Updated Travel Plans; Moving, Again

Last-Minute Preparation

A friend named Adrian decided at the last minute to join me for the trek across the north. The link to his blog is posted to the right. I am happy to have some company, and feel more at ease with the idea of being adventurous and exploring nature.

I went to the doctor at school and got prescriptions for Cipro and other medicines for potential systemic issues, plus over-the-counter stuff like oral rehydration salts, tylenol, band-aids and disinfectants, among others. I felt like I was in the Peace Corps again, traveling around with my own little first aid kit. Diarrhea is common for travelers in the north, tough, so I do need to enter back into that mode of caution and disease prevention. Luckily, malaria isn't endemic in the areas I'll be so I don't have to take anything for it. I never realized how much money the Peace Corps spends on medical care. They used to hand brand-name Cipro out like Tylenol, and it costs about 100 dollars for a three-day regimen.


I found an apartment to rent through a friend of a friend, and I'll be moving at the end of October. The girl who lives there is going to work on a cruise for 6 months, but has someone staying there from Jan to April, so she was looking for someone to take the place for just those two months. It was a perfect situation, and it's a lot cheaper. One fourth the price, to be exact. Yes, I will pay 450 reais (about US$200) a month for November and December, and will save about R$2700 reais (about US$1200) by doing so. It is located a block away from where I live now, so I can move in a US$2 cab ride. It is a studio alcove on the 9th floor of a building that looks onto the Praça 14 bis. It is bigger and has two balconies that look onto the Praça, which is ulgy but that's ok; I can do a lot of traveling with R$2700.

Google Earth Image of My New Place


Off to the Nordeste

I am off on an 18-day journey to the Northeast of Brazil. I finish the first quarter's final exams on Wednesday and on Thursday I am taking a backpack, some sunscreen and flip flops and going solo to São Luis, a a four hour flight north. From there I'll go east and head through the Lencois Maranhenses National Park, which is supposed to have enormous sand dunes along the ocean and you can ride camels through it. The rest of the journey I'll do by bus, and stay mostly along to coast, passing through Fortaleza, Natal, João Pessoa, Recife, Maceió, Aracaju, and then end my trip on the 15th of October in Salvador de Bahia, from where I'll fly back to SP. This region of Brazil is supposed to have a lot of travelers year round, and the temperature is the same all year. It is supposed to be in the 90sF (30sC)and dry.

Check back after the 15th for pictures!

Pequeno Japão: A Taste of Dekasegi Culture

Brazil has the largest Japanese population in Latin America and the greatest number of ethnic Japanese living outside Japan (3.5 to 4m in Brazil vs. about 800,000 in the US). The Japanese-Brazilians first arrived as farm laborers in the early 20th century, but during World War II Brazil severed relations with Japan, and Japanese-language newspapers and school were outlawed. After the war, though, many refugess came to Brazil and the size of the community grew markedly. Special names exist for each generation of descendants: nisei refers to the first generation and sansei is used for the second generation, the immigrants' grandchildren. At the same time that they retain their ethnic identities, the Japanese-Brazilians are very Brazilian. In Japan they are called dekasegi, which translates roughly to "working away from home." The Japanese-Brazilian population in Japan is also the largest Portuguese-speaking group in Asia, surpassing numbers in the communities of Timor Leste, Macau and Goa.

This weekend I went to Liberdade, São Paulo's Japanese neighborhood, which was somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco's Japantown. In spite of the fact there are more Japanese-Brazilians than Japanese-Americans, their ghetto was smaller than San Francisco's. When we were getting out of the Metro, there was a political or community meeting with a Brazlian who had a translator for the people. We arrived a little late for lunch, and missed many of the sushi restaurants, which close around 2 PM. Still, we found a couple little places that were still open and got a good feel for the neighborhood.

This street is full of stores with Japanese goods, including a great selection of rice cookers, sushi dishes, groceries and such.

