Thursday, March 31, 2011

One person’s rain is another’s refreshment

Welcome to the land of rain. We live in a wet environment. People have lived here for hundreds of years. Rain is normal. Rain does not stop everyday life.

I remember a trip I made to French Guiana probably 20 years ago. My aspiring author roommate at the time was doing research for a romantic novel about two gay men from France who fell in love in Paris and then later found themselves, independently, in the prison colony of French Guiana. The book was supposed to have a happy ending. We spent three weeks in French Guiana doing “research.” (Those were the days.)

At any rate, it exposed us to French Guiana, where I first saw construction workers working through a downpour. Heck – if you stopped working every time it started to rain – shit would not get built.

Cayenne, French Guiana, was the first city where I noticed eroded ruts in the sidewalk made by the rain runoff from the roof above.

We get some rain down here in South America. Trust me.

And with all the “Global Weirding” going on – the downpours of late can be record-breaking.

But the fun part is that so many people in my neighborhood do not shy away from just a bit of rain. If it is only raining a little bit, not everyone opens an umbrella. Walking in the rain can be a nice, refreshing antidote to the heat. Clothing is thin, so it dries quickly – what’re a few rain drops on your shoulders? It feels great.

Give me a sprinkle during a hot afternoon. I’ll take it. Don’t fight it. Find the positive. Está bem fresqinho.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Luiz as tour guide in Rio

As you may know, Luiz is in a Tourism course sponsored by the state of Rio de Janeiro.

He’s so cute in his uniform shirt that gives him free bus passage and a basic lunch every day at the school. The class elected him the official representative to the highers-up and he has been providing assistance and scolding as needed to the fellow adult students in his class.

What’s been fun for us is the many freebees he gets from the Department of Tourism (maps, booklets, T-shirts, pens, note pads, tote bags…) and also the many invitations to art openings and other premiers co-sponsored by the Rio tourism office.

It’s nice to be “in the loop” for a change. Who doesn’t like some free champagne and chocolate once in a while? I don’t have the wardrobe to do this every night, but who’s looking at me anyway!?

Luiz is perfectly suited to be a tour guide. He loves to connect with others and he instantly puts them at ease. Now he is learning the details of the history and culture in our area so he can share that with others.

And I get to eat swanky hors d'œuvres and drink good wine while he schmoozes the crowd.

Cream that egg

I'll be back with a post soon. Times are busy. In the mean time... this is fun.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brazil top in recycling aluminum cans

It sounds like a good story, but wait…

We’ve all been there: you are enjoying a beer on the beach and a young boy or an elderly woman comes to your table and asks if they can have your empty beer can. Sometimes you are asked three times by three different people before you can even empty the can. Such is the trade in aluminum recycling.

At street fairs there are people dressed in rags crushing cans under their flip-flop-clad feet. It is impossible to walk the streets without seeing a person tipping open the trash containers strapped to light poles looking for discarded cans. People partying in the street don’t think twice about tossing their empty cans onto the ground because they are certain they will be picked up in only moments by a soggy poor soul dragging a large plastic bag filled with cans.

On one hand, being the country with the worldwide highest aluminum can recycling rate for the past nine years might be a good thing. But on the other it can be understood as a symptom of the intense poverty that affects so many families here.

In 2006, aluminum can recycling in the U.S. was only 52%. During the same year, it was 94.4% in Brazil. This comparison reports more than just an enthusiasm for recycling. Read more here.

Artistic diversion


ust when you think you’ve seen it all over here at Qualidade de Vida – the plain, the simple, the relaxed, the all wound up, the vacationing, the hard(ly) working – here’s an off-topic bit.
I spend a lot of time in front of my computer.  I download and watch television series, movies and documentaries. I never miss a Rachel Maddow broadcast. I listen to Dan Savage give piercing sex column advice via iTunes. I go TasteSpotting for new and inspiring recipes. And occasionally I stumble on a site that opens up a whole new area of interest I never knew I had.
This site: Daily Drop Cap is a really cool place to find artistic typefaces by loads of artists.  While the site is a project of designer Jessica Hische, she hosts guest artists as well.  Who knew typefaces could be so fun?!  And she encourages you to use her work on your blog.
Explore her Daily Drop Cap site as well as her personal site (with blog).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting to Know Brazil - A Reading Tour

