Sunday, September 28, 2008

Um Golpe

Yesterday I met up with two other teachers from Cultura Inglesa to have lunch. One teacher is American and the other is Brazilian. The original place we wanted to eat was too expensive so we decided to try out this crepe restaurant where I had eaten twice before. The other times I ate there, I had excellent food and service, so I figured it would be a good place to eat. Plus it was within walking distance of where we met up.

Everything was perfect...the food was amazing, we had a great bottle of wine and fun conversation. Then the bill came. We were shocked to see that not only had they put 2 extra waters on the bill (this is a common technique here to try to get money out of folks without them noticing, and I wondered when I first got here why people here look at the bill so carefully!), but that the bottle of wine we had cost R$87! We originally asked for a bottle that was R$35, and the woman said they were out of that bottle. The waiter brought another one to show us, and I just saw the name of the grape and thought it was the same one on the menu that cost R$45. Well, turns out it was the same grape but a different, more expensive brand. They just figured they would not show us the price, offer us the wine and then hope that we would not look carefully at the bill.

We were all pretty mad, and the Brazilian teacher told the woman that it wasn't right to do that. He asked to speak to the manager, and turns out it was her. She didn't want to do anything to console us, so we took the only course of action that we could, which was not to pay the tip. It is a lot more common here not to pay the tip when things go wrong than it is in the US, so we didn't feel bad about it. But then, as we were standing outside saying our goodbyes, the manager actually had the nerve to come out and tell us that we still owed her R$.80!

When I told Vilma about the situation, she said, "Eles fizeram um golpe", which means roughly "They hit you". It's a good description of what happened, that's for sure. All I know is that I will never go back to that place again. Bastards.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chicken Bowl

Yesterday I was riding the bus to one of my classes when a vendor selling cell phone protection sleeves got on to sell his wares. I was kind of spacing out and not paying attention until he got right next to me and I saw this lovely design. It was like it called out to me or something. Chicken Bowl.

Don't ask me why but I decided to buy it. At first I thought it was another example of how people here just put whatever English words they can think of onto any object with the idea that it will make it more valuable than writing the same thing in Portuguese. But then it took on more meaning. I decided that it's the perfect name for a rock band.

So if you are thinking of starting a band and need a name, feel free to take the words from my new cell phone protector and let these prophetic words live on. Imagine screaming the words "Chicken Bowl" to an audience of adoring fans.... gives me goosebumps too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

International graffiti event

On Thursday, at the advice of a friend who is also a graffiti artist, I went to check out the international graffiti event's big mural painting that was happening in Campo Grande (a neighborhood close to the center of the city). This was the first international event here, and apparently there were folks from France, Spain, Chile, the USA, and other places, who all came to meet each other, paint, and trade ideas. I didn't attend any other events (and truthfully I don't know what else went on at this event), but it sure was cool to check out the mural painting. There were some amazing artists and some incredible work that came out of it. I plan to go back and take some pics of the finished work. Here are some more pictures:
This piece was painted by a female graffiti artist- a rarity in the world of graffiti.

This one was painted with rollers, not with spray cans, a style that is what most graffiti here used to be in, as the cans were super expensive. I think that some guys want to keep it old school and so they keep on using the rollers, but more folks use cans nowadays, at least here in Salvador.

I love this one. It just rocks :)

There are some more pictures from the event at, but it's in Portuguese. Hope you enjoyed this little taste!

5K run

Today I ran a 5K road race. It was actually a half marathon, but you could choose to run either 5K, 10K, or the half marathon- 20K. I didn´t actually sign up and pay, so I was not running officially, but I still ran along with the rest of the official runners and ran the whole 5K.

One of my students invited me to run along with him. I had seen the advertisements for the marathon, but thought it was just a half- marathon. I didn´t know about the 5K and 10K options. By the time I found out, it was too late to sign up. But I had fun anyway...there were 3500 runners and some were from other countries! Someone told me that there were one or two runners from Kenya, and I also saw Spider Man running!!! After the race I went with my student and his friends out to drink some beer and eat some crab in the typical Salvadorian Sunday tradition, and then we had lunch and I came home. All in all it was a great way to start off a Sunday. And it motivated me to train for more races in the future!

Picture courteous of A Tarde online.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cutting grass, Bahia style

I have been dying to get a picture of this for the longest time to post it on my blog, and the photo fairy was looking over me yesterday since I just happened to be coming home from taking some pics at an international graffiti event (more on that in my next post!) and so had my camera with me as I passed these guys cutting the grass.

