Australia Day – Brazilian Style!

29 January, 2008

So Saturday was our first Australia day in Brazil. Having been in London for the last six Aussie Days we are used to a pretty simple formula of the following ingredients:

  • a rainy day (always),
  • gathering in a herd of 100-1000 Australians (and hangers on),
  • heading to a local pub with an Australia Day Party on,
  • drinking loads of beer (anything but fosters),
  • spending the day debating important Australian cultural issues such as the relative merits of Triple J Hottest 100 Volume 3 versus Volume 4, Neighbours versus Home and Away and how much longer it may be until John Howard is swept from power in a surge of anti crusty-old-man sentiment…..

Well at least one of things is no longer an issue!

So we were invited to an Australia Day party by our resident Aussie expats Zoe and Ruth – Zoe is an ex Aiesec QLDer and lives in Sao Paulo working for one of the large banks and Ruth is here to organise the Aiesec International Congress which is on in SP in August. So we knew we were in for a good partying afternoon.

The party was held in a nice park near the centre of town and there were about 30 attendees – 3 of which were even Australian! Luckily the Brazilians like a good party – or were aparently tempted along with the promise of free Tim Tams.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

The Australia Day Gang

A veritable feast of indigenous Australian foods were available for the locals to try including, Tim Tams, vegemite and Jatz crackers, freddo frogs, sarsaparilla cordial, ginger beer cordial, weetbix with peanut butter on top, Lamingtons (made by us) and pavlova (made by Zoe and Ruth). Now I think that collection makes our party more Australian than almost any other Aussie party held that day – even if there were only three aussies there!

As Tim Tams are famous around the world, Ruth and Zoe organised an Australian Obstacle course challenge with the chance to win Tim Tams, the challenge involved the following challenges:

    Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

  • Boat races with undiluted saspirlla cordial,
  • Putting on an aussie cork hat and apron,
  • Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

  • Eating a whole weetbix with peanut butter spread on it – washed down with nip of undiluted ginger beer cordial,
  • Throwing a boomerang through a hoop
  • Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

  • Crash tackling skippy the inflatable kangaroo

The winner then got a single Tim Tam – lucky beggars

In Brazil there is a large chain of restaurants called “Outback Steakhouse” they are apparently a fair dinkum reproduction of a typical Australian restaurant – well according to their own marketing at least.

The locals really love these places and one of the first things Brazilians asked us is if we have been, now it being Australia day we felt we had no option to visit this cultural homage to Australia, so in the evening we headed with our hosts Zoe and Lucas to one of the restaurants in the grandly named “Shopping Eldorado”, the restaurant was done out in aussie paraphernalia, the first thing I saw was a large stuffed Kiwi?!?!?, and the usual array of number plates, cricket bats, AFL jumpers and the other stuff you always find on the walls of restaurant in Australia. The place though was massive and packed, unfortunately we missed the “Billabong Happy Hour” – two hours of two for one drinks every evening, but we did make it time to enjoy a fine feast including – and I hope all our aussie readers recognise these important national dishes:

  • Blooming Onion (as in a fungal bloom perhaps)?
  • Kookaburra Wings (obviously not a protected species over here)
  • Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie (of course, aussies are always eating these)
  • Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp (a short pacific islander who lives on the gold coast I presume)?
  • Aussie Cheese Fries (delivered to your table by Rove – the cheesiest aussie I know)
  • Walkabout Soup (sorry, you have to go find it yourself – start walking now)
  • The outback Special (a night in bed with your sister perhaps)?
  • Rockhampton Blue Rib-eye (sounds like a police report of injuries on a typical Saturday night in Rockie)
  • Victorias Filet (a not so tender slice of Queen Vics thigh – I think I will pass)
  • The Melbourne (for those few of you who have never been to Melbourne, this is apparently a typical 500gm T-Bone steak, a favourite in Melbourne)
  • Outback Rack (my favourite)!
  • Alice Springs Chicken (I am not sure they got if they intended the “spring chicken” bit here or not)
  • Botany Bay Fish O’ the day (hmm have been to Botany bay)?
  • Tilapia Filet J. Woodhouse style (sorry none of us had any idea who he is/was – but I am a kiwi – answers in the comments section please)
  • Aussie Tassie Kid (which is a pasta for kids – not sure how you can have a Tasmanian who isn’t an Aussie, but this question was lost on our waitress)
  • Grilled Cheese-A-Roo (never worked out how much Roo was in this kids meal sandwich probably not much though)
  • For desert you could also have these Australian dining classics:
  • Sydney’s Sinful Sunday (a veiled reference to Mardi Gras perhaps)
  • Cheesecake Olivia (Newton-John)?
  • Chocolate Thunder from Down Under (need I say anymore)?


