata before. It's on the way to my kids' school. I walk through it frequently on the way back from dropping them off, or when I occasionally take the yellow line metro to things like Chinese New Year.  Its name roughly translates to "Potato Square" and was the site of a farmer's market of potato sellers long ago. Those farmers have since moved to the Mercado Municipal de Pinheiros, just down the street.

The square itself is one big tiled sadness. The only green is some poor decrepit new trees surrounded by orange fencing and a green square of grass. The grass mixed with hard-packed dirt fend off wrappers and dog crap and the flotsam and jetsam of city life. There is NO shade. There are electric wires and hoses coming mysteriously out of the ground as if a lamp was planned but discarded.

In case you don't know what an Araucária is, let me tell you. Araucárias are the giant monkey puzzle pine trees that take years to grow. They are protected--you cannot cut one down now, not even a dead one, without permission. 

Araucária in its happy place--the fazenda.

None of the new trees in the square are araucárias. A friend of mine, owner of a tree farm, has many araucária seedlings and she has even volunteered to donate small ones to the city. Instead these tiny saplings struggle.

There is not one bench in the square. Not one. Are they afraid there would just be bums sleeping? I don't know. Even if you could find shade, you can't sit in it. Recently I noticed and joined a community movement page on facebook called "Não largue da Batata" or "don't give up on the Largo da Batata." They are organizing events to bring life to the square--there is even yoga planned there for Friday night. I applaud their work and will be showing up to an event in the future. 

The square needs YOU!

As of now, I have not seen any of the "green changes" promised by the sub-mayor's office. In fact I find this title of an article from November 1, 2013 hilarious: "O verde toma conta da Praça das Araucárias" --"Green is taking over Araucária Square." What? Where? I guess this was to counter the article published in March 2013 that the araucárias planted in 2010 were all completely dead. The news in March was published by Arvores de São Paulo, one of my favorite blogs and worth checking out if you're a tree person.

Don't give up on the Potato.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No little cars in football - São Paulo

Bad "carrinho" Credit:

My studies in Brazilian football are ongoing. Only four months to go until the Cup starts and I'm feeling quite stressed about knowing about what happens on the field. Yesterday afternoon I decided to study the Manchester City vs. Barcelona game. First of all, love those British fans all singing "Let It Be." That's cute. Are they going to do this here?

Anyway, I started watching during the second half and at one point Messi broke away towards the goal closely followed by a Man City guy named Demichelis. Now, as a fashion pointer for Demichelis, I would re-think the shaved sides/ponytail look. It makes you look like a thug. And then act like one too.

So Demichelis took a flying sliding leap at Messi from behind, with clearly no intention of getting the ball, but only wanting to take down Messi. Ponytail guy was flying through the air kung-fu style with his legs out in front of him and tripped Messi in a pretty ugly way. He was ejected 20 seconds later with a red card.

This is apparently known as a "carrinho violento" or violent little car. Oh, of course I am not supposed to translate that literally but there doesn't seem to be a good English translation. One site gave me "slide-tackle." 

I would really like to know where "carrinho" comes from, especially since there is also a good "carrinho" which is a "gol de carrinho" or little car goal. That's when you kung-fu the ball by throwing yourself towards the ground with your legs out in front of you...oh, heck I can't describe this. 

Good "carrinho" Credit:

I was going to put in a video here to explain the bad "carrinho" but I just watched two that made me sick...literally breaking the leg of an opponent. This move is bad news and is being treated very seriously now and is subject to immediate ejection of the offending player. It's got a cute name, but it can end a footballer's career.

Nasty game. Football (American) is so much nicer. Kidding, folks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tis the season...of calouros - São Paulo

Trote USP style. Photo credit: Instituto Luiz Gama

Yesterday as I went to pick up my kids from their afternoon activities, I noticed that the new season was upon us. No, not fall (southern hemisphere, remember), not the recent time change, but rather the season of "trotes" -- the hazing of new students (freshmen or "calouros"). I was approached at three separate stoplights by the painted people.

I admit to having very little patience with the University of São Paulo (USP) students. They are arguably the smartest in the land (and privileged--more than 60% of them went to private school in order to be able to get in there), but incredibly immature in many aspects. Of course, most 17 and 18 year olds are, we all just don't know it at the time. 

Last year they closed down the campus and destroyed various items in the administration building in a fit of spite because they, the students who pay not a dime for their excellent university education, do not have a say in choosing their rector. Personally, I think I should have a say in choosing the rector--my tax dollars are paying for these kids to go to school. For free. All four years. And do the kids have to pay for their destruction? No. In terms of university education, these guys are getting the best the country has to offer. In terms of practical education for life, they are becoming convinced that they are better than everyone else. I guess you can tell what I think of that.

As I posted last week, one of the hazing activities of the Engineering students was spraying each other with high-pressure water hoses. In the middle of the worst drought ever faced in this state. Editorial comment: "duh." 

But the most common hazing activity is to paint up the freshmen, with USP on their foreheads and who knows what else, and send them out to street corners to beg for money. This money is to buy their first beers. Editorial comment: "wtf?"

This goes on for days. First the pharmacy students, then the social sciences, etc etc. I am tired of being asked for money from people at street corners, much less from people who are doing the important job of drinking a beer. If you are so desperate for food you stand at a corner and humiliate yourself to ask for money, that is one thing. This silliness is another. 

I do not love people approaching my car. I do not love the thought of teenagers approaching the cars of people who may not even be as polite as I am (I shake my head and say "sorry" though I'm not). This could in fact be dangerous to their health as well as scary to the people they are approaching. 

Seriously, do you want your kid doing this? Source here

By the way, this type of "trote" is illegal.The Military Police in fact can stop it if they want to. Most of the time, they have something else to do. And I agree with that--I don't want these kids taking the cops away from what they should be doing which is stopping real crime. But the whole theory that this is a "rite of passage" to become an adult, is hilarious to me. What about begging for something for nothing is part of being an adult?  This is not a good education.

I may sound like an old crank in all of this, but shouldn't we be encouraging these smarties to do something worthwhile with their orientation week? Giving back to a community that they have largely NOT come from. Almost 80% of USP students are white while demographic sources say that 55% of São Paulo is (this is a hard number to come by as there is a lot of ethnic mixing in Brazil). Why don't they all get painted up while fixing up Jardim São Remo, the community or favela that provides many of USP's workers? Or a public school where the majority have not even set foot in their quest to enter the best of the universities.

Of all the types of hazing I know of, including downing large quantities of alcohol, simulating sex with inanimate or edible objects (bananas spring to mind), and eating bugs, this is pretty harmless. But it could be better: like giving back...that is the "rite of passage" to maturity. 

Source: Instituto Luiz Gama

Monday, February 17, 2014

Now auditioning - São Paulo

I just lost my football team here. Comercial de Piauí is not playing in 2014 because they are bankrupt and owe lots of money to the Brazilian Football Federation, and also because none of the other local teams are supporting them. And their president doesn't show up to meetings, even to save his own hide. It is a sad end (or perhaps temporary stop) to a team founded in 1945. You can read about it here.

Comercial is (was?) a fourth division team. Yes, there are five divisions in Brazilian football, and every year some teams move up and some teams move down. That is the case of Palmeiras, BH's favorite team which spent a year in the second division before moving back up to the first division, or Serie A. If this all makes your eyes cross, you are not alone. 

So, how did I get to be a Comercial fan? As you all know, I am not much of a football fan. I prefer Palmeiras winning because BH gets crabby if they are losing. I still get annoyed by things like theatrical diving to the ground, lack of instant replay and no time-outs for pee breaks. But the main thing that makes me nuts is the fighting. I don't even mean the beating of the opponents (literally, with punches and kicks). I mean the non-stop..."oooh, Corinthians? That team is terrible." and on and on the fans go forever and ever. Four of the five teams here in São Paulo are non-stop ****-slinging at each other. The games when they play each other are called "classicos" or classics, which translates roughly as 'if you value your life, stay at home." The fifth team is essentially the Chicago Cubs of football and no one can get bothered by them.

I decided a couple of years ago that I was not going to have a team. I am friendly to Palmeiras (oh, alright, I have a fan card but only because BH got it for me) but they are not really at the level of "minha vida é voce" (my life is you) like is written on the card. Please, people! Get a grip! Ugh, and don't get me started on Corinthians with their bumper stickers reading "I am loyal until I'm dead." 

