Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Check out this beautiful song by Bebel Gilberto, a Brazilian American singer. Music runs in her family. Bebel is the daughter of two famous Brazilian singers, João Gilberto and Miúcha, and is the niece of famous Brazilian singer, guitarist, composer, writer, and poet, Chico Buarque.

Lonely is one of many great songs from her 2000 electronic bossa nova album, Tanto Tempo. Although she has been singing since she was 11 years old (performing with her mother at Carnegie Hall when she was only 13) she was 20 at her professional solo debut in 1986.

If you like this song, you will enjoy the other gorgeous melodies on the rest of her Tanto Tempo cd, such as August Day Song and Mais Feliz, as well as her 2004 self-titled album which features songs like Simplesmente and Cada Beijo.


Foi você quem me ensinou
A ouvir
Foi você que soube achar isso em mim

Sem te ver
Não sei mais o que sentir
Só ouvindo aquele espaço ali

Lonely, Lonely

Todo dia te sinto
E fico pensando que você pode até me ouvir (2)

Lonely, Lonely, Lonely, Lonely.


It was you who taught me
To listen
It was you who knew how to find this in me

Without seeing you
I don't know what to feel anymore
Just listening to that space out there

Lonely, Lonely

Everyday I feel you
And keep thinking that you can even hear me, too (2)

Lonely, Lonely, Lonely, Lonely

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fastest Way to Learn Brazilian Portuguese

Image found here.

Here are 5 steps to put you on the fast track to speaking Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Step 1: Learn the alphabet and sounds of the language.
  • Step 2: Learn vocabulary and basic phrases.
  • Step 3: Learn one past, two present, and one future form of the 17 different forms of verbs.
    Hint: Go for the simple forms. They aren't called simple for nothing.
  • Step 4: Get a Brazilian Portuguese dictionary that shows the stressed syllable in the pronunciation of a word.
  • Step 5: Get a handle on the false cognates and false friends. The misuse of a word can make for a really bizarre conversation, and the mistaken assumption that you are not only a foreigner, but a total weirdo.

What are the best resources to accomplish this quickly and easily?

For those whose native language is American English, I recommend Portuguese in 10 minutes a day by Kristine Kershul. You can learn the sounds of the language, some basic phrases, and vocabulary. It is written in a Carioca accent, so just change the "sh" to "s" for other regions. Using this book, I caught up to a local Portuguese class for estrangeiros that had been in session for two and a half months ...in a mere 2 weeks! Everyone was amazed (and a wee bit jealous).

The most comprehensive vocabulary resource I have found is the Word by Word Illustrated Dictionary English/Brazilian Portuguese - Second Edition by Steven J. Molinsky & Bill Bliss. It is important to get the 2nd edition because they added common phrases and additional vocabulary words. Although there is no pocket edition, I carried this thing around everywhere during the first year that I was here. Don't be shy! Embrace your inner nerd.

As for the verbs, I recommend that you scour the internet for conjugation tables in English and Portuguese. You can also find conjugation tables in the dictionaries listed below. Verbs end in —ar, —er, or —ir, in the base and infinitive forms. Compare them, and focus on the following four forms of the verbs until you are more fluent. If, at that point, you feel that you can tackle the other 13 forms of the verbs, then more power to you! :)

The Present Continuous tense:

I am writing. = Eu estou escrevendo.

(English —ing =ando, —endo or —indo in Portuguese.)

The Simple Present tense:

Do you like vegetables? = Você gosta de verduras?

The Simple Past tense:

She wrote an informative book. = Ela escreveu um livro informativo.

The Simple Future or Futuro do Presente tense:

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Or the medium way. Or the semi-medium-easy-hard way. Or the sort of hard, with a touch of awkward, easy-difficult-challenging way.

So that's how you want to play it, huh?

Me, too.

The easy way is a form of the future (futuro composto), which is closest to how we speak in English.

He is going to work tomorrow. = Ele vai trabalhar amanhã.

The harder version of the same thing means changing the end of the verb. That involves more memorization, which you could focus elsewhere... Here's an example of the same sentence in a more difficult version of the simple future form (Futuro do Presente do Indicativo):

Ele trabalhará amanha.

Just remember that everything begins and ends with a KISS ("um beijo") in Brazil, so...

Keep It Simple, Superstar!

Image found here.

