Monthly Archive: November 2011

Nov 30

"To live in Brazil is shit…

…but it’s great.”

Who said that? None other than Antônio Carlos Jobim, also known as Tom Jobim, the godfather of bossa nova, composer of The Girl from Ipanema and one of the great Brazilians of the 20th Century. The full quote is:

“To live in other countries is great, but it’s shit. To live in Brazil is shit but it’s great.”

Tom Jobim – legend.

Nov 29

Are you happy with your country?

Last week I saw this article on the Guardian website – for those of you who don’t do links, the title is Want to be happy? Don’t live in the UK. It goes on to list various statistics which demonstrate that people in the UK and Ireland pay more tax, enjoy fewer holidays, shorter life expectancy and fewer hours sunshine than France, Spain and various other countries in Europe. 


The title of the article made me smirk and feel a little smug (I certainly see more sunshine and enjoy more holidays than I did in London), but as a couple of friends pointed out, the UK is a great place to live! Amongst other things, we (or should I say they?) have a free health service for all, great education, low crime rates, low poverty and politicians who are publicly accountable. And yet people in the UK have been subjected to a steady stream of doom and gloom for years:

Broken Britain – this imagery and tone seems to come up again and again in the British press. Of course you need to acknowledge a problem before can solve it, but are the people who continually push this message doing it for political gain and/or to sell newspapers?

 

This contrasts starkly with Brazil, recently dubbed the ‘Country of Optimism’.


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Nov 28

The Metro Barata Rush

The Rio metro

 

Today will be the last in a trio of posts about public transport in Rio. In the Beginner’s guide to taking the Rio Metro, I mentioned that there can be a bit of a scramble to get a seat during rush-hour – the Barata Rush. Well today I thought I’d show you the footage as it makes me chuckle.

 

Kind of sweet at the end – the couple who missed out have a little hug to console each other.

 

“Barata” means cockroach in Portuguese, but I’m not calling these people cockroaches! The first time I saw this, I heard a couple of guys laughing at the way that people ran into the empty carriage to get a seat. One said “They move like cockroaches in the kitchen when you turn on the light”. Kind of stuck in my head. If anything, as a bus user, I see myself as one rung down on the public transport ladder…

The only time and place I’ve ever see this is at Botafogo during rush hour – that’s because it’s the beginning of one of the metro lines, so the train is empty and many of the people are at the beginning of a long journey. Therefore the difference between getting that seat or not is whether you stand or sit for an hour.
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Nov 27

Look what just rolled into Rio

One of my first ever posts was related to the buses of Rio. Back then I used to churn out a post a week and each one was a lot longer than the ones I write now. That particular post contains illustrated advice on how to hail a bus, an assortment of anecdotes and even a film recommendation (you lucky people!). 

 

Taken from one of my first ever posts, this illustration (done by my own fair hand) demonstrates how to catch that tricky bus in the outside lane…


Little did I know it at the time, but I would go on to become something of a bus nerd. I guess it is the same everywhere, when you use a transport system every day then you take an interest (I remember having in-depth discussions back in London over what was the best underground route for getting from Baker St to South Kensington during rush hour).


So I admit it, I’m kind of into the buses here in Rio. And something cool is roving the streets right now. Something hi-tech, something luxurious, something (dare I say it?) space-age in appearance.

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Nov 26

How to use the Rio Metro (Beginners Guide)

A few weeks ago my wife and I were accosted as we entered our local metro station in Glória. But before you start thinking this is going to be another tale of Rio’s notorious violence, I should make it clear that the only law enforcement team we needed were the Manners Police


A middle aged South African guy came up to us and frantically shouted “Finally! Someone who speaks English”. He went on to demand that we tell him how to get to Ipanema, going on to mention that he and his wife (who had wordlessly appeared at his side) were completely lost and no one could explain anything to him. We were happy to help, but were both quite taken aback by his slightly rude, aggressive stance through all this. Like what had taken us so long to get there to help him?

Metro Rio – nothing here to be scared of (but don’t expect the staff to speak English).

