The empty sidewalk phenomena

Unless it’s for taking out the dog or for jogging, Brazilians do not walk; they drive. For one, it’s because badly done sidewalks are another similarity between Brazil and Belgium Brussels.

For the other, it might be because the only poor devils walking are those who cannot afford a car. Or because driving is considered safer; i.e. it’s harder to rob a driving car than a pedestrian; though that certainly is not taking road safety into account.

Anyway, contrary to other cities in the world, I get to enjoy a relaxed walk to the bus station or to the next popular square without dodging fellow pedestrians, strollers or dogs, while only occasionally stumbling over roots or rocks.

“What a tapir” – or – How to insult a Brazilian

Tapirs, in Portuguese called Anta, do not enjoy much respect or a high reputation in Brazil. On the contrary, to call someone “uma anta” equals to denying this particular person even the most basic intelligible reasoning.

Maybe that’s why tapirs are threatened. In a mundus humanus, not being a cute animal hardly helps conservation.

Tap, tap, tapirI kind of like them. They are peaceful, slow vegetarians and like to take a swim. Plus, the little ones are cute. Don’t you think?

Zoológico – Curitiba

For me, the zoo of Curitiba would not need to star any lions, tigers or giraffes, the South American fauna would be more than enough. I mean: harpy eagles, giant anteaters, giant otters, rheas?

With or without the imported species, the zoo is an excellent area to spend a Saturday afternoon, preferably before 15:00 as this is the time when most Brazilians will come from their extended lunch.

The ABC of Brazilian Burrocracia

Thinking about my hard, hard life as an expat and the either mind-numbing or enraging bureaucrazy to go through, I figured that there is actually something to learn from it: PPP – persistency, politeness, patience.

Persistency – For one, it’s the kind of annoying tenacity that makes people give you whatever it is you want in the hope that you won’t come back. However it also means, knowing the legislation better than the people I’m dealing with. I’ve read the article 23 of the decree 3598 – and can show a copy just in case.

Politeness – The system imposes many of the constraints on the people behind the counter. The admin people I deal with – they didn’t make the law and it’s not meant for them either, so a bit of understanding goes a long way. Plus, the reciprocity of politeness makes the whole experience occasionally a bit less painful.

Patience – The gracious acceptance of the impossible.

Belgian-Brazilian Bureaucrazy

Just as in Brussels, Brazilian bureaucracy excels at making the easy difficult through the means of the unnecessary.


Bureaucracy is the art to transform the easy in the difficult through the means of the unnecessary. Quote: “Hello. How can we disturb you today?”

Above all, the respective administrative systems share their delight for long waiting queues, the incapability or refusal to speak other languages and, of course, for endless lists of documents all of which have to be properly legalized, authorized, stamped, signed and translated.

Oh, and not to forget, a good dose of arbitrary decision-making due to the unwillingness (Belgium) or the inability (Brazil) of the administrator to actually do his or her job.

In hindsight though, living in Brussels was in that sense an excellent preparation for Brazil. If the bureaucrazy in the first doesn’t drive you crazy, there’s a fair chance of surviving its pendant in the latter. Especially if you take into consideration that the weather has improved tremendously.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum – Curitiba

I’m not a big fan of modern architecture and the more concrete is involved, the less I generally like it. It’s hence not a surprise that I’m somewhat suspicious of Oscar Niemeyer’s work. Though in comparison with the standard, read: boring, Brazilian architecture – rectangular, concrete, high risers – Niemeyer’s imaginative grandeur style stands out.

And so does the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, designed by and named after him. intriguing, stylish, space-consuming – Niemeyer’s buildings call for attention and provide unexpected perspectives.

The photo exhibitions inside went in line with the outer shape and so we spent an agreeable 3 hours at the MON, liking Niemeyer or not.

From cattle to cache

The Economist has a charming little article on the challenges of translating IT vocabulary into languages dominated by the farming or fishing origin of their native speakers.

How could one possible resist crash = hookii – a cow falling over but not dying; timeout = a honaama – your fish has got away; or aspect ratio = jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven?