Monday, December 29, 2008


Yesterday was another first for me here in Brazil. I went bowling. Now I´ve bowled on a number of occasions in the US, but I didn´t even know that there was a bowling alley here in Salvador until yesterday.

I called up my friend Mark to see if he wanted to hang out and he invited Vilma and I to go with him and his kids to a park that is right on the beach. He graciously picked us up in his car and off we went. The park we went to is a great place for kids (and adults!). There´s a basketball court, a place to skateboard or roller skate, a craft fair that is always there on the weekends, and a couple of large, plastic playground toys for the kids to play on. We hung out there for a while, drank some coconut water, and let the kids play around on the toys and in the sand. After some time passed Mark asked if we wanted to go bowling! It didn´t take a lot of arm twisting to get me to agree.

The Portuguese word for bowling is "boliche" and that´s what the sign said on the side of the building as we went in. The bowling alley is located a short drive from the park we were at, in a mall called "Aeroclube". Apparently back in the day Aeroclube was considered a really fashionable and fancy mall, but has been in various stages of remodeling for some time now and is basically abandoned. Folks still go there for the movie theatre, but that´s about it, or so I thought. Now I know that they still go there to bowl as well.

Bowling here is pretty much identical to bowling in the US except that all the lanes use gutter-ball-proof gutters and instead of paying by the game, you pay by the hour. But the computerized scoring, people jumping up and down and screaming, and that sound of the balls hitting the pins is exactly the same.

And I scored better than usual, 100 points!

Will I go back to bowl again? Probably not because it was kind of expensive, but it sure was fun!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas sightings

Here´s some stuff that I´ve seen or heard about over this holiday season:

-The malls totally decked out with tons of decorations, starting in October!

-Long lines of kids and parents waiting to sit on Santa´s lap.

-Almost every store with a wrapped up box at the cash register where you can put your spare change in to give to the employees. (I think) They split the money that they get from the box.

-All the street kids who normally beg for money holding these same wrapped up boxes for people to put their change into. Do they get to keep the money? Well, there is lots of child exploitation here so I imagine that in many situations they have to give what they make to some adult who is "in charge" of them.

-A MUCH larger number than normal of families with kids begging for money on the streets. On one street corner I saw at least 10 kids with only one or two adults.

-The amount of crime in the month leading up to Christmas increases a LOT. I almost got mugged by 2 guys on motorcycles who came up behind the taxi I was getting out of. I had to run into the apartment building I was going into to escape. Luckily the doorman saw them, opened the door for me and the motorcyclists drove off after I went in.

-Everyone who has legitimate work gets what they call "13th month bonus" in December. They receive a month´s extra salary every December. This is one of the reasons that crime increases so much...everyone is walking around with more money.

-Panetone. This is a yummy Brazilian version of fruitcake. It´s more like a fruit bread and much tastier than the US version that often gets passed around and re-gifted. Everyone eats it as a traditional Christmas food. Trader Joe´s sells it if you want to try it in the US.

-Yesterday I saw a group of boys, about 12 years old or so, who had taken over this parking area and were "helping park cars" (this is code for standing around, half-heartedly waving their hands to pretend that they are helping the drivers park, "guarding the cars", and then wanting money when the person leaves as payment for the services). They were obviously poor and I saw a SUV stop close by them and hand out wrapped presents to all of the boys. They opened them up and had received new shirts. There was lots of comparing and trying on of the shirts, but then they went back to "helping park cars" pretty quickly, in hope of more presents or money.

-A more obvious display of the distance between rich and poor in this country because of the consumerism of the holiday and the inability of folks to participate because of poverty.

-Talking to my family and feeling homesick.

-Spending Christmas with Vilma, enjoying the gift exchange and Christmas dinner with her friends.

-Wishing happy holidays to all my friends and family. May 2009 be a year filled with peace, love, security, happiness, and freedom for all.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. To all my family and friends...I miss you soooo much! I wish we were together today and hope you are having a great holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I haven´t posted a blog in a while because I´ve had visitors from the US here and so have been pretty much off-line except for checking my email. It´s been really fun to have three folks here to hang out with and for an excuse to cancel some classes and take some time off. I´ll tell you a bit about what I did over the last week...

My friend Jodie arrived on Saturday the 13th, and we hung out a bit over the weekend, but she was mostly hanging out with this guy she´s dating, so my "time off" really didn´t start until Tuesday the 16th, when she came to stay at my house. On Wednesday we went up to Praia do Forte, which is a little resort town north of Salvador. It´s a great place to relax and get away from the city. There´s a pedestrian walkway, a beach, and a turtle sanctuary that hosts a "save the sea turtle" program. We checked out all of these, ate some amazing Italian food, shopped, and enjoyed just chilling out.

On Thursday we took a bus up to Muritiba with our capoeira teacher, who is also in town visiting. We got to go to Mestre Medicina´s capoeira class, which was cool for Jodie since she has never met him or been to his academy (he´s the founder of our capoeira group). We stayed at my friend Sonia´s house, and had fun hanging out and chatting. We wanted to stay longer, but Jodie´s friend was arriving on Saturday morning, so we had to be back in Salvador on Friday.

We arrived in Salvador on Friday afternoon and went back to my house to unpack and relax. Then my friend/student called and invited us to go out and drink some wine. We ended up going to this super cool bar with a beautiful outside patio for some snacks, drinks, and hilarious conversation. It was a great time, and he was nice enough to pick us up at the house and give us a ride there and back home.

Saturday morning we went to the airport to pick up Jodie´s friend Jane and from there we went straight to the beach! Jane only has 8 days here, so really wanted to make the most of them. Both Jane and Jodie surf, so we met up with our capoeira teacher, who also surfs, and hung out all day at this beach bar. We ended up meeting this guy who runs a surf school who rented boards to Jane and Jodie. Coincidentally, we stopped at a salon on the way home so that Jane could get waxed and ran into the surf school guy who offered us a ride back to Salvador. It was so nice to get a ride and not have to take a LONG bus ride home, especially with Jane´s luggage!

