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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trees along the Lagoa

I have written about walking the Lagoa so many times I wonder why I do it again, except that there is always a new way of looking at this 7.5km hike/bike trail. This time I wanted to show the variety of trees.
When the Lagoa was made into a parque (park) it was landscaped with trees from Brasil, not ones necessarily native to Rio. There are palms, of course, and coconut and then hundreds of others which I do not know the names. I just know that each time I walk around the Lagoa I am pleased by one or the other because of the flowers, or the color or the leaves, or seed - I am just pleased.
The trees frame the lake, ease the blue of the sky and water with greens and browns and texture. They sway - seeming to bend towards the water and give shade and a glimpse of birds, and boats, and divide you from other walkers, adding a sense of peace and privacy.
DSC00958_jpgsilhouette6  DSC06057  
DSC06913   DSC06617     Hope you enjoyed them also.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just looking

Today is my daughter's **th birthday. I can remember her big blue eyes and soft roundness on the day of her birth even after so many years. I called her this morning at SIX AM her time and left 'happy birthday to you' on her cell phone.

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I have been back into my external drive which holds all my photos from years past. I thought I would cull out the bad or marginal ones and recover some badly needed disc space. I am so bad at knowing what a bad photo is so all I have accomplished is to see photos I would like to show you. These two are of the same Ficus tree which hangs out over the Lagoa in Rio. The times of year, the angle and the light are different but I like both photos. I love reflections and the sense of hidden spaces.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The winter sea in Rio

and then the waves were BIG (6) A few years ago my Granddaughter Marissa visited with me for a full summer vacation.... Her summer vacation but here in Rio it was winter. To me this is the very best time to be here. The air is moderate during the day and every once in a while you may need a light jacket in the evening. This particular year I went down to the shore for a walk and found it empty of people and a storm at sea was driving the waves to a frenzy. I remember running (well walking fast) back to the apartment and pulling Marissa out, saying she had to see this, she HAD to come. Here is one of our short videos for you to experience the winter sea in Rio
Winter Sea on Ipanema
We spent an hour taking photos of the sea, the waves and the deserted beach.
 DSC00952 (2)and then the waves were BIG (21)
Generally during the heat of the summer the sea off the beach of Ipanema is rather placid, the waves roll in, the waves roll out.
In the winter the waves come in from the opposite direction, at times pounding the shore and leaving a pool of water that you can walk through, dragging your feet as you enjoy the sun warmed sea water.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Shoot-out – My town, To Preserve is Fundamental



Last week while taking photos of bars and restaurants in downtown Friburgo, I snapped a photo, from across the street, of some open upstairs windows of a building where I know there is a nightclub.  I saw the shadow of chairs inside and thought maybe it was something I could use.  I didn’t really see the sign on the outside wall of the building.  Once home and downloading the photos I saw that this sign says,

“to preserve is fundamental” Revitalization of the antique facades of Nova Friburgo. 

There is a project or promotion happening to make our town show a little better.  In this area of Brazil there are many small towns that have preserved their architectural  integrity.  I have taken you to a few of these towns  via 'small places' in prior blogs.  To me Friburgo has never been one of these cute, well cared for towns.  But with this sign I have begun to hope that they (the people of Nova Friburgo) will start to see their town buildings as something to be cared for – to be made clean and to be seen by themselves as well as those from the outside.

When I walk in the center of Friburgo, the buildings along the streets show fatigue and a lack of a sense of aesthetics.     











The signs for the stores are HUGE and often expensive looking – all different in size, shape, and color. 



DSC_2990They often cover the the bottom of the second story balconies and windows.  And leave you with a sense of confusion throughout the town.

I went back downtown this week to take photos of examples of this … ‘mess’ and came back with the new conclusion that yes there is a revitalization going on.  You have to look for it.  If you don’t let your eye see the signs, or the traffic snarls, or the electric and telephone wires still in the 1950s mode; there are many buildings that have been repainted, with the facades repaired, but you have to look up – look up to the second story to see the potential of this city.  DSC_2997DSC_2999DSC_2994










DSC_3012DSC_3013 DSC_3002    DSC_2952DSC_2986

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brasilian styled birthday party

DSC_3040Tuesday was a national holiday, everything was closed including the gym. Next week is Edgar's birthday. These two things combined prodded me to invite the young people from the gym up here to the house for a Churrasco.

They came, it rained, they ate everything on the table, they DSC08037laughed and talked and enjoyed each other's company.  They enjoyed their day off.  They did not care that they were stacked up against each other to avoid the rain.  They sang happy birthday to Edgar, ate cake and they left.

Camillo and I cleaned up for two hours then collapsed.







This is a normal routine for a birthday party. When I first arrived here I did like you would in the States;  you feed everyone, you give them coffee and desert. They sit around and talk and laugh, maybe have another drink, and sit and talk some more.

DSC_3036Here after the birthday cake everyone gets up at once, kisses and hugs everyone all around (and around) and then leaves.... hum?

So here you feed them, talk and laugh and dance, offer coffee, maybe give out chocolates, then when it is time for the party to be over you serve the birthday cake.

and that is that, everyone leaves.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Currency exchange rates

Reais imageAfter last week's Friday Shoot-out, I received several comments about the cost of food here - or comparison with food prices in other home towns. When I read the other's entries there were several that gave the prices of some meals then converted those local prices into US Dollars. I often get asked by friends in the US what it means when I say something like 'gas is R$2.63 per liter.' It means that gas is very expensive here.

All of this is about expats converting prices to their home currency then saying it is 'cheap' to live in Brazil.  Or when a news report says someone in Africa makes only a dollar a day. These kinds of report really have no meaning.  It is the purchasing power of the local currency in the local economy that counts.
I just read in http://expatbrazil.wordpress.com/ that "Approximately 9,200 people stood in line in Mauá, SP,  greater São Paulo, f or six hours to register to take the test for 120 part-time jobs with the Mauá’s county government.   Salaries for waiting%2520in%2520linethe jobs range from R$835 to R$945 ... per month." This is about 1.5 to 1.75 minimum salaries.   {like minimum hourly rates in the US}
If we go back to the gas prices I mentioned above, converting not the price but the volume is significant. A gallon is 3.78 liters.  So we have to multiply the price by 3.78 to get a comparison on prices of gas. A gallon of gas in Brazil would be R$9.95. To fill a 10 gallon tank on a small car once would cost more than 10% of the monthly salary for these Brazilians looking for a government job - if they even had a car.
Many expats are paid in a combination of local currency and in their home currency. Their companies pay them a living allowance in local currency plus put money in the bank back home.  If you want to live really well here as many expats do, (compared to their Brazilian counterparts) they must convert part of their home money to local currency also.  So converting currency to determine the true cost is okay.  I receive a small amount doing accounting and I'm paid in Reais - so for me the cost here is the cost. Even if I convert the gallon of gas to the dollar it still costs US$4.42 a gallon - Gas is expensive here. ** it cost me about R$125.00 to fill up my car, this last nearly a month - it is right at 10% of my pay. This is only one example of using exchange rates when living abroad : in my earlier blog I said, " My meal was R$9.62 and Camillo’s R$8.96." If I converted this to dollars by today's rate of 2.24 then my plate would have been US$4.27 and Camillo's lunch would be US$3.98 plus a soda or water - Yes it is cheap to live in Brazil if converted to American currency but the last time I was in Houston I went downtown to have lunch with friends - my pasta plus tea plus tax cost over US$17.00 which to me is totally out of line.... everything is relative to income...
go to this link to be SHOCKED and APPALLED!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Shoot-out: my town’s food and drink

