Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Globeleza, an only-in-Brazil Carnaval phenom

Each year the television network Globo features a body-painted naked beauty in commercials running up to Carnaval. This 30 second spot runs at all hours of the morning, noon and night. Only-in-Brazil!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Favelas in Rio and some context

Favelas in our community and throughout Rio and indeed across Brazil pose a difficult challenge to government, which simplly does not know how to address this permanent underclass situation, or perhaps chooses not to address the problem/suffering/poverty.

Many so-called middle class Brazilians and the more affluent generally look down their noses at the residents of favelas and often characterize the communities as crime ridden and violent.

When I first proposed to my family here that I wanted to go to the Rocinha favela community to see how I might be able to bring my 30 years of nonprofit community service experience to bear, my MIL went through the roof. She was sure I would be shot dead upon entering the neighborhood. She was quite literally blinded by her preconceptions. I was not deterred.

Several years ago Luiz and I traveled to several Greek islands, where the neighborhoods' spacial layouts were remarkably simmilar to the cramped reality of Rio's favelas. But there the communities had been developed and supported and indeed turned into tourist meccas. Tomato - Tomäto.

Here is a good article, translated on the very fine blog Rio real that explores the cultural vibrancy in Rio's favela communities. Check it out. And bookmark Rio real for future reference. Thank you Julia Michaels for your dedicated work.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ticket for sale sale for canaval in Rio

OK - we have one ticket left for Carnaval. Monday, Sector three, R$250. It will be a great night -- and if you want to join our group ---cool. The price seems to be 1/3 the price of professional vedors.

Tell your friends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Man it's hot out there

We have five rooms in our apartment, plus the bathroom: the living room, the bedroom, the office, the kitchen and the utility room (laundry, etc.)

The unfortunate configuration is that our bedroom is in the front of the apartment, facing the street. So first, it is noisy. We hear the garbage guys coming through at 1:00 a.m. and we hear the water truck delivering water to the restaurant across the street at 7:00 a.m.

Also - importantly - the summer sun shines on the front of our apartment. That means the bricks, cement and marble heat up all day and keep our bedroom oven hot well into the early hours. But we have our fan.

What is remarkable is the significant difference in temperature during a hot day from room to room.

The bedroom is rough, the living room is nearly unbearable, even with the fan on full force. The kitchen is intollerable - and the utility room. Lucky for me, the office is the coolest place in the apartment and I have a ceiling fan.

When Luiz can no longer stand the heat of the living room - in front of the TV - he joins me in the office. The bedroom, while having the bed - good for naps - is just really hot. Even with the fan blasting.

Ultimately it is the bathroom, with the shower, that provides relief. But I must add that, as with most Brazilian residences, our water is sourced from a tank on the roof. So when it is a terribly hot day, the water in the tank gets heated up to a pretty hot temperature. So there is really no cold water. But the natural process of water coolingly evaporating from your skin saves the day.

I feel a little bit captive in my office on super hot days -- but then, we often take to the beach for relief. (Luiz recently took a nap on the kitchen tile floor to cool down.)

But I will take it over shoveling snow ANY DAY.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blocos during Carnaval

OMG - how could I have posted that last post without mentioning the BLOCOS that happen all over the city in the run-up and even after the big Carnaval parade in the Sambadromo!?

Street parties that celebrate the glee of Carnaval have been on the resurgence for many years. Partying in the streets is on the rise in Rio during Carnaval.

This list will blow you away regarding how many street parties there are. Caution: do not print it out. It is 66 pages long!

I have a lot of advice about which ones are cool or duds - but let me just say (as a gay man) that the Banda de Ipanema bloco has lost its luster. This used to be a famous gay bloco - but now it is way too straight and practically unrecognizable as a gay event. No offense to my straight companieros - but this is not a gay scene...

You have been warned.

Rio Carnaval - how to

There's nothing like Carnaval to get your juices flowing.

Just getting tickets is a feat in itself. Like a Lady GaGa concert, the tickets for the whole event sell out in minutes. We worked two phones on re-dial and were able to score 16 tickets. Yes!

But getting tickets is just the start of the adventure. Now you have to navigate Rio streets, parking, subway, walking - whatever. The streets near the Sambadromo are PACKED with vendors offering everyting from beer, to food, to Johnnie Walker shots, to hot dogs, to ice.

If you go to Carnaval in the Sambadromo (and you are not in a luxury box) then come prepared. Bring your food and drink. You will be there for at least 8 hours.

The Sambadromo is clean and safe - so there is no inconvenience or danger involved. But the food for sale inside the stadium is "Bob's" - which is a lousy McDonald's knock off. And it is always cold. Vendors walk around selling drinks (ice tea, soda, beer) but the drinks are usually warm. Urgh!

