Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back from Brazil

Dear all,

It has been 7 weeks since we have returned to the Netherlands. 

Our live in São Paulo has been unforgettable...in good and bad ways.
We found Patrick's two sisters and his family...and that is most important!

Now, we will start a next phase in our lives. Around 1 November we will move to Zurich, Switzerland, where I will continue working for BSD Consulting. 

It's hard to believe the enormous contrast between Brazil and Switzerland. I cannot think of two more extreme countries. We are confident though that we will have a good time in Switzerland!

Thank you for following our blog!
Abraços,
Annelies & Patrick

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pantanal

The Pantanal according to Wikipedia:

The Pantanal is a tropical wetland and one of the world's largest wetland of any kind. It lies mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul but extends into Mato Grosso as well as into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay, sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 square kilometers and 195,000 square kilometers. Various sub-regional ecosystems exist, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; up to twelve of them have been defined.

80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.

The name "Pantanal" comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh. By comparison, the Brazilian highlands are locally referred to as the planalto, plateau or, literally, high plain.




The region has only become a populair travel destination some ten years ago. Few people visit the Pantanal. We learnt that this is because of three reasons: 1) the region Matto Grosso do Sul is difficult to reach and you need a car to get around, 2) the accommodations in the Pantanal are mostly expensive, and 3) the region is flooded with water from January to June so in this period you can only visit the inside of the Pantanal with a boat and guides who know their way around.



We visited the Pantanal during our eight-day farewell trip. It was a very special experience!
When we passed by the small town Miranda and entered the Pantanal region we could already immediately see the difference in nature. The lowlands were extending as far as you could see. There was water everywhere. The sky was blue. It was amazing!


The web season is not the best period to see animals in the Pantanal but I think it is the most exciting period. We left our rental car at the main road and were taken in a truck. After a km we had to get out and in a small boat to cross the river, because the bridge was gone. Then we went further in a 4x4 and when we could not get further we got in a small motorboat to get to the pousada in the middle of the Pantanal. The pousada was surrounded by water.


After dinner we went for a night-walk with a guide and a few other guests. We took a motorboat to another place. When we got out the guide showed us we were surrounded by caimans. These animals are not very dangerous for people and they grow 'only' up to 2 meters long.
After we had seen the caimans and the guide took a small one in his hand to show us, we thought it was time to go back. But no...we went for a walk and had to get into the water - where the caimans were waiting for fish floating by - to walk from one dry part to the other. This was unexpected! And scary! We could see the caimans only a meter away from us. You could clearly see their eyes lit up in the light of the flash-lamp. And the water was lukewarm and black. And the sky was dark with many many stars. Quite an adventure!

The next day we went on a boat safari to watch birds and spot monkeys. The Pantanal is beautiful (especailly when you can see it with daylight)! We saw several birds, the nest of killer bees, a dead kaiman, and a monkey mother and baby.

The nature of the Pantanal is unique and we definitely want to return another time!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Avenida Paulista

Every day, going to the office, I take the route over the Avenida Paulista. From our home it is a 15 minute walk to get to this most famous street of the city. 
When I walk at the Avenida Paulista I see high grey and glass buildings all around me. From early morning until late in the evening the pavements are occupied by people going to some nearby destination.
I say 'nearby', because Brazilians tend to not walk too long distances. They would take the bus or metro, taxi, or car to get somewhere. That I walk my 45 minutes to get to the office instead of taking the metro for two stops is a rare sight, which few tend to understand.

Around 18:00 at Avenida Paulista, near metro station Consalação



"Avenida Paulista is one of the most important avenues in São Paulo, Brazil. The 2.8 kilometre thoroughfare is notable for headquartering a large number of financial and cultural institutions, as well as being home to an extensive shopping area and to Latin America's most comprehensive fine-art museum, MASP. Since the 1960s, the avenue has been identified as one of the main business centers in the city. Being one of the highest points in São Paulo, it is distinctively clustered with radio and TV stations antennae. The road is served by a subway line and many major bus routes. The avenue, which was inaugurated in December 1891, is generally regarded as the most expensive real estate anywhere in Latin America." Source: Wikipedia

French croissant

And a few days later we found these French croissants at the supermarket :-)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Croissant

It's Sunday morning. Because of the carnaval weekend it's nice and quiet. It's also much cooler than before, which is very welcome after those extremely hot weeks. What about breakfast with a warm fresh croissant from the padaria? We're not sure if they have croissants we are looking for, but let's give it a try. 

