Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Assorted Remarks

So I´ve been in Brazil for 3 and a half weeks now (time flies) and I've noticed a number of random, interesting things about the country, people. culture, work, etc.  Each of them individually did not merit it´s own blog post, but by now I've collected enough of them to make a monster of a post. 

On Online Translators
Working at GBC Brazil essentially means working in 3 languages at once.  I'm in charge of a lot of the translations, but to make my work easier, I usually run stuff through Google translate first, and then just fix it up.  Last week, I translated an interview with our engineer, Marcos Casado.  His name got translated by Google as Mark Married.  Accurate, I guess, but not what I was going for.  Be very very careful when using online translators, they do wonky things.

On Tropical Fruits (1)
There's a real advantage to eating local foods.  Tropical fruits cost pennies here in Brazil.  The other day, I got a delicious, tasty papaya the size of my head for R$ 1.26 (Approximate 70 cents in Canadian currency). Mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, guava, oranges, limes, bananas, avocadoes, coconuts, persimmons and jackfruit are all dirt cheap.  Yet my relatives are always trying to feed me these clever newfangled things called apples, which they think are really amazing.  Buying apples here is like trying to buy tropical fruits in Canada:  they're ferociously expensive, and as far as apples go, they're really not that great.  And yet the relatives insist...

On Tropical Fruits (2) or How Some Flavours Are Much Better Fresh
A popular juice mix here is Pineapple and Mint.  It is delicious, and I highly recommend it. However, some flavours really do not translate well into soft drink form - I bought some pineapple-mint soft drink, and it tastes like sweetened, carbonated dish soap. 

On the Economy of Cooking
If I was determined to, I could probably feed myself on about 50 cents per day here.  I'm spending a couple orders of magnitude more than that because I have a nasty habit of going out for lunch with my coworkers, and because I buy a number of packaged/prepared food to simplify my cooking in the evenings. As part of my effort to eat more local foods, though, I figured I would make rice and beans (the brazilian staples), but that I would use canned beans to save myself time.  I was surprised to find out that canned beans are not available in Brazil.  Canned milk and canned corn and canned strawberries and canned tomato sauce are available, but canned beans are not.  It's an interesting reality of being in a country with very low labour costs, that any family who can afford the incremental cost of canned beans over dried ones can most likely also afford a maid or to eat out, and will get much better food that way.

On Tetrapak Milk
It's just wrong.  Milk is not supposed to have an infinite shelf life, it shouldn't be on a shelf at all.  Also, tetrapak milk taste weird.  That is all.

On Unrefrigerated Eggs
Are yummier, easier to fry, and look much nicer.  I'll have to take pictures and post them later. 

On Laundry Services
The disadvantage of living in an apartment hotel in a ritzy part of town in Brazil (apart from the exhorbitant rent) is that there's no option for "do your own laundry", unless you're willing to wash everything by hand and dry it by hanging it out your window. I'm paying waytoomuch to have somebody else toss my jeans into a washing machine. 

On Recycling
 Most houses and buildings here do not have recycling collection.  The GBC Brasil office does, but my apartment does not.  It feels really weird to throw recyclables in the garbage, to the point that I've been stockpiling and will be bringing in a bunch of recyclables to the office to recycle them here.

On Productive Government
While recycling is still rare in Brazil, the governmnent here has managed to get a number of impressive pieces of legislation through.  I'm always surprised when I visit how much things have changed in Brazil since my last visit.  The city of São Paulo, for example, no longer has any billboards on buildings.  None at all. Wouldn't that be really cool in Toronto?  What's even cooler is that there is currently a piece of legislation on the table in São Paulo state which would make it mandatory for all new buildings to have a cool roof (white, reflective or green roof).  This legislation is inspired by GBC Brasil´s One Degree Less campaign, which I may or may not be writing my paper on.

On Traffic
I risk my life crossing the street to work every day.  Drivers here are crazy.  They accelerate when they see a pedestrian they could hit.  Pedestrian crosswalks are mostly decorative, as many drivers ignore them.  On my third day here, a motorcyclist got hit by a car, and everyone's biggest concern was how this would delay their ride home.  Drunk driving is accepted as a fact of life.  I went out for dinner with friends a few weeks ago, and several people drove out completely plastered drunk, even though many of us were sober.  I tried to stop them, but got laughed off by the (sober) Brazilians who assured me that the guy who couldn't stand up straight would sober right up once he got behind a wheel. 

On Neighbourhood Developments
The neighbourhood I live and work in is the first in a new trend in Brazil of planned neighbourhoods.  The idea sort of resembles the concept of an urban pod, where commercial, residential and industrial buildings are all built together in a high-density urban pod, which is then connected by public transit to other similar pods, allowing people to do most of their work and shopping in a small area, but still have the benefit of living in a larger, vibrant city.  I was a little skeptical of how this would work out in a São Paulo suburb, and there are defitinely still some kinks to iron out, I've been impressed with this neighbourhood.  The commercial district (centro commercial) is adorable, paved with cobblestones and most of it is pedestrian only. The whole neighbourhood is full of parks and trees, and quite nice to walk around in.  Unfortunately, most people who work here don't live here, and the transit system is subpar, so traffic is still a problem, but I'm hopeful that with more of these developments, we could really reduce congestion and sprawl.

On Bra Sizing
My aunt took me pyjama shopping with her.  On this trip I found out that in Brazil, all undergarments are sold by hip size.  Bras don't even feature a cup size, it's all trial and error.  Does anyone else find this ridiculously bizarre?

On Being Vegetarian
Although Brazilians don't really understand the concept of somebody choosing to be vegetarian, I've found being vegetarian here to be extremely easy, especially when living on my own.  Fruits, veggies, rice, beans, cornmeal, fried eggs, bread, etc.  I've been eating *very* well.


  1. Blast those online translators! I've been spending many hours doing the same thing. A girl named Tari, Google kindly gave me the translation: Dance. Very pretty and interesting, just not really what I'm looking for :P

  2. The un-refrigerated eggs thing is a global phenomenon me thinks. We're missing out in North America...

  3. Do not get yourself hit by a car, because if you do, every person in the family will come over and make whatever poor innocent had the misfortune to hit you suffer. Really, you don't want to inflict that on someone.

    Oh, right! And, if such an event occurs, I'm borrowing your steel-toes.Just for a little bit.