A day at the beach

With temperatures in Rio getting over 40°C (104°F) in recent days, I’ve been spending as much time as possible at the beach. As a kid, I always felt that empty beaches were good – the emptier the better! However, during my time in Rio my attitude has changed a bit. I do still enjoy a nice deserted beach (more on this soon), but when I’m in the centre of Rio, I actually enjoy being around lots of people at the beach.

I always take my camera to the beach because there is almost always something photo-worthy going on. It might be some kids kicking a ball around, a vendor selling something interesting or someone just plain showing off!

I know that some of you in the northern hemisphere are suffering from extreme weather of a different kind right now, so I hope you take the following as a reminder of the sun, rather than gloating! Here’s to warmer times…


Copacabana on a hot, sunny, Saturday afternoon. Don’t expect to have a lot of space to yourself!


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Photo Post: Beach Acrobatics!

Ah, Saturday was another nice relaxing day on Copacabana beach! If I have a few drinks on Friday night then I find that nothing clears away the heavy head like a nice swim in the sea followed by a relaxing snooze. But not everyone is so lazy at the beach!

Last weekend I was taking pictures of the sea-spray caught in the late-afternoon sun when a rather outgoing individual approached me and told me to follow him and bring my camera. Here’s what he did:


Raoni doing this party-piece!


Afterwards he told me his name was Raoni – apparently an indigenous name meaning Jaguar, made famous by Chief Raoni Metuktire, a campaigner for indigenous rights and protection of the Amazon.

The Raoni I met in Copacabana appeared to be a bit drunk in high spirits and told me enthusiastically that he had been to Ipswich (in the UK) as part of a Brazilian youth gymnastic team. I wasn’t sure whether to believe him at first, but then I thought “Who’d make up a story about Ipswich?” – surely it’s too obscure to be a lie!

Anyway, he was a funny guy and his leap made for a pretty cool photo!

Not my beach

At times I can be quite self-conscious about my Portuguese – I know I should just lighten up and get on with learning and improving, but if I’m not in a great mood then it’s very easy to notice all the mistakes and forget about all the things I’m getting right.

However, every so often I’m reminded that many of the people I meet day-to-day are also struggling away with their own language challenges. While I’m working on my Portuguese, many of them are working on their *English! At times this can lead to a language stand-off: “Let’s speak English shall we?” “Não! Vamos falar português!”

*I’m aware other languages exist and are learned by Brazilians, but English is the most common.

I find it rather comforting to be reminded that I’m not the only one with language issues. When we are lamenting our respective difficulties, one of the things that Brazilians often mention is the trouble they have with English words which are differentiated only by a long or short “e”. They will often tell me that they struggle with the difference between “beach” and “bitch”! The other example they mention is “sheet/shit”.

This then leads to drawn out demonstrations which involve me repeating “Sheeeeeeeeeet? Shit! Sheeeeeeeet? Shit! See? And now beeeeeeeeeeeeach? Bitch!”. Passing American tourists usually look at me like I’m crazy…


Ipanema Beach

Beeeeeeeeach! This is Ipanema at sunset, looking back towards Arpoador. The Arpoador rocky peninsula is a popular place to sit and watch the sunset.


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Buzios: good blood and tiny hearts

Those of you who stay in touch through the Eat Rio Facebook Page will know that the Eat Rio team (erm, that’s Mrs Eat Rio and me) went to Búzios over the weekend. Búzios is a popular beach town located on a peninsula around 100 miles (170km) northeast of Rio. Apparently Brigitte Bardot loved Búzios so much she stayed for months and is now immortalised by a statue that sits (rather provocatively) on a bench along one of the main streets.

I had heard plenty about Búzios since I came to Rio, but until this weekend I hadn’t visited. So when some workmates suggested a weekend trip I jumped at the chance. It’s really rather nice:

Praia de Geribá, Búzios

This is Praia de Geribá, just 2 blocks from where we were staying.


That’s a fine looking scene isn’t it? I can only imagine how this must make you feel if you’re currently suffering sub-zero temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere (heh heh!). However, you should know that we didn’t spend the whole weekend lazing on the beach…

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Arabs in Brazil

People from the Arab world (particularly Lebanon and Syria) started coming to Brazil back in the late 19th Century due to overpopulation and persecution from the Ottoman Turks. Today most Arab Brazilians are fully integrated into Brazilian society, no longer speaking Arabic and playing a part in all aspects of society, from business and politics to football and acting.