But I was hassled all the time to pick a team. Then a friend said, well, why don't you cheer for a small team? And I started looking around. BH is from Ribeirão Preto and I saw there was a team there called "Comercial" so I said to this friend that I was going to cheer for Comercial.

His response was: which  one? I believe there are actually three Comercial teams. Once he mentioned that there was Comercial de Piaui, I took a look. They play at a field called Deusdeth which can fit 4,000 people (one-tenth of the population of Campo Maior, the team's city). I wouldn't ever have to go to a game (it's 2700 km/1600 miles away) and the team shirts are not available online. Perfect. And I became a fan of Comercial de Piaui.

That's just close enough. São Paulo to Piaui

Until they dropped out. Now I can't be without a team so this week I am auditioning new teams to be mine. I have already polled friends on my personal facebook page and I already have a few contenders, though not in the right division. Let me tell you the prerequisites for the auditioning team:

1. The team may NOT be one of the big teams of Brazil. No Flamengo, Flu (hahahaha!), Gremio, Inter, Corinthians, Athletico of any kind, etc. 
2. I prefer blue.
3. I prefer teams where the fans are not thugs. If they have killed any referees or other players, they are not my team.
4. I prefer a team that is third or fourth or fifth division. So as not to run afoul of Palmeiras, as I live in a porco household. Definitely NOT a first division team. Second is acceptable. Preferably bottom of second.
5. I prefer a team that is not within driving distance. I don't actually want to have to go to a game. Ditto on not wanting any that might be televised.
6. No teams with Adriano or Ronaldinho on it.
7. I prefer cool mascots like lions (Avai) or wolves (Paysandu).  No dopey toucans. Even Comercial's goat was pushing it.

There, I think I've covered it. If you have any suggestions, I am all ears. I'll probably need to commit myself to a team in about a week so as to acquire the requisite level of knowledge about its players by the end of Carnaval.

Let the auditions begin...teams receiving votes so far are Avai and Paysandu. Yeah, look them up. Aloha!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barbarians - São Paulo

First and foremost, I would like to say that bad stuff happens everywhere. The fact that I am talking about bad stuff in this blog and about Brazil is simply because I live here. When I head back home to the US later this year, there will be bad stuff there. And I will see it and I will talk about it. In particular, inexplicable violence (like a runner being shot because shooters were bored and needed something to do) and lynching (people being dragged behind cars) is not a foreign concept in my homeland.

I have been horrified by the recent spate of vigilante justice here, in particular in Rio de Janeiro, as residents "fight back" against crime. What exactly am I talking about? A boy who was attempting to steal a bicycle is tied to the street sign. In the photo above, a man trying to rob a luncheonette was grabbed and tied up (this happened not in Rio but in a small town in the state of Santa Catarina). The idea, I assume, is to publicly humiliate and exhibit the criminal.

I am completely opposed to this kind of "justice". We are one step away from public stonings. I understand that many here feel that police forces are not able to provide protection and that the legal system is broken--if we cannot even jail people who have stolen millions from the country, how are we going to convict and jail those of lesser crimes? Given that the prison system here makes little attempt to rescue and re-educate criminals, I don't think jail is the answer either. And any crime that has a penalty under four years means that the criminal does not go to jail. There isn't any room left for minor criminals.

So, is the answer local justice? Tying people to poles? We are not far then from people judge and jurying other people to death. As in, I think you killed my daughter--no, I'm sure of it-- so I am now going to kill you. I don't have a solution to the police or justice issues here but I know that eye for an eye is not a good plan.

This morning I read an opinion piece by Antonio Prata, a writer and columnist for Folha de São Paulo. It is a beautiful column and for those who read Portuguese, I would suggest reading its entirety on the site.

Here is the paragraph that most affected me (translation is my own):

“….Our country is strange, my friend. Horrible things are happening, and instead of people thinking about how to stop these horrible things happening again, they want to inflict these horrible things on who first inflicted them. …what they are asking for is not justice or vengeance, but the right to their own share in the barbarism, like children who complain ‘Why can he play on the swing and I can’t ; ‘Why can he play mobster and I cannot?’.  Every other day I open the newspaper to see someone defending lynching as a form of direct democracy.”