Regina over at Deep Brazil (“Way Beyond Carnival”) offered me an opportunity to guest post about books I’ve read that have helped me understand Brazil, its history, its people, culture and politics.
It was fun to sum up my reading experiences.  In the process I discovered I can be a bit heavy in my choices of reading materials. LOL! I admit I read some of those books before my current fiction binge began.
One of the books: “Dance Lest We All Fall Down” was sent to me a couple months ago by Danielle, via Fiona (when she still lived in Brazil). Very nice.
Go take a look at the post – and be sure to add your suggestions for what people should read before they come for a visit or decide to take the big plunge.
If you see a title you like, check and see if it is available for lending at our Expat Lending Library online (come join us and share your English language books!), or you can click on the book cover image to buy a copy from
Happy reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why I blog

[Dove-tailing off of Rachel’s recent post.]
In the beginning I thought I would blog because it would save me from having to write 20 emails a week to my friends and family back in the States.  I could keep them informed without it being a big, laborious deal.
With a red face I am here to say that my friends and family did not care that much. I don’t get regular emails from folks “back home” who want to know how I am doing – it never happened. And when I sent them emails it was typically days or weeks before I heard back.  That’s just the fact of the matter.
Shame on me for thinking I would be a significant object of their attention – or a preoccupation, just because Luiz and I chose to leave town.  People’s lives are busy, things are complicated, they have a gazillion issues pressing to be priorities.  In general, we have not made the cut.
I don’t blame anyone.  We left them… How dare us to expect a primary place in their focus after we were gone? We had to grow up. We made our bed –and now we are sleeping in it. (Side note: I am SO GLAD we brought a quality mattress from the US!)
So why do I blog? I no longer do it for my family and friends. (Over the past three years I may have gotten one or two comments from family members.)
Blogging fills a social purpose. I have made online friends who also blog. Blogging gives me a chance to speak to the universe of potential readers in a way that may be helpful or amusing in some way. Blogging lets me think I have a voice in the world (no matter how miniscule). Blogging provides an English environment in which to spend time during an otherwise trying Portuguese-filled day. Blogging allows me to write – something I enjoy.
FaceBook has filled in for a lot of the daily chatter.  I connect with a lot of old friends there.  More so than via email.
But blogging has become a new adventure, a new platform, a fresh environment in which to make social connections.  This old dog has learned a new trick.
So far so good.  Thanks for being a part of this adventure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eggs cooked three ways

I recently had a friend over for lunch before she left for Ireland to be with her internet dream boy (fingers crossed for her).  Cooked eggs offered an inexpensive way to put on a spread without having to put out a lot of cash.  And it appealed to her Brazilian tastes.
The menu was a breakfast parfait, deviled eggs, and a tasty frittata.
I've posted the recipes and photos over on Danielle's Cooking in Brazil blog.
Check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Finding gainful employment in Brazil

This post is for the newbies.  Perhaps some of the regulars can add your comments, including tips and strategies. I am certainly no top authority on this, but I can lay some groundwork.  Other bloggers have covered this territory before me.
I get a lot of emails from people who have found my blog and are thinking of also moving to Brazil (to be with their partner, to escape from back home, to turn the page in their life, to learn Portuguese, whatever).  Their main question goes something like this: “I am a professional accountant (or physical trainer, or engineer, or project manager, or radio broadcaster, or…) and I’d like to know how easy it would be for me to find a good job in Brazil.
Sitting next to my keyboard is a long shiny needle I keep on hand to burst these bubbles when they come to my inbox.  Sorry. Unless I have missed something, finding good employment in Brazil is never “easy” and the notion of being a professional in a field in the US (or Canada, or Australia, etc.) is different than here, where the key is a specific university degree in a specific field (and usually that degree must be from a public university to boot).  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First things first.  You have to be legally able to work (via various visa routes) or your options shrink to casual labor, under the table consulting and of course: teaching English in one way or another. Job security, health benefits, paid time off, retirement income, career possibilities – these all come first in the form of a Carteira de Trabalho, a lovely bureaucratic relic of times gone by that records in one handy booklet information about all your jobs/employers/dates of employment/salary, etc.  This book is golden when it comes to earning a living wage with benefits (and generous unemployment compensation should you ever be let go by your employer).  No legal visa with working rights – no Carteira de Trabalho.
Some people don’t have to sweat this quite so much.  They have moved here because their partner has a position they obtained while still in their country of origin that pays nicely and may come with some pretty sweet benefits.  For them working is more about keeping busy and mindfully occupied. 
But if you just want to come and live here for a while – and work – be careful what you wish for.
Oh – and how is your Portuguese?