Saturday night was spent eating lots and lots of amazing food at a Brazilian steakhouse. Jodie and Jane treated Vilma and I, along with the surf school guy and his friend to dinner at Boi Preto (Black cow), which is one of the best steakhouses in Salvador. All I can say is: YUM! It was sooooo amazing and with great service too.

Sunday we got a ride up to the same beach with the surf school guy and spent the day in a similar manner as we did on Saturday. Swimming, surfing, sunbathing, drinking coconut water and caipirinhas, eating clams and beach snacks, and most of all RELAXING. It was heaven :)

Jodie and Jane took off Sunday night on the overnight bus to Itabuna. They are going to spend some time at a famous surf spot in Bahia and Jodie is going to a capoeira event called "Capoeirando" which is an international event held there every year. I wish I had more time off and money to go with them, but alas will just have to enjoy the stories afterwards. It´s not in the cards for me to go this time around.

I taught a couple of classes yesterday and today, but most of my students are taking a break until the week after New Years. So now I´m ready to enjoy some down time over the holidays and hopefully spend some more time at the beach.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2008


I´ve been aware for some time now about Xuxa (pronounced Shoe-shah), who is known in Brazil as the "Queen of Children". She´s a blond, blue-eyed woman who has built an empire here hosting a children´s program, making CD´s and DVD´s and even giving concerts where she sings and dances to adoring Brazilian children (and adults!) everywhere. What I didn´t know until this past Saturday night is that she´s also a gay icon. Imagine if Cher did children´s programming as a full time job, and that would be the equivalent of what Xuxa is.

On Saturday I went to a party where Vilma and I were the only women, everyone else was a gay man. The theme of the party was Xuxa and that is when I was informed that "all the gays" love Xuxa. There were various Xuxa inspired activities, my favorite being a big white posterboard on the wall with "Xuxa", written at the top where everyone had to put on lipstick, leave a kiss mark on the poster, and then write their name below with the first letter of the name being replaced by an "X". So I kissed the poster and wrote "Xheryl". There was also a "show" where three guys came out all dressed up in crazy outfits and lipsynched to some of Xuxa´s music. And all night long there was a laptop with old Xuxa videos from the 80´s playing, with guys gathered around and singing along. Hilarity at its best.

I was pretty disturbed by one video in particular, which I´ve posted below. The name of the song is "Indios", which means "Indians" and as you can see, there are some genuine Indians from the Amazon here in the video looking pretty bummed out. I asked Vilma and my friend if the song and video are prejudiced against Indians and they swore that they´re not, but I´m not so sure. Especially since when I looked at some of the comments listed on the Youtube page. But you can see for yourself what I´m talking about.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The beach house

This past weekend I was invited to go to one of my student´s (who is also my friend) beach house, just north of Salvador. The house is located in a place called Jauá, and is about a 45 minute drive from Salvador. My student bought the land for the house a couple of years ago and had it built, after dreaming his whole life of having a house right on the beach. This picture is the view that I had from my bed when I woke up on Sunday morning. It about says it all.

This weekend was a holiday weekend in Salvador, Monday being a religious holiday. I was happy for the chance to escape the city for a couple of days, and to go a place where I could totally relax. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and planned to stay through Monday, although due to the water not working properly, we had to leave on Sunday evening.

The time there was spent walking on the beach, talking, cooking and eating, drinking wine, and overall just enjoying everyone´s company. There were 5 of us there and we all had a great time. One of the hightlights for me was eating this yummy seafood dish (I can´t remember the name of it now) that was like a mixture of a bunch of different kinds of seafood, lobster included, in a broth served with rice and yucca root flour. Delicious!

Here´s a view from the back of the house looking at the beach:
And here´s a pic of me standing in front of the house:
Luckily my student said that he wants to go up to the house more often, and that I am always welcome. So hopefully I´ll be spending some more time in this oasis, far from the noise and crime of the city, eating more yummy seafood and enjoying the sun and sand!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Driving in Salvador

The other day I drove in Salvador for the first time. It was not as scary as I thought it would be, but very different from the US. It's pretty intense out there on the roads, but now I understand the draw of having a car here. I felt at least 90% safer driving than I do walking around and taking the bus.

Vilma took her drivers license test on Thursday morning and wanted to practice driving beforehand, so we rented a car for one day. I took advantage of the rental to drive to a couple of my classes, and I must say that I felt like I was living in the lap of luxury. It was really hard to return the car, knowing it also meant returning to a life of walking and riding the bus.

The things that are most difficult to adjust to on the roads here are the way that folks don't really stay in their lanes and also how the motorcycles will drive between cars, super fast, without regard for the fact that your car could kill them much easier than their motorcycle could kill you. I drove in rush hour traffic, and it was difficult to change lanes with the motorcycles constantly zooming by, usually out of nowhere.

All of my students have cars, and now I know why. It's much quicker and more convenient to drive, but the more important reason is that the safety factor increases by a lot. Of course you do have to keep your eyes open for carjackers or guys who will throw a rock through your window and grab your purse (best idea, put your purse in the trunk). But this happens much less than the street crime that is a daily battle here for pedestrians and bus riders.

Now I just have to get that winning lottery ticket and I'll be driving every day too!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Air conditioning

The social classes in Brazil are very segregated. Rich folks hang out with rich folks, poor folks hang out with poor folks and there are not many places where rich and poor socialize together as equals. There are lots of very obvious ways that this segregation takes place. For example, a poor person will not want to pay a R$20 cover charge to go into a bar or club, so this is an obvious way of keeping out folks who don´t have money. But since moving here, I have noticed that there are also some very subtle ways to indicate who has money and who doesn´t. One of these ways is the clothes people wear and how this is related to air conditioning.

Salvador is really hot and humid, especially in the summer. Summer temperatures here hover around 90 degrees farenheit, with humidity. Winter is a bit cooler, in the 70´s, but it still gets up there some days and it´s still what would be considered by Portland, Oregon standards as hot. Yet despite this heat, you see people around wearing suits (including sports coats!) and ties, jeans, and other "cold weather" clothes. The reason? Air conditioning.

