Carnival in Brazil: It's time to samba

As Carnival (or Carnaval in Portuguese) is upon us, now is a good time to write a little about it, even though it is a celebration that does little for me personally.
First off, Carnival is perhaps Brazil’s most important holiday and is certainly the longest.  Businesses tend to shut on Friday afternoon only to reopen at midday on Wednesday.  I still find this idea of going to work at lunchtime after 4 or 5 days of partying a strange concept although I suppose it does provide a little time to get over any hangovers.
The dates of Carnival weekend vary from year to year in the same fashion as Easter.  They are the last days to party before lent, meaning that Carnival celebrations are the weekend before Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday.

Carnival – Rio de Janeiro

Carnival varies somewhat from city to city.  In Rio de Janeiro, the main event takes place at the Sambadromo, a 700m long avenue with spectator stands either side, on Sunday and Monday of the weekend between 9pm and approximately 3:50am.  Each day 6 different samba schools take their turn to parade along the avenue.  Each school has 3,000 to 5,000 people dressed in various costumes.  Additionally, each school usually has about 8 specially designed floats themed to the schools overall theme of the year.  You can find out a lot more here
Carnival in Rio

Carnival – Salvador

Perhaps the second most famous Carnival city is Salvador, where in true local style it starts on Thursday and carries on to Wednesday more or less all day and night long.  In Salvador they have many trios which are floats or trucks with bands/dancers that drive slowly around the city’s streets.  People can  follow a particular trio around, protected from the crowds by security guards, by buying a pass to become an abada. Another way is to buy a ticket in a camarote where you will have the comfort of food and drink.  The third way is to simply walk the streets and pavements.  This is called pipoca (usually translated as popcorn) and is the least comfortable and safe option.
Carnival Salvador
Other cities celebrate  may elect to celebrate Carnival on different days or even different weekends.  For example, Sao Paulo has a similar parade to Rio that takes place on Friday and Saturday.  Other cities, such as Belo Horizonte where I live, don’t have any major events, but instead have many smaller street parties or blocos, a smaller, less organised version of a trio.

Carnival Ouro Preto
Time to cool down – more photos here

Another popular destination for Brazilians are the historic cities, such as world heritage listed Ouro Preto.  In Ouro Preto, most people stay in a ‘republic’ – a sort of dorm/hostel where facilities are shared among many.  The atmosphere is lively with various stages dotted around city’s cobbled roads and numerous churches. the .  It is a 4 or 5 day party with little sleep for most

Must see places in Brazil

So you see Brazil isn’t just Rio, beautiful people and crime. It has far more to offer.

I’m often asked by friends and students “What do British people think of when they think of Brazil?”.  I have to say beautiful beaches and women, carnival, the amazon rain-forest and crime.
Dealing with the last first, there is undoubtedly serious crime in Brazil, particularly in the big cities.  However, and I hope it stays this way, I haven’t personally had experienced this.  In fact, I’ve been told several stories about people going to the UK and having things stolen that weren’t stolen in Brazil.  I think with some common sense and staying away from certain neighbourhoods, then there isn’t a huge amount to worry about.

Devil’s Throat, Foz de Iguaçu

With regards my other answers, they are true, but there is so much more that Brazil has to offer.  For example, the beaches aren’t just Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon in Rio de Janeiro.  Brazil has about 2800km of beaches and, in my experience, most of them are spectacular and many exceed the beaches I’ve seen in other parts of the world.
So, apart from the beaches, where would I suggest visiting.
Foz de Iguaçu/Itaipu

Itaipu Dam with spillway open

Foz de Iguaçu (or Iguazu in Argentina) should, in my opinion, be considered as one of the natural 7 wonders of the world, however, Itaipu Dam is considered by American Engineers to be one of the engineering world.  Where else, within a few kilometres travel, can you see TWO such sites.
Foz de Iguaçu is a huge waterfall which is over 270m long, consists of upto 275 individual falls with a drop of approximately 82m.  It is on the Iguaçu river which delimits the border between Brazil and Argentina.  The Devils throat is quite spectacular.  On the Argentinian side you can get almost to the very top of the falls, whilst from the Brazilian side you can take a boat and travel to the base of the falls.
The Itaipu Dam was ‘jointly’ built by the Paraguayan and Brazilian governments but was mostly funded and constructed by Brazil.  It dams the Paraná River just above where it meets the Iguaçu River.  The convolution of the 2 rivers marks the border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, which is unique in the world as well!
The dam generates 20% of Brazil’s total electrical needs and all of Paraguay’s.  It is possible to take a tour of the dam which includes the control centre, a drive over the top and base of the dam.  If you are lucky, like we were. you can see excess water being released down the spillway, but this is only about 10% of the days.
For more pictures of both these sites, please see our photos.