I go to the padaria and ask 'Você tem croissants sem nada?'. No, they only have croissants with filling. Lot's of choice though: cheese, cheese with ham, cheese with salami, creamcheese, and minced meat. But this is not what we have in mind for a Sunday morning breakfast. So, I order a ciabatta.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Connectivity

You cannot imagine what happened last Wednesday...

I was at work when I got a call from Patrick that we had lost all connections at home - electricity was working though. We lost the internet connection, the TV wasn't working and the phone was dead. I immediately throught of the possibility that lightning had struck, but this was not the case! One of the truck drivers of the constructed office building next door had driven into the cables that hang over the street. How stupid! ;-)

When I got home (after waiting at the office for 30min for the heavy rain fall to stop) there were some 10 men working on the reparations of the cables. Although I could not imagine that these cables would be fixed any time soon...after less than an hour we got all connections back!






These are the cables that bring electricity, internet, cable TV, and telephone to our appartement building:


Chuva

Rain is not the first thing you think of when you think of Brazil. I remember that I always had images of sunny beaches, tropical fruits, and people laughing and dancing. Well, I suppose you have some idea where this blog is headin' to.

Coming week I will be living in Brazil for 5 months. I have learnt that Brazil is all the things that I just mentioned...and more. While the world often sees photos of smiling Brazilians, the last few weeks have also shown the world that live isn't always fun in this country. (And I will not be writing about the huge income inequality, the insufficient infrastructure, the low quality of education, the even worse quality of products, etc.)

Some weeks ago I showed pictures of the terrible rain floods that had tortured parts of the country. I assume that you all had seen these images on the news as well. I also assume that the news has stopped showing these images a long time ago.

We have had extremely hot days for three weeks; between end of January until mid February, without any rain. It was really warm and the nights we so warm that people couldn't sleep. Although I complained about the rain, the heat was even more unpleasant as it's extremely hard to concentrate at work if you haven't had a good night of sleep.

But it's changed again...last week the cool air, the clouds and the rain came back... It's still warm during the day but at the end of the afternoon (between 16:00 and 17:00) it starts raining. It like a neverending cloudburst (wolkenbreuk).
So, the rain causes problems again. The city is flooded so that cars are floating in the streets and people get out of their houses or offices.
After a heavy rain shower of 1 - 2 hours it gets better and it just keeps raining lightly.

For some proof, here are two pictures of last week's rainfall here in Sao Paulo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Não tudo bem no Brasil

As the title says: it's not ok in Brazil. As you may have seen on the news large areas in the country are flooded with rainwater. It's been raining since Monday night and although there are dry periods in between, the rainfalls have been very heavy.

We live in the highest part of the city. Hence, we don't suffer much and so far we have only witnessed the rainfall while watching out of our windows.

Other parts of the city have had problems though. Streets are covered with water and the traffic has been a chaos. The people who have little houses in the favelas suffer the most though. These houses are so ramshackle and build on unstable grounds that they easily brake down or the earth underneath is flooding away.

Even more worse is the situation in the regions a couple of hundreds of kilometers away from us. You may have seen these kind of images...


Source: BBC World News website

We are in the middle of the rain season. January is known for it's rainy days followed by sunny hot days. That's normal for the time of  year. From what we've heard last year it rained all month. But was it as bad as this? I don't know.

Officials said on the television that the government is taking precautions so that the country's infrastructure is going to be better prepared for these kind of weather conditions. It was for instance mentioned that more parks will be developed, so that the water can more easily finds its way to the soil. Knowing how things go in this country, it may take another rainy season though, before these plans have actually been realized.

In the meantime let's just all hope that these first rainfalls have done all the damage and that the rainfalls still to follow will only make the plants and trees greener...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A day as usual

Photo: view from our balcony

As the holiday season has started and people all around us talk about visiting their family and friends, we realise that this year's holidays are going to be different for us...
We are very feliz to be invited to spend the days with friends and their families. We will enjoy their company, we'll eat good food, and we'll experience how Brazilians spend their holidays. And all of this, while it's at least 25 degrees Celcius and the sun is shining (although it may very well rain all day because that's what we got used to this week).

For New Year's eve it will probably just be the two of us. But to be honest, we also spend the last two 31st of December together at home in Amsterdam (partly due to KLM's policies for its flight attendants).

Anyway, because these holidays are everything but normal, I feel like sharing what a normal day looks like for us here at the Rua Apeninos.

