Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Back from a long break!

First and foremost I would like to apologize and thank my readers for continuing to read and check our blog for updates.
The long break was necessary, we endured a personal life changing event, along with a harder than ever tough transition period back to Brazil, not entirely in Brazil yet, but working on it.
So, my dear mother, who I loved more than life itself passed away after a long and hard battle with a rare lung disease acquired from poisonous black mold (don't take mold for granted, it's a deadly force that medicine still knows little about!).
My mother suffered so much that at the end, believe it or not, I was shamefully relieved that she finally had a break, and could rest, and still feel bad about that weird relief, I wanted nothing more than to spend long happy years with my mother now that she finally accepted and respected the fact that I was born gay and this is not a "phase".
She spent 45 days in intensive care, doctors telling us each and every day that day was the unimaginable roller coaster of emotions!  I had left Gilson alone at our house in the Boston area and stayed in São Paulo with my family.
See, this event hit Gil and I particularly hard, because back in 1998, when we left our happy Brazilian life, friends and family and embarked on this self imposed exile in the US, we did it for peace of mind, if you read our first posts, you will understand the whole family drama, my mother gave us a real hard time in the beginning. She was raised in a boarding Catholic School, and had a real hard time accepting the fact that her oldest son was gay.
Long story short, we finally made peace after so many years of pain and bitterness, and destiny had this sour surprise for us, finally, now that my mother was ok with who I am (the way I was born), and we were ready and looking for jobs getting ready to return home, no more reason to continue in our long time self imposed exile, she passes away.
Honestly, I am still trying to figure out/digest this one, if there is/ was something to be digested. I am trying to understand if there is a life lesson to be leaned here, if any.
This past weekend was really, really cool/relaxing/awesome, I spent with people that I knew very little but I already felt in love with just like if they were my life long friends from the days of high school.
We had a wonderful time in the beautiful mountains of Rio de Janeiro, great cool weather, we talked in front of the fireplace with good wines, yes, plural, great cheeses, an awesome Raclete maker, and great company into the wee hours of the night/morning.
Petropolis is up in the mountains region of Rio de Janeiro, a must visit if you are in Brazil and can go, only a short 40 minutes beautiful drive from the "cidade Maravilhosa", a visit to the Imperial Museum is going to be the highlight of your visit to Petropolis, I highly recommend.
One of the awesome visitors to this great weekend was our blog's God mother, Rachel, from Rachel's Rantings in Rio blog, we were guests of our also great and dear friend Mrs. Born Again Brazilian, Rachel basically kicked my behind, told me to snap out of it and get back to blogging, eh eh eh, I love her, and here I am, back in contact with you, our loyal readers that have followed our life dramas and funny moments of our split life between Brazil and New England from the beginning.
I am really looking forward to meeting flaky awesome friend/fellow blogger Alex from Bossa Breezes in Rio tomorrow, if he doesn't flake on us, yet again, he is swearing this time "e pra valer" and he will show up, possibly and hopefully Tom, from Eat Rio blog if he is around and available and Jim from "Qualidade de Vida", if we are able to get hold of him in time to make it work.
First blog post written from my best gadget friend, the iPad, I have to say, it as somewhat smooth, and it got easier by the end of the post.

Abraco a todos

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Brazil cracks down on sweat shops!

Sweat shop in Sao Paulo- NO MORE!!
The governor of Sao Paulo just approved a new law this week that will make it impossible for companies who condone in any way, slave-like labor anywhere in the state.
States cannot create it's own labor laws in Brazil, so the creative "Jeitinho Brasileiro" here was pass a law that will cancel the registration with the state ICMS system, which will block said companies from issuing invoices and making their operation impossible.
This piece of news comes as a huge relief to me, thinking of all the abusive, greedy business people that take advantage of poor immigrants who come to Brazil dreaming of a better future for themselves and their children.
The irony here, is that the staggering majority of the abusive sweat shop owners are immigrants themselves, mostly from Korea and a few middle easterners as well, and the immigrants they lock up in their sweat shops are usually from Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay.

Read more here...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Santa Maria Tragedy

Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

To say that we are both devastated with the awful news from Rio Grande do Sul is the understatement of a lifetime, we are sadden beyond words.
I have been watching the Santa Maria tragedy on the news, reading it on newspapers, magazines, blogs, you name it, it's everywhere. And it has affected people worldwide, from Mexico, to the UK and the United States to Thailand and New Zealand. Nightclubs are being inspected, some shut down, and fire safety rules and regulations are being reviewed and upgraded.
Not to mention Brazil, 2 nightclubs were closed at the infamous Rua Augusta on the night following the fire, 10 nightclubs were shut down in Manaus, 9 Municipal Theaters closed in Rio de Janeiro, only 1 passed the city fire inspections this week.
A much stricter set of laws stalled in the Brazilian Congress since 2007, are now being pushed forward for an immediate vote.
Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, met with majors of the largest Brazilian cities this week and pressured for tougher enforcement of fire safety laws, the laws are actually good, but enforcement is crucial.
I am honestly tired of hearing Brazilians and foreigners alike blinded by dramatized and overblown claims of corruption in Brazil for every and any problem that arises in front of them, yes, corruption exists, yes, it is bad, very bad, but it is just not to blame for every single thing that goes wrong with this country.
I have read some claims that most businesses in Brazil operate without licenses and these claims are just not a fact, not by a long shot.
There are the few, rogue exceptions for sure, two night Clubs were closed in Sao Paulo, that is not the rule, and very much an exception.
Brazilian businesses in general do follow the rules, principally in Sao Paulo and other Southern states, the staggering majority of them have operating licenses (called Alvara in Portuguese), are safe, and corruption is not as generalized or prevalent as perceived by some foreigners and yelled out by some Brazilians.
Keep in mind, many Brazilians are prone to exaggerated drama and have a tendency to multiply negative aspects of Brazil by 10 fold, trust me, I am not one of them.

Gross Negligence, poor judgment, a sad chain of events

- The Santa Maria Night Club, had until recently 2 exits, when it was last inspected by the Fire Department, in 2012.
- They also had no "flammable acoustic" insulation, the toxic foam was installed as recent as the end of 2012, because of neighbors complains of noise.
- Two fire extinguishers near the stage had their dates falsified by a rogue employee, who pocked the refill money, and lied to the owners about it.
- Band members used a cheap 1 Real version of the outdoor pyrotechnics opposed to the more expensive 35 Reais safe for indoors type.
- The recent renovation also created a maze of corridors, right next to the main exit, leading to restrooms without windows.
- Crowd containment bars were recently installed right in front of the main entrance/exit on the sidewalk, creating an extra barrier for an emergency evacuation of a large crowd of people.
- A line of Taxi Cabs were parked right in front of the Night Club at the time of the fire, forming another barrier wall that slowed down the crowd even more as they desperately tried to exit the flaming building. (Due to the recent Brazilian ZERO tolerance for drinking and driving, most people nowadays will get a ride to a night club and ride a taxi on the way back home).

What a night club in Brazil must look like to pass fire safety inspections according to current laws!


As you can see, there was an unfortunate series of disgraceful poor judgment decisions and events that had little or nothing to do with corruption of city officials and more to do with negligence on the part of the owners, night club workers, band members, and yes, a slow and inefficient inspection conducted or not yet conducted since last August by the city of Santa Maria's fire department.
My point here is not to discussion the existence or prevalence or corruption in Brazil, my point is to not be blinded by dramatic claims that Brazil is corruption ridden and there is nothing anyone will ever be able to do about it, that is not true, and we can and must do a lot to change it constantly, the first step is to dramatized and exaggerate and second, never, ever give up, hope and change is not just a popular sounding campaign slogan, but has to be a way of life, it most certainly is for me.
I have not seen or read any real connection between any act of corruption and the Santa Maria fire yet, that could very well change in the future, but as we stand, a lethal combination of gross negligence, poor judgment and bad timing cost the lives of 236 victims, but make no mistake about it, Brazil is learning from this tragedy and fire safety will be greatly improved in that country in the years to come.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Proud to be Brazilian

Yes, I know, at times, we can have a lot going against us, hey, who doesn't! But, in the end, we always manage to pull through, one way of another, we make it work.
This makes me think about the "Jeitinho Brasileiro", (which in my opinion is not a way to go around the rules or law but rather a creative way to solve challenges), so here we go, to all the naysayers, it looks like the preparations for the Soccer World Cup are turning out just fine, ports, subways, new bus corridors and train systems, 30 Airports being expanded and remodeled, widening of highways and bridges, and 12 new soccer stadiums are being completed as promised, maybe it won't be air tight perfect, but Brazil will definitely be ready to host the World Cup in 2014.
I just spoke with a personal friend from childhood who is one of the lead engineers on the reconstruction of the Maracana Stadium in Rio, he is actually not even from Rio originally, he was brought in from Belo Horizonte, apparently all the other civil engineers in Rio were busy in other projects, he is happy and making a lot of money, plus he loves Rio.
He also told me the Maracana project is moving ahead full force and they will be done on time, and most likely will even finish ahead of schedule, he really likes the way things are progressing.
My friend pointed me towards this video and I thought it is really cool and it showed me a side of Brazil I didn't know, a lot of progress, a lot of work, hope you enjoy it.
I have to say this video made me even more proud to be Brazilian!!!
What a beautiful country!!! (Can't wait to get back!!)   ;)
Brazilians are working hard and I am confident the country will be able to show the world a great World Cup!!!