Another big factor in terms of getting a job in your field is where will you be living?  If you dive into a metropolis like São Paulo – you’ve got some options.  Brazilian companies may see your international experience and language skills as an asset and give you a chance.  Smaller cities and towns (which may be beautiful to live in) have no such incentive.
For many, a move to Brazil is NOT about kick-starting an exciting, new, lucrative career. Rather, it is about getting the heck OUT of the consumerist rat race than can be the hallmark of US American work careers and trying out an alternative approach to ones quality of life (Luiz and I resemble this remark.)  So living in the mega-city that is São Paulo (even with its wonderful cultural and culinary options) was not our first choice.  The smaller the city, the fewer your employment options.
Then there is the hurdle that is your résumé.  Employers expect to see included: your age, your gender, your marital status, your race (they will ask for a picture), do you have kids… all of which is illegal in the USA for reasons of employment discrimination.  If it is illegal here I have not seen too much compliance. Friends have commented again and again about age discrimination, marital status discrimination, being told that only candidates from public universities are considered (it’s a class thing) and the need to have a degree in exactly the field of the position you are applying for.
Take me, for example, I have a Masters in Clinical Psychology and twenty years of experience as a non-profit executive director.  I’ve managed medium large staffs and $15 million dollar budgets.  But my degree qualifies me to be a counselor, not a manager.  Unless I can get through the front door via a personal connection, my résumé does not suffice.
Again, maybe I have missed something.  I have not really beaten down the doors of businesses looking for a new career, but I have had dozens and dozens of conversations with others (Brazilians) who have.
Luiz came prepared to start his own floral design business. We hired a lawyer and a tax accountant to help with the paperwork.  It took about 6 months to get everything settled.  Back in San Francisco it took Luiz about 16 minutes to open a small business.  So keep your eyes wide open about entrepreneurial ambitions as well.  Brazilians are exceptionally clever and hardworking when it comes to building a business.  The competition is no cake walk.

And so I, like so many other expats, teach English and provide cross-cultural business consulting and written translation services.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s good work if you can find it.  I worked briefly in a couple language schools, but they are nearly all “puppy mills” that pay shit and offer no real, reasonable work days (but the benefits are nice, if they will sign your work book).  But I would hate to try and live on that salary.
Together Luiz and I have found a sweet spot in which we work as much as we want and enjoy our quieter quality of life.  At this point word of mouth referrals keep us both in enough clients to make it work. But we are over 50 and have a lifetime of savings and assets to keep the wolves at bay.  I’m glad we did not try this at 30.
Surely there are those who have found a path of less resistance than I have described here.  But as is so often repeated: “Brazil is not for beginners.” Think carefully (and save heftily) before you make the jump.  The rewards can be life changing and affirming.  They certainly have been for us.
Fellow expats – what did I get wrong? What did I forget? What would you add?  Let’s help out the newbies.