Ouro Preto central square

Colonial towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes
These are historic cities founded by the Portuguese colonizers which are in the state of Minas Gerais (where we live). They give a glimpse into early life of Brazil.  In my opinion, many of these towns and cities are quite similar but a visit to one or more is a must.
Ouro Preto (black gold) is today on Unesco’s list of world heritage sites.  It was the focal point of Brazil’s 18th century gold rush and gold can still be seen today decorating many of the numerous historic catholic  churches.  It is set in a valley and was once the state’s capital until Belo Horizonte was built.
Rio de Janeiro
Most people know of Rio so this is very brief.  It is really beautiful city and has many attractions such as the harbour, the lagoon, Sugar Loaf, beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema and of course Corcovada (where the famous Christ the Redeemer is to be found).  There are many many other attractions, great restaurants.  I currently rate Rio as my second favourite city in the world.
The above are all places we have visited.  The ones below come highly recommended and are on our list of places to visit.
Fernando do Noronha
Fernando do Noronha is an island archipeligo about 350km off the northeastern coast of Brazil.  In many ways it is the Atlantic’s Galapagos with the upwelling of water drawing much marine life.  However, it doesn’t have as large a diversity of terrestrial animals as does the Galapagos Islands.  It is regarded as the best diving in Brazil, a fact I have yet to test.

Bonito is famous for its crystal clear rivers that are a result of a natural filtration.  It is being preserved to keep its pristine natural beauty.  Activities include walking/treking and swimming/snorkeling/diving in the rivers and caves to be found in the area.
The amazon is a river basin surrounded by rainforest and is located in the countries of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana.  The region and diversity is so varied that I’ll mention only a few things that I’d like to see and do.  In no particular order, see the confluence of the Rio Negro and Amazon river, swim with the river dolphins and experience the rainforest and jungle.
The Pantanal
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland covering an area of around 140,000 sq km.   It is renowned for its bio-diversity.  It is also easier to spot the wildlife in the Pantanal than in the Amazon as there are less hiding places.  As Bonito, it is predominantly located in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  There are thousands of different vertebrate species to be found there.

Lençoís Maranhenses

Lençoís Maranhenses
This is a region covering 1000 sq km of in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão.  Despite heavy rainfall, it is a region largely devoid of vegetation with many discreet sand dunes and lakes.
As and when we visit these places, we’ll write more.
So you see Brazil isn’t just Rio, beautiful people and crime.  It has far more to offer.

Sunny Sunday in INHOTIMUm domingo em INHOTIM

Have you ever heard so much about a place that you think it must be overrated? You’re sure you’re going to be disappointed when you finally see it. That was my feeling about Inhotim, an open-air contemporary art museum 60 km from our home in Belo Horizonte. Last Sunday we eventually managed to go there and I have to say that Inhotim is everything I heard about and more! We loved it.
When we got there, the place was very crowded, because we chose to go on a long weekend right after the opening of new exhibitions.  Later I read that on that day, Oct 11th, they had more than 4000 visitors, a record since the opening in 2006. So we stood in line for half an hour or so but we had decided to spend the day there.
The place:
Installations, sculptures and paintings by contemporary artists from the 1960s onwards are part of the permanent collection. Some are outdoors while others are housed in 16 pavilions scattered around the park. According to the museum’s website, there are 600 hectares of Natural Reserve, 45 hectares of gardens with botanical collections and 5 lakes. Nature in its exuberance, as you can see in the pictures below.

For us Brazilians, some names stand out like that of landscape designer Burle Marx, inspiration for the amazing gardens, and modernist artists such as Helio Oiticica, Amilcar de Castro and movie-maker Neville D’Almeida. I was also surprised to see an installation by Olafur Eliasson, whose work I’d seen in the Turbine hall at Tate Modern back in 2004. And Steve was very impressed with a sound installation by Janet Cardiff with music recorded at Salisbury Cathedral.

