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.