And that is what I am thinking about on this overcast Sunday. step away from barbarism.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Friday nights and friends ...and a downpour! - São Paulo

Jacare Grill Vila Madalena

Yesterday one of my closest childhood friends arrived with his family from New York. They had had one of those hell trips that involve 2-hour lines for security snaking through the airport as everyone tried to escape the winter storm. They arrived here 2 1/2 hours late and eager for warm sunny weather.

We took them out to one of our favorite places in Vila Madalena, called Jacaré Grill (Alligator Grill). It's a really fun place on a Sunday with Harley riders pulling up and drinking a beer right on the street. You can't find a place to sit after 2 pm. Friday night is a different crowd and also 80s music blaring from the speakers. Okay, we enjoyed the 80s music, even the teenager. 

Carne Louca

Food was a mixture of "carne louca" (crazy meat), pork and sausages. And a great salad for you vegetarians. And a lot of cold beer. We were tucked back so far in the restaurant that we didn't even notice it had started raining some time during our dinner. No, not raining, POURING as it does in tropical countries. The roads were already rushing rapids since Vila Madalena is filled with little hills like in San Francisco.

We made a run for Bacio di Latte, the gorgeous gelato store on the next corner. We were soaked from a 20 second run. We ordered giant pots of ice cream and stood around getting dripped on from the glass ceiling with obvious weather-proofing issues. Then we sat around and sat around waiting for a break in the rain so we could get the car parked two blocks away. It rained harder. Even when I thought there was no possible way for it to rain harder, it rained harder. The New Yorkers were exhausted. And cold--believe it or not. In wet clothing in an ice cream store. Albeit a very nice ice cream store.

Bacio di Latte Vila Madalena

We ordered tea which arrived lukewarm and not delicious. I don't think they had ever before been asked for tea. My friend had first wanted decaf coffee, which they did not have. Brazil simply does not have decaf coffee. Or if they do have it, it's not good.

Finally, with kids falling asleep on the benches, my husband made a run for the car. The rain, the wonderful long-absent rain, continued through the night.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Zebras on the Podium - São Paulo

gold, silver and bronze medalists...image credit: wikipedia

I turned on the TV this morning at 6 am to watch the winter Olympic games. Not because I love the Olympics thaaaat much (though I do love them) but because I was waiting for the personal trainer who ended up not arriving due to traffic. 

There is much to love about the Olympic games -- the culmination of these athletes' years of training and sacrifice --and much to dislike (okay, more specifically Mr. Putin so not really the games). My favorite sport of the moment is that ski around and shoot --what is that? Biathlon? That's just wacky.

This morning, I flicked past curling (hello?), hockey and then started watching the Super Combined downhill skiing--Super Combined involves the sum of a downhill race result and a giant slalom race result. I watch downhill with a permanent wince as I am always wary of seeing some spectacular crack-up that will ruin my life. And the skier's.

The best skiers had already gone down and I was left with the riff-raff from Argentina (wearing polka dots the first one, and blue the second--must have run out of funds for uniforms), Monaco and Belorussia. The scoreboard came up and besides marveling that that sport was essentially European, BH and I did not recognize a name.

Finally they got to 12th place and there was Bode Miller's name. I like Bode as long as he does not open his mouth. I love that a New Hampshire boy can take on the Coloradans and Swiss on the snow. He is a multiple medal holder. But not this year. Apparently none of the favorites are in contention.

While analyzing the placement results, the announcer said this year "deu zebra" (resulted in a zebra) since Mayer (?) was not in the top 3. A zebra? Now the Argentinians were wearing some wacky stuff but those were dots not stripes. And I can't really see a stripey horse on four skis.

What's the deal? I looked up the expression on Terra's helpful site called "Voce sabia?" (Did you know?). So it turns out that "deu zebra" is a result that classified as an "unexpected tragedy." It is frequently used in sports talk.

Let's use it in a sentence: "Spain deu zebra in the World Cup and lost in the first round."  It has to be a very unlikely situation for a zebra to get involved. 

Apparently the expression came from the illegal lottery called the "Jogo dos Bichos" or Animal Game. There are 24 animals in the game, none of which is a zebra. So if you got a zebra, it was an unexpected loss - since you weren't supposed to have a zebra anyway. Or something like that. I don't really understand the "Jogo dos Bichos" but I promise to study.