It's your lucky day. The Dicionário Didático Básico by Edições SM is perfect for beginners. The best feature is the way the (7,000+) words are broken down phonetically in Brazilian Portuguese, with emphasis on the stressed syllable. The definitions are as simplified as they can get in the Portuguese language. (It's for kids.) As you progress to a more thorough understanding of basic Portuguese, graduate to the Dicionário Didático that has fewer pics, but over 43,000 additional definitions to add to your vocabulary.

False cognates and false friends (linguistically and personally speaking) are the bane of my existence. Yours, too. You'll be trying to tell people that you intend to do something, while you're really saying that you understand (entender) something... that makes absolutely no sense. Someone will tell you that they intend (pretender) to do something, and you'll wonder why they are planning on pretending to do something.

For this reason, it is so very worth it to pick up a copy of Inglês Urgente! Para Brasileiros by Cristina Schumacher. It has the most complete list of false cognates (in English and Portuguese) that I've seen, yet, and is a great addition to your arsenal of books to help you conquer Brazilian Portuguese as a second language.

Again, I'll reiterate that Portuguese in 10 minutes a day is the best solution for those that speak American English. If you speak British English, then the book Brazilian Portuguese by Sue Tyson-Ward, from the Teach Yourself series is a great resource. The phonetic base of any foreign language is key, and like Kristine Kershul, Ms. Tyson-Ward does it up right.

Just so you know, I am not being paid by any of these book publishers to promote their products. I simply hate to see anyone waste their time, money, and efforts in methods that do not work.

Boa sorte in your studies!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Five Facts for Foreigners - Vol. XI

Pizza. Everybody seems to love it.

Preference is definitely a regional, as well as a very personal thing. Most people have a craving for a certain place when they hear the word. Folks in the U.S. are familiar with terms like New York-style pizza, Chicago-style 'deep-dish' pizza, or in Austin: Mangia Pizza and Conan's. (...and apparently East Side Pies. I'll have to try them when I go home to visit.)

Image found here.

Within the pizza-loving community there are die-hard deep dish devotees, staunch thin crust connoisseurs, and avid hand-tossed aficionados. There are the extra sauce enthusiasts, and those who lean toward light sauce. Deciding on extra cheese or light cheese can make or break personal pizza nirvana. Then there are the toppings... on the top, light, or on the side?

Finding the perfect pie is as much a challenge today as finding a faster trade route to the East Indies was when Columbus sailed the high seas. Pizza lovers are all seeking a rewarding find, and are sometimes even willing to go to great lengths to achieve their personal treasured trifecta: perfect crust, balanced flavor, & some kind of decent price. And once in a while... when we think that we've almost nailed it, we might just let price fly out the window. That's usually a regrettable mistake. Desperation rarely yields anything worth savoring.

After searching high and low, I can tell you that the pizza you seek in Brazil is found in precious few places. I say this as a THESLC (thin crust, extra sauce, light cheese) kind of girl. On a recent vacation, we happened across one of the most divine pizza places ever. After regular disappointment over the past 6 years, I honestly didn't get my hopes up.

We were blown away. The pizza was so amazing, that we each ate a medium—at least three nights that week. It was that good. I must note, that as an extra sauce chick, I didn't even miss it. Would it be possible to improve on perfection? I only entertained the thought for a second.

We seriously considered taking one to go... (on the plane home) but the trip would be too long, and it would get soggy (it's that thin!) so we went home brokenhearted, with bittersweet memories of the best pizza we have tasted in Brazil.

If you are ever in Fortaleza, Teresina, São Luís, or Salvador then you must make it a point to visit Vignoli's. If you live there, we are jealous: BEST. Pizza. Ever.

The topic of toppings could take a year or more to pick through, so I'll focus on the top 5 major differences in pizza toppings here versus national U.S. pizza chains. That should be easy enough.

I'll call this list Top 5 Surprising Finds Listed Under Toppings in Brazil Pizzarias...
  1. Corn – Corn! Apparently this is also available on veggie pizzas in local joints around the U.S.

  2. Image found here.

  3. Peas – The distant cousins of spinach heard that there was an opening in the pizza biz, and decided to try it out. They are bona fide rock stars in pizza places across Brazil.

  4. Image found here.

  5. Prunes (or Peaches) – What is probably the most surprising pizza on the menu is the "Californian," which is comprised of canadian bacon (or smoked turkey), prunes, peaches, pineapple, figs, and/or raisins. I have been waiting for a Californian to weigh in on this. Is this pizza really representative of Cali? (I'm guessing "no" on the prunes part.)