In all of my time in Brazil, I have only seen one lawnmower, and that was a tiny little lawnmower being used to mow the lawn of this rich guy's house.  Everyone else uses weed wackers, and when the lawn crew is out and cutting grass along the highways or public roads, they have these helpers who hold up this shield.  I guess the idea is to keep the grass from flying onto cars, etc, but it doesn't seem to be so effective.

They really seem to take their grass cutting seriously, with masks, full on clothing cover ups, boots and the shields.  Another example of how they do things differently here.  Is it a more effective technique?  Well, it's hard to say, but I think they spend a lot more manpower than we do in the US.  But then again excessive manpower is the name of the game here, given that the minimum wage is R$400 per month.  That's about the price of a nice end cell phone.  Try feeding a family of four on that. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Translation work

Last night I got a phone call which led to my second go at doing some translation/correction work from Portuguese to English.  My first attempt at  doing this was about a month ago.  I got a call from this woman who got my name from one of my students.  She is a doctor and wanted me to "correct" this medical document that she had tried to write in English.  I finished the job in about 2 hours and R$80 richer, was pleased with my work.

This second job was similar.  The same student gave my name to this woman, who is a doctor.  She also had the document in Portuguese and then her attempt at English.  Luckily she knew all the medical terms in English, because that would have been a big challenge for me.  It was mostly just grammar and sentence structure that I had to correct.

I don't know if I am ready to do a "real" translation, but I am feeling more confident about my abilities.  Another way to make some money here.... always a good thing when you are a foreigner trying to make your way!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Typical Tuesday

Some of you may be wondering...what is a typical day like for Cheryl? Well, given that my normally typical Tuesday was moved around today due to student cancellations and I have time to blog, I thought I would share with you about a typical Tuesday in my life here in Salvador.

5:20AM Alarm goes off. Hit sleep for 10 more minutes.
5:30AM Get up. Make cup of organic yummy coffee that I got in Chapada Diamantina. Try not to think about what I will do when the coffee runs out (another trip up to Chapada?!).
6AM Leave the house to catch the bus.
6:15AM Catch the bus to my first class at an apartment that is located in one of the richest neighborhoods in Salvador. Enjoy the ocean view from the bus ride. Try not to think about the number of city busses that are assaulted every day.
6:30-7:30AM Teach class.
7:30AM Eat breakfast with my student at his house. Get waited on by maids.
7:45AM Get a ride with my student in his giant SUV to my next class in the commercial district downtown.
8-9AM Teach class.
9-10AM Teach another class in the same office.
10AM Go wait for the bus. Sometimes the bus stop I wait at is kind of sketchy. Try not to think about seeing that guy on the news a couple of blocks down from where I am standing who had a knife and was caught assaulting people.
10:15AM Catch bus to the Federação neighborhood. Try again not to think about bus assaults.
10:45AM Arrive a little early and drink a coconut water at the snack stand close to the apartment where I teach.
11AM-12PM Teach class
12PM Catch a ride with my student to a bus stop where I can go to my next class.
12:10PM Catch bus. See above re: bus assaults.
12:30PM Arrive at the place where I have my next class. Eat lunch with my student and some of his colleagues.
1PM-2PM Teach class
2:15PM Catch bus to go home and chill out for a while.
2:45PM Arrive home. Vilma meets me at the bus stop so I don´t have to walk home alone. Relax at home, read email, prepare lessons, talk with her, veg.
4:15PM Leave the house and walk to the English school where I teach.
4:30-6PM Teach class.
6PM Run (literally) to the bus stop to catch the bus to my next class. Sometimes taking the bus is tricky business...if you miss the bus you need it can throw off your whole schedule.
6:15PM (hopefully!) Catch the bus to my next class.
7-8:30PM Teach class.
8:30PM Catch a ride with my student to the bus stop.
9:15PM Get off the bus at the stop closest to my house. Take a taxi to my house because it is too sketchy at this hour to walk up the hill to my apartment.
9:20PM Arrive home. Shower, eat a snack and fall into bed.

Now you have a glimpse into the exciting and tiring life of an English teacher in Salvador. Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Independence Day

Today is Independence day here in Brazil and just like in the US, the main celebration here involves a big parade. I went over to my friend´s house to check it out, since he lives on the parade route. The journey from my house to his involved a fair amount of walking, since the busses were running on alternative routes due to the parade. But the positive side of this was that I got to check out all of the groups that were preparing to march as they were lining up and getting ready to start the parade.

