Saturday, January 21, 2012

Room With A View

I love the rainy months here! It's like living in an ever-changing art display.

It always reminds me of home, too...

We have a saying in Central Texas, "If you don't like the weather, wait around a few hours - it'll change." During the rainy season here in Goiânia, the same is true.

This is what it looks like in the months just before the rains start.

Here are a few shots that I took from my apartment, this past November & December...

(That would be a wall of water headed our way...)

To give you an idea of just how big those clouds are, the tallest building in the back left of these pics is 25 stories tall. Some of the thunderheads that pass through these parts dwarf these concrete giants.

Cool, huh?

This one took out the electricity for a few hours...

This was an awesome sunset...

This year we've had more rain (sometimes, for days on end) intermixed with some surprisingly sunny spots. Some days start off with a scorcher of a sunrise...

Despite a strong showing at sunrise,

the storm clouds in the west were destined
to make a play for these rays...

...and usually make for the most interesting days of the week. I'm loving every minute of it! Maybe it's the "chillaxed" barometric pressure, but rainy days lift my spirits like nothing else.

(To enlarge pictures, right-click and open in a new window.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol. VI

Here’s something to help you out as you try to keep up with what’s going on in the world during your stay. Newscasts have a slightly different take on the presentation, so here’s the 411 on the nature of daily news in Brazil.
  1. Unlike American news broadcasts, it is not unusual to see footage of an accident that resulted in the death of someone (…or to see a body – though the face usually isn’t shown. A cop might strategically stand in front of the face, while the rest of the body is visible). All of the blood trails & smears filmed in HD are visible, however.

    Accidents caught on camera are played and replayed - no matter how graphic. This video shows how a pedestrian narrowly missed being hit with 2 cars... however, no one got killed.

    Even hostage situations involving police negotiators & snipers [taking out the bad guy] are shown on the news, as you can see in the video below. For proper dramatic effects, they are usually looped about 5 times in a row.
  2. Warning! Graphic content! Police sniper kills criminal holding hostage.

  3. The line-up of shame is something that is a little different than what we've seen on American newscasts. We usually only get a glimpse of a suspect in transfer, leaving a courthouse or entering the police station.

    Crooks that are caught in Brazil are lined up & photographed with any cache of drugs, weapons or other illegal paraphernalia that was seized when they were arrested. Sometimes the perpetrators try to hide their face with their shirts pulled up over their head, which never fails to remind me of a certain pair of delinquents.

    Image found on Google Images.

    Another tactic that some news crews use, is to drive alongside whichever patrol vehicle has the villains [always stuffed in the hatchback portion of the car] and film them in transit; which almost amounts to a high speed chase, as the cops drive very fast when they have a criminal in the car. It's interesting to watch.

  4. People cry a lot in interviews – men and women alike. The more anguish and heart-rending devastation is shown, the more airtime that story will get. This can be quite disconcerting if you are unaccustomed to real-life despair, twice a day.

    Warning! Graphic & Disturbing Content! Mother arrives on scene after her son is killed in a shooting.

  5. Everyone gets a title. If you want to give an interview on the evening news as a random person on the street, your street cred is required. If you are someone that doesn't work, you’ll be listed as such – "Dono" or "Dona de Casa" ("man or woman of the house"). Titles are everything here.

    Did I forget to mention that this is also a part of the 20 Questions played in Doctors’ offices (always repeated loudly, so that everyone knows exactly where you stand… in general)?

  6. I’m not sure if male meteorologists exist in the world of Brazilian newscasts... Perhaps because they can’t quite keep the attention of their audience as well as their female counterparts? It begs further study.

Coming soon in the 5 Facts For Foreigners series...
  • The Look: Hotels, Houses and Apartments

  • Seen Out & About: Unique Looks & Trends

  • Fun New Fishing Feats

  • Surprises in the Supermarket
...and more...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Open Letter to Military 'Mess-Ups'

I cannot arrive at any other conclusion for the blatant sabotage that you must have intended when you did something that you knew wasn't acceptable by anyone in the United States (other than depraved and indifferent sociopaths) or any other country that abides by the Geneva Conventions; aside from the fact that your aim was to harm the United States.

To this I charge you with treason and inciting hatred towards Americans & all that we truly stand for.

Even if this was the first incident involving a camera and American soldiers desecrating a body or humiliating POWs, then we could chalk it up to a few guys who didn't know any better, etc. However, we all know this isn't the case.

Knowing full well the probability of the leakage of these images, which would go viral via twitter, facebook, youtube, and then be picked up by all [already] anti-American news stations; you could only have done this on purpose.