  6. Images found on Google.

  7. Sliced, Hard-Boiled Eggs – {insert exclamation of surprise here} I'm sticking to my guns, and still maintain that this is just weird... and stinky... and weird.

  8. Image found here.

  9. Tuna – Don't knock it 'til you try it. I'd recommend that you make it at home with lots of minced garlic & za'atar on top, for good measure.
  10. Image found here
The top 5 pizzas that you will find at pizzarias around Brazil are...
  • The Portuguesa – ham, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, black or green olives, and oregano

  • The Margherita – fresh basil, oregano, tomato, and black olives

  • The Mussarela – Although dictionaries don't recognize this spelling, 95% of pizzerias use it. Variations are mozarela, muçarela, muzarela, or the traditional Italian spelling: mozzarella.

  • The Napolitana – palm hearts, tomato, black or green olives, and oregano

  • The Calabresa – salami, onions, and black olives

Below is a sample menu from a local pizzaria.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Rain?

This region really only has two seasons, although each of these seasons has a hot and a cool side to it.

Clear Skies in July Along the Araguaia River

The dry season typically runs from April through October, though it can come early and/or stay late. Without the buffer of rain clouds, temperatures usually soar to about 100°F, with a short respite in May and/or June. These cooler months bring welcomed temperatures that can get as low as 50°F at night, with highs in the 70s during the day.

Within a month or two of the rainy season coming to an end, the region is a veritable dust bowl. Even if there is a cool breeze at some point during the day, people think twice about opening their windows (in a place where few homes have air conditioning). The fertile earth here is a fine red clay that travels easily on the wind, and coats everything in a powdery film. During these months, a very definite red haze hangs over the skyline.

The rainy season is sweet relief for housekeepers who have battled against the seemingly never-ending layer of red dust, as well as for those suffering from cracked and bleeding sinuses. Of course, the next few months of steady rain produce another irritant: mold. Aside from the mold, the rain is welcomed with open umbrellas.

October Rains in the Goiás Countryside

The rainy season can start as early as October, or as late as December, and normally continues through mid March. In the first month or so, temperatures dip slightly and last only for the duration of the showers, climbing back up to Sweltering in the humid aftermath. Depending on how heavy the rains are, and how much rainfall there is during the next few months, the rains start to have a cooling effect. The more rain received, the cooler it gets.

For personal optimum cooling effect, I have renounced umbrellas. I stay cool and... damp. While that is generally considered uncivilized for a woman [around these parts, especially, since most women get a weekly blowout that would be ruined if exposed to water], I'm willing to go to great lengths (such as "window shopping" inside high-end shops where I won't actually buy anything since I'm really only there for the AC) and resort to "lazy" practices (like "ignoring" — not hiding from the rain) to lower my body temperature. It's an ongoing battle in a place where air conditioning is a privilege. I've even considered buying a cooling vest, but that would probably make me stand out even more than walking in the rain.

"Hiding" from rain seems to be a cultural thing. I've received countless strange looks, been the subject of mumbling observations, and even audibly chided when I walk and don't run for cover, as it starts to rain. I usually laugh and tell people that while I may be sweet, I'm not made of sugar, so I won't melt. No one ever thinks this is funny. This is serious! There are various old wives' tales that allude to Death by Damp Hair — and this doesn't only apply to the women. Sometimes, we Americans are really surprised at how things can grind to a halt if it starts to sprinkle.

A fellow Texan and friend of mine was working on a construction project near the end of the dry season. It was hotter than Hades. While on a delivery of supplies to the site one day, it started sprinkling. The workers couldn't be coaxed out to finish unloading the truck until it stopped. We thought this would have been a relished opportunity for the hot and dusty workers to cool off, but they claimed that they would risk their health (in the warm drops of rain) if their heads were to get wet. My friend ended up unloading the rest of the supplies by himself. To us, this seemed quite bizarre. To the workers, my friend was a reckless risk taker.
Image found here.

I suspect this fear of rain stems from the heavy dew or sereno [pronounced: "seh-rdeh-no"] that falls at night in the countryside, where it tends to be cooler. I thought that this was all hype, like the rain superstitions, but the amount of dew that falls in this tropical region is impressive by any standard. Any uncovered surface will have small pools of standing water, within a matter of hours. If you are breathing it in, or if you get a wet head and it is cool outside, then it can cause a cold. Here, stargazing requires a hat... and some sleeves.

What about your region of the world? Are there any old wives' tales about rain? Do tell.

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