Samba dancing, it’s just like playing rugby…

26 January, 2008

Well that’s my conclusion after spending a night in a dance hall with one of Caths workmates….

Picture this, it’s a Thursday night, with Friday as Sao Paulo day – and a day off work for everyone, so we get invited to go out for a night of dancing. Anyone who knows me knows that dancing and Greg Newman are not to things that have historically strong association, but being a brave if somewhat foolish man, I agree to join Cath and Paula for an evening in her local dance hall.

Now the night started out very well – I always say you it’s hard to have a bad night when you get to eat chicken parmigana for dinner – but heh I am a simple bloke.

So after dinner we head downtown to the Buena Vista dance hall, we arrived at about 9pm and the place was already pumping, we met all of Paulas friends then settled down in a comfy spot right in front of the massive dance floor. Now there is nothing worse for an avowed bad dancer to be surrounded by great dancers, and so this place was my idea of hell, its ok for Cath she has natural rhythm and is blessed with a left and right foot, where as I am blessed with just two left feet. So very soon Cath is up and dancing, just a little but enough to get her the locals approval.

And these people can really dance, I am a man who knows dancing, having seen two episodes of Dancing with the Stars, Strictly Ballroom and Dirty Dancing (both the film and the musical) I feel qualified to judge dancing style and artistic merit, and these folks where literally burning up the dance floor, young and old, thick and thin, black, white, asian, drunk, sober, there must have been 100 people on the dance floor at anytime moving with rhythm, style, grace and sexiness that is just not possible to achieve in a Nelson nightclub!

But no one could understand that we didn’t know any of the dances, as it was Thursday night they were dancing a whole range of dances – lambada, salsa, you name it, they even managed to dance with some style and grace to a WHAM song… But the evening conversation kept coming back to the locals amazement why we didn’t know how to dance, luckily I managed to turn the conversation around to something I was a little more comfortable with – Rugby…. and low and behold none of the locals knew how to play rugby! This was my ticket out of stupid white man’s land, I assured them that I would be happy go dancing with them, if they in turn wouldn’t mind stepping outside afterwards for a quick game of rugby in the carpark…. aghhh that sorted it, now where was my beer?

Post notes:

Some other little Brazilian gems that are worth noting:

Parking the car – in Brazil all your parking problems are solved, absolutely everywhere (even the burger joint we went to do for dinner) has a team of valets waiting as you pull up right outside the front door for a very reasonable £3 they park your car for you…. It has a bit of side effect that you actually never end up walking anywhere, you never need to look for a car park in Sao Paulo, even our apartment block has a team of parking dudes.

Also it was to Caths great amazement that none of these apparently serious dancing folks (some of whom go out dancing three or four nights a week) had ever seen or heard of Dirty Dancing… hmmm call themselves serious dancers heh? They were also very dismissive of the efforts of the Baby and Patrick Swayze when they explained that the merainge that they were dancing was a very basic dance, but a good dance to start out dancing with….


I don’t think were in Texas anymore Toto.. welcome to the big bad city…..

23 January, 2008

All of you know I grew up in New Zealand so being a good kiwi boy I always thought I could tell the difference between a gunshot and a motorbike back firing.. since we have been here I have heard lots of backfires and what I thought was a couple of gunshots but seen nothing.

But on Monday I was at home making some lunch when I heard what I just knew was gun shots and they were real close, so I went out to the balcony just in time to see people screaming and running, climbing and scrambling out of the little restaurant about 200 metres down the road from our apartment. As the diners ran one way the cops (all with shotguns or automatic pistols at the ready) ran towards the restaurant. We found out a guy had gone in to hold the place up, and the cops just happened to be following him, so they were ready.