I want that bench!

This is a place we are definitely going back, especially with our dear guests from out of state or overseas.
Centro de Arte Contemporânea de Inhotim
Opening hours:
Thursdays and Fridays: 9:30 – 4:30 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays: 9:30 – 5:30 pm
Admission for adults: R$15.00
Click here to see how to get there.

2016 – Olympics coming to Rio

Looking down on Rio de Janiero from Corcovada

Congratulations to Rio de Janeiro for winning the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games.  But is it good or bad for Brazil?  What do Brazilians think?
It’s fair to say that there are mixed opinions about hosting the Olympics.  There are those that say the Games will boost tourism, improve infrastructure, and reduce crime.  Conversely, there are those that are worried about corruption.

Itaimbezinho Canyon in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul

Can anyone imagine a more beautiful location and stunning back drop than Rio de Janeiro?  Rio is a truly gorgeous city with great beaches, mountains and warm lively hospitable people.  But Rio is just one very small part of Brazil, there are other equally amazing places throughout the country that are little known outside of Brazil.  If the Olympics bring tourists to Rio, lets hope they find time to visit some of the other incredible places in Brazil (more about these in a later post).  Brazil’s tourism potential is sadly currently under-exploited.  Brazil boasts stunning natural scenery, in addition to beautiful (and cheap) beaches to mention but two.  In fact, those in the northeast of the country that are just a few hours flight from southern Europe and the United States.  The Games can only aid in the development of this potential.
There are undoubted concerns after the Pan-American Games of 2007 that the Olympics will be beset with allegations of corruption and wasted expenditure.  I have little doubt that there will be some of this, but what major project anywhere in the world doesn’t suffer similar problems (I’m sure Londoners would concur). I hope the various governmental authorities have learnt from the Pan-American Games and find ways to minimise this.  There is a deep-set belief among Brazilians that corruption is ever-present.  I think that this is in part due to history and in part represents the current behaviour of some politicians and companies.  It won’t be easy to convince them otherwise but, with openness and changed policies, maybe this perception can be gradually changed.
Another concern is Rio being left with “White Elephants” that are little used by the citizens.  I think if Rio/Brazil can use the games to tap into the potential sporting prowess of a growing population (not just for football/soccer), then this infrastructure will be used. However, it needs to be made available to all sections of society, hence it needs to be cheap to use.
Lastly, there are concerns that the money could be better spent on healthcare, education, housing and other important social issues.  This is more difficult to answer.  There is progress being made on these fronts, albeit slowly.  The problems in Brazil’s big cities are not trivial and there is no quick easy answer, but if the funding for the Olympics improves housing and educations and does something to improve the quality of life of the favela’s (slum’s) inhabitants in Rio de Janeiro, there will be long-term benefits there and, hopefully, elsewhere.  There is no doubt that crime is a serious concern and something which will need to be resolved prior to the Olympics in order to reassure the influx of tourists.
My personal opinion is that the Games represent a huge opportunity for Brazil to be recognised for what it is:

  • A huge country with enormous economic and touristic potential
  • A country with beautiful warm open people, stunning beaches and diverse cultures

So lets hope that the Olympics are a huge success and bring financial and social rewards to Rio and Brazil as a whole.

The 10 things I miss most from the UK

Whilst Brazil is a great place to live with many many positives, unsurprisingly, there are a number of things I miss from the UK.  Some of these are trivial, others less so, but after 4 years, and still missing them, I guess they must have some significance.  So here they are in no specific order.
Friends and Family
I think the reason for this is clear, so I wont say more.
Cricket and Rugby
Why cricket and rugby and not football?  I guess the answer is obvious – Brazilians (not all but most) love football so there is plenty to watch on TV, normally including 3 or 4 matches from the English Premier League each week.  However, it is impossible to watch cricket here.  I have to follow it on the internet, but thanks to Test Match Special on the radio via the internet, I was able to follow our re-taking of The Ashes!  A pity the one day series has been so bad.
Unlike cricket, there is some rugby on TV and Belo Horizonte even has its own team.  I found this out when I taught the club’s president for a while.  The TV has European club rugby matches on, but they are usually recorded and, therefore, not so interesting when you know the results.  It is also possible, on cable TV, to watch the French Six Nations matches, but only the French games.  Shame it has to be the French!