Abracos a todos



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brazilian Automotive History

The Brazilian Automotive history started in the early years of the 1900's, however, most cars were assembled in Sao Paulo and Rio with imported parts, Ford was one of the first car factories in Brazil in the beginning of the 20th century, mostly with imported parts.
Until the 1940's when the first 100% National Parts Car Factories popped up around Brazil.
One in Rio de Janeiro, the Fabrica Nacional de Motores, a subsidiary of the Italian Alfa-Romeo, and then Wyllis Overland (Jeep) and Mercedes-Benz, both in my hometown of Sao Bernardo do Campo, right on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
It amazed to learn on the versatility of the JEEP, it was used for everything, I love their SUV of the day, they were used for all sorts of Agricultural applications, Ambulance, Police, you name it.
The video is only about 10 minutes long, and it's narrated by a Brazilian who speaks English very well, however, you can tell his Brazilian accent.
The Jeep had a fundamental part in the vast interiors or Brazil, it was a versatile 4 Wheel Drive, with 100% Brazilian made and very affordable parts and also of easy maintenance.
The Brazilian automotive industry today has come a long way, cars made in Brazil have, by law, to have 70% of parts MADE IN BRAZIL, or they have to pay imported car tax, and the government is looking to raising that limit to 90% in the next few years.
Brazil today already has the largest number of car factories anywhere in the world. Ford has it's largest and most modern car factory in the world at the state of Bahia, with it's own harbor and has a great capacity to produce and ship cars all over the world, economically and efficiently.
It is also very profitable to produce cars in Brazil, the highest profit margins of any country, a paradise for business people, not so fun for the consumer, who ends up paying a ridiculous price for small (crappy if you ask me) cars. Taxes are also a good portion of the high price of cars in Brazil, but the manufactures profit margin is also abusive.
There are pressures from the people to adequate the car prices to a more realistic level.
I personally think it will take a few years for the industry to actually lower their prices in Brazil, if they do it at all. Let's hope for the best
Meanwhile, enjoy this short movie in English and learn a little bit more about Brazil.

PS: There is also Video's number 1 and 2 on the Brazilian Automotive History, but they are both in Portuguese, hence my choice the number 3 video of this series (#3 is in English).



Friday, January 18, 2013

Weather in Brazil

Ok, so it's sunny in Rhode Island again, after a couple days of snow and snowed in, we are cheerful and happy and decided to share with you a joke about cold weather in Brazil and how Brazilians from each state react to it.
In case you are not 100% on your Portuguese yet, ( Alex not you, you are a Portuguese speaking hipster, creating new words in Portuguese and luring innocent Brazilian mulatas into marriage to get your Brazilian Green Card)  the states made fun of in the video are Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul.
The humorist describes how people from each of these states react to a certain weather forecast and temperature. It's not accurate, and it was created to make you laugh.
I almost had a small aneurysm from laughing so hard.
Hope you enjoy it!!  :)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anthony Bourdain-Layover-Sao Paulo

I really loved this show! REALLY!! :D
First and foremost, the great MERCADO MUNICIPAL where dear friend "Born Again Brazilian" and I had the classic Paulistano Mortadela Sandwich on my last trip to the city, I will tell you more about that later.
Now, if you want/need a crash course on Sao Paulo, this is the best 47 minutes you will spend learning about the city.
Gil and I have been watching the entire "Layover" series and this is our absolute favorite, hands down.
A few things to note from the video, they confirm what I have been telling you fine folks for a while, PIZZA is for DINNER only, PERIOD!!!!!! Remember our "Word's Best Pizza" post? :)
I love UNIQUE Hotel and stayed there a couple of years ago and highly recommend it. If you don't want to spend R$1800,00 per night, at least go there for a drink or dinner and make sure to ask for CHURROS com DOCE DE LEITE, the best I have ever tried. They bring you a tray with baby churros and a little pot with delicious doce de leite do dip in, you will have a great Sao Paulo experience.
Mocoto Restaurant at Vila Medeiros sounds awesome, my mouth was watering the entire time Anthony Bordain was eating there, I have never tried "Northeastern" Brazilian food, but it sounds like a great opportunity to try and learn more about it, after all, so many Northern Brazilians have migrated to Sao Paulo since the 1970's, they are a part of the city now and it looks like they are in for good.
Sao Paulo was formed mostly by ITALIANS, JAPANESE, PORTUGUESE and GERMANS, but saw immigrants from all sorts of countries such as Spain, Lithuania, Greece, Ukraine, Austria, Danish, England, Russia, Poland, you name it.
Sao Paulo had more immigrants speaking several different European languages in the beginning of the last century than Portuguese, yeah, Portuguese speakers were a minority in the 1920's, we truly are a city of immigrants.
Ok, I will say no more, the show is really informative, a great summary of Sao Paulo.