The best approach is to be self-sufficient. Bring your sandwiches, birng your drinks, bring LOTS of ice. Oh - and bring a rain coat. It always rains...

It is general seating, so you have to arrive early and stake out your territory. Hold firm!

We love it. Our group is usually about 12 people. What a party!

This year we have a few extra tickets. Let me know if you want any.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ode to the ceiling fan

We don't use air conditioning, even though our reality is 90 degree heat during the day and 80 degree heat during the night. Simple ceiling fans keep us cooled enough to go on.

Granted, the fans are on nearly 24 hours a day. But the cost difference, and the ambient temperature more natural, we prefer the fans. We have a ceiling fan in the living room, the bedroom and the office. Only the kitchen does not have a fan. Although I will bring in a stand alone occilating fan on the worst of days when I have to cook.

In the early days I never understood why my in-laws would not turn on the overhead fan when the temperature was so punishing. They were 70 years used to this reality. I was new to the heat and 70 pounds overweight -- so it was nearly unbearable to me.

Now I live in the land of ceiling fans (and am quite thinner). A little breeze and a lot of heat -- it all works out.

Nights are spent under the fan (which we have set to vent UP rather than blow down) is perfect for a good night's sleep. Although I change the sheets frequently b/c of the sweat.

Moving air. Simple moving air. That seems to get us there. We are not living in a climate controlled environment. All is well. Life is good. (And it is HOT!)

Thank you ceiling fans!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breast implants and public policy

Note I refrained from posting some of the outrageous images that come up when you Google breast implants.
I simply adore the social conscience exhibited by the Brazilian government. OK, so they are not perfect, but some decisions are so right-on.

In this case, silicone breast implants by a now-defunct French company have been seen to be crappy - specifically, they burst. Ouch. Danger.

So the government has ordered insurance companies and the public health system to cover the cost of replacements.

NEVER in the USA.

A bit more here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Call me sour grapes

OK - so it has no relation to the post -- but are they not the cutest things you have ever seen!!?

I love luxury as much as the next guy (OK, maybe less...). But how much austentatiousness do you need to feel comfortable? The gap between the rich and the poor in Brazil is alarming.

I'm sticking with us regular folks.

To make my point - check this out. Who affords THAT house!? Follow the link.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rio Carnaval tickets for sale - they sold out in 11 minutes

Luiz and I had our game plan. We had our phones pre-programmed for direct redial for the sector we were trying to get tickets for. All of our friends were coordinating when and where we would view Carnaval this year.

All work stopped at businesses at 9:00 while employees dialed the numbers for Carnaval tickets, hoping to hit the lottery.

We were a part of the frenzy. We worked two phones. As usual, I came up empty... But my super lucky husband hit it rich twice! So we will have a free Carnaval this year - and will sell the rest of the tickets to cover our costs and pad our pockets.

Let me know if you need a ticket.

So-called Favela Tour in Rocinha with friends

I know this image has been used on other blog posts - but it is just too cool not to use again!

I try not to miss an opportunity to crow about my friend Zezinho. He's a terrific, enthusiastic, heartfelt champion for his favela community, Rocinha. He is a proud guide, taking foreigners on walks through his neighborhood, showing the normalness and beauty of his community.

We, just yesterday, went for a good long walk through the community. Zezinho is determined to give good stats and hard evidence of the hard-working and hopeful nature of community residents. He presents a view of favela communities so contrary to the stereotypes.

My favorite part of the day (aside from visiting Zezinho's apartment) was lunch at a fantastic comida por kilo restaurant. They had great salmon steaks. OK, there were spots with amazing views... but give me a good lunch (on the cheap) any day.

For a culturally appropriate and non-exploitative visit to a favela community -- contact Zezinho. Go here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Octopus for dinner

Octopus - makaing it happen

My memories of octopus are of rubbery sea food that made me very frustrated on the sea shore. Chew and chew and chew.

But I have changed my mind. I'm a new believer. When cooked right, octopus is tender and fabulous.

I had Luiz buy me an octopus (way too small) and I experimented, to good result.

Then I bought three good sized octupi and made a wonderful Italian feast!

Tomato sauce and pasta - with octopus - what could go wrong?

It was terrific! Yum, yum, yum.

Sign me up for octopus any day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Great news regarding Luiz's cancer situation

Luiz has been living with Chronic Lymphcytic Leukemia for a little more than four years. The good great news is that his condition has progressed in a nearly statistically insignificant amount since his diagnosis. (Although that is not to say the stress and anxiety has not been significant.)

The really good news is that medical technology/research in this area has been evolving by leaps and bounds. We are thrilled.

Check out this informative and hopeful interview with a physician in the field.