You ground your ax, whatever it was. You managed to undermine faith in the nature of our military efforts ...but you also took out innocent American civilians.

With that one act, you put in peril all of the expatriates living around the world.

You are inciting hatred and intolerance for those of us who, for whatever reason, do not have the luxury of retreating home & getting lost in the crowd.

You are retarding the efforts of missionaries, humanitarian organizations, the military you are supposed to be serving, NATO, and American citizens who simply find themselves somewhere other than home, just trying to live their life.

I will not say that I’m ashamed to be American, like others often do in taking the easy route, when confronted with these detestable issues. What I will say is that you deserve to be punished.

This time it has to mean something.

"But the other side drags bodies through the street, beheads their prisoners on video, etc." That, they do. This is why they are considered enemies of humanity.

You are supposed to be the antithesis of what those enemies of humanity stand for... that people who don't agree with them are less than, and deserving of irreverent treatment.

The sole purpose of American soldiers is two-fold: to represent and defend the United States of America, which holds certain truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That is how you man up.

Before you go thinking I am anti-military, or something, know this: I very much love our country and have profound respect for those who dedicate their lives to our military.

About 40% of the people I went to school with are either active duty, married to, or ex-military personnel. I have family members on my mother's side of the family who are either still serving, or have since retired. My church back home has countless kids that have served, or are making a career of it.

What I want you to know is that I am tired of the traitors that drag these honorable people through the mud. Who let those boys with the maturity of 13-year-olds into a position that they now represent our country?

American Government Powers That Be: please do not hem and haw. Make an example of this subversion. Enough is enough.

The whole world is watching.

What will be different this time?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The "Dog Fish" of Brazil

*This is an updated article originally posted on my personal blog in March of 2010.*

The Peixe-Cachorro ("Pay-shee Kah-show-h-oh") or the "Dog Fish" (also known here in Brazil as the Cachorra, Cachorra-facão, Pirandirá and Payara) is a fish that can be found in various rivers in Brazil, including the Rio Araguaia.

Anyone wanna take a guess as to why it's called the "Dog Fish"?

Check out that grill!
The first time I saw the Peixe-Cachorro, I freaked. I had been on the river a few days, getting accustomed to the idea of entering the water (where there were plenty of Piranhas)... when the teenage daughter of a friend of ours caught this creature on a late night fishing excursion. It was like something out of a horror movie, as we beheld the creature that emerged from the night - its massive sharp teeth gleaming in the light...

I was pretty sure it must be some sort of cousin of the Scaly Dragonfish I'd seen in the Deep Book ...and my nightmares. Of course, as a child of the '80s I grew up watching weird horror flicks about a giant alligator terrorizing Chicago, and Piranhas entering landlocked towns through overflowing dams, so this might have been more terrifying than need be. Regardless, I firmly decided against entering the water again - ever.

My friends tried to convince me that they never attack humans, and instead feed on crustaceans and small fish (mainly Piranha). It is said that they only occasionally have been known to consume a fish up to 40%-50% of their own body size. Hmm... I routinely do the same thing on all-you-can-eat sushi nights, so that's understandable.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me that particular night, as the battery was recharging; but later got these pics while on another fishing trip with my husband along the Rio Kuluene, a tributary of the Xingu River.

Although it's the same family of fish, there are apparently a few different variations in body shape & size, as you can see in the pics above versus the pic below. The one below is a good representation of the type of Peixe-Cachorro found in the Rio Araguaia.

According to other sites that I’ve found in Portuguese (there is hardly any info on this fish, in English) there are actually 2 classes of fish known as the "Dog Fish," the Raphiodon Vulpinus and the Hydrolycus. Within the Hydrolycus class of fish, there are 4 species:
  • The Hydrolycus Scomberoides can be found in the Amazon River and tributaries above the mouth of the Tapajós River.

  • The Hydrolycus Wallacei can be found in the Rio Negro, or Black River, a tributary of the Amazon River; as well as the upper basin of the Orinoco River, along the Venezuelan-Brazilian border and in Columbia.

  • Both the Hydrolycus Armatus and...

  • ...Hydrolycus Tatauaia can be found in the Amazon basin, basins of the Tocantins River, Capim River Essequibo (Guyana) and the Orinoco River basin.
There is some confusion in the classification, and the Peixe-Cachorro was initially classified as the Family Characidae, but some scientists contend that it is a unique family: of the same family as the Ramphiodom Cynodontinae, or the Raphiodon Vulpinus. Still others claim that this classification is a sub-family among the Characins.