People here who have money have air conditioned homes, cars and offices. People here who don´t have money and have to take the bus don´t have air conditioning and have to wear "hot weather" clothes. It´s easy to see just by the type of clothes that someone is wearing what their social status is. And I´m not talking about brand name clothes, I´m talking about what kind of clothes the person is wearing.

This dilemma poses a problem for the foreign English teacher who is trying to teach people from the upper classes, but who doesn´t have access to a car and has to live the "non-air conditioning" lifestyle. Try wearing jeans and riding the bus, carrying a huge armful of books in 90+ degree weather with humidity. It´s hard to be professional when you show up to teach all sweaty! But that´s my reality here.

So until I win the lottery and get a car, I have to make do with taking refuge in the air conditioning when I´m teaching, and trying not to sweat my ass off while I´m on my way there.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The mall

The mall in Brazil has a different function than the mall in the US does. Of course in the US there are folks who like to go to the mall to just "hang out". But in my experience most people go to the mall with the purpose of buying something, maybe getting a snack and then leaving. The social experience of walking around, seeing and being seen, is left mostly to adolescents who like to use the mall as a place to check each other out. Adults and families don't really use the mall in this way.

Here in Brazil, at least in Salvador, the mall serves an important social function. It's a place where people can go, in security, to walk around, hang out, socialize and as an added bonus buy something that they might need. But it appears that the primary purpose of the mall is not to consume or buy, but to offer a safe place to socialize.

In the mall people can walk around wearing fancy clothes, watches and jewelry without fear of mugging like there is on the street here. They can talk on their expensive cell phones without having to look over their shoulder to see if there is a thief close by, waiting to run and snatch the phone from their hand. It offers peace of mind not found on the street. This is why on the weekend the mall is totally packed with people.

When you go to the mall here, it's a place where people are checking you out to see what you are wearing and what you look like. Most people get all dressed up and made up to go to the mall. You can't just go in your casual wear like we do in the US (well you can, but you get a lot of weird looks!). It's a full on event and you have to be ready for it.

Another thing is the word for "the mall" in Portuguese: "Shopping". It's often difficult for Brazilians learning English to fully incorporate into their second language that in English shopping is a verb, and not a mall. Many folks, even advanced English speakers here will still say, "I'm going to the shopping" when they really want to say, "I'm going to the mall".

So the next time you run over to the mall to get some new socks, think about these differences as you are waiting in line in your pajama bottoms to pay, excited by the thought of getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible! It's a different experience.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Yesterday I did two things of note...I went to a capoeira event at the Farol da Barra (the lighthouse) and then to a soccer game in the afternoon. Both were fun and gave me some great exposure to Brazilian culture.

I trained capoeira for four years, and stopped training about a year and a half ago. I LOVE capoeira, but had to stop training because of lack of time. I teach English in the early morning and evening, which is when most capoeira classes happen. I find myself really missing the discipline and exercise, and really hope to return to it soon, but for now I have to satisfy my capoeira craving by going to events such as the one I went to yesterday.

It was the batizado event for my old capoeira group, Grupo Raca. Batizado means "baptism" and is the event when students move up a level and receive their new cords which signify this change in status. Usually the batizado is part of a week long capoeira event where people from all over the place get together to train, attend workshops, socialize and play capoeira. It's a lot of fun. Anyway, it was super cool to see about 150 or so people of all ages wearing Grupo Raca t-shirts and all taking part in a big class, right by one of the most scenic spots in Salvador.

In the afternoon I went to a game between Vitoria and Gemios, which is a team from Rio Grande do Sul (the southernmost state in Brazil). Gemios is ranked 2nd in Series A, and Vitoria was ranked kind of low, like 13 or so (I can't remember exactly), so everyone thought that Vitoria would get their ass kicked. Well, it was a really exciting game and Vitoria won! It was 4-1 until the very end when Gemios scored one more goal, but they still won, 4-2. Everyone was jumping up and down, shooting off fireworks, throwing babies in the air, and going crazy. It was quite a sight to see! Much different from other games I've been to where the scene was more mellow. I was glad I went.

So that was my Sunday, where I went out and kept myself occupied and didn't really have time to study for my teacher's Cambridge exam which I am taking on Friday. Guess I have to cram the rest of the week!

Friday, November 21, 2008


After being here in Brazil as long as I have been, I realize how many things we take for granted in the United States. One of those things is emergency response to situations. I am discovering, to my chagrin, that emergency response (police and ambulance) is almost non-existent in Salvador. It's quite frustrating.

I remember a couple of years ago in Portland, I was woken up by my room-mate because my drunken, angry neighbor was on our porch at 2AM, yelling and banging on the door. A quick call to 911, and the police were there within 5-10 minutes. They subdued my neighbor, threatened him with a fine or worse if he persisted, and my room-mate and I were left to go back to sleep in peace.

Here, private ambulance companies brag that they take "only" 30-40 minutes to reach you when you call in for emergency help. And the police, which is the real subject of my posting, well they don't really do anything at all.

The police here are divided into 2 branches, the military police and the civil police. I think I wrote about them in a previous post. Well the military police are the ones who do the chasing of crooks and making their presence known in an attempt to prevent crime. All of the Brazilians that I have ever spoken with about this matter say that the cops don't do anything. I guess I had some kind of Pollyanna American hope that this wasn't true, and that the cops could be counted on in times of trouble. I now know that they can't be counted on for anything, except for the Brazilian version of sitting around eating donuts and drinking coffee.

Today is a perfect example... Vilma was walking down to meet me at the bus stop and noticed a group of 4 young guys from the favela sitting at the top of our hill. When we walked by this spot on our way home from the bus stop, they were still sitting there. And they weren't sitting there chatting and laughing, they were sitting there checking out the scene and eyeballing everyone who walked anywhere near them. About 10 minutes later Vilma went outside to see if they were still there. They were. So I decided that maybe we should call the cops.

First of all you can't dial the Salvador version of 911 (it's 190 by the way) from a cell phone. And then Vilma wasn't sure if you can dial this number for suspicious activity or just if something actually happened. I decided to play the influencial person card and called one of my students who has a friend high up in the police force. I asked him to call and ask if they could send a car to drive by and check out the scene. Well, I'm still waiting to hear back if they actually did it or not. As of this writing Vilma just walked down to the mall to do an errand and was going to scope out the scene again. But I'm not holding out hope.

