Monthly Archives: May 2014

Vamos na praia?

A praia – the beach – is a Brazilian national monument, not to say a human right. The beach is the meeting place, the center of social life. It’s the place to meet up with friends, to go jogging, to play football, beach volleyball or the very athletic futevôlei*, to eat out with granny and the kids in the evening or simply enjoying the breeze and a caipirinha. From sunrise until well after sunset – there is always something going on.

From Florianopolis on to Copacabana and Ipanema, the famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro with their unfortunately cold water, all the way to the long, palm-lined beaches of the northeast with their azure colored warm water – Brazil is offering over 7,000 kilometers of coast line stretching from the tropical North to the subtropical South. During a three-hour flight from Recife to Rio (or the other way round), one can admire a good deal of it.

The beaches and the access to them are a common good in Brazil that is protected by the constitution.** Thus, while there are hardly any hotels with their private beaches separating guests and ‘the normal population’ by a fence, the Constitution does not prevent the obstruction of beaches which is especially prevalent in the cities where many 30 stock high buildings have shot up in prime locations in recent years. Granted, in the front row of these new residential areas, one has a great view, but for all those living behind it’s a bit less beautiful.

I would argue however that the view is not the only, actually not by a close call the most serious, problem. The necessary infrastructure growth and especially sewage, has not been up to the building boom of recent years. An issue which starts to be as visually as olfactorily obvious. It’s often not very pleasant to see or smell what flows into the sea.

At the same time, there is a growing longing, also among Brazilian, for lonely, pristine beaches that are still spared the “som do carro”Unfortunately, these beaches lose exactly this quality the moment the hunchback sand track has been replaced by an asphalted road. Without any constitution coming to the rescue…

* It’s basically playing volleyball without the use of the hands. And what the sexy Brazilian women are to the average European man, the players of futevôlei can be to his female counterpart. Just saying…

**Law 7.661/88, Article 10: “Beaches are a public good. The common use is always guaranteed, as well as free and unhindered access to them and the sea in any direction and in the broadest sense. […] “And” § 1 – No urbanization and other type of land use in the coastal zone may be granted which prevents or hinders the access assured in this article”. Law 7.661/88 – Plano Nacional de Gerenciamento Costeiro – Free translation by me. If you want to know more, and speak Portuguese fluenty, you can go here.


Cold Curitiba

After one year and a half in the warm and sunny Northeast of Brazil, I moved a mere 2700 km south – to Curitiba. While the first few weeks were sunny and not too cold – a beautiful autumn, the rainy and grey winter seems to be setting in right now.

Now, I don’t mind the cold. As long as it is nice and warm when I’m inside. Which it is not! Houses & apartments here have neither insulation nor double-glazed windows. Actually, you can already be happy if the windows are closing properly. In other words, inside temperatures are way too close to outside temperatures for my liking.

What annoys me most is people here telling me over and over again: “Mas você é alema. Faz muito frio na Alemanha.” – ‘You’re German. It get’s very cold in Germany’. To leave no doubt: Yes, it does. But in Germany, houses have f*&$^ing HEATING!

A dog’s day

Dogs taking out there humans

Well, not the day but the hour to take out the dog or the kids. More precisely, it’s the time before sunset – after the heat has reached its peak and before its getting dark. Which means, depending on the season and latitude*, between 16:00-17:00 or 19:00-20:00 in the afternoon / evening.

It’s the time of small dogs, small children, the nannies, pensioners and those being idle; the time for a meeting, some gossiping, and letting the little ones run free; the kids that is – not the dogs. Other countries may have their pensioners’ club or the playground, in Brazil people meet simply at the next big square or park close by.

During these get-togethers, the dogs and children are mostly cared for by a domestic worker, the endangered status symbol of the Brazilian upper class.  Both the children and the dogs fulfill during this time a more social purpose: provide something to be talked about. The dogs generally excel at this task since they don’t appear to be overly well trained.

Which is not a problem since most of them are of the variety Fusshupe**, i.e. it barks and yelps a lot, but can be lifted or pulled in any direction thanks to its inferior mass and therefore resistance.


Even with the children, one does not notice an undue degree of educational care. It needs to be said however that Brazilians in general show an incredible patience and benevolence to children of (almost) any age. That the level of noise considered acceptable is far higher than in most European countries, is probably not entirely irrelevant in this context.

After an hour of laughter, crying, weeping and yelping, with the constant chitchat of the companions in the background, it is time to return to the residential towers and to assist the nightly telenovelas. A very special topic which we will leave to others…

* Brazil is huge. Really. It reaches from the 6th degree northern latitude to the 34th south, i.e. more than 4300 km in total. The east-west extent is almost as large. In other words: the European Union fits in nicely.

** A friend of mine came up with this expression. Literally translated it means footbuzzer

Only in Brazil

Having traveled quite a bit – and read about it – I have come to terms with the fact that cars in some countries drive on the right side of the road and in others on the left.

English hand

What startled me however was a sign in my neighborhood that announces a sudden change from right to the left hand, or as more appropriately called here English hand – mão inglesa.

Englishly handed

Is it to check if drivers are awake? Or to see how much confusion one can possibly create? And will we ever know?