An old English beer

Warm beer

Who remembers Skol from the UK?  Well, here it is perhaps the most popular beer – enough said?  Seriously, Brazilian Skol is much better than our version, but virtually all the beers here are lagers/pilsners.  Whilst I like them, sometimes I really crave a draught 6X, London Pride, Old Speckled Hen or one of our delicious real ales.  It is possible to buy cans of some of these, but they are expensive and who likes canned beer?  There is a local German bar that serves draught Guinness which goes somewhat to soothing those pangs.
Television, especially the BBC
I still struggle with understanding Portuguese properly, so long for decent TV.  Yes, we get the US sitcoms, CNN and BBC World, but this isn’t the same as television in the UK.  Even when I was young and living in California, I missed British TV.  I guess it is cultural, but the American shows just don’t hit the spot.
By the way, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the BBC, BBC World is not the same. Sure it is the same company, but if I were to give the BBC in the UK 9 out of 10, I would give BBC World 1 out of 10!  Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a way to watch the BBC.
Strong mature cheddar cheese
This is perhaps the one thing I miss the most.  Sure there is nice cheese here.  You can get most European cheeses, but the thing Brazilians call cheddar is the tasteless version that can be found in the USA.  If anyone ever visits, please bring me some!

A traditional British cheddar cheese

Other foods
As a very fussy eater, I can honestly say that Brazilian food is excellent.  I don’t like everything, but that goes for the UK as well.  However, the things I miss the most, in no particular order, are curry, Branston Pickle, Fish and Chips, Horseraddish sauce, Bovril, McVities Plain(Dark) Chocolate Digestives,and English mustard.   Who notices a bit of a pattern?  Yes, I like spicy, flavourful food and Brazilians tend to prefer plainer tastes such as rice and beans.
In Belo Horizonte there aren’t any ‘real’ seasons.  Sure there is the rainy season and the dry season. but the temperatures never get really cold, the trees don’t lose their leaves, the length of the day doesn’t change much.  Sometimes, I long for some cool weather but not the dreary, sunless winter months of Britain.
Cheap computers and components
Although it is possible to buy almost anything electrical in Brazil, the things are usually very expensive.  For example, I just bought an Apple iPhone and the cost of it (with a similar package to one in the UK) was approximately double. I paid R$1449 (roughly £490) for the mid-range one. This isn’t just for Apple products, but is particularly applicable for electronics companies who don’t have factories in Brazil or other South American countries.
Although I mention an expensive product, the same applies to laptops, desktops, video cards etc from other suppliers such as Dell and HP.
Outdoor activities

A view of Belo Horizonte from a road leading to one of the most affluent suburbs, Belvedere

Why outdoor activities when the weather is so much better than the UK?  The answer to this depends on the activity in question.

First, I like walking in the countryside and even around towns or cities.  Where we live in Belo Horizonte, it isn’t easy to walk for two principal reasons: security and topography.  Even though I haven’t personally witnessed any serious crime in Brazil, some of my students tell very unpleasant stories.  It is therefore considered unwise to walk in many areas both in and outside of the city.
The second reason is the topography.  Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon is the translation) is a very hilly city.  So to walk anywhere here means, almost certainly, scaling small mountains which is good exercise but not quite the pleasant stroll that I prefer.  Of course this is specific to where we live.
The second outdoor activity I miss is gardening (please don’t laugh for those who saw my garden in Kingston).  As most people choose to live in flats, there is little chance to garden.  We have a small herb garden on our balcony, but this doesn’t count as the balcony is enclosed in glass.  We are thinking about buying a house in the future mainly for this reason.
Lastly, and yes I’ve started to struggle to think of 10 things, is:
Public transport
People in the UK, and I was one, complain about the public transport being late, dirty and many other things.  In Brazilian cities, the only significant public transport is buses.  These get really busy and hot apparently because they don’t have air-conditioning.  I say apparently because I’ve never actually tried them yet.  Imagine being on a bus full of people, some who may have been labouring all day, in direct sun with temperatures in the shade in the mid-thirties centigrade.  Suddenly, the British trains, tubes and buses don’t seem so bad.  The UK has an established public transport system, perhaps with room for improvement, but, in Brazil, there is little option other than using a car for those who can afford one.
Concluding, there isn’t so much missing in Brazil. Most things can be found with some effort, but there are those few things that I shall always miss.  Thankfully, the UK isn’t so far away.
In the future …