So if (God forbid) something bad happens to you in the US and you call 911, as you are waiting those few, short 5-10 minutes for the police to actually show up and do something, you can be thankful that you are not in a place where everyone is pretty much left to their own devices.

Picture courtesy of A Tarde online.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tis the season

Well the Christmas season is in full swing already here in Salvador, and that means the arrival of four things:

1. Tacky Christmas decorations. As you can see from this photo, which was taken in Porto Allegre in 2006, the Christmas decoration scene here leaves much to be desired. The malls are already full of really bad decorations, Christmas carols, Santa Claus and the elves, etc etc. I hate it.

2. Hot weather. Summer is here, which means temperatures of 27-32+ degrees celsius, which is 80-90+ farenheit plus humidity. Now I'm not complaining because it's so nice to be in a warm, sunny place for November-April when it's cold, dark and rainy in Portland. However, it is a bit of a challenge to work in this heat when you have to ride the bus and walk around the city. Nothing like arriving to teach English, trying to look semi-professional and being totally sweaty. But it's great on those days off when you can go to the beach, wear little clothing and swim in the ocean.

3. Panetone. This stuff is the Brazilian version of fruitcake, but it's actually really good. It's kind of like a sweet bread, that's light and dotted with pieces of dried fruit. But it's not the crystally, sickly sweet kind of fruit in US style fruitcakes, it's normal dried raisins, apricots, etc. I really like this stuff. And it's the traditional food of Christmas. A lot of folks give it as gifts. If you have a hankering to try it, I've seen it for sale at Trader Joe's in the US.

4. Crime. Well of course crime is nothing new here and happens all year long. But from the month or so before Christmas through the end of Carnaval, the amount of street crime skyrockets. All the robbers are trying to steal to have money to buy presents and party down at Carnaval. This past Saturday an American friend of mine was waiting for 30 minutes at the bus stop closest to my house. This was at 10:30AM. During this time she saw groups of young guys, all shirtless, come out of the favela entrance that is close to there, walk over, run across the street, rob someone, and then run back into the favela. This happened at least 5 times to 5 different people, which means that every 5 minutes another group came out to rob. I spoke with a police officer about this and he said that this is called "arrastao" (sorry I don't have any accents on my computer, there's supposed to be one over the second "a"). Vilma told me that this phenomenon is new to Salvador, but old hat in Rio and Sao Paulo. It's not a good sign that it's starting to happen here. It makes me really afraid to wait at that bus stop, which unfortunately is the one I wait at every day. I also had an incident happen to me on Friday which I don't really want to go into details about here, but needless to say it was very scary and traumatic. I'm counting the days until after Carnaval when it calms down again.

So enjoy the holiday season wherever you are, and may your days be filled with sun, nice decorations, panetone and peace.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Support for gay marriage

It's strange to be in another country when something big is going down in your country.  I've been trying to keep up on the California Proposition 8 situation from down here.  One of my friends told me about this clip, and after watching it I decided to post it because it's really intense, powerful and moving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tips for teaching English in Salvador

I've been thinking for some time now that I wanted to write a post (or posts) with some tips for teaching English, at least here in Salvador. I've been teaching English for about 1.5 years now, and have had a decent level of success, so thought I would pass along some of the things that have led to my success:

*Take at least a part time job at a language school. If you arrive mid-semester, tell them that you want to substitute teach. I started out this way and my connection to the school has really opened up a lot of doors for me. First of all it has given me access to all kinds of books and materials. When I teach my private classes, I use books from the language school. I've also gotten some great ideas from other teachers, worksheets, and other resources that I never would have had access to outside the school. It also gives you credibility with getting private students. If you can can say, "I teach at ______ school", it reassures the student that you indeed know what you are doing.

*Make friends with the receptionist at the language school and tell her that you are open to teaching private classes outside the school. Sometimes folks call the school wanting a referral to a private teacher, especially a native speaker. If you get in good with the receptionist, she will give them YOUR name and that will be one foot in the door to a new student, plus all the friends of your student who will want to start taking class from you after they hear from your friend how great you are!

*Make business cards. I made some cards when I first got here, just a basic one with my name, "Professora de Ingles", phone number and email. Now I have a nicer card that says (in Portuguese) that I teach in people's homes or offices. It gives another level of professionalism and legitamacy to your work.

*Learn some Portuguese. If you can speak the language, it will make your services more appealing to beginner students.

*Don't undercharge because you are desperate. Pick up all the hours you can at the language school where you are not paid as much, but charge a fair price with your private students because it will be next to impossible to raise the price later on. I charge R$40 per hour, but I give "deals" at $35 per hour if the person pays for a bunch of classes up front (like a 10 class deal), or pays by the month for your classes. I'm still happy with the fee and it makes them feel like they are getting a bargain. I definitely made some mistakes at the beginning about charging less money, or not holding my ground when folks try to bargain. Bargaining is part of life here, but you don't have to accept what they say. Hold your ground and they will still want to take classes with you because you are a great teacher.

*Most importantly, NETWORK. I have most of my students because they are friends or business colleagues of other students. Give your cards to your students and tell them you are accepting new students. Word of mouth is huge here.

*Be flexible. You have to be able to teach folks when they have time, i.e. early in the morning or in the evening. My usual schedule is to teach 1-3 classes early morning starting at 6:30AM, have a break, teach at lunchtime, have a break and teach in the evenings. If you want students, you have to teach them on their time.

Well, that's it for now. Hope these help anyone who is thinking about teaching English! I'll probably write some more in the near future.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who invented the airplane?

2 of my students who don't know each other both told me within the last month that the Wright brothers didn't invent the first airplane. They told me that it was a Brazilian named Alberto Santos-Dumont, living in Paris, who indeed flew the first plane. One of them said that everyone talks about the Wright brothers being the inventors because they are from the US and "everyone" wants the inventors to be from the US (whoever "everyone" is).

