Posts Tagged ‘brazil’

Crônicas do Brasil: A Vida Brasileira

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro. When Jobim and Moraes wrote "Garota de Ipanema," this is probably what they had in mind.

I have now been in Spain for close to a month with BOSP Madrid. Posts on the Iberian Peninsula are in the pipeline. For the moment, though, I would like to present a cultural wrap-up on Brazil that I never had time to do while I was working in São Paulo this summer. If you are not yet excited for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, maybe this will get you started.

First, let it be known that São Paulo is not a conventionally beautiful city. Miles of concrete with few trees, vistas dominated by powerlines and graffiti, and a certain lack of cleanliness make it appear pretty bleak and inhospitable on cloudy days, of which there are a fair amount. Large parts of the city center are completely abandoned at night; there is one neighborhood called Cracolândia because its streets are literally full of crack addicts, who reside right next to the city’s most beautiful railway station. If you live any further than ten minutes by car from work, your daily commute is usually a pitched battle against jammed six-lane avenues, irregular U-turns, and the caprices of aggressive paulista drivers.

Yet São Paulo is unlike any other place I have seen, and I already miss it. The city has a cultural richness rivaling New York’s and plenty of charm if you know where to look. Its size is awe-inspiring. And to put it another way, São Paulo is the best answer to the question of what you would get if you stuck together 18 million Brazilians with a New York work schedule, an LA transit system, and the sensuality of Miami (which, coincidentally, has a large Brazilian population).

What’s more, São Paulo bears little resemblance to the rest of Brazil. The country is almost the size of the U.S. but far more regionalized, so that each state has its own traditions, holidays, food, dialects, and climate. Other Brazilian cities are magnificent in their own ways, and then beyond them is an ecological paradise with few parallels in the rest of the world. (more…)

Crônicas do Brasil: Falando Português

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Estação da Luz, São Paulo's most beautiful train station and home to the Museu da Língua Portuguesa, a museum dedicated to celebrating the Portuguese Language.

What is it like to speak Portuguese in Brazil? In a word: enchanting. I have found few things in life more satisfying than being able to navigate the dips and curves of this laid-back yet precise, subtle yet charmingly vulgar, and bizarre yet hypnotically musical language.

However, it may not be like that when you start. Especially in São Paulo, Brazilians use so much slang that the language you learn in school bears little resemblance to the one you actually hear. Brazilians insist that their language is very hard to learn, and they are proud of it.

That being said, the language is not inaccessible. In this post, I will portray Portuguese as I have come to know it, clarifying some common misconceptions and providing some tips on how to make it your own.

Portuguese v. Spanish

One of the most common words you will hear in São Paulo is "trânsito," which means traffic, as exhibited by the gridlock outside my apartment window. Be careful not to use "tráfico" from Spanish, which sounds logical but refers to drug trafficking!

Brazilians like to say that they can understand their neighbors but their neighbors have no clue what Brazilians are saying. This is somewhat true. Well-spoken Spanish has clear, well-enunciated pronunciations with sharp consonants and a partial resemblance to English, particularly closer to the United States. Portuguese has enough unique sounds to make it utterly indecipherable to those who have not studied it or grown up speaking it.

I started learning Portuguese after having taken six years of Spanish. As a gringo, I have found Portuguese to be “harder,” since many of its sounds are more unfamiliar and many of its rules less logical and well-regulated. Spanish helps a lot with grammar, but it also produces many traps. Portuguese is a minefield of false cognates and words imported from other languages with highly palletized pronunciations. An example? Take the word “saco,” which in Spanish means “sack” or “jacket.” It technically has the same meanings in Portuguese, but it is more often used to signify something really bothersome or to refer to male genitalia (what a coincidence!).

Nonetheless, because Portuguese and Spanish have similar roots, learning one will likely wreak havoc on the other, particularly for non-native speakers. Alternating between the languages helps, but even Brazilians who have studied Spanish find the two languages tricky to keep separate. (more…)

Crônicas do Brasil: The “Real” Deal

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Downtown São Paulo.

Tudo bem, Stanford? I write to you from Brazil, where I have spent the past seven weeks working for a commercial real estate company in São Paulo.

Before the Brazilian winter ends, I intend to write a couple posts about my observations and experiences here. The first will give some timely updates on the state of Brazil’s economy, with a focus on what I have noticed in person. In a later post or multiple posts, I shall address Brazilian culture, the Portuguese language, and some overall takeaways from my time in Sampa. All questions and comments are welcome.

Robust Economy

São Paulo (SP) is unquestionably booming. Lots of construction–particularly of high-rises and large shopping malls–and a flourishing nightlife indicate the city’s increasing wealth. SP is a car-centric city; even the poorest households in the C segment favelas will have a car. Every gas station provides ethanol. As in the U.S., credit cards are accepted at almost every place where you could conceivably spend money, except at some cheaper restaurants. Unlike the U.S., nearly every card transaction is conducted with a portable point-of-sale, separate from a computer or centralized system, which frequently makes the transactions faster.

Furthermore, Brazil’s unemployment rate just went from 6.4% to 6.2%. Residents of SP work as hard and long as New Yorkers, and they have a strong sense of national pride and Brazil’s increasing importance in the world.  (more…)

Is it Okay to Want North Korea to Lose at Soccer?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This puppet commits severe human rights violations when he's not coaching his national soccer team via invisible earpiece.

North Korea is a terrible place for human rights, and there’s a macabre irony to their inclusion in the “Group of Death.” At the same time, however, they are the underdogs of the tournament: today they held steady against Brazil, the best soccer-playing country of all time, before falling 2-1. It’s really hard to root for a team representing a country that epitomizes much of what is wrong with the world, but it’s also hard not to root for a gritty team of soccer unknowns facing huge odds. What’s a political idealist/sports fan to do?

North Korea’s soccer team, like the country, is shrouded in secrecy. The team is ranked 105th in the world by FIFA, a mere ten spots higher in the rankings than Cape Verde, an archipelago country off the coast of Africa with 500,000 people and whose Wikipedia section on soccer lists all of the great players who did not play for the country and decided to play for European countries instead.

One of the reasons North Korea is ranked so low is that nobody knows anything about their team due to the complete isolation of the country. And despite the accomplishment of the team making it to the Cup for the first time since 1966, the people in North Korea will not see, hear, or know anything about what happens:

Unfortunately, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has banned coverage of the World Cup in North Korea unless their team wins the tournament, meaning that even if they perform well against Brazil, the citizens of North Korea will likely never hear of their side’s performance.

But what about those North Korean fans at the stadium dressed identically and cheering loudly for the team? Those, it turns out, are actors from China. North Korea gave them tickets to pretend to be fans of North Korea.

The North Korean fans in South Africa are paid actors.

At the World Cup, the North Korean soccer team mostly reminds you of North Korea itself. They have essentially no contact with any other team. The team tried to add an extra striker by listing him as a goalkeeper; then, when FIFA pointed out the rule that players listed as goalkeepers can only play that position, the team claimed that the player wanted to play goalkeeper and the team was doing him a favor. And the coach’s answers to press conference questions included angrily rebuking a reporter who did not call the country “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and answering a question about the team’s prospects against Brazil by saying:

This will bring a lot of joy to the Great Leader, it will show that North Koreans have great mental strength.

What’s more, six players play their club soccer for a team called FC April 25, the official team of the North Korean army and named after the day the North Koreans started a war against Japan.

The North Korean-ness of the North Korean team makes it fairly easy for me to root against the team. But despite all of these aspects of the team and the country, the players seem surprisingly non-North Korean and, dare I say it, likable.

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