Metró Liberdade

Some things are very American.


Não Fume: Brazil's Anti-Smoking Policies

Anti-smoking propaganda is compelling in Brazil. On the side of of every pack of cigarettes is a warning that reads: "This product contains more than 4,700 toxic substances, and nicotine which causes physical or psychological dependence. There are no safe levels for the consumption of these substances." Yes, this is more honest than the American warnings which consist of an innocuous statement about corbon monoxide or smoking during pregnancy, or even the European ones which state in large bold print "Smoking kills," "Smoking causes a slow and painful death," and other scary thoughts. But wait; there's more.

Covering the entire back of every pack of cigarettes appears one of about ten different warnings on smoking's side-effects with a graphic photgraph to match. This sort of health warning is not specific to Brazil: I know in Singapore they use similar warnings. Still, I thought I'd share what I see every time I light up. This together with the fact that São Paulo is very hilly is making clear that I really need to quit. I'm really thinking about it.



In order (from the top going from left to right), they are:

- "When you smoke, you inhale arsenic and naftaline, which are also used against rats and cockroaches."

- "This skin death (necrose?) was caused by tobacco consumption."

- "Smoking causes spontaneous abortion."

- "Children that live with smokers have more asthma, pneumonia, sinusitis and allergies."

- "Smoking causes lung cancer." - This one's thre worst. Yes, those black bags are lungs.

- "This man is a victim of tobacco, which causes vascular disease and can lead to amputation."

- "Smoking causes mouth cancer and tooth loss."

But this is the warning Brazilians hate the most:

"Smoking causes sexual impotence."


Here are some more I've found:

"Smoking causes throat cancer"

"In pregnant women, smoking provokes premature labor and the birth of children with below normal weight."

Aluga-se Flat

Translation: "Flat for rent"


After staying for two weeks with my cousin Lisa in her apartment, I rented what in Brazil is called a "flat" (pronounced Flat-chee). Here, a flat is a furnished, long-stay hotel suite, typically with daily maid service. Many buildings that offer flats also rent hotel rooms by the day. I considered staying with Lisa the whole time I'm here (and for cheap), and although she doesn't live that far from GV in distance, it took too long to get to school and then home. Living around the corner now is great, as I can run home betwen classes and have to leave just 5 minutes before they start. Also, most of the other students live in the area around school, which is very centrally located. In addition to this, living in someone's house is tough, and its nice to have personal space. To vacilate on this point, I now have some regrets about not living with Brazilians so that I might get more practice with the language and really feel immersed in it. Also, roomate situations run about R$800, which is less than US$400, so I keep thinking maybe I should move at some point, but I'm pretty happy where I am (in reality I am confused).

I pay R$1800 a month, which at today's exchange rate is US$841. It is a small one-bedroom apartment with a living room, mini office and kitchenette in the main room. It has two single beds in the bedroom (full and queen size beds are rare for some reason in Brazil) and a pull-out sofa in the living room, plus a spin-around chair. The price includes daily maid service, too; I leave my dishes at night and the maid washes them in the morning. It also has cable TV (with lots of good English language channels) and has AC. Electricity is also included. It also has an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, a mini gym and a parking spot. I dont use the gym, as it's too limited. I joined a gym nearby, which is R$100 a month, and is open 24 hours. Or when I go running, I don't have to take anything since I can just ask for another key at the front desk. In spite of my misgivings about living alone, I think I will stay here until I leave.

I rented the apartment through a broker. The man who showed them to me drove us in an old, beaten-up Volkswagen bug. It was orange, and the passenger seat was not attached to the floor of the car, so I had to hold on to the handle above the glove compartment as we went up and down the hills.

The front of my building

Google Earth Image of My Apartment - Shows GV, Avenida Paulista (running downward from left to right) and my building.

The bug

More pictures coming soon!


Ma Petite Lanchonete

For those of you who got the reference: No, this isn't a Brazilian-American version of the English cult film.