07:00 the construction workers start drilling, knocking, shouting > NOISE
08:00 the alarm clock goes off
08:30 breakfast with cereals, suco, tea or coffee
08:45 on Fridays: bringing the laundry (max. 7kg/week) downstairs
09:00 watching BBC World or Friends on TV and/or starting up the laptops
09:30 job hunting/working/appointment/responding to emails/housekeeping
13:00 sandwich for lunch
14:00 job hunting/working/learning Portuguese/appointment/housekeeping
17:00 getting groceries/going out for a coffee/on skype
19:00 cooking and having dinner
20:00 watching TV/on skype/responding to emails
21:00 watching House on TV
22:30 time to get ready for bed


Photo: doing the dishes

Not too exciting I would say, but every day is different. We continuously learn about Brazilian culture. We keep informed about all that's going on in the Netherlands and the rest of the world. We walk a lot and have ample experience with public transportation (unlike all the Dutch expats we've met here). And, we still do not understand the weather here...it's impossible to predict!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Visiting Starbucks

Yesterday we visisited the Starbucks for a (big) cup of coffee. To our surprise, or maybe not really... we noticed that also here there are ample X-mas decorations showing wintery images. This, while it is over 30 degrees outside...
Let me share these images with you!



Terrace outside the Starbucks - because the airco is on inside it's too cold there. Anyway, we like to sit on terrasjes, gezellig!

X-mas in São Paulo

Some images of Christmas decorations in São Paulo


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ceias de Natal

Since some time I was thinking to write something about the supermarket here and it's assortment. Today when we bought some vegetables for dinner, coffee, showercream, and a bag of frozen pão de queijo I noticed the magazine Ceias de Natal (lit: Suppers of Christmas). Perfect way for me to get some understanding of the delicacies that the (wealthy) people in Brasil will eat for Christmas and for you to get some insight into our food supply here.
Let me share you some products with accompanying prices (translated into English by me and the exchange rate is currently (1 Euro is 2,23 BRL):

Queijo holandés - Dutch cheese: R$ 5,49 per 100 gram
Taça para champanhe Ypsilon importada Bormioli Rocco 235ml - champagne: R$16,90
Panceta tipo italiana Cerrati - bacon: R$2,67 per 100 gram
Mortadela tipo exportação Ceratti fatiada - mortadella: R$2,59 per 100 gram
Nozes sem casca a granel - walnuts: R$5,59 per 100 gram
Damasco seco a granel - dried apricots: R$2,59 per 100 gram
Mousse de chocolate com avelã frabricação própria - chocolate mousse with hazelnut: R$29,90 per kg
Sorvete Häagen-Dazs vários sabores 473ml - icecream: R$19,90

Ok, I'll save you all the prepared dishes that are offered which you can order in advance.
At least my conclusion based on the information above is: 1) you can get anything you like, 2) it is not cheap, and 3) products from abroad or good enough to be exported are the best!

225 gram of nuts covered with a chocolate layer: R$19,93

For those of you that want to know more, this is the website of the supermarket where we most often go for our groceries: Pão de Açúcar.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guaraná

I may actually also learn something from writing today's blog...

The subject is Guaraná. Here in Brasil people drink this soft drink as much as others drink Cola. We also very much like the drink. It is not too sweet, it is refreshing, it is widely available, it's just tasy! Especially with a slice of orange.

So what is this drink Guaraná?
The word guarana comes from the Portuguese Guaraná, which has its origins in the Sateré-Maué word for the plant, warana.
Brasil, which is the third-largest consumer of soft drinks in the world, produces several soft drink brands from guarana extract. The Portuguese word "Guaraná" is widely used in Brazil as a synonym of "soda". Exceeding Brazilian sales of cola drinks.


Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Understanding this country

After several weeks we are slowly getting to understand this country, its culture, its people, and its systems...a little bit. Only just a little bit.
While the people seem so open and friendly, they are actually quite closed and suspicious. While Brazilians are proud on the systems put in place to make its bureaucracy more efficient, we just can't imagine how it could have been even more inefficient than it is. While we see that companies' slogans say that one can be proud to be a Brazilian, things are often seen as better when it comes from abroad.
These are just three examples that give some insight into our guest country. The country that we enjoy living in. The country where we want to make it so that we can actually enjoy its nature, its culture, its cuisine, etc. The country that we are trying to understand.

We both recently read the book 'De nacht van de schreeuw' (The night of the scream) by Dutch journalist Marjon van Royen. While the book is often hilarious and really fun to read, it also gives a very good insight into Mexico. Just as we are struggling here in Brazil to understand the country, Marjon has been in Mexico struggling with the same challenge. And believe it or not, she experienced many situations that could as well have happened here in Brazil. Hence, for those of you who like reading a good non-fiction book that reads like a novel, I recommend reading this book. Also if you want to learn about Latin culture, you should definitely read this book.

