Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Years Eve

New Years Eve in Brazil is a big deal.

Most people simply love the chance to PARTY. But so many others are looking ahead to the New Year and making offerings to the saints to ensure all will go well.

In addition to enjoying the New Year’s Eve merriment, thousands in the crowd are also at the beach to celebrate the Festa de Iemanjá.

Iemanjá is the Goddess of the Water / the Sea, the mother of all the gods in the Candomblé religion of Brazil. On this important night she is offered flowers, gifts and perfume which are placed into little boats and cast adrift into the sea, or simply tossed directly into the water.

Many, many people will walk to the water’s edge with flowers at midnight.

While Copacabana is packed with tourists and residents alike present to enjoy the huge fireworks display – so many others are quietly making their offerings to Iemanjá.

For the fireworks – check out this link for an amazing 360 degree look at the fireworks in 2007.

Christmas Eve among friends

It is my pleasure to recount a very nice Christmas eve with friends - actually, neighbors of Zozó and Tonico. Each year Zozó and Tonico (who have no traditional evening with children or extended family) join in the party of their friends across the street - Sra. Conceição and Sr. Sergio.

We were delighted to be among an extended family of about 20 - including two young boys - and another couple invited in for the night.

It was a very sweet evening. Two of the daughters present were English teachers, so I had lots of opportunities to connect.

As is the tradition, a huge buffet was set out to tempt everyone, but was not to be consumed until after midnight. Scrumptious ham, turkey, file mignon, multiple salads, and “stuffing” from the turkey that was farofa with mushrooms, onions, and who knows what – but super tasty!

Dessert included pudim de leite, pavê, rabanada, sweet bread and sorvete. (In English that means YUUUMMMM!!!)

At midnight (as is the tradition) we gathered in the living room to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We stood around the outside of the room while the young boys brought in a statue of the baby Jesus and placed it in a featured “manger” cradle.

One of the men/sons then sang “the First Noel” followed by a reading of scripture by his wife. Then the whole room sang the hymn.

Finally, the elder grandmother spoke her thanks/blessing, followed by her daughter (our host) and concluded by Senior Sergio appreciating all present and insisting on a positive 2009.

Very nice.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

Feliz Natal everyone. Thank you for all your love and support this past year. It has meant a lot to us as we have embarked on this new journey - with all its ups and downs.

Best wishes to you and yours for a terrific new year filled with good health and loving family and friends nearby.

Luiz and Jim

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luiz won't let me say what I really think

12/22/08 VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

This from a guy who's always in a dress and who's hat always matches his shoes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Christmastime at Flor de Luiz

Luiz has been lost in a flurry of red flowers, green leaves, gold balls and silver ribbon, among other things. It’s Christmastime at Flor de Luiz and his super cute creations are flying off the shelf.

Permanent botanicals (aka: fake flowers). People love his detailed creations: wreaths, arrangements, florals with a candle and large centerpieces. And Zozó knows how to price them to maximize the sale (thank the goddess, because Luiz’s humble heart practically gives them away.)

I just have a few pics since the really gorgeous ones barely stayed in the apartment for a day.

Luiz pumped them out and converted our dining room table into a holiday home decorating showcase. And Zozó did the rest, escorting all her boutique clients into the living room to tempt them into a purchase.

In a couple weeks Luiz had sold nearly twenty pieces.

Boas Festas!

Permanet Resident Visa - signed, sealed, delivered

OK – now it is totally official and final. My passport has been stamped with a PERMANENT RESIDENT visa and I have a Carteira de Trabalho from the Ministéro do Trabalho (a workbook from the Work Ministry.)

(Rainbow strip to cover my ID numbers)

Pop open some Champaign. Pretty good process overall. I got my papers and right to work in less than a year. We worked with a friend of a friend -- who just happens to be the president of the most experienced and well connected legal firm assisting foreigners with visas in Niterói. Her multimillion dollar company’s stock and trade are the many oil companies that work out of Rio and Niterói. Plus she gave us a 50% discount for being queer friends of her queer friend (at least some times being gay works to our advantage!)