A lanchonete (pronounced Lan-Cho-'Netch-EE) is a simple, working class restuarant that serves traditional Brazilian food. Lanche, which sounds like lunch in English, means "snack." Typical Brazilian dishes taste very good, are good for you and are quite affordable. They consist usually of meat, rice and beans, and most lanchonetes give you a little salad of crudités, too. The lanchonete around the corner from my apartment is called Casa de Lanches Beselga, and I take many of my meals there. I don't know what Beselga means; this place is just the closest one to both school and my apartment. On a chalk-board out front you can find a list of the five or seven dishes available on any given day.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays almost all Brazilian restaurants serve feijoada, Brazil's national dish. It consists of rice, couve (steamed collared greens), farofa (dried manioc flour), and a pork chop; and on the side they serve a mixture of pork and different types of sausage in a crock filled with black beans. Why is feijoada served only on Wednesdays and Saturdays? Well, feijoada is made with beans (feijões), which are time consuming to cook from scratch, so I imagine this twice-weekly convention came into being to eliminate waste for restauranteurs and to space out a very heavy meal for restaurant-goers. Other days, you can find picadinha, a type of roast beef; carne assada, filé de frango, a filet of chicken, frango com molho, slow-cooked stewed chicken, and many other dishes. Beef is very popular, and often costs less than chicken.

All of these dishes cost between $R5,50 and $R8,00, which in US dollars at today's exchange rates is about $2.75 to $3.75. You even get a free coffee afterwards if you want it. Can't beat those prices, can you? I have come to love the food at my lanchonete. I walk in, say what I want, and within two minutes a healthy, filling, home-cooked meal is sitting in front of me.


Casa de Lanches Beselga


Frango com molho


Life Without a PC, Part II; Life At GV; Brazilian Independence Day

It seems the day after writing the last post - actually no - minutes after, I felt a lot better. Actually, I felt rather dramatic and exagerated after the fact for making my problems seem so overwhelming, but expressing them in English helped me relax a bit and see that they were transient in nature, and time has proven as much. I was surprised and pleased to receive consolatory e-mails from a bunch of people. Thanks.

Still Sans PC

After getting used to working again this summer, I've gotten back into the rhythm of academic life, though I'm still without computer. At this point, I'm almost used to the inconvenience. After spending ten business days calling the Lenovo Service Center in Brazil, and faxing copies of my passport, the computer invoice, etc., then making more calls, waiting and more calling, they finally cleared me for service; that is, they confirmed it was really me calling, and that my computer was covered under the "Accidental Damage Waranty" I purchased, so they transfered me to the Technical Support area to speak with someone who would address the needs of my situation. After uttering one sentence in which I relayed the fact that a beverage (it was a tall boy of Bud Light, but I didn't say that) was spilled on my keyboard, they put me on hold, came back after a long five minutes and said that that type of damage was not covered in Brazil, ponto. I hung up. I decided then and there that I would pay the $300 or whatever it cost at the other place, because wasting all this time is stupid. So, back at Casa do Notebook (pronounced No-Chee Buu-Kee) they told me they could do it, but it would be 15-30 days to receive the keyboard because it had to be ordered from the US. Also, because I took the computer out of the store after they performed the initial diagnostic test, they'd have to do another diagnostic that would be 3-5 more business days and another fee. All with a straight face, too! I left.

I went back to school and signed onto Messenger in the computer lab. I had chatted before with a girl from the store where I bought the computer in Virgina, and she was online that day. So I told her my situation, and she said that she could get a keyboard for me, it would be there the next day and would be FREE, and then she could overnight it to Brazil. Apparently, a keyboard is very easy to install, so someone in Virginia is going to walk me through the process over MSN Messenger. It's on its way. I'll have to see what kind of taxes I'll have to pay, but regardless, situations like this one make me appreciate the efficiencies of the first world.