Monday, March 21, 2011

President Obama in Rio de Janeiro

In front of the Theatro Municipal

The television is all Obama all the time. And everyone is smiling.  Growing crisis and ill-fated war in Libya aside, this post is about the people’s reaction to President Obama’s visit to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.  The guy is a rock star.
The artist brought this as a gift to President Obama. The image shows Obama crying a tear of joy at the reality that a black man is president.
These guys in white worked up a song and dance routine to celebrate Barak Obama as an honorary Brazilian.
News reporters tripped over themselves to sing the praises of President Obama and they had no difficulty finding people on the street who were eager to express their excitement and pride in just being in the same city while the President and his family visited.
As a US American I consider myself pretty cynical and hardened against putting too much stock in a politician.  But when a black man can be president of the United States and he brings his family with two small girls to a poor community in Rio for a visit – Brazilians of African descent take note.  The pride, the excitement, the hope, the thrill of it all sent ripples of promise throughout the community.  It was very moving to watch.
Lots of security.
Luiz and I went to Cinelandia to watch President Obama’s speech from outside the recently restored (magnificently so) Theatro Municipal.  Much to our disappointment there were no jumbo-trons televising the speech to those of us standing in the square.  We did not even see his motorcade drop him off at the theater.  Oh well.  The crowd was fun and we, of course, spent the afternoon sitting  in an outdoor restaurant enjoying the warm sunshine and cold beer.  We watched the President’s speech on the televisions hung over the diners.
Watching the speach on the television.
"Obama generico" - an Obama look-a-like works the crowd.
It was a bit eerie to be on the streets of Rio with absolutely no traffic.  It was a ghost town.  We could even walk down the middle of the street. Very weird. And security forces were everywhere.

But the take away experience was one of pride. Brazilians were feeling proud and Luiz and I felt proud. It is amazing, the hope and promise President Obama inspires just by being who he is.

Making friends with the security guys.

Here is President Obama's speach in English.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Public / private healthcare observation

Today we went to a private hospital followed by a public health clinic.

Zozó wrecked up her big toe on her right foot two nights ago. She was returning from some travel and while dragging her heavy rolling suitcase up the stoop to her apartment, she yanked it over her foot and (since she always wears open-toe shoes) ripped open her toe (and nearly tore off her nail) – OUCH! But it was 2:00 in the morning, so she took one for the team, wrapped her foot and went to bed.

The next morning she called me to come help her clean and dress her wound. It was NASTY! I got her comfortable, and then I went to the pharmacy to get what I needed to attend to her toe and the pain it was giving her.

Then today we thought it best to take her to the ambulatory urgent care center at a nearby private hospital to make sure we were not in over our heads. I waited in the air conditioned waiting room and enjoyed a coffee from the machine in the corner while Luiz and his mother were seen within about 10 minutes. We did not have an appointment.

The doctor took off Zozó’s toenail, cleaned up the torn flesh and wrapped her up. But for some reason they referred us to a public health clinic for Zozó to get a tetanus shot. I have no idea why they did not just give her one there on site.

A quick bus ride later we were dropped off in front of the public clinic. The line in front of us had about 20 people in it. No air conditioning, in fact, the waiting area was outside with cement benches. No coffee machine (or drinking fountain for that matter).

Zozó never lets a line stop her from walking right up to the front to inquire about the best course of action. Being a senior female with a bandaged toe and a story long enough to stall the line for 20 minutes, they decided to escort her to the nurses giving shots (Hep B, rabies, flu shots, baby vaccinations, and tetanus). In spite of the line we were in and out in less than 15 minutes.

Work it girl!

There is definitely a gulf between the realities of private and public healthcare here in Brazil, but if you’ve got a no-nonsense 79 year old Brazileira (whose middle name is jeitinho) on your team, you can often bridge some of the gap.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Boys kissing - yes!

Ok, so I know I'm 50 years old, going on 51.  But I still get a thrill watching a popular TV show (even though it is on FOX) where two baby gays finally give in to it all and kiss.

Viva LGBT on TV!

(Sorry about the pop up chatter...)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making the perfect caipirinha

Somehow I have gone for three years without talking about my role as chief caipirinha maker in our group of friends.  Invariably, at every party, I wind up in the kitchen making caipirinhas.
My guess is that no one else wants to go through all the trouble of making the cocktails so they smile at the gringo, flatter me with praise about my being the best caipirinha maker, and then hand me a bag of ingredients and escort me to the kitchen.
As for me, in the beginning, since I had next to zero language abilities, it was more fun to make caipirinhas and receive praise in the form of smiles and raised glasses than it was to sit in a chair and watch the world go by.
So at this point I have made hundreds of these things and have, indeed, become a bit of an aficionado.
After screening about a dozen YouTube videos looking for a demonstration I could stand behind I found this one.  But – it still falls short.  I have a number of comments/corrections to add, but I liked the sound track.  Take a look, and then check out my critique below.