Not that I particularly want to help him again, but I thought it might be nice to put together some simple guidelines for someone coming to Rio who wanted to save some cash on taxis. 

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Nov 25

10 things you mustn’t do at the kilo

Last week I told you a little about the tactics I employ at the kilo restaurant near my workIt’s hardly rocket science, but there are a few things that you should bear in mind when you visit the kilo. 


My top tip is not to lose your ticket. Without the ticket you have no way of proving how much (or more to the point, how little) you ate. Therefore you will have to pay the massive default price, set deliberately high in order to eliminate the incentive to ‘accidentally’ lose your ticket after a big meal. 


Here are ten more tips/rules/guidelines on how to behave at the kilo restaurant (stolen adapted from a recent article in IG): 

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1. This ain’t finger-food
Don’t go snacking on food before you’ve paid for it. 

Oh no she didn’t! Uh-huh, eating food you haven’t paid for is a no-no. Image: http://www.ig.com.br/



2. Keep your hair on
Try not to drop hairs in the food (did this one need saying?)

3. No tortoises in the kilo
These places get very busy at lunch. It is very annoying when someone in front is dithering and taking ages to make their mind up. Get in, get your food, get out of the way. The article suggests a tactic I often employ: do a little reconnaissance run by the food first so you know what you want. 


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Nov 24

The Best in the World?

I love cheese. Seriously, I’m a big fan, it’s one of the main reasons I don’t have one of those svelt, uber-bodies that you see on television (one of the reasons – there are others, like weaknesses for butter, paté, wine, beer and aversion to exercise). But anyway, please know that I love cheese. And I miss cheese from England – real Cheddar, Stilton, Blue Wensleydale, Stinking Bishop… drool. 

 

Stinking Bishop – not a classic name, but a seriously good cheese.

 

 

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Nov 23

The Herbs are Smoking!

The best way to describe recent weather in Rio would be ‘changeable’. Yesterday was blisteringly hot, then last night there was a torrential downpour (just after got home – yes!). This morning I woke to a rather tedious drizzle which reminded me of England. 


A day or two of rain doesn’t really bother me (well, unless those two days are Saturday and Sunday!) – I actually rather like a bit of mixed weather. And it seems that I’m not the only one!

 

This Basil ain’t Fawlty! In fact it is getting a little bit too successful.

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Nov 22

The foods you have to try in Rio.

If someone asked me what I thought were the essential foods to try when coming to Rio, I would probably bore them to death with my list of personal favourites. Of course it’s a subjective, erm, subject. I know some of my favourite Brazilian dishes won’t be to everyone’s tastes. A good example would be Tacacá. I don’t think anyone would argue against it being delicious, but the mucus-like goma de mandioca will seriously challenge some people’s appetite. 

Remember this piece of awesomeness from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Well Tacacá is nothing like this. But at the bottom of the bowl you will find a substance may cause you to reminisce about the last time you had a cold…





But although the exotic dishes are pretty cool (well, I think so anyway), they aren’t the ones I’d describe as essential. The foods you have to try aren’t particularly fancy, but they are a part of everyday life and if I were a visitor, these are exactly the things that I would want to taste first. I’ve covered a few of them already: Pão de queijo, farofa, coxinha, pastel


Today I thought I’d tell you about one more.



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Nov 21

Street Runes from São Paulo

About a year ago I spent about a week in São Paulo. I didn’t have much money (and São Paulo is expensive!) so I spent quite a lot of time wandering around and getting a feel for the city. Before going I had read this article on the BBC website, which tells of some of the strong culture of creativity in Brazil’s largest city. 


I was particularly intrigued by mention of Beco do Batman (Batman’s alley), a 100m stretch of alleyway, covered in all kinds of awesome looking street art. Somewhat typically of me, I never got round to going to this place (I’m saving it for my next visit), but while strolling around the streets I did see loads of amazing street art. 


But as well as loads of nice images, I noticed a lot of strange rune-like symbols all over the place.

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