DSC01011Because Camillo and I enjoy our food and drink, and whenever we have friends or family visit or we travel; what we do is eat and drink.  I have written in ‘flowers’ many times on the topic of eating and drinking so if you have seen any of these photos before or heard the same story, forgive my duplications. This week’s topic was described as “native foods, restaurants and bars in your town”.  I took a few photos specifically for this topic and I also pulled from my photo files from past times (parties).   I, of course, ended up with too many photos and have a hard time eliminating marginal ones, so be patient as you look through them. Some of the photos are from Rio, some are Friburgo, some from parties at our home and there might even be some from Bahia but in all these places you can usually find the same (similar) foods AND I couldn’t eat my way through a year’s worth of eating just to give you a sample of food here, so I cheated a bit.

I started out little confused by what might be considered native foods in Friburgo or Rio.  Brazil was colonized and the food, like in North America, is a composite of all the countries that participated in the (over) populating of this country.  Here in Friburgo and in most of Brazil by varying degrees, there are DSC00025large sections of descendants of Swiss, German, Italian, and Portuguese immigrants. There are smaller groups of Indian, Japanese, and African and there are smatterings of many other groups too numerous to mention that might have had an influence on and/or might be considered ‘native’. All of these groups brought a food culture and dish preparation with them and all of their foods have merged or converged into what we might call Brazilian food.  

There is a trend now to more DSC05197iisophisticated dining but the majority of Brazilians still love to go out or entertain friends at home with two basic meals, Churrasco or Feijoada. Churrasco or what could be translated to a Barbeque but really isn’t, is a variety of meats cooked on skewers, turned slowly over hot coals and the meal includes rice, cooked fresh vegetables in season, served cold with light vinaigrette, and farofa. The meats range from chicken wings and hearts to picanha, ribs, and sausages. Large restaurants have more variety and serve rodizio (as long as your eating they bring more) but these would be the basics of any churrasco you might be served.DUDLEY AND CHRIS (4)

Feijoada is a black bean lunch served every Saturday in most restaurants. It has as much variation as the number of restaurants that serve it. This dish originated with the slaves in the northern part of Brazil and has worked its way south and become one of the most popular meals to enjoy. The story goes that as the ‘masters’ finished their elaborate meals, the slaves took the leftover meats and unused parts of the animals and kept adding it to the pot of beans and on Saturday they would feast. The animal parts like pig ears are mostly not used any longer, but salt pork, dried beef, sausage, ribs and DSC_1088such, fill the soup and add the flavor to the beans. The beans and meat are customarily served with rice, couve (collard greens sautéed in bacon grease and topped with bacon bits) and farofa. For Brazilians it is not about the big and somewhat heavy meals but about eating in large groups of friends and family. This is really their specialty in all things, the ability to ENJOY.    Both of these meals require at least one Caipirinha and a nap after.


DSC03247I ask Camillo for his list of favorite dishes. The list included Bobô de camerão, Rabada (ox tail), dobradinha (tripe), feijoada, Bolinhos de bacalhau (Cod fish and potato croquets), Casquinha de siri ,“a Brazilian dish made with crab meat, …. is prepared with coconut milk, palm oil, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs”, leitao (pork), crema de Maracujá and last but not least – Acarajé. I am not going to tell you what all of these are or I would be writing a dissertation on food here.   If something is of special interest ask…. better yet come and let us take you around. We would need about 3 weeks for a proper eating tour.

 For a list of Brazilian dishes and recipes try this hyperlink.

So far this has been about special occasion foods, when we go out for a regular lunch in Friburgo or Rio we generally eat ‘by the kilo’. These are well stocked buffets that you pay for the number of grams on you plate. Our favorite place in Friburgo is Excalibur. (esh cal E brrr) The pictures speak for themselves -

















  My meal was 9.62 and Camillo’s 8.96.

For now I added photos only of other restaurants and bars by way of the photo album. I know I have talked about at least two of these places and maybe some day soon, I will talk more about our other experiences here in Nova Friburgo and area, and in Rio de Janeiro.