Wednesday, 29 February 2012


The Fort at Sunset, Cartagena

We decided to escape carnaval madness and we went to Colombia to visit our friends (from Sao Paulo) who now live in Bogota. I always forget how big this continent is! I was thinking it was a couple hour flight... 6 hours later, a little bit frazzled flying with two kids we landed in Bogota...

I think people have similar perceptions of Brazil and Colombia in terms of security. Yes, there are certainly dangerous elements here and there is a higher chance of 'something' happening but I honestly (and maybe naively, I'll admit) don't feel as threatened / intimidated as I have walking through Clapham Junction or parts of South Bronx...

So the idea of living here is that we get to travel and know this region better, as for me, it's completely untouched. We booked our tickets the day that Camille and Ian moved there! Bogota has a temperate climate all year round aside from the last months which rain heavily. I hadn't packed enough warm clothes for the evening but we made do bundling the kids in blankets and layers.

Food: soup, soup, soup. I love soup and the Colombians certainly do it justice, even in steaming hot sunshine. Add a squeeze of lime and a spoon of chilli. Lots of peruvian ceviche too, delish- i could eat it every day, along with sushi and pizza and everything in between. Everything was a little bit tastier than what you get here in Brazil -  I think they actually use pepper!

We stayed in a super cute pousada / boutique hotel called Casa El Carretero in Getsemani (which I read in my travel guide that it's known as the red light district.. ). I really recommend it - it only has 3 rooms and a pool on the top. It's right next to a square where all the locals hang out - we spent one night after dinner with a beer and watching boys kick a ball around, a bunch of police standing around doing nothing, local girls flirting with local boys, sleeping grannies - it was like being in a movie set!

The old city is split into 4 sections - Getsemani being one of them. Most of the American tourists (generalising here...) stay out in the Tourist section (yes, seriously called that) with the big hotels and McDonalds. What I loved about this old city is that it's still filled with locals going about their daily business - alot of the shops are catered for locals, and old buildings have been converted into government buildings or schools / universities. We did as our guide book suggested and spent our days there just wandering the streets and picking most restaurants at random. We had been recommended to stay at the Charleston which looked fabulous but we struggle to pay $600 a night for a hotel.. and La Cevicheria which is a very lowkey, on-the-street restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain so obviously popular!

I love visiting cities where friend's live - to see how a normal (expat) person lives their life there. It always makes me think about how much I would enjoy living in a different city. They took us to La Candelaria (the old town) and to Usaquen which had a good market and lots of fabulous looking restaurants. One that sounded great was 'WOK ★' - Read that out loud! For our dinner out we had more yummy ceviche - infact, I'm going to say the best I've had so far in my short (well medium) life .... even better than La Mar here in Sao Paulo.

Everything just seemed much cheaper! We met some other expats who thought it was expensive but I guess coming from Sao Paulo makes everything relatively cheap. I spent the morning in the supermarket buying jalapenos, baby wipes and fajitas. Even the airport is SO exciting compared to Guarulhos here - the have a decent coffee shop, and things to look at other than other bored passengers.

Colombia - definitely worth a visit while you are in the region. We heard about lots of other places in Colombia we want to visit (Medellin, Santa Marta, Taganga and the national parks) but think we will have to look at leaving the girls behind the next time!!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

House for rent in Itaim

A friend is looking to rent out his 2 bedroom house in Itaim - a great location!! If we didn't have kids and dogs we would've taken it.

We are Brazilian!

OK not quite Brazilian yet but we have the protocolo (stamps) in our passports to say that we can stay here for the next 5 years* until we need to renew. As I mentioned before, we used a fantastic agent called Renata Laterza who helped us with Olivia's brazilian passport. We met her at 8am and took us straight to the front of the queue (note that EVERYONE has to go: Olivia and Sophie included - a rule that the unfortunate couple infront of us didn't know as they hadn't bought their older child with them who had just started back at school). It turns out that we needed Olivia's RG which we hadn't picked up yet so he asked us to come back the following week - aahh! Renata should've known but she managed to book the next earliest appointment at a Poupatempo for us to get Olivia's RG. She picked me up from our house as only I needed to go with Olivia and took me through the process (a friend even tagged along to do the same).