Now I have to go turn on the TV because by the time this gets posted, the Super Combined will be over. Bode has already skied and came in fifth overall -- so far, with the leaders of the downhill yet to ski. Let's see how wide are the zebra's stripes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

So why are we NOT panicking? - São Paulo

Part of the Cantareira system: photo credit globo
As you know, my favorite section of the Folha de São Paulo newspaper is Cotidiano, or Metropolitan or Murder & Mayhem. It's daily life in the big city. The first few pages today were about the videographer killed in the protests in Rio and the capture of his murderer. Then stories related to the violence in the protests, and an article hidden on page C4 about Brazil being number one in journalist deaths in the hemisphere. Yes, we passed Mexico. 

Then on page 5, just above the fold is an article with not-huge letters saying "Sistema Cantareira opera com volume abaixo do limite crítico" which I translate as "The Cantareira water system is operating at limit that is beyond critical."  The Cantareira system is the São Paulo  water system. And there is a chart showing that basically we are out of water in São Paulo. The reservoir system is at 22% full level (I think I might say 78% empty). 

If you are not a Brazil resident, let me tell you that we are in one of the worst drought situations I've ever encountered in any country. It has essentially not rained for 40 days. Since New Year's. Ah, and this is the rainy season. Or not.

Image credit: Folha de São Paulo, February 13, 2014, Cotidiano C5

This article is full of yummies. Like 17% of the water in the Cantareira system is "reserved" exclusively for metropolitan São Paulo. So, the interior of this giant state will be facing rationing before we will. With only 22% of the reservoir full, only 4.6% is going to to the areas of Campinas and Piracicaba. 

Now the bottom part of the image is completely crazy. A percentage of the reservoir is considered "volume morto" or dead volume. It seems to be around 4%, but I didn't find that exact value in the article. Dead volume is the amount of water that may be in the reservoir but it won't find its way into our water faucets. Why? Because water from the reservoirs runs mostly downhill (there is one place where it gets pumped up top of the mountains) by gravity and through tunnels. And if the water is too shallow to flow through the tunnel? No water. We are pretty close to this, folks. This chart was done on numbers from 31 January. It is today 13 February and the levels are estimated at 19.1% of capacity. You do the math. We are in deep doo-doo.

What amazes me is that the average person has no clue of the doo-doo we are in. In my neighborhood, there are still people washing their sidewalks with water while having a chat with the housekeeper next door. There are still people washing their cars in their driveways. It's true--I saw both events yesterday on my 5 kilometer walk home from school. I am about to become the ugly foreigner (who pays her water bill and her taxes here, by the way) who tells them to cut the crap. Either they don't get it, or they don't think the rules apply to them. Wait, oh, I forgot, there are no rules yet. What are we waiting for? The faucets to drip instead of flow? My car is brown. It will remain brown until we get some rain. When we get the rain, I will park it outside and wash it down, one raindrop at a time.

I really don't understand why we are so relaxed about the water shortage. Sabesp, the water utility, is giving discounts for those who economize but I'm guessing only penalties will work. If I were Mayor Haddad, (pronounced "AH-dah-GEE") I might be making my plans. And executing them NOW. But if history repeats, São Paulo city (Haddad) is pointing the finger at São Paulo state (Alckmin, different political party) and vice versa and we are getting nowhere. Just a guess, haven't seen what the mayor is saying.

Now, who says that Folha de São Paulo doesn't have a sense of humor? Below the fold is a picture of a pretty freshman of the USP engineering school. She is covered in paint and standing in mud. She is being squirted by a high-pressure hose. 

What is wrong with this juxtaposition? I'll tell you what. The elite of this country (in education not money in this case) do not think that rules apply to them. Oh, we have a drought? Squirting each other with thousands of gallons of water is appropriate, right? All is fair in the moment of hazing the newcomers.

Folha, I got your message. I wonder how many others did. Ah, and at the bottom of the photo with the title "Desperdício" or "waste", there is another phrase that made me laugh: "to economize, this year the university did not furnish the water." Oh goodie, the students provided their own. Well, why not? University is free at USP-Poli, you have money to spend on water trucks. During a drought. 