  • The 10 things I don’t miss about England
  • The best things in Brazil
  • The things I’d change in Brazil if I was President

My move to Brazil – a personal account

Below, I’ve copied a page from my static site.  I’d like comments and feedbacks to share with others
I am writing this page to perhaps help others in a similar situation to myself. I often found it difficult to locate information about rules and regulations when moving and when I did I often found it differed considerably. Whilst the info below is based on my personal experiences, you should confirm details for yourself as well. I am not a lawyer and can’t offer legal advise only opinion.
I believe that some of Brazil’s regulations vary from city to city and state to state. My experiences are based on moving from the United Kingdom to Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais.
A little about my story. I met a Brazilian lady whilst she was studying in the UK. After carrying on a long distance relationship we decided to get married and for me to move to Brazil. I am currently living in Brazil since May 2005 and now have a permanent visa, RNE (identification card for foreigners), carteira do trabalho (official booklet that records employment details) and driving license.
The first point of research should by your local Brazilian Consular office. You can visit the UK one here.
Please read the info below. You can contact me if you have any specific questions that I may be able to help you with.
General Points
I have been told by other British people I have met in Brazil that it worth getting any and all documents (and some you don’t think you’ll need) that you even think you may need legalized at the consulate in the UK. Without a stamp, UK documents are no use in Brazil (eg birth certificate, driving license, qualifications etc) and you can only get them legalized at the consulate in the UK and not in Brazil. These documents will also then need officially translating into Portuguese once you are in Brazil.
You are allowed to remain in Brazil on a tourist visa for 90 days which can then be extended by a further 90 days at the Federal Police Station. I understand that the maximum duration you can stay, continuous or not, in Brazil in any 365 day period is 180 on a tourist visa. These figures are the official ones, but I have met several people who have over-stayed there time and not had any problems when they did come to leave. However take this chance at your own risk.
The guide from the consul about documentation that was required proved to be accurate. We had no problems at the local cartorio (registry office) with any of the paperwork. Although we had been told in advance that we would not need a non-impediment to marriage certificate I obtained one in the UK anyway and had it legalized As with many things in Brazil it is better to have too much paperwork than not enough. Because I am a UK citizen staying in Brazil, the application for the marriage license did take longer than it would for a Brazilian couple. For us it took around 6 weeks from date of application.
Visa Application
I returned to the UK after we got back from honeymoon for a short trip to apply for permanent visa (family re-union) at the consulate in London. I was repeatedly told that it is much easier and a shorter process to apply in your own country. I was told it would take approximately 2 months to process in the UK, whereas to apply in Brazil could take up to 2 years. I have met several people who applied over a year ago for a permanent visa in Brazil are still waiting for it to be issued.
The consulate accepted all the documents I provided except one. On their web site they say you need proof of residence in the UK and give as one of the examples of accepted forms as a letter from a GP. However this was not allowed so I then applied to my electoral register office for a letter which was accepted. I believe documents such as this and the police statement detailing any criminal record remain valid, once legalized, for 3-6 months.
Despite the early indications that it would take 2 months or more to process my visa application, in my case it took only 24 days. Please do not count on your application being so fast but be aware it could be. When I returned to the UK I had to leave my passport with the consulate. When I arrived they told me to come back in 4 days time, despite it saying 3 days on their website, however when I showed them my return air ticket they agreed to process visa in 3 days.
RNE Application (ID card for immigrants)
The RNE is probably the most important document you need in Brazil as a foreigner. You can not apply for one until you have a visa other than tourist.
Once I had returned to Brazil with my permanent visa, the application process for the RNE was quite simple. All I had to do was go the the Policia Federal (DPF) with my passport (including photocopies of ALL pages), 2 passport size photos and one copy of my visa application that the UK consulate gave me back when I collected my passport with visa. There is a limited period from arriving in Brazil on permanent visa during which you must apply for the RNE or start the whole process over again. There was also an application fee that needed to be payed.
After completing the forms, handing in documents, having finger prints taken etc, I was given a temporary paper ID card which remained valid for 180 days. I was told the final ID card would be ready in 60-90 days, but mine actually took over 160 days. I think this was due to some problem in Brasilia though and was an exception rather than usual. When we tried to chase the application after 4 months, the Policia Federal didn’t believe it was taking so long.