The Cops Arrive – and diners Scatter – click on picture to launch full size snap.
Now I haven’t had any dealing myself with the Brazilian police but I know enough to know they have a bit of a reputation for being shoot first, negotiate second kinda people so I was understandably nervous as I watched the scene unfold, but they formed a solid perimeter around the restaurant and one the cops very bravely walked into the restaurant to help out the remaining diners – well except for the ones that the gunman was now hold hostage in the kitchen that is…

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

First cops try to shoot the robber
Needless to say, more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, everyone pulled on their bullet proof vests, loaded their guns and stood in an easy circle around the front of the restaurant, the guy who had been helping people out of the dining area was still in the restaurant presumably talking to the gunman, while his associates climbed and crawled all over the place looking for an angle to get a sight on the gunman.
Now I must say at this point that I have never seen a police shootout/hostage drama before, I love watching cops – and any other reality police crap TV and I love action movies as much as the next man. But when its happening right in front of you, shots have already been exchanged between the cops and robber and the cops are doing their best to get an angle so they can kill the gunman, it really is a sobering experience..
Quite a while passed by and everyone has calmed down, the one guy is still talking to the gunman and everyone else is covering the exits, guns drawn and pointed, but the police seem to have the situation under control, they have even pulled the eager public onlookers back to reasonably safe perimeter.
Suddenly out of nowhere a couple of shots are exchanged, but amazingly everyone remains calm..
Then I hear sounds approaching from the distance, what ever it is, it sounds like an group of V8 Australian touring cars with police sirens then the first of many mat black Chevy bronco type 4x4s scream down the road, tires screaming, engines racing – looking and sounding more like something out of mad max than any police force I have ever seen.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

The cavalry arrive
These guys are from GOE which I figure must be the ‘really heavily armed response unit’. They pull up in a screech of tire smoke (at this point I have to laugh, they are obviously working really hard on their tough guy images), they jump out of their wagons, strap on holsters, helmets, grab machine guns and load ’em, then and this is the good bit, they kinda line up, shake hands, slap each other on the back, light cigarettes, talk on their mobile phones and have a bit of a chit chat (ok maybe they were planning their assault, but they looked very relaxed either way).

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

The cavalry have a chat and a smoke
So now the big boys are here the regular police force are pulled back, the cop who has been negotiating is pulled back to hand over to one of the big cheeses from the GOE team, he then sends his guys in, much closer than the regular cops had been – and he just walks in, no vest, no gun, no nothing, just a big beer belly and balls the size of basketballs… he walks in and comes back out again with what I think is a shot policeman, who they rush into one of the waiting ambulances, he then goes straight back in and brings out most of the hostages, a couple of old ladies who had been having lunch, and the guys from the kitchen, the old ladies are given a sit down and a cup of tea, while the kitchen staff are frisked, searched and checked out – presumably they could have been in on it, I am not sure, but I suppose you gotta be safe and sure in these things.
By now the area is surrounded by TV cameras, there is plenty of ambulances, a fire engine, the police chief has arrived, as have half of Sao Paulos residents to watch the scene, all the balconies in our building have people standing on them and all of us are waiting for something to happen.
The negotiator is talking the whole time, and he is slowly working his way further into the kitchen area, unknownst to the gunman, he is closely followed by two blokes dressed as storm troopers with really big machine guns who must just be standing out of sight, then suddenly everyone is running into the building weapons drawn, no shots were fired, I think the guys just realised he wasn’t going to win and then WHAM they rushed him.

Lets Roll…

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Job Done – robber is lead away to paddy wagon.
So about two hours later, there it was, case closed, one cop injured, no one killed, a relatively good result I would have to say – the restaurant was even reopened for dinner that night…
As you can imagine having heard all of the horror stories about violence in the streets in Brazil, this was a very, very sobering experience for me, but we have discussed this with lots of Brazilian residents and all of them were as shocked as we were, none of them had ever seen a robbery happen, let alone a police shoot out or a hostage drama, so I can happily report that isn’t a common occurrence, it was big news in SP that day, in fact the GOE leader came back to the spot about four hours later with a couple of TV crews for interviews and a bit of a re-enactment – that must have been quality TV!!
But I think that’s enough reality police stuff for me for a while, I think I will just watch the ‘Are you being served?’ repeats from now on….
Take care – we are!
Greg