The parade was mostly made up of all branches of the military, some that I have never heard of or seen before, and a bunch of school marching bands. As I was walking by and seeing all of the military and police I was thinking that there much be a lot of happy criminals all over the city because it seemed like every cop was there at the parade and not hanging out in their usual spots trying to deter crime.

The thing I liked best about the parade was the cops with dogs (see above), which seemed to be a popular group judging by all the folks who were taking their pictures. They had all kinds of dogs- German Shephards, Rottweilers, even Black Labs! Now I have only seen cops with dogs in one place here in Salvador, at the soccer games! At the half time, there are always about 8-10 cops, usually 3 or 4 of them with dogs that escort the referees off the field. I guess some people get pissed at the refs and so they need to be protected.

Anyway, some other highlights of the parade included the school marching bands, most of which had flaming gay drum majors leading them, a percussion group from one of the largest favelas in Salvador playing Afro-Brazilian beats with some girls dancing Afro-Brazilian dances in front of the drummers, the military cops that had painted faces and camoflage outfits, and the crowd of people watching the parade.

I always like checking out the way that Brazil celebrates its holidays, and today was no exception. Unfortunately, fireworks displays are not part of their Independence day, but I have to plan lessons tonight anyway, so it´s for the best.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Suck it all

I am not a fan of Axe music. At all. But I have a soft spot in my heart for this singer who is from Salvador- Ivete Sangalo. She is one of the most famous and beloved singers in Brazil and really knows how to put on a show. In this video she is singing with Gilberto Gil, another famous singer who became the minister of culture for Brazil. I saw her play at Carnaval this year and she can really whip the crowd up into a frenzy! This is one of my favorite songs that she sings, and it is quite racey. Here are the words and translation:

É de babaixar,é de balacobaca
É de babaixar,é de balacobaca
Eu quero beijar a sua boca louca
Eu quero beijar a sua boca louca
Eu vou enfiar uva no céu da sua boca,eu vou
Eu vou enfiar uva no céu da sua boca
Eu Quero beijar a sua boca louca
Eu quero beijar a sua boca louca
E ai chupa toda
Disse Toda
Chupa Toda
Disse toda
Chupa Toda!

(OK, I don´t know the first part, and I asked Vilma and she couldn´t explain, but here is the rest)
I want to kiss your crazy mouth 2x
I will put a grape into your mouth 2x
I want to kiss your crazy mouth 2x
And then suck it all
I said everything
suck it all

If you ever get a chance to see this singer...check her out!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

American TV

Now I haven´t been much of a TV watcher since I was a kid. When I was younger I spent many hours per day in front of the tube. Then I got to college, then graduated, and over these years I kind of just stopped watching it, preferring to spend my time on other more intellectually stimulating persuits (HA!). But seriously, I have not been much of a TV watcher for some time. Until now.

Call it homesickness or saudades (Poruguese for "longing" and a great example of how ideas can´t be translated) for the US of A, but I am addicted to a lovely site by the name of This site has a plethora of TV shows and movies that you can watch with streaming video. And I just can´t get enough of it.

I find myself doing stupid things that I would never do in the US, like watching the entire first season of Gossip Girl, and waiting anxiously for the second season to start (it started on Monday night and I watched the first episode last was great!). I have caught up on shows I heard about but never had the time or the TV to watch in the US: Biggest Loser, Weeds, The Wire, Arrested Development, The L Word, and the list goes on.

Now my focus seems to be on Gossip Girl, the new 90210, and Weeds. I think I am going to limit myself to these for now and hopefully this will decrease my internet time per day by a little bit at least!

One thing I do miss though, is the gossip sessions about these shows. Even though I did not watch much TV after I finished high school, I did still find myself addicted to Melrose Place and the old 90210. I used to love watching these and then going to my old restaurant job to gossip with my co-workers about what happened and what was going to happen the following week.

So if you are a closet GG addict like I have become (OK, maybe I am not so closeted about it since I am writing about this on my blog), then feel free to leave a comment or send me an email so that I can get some online gossip sessions going about who wore what, what will happen next week, and what characters will make it to the end of the season and which will get killed off in what kind of creative way.

"You know you love me...XOXO, Gossip Girl"