There is an intermediate step in the process between being issued with temporary ID and getting final ID. After a few days, the details of the application are logged on to the computer systems. Once this has happened you are able to get another form, which includes your final ID number, called a SINCRE. In reality I found I needed both the SINCRE and temporary ID for other official applications (eg bank account). The SINCRE is just an A4 printout and took just a few minutes to collect.
When my final RNE was ready I was able to tell by checking the DPF website. Literally as soon as the website said it was ready then I was able to collect it that day.
Bank Account
In Brazil there are several forms of document required (eg CPF, ID card). In order to open a bank account you will need at least a CPF number (Tax ID similar to National Insurance number in UK I think), ID card (eg RNE) and proof of address (or as I used my wife’s utility bills with our wedding certificate). The CPF number you can obtain by applying at either Banco de Brasil or another bank called Caixa. You pay a small amount, fill in some forms and then eventually you will be asked to visit the local tax office (Receita Federal) to show your passport before the number is officially issued. I guess this is to check your ID. To get a CPF you do not need a permanent visa even though it will be easier if you do have one. The CPF is about the only permanent document you can get before having other forms of ID/paperwork. There may be other ways to open an account but I didn’t have any success.
However I wasn’t able to obtain any of the other forms of ID until after I was married.
Carteira do trabalho
The carteira do trabalho is actually a booklet that looks a lot like a passport. Although this document is not required by all employers (it depends on type of work and contract basis), I think it is very good to have. In this booklet your employer records details of your employment . When work is recorded in the booklet it means you and your employer are making contributions to the government to cover things such as pensions. It is not this document that allows you to work in Brazil as far as I understand it. You are able to work once you have applied for RNE but you may not get all the benefits until you have the carteira do trabalho and some employers will require one.
In order to get the permanent version of this document , you need the final RNE. However our research indicated that you can apply for a temporary one (like the driving license) once you have your temporary ID and SINCRE.
As I never needed and hence never applied for a temporary one, I am not sure of the details or how long it remains valid.
The application for the carteira do trabalho was very simple. It was even easier for foreigners than Brazilian nationals as there was no line for foreigners and there was a room full of Brazilians waiting to apply. For the application all I had to do was take a passport size photo and a photocopy of my RNE. I also showed passport, proof of address and original RNE. Once everything was completed, I was told to come back in 4 days to collect the document. When I returned to collect, I received the booklet after a short wait with no problems. This application was also free!
This is perhaps the area that I found most confused. I was told that an international driving permit issued in the UK is not acceptable in Brazil. The consulate questioned why I had bothered to have my UK driving license legalized as they said it was not valid.
The application for this was indeed the most troublesome of all the documents.
After arriving back and in possession of temporary RNE and SINCRE we went to DETRAN to apply for a driving license. We were directed to a small office hence avoiding the long lines. In order to apply I needed to show and have photocopies of proof of address, CPF card, temporary RNE plus SINCRE, UK driving license and the official translation of it. The application was processed immediately and I was given a piece of paper that entitled me to drive for 1 year. For me at least, there was no charge for this temporary document. I just needed to keep this document as well as my UK license and official translation of UK license (or official photocopies of) when I was driving.
Once I had my permanent RNE we returned to DETRAN. This time we had to wait in the line with the Brazilian’s applying for their licenses. Once we were seen by an attendant, she completed a few details on her computer and printed out a form for me to sign, a form for me to pay for the license application and details of a clinic to visit to complete the medical examination that is part of the application process (see below for more on this).
After this I went to the bank to pay the fee and then to the medical clinic where I was seen almost immediately. Having passed the medical and with receipt of payment I returned to the small office to apply for my actual proper printed Minas Gerais license. Once again, as above, I need to show original documents and have photocopies of proof of address, RNE, CPF and UK license. This time however I had to leave my actual original copy of the translation of my UK license (so make sure you have one or more originals/notarised photocopies!). I also needed one passport size photo of myself. Again the application was processed immediately and I was told to expect the license to arrive by post within a week. It is valid for 5 years, and then you need to take another medical exam (not the psychological test, though).
The medical exam consisted of a psychological test which mainly involved drawing lines and shapes on a bit of paper with eyes covered. I found this test very strange and felt sure I had failed it as had another person I knew. However I passed so don’t worry too much about it. The other part of the medical was with a doctor asking questions and checking things like eyesight and blood pressure. Again no problem and a much more expected medical examination.
I think this is one of the things that varies with where you live in Brazil. Be careful and check.