First, you probably noticed the lime ingredient is referred to as a lemon.  That’s because the common name of this fruit in Portuguese is “limão” and there really are no true yellow lemons here, except in the imported fruit section of better grocery stores (so there is little reference for Brazilians to make a distinction).  Actually, my fancy dictionary says that in Portuguese a lime is “lima” and a lemon is “limão” but everyone I’ve ever heard calls a lime a limão.  Luiz still gets these two fruits mixed up.  Anyway…
Next, that bottle of cachaça wrapped in that distinctive cane webbing is undoubtedly Ypióca brand.  Personally, I would not use it for caipirinhas, especially the dark variety.  I prefer the darker (aged in wood, thus the color) cachaças for sipping and use exclusively clear cachaças for caipirinhas. (Unless there is no choice…)
The video suggests that the darker cachaças are generally sweeter than the clear.  I’m not so sure about that.  They definitely are more flavorful, but not necessarily sweeter.  It is this flavor (however refined or not) that makes them ill-matched for a caipirinha.  Stick with the clear fire water stuff.
A plião is basically a muddler.  Be sure to keep your food and beverage muddlers separate.  You do not want to use your garlic crushing or spice grinding pestle to smash up sugar and limes for a cocktail.
As is done in the video, I like to cut the lime into pretty small pieces (don’t forget to give them a good washing before you use them), this makes for more surface area involved when you muddle, releasing more juice from the fruit and oil from the peel.  Some people prefer the aesthetic of larger wedges.
Sugar quantity is a personal taste thing.  I err on the less-sweet side.  If you want a sweet drink, make a kiwi or maracujá “caipifruta.”  In a caipirinha I think you should use enough sugar to balance out the bitter and tart flavors of the lime, but not try to go for a sweet drink.  The example in the video has too much sugar, IMHO, as evidenced by the layer of undissolved sugar mud at the bottom of the glass in his finished product.  When perfect flavor is not an issue, some folks prefer to use artificial sweetener to save on all the calories.
Like the video, I fill the glass with (filtered water) ice and top it off with the cachaça.  But unlike the video, I then plop it all into a cocktail shaker (or suitable substitute) and shake the heck out of it for a good long time.  This both gets it nicely chilled, as well as facilitates dissolving the sugar.  Then I pour it all back into the glass.
Again, use clear cachaça.  That nasty brownish cocktail at the end of the video turns me off.
One other thing: while most people turn their noses up at Cachaça 51 brand cachaça as being rot gut cheap stuff, I think it actually is perfect for a standard caipirinha.  But that’s just me.
Remember, don’t drink and drive.
To REALLY get an eye full of all things cachaça, take a look at the Cachaçagora blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pucker faces

My latest ‘torrent’ affair is with the TV series “Being Human,” the US version.  The lead vampire character is played by Sam Witwer.  He’s got this weird look about him that is so distracting.  Something cute, but something strange.  Like a sour puss cutie pea.
Then I placed it.  I think Witner and Renée Zellweger are of the same spawn.

[Talk about off topic…]

US American prudes screw it up for all of us, again

OK, so I know the movie trailers for the upcoming animated feature "Rio" have been posted and reposted all over the place, but I just read here that the Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha told a Rio de Janeiro newspaper recently the film’s animated beachscapes had to undergo at least one change for American consumption: bigger bikini bottoms.

Oh please. And I suppose he had to fight off adding Bibles to people's beach bags as well. US American culture police make me sick to my stomach.

Viva Brasil!

Embedding the YouTube file has been disabled.  You have to watch it on YouTube directly.  Here.

Said "Ameicanized" bikini bottom is at 1:47.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dona Irene shares her bread making method

If Dona Irene can maintain a daily routine that includes baking a few loaves of bread, we can give it a try once or twice.

Make yours with savory or sweet filling ingredients.

Thanks again to my friend Amanda and her mother Dona Irene for helping us see just how simple the process can be.

Gotta love sitio livin' in rural Brazil.