One of the most obvious influences they have had on Brazil has been through their food. Here in Rio there are some great Syrian and Lebanese restaurants dotted around the place, but beyond that, there are a couple of snacks that are found almost everywhere.


Back in the UK, I would see these on menus as ‘Kibbeh’, but here in Brazil they usually spell it ‘Kibe’ (I don’t think either spelling is really ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – just different ways of trying to spell out the original Arabic كبة). Regardless of how you spell it, these things are good! The outer shell is a mix of bulgur wheat and minced beef – inside is a spiced filling of minced beef, onions and pine nuts.

kibe kibbeh كبة

These little torpedo-shaped beauties are really good! In theory these should be made with lamb, but I think most places in Brazil use beef instead. Source

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Big trouble in Ipanema

People who’ve never been to Rio often have quite extreme notions of what life here must be like. Some assume it’s a never-ending beach holiday, others think we are constantly ducking bullets and running from armed thieves. The reality for most is more prosaic – bad traffic on the way to the office, work 10am-7pm, bad traffic on the way home. No beaches, no samba, no guns and no fatalities.

Of course that’s not to say that good and bad things don’t happen here. Yesterday on Ipanema beach something quite shocking occurred. As is often the case, there are various versions of exactly what happened, but it seems to go something like this: A large group of Guardas Municipais (Municipal Guards) moved onto the beach. Some reports say that they were there to remove a pitbull dog that had been brought onto the beach – other reports say that they were there to stop a group of kids playing Altinha (in England we call this keepy-uppy) which apparently is not permitted on the beach before 5pm.

briga entre banhistas e guardas municipais

Beach mayhem. source


Whatever the exact reason for their presence, the atmosphere quickly turned sour.

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Reasons to visit Bahia #1: The Beaches

Phew – I’m back from a lovely relaxing trip to Bahia and have finally found some time to catch up. What a nice time I had – Bahia has so many great things worth mentioning. How about I start off by showing you some of the beaches? Bahia is renowned for its long stretches of golden coastline and after 6 months working without a break, I was ready to spend some serious time relaxing and enjoying the simple pleasures of sun, sand and sea.

Since coming to Rio I have become accustomed to the crowded beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but in Bahia I reacquainted myself with the concept of the deserted beach:

Beaches of Bahia

Those 3 people in the distance were my travel-mates. This beach (Algodões on the Maraú Peninsula) was the best of the whole trip and we were pretty much the only people there.


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How to avoid looking like a gringo

The word gringo is an interesting one. It exists in both Spanish and Portuguese and generally means foreigner. In some places it refers specifically to someone from the US, but in Brazil it basically means any foreigner. That said, it isn’t an exact science – someone from say, Japan, for instance can be called a gringo (gringa for a female), but in general the term fits better for Europeans and North Americans.

The origins of the word are also open to some discussion. Several Brazilians have told me that the term evolved from the English expression Green Go (this being either a call for foreign armies, generally dressed in green, to leave the country, or an observation that when foreigners arrived in the Amazon, the green (trees and other valuables) was taken away.

The reality is far more likely to be that it came from the Spanish word for Greek, Griego – someone speaking a language that isn’t understood. As in “it’s all Greek to me”.


gringo shirt

It’s like you’re walking around with a sign that says gringo… Thanks to Fly Brother for the image!


But what is the real meaning behind this word? Should you be offended if someone calls you a gringo? Is it a sign of falta de respeito (lack of respect)?

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When it comes to learning languages, there are enough similarities between Spanish and Portuguese that I’m never really impressed when a native Spanish speaker tells me they speak Portuguese (or vice versa). My attitude tends to be “big deal – compared to English, they’re practically the same language anyway”. But when there are so many similarities, I do rather sympathise when a Portuguese word comes along that is just nothing like its Spanish counterpart.

Take this prickly customer:

I love pineapple! You know the French almost call this fruit bananas... (they say "Ananas").


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Friday Beach Quiz

I know what suckers you guys are for quizzes, puzzles and other chances to prove how clever you are (don’t even bother denying it). Well, it’s Friday, so I will indulge you. See if you can spot what the following three images have in common (there are many correct answers, but I can only accept the answer I have written down on my answer cards):

Ipanema last weekend...

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