I’ve posted before about the paperwork involved, but I want to describe here our final trip to the Federal Police (FP) office where everything had to come together to the satisfaction of the agent there who would then issue the visa.

A representative of the law office took my file and myself to the Federal Police office. After a not-so-long wait our number was called. We were at the FP office in Niterói, so the wait is typically less than at the similar office in Rio.

The agent was very sharp and super meticulous. He quickly assessed my paperwork and began pushing back against the application at every point there seemed to be a problem: The publication date of my approved process was well past the 90 days tourist visa expiration date. We pointed out that I had gotten a 90 day extension to the tourist visa. He located that stamp in my passport and then noted that even with the additional 90 days my timing was still off. We then noted that we had submitted my application PRIOR to the expiration of my visa extension, so any delays thereafter were a result of Brazilian processing, not my overstaying my visa.

He understood that was OK but needed proof of the date we filed. This was a problem. We should have brought proof – and it should have been in the computer. The screen in front of him had all my entry and exit info, but did not include the date my process was received and initiated.

So we got bounced from the window to go get proof of this information. He was not willing to take our word for it (naturally). So Jefferson, my lawyer’s representative, got on the phone and tracked down the needed information from the law office. We stepped back to the window, provided the information and he was then able to look it up via another route.

With all p’s and q’s in the right place the stamps started flying, papers got embossed, they took my fingerprints, I provided two more photos of myself, and with a smile the Federal Police agent congratulated me and handed over my documents. (ID card will be ready in 90 days or so.)

I called Luiz and said I thought we should go out for sushi to celebrate!

Now with visa in hand we went to the local Ministéro do Trabalho office to get a workbook - you cannot get a (legal) job without one. We sat in another line. It was pretty fast overall, but VERY typical old school bureaucracy. No computers, just two workers sitting behind a table taking people one at a time to issue workbooks.

When I was up the worker pulled out a blank form and blank book, hand wrote a couple pages of information, glued more of my pictures to both the form and the book, then ceremoniously smacked the completed book onto the tabletop. Done. And surprisingly – no fee.

Just in time too – I had quit my job the day before! More on that in another post.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Year end Candomble

While enjoying a walk along the beach we came upon this tribute to multiple gods and goddesses (more accurately: Orixás). I cannot explain the whole situation, but clearly the person or people who created this tribute/offering to Candomble principals took care to give their best to each Orixá they included.

Tributes like these will remain on the beach untouched. Others and families enjoying the sun will leave well enough alone.

This particular offering includes many Orixás. They really went for the whole enchilada.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jessye Norman sings Ave Maria

The divine Jessye Norman sings Ave Maria in Notre Dame cathedral. This song takes me to a sad place, but somehow lifts me up.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Niterói celebrates 435th anniversary

This post is a little late but I had to include it.

Niterói, with an approximate population of 500 thousand people and the city where Luiz and I live, just celebrated its 435th anniversary on November 22nd. Founded in 1573 Niterói was the capital of Rio de Janeiro state until 1975.

In the language of its founders - the Tupi Indians – Niterói means "hidden ground water." (Fun facts to know and tell.)

Most residents, when teased by cariocas (residents of Rio) that the “only” good thing about Niterói is its spectacular view of Rio de Janeiro, will blithely remind their tormentor that Niterói is ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index as the third best city in Brazil for quality of life – and first in Rio state.

We love it. And we especially love our neighborhood Icaraí. We are perfectly located for shopping, busses to anywhere, proximity to the beach and the aforementioned spectacular view, and it seems we are in a professional medical offices ghetto. Everything we need is within a few blocks of our apartment.

Niterói has ocean beaches, natural areas, historic sites, numerous museums (including the famous MAC – Museum of Contemporary Art), great boutique as well as mall shopping, lots of free concerts and other events, and an enthusiastic, if not always champion, School of Samba: Viradouro.

Works for us.