Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3:1 Ratio?!

One of my colleagues and I were discussing something I've noticed here lately. Why are so many beautiful Brazilian women married to overweight, unattractive guys? I met the wife of a former colleague this morning....he's pudgy and she's thin and very attractive. And last week this guy said he expects his wife to remain slender! Over the weekend we visited the house of my girlfriend's aunt and uncle. The cousins with their spouses were also there. Once again, icky, fat, lazy guys and lovely women.

So I asked my female 23-year old colleague about this during our after-lunch walk. She said that it's really hard for women to find a guy in Sao Paulo, and possibly the entire country. The women to men ratio is 3:1. Yikes! And of course if you narrow your criteria to exclude guys who couldn't provide for a family, are bad men, etc. the ratio is even worse! She said it's gotten so bad that the women are really aggressive at the clubs and will go after the guys. Therefore she has an American boyfriend.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend in the country

I'm grateful to have friends in a number of cities around the world so that I'm able to experience life as a local in the 3 weeks I am able to spend in a location. I have a girlfriend who used to work for our company that invited me to spend the weekend at her family's farm outside of Sao Paulo. She promised me a weekend of walking, relaxing and fresh air. How could I say "nao"?

We left at 8:30 pm Friday night and drove north for 3 hours. Silvia has 2 kids (6 and 2) and a nanny that came along with us. Having help is pretty typical in Sao Paulo. Silvia has a cook/cleaner and nanny during the week and often one of them helps out on the weekends. For this trip, the best part was having the nanny in the back seat taking care of the kids, who quickly fell asleep (Silvia's strategy is to leave at night so they would fall asleep), so that we can chat.

Her family's farm is north of Sao Paulo near a town called Mocaca. The farm was originally a coffee plantation, but is now sugar cane and vegetables. The advent of mechanical harvesting machines has relegated coffee to flat lands. Much of the area we traveled is hilly. Her farm is in a small valley, but has too many hills for coffee. Most of the family isn't interested in maintaining the farm so most of the land is rented to other farmers. There are 5 houses on the farm. One that her grandmother still owns, which is where we stayed. Caretakers and domestic help live in the rest. There are some cows, horses, chickens, quail and one pig on the farm. There's no internet access and no cell phone service. The farm road is unpaved and red dirt gets everywhere.

The family home has 5 bedrooms, a wonderful porch, a pool, and a private church next door where Silvia started the tradition of family members getting married. The church was built in 1909, although Silvia didn't think the house was that old. The ceilings in the house were extremely tall and the home was filled with antiques - furniture from France, flow blue pottery, china cabinets full of stemware. The windows have blue shutters and no screens. Lucky for me, the mosquitos were not in full force. Although the housecleaner who made my bed every morning closed my shutters in the afternoon I opened them up at bedtime. It was wonderful to sleep with windows open after being in a hotel for two weeks!

We woke up after 8 on Saturday. Breakfast was homemade bread toasted in a cast iron pan with homemade jabuticaba jam , a honeydew melon, and coffee com leite (warm milk). Silvia and I went into Mococa to buy some groceries for dinner and I got to experience a real meat counter in Brazil. The display case was no different than what one would see in the U.S. But inside the case, huge cuts of meat hung on hooks. You ordered the type of meat you want (such as sirloin, rump) and how you want it cut - thin, thick, ground, pounded, cubed, etc. It was fascinating watching the butchers skillfully trim the beef and cut the meat. With 4 butchers and a long line of people buying quantities of meat for the Sunday barbeque, it took us awhile to get served. But since Silvia doesn't cook and isn't used to buying meat like this, it was good for us to observe what others were doing. We ended up with ground meat from the same cut of meat that I saw another guy request to be ground. Why not! 
After our supermarket experience, we drove into the heart of Mococa to see the old town square, church and houses. The church was lovely from the outside, but nothing spectacular, but beautiful on the inside. As Silvia explained, people in Brazil are very supportive of their churches and take good care of them.