The last month

I need to get into the habit of writing something…
There hasn’t been much news the last month.  Eneida and I have been busy working, me teaching English and proofreading some academic papers whilst Eneida has been busy translating and is back at PUC now.  Thanks to the swine flu, Eneida had an extended holiday from PUC after the Brazilian government asked all the schools and universities to delay the new semester for a week or so.  That’s the good news, the bad is that the week will be added in December.
Talking of the swine flu, I haven’t heard much about it in Belo Horizonte.  I know it is here, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has knowingly had it or knows someone who has.  I guess it will reach us in vengeance at some point.
The plans?  There isn’t much to report.  We’ll probably travel to Governador de Valadares next month to attend the ceremonial opening of a new part of Regina’s factory which will produce dried milk.
That’s all folks….

A Brazilian Beach in Winter – Trancoso

What is a beach holiday during winter like in Brazil?  Following our 1 week’s trip to Trancoso in the state of Bahia, let me try to explain.

Praia dos Coqueiros looking towards Praia Rio Verde
Praia dos Coqueiros looking towards Praia Rio Verde

Firstly, in the state of Bahia at least, the temperature is very very different to the British (oops nearly wrote English!) winter.  The temperatures were in the mid to high 20’s during the day and high teens at night much like our summer.  The only downside at this time of year is that it can rain and be a little windy.  It rained most days, but not for long and it was always possible to spend some time in the sun on the beach.
That is not all, there are something over 33,00 kilometres of beach in Brazil and a population of about 185 million so the beaches are not crowded especially in ‘winter’ holiday.  There are of course exceptions to this, but with a little searching it isn’t hard to find some space.
Trancoso church - the nearby city of Porto Seguro is where Europeans first landed in Brazil
Trancoso church - the nearby city of Porto Seguro is where Europeans first landed in Brazil

However, the deserted sections of beach are lacking an important facility.  Here it is customary for bars/restaurants, or private individuals in the case of Rio de Janeiro for example, to layout chairs, tables and parasols for their customers.  There is usually a waiter just a ‘moço’ (boy) call away.
The beach also has its entrepreneurs who walk up and down between the bars selling their merchandise such as costume jewellery, suntan lotion, sunglasses.  In Rio you can find almost anything on the beach!
With regards Trancoso, it is a smallish community that was once described as a beach for ‘hippies’, more recently as a beach for chic hippies, and now as a beach for the chic.  In truth, I would say, as is often the case in Brazil, it is a mix of the poor and the rich.
To get to Trancoso, you either need to fly, as we did, or take a bus.  A flight from Belo Horizonte to Porto Seguro is about an hour long.  From Porto Seguro, it is an hour’s drive either by road (about 45 miles) or by ferry across the river ? from Porto Seguro to Arraial d’Ajuda and from their a drive of  about 25 miles.
The historic town is built around the ‘Quadrado’ with the church at the ocean facing end and shops/restaurants running down either side.  The shops mainly sell hand made things from the local artisans.  The restaurants serve mainly local Bahian/Brazilian food with lots of seafood.  We did however eat at an Australasian restaurant called ‘Masala’ where I had my first curry in Brazil.  It was surprisingly very good and well worth a visit.
<Craft shops on the side of the Quadrado, Trancoso
Craft shops on the side of the Quadrado, Trancoso

The accommodation is mainly ‘pousadas’.  They are a bit of a cross between a small hotel and a bed and breakfast.  The >one we stayed at was lovely and very close to the centre.  The other option is to stay at pousada on the beach which is a 10-15 minute gentle walk downhill.  If you feel like something more luxurious, there is a Club Med on the coast between Arraial d’Ajuda and Trancoso.
In summary, Trancoso is a lovely small town with huge amounts of character and a great place to spend a week relaxing on the beach or by a pool.  It isn’t a place I’d suggest if you want a lively place.  We are already considering a return visit!
If you want to see some more photos from our trip, you can see them here.
With regards the website, it is still very much underdevelopment, but I hope to have the design finalised fairly soon and then I’ll start adding content to the various sections.