To pick up your RG you need
- 3x4 photo
- original birth certificate plus a simple photocopy (by simple I mean there is no need to take it to the cartorio)
- Original RNE and simple photocopy of each parent's

Poupatempo's are great places to go and get everything done at one time - there is a post office there, banks, wedding registrations etc. My friend had bought the wrong sized photo (note that the brazilian passport photo is much larger - 5x7 i think) but there was a counter where we could take a baby's photo really quickly. Then we had to go to the post office to pay the fee (R10), and then back to another line to pick up a queue ticket. We waited 10 minutes before our number came up and it was just to check all details and take fingerprints which just looked like little dots! The lady said it would be ready the following morning at 10am. We arranged for Renata to pick up the RG's the following day, to then take Olivia's to the cartorio and met us at the Policia Federal straight after.

Lunchtime is not a great time to go to the Policia Federal - it is open but much slower, if that is really possible. Again, we all had to be there but we jumped to the front of the queue with Olivia in hand - though I did watch one mother struggling under the weight of her 10 year old daughter so she could be in the priority line. It was comical but no one else seemed to be laughing.

So we submitted our documents again and almost had a heart attack when the guy came to question another document! You have to submit these declarations from both the mother and father which are signed by each of us, and then taken to the cartorio to authenticate the signature... anyhow, they were confused and thought there was no form for the mother (Jaime is only a man's name here!). He then asked us to sit and wait for our names, it took 20 minutes and we finally got the protocolo stamps in our passport!

It will take 6-8 months for our new RNE cards to be ready but they will have the same number as our temporary ones now. In the meantime we will have an unannounced visit at our house so they can see where we live, what we do etc. This is more of a formality when the visas are based on a Brazilian child, rather than on a marriage to a Brazilian (think Gerard Depardieu and Andie Macdowell in the movie Green card).

Next step: a Brazilian driver's license which we have to do within 6 months of our new visa. The paperwork doesn't stop...

*permanent visas are not necessarily permanent, they need to be renewed every 5 years and if the visa is based on your child that was born in Brazil, it expires when they turn 18 as they are not a child anymore. You can then apply for your visa under their sponsorship. Nice to know that we have to through some sort of Brazilian paperwork process potentially for the rest of our lives! Also, if you move to another country and want to maintain your PR, you need to enter Brazil every 2 years. If you don't you just need to pay a small-ish fine which was either R120 or R350 - though I guess irrelevant as would've changed by the time we need to do this in 5 years..

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Make Samba

Samba is one of the things that is synonymous with Brazil. Before I moved here I expected to see people dancing samba down the streets, on the bus and on tables in restaurants. Much to my disappointment, people don't just jump up on a table and burst into song and dance. We have been in Sao Paulo for almost 2 years and only tried to learn to samba a handful of times... admittedly quite drunk.

I think it's the carnaval in the air but we've had a good dose of samba this week. A friend came over for dinner and every other sentence he talked about 'making samba'... a great idea emitted a 'that's awesome, it's going to make samba!', talking about doing business together was 'let's make samba'! I think I need to learn the moves quick before I make any samba...

A friend from Boteco da Cesinha's invited us to join one of the practice sessions for Perola Negra. The schools spend all year preparing for the Sambadrome but the month before you can go and check out most schools on a Thursday or Sunday night. Perola Negra is located on Girassol in Vila Madalena down near the cemetery. The streets were heaving, people were wet from the thunderstorms, hot from dancing up and close and drinking from little carts all up and down the street. I saw a guy walking around with a shower curtain hung up around him  - I wasn't sure if it was a special fantasia (a carnaval costume) or what, but I had a massive dejavu from the Hong Kong 7's on a Saturday night.. it looked like it was going to be a messy night for people (not us...).