We spent the rest of the day playing with the kids and farm dogs, reading on the porch and took an afternoon walk for 1.5 hours while the kids listened to music at the neighbor's house (the cleaning lady) with the nanny. The neighbor was having a barbeque and her son had friends over to play the guitar and sing. The cook made us lunch and dinner so meals weren't a hassles (except getting Sofia to eat was sometimes a challenge....why do kids dislike eating so much?!).

Sunday morning Silvia and I took another walk in the morning to check out the lake. This is one of the roads we walked and the vista we enjoyed. It was a truly relaxing and special weekend. I really appreciate Silvia showing me a slice of her life.

First Futbol Game ..... GOL!

Quick impressions..... wow .....50,461 people in a stadium that holds 55,000 in a residential neighborhood with streets going in every direction imaginable. The poor people who live nearby has to put up with boisterous people partying pre-game (no alcohol inside the stadium so people sell beer from coolers or alcohol from the back of pick-up trucks pre and post game), plus the street vendors selling food and souvenirs and people parking on any street remotely close by.  And this was a 9:30 pm game! We were lucky in that one person in our party of 10 had a membership and was able to park in a special space at the stadium and our driver dropped us off (the joys of having a driver!).

It's a sea of people making their way to their assigned stadium gate. Many drink outside until close to game time. We quickly drank our beers (Skol - pretty bad beer) and made our way inside.
Although our tickets have seat numbers printed, there is no assigned seating ... that is, the seating doesn't matter. It's first-come, first-serve. We were sitting in the blue section, which goes from the goal to the center of the field. We arrived about 45 minutes early to secure decent seats and ended up near the goal. The game was the Sao Paulo Libertadores against Colombia's Once Caldas. It was a critical game for Sao Paulo because they had to win to stay in the race for the World Cup.

Because the opposing team was from another country, 99.99% of the attendees were rooting for Sao Paulo. This was the section assigned for Colombia and it was pretty deserted.

In contrast, here's the section where the fanatics sat (one level above us and to the left). This section cheered throughout (lots of singing with a drum beating in the background, stomping, and jumping up and down) and it looked like many were standing the entire time. After Sao Paulo scored, there were a few sparkler-type fireworks going off in the section. Quite a fun section.
The game was rather boring since both teams played terribly. I don't know much about soccer, but I know enough about how it's important to set up shots in hockey and to pass to open basketball players to know that the home team did not do either well. But somehow they did score a GOL! in the first half. The game ended 1-0.

We made our way to the streets with the hoards of people and were able to get out pretty easily and were home by 12:15 am. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to experience futbol in Sao Paulo!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lunch, then a walk

I love that almost everyone in offices in São Paulo walks around the block after lunch. The narrow sidewalks can get a bit congested, but how wonderful that they get out and move. Walking around the block takes 15 minutes with little congestion. I look forward to the walks almost as much as lunch! 

The canteen is a good one. They're pretty health conscious at work so there's always a brown rice option for rice and beans. Grilled chicken, steak and salad bar are always available in case the entree choices aren't appealing. For dessert, there's always fruit (e.g., watermelon, persimmon, orange, pineapple) in addition to something sweet. And best of all, the calories are posted for all items!

Although I do farily during lunch, eating a pão de queijo (cheese ball) for breakfast isn't really healthy. But how can I resist? They're soooooo good! At least I only eat one!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dental hygiene in Brazil

It's been 6 years since I've last been to our offices in Sao Paulo and to my surprise I see this on the wall in the bathroom. Yes, it's a dental floss dispenser! You push down on the lever on the left and out pops a thread of floss. Many Brazilians brush their teeth after lunch, as evidenced by the number of cubby holes containing small purses with toothbrush and toothpaste. So why wouldn't they carry their own floss? Perhaps the floss vendor made an offer the company just couldn't refuse?! 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Swiss Civility

A couple of friends who live in Switzerland described the Swiss as being very civilized. Their ski resort areas are very civilized (mountain top restaurants to serve the skiers and hikers are common), their train system is civilized (always on time, orderly, with routes that make sense), stores are not open on Sundays so that everyone can enjoy being with their family outdoors, assigned seats at movie theaters are reserved in advance....you get the picture. A Canadian friend thinks the Swiss are like his countrymen - boring.

I enjoy the beauty of the country and the civility of its people. It's one of my favorite places to visit.