So I decided to look it up on Wikipedia to see what facts are listed on there. Here is the clip about Alberto Santos-Dumont:

Alberto Santos-Dumont, Brazil — October 23, 1906
the "14 Bis" at Bagatelle field, Paris. Aero Club of France certified the distance of 60 meters (197 ft); height was about 2-3 meters (6-10 ft). Winner of the Archdeacon Prize for first official flight of more than 25 meters. Described by some scholars as the first "sportsman of the air". As reported in previous years and months for Ader, Whitehead, Pearse, Jatho and Vuia, the 14-Bis flew and landed without a rail, catapult, or the presence of high winds, propelled by its own (internal combustion) engine.

And here is what they say about the Wright brothers:

Orville & Wilbur Wright, United States — December 17, 1903
First recorded controlled, powered, sustained heavier than air flight, in Wright Flyer. In the day's fourth flight, Wilbur Wright flew 279 meters (852 ft) in 59 seconds. First three flights were approximately 120, 175, and 200 ft (61 m), respectively. The Wrights laid particular stress on fully and accurately describing all the requirements for controlled, powered flight and put them into use in an aircraft which took off from a level launching rail, with the aid of a headwind to achieve sufficient airspeed before reaching the end of the rail.

The date of the Wright brothers is in fact after the date of Alberto Santos-Dumont. So what do you think? Who really invented the airplane? Can we give credit to a Brazilian for our ability to fly around the world?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A sad day

Today I finally awoke from my Obama-induced happy state to do some reading about what went down in the US regarding gay rights and the election. It ain't pretty. Check out this article from today's NY Times for more bleak information:

It's ironic how during this time of great strides in the civil rights movement, there can be so much hate and prejudice against a group of people trying to fight for the same rights that heterosexual Americans enjoy. It makes me so angry that proposition 8 passed in California! I find myself thinking about all those couples who happily got married thinking that now was their chance to experience the same rite of passage that heteros have been experiencing for centuries. Now their dreams are shattered. And overwhelmingly it was black and hispanic voters who voted in favor of Prop 8. The same folks who also have been fighting for their rights want to keep others from being treated equally. I don't understand it.

There are many occasions in Brazil when I find myself comparing things here to how we do them in the US. Usually my comparison is in favor of the US way. But when it comes to marriage, I think that Brazil has the best idea for a system, a system that would solve all of these ridiculous problems about how gay marriage is against many religion's doctrines. Here's how they do it here...

When you get married, you have 2 options. You can get married in a civil ceremony, which means you are legally married and have the rights of a married couple. Or you can get married in the church, which means you are married in the eyes of God. If you choose to marry in a church and want it legally recognized, you have to marry again at the courthouse to have the marriage legally recognized. Of course gay folks don't have the legal right to marry here, but I think the idea is a brilliant one if everyone was included.

Why can't we do that in the US? Then the churches could decide if they want to allow gay marriage or not, and everyone could enjoy the same rights! Simple huh?

Until we get the same rights as others, we have to keep our flag flying at half mast, as a reminder that we are people too, not second class citizens.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election party, Bahia style

Last night, despite fighting a bad cold, I went to Salvador's "American Society" election party at Clube Espanhol. The party consisted of about 50 Americans and friends, a band made up of Americans ("Doug Adair e os Estrangeiros" which means "Doug Adair and the Foreigners") singing American rock cover songs, CNN and Fox news on the cable tv in English, and a lot of beer drinking and enthusiasm for the election results. I couldn't partake in the beer drinking due to being under the weather, but it sure was fun to be with a bunch of Americans, all rooting for Obama and witnessing a great moment in our nation's history.

It was interesting to check out the crowd. There were a lot of folks there! Everyone was really friendly and welcoming even though I didn't really get much of a chance to talk with new folks. There was even a news camera there covering the scene!

Vilma and I ended up leaving around 11:30PM because I really needed to get home and rest, due to being sick. But today I ran into some folks who were at the party and they said they stayed until like 2:30AM to watch the concession and acceptance speeches. I managed to stay awake until 1AM, just long enough to see that CNN and ABC news had called it for Obama, before dropping off to sleep.

This morning I woke up and immediately turned on my computer. When I saw that Obama had won, and started reading a little bit about people's reactions, I totally started to cry. What an incredible time in history! I was overcome with emotion.

I had a class at 8AM, and instead of doing our normal stuff, I decided that we should watch both Obama and McCain's speeches, and then we could talk about the vocabulary they used and check to make sure he understood everything. It was nice to share this moment with one of my students and give him a chance to see how one American was moved by this unforgettable moment.

Here's a picture of me being patriotic:
"Happy New World" as they were saying at the party last night!!!!!!


I actually said these words today: "I'm proud to be an American". I don't know if I have ever said them before.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Big Day

I am anxiously awaiting tonight...I can´t wait to see the results of the election. I´ve been obsessively reading the NY Times in hopes that there will be some kind of clue about the results early on, but I have to remind myself to be patient.

Unfortunately I am spending election day totally sick. Yesterday it was worse, but today I´m still pretty laid out with a bad cold. It´s interesting to experience a cold here. You can totally feel that the virus is a little different than the North American cold virus, and one of the differences is that it runs its course fast and hard. I had to cancel 3 of my classes this morning and am considering cancelling my last class of the day. But there is an American election party that I want to at least make an appearance at because it will be fun...and I just can´t justify cancelling my class and going there. So here´s hoping I have enough energy to do both.

I guess the only thing I can be certain about now is that whatever happens with the election returns, the world will be a completely different place tomorrow than it is today. And by the way, I saw an "Obama/Biden 2008" sticker on someone´s apartment window the other day!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Message to Sarah Palin

OK, so pretty much everyone I know is voting Democrat, but just in case you are on the fence, take a look at this video. It's pretty powerful.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Futebol and the mayor

The other night I went to a big soccer match between a team from Salvador (Vitoria) and a team from Rio (Flamengo). The stadium was sold out, which is kind of unusual, and it was fun to be there and see all the craziness. A couple of exciting things happened...