Bonding with the Brazilian Bureaucracy

Recently I waded a little further into the pool. I have officially submitted my signature into the public record. Now everyone can confirm it was really me who signed whatever document I signed.

We spent about an hour at the cartório (the notary’s office) down the street from us to register my signature. Upon entering we took a number. I was 862, they were serving 853. Not bad. There were lots of chairs and thankfully the television was off.

I’m getting close to some major elective surgery (more about that in a later post) and I needed to sign a release form. Not only sign the form, but have the cartório affix a stamp to the document assuring it was in fact my signature. So I had to go register with the cartório.

Once I got to the window the clerk took my Carteira de Trabalho (work book) for identification purposes and had me fill out a form and sign it twice. There was a meddling secretary who kept insisting I could not register with them because I was not born in Brazil. Luckily she was out ranked by the clerk (and both of their boss, who was consulted for clarification) and I was made a member of the club.

The clerk took a HUGE hard bound book from an enormous set of shelves storing scores of similar books (some appeared to be 75 years old) and had me print and sign my name in the next available space. Stamp. Stamp. R$18,00. Done.

Once again… I’m official.

Music for the soul

If you're not already following Meredith's blog I reccomend it.  She and her husband are moving to Brasilia.  They'll be here in July.

Her most recent post about music has some great clips.  I'm cross posting one here.  Beautiful!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carnaval weekend

Carnaval is one of those long weekends we spend a lot of time planning for.  We don’t go anywhere, just across the bay to Rio.  Luiz has a lifetime of experience working every last bit of excitement out of the event and he still insists on a full tilt weekend.

We’re not the twenty-something party guys we once were.  Actually, we’ve held our own into our fifty-something years, but it is worth noting that things have changed.  Now we take pain relief medication and sore muscle cream in our overnight bags.

Anyway – I thought rather than a trip tick log of our weekend I would share some thoughts and impressions we had along the way, in no particular order.
-          Old haunts like Elite (a gay club open only during Carnaval) hosting a 15 person band playing classic samba tunes can still draw an over-flowing crowd.  Might I add that the crowd has aged with the club – so we felt right at home.  Luiz danced nonstop until 4 in the morning.

-          Tip: best to buy your subway ticket WAY in advance.  The line during Carnaval can take 30 minutes! (Luiz gets a free pass, including me, due to his chronic health situation.)

-          Packing your own food and drink saves a bundle.  We entered the Sambadromo with two thermal bags filled with beer/ice along with a plastic bag with our sandwiches.  Carnaval night cost us only R$8 for ice.

-          The Rio Carnaval street party scene (blocos) seems to have exploded in recent years.  Everywhere we went in Rio – if there was a public square, there was a bloco.  Everywhere.

-          Angels do exist.  Rachel and Daniel generously offered us their apartment, while they were away, to crash between all-night marathons from Saturday through Wednesday.  Mil beijos!

-          Contrary to established lore, Banda de Ipanema is no longer a gay bloco. There was a time (for many, many years) when the gays and the meticulously adorned, larger than life drag performers would crowd the Banda de Ipanema bloco.  Trust me – those days are gone.

-          This year the city government of Rio rolled out a strategy to calm the frenzied street vendors selling beer and other beverages along every curb throughout Carnaval.  Vendors had to get a license or their goods would be confiscated. (The price was minimal.)  It worked!  Things were calmer, while there were still a gazillion vendors on the street.  The city also promoted a campaign to discourage peeing on the streets (UUUURRGGHHH!!!!). It included a hundred times more chemical porta-toilets.  This also seemed to have an impact.  This was definitely a case of Rio getting caught being good.  Hurray!

-          While I have long maintained that the best kept secret among travel agents around the world is that Carnaval in Rio happens during the rainy season (and it almost ALWAYS rains during Carnaval) this year we were fortunate to view Sunday’s Parade with only a tiny bit of rain.  Monday had a downpour during Grande Rio’s performance, but otherwise was dry.  It was an unusually dry year.

