Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

DST ends in Brazil today

Daylight saving time ends in Brazil today. Europe is due to start with DST on the 25th of March. If you are in Europe and want to get in touch please remember that we are now 4 hours apart and will be for one month. From March, 25th onwards it will be 5 hours. Here is a complete list of DST changes for 2007.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wet City

So this is what tropical rain is all about. It's just like other rain, only much more so. In Porto Alegre, the lower parts of the city can well be renamed to Lake District. Driving gets...interesting. You never know if you will get through the next spot of water or not. I was tonight blessed with a companion who knows both this situation and the city extremely well. Otherwise I might be catching fish for dinner right now. At some point we did have to stop and ponder the situation. We went on, of course. Where's the fun in being wimpy? And we got through. And it was fun. And I'm still happy not to have to sleep in the car in the middle of a river that was once a street.

Next time it rains I'll take my camera, promise. The photo above was taken from a hill and doesn't do justice to what happens in the city as I'm writing this. But I really didn't fancy going down again.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Martians in Europe

It has come to my attention that the anecdotal evidence for people being influenced by Martian mind rays in Europe has been increasing at an alarming rate this year. As good citizens we have to do something. Therefore, I call for a hunt for the antennæ that the Martians must have erected. When I return in spring, that is. If you wish to join bring a recommendation for a hunting spot. Hunting spots must conform to the following:
  • They must be in an area with some natural beauty (operating on the theory that Martians like a good view just like everybody else).
  • There should be villages not too far a way, or a least a bar or a brewery or something (operating on the theory that it's easier to see alien installations after a glass or three, and we will get thirsty). Distilleries are also OK.
  • The cuisine in the area must be good (operating on no special theory at all but I like good food).
In order to be better prepared I recommend watching Peter Jackson's "Bad Taste". Peter Jackson is now a famous director so this is culture and perfectly all right.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The zoo of Sapucaia do Sul

Sunday, and the sky is overcast. In short, a good day for a visit to the zoo, something I had been planning for a while. There is a rather large zoo in the region, at Sapucaia do Sul, about 25km from Porto Alegre. Coming from the south one has to make a turn at São Leopoldo.

The first impression: The zoo is large, lots of nature abounding and not as polished as the typical city-zoos in Europe. And it is a zoo inside a subtropical region. The feeling here is decidedly different.

It is, on this Sunday, rather full, but still to some extent possible to escape from screaming kids and parents. Not, of course, at the main attractions. The areas for the animals are quite different, and - typically - the large cats and the bears get the small cages. One thing I found deeply disturbing is that the retreats for these animals are closed and they are forced to remain in full sight of the visitors all the time. Considering that about a third of the male adults in the zoo obviously are cretins of the sort that thinks it proves something other than abject cowardice to meow and growl at animals behind bars this comes very much under the heading of "not a good thing". Plus, there appear to be almost only single male carnivores here, which I would also consider to be not a good thing.

The plant-eaters have it a bit better in that respect. Their areas are larger, with some possibilities for hiding, and they seem to come more often in pairs than the carnivores.

The whole area is quite pretty, and I spent some three hours walking around. On the whole I can recommend going there, but if you are looking for a quiet time do not go during the weekend. [Photos]

The official web site of the zoo can be found at In case all the animals inside make you hungry the zoo does have a churrasco area, just the same as Sushi bars, toy stores, barbie dolls and artillery guns in this region. It's just one of those things.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Let Rome in Tiber melt

Take it easy. As a survival tip in Brazil this beats even "Don't eat the yellow snow". Starting with the traffic each morning. There are between two and four lanes on the same road, dependent on the number of cars and the mood of the drivers. And on the weather. On sunny days or after a bend in the road an extra lane may be added. And since we are talking about the weather: The time between giving a perfect imitation of a wet poodle and basking in the sun may be only five minutes, both ways.

Then there is that problem with getting things done. That does work out, eventually. But not quickly, ever. And it is more complicated than expected. And needs more negotiations, no matter if you feel more like screaming.

Carnival? The country shuts down, and starts again in March. The only thing to do is to take a vacation.

Ah well, you're in Brazil. Take it easy. And don't eat the yellow snow.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Find the cops

Night in Porto Alegre. I'm driving along a big, deserted street. It's reasonably lit, with patches of dark every once in a while. In one of those deep shadows there is a group of dark figures. Six or seven at a glance, some together on the sideline and two in the middle of the street, one signing to the side, very much like parking attendants do. There is nothing going on here, and I can't imagine wishing to park. And of course some more sinister possibilities come to mind. In short, I don't trust those guys very much. After an initial slowdown I pick up a bit of speed again to pass them on the free left lane. And hit the brakes. Hard. It just wouldn't do to run over police, would it?

One of them peeks in from the right, gun in hand pointing downwards. The second from the left, calling out "Gringo, Gringo, Gringo", presumably so his colleagues will know there's somebody here who needs to be talked to veeeerrryyyy sloooowwwwlllyyyy and may be a bit daft. Or because the condition might be catching, who knows. I'd really like to know how people always spot that the instant they see me. Several misunderstandings later I start the motor again to drive over to the side, then have my papers examined. That takes about a minute and I'm off again. The guys are all very friendly in spite of the wee hours and my initial attempt to ignore them.

Note to self:
Sinister figures in dark alleyways might be police. Don't run them over before taking a closer look.

Note to any police officer who might be reading this: Could you please use police cars that can be identified even by foreigners when doing this kind of thing? You know, flashing lights and all that. I, for instance, would be extremely grateful.

Note to anybody who feels tempted to really ignore the police: Don't. There will be - always - a man with a really big gun about 20-30m behind the place where they stop you. As long as his finger is not placed on the trigger you're all right.

I have meanwhile learnt that this is a part of an effort of the new government of Rio Grande do Sul to show more police presence. Apparently this has lead to the arrest of about 7000 persons with guns, drugs, fugitive criminals or simply persons without a driver's licence.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mambo Lessons

So now it's official. I'll be teaching Mambo at Cadica's starting in March. It's in the local paper, too, so it's public as well. I'm curious how many people are going to be interested. On the professional level I'll find enough, about the beginners I have no idea. The next show is coming up on the 9th of March, and the choreography is doing very well. Photos from the last event - Dançando no Circo - are up at This link should take you to the event. If not look for Cadica / Dançando no Circo on 09/01/2007. Then you can find the shows I participated in on pages 8 and 33/34.