First of all there was a problem with the lights. When we arrived, the lights that light up one half of the stadium were out. They came back on, the game started, only to have the other half of the stadium lights go out, delaying the game by about 20 minutes. There was also a problem with crowd control/flow. There is an area that is usually open to pass through, which allows people to move from one side of the stadium to the other. This is also where the entrance to the VIP section is. Well, they had this section gated off, to prevent the Flamengo fans from mixing with the Vitoria fans, in an attempt to avoid fights. The problem with this was that they were not allowing the folks with VIP seats to pass by this gate to get to their seats. This is where I was sitting, so I stood back and watched as an almost mini-riot broke out with folks pushing and shoving to try to get through the gate. Finally they opened the gate and we were able to get to our seats. Riot averted.

The game itself was really exciting and fun to watch. It ended in a tie, which I thought was a good thing since everyone said that Flamengo was a better team and was going to kick Vitoria's ass. Since Vitoria held their own (I was cheering for Vitoria), I thought that was a sign of a good game.

The newly elected mayor of Salvador was there, as he is a fan of Vitoria. At one point in the evening he was surrounded by a bunch of folks wanting to talk with him and tell him congratulations. It was during this mayhem that someone took the opportunity to steal his wallet! He didn't notice until later on when he went to reach for his wallet and it wasn't there.

It was all over the news the next day and I heard a lot of people on the street and on the bus talking about the robbery. It made for a lot of jokes from people who hate Vitoria (saying that the stadium is horrible and unsafe) and those who hate the new mayor (saying that he deserved it). As for me, well I'm just glad I didn't have a mob of people around me. It was hard enough staying out of the mini-riot and I spent a good part of the match worried about people throwing cups of urine, as I have heard happens at some games. Luckily, I made it through the game dry and with my wallet and cell phone intact.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I believe

Yesterday I saw a guy on the street with a t-shirt that said "I believe in Santa Claus". I asked Vilma what the chances are that this guy knows what his shirt means. She said that he has no idea. I still want to do a photography project about funny English t-shirts. I love seeing the random stuff that is printed on shirts here...some of it is completely hilarious!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Today's my birthday. I'm 40. I'm waiting to see if I get a sudden urge to buy one of these. So far I am not living the stereotype.

Concert in Brazil

On Saturday night I went to my first concert of choice in Brazil. I say "concert of choice" because I have been to one other concert, but I was invited by one of my students and had never heard of the singer before. This one was of my choosing and it was GREAT!

The singer's name is Ana Carolina, she is from Minas Gerais in Brazil and is an out lesbian. The style of music that she plays is called "MPB", which stands for "Musica Popular Brasileira" (Popular Brazil Music), and which can best be described as kind of acoustic, mellow, latin music. She is very popular here, and the concert was sold out.

The venue was a place called Wet and Wild. My friend told me that the US company, Wet and Wild, decided to try to put a water park here in Salvador. They forbid the consumption of beer on the premises, and it is for this reason that my student said that the place totally flopped. Now the water park is closed and they use the space only for concerts, where you can buy and consume as much beer as you want. It's a nice outdoor venue, but it is a bit odd to see a huge water slide right next to the area where the stage is!

Some different things about Brazilian concerts...or at least this one. The most striking was that you could get free Rubella vaccinations inside the venue. There is a big Rubella vaccination campaign going on in Salvador right now, and for some reason they decided to set up a booth at the concert to give folks a free vaccine. I didn't partake. Another unusual occurrence that my friend pointed out to me is that Brazilians (at least those in Bahia) don't like to clap, even at the end of the show! I'm not sure how the performers feel about this and if they feel the same level of appreciation as they do when they are front of an audience full of folks clapping wildly, but that is what happened.

The rest of the show was pretty much the same as shows I have been to in the US. The music was great, the crowd danced and sang along, and everyone had fun. Just to get an idea of what Ana Carolina's music sounds like, here is a Youtube clip where she is singing with another great Brazilian singer, Seu Jorge...enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kidnapping in Sao Paulo

A really sad story that has been all over the Brazilian media (but absent in the international media...I checked the NY times, BBC and CNN and found nothing) over the past couple of days is about a 15 year old girl who died the other day in Sao Paulo due to a crazy kidnapping situation. This version of the story is the explanation that one of my students told me and what I could glean from watching the news in Portuguese.

The girl's name was Eloa, and she had a 22 year old boyfriend who she had been dating for 3 years (why a 19 year old was dating a 12 year old is another story altogether!). This guy was the jealous type, and had even reportedly beat her up over their time dating due to jealousy. So she finally decided to end things and he could not take it. I'm not sure whose house she was at, but he went there, where she was hanging out with 3 friends from school- 2 guys and a girl. Once he arrived, he proceeded to kidnap the 4, and was armed with a gun. The police were called, lots of negociating went on over 4 days, and finally the 2 boys and the one girl were released. But Eloa was not allowed to leave. He seemed on the brink of letting her go, when her friend decided to return to the apartment to try to help Eloa. I'm not sure how long they stayed in the apartment with this guy, but eventually the police got anxious, barged in, and in the process Eloa was shot (she later died in the hospital) and the other girl, named Nayara, was shot in the face but not fatally.

Everyone here is talking about how the police should have waited longer, how they did the wrong thing, how this or that if done differently could have saved the life of Eloa, etc. People were very upset and even strangers were crying about the death of this innocent girl.

I feel really bad for the family and am sad that this tragedy occurred. But it's also a reminder to me about how the media will grab onto a story, make everyone feel bad, and then it's on to the next. A couple of months ago it was all over the news about this poor little 3 year old girl who was murdered by her father and stepmother by pushing her out of the window of a tall apartment building in Sao Paulo. Everyone was in an uproar, and I'm sure that the case is still being investigated, but who knows what the status is, as the news is done reporting about this situation and now it's time for the next.

But it's the same in the USA, so I don't know why I'm surprised that this kind of stuff goes on. I guess it's the nature of the news.