-          Our friends Lilian, Zanza, Paulo and Liani ran the marathon this year.  They paraded with the “Access” group, Cubango, on Saturday, sat with us in the stands all night on Sunday to watch half of the “Special” schools parade, then returned Monday night to parade with Beija Flor, stepping off at 5:00 a.m., for the second half of the Special groups.  Can you say exhausted!?

-          Time is turned topsy turvey during Carnaval.  Day becomes night and night becomes day.  Then it takes a few days to get back on your feet.
Any Carnaval experiences/thoughts you wish to share?

Back on line

Thanks to my brilliant computer booster friend (with a degree in computer engineering) my laptop was stripped down to the bone and then reconfigured with brighter and shinier guts.  All seems well, although she has warned me to move on buying a new computer.
But for now I will taunt the computer gods and move forward with what I have. (But I will begin my shopping.  Any tips on good brands and must have guts are welcome…  I am ignorant beyond how to type and check my email.
Over the past three years I have been frustrated by how browsers know that I am in Brazil so they are forever converting things to Portuguese.  I want my Google results in English, thank you very much.  And when I search YouTube I want English language results, not Brazilian/Portuguese.  But the computer has tried hundreds of time to be “helpful” and convert things on its own.
Not to mention that Windows really, really wants me to use Bing and not Google.  (You kids stop fighting. Don’t make me pull this car over.)
Now with my new Windows software – it’s all Portuguese, until I convert it myself.
Oh well Jim – you do live in Brazil after all.  Time to step up my language game.
Now it’s on to catch up with lost time on the blog…

Friday, March 4, 2011

My computer died - sigh

It was bound to happen.  I´ve been plunking away on a nearly six year old Dell laptop.  There have been warnings.  Now I am writing from an undisclosed location squeezed into a teeny tiny cubicle in a LAN house.

And, since this is Carnaval weekend, it may be a while before I can get my data recovered and set up a new system.

The good news is my reading time has expanded by a factor of 10.

See you soon (and in comments sections elswhere...)

Bom Carnaval.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bloggers make the world smaller

There are nearly 7 billion people on the planet.  According to Internet World Stats nearly 2 billion of them are using the internet (and probably by the time you read this it will be more than 2 billion).  I blog in English, that cuts the eye balls by quite a bit, except for those using translation software to reach out of their language comfort zone.

Then there is Rachel.  Her rants are heard around the world.  In fact, her rants have been followed by a particular female Spanish ex-pat living in the San Francisco Bay Area (my old stomping ground) for several months.  I recently got a fun email from this woman.

It seems this fine woman (whom I will keep anonymous) is married to a Brazilian and they are considering a move to Brazil – so she has begun to cruise the ex-pat blogging scene.

While following Rachel’s Rantings in Rio she has come to enjoy the comments sections and tells me she sometimes enjoys my comments there (as well as yours, Ray).  She followed me home and has since been reading posts here.

Anyway – small world – it turns out her brother-in-law is partnered with an old friend of Luiz and I.  We used to hang out in San Francisco back in the day, and of course still stay in touch.  In fact they are both here for Carnaval and we recently got a call from our friend to make arrangements to meet up.

It was only through a series of chance conversations and questions that this connection was made.

To quote the email I got from my new blogging relation: “Who is Kevin Bacon anyway?”

Very fun.  Thanks Rachel.  Thanks new “kissin’ cousin” twice removed.  Thanks internet.

[You may remember I was reunited, after 25 years, with my “Little Brother” via Facebook some time ago.  That story is here.]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making queijo minas from scratch

My search for liquid cheese coagulant (“coalho” in Portuguese and “rennet’ in English) continues.  I thought I found it at a local specialty delicatessen/bakery.  I asked about it and an employee told me to come back on Wednesday (presumably they were out and the supplier delivers on Wednesday) but when I returned everyone I spoke with insisted they never carry it.

So I keep looking.  If anyone has a lead, let me know.

In the mean time my friend Amanda went to visit her mother and father at their sitio in Barra Mansa in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro state.  Dona Irene has been making quiejo minas every day for most of her life.  She agreed to be videoed so we could see how it is done.

Special thanks to Amanda for creating the video – and especially to Dona Irene for sharing her method.

I’ve tasted this stuff and it is (wait for it…) fabulous!