Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Salsa in Porto Alegre

This is something I've been planning to write up for some time, as the places to dance here are hard to find unless you know your way around.

The Salsa scene in Porto Alegre is small, lively, relaxed and fun. The predominant dancing style is Cuban, with some L.A. mixed in. Currently I am the only Mambo dancer around, but I'm working on it. My preferred place for going out is the InSano on Sundays, as the place has a good atmosphere, a good crowd, smokers are banned to the gallery on the upper floor, and I love the jazzy style of Tonda y su Combo.

Some of the links below are to Orkut pages, for which you will have to register. Orkut is about 90% Brazilian, and just about every Brazilian I know is in there. If you want to find information about things to do this is definitely the place to start. Streets in Porto Alegre are numbered in meters from the beginning of the street. Two adjacent buildings can well have street numbers differing by 10 or 20 or more. The InSano and Sierra Maestra (see below) are in fact only two blocks apart.

Places to dance:
  • InSano: Featuring Salsa every Sunday with Tonda y su Combo starting at 22.30. Entry charge 10R$. Rua General Lima e Silva 601, Cidade Baixa. This is a dance club, very definitely.

  • Sierra Maestra: Featuring Salsa every Thursday with Salsa 3 starting around 22.00. Entry charge ???. General Lima e Silva 763, Cidade Baixa. This is a restaurant where you can also dance.

  • Dado Bier: Since April 07 Tonda y su Combo are playing there irregularly. Best check out their home page for details. This is one of the best-known places for going dancing in Porto Alegre, and features a different crowd from the hardcore Salsa scene. The place is a microbrewery and also good for just having a beer. The stage is separated from the restaurant, and both are rather large. It is located inside the Bourbon Country shopping center, 1st floor, Rua Antônio Carlos Berta.
  • Tonda y su Combo: very good mixture for dancing leaning towards Latin Jazz, with great solos for anybody who loves shines. They are in the InSano on Sundays, and have started playing in the Dado Bier now. Their homepage has a few songs you can listen to.

  • Salsa 3: leaning towards Son/Son Montuno. I like the music a lot for listening to, but it is not my cup of tea for dancing. They are in the Sierra Maestra on Thursdays.
Further information:

I am not going to recommend any teachers here. If you are looking for one best go to the InSano and have a look at what's going on. See whose style you like and ask them about it. You can also check out the Salsa in Porto Alegre community.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Airport security

Here is a hilarious video on TSA security training from Saturday Night Live.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Brazilian immigration extortion racket

"Dear mother, I am writing from an unknown destination in the country.." Ha! Don't I wish I were! In fact, I am writing from Guarulhos airport in São Paulo, where I found out about an entirely new get-rich-quick scheme perpetuated by the Brazilian government.

So....there I am, trying to pass through immigrations. Passport and Visa are OK, and the registration stamp from the Federal Police is also in there. I fulfil all requirements to be legally in Brazil. However, there is a protocol slip you get when registering with the Feds, a temporary replacement for the RNE (Registro Nacional de Extrangeiros) that I also need for entering. And this is where it gets ridiculous. Neither RNE nor the protocol carry any additional information. My visa and the RNE are linked to my passport number, and the passport clearly shows that all required registrations are done. This requirement is idiotic. The equivalent would be to require passport and identity card in European countries. I am legal, visibly so, and I only need an entry stamp.

So now I am told to wait, together with two fellow sufferers who made the same mistake of leaving the protocol in the country when they left. Then an official appears, takes our passports and tells us to wait some more. When he reappears after a while he carries a stack of declarations and bank transfers. I now have the very same entry stamp in my passport, only the privilege costs 165,55R$, due within the next five days. So for a couple of minutes of work the government made almost 500R$ on the three of us. For nothing. Not shabby at all! The monthly minimum wage is around 300R$. And to add insult to injury they cannot even be honest about it and make it a round sum like 100R$, but instead try to make it appear that there was a real value incurred in this, or some real transaction costs, which somebody has carefully calculated. 55 cents, I ask you!

It's a money-making scam, no less. Motto: "Because we can." Considering that a lot of foreigners who live here are likely to walk into that trap at least once it should be quite lucrative.

As it happens I do right this moment have some creative ideas for a new motto on the Brazilian flag which I'm willing to sell to the government for lots of money.