Whatever the class and family, it is known in Brazil as the Peixe-Cachorro, and is quite scary impressive. From what I understand, the noted difference between the Raphiodon Vulpinus and the Hydrolycus is that the Hydrolycus is longer, and has a round black spot behind the operculum.

Peixe-Cachorro photo by Marco Valerio da Costa
If anyone can offer additional insight, or help confirm the identification of these fish, I'd be delighted to hear from you. Oh, and sweet dreams! Don't let the Dog Fish bite! ;)

(To enlarge pics, right-click and open in a new window.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Brazilian Bar-B-Que Review

Get your rock salt on!

Mix up some Vinagrete & other sides...

Slap the Picanha on the grill...

Don't even think about cutting off that fat!

Make it look like this.

It'll be gone in seconds.

Note: As I said before, most people here eat the piece of fat with the meat. I use it as a built-in handle, and then hand it to something 4-legged & fuzzy.

(To enlarge photos, right-click and open in a new window.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol. V

Just when I think I've listed all the insider's tips I can, I realize that on the contrary, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's the beef on Brazilian Bar-B-Que...
  1. When I said there are no finger foods in Brazil, I forgot about traditional Bar-B-Que gatherings at home, or on the range (camping)... Perhaps what I should have said is that it's the reverse. Just think of everyday as "Opposite Day.” (That used to help me.) For example, where we would eat potato wedges with our fingers, here cuts of sirloin are sliced into bite-sized strips, and then passed around for you to grab one of them. For a place where finger foods are generally frowned upon, this took me aback quite a bit - especially since it's something we would probably frown on back home. Ha-ha! The quirkiness of cultural differences never fails to make me chuckle.

  2. Another interesting point in this ritual that may seem quite different than what we are accustomed to, is that they aren't "passing the plate," as we know it. Everyone takes a turn serving the group, making the rounds like a waiter. If you haven't seen anyone else do it, don't worry: they're not putting you to work. That would just be awkward. Someone else will soon take their turn and bring by a fresh plate of sliced meat. At first I thought it's a regional thing, but I am told this is a common practice all over Brazil.

  3. Just as you will have your turn(s) at playing waiter, you will also learn how to divvy up the meat the appropriate way. Picanha (Top Sirloin) is the hands-down favorite. Just don't make the mistake of cutting off the little piece of fat on the end because that is a major faux pas. Whoops... It is normally eaten along with the rest of the slice of meat. I personally nibble off the meat, and leave the little fatty stubs for the nearest dog or cat. :)

    Original image found here.

  4. The menu for a traditional cook out or Bar-B-Que goes something along the lines of Beef, Chicken (hearts, thighs or legs), Pork or Chicken Sausage, and [sometimes] Goat that is served with white (garlicky) rice, beans, collard greens (made one of three popular ways), Vinagrete (similar to Pico de Gallo, with bell pepper substituted for the hot pepper) and Mandioca (Yucca Root) that has been cooked in a pressure cooker to a soft, steaming consistency.

    Image provided by Strayed from the Table.

    Accompanying most meals is a side of farinha or crunchy miniscule crumbs of toasted mandioca that some foreigners refer to as "sand." It can take some getting used to. Eating a pile of tiny dried crumbs atop any food, without getting any in your windpipe, is an acquired skill. I actually did inhale sand once on the playground, so I can attest to the similarity. (Exactly how this occurred is still a traumatic burning question of the past.) Moving on...

  5. There is no Bar-B-Que sauce. Brazilian Bar-B-Que is seasoned with limejuice, salt & pepper or Rock Salt. If you are going to use limejuice, salt & pepper then you may want to marinate it for a few hours. If you go the rock salt route, then there is no need to marinate it - it will be too salty. The rock salt melts, as the meat is seared on the grill. Just watch out for any rogue pieces of rock salt that fall off into the fire. They explode & can become small, sizzling missiles that could potentially burn your skin and/or clothing.

    Image provided by Zack.

    If you must have some Bar-B-Que sauce with your Bar-B-Que then you might want to try one of the larger supermarkets that may have some imported BBQ sauce... or contact me. I know a certain Texas guy in Goiânia that makes the best Bar-B-Que sauce this side of the equator. (The other side, too!)

Coming Soon: The Gnarly Nature of Newscasts

Unless otherwise noted, all images found via Google Images.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Bela Vista means beautiful view. That was definitely the case on the first evening of 2012. The rain finally cleared up, and our neighbors put on quite a show. This is a small glimpse of the 45-minute spectacular!

To see more details & for better viewing quality, watch on youtube.

Happy New Year!! Feliz Ano Novo!!