On Sunday, Vilma and I took the ferry over to Mar Grande (an island about a 40 minute boat ride across the bay from Salvador) and spent the night at a pousada (bed and breakfast). We went over there with 2 of Vilma's friends to get away from the city and relax. Plus I was able to move my classes on Monday around so that I didn't have class until the evening.

I seem to be having some bad luck with insects here, as you can read in my previous post about cockroaches. This time it was ants, or formigas as they say in Portuguese. This is a picture of my lower abdoman, which received bites from 2 red, biting ants.

There are several different types of ants here. The most common is what I have heard referred to as "sugar ants" in the US. These are those little, tiny guys that you often find in the kitchen. Here they are EVERYWHERE and you have to be really careful about leaving food or dirty dishes around. As one of my Brazilian friends said to me once, "formigas nao sao uma brincadeira" (ants aren't a joke). This is the truth.

Another type of ant is the larger one that you see on the ground carrying pieces of leaves and other items around and making large mounds. I'm not sure if these bite or not. Then there are at least 2 types of biting ants. The red ones, which I have heard called "fire ants" in the US, and then Vilma told me that there is another type of black, large ant that has a more painful bite than the red ones. I saw the 2 that bit me, and they were red, and I can tell you that it HURT! I don't even want to imagine how much the black ones hurt.

And I don't know if I have some kind of allergy, but the bite mark is just as bad, if not worse today than yesterday, and is still all red and itchy. Ouch! Anyway, I hope that this will be my last serious run-in with insects, at least for a while!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


There has been a crazy amount of violence happening in Salvador and São Paulo these past couple of weeks. In Salvador at least, the violence seems to be more centered in the suburbs, far from where I live. But it´s scary nevertheless.

The other day in the newspaper, I read that some city official had "declared war" between the police and drug traffickers in the city. What´s happening is that the drug traffickers have decided to do their best to kill as many cops as they possibly can. This includes following cops home, seeing where they live, threatening their families, and killing them when they are off duty and out of uniform. I can´t remember the exact statistic of how many police have been killed this year, but it´s a significant number. The parts of the city that I frequent are not high drug trafficking areas, but favelas are mixed in throughout the city, so nowhere is totally safe. I hope they make peace soon before too many innocent folks are killed or hurt.

I don´t know if this has made international news or not (it should have!), but the other day in São Paulo there was a big riot between the civilian police and military police at the governor´s mansion. I asked one of my students what the difference is between the civilian and military police. He told me that the civilian police do the investigating of crimes, and the military police keep the order. The civilian police have been on strike in São Paulo for the last month, and the other day they decided that they wanted to talk with the governor about it. So they went up to the mansion, and the military police were there to "keep the order". This led to a riot including tear gas, rubber bullets and like 30 or so police officers injured. It was quite a situation. And to top it all off, because all the cops were busy during this time, the amount of crime that occured in the city because of the lack of police officers to do their normal cruising around, led to an increase in the amount of crime that occurred on that day. I was glad that I don´t live in São Paulo!

It´s interesting to be in a place that you often just hear about on the news (sometimes!). Although I would say that I would prefer to be somewhere that doesn´t have this kind of thing happening, even if it is in another neighborhood or city.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Living in a tropical climate gives one a chance to be exposed to lots of creatures not found in North America. It´s still amazing to me to be able to see parakeets flying around wild, and little monkeys climbing around on the telephone wires. I hope one day to visit the Pantanal, in eastern Brazil, which supposedly has some of the most diverse species of wildlife in the world. You can take safari-like jeep excursions to check out all the birds and creatures there. I´ve seen some clips on TV that were filmed there and it looks amazing.

There is one creature here though that I hate. And while they do exist in the US, I don´t think that the US cockroaches have the size that their brethren in South America have. Last night Vilma and I were hanging out in the apartment when suddenly I heard her scream. There is one type of cockroach here that flies, which is how they manage to get into our third floor apartment. So this guy flies in and is the length of my pointer finger, I´m not kidding. Vilma tried to get him with a broom, and after some cornering, was finally able to get him between the broom and dustpan and then into the toilet to be flushed (hopefully) to his death. Yuck. We were both glad to be rid of him.

I find it interesting because in Portuguese, the word for cockroach is "barrata". Now the word for cheap in Portuguese is "barrato". So if you want to talk about an object that has a feminine derivative with this adjective, it´s the same word as cockroach. For example, the word in Portuguese for table is "mesa", which is feminine. So if you want to say cheap table, you say "mesa barrata". Cockroach table. Funny how language works now isn´t it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kids' day and crab

Today is Dia das Criancas, or Kids' day.  In Brazil they celebrate Mothers' day, Fathers' day and Kids' day.  Today basically consists of parents buying presents for their kids and some places having events for kids, like games or a trampoline, or other kid stuff.  On my morning run today they had closed off the street near the lighthouse (which they usually do on Sundays anyway), but had more booths and such being set up to celebrate this holiday.  There was also some kind of dog fest going on near this pet supply store.  They had a sound system and a bunch of folks with their dogs all decked out standing around.  Upon quick glance it looked like maybe it was some kind of pet wellness event because it looked like they were giving vaccinations in this one tent, but it was hard to say because I ran by kind of quickly.  I did love seeing all the dogs cute!  I miss having a dog.

Today I am going to go eat some crab with one of my students and a friend of mine who is also American and an English teacher.  In Salvador it is very common on Sundays to go to these open air restaurants, sit around with friends and family, eat crab and drink beer.  There are 2 kinds of crab here, crab that comes from the sea (called "siri") and crab that comes from the mud (called "caranguejo").  There is a slight difference in taste and the shells of the siri are softer than those of the caranguejo.  Both taste yummy though and it's fun to sit around and try to get the meat out of the shells.  There is also this dish called "casquinha de siri", which I totally love.  They take out all the siri meat and mix it with breadcrumbs and spices, then serve it in a little bowl.  All the taste of the siri with none of the work wrestling with the shells!

Anyway, I should go and get ready so will sign off.  Happy Kids' Day!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bad blogger

I´m a bad blogger this blog post since last Sunday. I have no real excuse other than that I started with some new students this week, which took up more of my time, and that when I did have free time at home, I spent it catching up on all the new 90210 episodes since the season started (the latest one ended with a drug overdose!! Ooooh, the drama!!!) and listening to the presidential debate over the internet.