Are these students the ones who will be engineering a new water system for São Paulo metro? I sure hope so. Get to work, oh painted ones.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Our Finest Hour - São Paulo

Recently I was at an event that was attended by some of the super rich of Brazil. I, unfortunately, am not one of them but got to brush shoulders for a short while. Inevitably the conversation moved to the upcoming presidential election here and the World Cup. I don't understand enough about politics here to get too involved in the presidential discussion, and while I understand less that I should about international football, I am going to get involved in that discussion. Because it's about more than football.

The people I talked to at the event were all leaving for the month-long Cup (June-July). They were heading to Europe or the US or just elsewhere. Why? They said it would be a gigantic mess, dangerous with protests and a complete embarrassment for Brazil. By the way, others I know who are not super rich are also leaving during the Cup--but only because outgoing flights are cheap and school holidays will last 8 weeks in some cases. 

I am staying. Enthusiastically. I can't wait. I am going to dress in yellow and green for a whole month (except on days when Uruguay plays and then all bets are off--kidding, BH, kidding). I have no idea what goes on during the game--okay, I admit I am in training for the Cup studying  Falcao (oops, he has about a 50/50 chance of coming),  "gol de placa" and a large list of swear words. 

This morning I got a link from a NGO where I used to volunteer. In the clip, there is a TV journalist talking about how no Brazilian should volunteer for the World Cup. That it is a FIFA event, money is going not into the pockets of those who need it and that you'd have to be a clown to want to work there for free. 

And this is where I completely disagree. No, not with the point that FIFA is the organizer and that they come away with most of the money. My point is that now, at this moment, the World Cup is not FIFA's. It is Brazil's. It is Brazil's to win, both on the field and off. Brazil can win new fans of soccer and of this wonderful country. Or it can piss it away along with all of the money that was supposed to go to infrastructure projects.

The fact is that it is too late to say "we should never have gotten the Cup." I remember the announcement of it being in Brazil. The country celebrated. BH and I looked at each other and frowned. Did anyone really think that infrastructure (hospitals, schools, etc) would be built as promised? Really? No one here is that naive. Or that optimistic. But it's too late. It's coming in four months.

The fact is that it is too late to demonstrate about the money going to stadiums and not to the residents. That money is gone. And will be more gone soon as some of the stadium projects go into overtime and money is dumped into repairs (São Paulo), grass (Curitiba) and canvas airport terminals (Fortaleza). If I could counsel the protestors, I would say find a new way. Let's not accidentally kill more videographers like in Rio last week--that does not help the discussion. Let's not scare the tourists away.

The fact is we need some of this money back. That means we had better convince people from abroad to come to this Cup. I want them to spend weeks here. I want them to visit deserted beaches, national parks, city museums and restaurants. I want them to love Brazil. There is a lot to love. 

As I've said before, I fell in love with a country during a World Cup. I have been back to that country three times since then and spent lots of tourist money. I tell everyone to go there for wonderful people, food, adventures. That country is South Africa.

I also lived in the US during the World Cup there in 1994, and in San Francisco where the Brazilians were based. It is an indescribable event--so much intrigue, so much theatre, so much fun. For an American, we cannot grasp the emotions at play--the deep-rooted need to win.

I was here in Brazil during the 1998 Cup. I cannot tell any of you what it is like to be in a country that STOPS when its national team plays. It stops. São Paulo, population who knows but close to 15 million, stopped. Not a bus on the street. Not a person on the street. I could have laid down in the middle of Avenida Paulista and taken a nap--not one car. And then a goal and the place explodes with happiness.

So, I'm staying. I'm staying to support the athletes who have trained for years to be on this or that field (really hope Curitiba gets some grass for it). I do not promise to not call them babies when they grimace and roll on the ground when someone touches them (Italy, this means you). I do not promise to like Ronaldo or to cheer against Argentina (close your eyes, BH). But I promise to welcome all the tourists who come here and help them however I can.  I want people to love Brazil. And start a lifetime love affair that will bring them back again and again.

Does anyone remember the lines in Apollo 13 about success and failure? One of my favorite movies of all time (here is the link if the movie doesn't come up:

We can choose: believe this could be our biggest disaster, or believe it will our finest hour. I know which one I choose.