Juicy, sweet and damn ugly, its fruit and vegies – brazilian style…

23 January, 2008

the fruit and vegies over here have been a very pleasant surprise, sure they aint the prettiest things to come out of the big brown earth, but damn they are tasty…. going to the supermarket has become exciting again as i try and buy one of everything just to see if all the fruit and veges aree equally tasty – and i can hereby declare they are, here are few of my fruity highlights:
onions – make you cry, and cry and cry – even when they are just left on the bench cut up, they still make you cry – just like when i was a kid…
cherries – sweet delicious, dark cherry coloured goodness
carrots – still green at the top, and with that sweet new carrot taste in the middle – the very core is even sweeter
snow peas – you still need to pull that stringy bit out before you eat em, but they are sweet and crunchy
watermelon – its full of seeds, but who gives a damn when its dark red, sweet and you cant stop eating it???
rockmelon – ditto – but its not red of course
the list just goes on and on, the garlic stinks like hell, the egg plant still has a bit of chewy edge to it – its all good, damn ugly but tasty – the way vegies used to be.
we have also discovered a few new vegies, on is a kind of pulped coconut which is great in a stir fry and the other is the meaty bits out of the middle of a palm tree – delicous in salad.
probably the most exciting thing in the fresh food department has to have been the limes – cheap as chips, like 60p a kilo – but no lime is complete without a brazilian lime juicer, i dont know how the western world has managed to function without these, but they make squeezing limes pure simplicity – imagine a giant garlic press – supersized to cater for limes and lemons (i cant find a picture of them on the internet which makes me think its some kind of brazilian consipracy to stop us from making brazilian cocktails).
speaking of which, its once again capriahana time
cheers
g

One week into our Brazilian experience!

19 January, 2008

I know its kind of clichéd, but it’s hard to believe we have been here a week already…

Let me try and give you an idea of what our set up is like now we are settled in.

Our little apartment is already beginning to feel like home, we live in a suburb called Itaim – from what we can gather its kind of like Sao Paulo’s Chelsea, it’s quite a posh suburb and is chock a block with restaurants, bars and night clubs – which is great.

We have a high street only about 100 metres from our front door with the usual array of supermarkets, banks, coffee shops and restaurants. But because its a posh suburb it also has a lots of shoe and handbag shops, a dog hairdresser and a dedicated BBQ shop (Gregs favourite shop of course)!

We are about 500 metres from Sao Paulos biggest park – its great it has an 8km running loop around it which i am sure we will get to know very well and is always full of families picnicking and 100s of people running…

Itaim is about 10k from the centre of the city, from what we can gather no one really goes into the centre of town – its not the business centre, and its not the shopping centre, they have slowly drifted away from the centre, maybe because of the reputation for crime that the city centre has gathered. Caths workmates have advised her that we are not ‘experienced’ enough to hang out in the centre of town yet – which makes it somehow kind of more appealing!

Here is a link to a map showing our place and the park – the centre of town is further north

http://maps.google.com/?q=R.+Diogo+J%C3%A1come+550,+Moema,+S%C3%A3o+Paulo,+04512-001,+Brazil&ie=UTF8&ll=-23.596377,-46.667497&spn=0.037282,0.080338&z=14&om=0

Though in some ways the suburb feels like any other nice suburb, it still really different to anywhere we have lived before, among the nice houses and apartment buildings there are still lots of empty blocks with assorted rubbish piled in them and the foot paths and roads are all in need of some love and attention. All of the fences around the buildings have either two foot of razor wire on top of them, or five or six strands of electric fencing….. Despite that – or maybe because of that, the suburb is famous for being one of the safest in Sao Paulo, which is great, and there are always lots of people around – more so in the evenings as the locals flock to the bars and restaurants which are all around us. We have already made friends with the guys at one of the closest bars – its a kind of a weird mix of fresh fruit juice and cocktail bar and restaurant, its a nice place to sit on a warm evening – so i think we may be spending a fair bit of time there in the future.

Our apartment is really nice, unfortunately our dreams of a two bedroom apartment fell quickly by the way side when we found out the rent would be more than our London rent, so we have opted instead for a one bedroom place, when we got here we discovered one bedroom here is the same as a studio apartment, so we now have a very funky studio apartment with a large balcony.