Before I forget, the point of explaining all of these trifling details to you is to say that I would like to post more often and include digital photographs. But until I get my laptop fixed I will not be able.

School Life

School is going fine. I moved into a flat two block from campus and am very happy with my location and the amenities of my building (more about my place and the search for it in a future post). I have classes three days a week, and this module (each semester is made up of two eight-week modules) I am taking: Politics and Culture in Brazil; Brazilian Economy; Internet Business; Government and Civil Society in the Local Setting: New Approaches to Public Management and Equity.

There is a significant amount of work to do outside of class, but four-day weekends are a welcome change and something I highly recommend. My school, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Escola de Administração de Empresas (FGV-EAESP) or "GV" (pronounced Jay Vay) for short, is considered the best business school in Brazil. GV is actually an umbrella foundation that includes many schools, but the business school, EAESP, and others all share that prestigious reputation. It was fairly easy for me to get in as as study abroad student, so it's funny to me when I tell people what I'm doing here and most of them look at you with wide eyes and tell you that's the best in Brazil. Comparing the quality to the education to Georgetown, which is good but not the top ten for most disciplines, speaks very highly to the state of higher education at my school and in the United States in general. My classes at Georgetown are much harder and demand much more attention in and out of class; but I think that part of the experience of studying here for a semester takes place outside the classroom, and the class schedules reflect that.

The school resides in a nine-storey building in which there are several restaurants, a beer hall, classrooms, computer labs, a library, bookstore and administrative offices. I stick mostly to three floors, and often make use the snack-bar type counter by the computer labs for a morning coffee or whatever. You can smoke anywhere in the building except the classrooms, which is certainly different from what I'm used to. I'd have to say its annoying, even though I've been known to smoke. Overall, the environment at GV is relaxed and nice, and the people are friendly. It is fairly light and airy inside, because windows are usually open and stairs connect the floors. There are elevators, too, but they take longer, so I avoid them.

There is a mix of undergraduate, graduate a doctoral students, all doing their own thing in this building. The undergrads are greatest in number, and most of them are usually hanging out, smoking, kissing or making noise, and they are usually in the way of the stairs. They, like many Brazilians, seem to like to stop and chat in the middle of the staircase. Teachers rarely if ever are on time for class, and the students come in late as well. By habit alone, I am almost always the first person in the room. During lectures, the Brazilians that are in my classes seem to talk incessantly to each other, and rarely if ever are admonished or even asked nicely to stop by the teachers.

My classes are made up mostly of other international students, many of whom hail from Germany and France though the Czeck Rep, Hugary, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, Colombia, Africa, the US and others are represented to some degree. Although I am in classes with many MBA and other master's degree students, because of the way European university systems are organized, many of the students are a few years younger, have never worked and live with their parents back home. In spite of this, they have been a good network and some friends have come from there too. Most of us live right near the school, and there are also a lot of things we have in common, namely that we're all learning about Brazil from a different perspective, so it works. Nonetheless, I'm working hard on cultivating Brazilian friendships.

My First Holiday Spent Here

This weekend is Independence Day for Brazil, which celebrates its freedom from Portugal in 1822. During Napoleon's reign in Europe starting around 1812, Portugal was invaded. The Portuguese crown, in order to evade harm, established itself for a short period in Rio de Janeiro. The monarch at that time, Dom João, wanted to remain in Brazil after Napoleon's forces had left Portugal, but was forced to return; however, his son, Dom Pedro, remained. He was then known as the prince regent and had the title Defensor e Protetor Perpétuo do Brasil. When he was ordered to return to Portugal in 1822, he defied the order and declared his will to make Brazil free. It stuck. Most Brazilians are off to spend a long weekend in Rio or somewhere. I was lazy and didn't put any effort into planning a trip, so I'm staying in town this weekend and will continue getting to know São Paulo. I hope to travel somewhere next weekend; I'm itching to get out and see some good stuff.