We look forward to hear (i.e. read) what you think of it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A padaria

The padaria is the bakery. But Brasil wouldn't be Brasil if things weren't a little bit different. So at the Brazilian paderia you can buy bread (not so much bread like we know in the Netherlands, but only broodjes/rolls), cake, chocolates, creams, but also cheese, ham, salami, drinks, and any other item that you would expect at a night-shop (including the price that you'd expect). The padaria is open all day from 6am to 10pm, even on Sundays and on holidays. You can also have breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the padaria. There is a buffet, which is typical Brazilian. You choose your food and weigh it as you pay per kilo(gram).


This photo shows 'our' padaria which is just around the corner from our appartment building. It is the only one nearby and it's only a 5 minute walk for us.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our Saturday in São Paulo

Today the alarm clock went off at 8am - even though the men doing the building works next door had already woken us up more than an hour before. This Saturday we had to get out of the apartment early because there would be a fire escape drill in the building. As we have both had first aid trainings and learnt what to do in case of fire in buildings (and air planes), we did not feel like staying for this exercise. 

We took our study books and walked to Centro Cultural São Paulo. This Cultural Centre of São Paulo is located on the street parallel to our house. We pass it every day; on our way to the metro, to the supermarket, to Avenida Paulista, and to the Ibirapuera Parc. 

The Centre is an architecturally very fascinating building. It has four floors and with nice weather you can also sit in the grass on the roof terrace. The lowest floor is on the same level as the (2 times 6 lanes) street, while the other floors are on the same level as the street that runs parallel to ours. Ok, before this story becomes to abstract...let me tell you how we spend our time at the Centre. - For those of you interested in the architecture of the exterior and interior of the building: have a look at the images. - 

We find a place at one of the tables with our books. We learn Portuguese, study for the entry exam for university, and read books. The Centre is always full with people of all ages studying, reading, working on the laptop, etc. It is a really nice informal place to be.

After lunch at the Centre (a buffet where you pay per gram) we took the metro to metro station Luz. This is the biggest station in the city. 



We discovered that some museums have free admission on Saturdays. So even though we had little time left before the museums would close we decided to pay them a visit. First we visited the Pinacoteca. This is my favourite museum in São Paulo (even though I must admit have not visited many museums yet) and especially the building is beautiful. One can see modern art, paintings by Brazilian artists from several decades, sculptures, and photos. It's a really nice museum and definitely worth a visit whenever you visit the city!




We also visited the Estação Pinacoteca, which used to be the old station and now shows modern art. Also a beautiful building and from the different rooms you can have an interesting view over the neighbourhood. The area around Luz isn't really great. You really have to be careful and better not be there after sunset.



After a short visit to the Estação we also visited the Museum of the Portuguese Language. This seemed to be the most popular museum of the three. The museum currently has an exhibition on a famous Brazilian Portuguese poet while the permanent exhibition informs you on the history of the Portuguese language. Perhaps more interesting when you actually know the language... :-)

All in all, we had a day in which we learnt a lot!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This is not how we live...

Our friend Tamara pointed us at the Dutch TV show 'Grenzeloos Verliefd' (Love without borders) which had shown a episode last week about a Dutch girl that moved to Brazil to be with her Brazilian boyfriend. For those of you who can bring up the patience to watch this 1hr TV program and ignore the main character; it is worth watching as it gives an impression of the city of São Paulo. And even the shots taken in Belo Horizonte give a good impression of what a big Brazilian city looks like. Just keep in mind: this is not how we live!


There was also this episode about another Dutch girl that was hopelessly in love with a Brazilian boy and moved to the Brazilian countryside to live with him. You´ll see it´s the total opposite of the other girl´s lifestyle. Note that this is also not the way we live!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nossa Senhora Aparecida

Tomorrow - 12 October - is a public holiday. Which means that we have a day off! (a day off from what you could ask...), that most businesses are closed, and that many (millions!) people living in SP are out of town for a long weekend.

The weatherforecast for today and tomorrow: mostly cloudy, between 15 and 20 degrees Celcius and rain showers.

The day 12 October is dedicated to Our Lady Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil. At the same time, the day is also celebrated as Children's Day. Children's Day, as an event, is celebrated on various days in many places around the world, in particular to honor children.

Other public holidays later this year in Brazil are:
  • 2 November - Finados (All Souls' Day)
  • 15 November - Proclamation of the Republic
  • 24 December - Christmas Eve
  • 25 December - Christmas Day
(source: Wikipedia)