Fortunately its air conditioned, has a big bathroom (with spa bath), separate kitchen, separate laundry (wooo hooo –thats real luxury for us after living in London) and nice polished wooden floors and funky furniture. Its really nice and we have already spread our stuff all over it, some differences to an apartment back home are that we only have a cold tap in the kitchen (not sure what the story is there, we are waiting for someone to explain) and the powerpoints have different power outputs in them (some are 220v, some only 160v) but apart from that its all pretty standard stuff.

Our apartment building has two swimming pools – one lap pool on the ground floor, and one for relaxing in on the roof. It also has a gym which is great, a restaurant and two bars (we are still not sure if they ever open though – could be dangerous if they do)!!!

So i hope that gives an idea of our new home. We are about to head out for dinner on Saturday night, another new experience is that no one goes out for dinner till 10pm, so i think it could be quite a late night coming up!

Hope all is well with all of you

Missing you all loads

G & C


nearly a week in – settling into normal life

17 January, 2008

hey folks,

just a quick note today with some observations on life in Sao Paulo.

firstly i noticed this story on one of the expat websites for Brazil, it appears we have moved here at just the right time, aparently SP celebrated its first 24 hour stretch without a single murder – i reckon thats pretty good for a city of 20,000,000 inhabitants!

heres the full story for those who are interested:

http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=2025

Right – back to setting up the house – does anyone know the portuguese phrase for ‘can you unlock my SIM card’?

Over and out

greg


GregAndCathsAdventures

14 January, 2008

 

Cath and Greg Adventures in Brazil – The First Daze

Hola dudes,

In honour of our arrival in Sao Paulo I have composed the following ditty:

 

Finally arriving in Sao Paulo we’re frazzled, its warm, dark, busy and wet,

Taxi driver points out the favellas, inside the slums a sticky end is apparently to be met,

Ayrton Senna style driving across town, what’s one more hour after 30 in the plane,

In comedy English, man at front desk informs us there’s no booking in our name,

Phrase book in hand we convince him this really is our home for half a year,

At last we get into our apartment, its funky and furnished but somewhat bare

18 stories up, big balcony, polished floors, shiny mirrors, all covered in builders dust,

I think the fantasy cleaner is is looking like a must,

Reality sets in, we are finally here, its dark outside, still raining and real warm,

Even at 2am the traffic above us and below us is still moving in a swarm,

Time to write this down, mental note to self for next time we emigrate,

We should arrive after our boxes, sleeping on bed with no sheets ain’t so great,

First SP morning we wake up, jet lagged brains note there’s nothing in our kitchen,

Greg needs his morning shot of coffee so hurry up this ain’t no time for bitching,

Restaurant in our block is closed, Brazilian breakfast is all finished,

So we jump in cab to shopping mall, again Senna inspired driving ain’t diminished,

First SP meal in a sizzler style barbecue joint,

I don’t care what I eat, filling my belly is the only point,

First day spent shopping, need an iron, cereal bowls, and something for Cath to wear,

Again the missing boxes, Caths off to work tomorrow, and we cant have her going bare,

First impressions of the locals, they have great tans and great teeth,

Tight clothes, mean not much imagination required to know whats underneath,

Not much English being spoken, phrase book already looks dog eared,

Thankfully a lot of patience on their part mean some hurdles have been cleared

First Monday morning arrives and Caths nervously off to work in new suit,

Gregs off down to the gym, with all the Christmas weight to boot,

First breakfast on the balcony, then off for a wander around to see our new home,

Just three security guards between me and the street, am I not meant to roam?

All around us apartment towers being built at least 20 stories high,

Older apartment towers being knocked down – less than 10 stories you must die,

Like Hard hatted beavers construction workers toiling in the heat all day,

Lunch time comes and their sleeping on the footpath where the lay,

Shops are much the same selling this and that but with fronts open to the air,

The ultimate in luxury, you can drive your car right in there,

Supermarket is good fun, a little bit of Italy, Portugal and Spain,

Only 100 metres from our apartment, I think I will be there again and again,

First impressions are all gathered, first day at work, first shopping trip, first coffee shop,

so this the place where I ought to stop.

 

So thats it till later, more news as it comes to hand!

Take care, lots of love

G & C