The queue to get a R10 ticket was long but our friend managed to get us a ticket without having to wait and we shoved our way in. Firstly, I was dressed completely wrong - I had jeans and heels on with a big handbag to carry our big camera in... all the girls had little dresses or skirts on, and havaianas or trainers on with tiny little handbags. After an hour I was HOT and had sore feet (and the floor was pretty gross). It was loads of fun; it reminded me of a mix between a nightclub (with the lights on) and an evangelical church service. There was a guy leading from the front with the band and everyone knew all the words to the songs, and danced around in circles waving their hands in the air and at the same time, there were all these beautiful girls dancing samba (how DO they move their feet like that? I just can't do it!).

We decided to have a night out yesterday for Valentine's Day... we dropped by our favourite Boteca, and then decided to walk back down to a samba bar I had read about and had been dying to check out.  We ended up doing a small bar crawl as found a few other botecas with live music which weren' around when we lived in VM - it was really nice to be sitting out with a cold chopp, and with no kids to run after!

We then went to O do Borogodó, a tiny little samba club down by the cemetery. R15 entry and you get a little piece of paper to mark all your drinks on. Super shabby-chic, a great mix of people of all different ages, types and heights... but I guess what they have in common is making samba. I again was wearing heels (why do I not learn?) but I love people watching and people samba, beautiful! I will definitely be back soon... with my havaianas! Highly recommend a visit if you are looking to make samba.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Brazil Public Holidays 2012

I don't work in an office, in a full time job anymore so I thought that public holidays were irrelevant to me until Sophie started school this week. 

After experiencing ridiculous traffic jams to the beach on public holiday weekends and ridiculous accommodation prices over said holiday weekends, our plan is to generally try and do the opposite of what your typical Brazilian would do. For example, go to the beach in the winter and the interior in the summer, book accommodation and flights months in advance (particularly now that we are limited to school holidays) or just stay at home!


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Driving in Sao Paulo

Traffic is definitely up there for most-talked-about-topics here in Sao Paulo. Ways to avoid traffic, blitzs (police drinking stops), rodizios, bus lanes, accidents. when it rains how it gets 100 times worse...

When you are stuck in traffic sitting there patiently for it to clear.... the most irritating thing is when a car zooms by in the emergency lane and cuts in at the top as the traffic light goes green. Firstly, you're just pissed off that you hadn't plucked up the courage to do it, and secondly, you're really pissed off that the driver has the impunity to do it and nothing is going to happen to him/her. English people would never consider jumping the queue, it would be just considered rude. In the opening chapter of Watching the English  the author has to have a drink to be able to jump a queue, which is a big no-no there! 

There is generally seen to be a very poor standard of driving here, and coupled with the terrible standards of the road, I'm not surprised over 37,000 people died last year in car fatalities (1). People die every day, motoboys drive like demons down the marginal with not a care for ther life, people kill people and walk away just paying off the family. I actually don't even drive here yet because I'm scared sh*tless. It's on the wrong side of the road and I was never a very confident driver in the first place but I'm about to start lessons with a Brazilian instructor...  wish me (and him) luck!


* Just got my Angloinfo newsletter today titled Accidents in Sao Paulo. I've copied the information below:

Dealing with Road Accidents

Do you know what to do if you’re involved in a road accident? Are you confident you know what to do if you witness a crash? AngloINFO has the information you need, so you can rest assured that you know how to handle accidents on the road, whether it’s a minor prang or something more serious.

Need to know

In the case of a serious road incident, the most important thing to do first is alert the emergency services. The Emergency Telephone Numbers Information Page has the numbers to call.

Whether you’re a driver or not, it’s important to be aware of the rules regarding what to do following a road accident as you might be involved as a passenger or witness. The Road Traffic Accidents in Brazil Information Page has important information regarding accident reports, the people and vehicles involved in a crash, as well as which authorities to alert afterwards. The page on Insuring a Car in Brazil has helpful information about insurance coverage and filing a claim. Make sure you understand the procedure so that you know what to do, should the need ever arise.

And finally, to fix dents, dings and bigger damage following an incident on the road, browse through the Car Service & Repairs category of The AngloFILE where you'll find listings for English-speaking professionals in your local area.