A couple things of interest have been going on. First of all the economic troubles in the US are being felt here. Everyone is talking about it, the stock market here has been tanking as well, and for some reason that I don´t understand, the value of the Brazilian Real to the dollar has taken a nosedive. 2 months ago the value was about R$1.65 to $1US. Now it´s like R$2.30 to $1US. Now that´s good for all you Americans who want to visit, but for someone paid in Reais who is planning a return to the US in February, it´s not so good. I am hoping (for selfish reasons) that the value goes back to what it was 2 months ago so that when I change my Reais to dollars, it´s in my favor.

Also, the moment I was waiting for, the election, happened last Sunday. Unfortunately for those of us who hate the sound cars, there was not a majority vote cast for any candidate, so there will be another election at the end of October between the two candidates who got the most votes. Now since the election happened, I have not heard any sound cars, so I am really hoping that they have packed up their jingles and gone home, and that it´s not just a little "break" before they start driving around again. Time will tell I guess.

On a happy note, I think that it´s migration time for the parakeets, because I have seen a ton of them around my apartment. I seem to remember last year at about this time I saw a bunch of them and now they have returned. It´s so cool to see these amazing green birds that are so cute flying around, when in the US we just see them in cages.

OK time to go teach English. Happy Friday everyone.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Well I guess that this is one way to look at turning 40!  I was doing a web search to try to find the *perfect* image to express what I am feeling about my upcoming 40th birthday (it's on October 27th) and really had no luck.  I saw this picture, which is taken from a t-shirt, and thought, "well, things could be a lot worse for me... I could actually be taking this advice!"

I have been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions about turning 40.  First of all I can't believe that I am this old!  I remember being a kid and thinking that I would be 32 when the century turned to 2000, and how old that seemed.  Now I am at the age of "mid life crisis", and while I don't have a red corvette, I am definitely in a position that I never would have imagined myself in- living in a foreign country, far from all that is comfortable and secure.

I feel older, and can tell that my body is getting older.  My eyesight has changed, my knees are not what they were, I have some wrinkles.... but yet I don't feel old. I strongly believe that you are only as old as you live your life.  If you live a sedentary, boring life, you will be old when you turn 40.  But if you live an active, interesting life, you will stay young.  While time will continue to tick on, and the numbers will get bigger when I say how old I am, I am determined to do my best to live a youthful life.  I want to be that 80 year old who still goes to the gym (my Grandpa went to the gym 3x per week until he was in his late 80's!!!), and so I am laying the groundwork for that now.

So while I may partake in an alcoholic drink to celebrate my birthday (but probably not a 40 oz. bottle of beer), I also am trying not to think of this as the start of going "over the hill".  I still have a big mountain ahead of me to climb and I look forward to the view all the way up!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


The election for city government positions, including mayor, is this Sunday. I am literally counting the days until it's over because my brain is turning to mush from all the political advertising.

In Salvador, one of the ways that candidates advertise themselves is to have these "sound cars" drive around. These cars have the politician's picture and the number that you punch in at the ballot box, along with a sound system that is so loud it could wake the dead. And the sound system plays these catchy little tunes over and over and over again.

Now when the political season first started and the cars came out, some of the tunes were actually kind of enjoyable (am I actually saying this?!). They all sang about how the candidate will make Salvador the best place in the world to live because he or she will get rid of all the violence, solve all the problems in the health care and educational systems, and fix everything else that is wrong here. The tunes were varied and they always had that fun refrain that you eventually ended up hearing people on the streets kind of humming under their breath as they went about their daily routines.

In the last 1-2 weeks the songs have changed as it gets closer to the election. Now all the songs basically consist of 2 things: the candidate's name and the number. And they just say it over and over again. The songs are all in Portuguese, but if they were in English, it would go something like this:

Neto is 25
Neto is 25
25 25 25 25 25 25 25
Press 2...2!
Press 5...5!
Neto Neto Neto is 25

Press repeat. And blast at high volume when you are trying to concentrate on your life. Welcome to Salvador's election.

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"

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A different type of community

First of all I want to send a shout out to all my friends who are at Burning Man right now. I have been thinking about you all this week and have been wearing my Burning Man necklaces in solidarity (see picture). Have fun at the Burn tonight and know that my thoughts are with you all!

In response to thinking about Burning Man all this week and especially today, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of community. I was blessed to live in Portland for 10 years and to have an amazing community of friends and support, both professionally and personally. It was a difficult decision to leave this safety net and dive into not just a different city, but a different country and culture as well. I missed, and still continue to miss, my close group of friends and colleagues who were always there (and who continue to be there) to help me, support me, have fun with me, and watch my back. It is a treasure to feel so much love and support. I miss having this on a day to day basis.

Since arriving in Brazil, I have felt a real lack of community in my life. Now community is a huge part of Brazilian culture, but I have found it difficult to find a community to be a part of. I participated in the capoeira community for a while, but now don´t have time to train and attend classes, so I am kind of cut off from this group of folks. I was doing volunteer work for a while at the beginning of my time in Salvador and was sort of a part of a community of lesbians, but always felt like an outsider due to my language skills at the time. Now, I guess I find myself part of two communities: the English teaching community and the community of family and friends that my students have. Neither of these communities have the same elements as my community in Portland, and I wonder- is it enough?

In my mind, community provides a number of areas of support. It is a place to share and receive, be it material goods, services, ideas, money, or other things. It is a place where you can ask for and give your time, emotional support, or a helping hand to a friend. It provides a place to feel safe, valued, and a part of something bigger than yourself. The communities that I am a part of here have some of these elements, but not all. And the one that I miss the most is the emotional support and equal friendship that I had an abundance of when I was living in Portland. I just don´t have those kind of friends here that I can call up and say "Hey, lets hang out!" or "I am feeling bummed out, can I talk with you?". The longer I am away from this, the more I realize that I really need this in my life.

So enjoy the community out in the Nevada desert and soak it all in while you can. You never know when you might be cut off from it.